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To all the Vodka fans on this site, and there are many, I apologize for:

  1. the lack of posts……..it seems I have drank tooo much vodka since this is not some auto generated site.  We really do review the vodkas on this site….
  2. well, I am not going to apologize for the rum posts on a vodka site.  Bottom line, my liver can only dissect so much vodka in a extended period pf time.
  3. So here is another excellent rum review from the Rum Guy, who apparently has an iconic liver that will not fail…….

Vizcaya Rum

In the continuing search for the best rums for the best value, today’s candidate is Vizcaya VXOP  Cask 21 Rum from the Dominican Republic.  This 80 proof concoction is labeled VXOP, which usually is attached to Brandy as “Very Extra Special (or superior) Old Pale”  depending on the source.  Their well-done website states the rum is distilled from pure cane juice and aged in oak bourbon barrels using Cuban distilling methods.  While this sounds exotic and is meant to invoke some secret process only the Cubans know and must be therefore known only by a few high-priest distillers  due to the current political situation, this is mostly a marketing handle.   While most Americans cannot travel to Cuba, other nationalities can, and any “secret” Cuban manufacturing process has long been released into the rum world.  However, aging rum in oak barrels that previously held bourbon is a relatively new step.  One assumes this was made for financial reasons at first,  but the result, called “methode agricole “  creates a rum with more complex flavors, smoothing the texture and taste and increasing the sensory experience with up front bouquet.  This product is marketed as a sipping rum.

 

The bottle clear-glass, hip-flask shaped, although only NFL linemen would have hips big enough to carry this bottle.  The brown and gold label match perfectly with the golden elixir inside.  The “Vizcaya” is in gold script at the lower third of the bottle—unusual, and eye-catching.

 

Removing the gold handle attached to the cork, the rum emits a gentle fragrance of chocolate, cinnamon, and fresh-cut flowers.  Pouring the syrup-colored liquid into a glass, the odor becomes more pronounced and greatly increases the anticipation of the taste.  You can almost hear a faint Samba beat coming from the bottle, as if from a radio down the block.  The rum is mild and smooth, with some afore-mentioned chocolate, cinnamon, vanilla and fruit—mango? Papaya?   You can taste the sugar cane-which is not that frequent in rums.   There is very little after-taste.  Poured into a brandy snifter and allowed to warm by holding it in your hand, this is a good sipping rum, but perhaps a little too mild for me.  It is a better sipping rum than it is mixed with cola or diet-cola.  The gentleness of the rum unfortunately makes it unsuitable for frozen “boat drinks” as it disappears in the mixture to the degree that you wonder if there is rum in the drink.  For frozen drinks, you want a rum that enhances the fruit flavor with its own individual personality, combining into a  party.

 

I give this rum a solid  6 corks out of 10, slightly above better than average.  This was an expensive rum at almost $40 a bottle, and while being a smooth rum is important, more substance is expected at that price.  It does not make my Top 10.

 

 

The quest goes ever on.

 

The Rum Guy

 

 

 


I have been short on Vodka reviews lately while I drain my backlog, so here is yet another rum review from our Rum Guy. Enjoy.

Today’s review of the latest Rum adventure is The Kraken (Black Spiced Rum).  This rum, brought to us via import from  Proximo Spirits, Jersey City, New Jersey.   The website is somewhat contradictory, which is becoming more and more common with some rums. At one spot it states the rum is distilled from Sugar Cane Molasses from The Virgin Islands. At another place is states the base rum is from Trinidad and Tobago, aged 12-24 months in oak barrels and the various spices are added.  The website states the rum is all-natural, gluten-free and vegan.  But is it any good?

The bottle itself is a contradiction.  The glass itself is quite attractive , solid, with handles on either side of the neck for carrying.  The label is black and white , much too busy with the hand-drawn logo of a huge sea creature like a cross between an octopus and a squid enveloping a large three-masted sailing ship.  The art style is as if taken from the old sailing maps from several hundred years ago.  The label is not impressive, but may catch the eye from a marketing standpoint.  I have bought rums previously based on the attractiveness of the bottle/label/contents.  But I won’t buy that rum again, unless it’s a good rum for the value.

 

Opening the screw-top of the bottle to let the rum breathe a little, I find my first concern.  No cork in the top—just the screw-top.  Upon pouring straight into a glass, the rum is dark, but not what I would call “black”, more of a dark brown, hmmm another concern.     The first taste offers a basic rum, with a touch of cinnamon, earthy chocolate, and perhaps clove, but all are very feint, and are more a vague echo then actually notes.  This is a 94 proof rum, much higher kick then most rums which are around 80 proof, but you can’t tell that by the taste, or the kick.  The rum mixes relatively well with regular and diet cola, not as well with fruit drinks.  For a spiced rum, this is very bland stuff, like a Disney Afternoon Special for kids.

 

Overall, I give this rum only a disappointed three corks out of ten.  Not a terrible rum, but for approximately $18 a bottle, I expect black spiced rum to taste like a dark, spiced rum, not a basic rum with some spices dipped in briefly like a tea bag.   This  wild sea creature of a rum is more krill then Kraken.

 

OK, so we have been doing rum reviews here lately instead of Vodka reviews.  We will get back to vodka reviews shortly, as soon as I finish all my dead soldiers I have been reviewing. in the mean time, another rum review from our ‘Rum Guy’.  And yes, as one comment stated, he does taste the rum mixed with soda…..as well as straight.  In case you have not heard, most of the rum marketplace use it for mixing………..

Today’s candidate for election into the Rum Guy’s Top Ten rums is  “Cayman’s Reef Barbados Rum”.  This is a mysterious rum, as the bottle indicates it is imported and bottled by the Cayman Reef Rum Company in that famous rum hotbed of Princeton, Minnesota just a few miles north of Minneapolis.  This town of less than 4,000 sits on the appropriately named Rum River.  However, web searches for the name of the company, and/or the name of the rum are fruitless.  It is evidently connected to World Spirits, LTD in Princeton, but there the search dies as World Spirits is privately owned and evidently doesn’t release much information about itself.

 

The clear-glass bottle is attractive with the name and two palm trees etched in gold offsetting the darker amber liquid within.  It states it is aged five years in oak casks.  Pulling out the cork, the rum aroma is quiet but flavorful.  Sipping straight, you can taste a hint of chocolate, and a brief kiss of blackberries.  This 80 proof rum mixes very well with both regular and diet colas with very little back-bite.   The finish is very smooth.  While it is not a perfect match for fruit juices it does not clash either.  It is good for frozen Boat Drinks.  This rum is soft and easy, like old comfortable house shoes, but like house shoes, you wouldn’t take them to a party.

 

At under $20 a bottle, this is a good rum for the price.  As a candidate for the Top Ten, however, it does not win the election.  It is not a great rum,  but I could see buying it again.

 

The Quest Continues……

 

The Rum Guy

On the never-ending road to seek out the world’s best Rum and best Rum values, today’s entry is Pecan Street Rum, from that noted Rum hotbed that is Pflugerville, Texas.   Produced by Spirit Of Texas Distillery, this company began in 2010 as the result of three friends in the high-tech industry were looking to stretch their wings and try something new.  Rumor has it the basic business plan was hatched in a sauna.   The first product released was Pecan Street Rum and they have now added Spirit of Texas, a white dry rum.

 

The Pecan Street Rum bottle is a pleasingly squat, clear bottle that amply shows the golden-brown  mixture within.  The cream colored label is simple with filigree in each corner and the name written across a bronze metallic pecan nut, with a five-pointed Texas star underneath.  Upon opening slowly to allow the bottle to breathe, the cork pulls gently.  The aroma is quite impressive, pecans, molasses, hint of orange.   You can tell it was aged in oak barrels.  This rum is made from scratch from molasses and pecans are added for flavor.  And what flavor.  Pouring it into a glass the color promises a new adventure.  The initial flavor is quite surprising, as the pecans are out in front but not overpowering.  Surprisingly, this is a good sipping rum.   Mixing it with cola or Coke Zero, it keeps a consistently good flavor and texture.  However, mixing it with fruit juices or Boat Drinks the pecan flavor does not play well with others.

 Photo courtesy of Juan Gonzales/ Lime Fly photography 

I am not a huge fan of most “flavored” rums, indeed I have to be in a particular mood for them, but this rum is an exception to the rule.  This is a good rum.  At approximately $20 a bottle, this is a great value and a truly unique product.  It may not be a rum for the weekend party, but definitely a rum for a sunset watching from the porch.

 

 

As I have not listed my Top Ten rums in a while, I thought I would list them below.  They are almost all dark or golden rums as that is my preference these days.  Of course, as with most Top 10 lists, it may vary from week-to-week depending on mood, money, madness, and cosmic debris…..

 

1)      Pyrate

2)      Plantation Grande Reserve

3)      Old Monk

4)      Mount Gay Extra Old

5)      Flor De Cano 7 yr

6)      Railean

7)      Pecan Street Rum

8)      Gosling’s Black Seal

9)      Tropic Isle Spiced Cask

10)   Bacardi Gold (Yeah, I know—I am slumming)

 

 

The Quest Continues!

 

—The Rum Guy

WE go to great lengths to try new Vodkas. At the end of the day, many on the market are very similar. They are made largely from the same ingredients, differentiated by distilling processes which most distillers try to sell the client that their method is truly different from the others. Ocean Vodka (click on link for website) also differentiates itself……but, they truly do have a different approach than most we have seen.

Ocean Vodka, A Unique Change From Others

Distilled on Maui, Hawaii, this vodka is made out of sugar cane. Most vodkas are distilled from grain or potatoes. Given this, I was greatly interested to try this vodka when offered by a local sales rep in Wisconsin who represents the distributor of the vodka for the local region selling restaurants and bars in the southern Wisconsin area (thank you Ashley).  I was a bit skeptical given this made from sugar cane.  This is not a rum, after all. But I tasted the offering several times to make sure that it was consistent in its taste, no matter what I thought of it. True to form, it was very consistent, and very smooth. The effects of the sugar cane stood up upon first taste. On first sip, it proved to be very smooth and a comforting taste, if not a bit tropical.  I understand that sounds a bit cliche, but in the end, this product is made out of sugar cane. And that ends up being its differentiation from other vodkas.  The taste begins very smooth and even. After swishing in the mouth a bit, a very stealthy sweetness presents itself.  Hence the sugar cane. This may take some getting used to for those of you used to grain or potato based vodka offerings. But this works. It really does. The drinking experience is very consistent throughout. The main criticism one could levy on this product is that it does not taste quite like vodka.  Perhaps, pure vodka drinkers who adore the grain or potato based products may not enjoy this vodka as much. I tend to be in this category, but I went in with an open mind.  The vodka is definitely refreshing. If anything, the fact that I was in Wisconsin in the winter time tasting and reviewing this product was a draw back.  I see this product as a great refreshing vodka for outdoor gatherings in the south, even when maybe it is a bit too hot to be outside.  Cool off with Ocean, and you will nearly, (I said nearly) forget that it is really too warm to be outside.

The one area I did not like is the packaging. Please let me explain. While the packaging itself is OK and it definitely represents the branding they are trying to achieve, the fact that this vodka competes directly in price and placement with the Belvedere’s and Grey Gooses of life makes it more of a tough sell.  And while they are branded appropriately for thier product, I question that their packaging can compete in the premium market. Now I know most of you do not drink vodka based upon the packaging. Hell, if that were the case, none of us would drink Kettle One. But I do pay attention to packaging and product placement.  And Ocean, in my opinion does not do well here.  They could so carry the brand and its uniqueness with so much more.

Another area which Ocean will try to sell you is the fact that their product is made naturally and gluten free. OK. Fair enough. I must admit that I do not suffer from whatever ails those who flock to Gluten Free, but the people at Ocean evidently believe there is a market for this accordingly.  Again, setting aside all of the marketing, this product does well in the taste test.  I am unconcerned with the other market hooks.  I believe those of you who try this with an open mind will appreciate this vodka.

At retail, Ocean Vodka falls a bit below other premium brands. I personally believe it is worth the $45-50 you will spend on a 1.75 liter bottle.  Try some, and let us know what you think.

If anyone out there has nothing better to do, Google “vodka”.  It is just amazing the number of hits that will come back with different vodka brands that have figured out by their web developers how to get on the first 25 or so pages of Google. I suspect that there is a slew of other brands out there who have not figured out how to maximize the search engine algorithm. Even so, it this points to the fact that the vodka market is full of choices.  From the major brands, the premium brands, down to the localized distiller that carves a niche that they hope will make them enough to sustain the business model. Like most distilled spirits, the market is horribly crowded. We try review the vodkas on the market here at vodkafacts.com.  Frankly, we have so many more to go based upon the market.  In the end, the vodka marketplace may be at a saturation stage. There are so many choices out there. As we review the different vodkas, we must stay focused on the true taste and experience we have with each vodka reviewed. With a crowded market such as this, the differences between the various options tend to blend together in our reviews.

The interesting part of the market has been the independent small distillers looking to make a name for themselves. We have many in Texas.  Austin, Texas area is home to a slew of local distillers.  Savvy, Titos (review here previously) Deep Eddy (reviewd here as well previously), Enchanted Rock, Dripping Springs……the list likely goes on for several I am missing. When is enough is enough?  Market dynamics will drive everything, I understand this, but in the end, we just must understand that market saturation can take place.  When drinking vodka became the “in” thing, the offering were more sparse. Great brands like Grey Goose and Belvidere became house hold names with the market place willing to shell out big bucks for their “call” martini containing these brands.

But as the market place matured, we now see so many micro distilleries, some of which are really excellent. As well, we see all of the various options for vodka based drinks prepackaged into flavors.  As you know here, we tend to review only the base vodkas.  But we cannot ignore the marketplace. This is what everyone is drinking.  The flavored vodkas appeal to a younger audience. These micro distilleries, seeking survival, have jumped on the flavored market.  Hell, Deep Eddy vodka (by the way, Deep Eddy is named after a public swimming pool in Austin) is a much less selling product than their vodka ice tea. To me, a gimmick, but the public buys it, especially on sixth street in Austin.

We will continue to review vodkas here at vodkafacts.com. We will target unflovored offerings for the most part.  But bottom line, the vodka market is saturated, and we cannot ignore reviewing some of those flavored offerings in the end as well.  And we will so. But only as we see fit.

Happy vodka drinking, and I do not care if you drink responsibly or not, that is up to you.

Wishing all my vodka drinking friends a great holiday season. Be safe and drink well

In my continuing search for the world’s best rums and rum bargains, this entry reviews Rhum Barbancourt, a sugar cane dark rum from Haiti.  The rum is produced by one of Haiti’s oldest companies, Société du Rhum Barbancourt, T. Gardère & Cie in Port Au Prince.  The company began in 1862 by a Frenchman Dupre Barbancourt.  Currently the fourth generation of the family still runs the company.  The bottle states it is pot-stilled from 100% cane juice, aged in imported white oak casks for eight years.  Rum, like most wines, generally age well and improve with age and Eight years is longer than most rums are aged and should produce a fine product.  We are trying the Five Star Reserve Speciale.

 

Given Haiti’s long tragic history, I was hoping for a rum of good quality and a good bargain.  Spreading the word of a great product that could help the economy an impoverished country would be a positive outcome.

 

The bottle itself is dark, with a wheat colored label with a female figure (goddess?) in front of a blue star.  The company’s website did not explain the history of the label.  Upon opening the bottle, I was concerned with the fact that it was a screw-top.  In the few years I have been reviewing rums, there have been some good rums with a screw-top, but no great rums with one.  The great ones have a cork stopper.  Letting the rum breathe before tasting straight up, I found the aroma to be very chemically strong, almost like dry cleaning fluid.  The rum was dark as it should be, with a good dark rum texture.  However, the first taste did nothing to dispel that mechanical flavor.  Over several weeks of mixing it with Coke, Coke Zero, and various fruit juices, the rum was a great disappointment.   It reminded me of old school Ben Gay sports ointment: not a good experience.  Some rums may present better than others with soft drinks or perhaps fruit juices or boat drinks, but this rum didn’t blend well with anything.  Unfortunately, the only recommended uses for this rum would be for cleaning carburetors or perhaps pouring on fire ant mounds and lighting them on fire.

 

At approximately $25 a bottle, I was extremely disappointed in this product.  It may be the worst rum I have ever had.

 

The Rum Quest continues….

 

The Rum Guy

 

 

Sometimes events that you attend can leave you with drinking choices you would rather not make. Such is a case most recently as I attended a college football game recently at the great facility in Dallas, Texas whom everyone calls ‘Jerry’s World’. This event, as I thought, would not even serve alcohol as the game involved the worlds largest (and non-drinking, yeah right) Southern Baptist institution, those struggling Baylor Bears.  Upon arrival, the surprise was that since Texas Tech was listed as the home team for this central location game deemed the Texas Shootout (and believe me, it was with a final score of BU on top 66-42), this meant that alcohol could be served at Jerry’s World prices.  Firmly believing in my motto, never watch Baylor Football sober, I headed off in the quest for Vodka.  Now this facility has many bars of different types. You can purchase the higher end vodkas at some of bars.  I merely opted for the closest I could find, lest I get lost in this mammoth edifice.

Absolut Vodka, Absolut Choices

The only option on the vodka list at this particular bar was Absolut. So I ordered a double at the mere steal of $20, topped it with a lime and off I went. The $20 for this double will nearly cover the cost of a 750ml bottle of Smirnoff.  What I found was a very refreshing, smooth vodka. I went heavy on the lime squeeze, which may have helped.  The smooth approach to the vodka was tempting to throw back a little quickly. There was no chemical taste throughout the sip. The taste remained consistent throughout leaving it all too easy to repeat the steps quickly. This vodka will mix well with virtually any energy or fruit mixer that you dare to take on. It is a popular option for the Red Bull and whatever crowd, by virtue of its relative inexpensiveness and its less offensive approach to the drink.

Packaging is simple and basic.  The only complaint I had was not tied to the vodka, rather, the service.  It was not properly frozen, as you likely would not expect at an event such as this.  The result is that it quickly watered down over my rapidly diminished ice leaving a much weaker sibling in the cup.  By virtue of its mild flavor which was a plus, it becomes quickly intolerable if not served as frozen temperature as possible.

Absolut is made in southern Sweden from Winter Wheat. It is the 4th largest selling spirit in the world.  It started from humble beginnings by challenging a virtual monopoly of spirits in the country by offering a much lower cost product than what could be purchased at the time.Like all other distillers today,  Absolut comes in many different flavors as well, an attempt to keep a grip on market share and interest in vodka overall as other players in the spirits market come and go as the prom queen.

I recommend absolute, especially for the price.  If Baylor Football can post a win while I am knocking back a double, it may well be worth a bottle at home

As various markets mature, companies must find ways to milk the teat of the cash cow. This often results in the introduction of product derivatives, knock offs, if you will of the primary product that has generated the cash over the periods of time.  The vodka market has done this overall.  Now Belvedere, long standing as one of the top premium vodkas in the marketplace has introduced Belvedere Intense. Basically, this is Belvedere vodka, attractively re-packaged and upping the ante in alcohol content.

Belvedere on Steriods


But is it any good? Like all marketing machines, there are angles that the marketeers take to try to convince the buying public that this is a new product, and that they must try it. In this case, the vodka is double filtered through charcoal to yield a pleasing texture and complexity. It has a advanced thickness upon pouring from the bottle. I tried mine over ice as opposed to martini style. The first sip of the product is direct.  The taste gets right after you.  It is a stark taste in the same vein as regular Belvedere, just, well, more intense.  It appears the marketeers did a good job of naming this.  This product contains all of the pleasantries of regular Belvedere, just more of it. You begin to notice that this is a higher alcohol product midway through the taste. The alcohol kicks in, and takes away from the initial taste of the Belvedere. At a certain moment, the taste becomes a bit overwhelming, and you feel the urge to take in a bit less in the next sip to smooth the experience somewhat. To this end, I let the second one sit for a few minutes in the ice.  While this has the effect of weakening the drink overall, which is clearly not the intent of this product, it does sooth the experience considerably to allow a more complete enjoyment of the product. I serve mine, as I do with all vodkas, straight out of the freezer.  The freezer setting is set to the coldest possibility (I have separate freezer for all my vodka products). I would encourage the similar approach, especially when serving martini style.

The finish is not surprising with a 100 proof product. It warms as it advances down the palate ending with a bit of kick that actually has a spice tone to it. You can also feel the effects of the 100 proof more aggressively than regular Belvedere, so my legal counsel has advised me to remind everyone to drink responsibly. Overall, this is not a bad product. I do not fault Belvedere for this product.  If you look at virtually any other liquor markets, any of the more established brands are now offering advance alcohol content products. Others I have tried (like whiskeys/bourbons) are about the same as this product.  Just more intense of the legacy product.  Belvedere had the good sense to call it Belvedere Intense. Good call.

I give this a total of 7 out 10 total glasses. We Americans may feel the need to ratchet up our buzz given all that goes on in our country, so if you are a vodka drinker and want a little quicker escape, give Belvedere Intense a try. It is priced about the same as flagship Belvedere, and widely distributed. Peace.