A few words of wisdom by the great Hunter S Thompson, author of The Rum Diary
On a weird Friday night recently, G-LO and I ventured into a few rums and babbled endlessly. It’s what we do. We find it very therapeutic, and it saves us $60 each on professional help. We’re cheap sumbitches when it comes to paying for therapy, but we’re very generous when it comes to sharing booze and our meandering therapy sessions. Pour yourself a drink and enjoy the ride…
AK: Ok, we ready? So, we’re going off the whisky rails here a bit tonight and trying some rum or rhum or vrum. I made the last one up.
G-LO: I wouldn’t say completely off the rails. Rerouted is more like it.
AK: You’re the AMTRAK guy. Rerouted it is. Derailed ain’t so hot a term these days.
G-LO: True true. Especially when the product on board is something from Dow Chemical. Rerouted it is. So, where do we begin?
AK: Speaking of chemicals…This first one, Senor G-LO, has to come with a little story, and you know me well enough to know that there’s no such thing as a little story.
G-LO: This is where you say, “Buckle up, G-LO! It’s gonna be a bumpy ride!”.
AK: No seat belts on AMTRAK, I’m afraid. This first one comes via our friend Lee. After that I can’t get too detailed except it made a very circuitous route into our hands.
G-LO: Serpentine Shell! Serpentine!
AK: Think The Godfather, Part II and a small island nation about to be overthrown in a coup. Getting the picture? Or should I say, comprende?
G-LO: You broke my heart KROUSE! YOU BROKE MY HEART! Don’t worry. I’ll spare you the kiss on the mouth. No offense.
AK: And I’ll avoid any fishing trips on a small boat on Lake Tahoe. This little beauty is called Legendario, Elixir de Cuba. At least that’s what my high school Spanish tells me.
G-LO: I just filled my glass.
AK: Es muy bonita, no?
G-LO: Here we go again with the beautiful Amber! How do you say Amber in Espanol?
AK: Amberlita, if you must know. The bottle has a big 7 near the screw top. Maybe aged siete years? We really should do some research. Or not. I like the color but it looks like dark rum. Nothing too special, unlike mi Amberlita.
G-LO: Actually, it could be a dead ringer for The Stagg too. Amberlita is quite clingy and leggy.
AK: The bottle is all in Spanish. Makes no sense to me. Don’t they have Google Translate for booze bottles? Only 34% ABV. Wonder if that makes it leggy.
G-LO: FYI, Mrs. G-LO just walked by for a second, took a look at the screen, then walked away shaking her head.
AK: The 13 year old here is fascinated by this, i.e., she won’t leave me alone.
G-LO: Hello, 13 YO KROUSE!
13 YO: Hi, Uncle G-LO.
AK: I always have to remind myself what rum is. Molasses, which is as a gross a thing ever concocted. Who comes up with these cockamamy ideas?
G-LO: Good question. A bunch of liquor starved colonists?
AK: Slave traders! I’m smelling…the rum that is.
G-LO: Gonna nose Amberlita!
AK: I need to say right now, I’m 100% against slavery. Had to be said since there’s an ugly rumor being spread. She does have a good nose, and this smells very light too.
G-LO: It has an intriguing nose for sure. Sweet yet herbal infused. Reminds me of a vermouth but without the bitterness. What’s your stance on child labor laws, i.e. putting your kids to work around the house?
AK: Totally for child labor for offspring. Problem here is that my labor is unionized and have a cushy contract.
G-LO: I understand. Same here. I try to rule with an iron fist, but then it gets smelted.
AK: Need to be Union Busters!! Unions are tough to crack. Lots of picketing in the form of TV watching here. When I first had Legendario a few years ago, I was struck by the softness.
G-LO: You’re saying Amber’s been slacking at the gym? No burning of the nose hairs with this one.
AK: 34% has a lot to do with that. “Elixir” makes me think that this is more of liqueur, but what do I know?
G-LO: I’m with ya there. After dinner. On ice perhaps. Alongside a Creme Caramel. Aha! That’s what it smells like. The thin sugar syrup at the bottom of a flan. Love that stuff!
AK: Ice. That’s how I’ve had this before on a warm day outside in a patio chair. Never had it sans ice I think. I’m tasting, Tio G-LO.
G-LO: Let’s try it as is, then add a cube. Ohhh, that’s thick and syrupy! You sure it’s not a rum liqueur?
AK: How would I know? Elixir de Cuba. What does that mean? Wait! El poquito print on the label says “Punch au Rhum”. What’s that mean?
G-LO: So many questions. So few answers.
AK: Si, es verdad.
G-LO: This has to be some sort of liqueur. I really like it, but man is it syrupy sweet.
AK: I’m going to Havana!
G-LO: By way of Mexico? Or are you gonna pull a Diana Nyad?
AK: Either way is better than via the USSR but more jellyfish stings, Comrade G-LO.
G-LO: Da. Da.
AK: Wow! Sweet, sugary, and thick. No wonder I can drink a lot of this.
G-LO: Pour this baby on some pancakes. Leaves quite a coating of sugar on my lips and tongue.
AK: Really heavy in my mouth. No maple but pancake syrup like.
G-LO: I say again, definitely more of a liqueur. A really, really good liqueur. Lemme get a cube of ice.
AK: I told the same to Lee way back when when I saw “elixir”. But we keep calling it rum. Cube is dropped.
G-LO: Where’s Dick Clark when you need him?
AK: Kissing Kathy Griffin? Oh, wait. Never mind. Look how it seems gelatinous with the ice?! Mucho bizarro!
G-LO: You’re right. Amber bulked up. Moving slow.
AK: If it wasn’t brown, I’d say it looked like our fish tank. Needs cleaning.
G-LO: Maybe your fish are pulling a Finding Nemo. Is there a pebble stuck in the filter? KROUSE BAIT, HUHAHA!
AK: Thanks, Gil. Ahhh, this is what I remember. Yum. It almost tastes hotter with the ice. Sweet but more burn.
G-LO: I think I liked it better neat. KROUSE BAIT HUHAHA! Final thoughts before we hit the rocket fuel?
AK: The smell is even softer, barely a finish but I still like it with the ice. I like the burn. Ahhh, Amberlita.
G-LO: Adding ice kills the nose for me. Overall, I really liked this stuff. I’d have this in lieu of or alongside a dessert any day of the week. This and vanilla ice cream would be magical.
AK: I like how the King of BoozyShakes thinks! It’s pretty sweet and I’ve really liked just drinking it mid-day with thoughts of the Bay of Pigs and guerrilla warfare in mind. Viva la revolucion!
G-LO: Bay of Pigs! Sounds like a Cuban luau.
AK: Round 2?
G-LO: Yes! Let’s move on.
AK: So this one is Lost Spirits, Navy Style Rum, Oak Matured, Cask Strength, and…wait for it…55%! Lost Spirits is near and dear to me if for no other reason than I think it’s how Allison Patel and I met a few years ago on her blog. She had a post defending the creativity and ingenuity in craft distilling while Lost Spirits was getting hammered on social media for trying something new.
G-LO: Ah yes. You mentioned this before. Looks like Amber went Auburn on color.
AK: Lost Spirits is in Central California and is a small operation that also makes peated whiskey! Some people hate it, some people love it. Personally, I’m in the latter group.
G-LO: That peated whisky sample you sent me was freaky delicious.
AK: Amber’s hair color is like the weather in Chicago. You don’t like, just wait 5 minutes.
G-LO: They say that about the weather in Vermont too.
AK: By the way, the bottle label art is spectacular.
G-LO: On their website right now. Very cool indeed! Reminds me of an old school Tuscan wine label.
AK: And the back label states in caps “DOES NOT CONTAIN COLORING ADDITIVES”. It says that twice just so we’re clear and get the point. The real deal from the oak and molasses.
G-LO: It really is! This is no strawberry blonde! Very Christina Hendricks. Va-va-va-voom!
AK: Wow. That’s a big nose smell, I tell you. Big noses run in my family, by the way. Unlike Amber, no leggy girl here.
G-LO: Yowza! I singed a nose hair. MEDIC! Thin and spindly legs on this one.
AK: I think the smell knocked out an adnoid. Better call an Ear, Nose and Throat doctor on Monday.
G-LO: I know a few good ones. I can get you in. What time is good for you?
AK: Mornings are good. After pilates.
AK: 9AM works. Starbucks for a Chai and I’ll be right there with my sinuses in a doggy bag. I love the color of this. So rich and dark.
G-LO: It’s got some crazy intense aromas too. Deep dark molasses with clove and maybe some salted caramel.
AK: It’s like a good peated Scotch. I almost don’t need to taste it, the smell is deep and intense. Love it.
G-LO: Ha! I was gonna say that there’s some decay in there. Sweet, delicious decay.
AK: I’m going to love smelling the glass afterwards.
G-LO: Aren’t there laws against that type of behavior? Wait. Deja vu alert!
AK: It’s Cali baby! We do what we do. Bryan Davis is one of those kooky engineering types and this is one of his concoctions. Read one his interviews and it’s like Chemistry all over again and I’m staring at Amber at a bunsen burner across the classroom while some professor is balancing equations or something, and I’m lost on two subjects. I’m scared but I’m tasting this one. And, yes, I’m sitting down.
G-LO: I’m going in too.
G-LO: Hey! That’s my line!
AK: I only steal from the best.
G-LO: Kowabunga! That’s some weird stuff. It burns! It burns! Nowhere near as syrupy. Kinda oily.
AK: My eyes burn but I cannot look away. Charry. Is that a word? Coffee, sharp, maybe spicy, cinnamon. Big! Huge!
G-LO: I called Merriam-Webster via my Ouija board. Charry is now a word. Look it up.
AK: I want the new Ouija Board 6 when it comes out. No pancakes for this rum. Maybe a Delta IV rocket if it needs the tank filled up.
G-LO: Definitely packs a wallop! Speaking of Ouija boards and Auburn. Remember Tawny Kitaen?
AK: Do I? Debbie in Bachelor Party with Tom Hanks!! Classic ’80s flick. “Not that I’m complaining, but I usually don’t like my filth this clean!” Love that line. Tawny married an angel. Actually, a California Angel pitcher. Ended badly.
G-LO: Of course it did. Doesn’t it always end badly when it comes to celebrity marriages? Tawny Kitaen and Kelly LeBrock defined the ’80s.
AK: Indeed though I’d add Molly Ringwald in a weird triumvirate. If I add Ally Sheedy, it isn’t a triumvirate, is it?
G-LO: Ah yes. Sixteen Candles was Molly’s finest hour. The best of that genre, i.e. the John Hughes teen comedy.
AK: So, what the hell is navy rum, Commodore? For a 55 percenter, I’m shocked how about the burn time or lack of. Sort of like Nomex underwear in auto racing.
G-LO: It doesn’t really singe my tongue. I get the heat effect AFTER I swallow. No clue what a Navy Rum is, Commodore Schmidlapp. This stuff is intense! Not sweet at all. More like burnt sugar, chili peppers, cinnamon, and clove.
AK: I’m enlisting if this is part of the rations.
G-LO: You already have the rum. Skip the enlisting.
AK: Good idea. I’m bad at painting, especially boats.
G-LO: Do you think the Lost Spirits guy and Chip Tate from Balcones know each other?
AK: Don’t know if Chip and Bryan know each other but that would be an interesting meeting of the minds. Texas and California spirits mad scientists. Balcones has a rum too. Boy, do I want to try that baby. Texas has a navy I can join, right?
G-LO: Certainly! They gotta a big chunk of that state bordering on the Gulf of Mexico.
AK: This has a bit of traditional rum sweetness but not much. I like Pussers Navy Rum too, the “Royal British Navy rum” for eons or so they say in the West Indies, and on the bottle. Nothing fancy. That’s much sweeter.
G-LO: The flavors on this one won’t let go! I don’t get the decay till the very end. Also a touch of salinity. Sal for short. Nice guy. Makes a mean broccoli rabe and cheese stromboli.
AK: Maybe Sal for Salinas, where Lost Spirits is?
AK: I love the finish. And the Finnish. No ice for this one.
G-LO: No ice. No water.
AK: And even a great smelling glass as I expected.
G-LO: The verdict?
AK: Really good. What I know about rum could fit in a peanut shell, but I really like the heavy, big, charry taste of this one.
G-LO: I concur. That was a fun dram! What’s amazing is that it starts off kinda slow and then WHAM!, it gets really intense and flavorful. I feel like Jake LaMotta against Sugar Ray Robinson.
AK: Very. I bet water would bring out a bit more which is kind of scary.
G-LO: “You didn’t get me down, Ray!”
AK: Ready for #3, Mr. Punching Bag?
G-LO: That’s Sir Pugilist to you. I’m ready! 68%???
AK: Fire department on speed dial?
G-LO: Baking Soda at the ready. That puts out fires right?
AK: Gasoline too. This beast is the “other” Lost Spirits rum. Same labeling aside from a few color changes and that 68% Alcohol by Volume thing. Minor detail.
G-LO: Yeah. Just a wee bit darker and only 23.6% stronger. No big thang!
AK: Thank you, Mr. Math. Big jump. We started at 34% an hour ago. We’ve doubled our output!!
G-LO: No. We doubled our input. I dunno what you’re doing with this stuff, but I’m drinking it!
AK: I’m all about production. Sorry about that. I need to turn the lights off, put on Dark Side of the Moon and stare at the label. Trippy, dude, very trippy.
G-LO: Hello? Hello? Hello? Is there anybody in there? Just nod if you can hear me. Is there anybody at home?
AK: Just me and Syd Barrett.
G-LO: This looks like cherry wood stained furniture.
AK: The same on the nose for me but the cilia deep inside have died and left no forwarding address. Definitely more red. Goes well with our cabinets.
G-LO: Agreed. Similar aromas but 23.6% more intense. I just checked out their website and they say they made this with bananas. The power of suggestion! Now I smell really intense Bananas Foster. Extra brown sugar. Extra char on the bananas.
AK: Inhale it very slowly and you can actually hear your brain cells scream. I get burnt cinnamon like when I make challah French toast and sprinkle some on of the slices in the pan and miss, then it fries in the oil. Maybe burned butterscotch, and I mean burned.
G-LO: Hang on. Bravo is on in the background. Woman talking about her OB appointment. Must change the channel! AHHHHH!
AK: Good idea. If I start retaining water, I’ll blame you.
G-LO: Go ahead. Everybody else does. Ok. There’s a Bond special on BBC America. YAY! Nice notes by the way. I can’t dispute any of it.
AK: Good. I’m pretty shaken and not stirred right about now anyway.
G-LO: My frontal cortex is pretty shaken up right now. In a good way, thankfully.
AK: I had one of those an hour ago. Ahoy! I’m going in.
G-LO: It’s like they scraped the bottom of the pot still and threw it in the barrel with the distillate. It’s that intense smelling.
AK: Burnt Amber. Nothing to do with rum. Just like saying that.
G-LO: Burnt Sienna? I like saying that better. Ends in a vowel. Vowels are sexy.
G-LO: Umami. Lotsa vowels.
AK: Burnt sienna is my favorite crayon too. I’m pro-vowel, anti-consonant. New Word Order.
G-LO: That’s your love of Hawaii talking.
G-LO: Mele Kalikimaka to you.
AK: OMG! Enamel peeling off teeth.
G-LO: Your teeth still have enamel? Lucky guy!
AK: The did have enamel. Very dry. That’s unexpected. But it’s a dry heat.
G-LO: Took the words right outta my mouth. VERY dry!
AK: ENT then dentist; busy Monday morning coming up.
G-LO: I dunno. I think a periodontist is gonna be needed after this.
AK: Not oily at all to me. Pretty clean, and shockingly short. Think 55% was longer.
G-LO: Spot on again! This is vapory. Just don’t try to gulp it. That’s when the burn kicks in.
AK: 55 didn’t effect my cheeks like this one. Mostly burned tongue with 55. 68 is a cheek warmer.
G-LO: I’m amazed that it doesn’t really burn when it hits your tongue.
AK: No gulpies with this one.
G-LO: There will be no shots of this stuff. Though a pickle back might work.
AK: I’m going for another, then a splash of water. I have the bottle so I can reload.
G-LO: I’m letting it sit on my tongue and the heat just builds slowly.
AK: I did that on the first sip. Just count in your head. One Bar Rafaeli. Two Bar Rafaeli. Hey, two Bar Rafaelis. That would be something!
G-LO: Charred sugar. Smoky chili peppers. Burnt cinnamon. Clove. Salt.
AK: Burned marshmallow that’s fallen in the ashes.
G-LO: Hmm. That I don’t get. Marshmallows have that powdered sugar thing underneath. I’m going back to that flan syrup.
AK: The saltiness is surprising. Talisker-ish.
G-LO: The Isle of Skye beckons!
AK: I beckon Ione Skye oddly enough. Never returns by beckons.
G-LO: Say Anything. Great stuff!
AK: “I don’t want to sell anything, buy anything, or process anything as a career. I don’t want to sell anything bought or processed, or buy anything sold or processed, or process anything sold, bought, or processed, or repair anything sold, bought, or processed. You know, as a career, I don’t want to do that.”
G-LO: If you drink it REALLY slowly, this rum is really enjoyable at full strength.
AK: I know Lost Spirits uses sea water is some of their production. Wonder if any got into this. If you don’t drink it slowly, you might as well call the Bonasera the Undertaker.
G-LO: Godfather references again? It’s like kicking a dead horse’s head with you. Next time you put a horse out to stud, find a horse ranch out in the country. I’m gonna start calling you Hyman Roth. Personally, I’m quite Fredo-like.
AK: Hey now, Seabiscuit. I play the room that I’m booked in. I want to type the Hyman Roth coughing tic sound so bad! Beyond my limited abilities. Two drops of water and more wow! Spiced apple, burnt pie crust.
G-LO: Smarty Jones. He was a local pony. That cough would have annoyed the crap outta me! No wonder Michael had him killed. Frankie Five Angels was right about that guy. So, I should add some ague fria to the 68?
AK: I did and more stuff came out. Interestingly, the glass hardly smells.
G-LO: You’re a sand bagging son of a bitch! “I don’t do tasting notes!” he says. I added the water. Definitely fruitier. But just to be different, I’m going with poached pear. Bastard
AK: I got less fruit more sweet, sweetie.
G-LO: Who you calling “sweetie”, Sugar? Niceties and lovie dovie talk aside, I’m really liking this Lost Spirits stuff. Weird and wonderful!
AK: The burnt Granny Smith apple of my eye.
G-LO: Granny Smith? Nope. Fuji. No tartness on my end, though I’m kinda tart-like under the right circumstances.
AK: Yep, Fuji! I think that was really what Allison and I were talking about even before we tried it any Lost Spirits stuff. There really is a unique, craziness here.
G-LO: Again, very much like Balcones. But different. Weirder. Game changing stuff. Rum, but not rum.
AK: Yep. I like that. We get caught up in the big old names. Great stuff coming from little guys. Makes you dizzy trying to get your head around it.
G-LO: I know you’re not a beer drinker, but craft distilling has a lot in common with craft brewing. It’s like their both saying, “This is the traditional way it’s done, and this is the traditional way it tastes. That’s great, but we’re gonna change it up a bit. Screw with your expectations.”
AK: I can definitely appreciate that. Takes a creative type like a chef to play with flavors in the right balance to come up with something new and good. And they piss people off, which speaks volumes to me.
G-LO: Which is not to say that I don’t enjoy the old guard. I really do. There’s a reason those people have been in business for decades. They know what they’re doing and can achieve consistency.
AK: Me too but there’s more than one way to skin a cat, make whiskey or rum, or burn my tongue. Small batch says it all. Today’s Lost Spirits 55% won’t be the same as next year’s model, and that’s ok. Consistency like that is for for Coke, Pepsi and Glenlivet.
G-LO: I’m with ya! I enjoy experiencing something different, especially when it’s as good as this stuff. Thanks again for sharing! I would totally buy a bottle for myself.
AK: No problema. From Cuba to Salinas in a few hours. The Rum Express!
G-LO: It’s like we boarded an SR-71 Blackbird for this tasting!
AK: Thanks again, Mr.Yaeger
G-LO: Anytime Hombre! A weird, wonderful, and boozy trip.