Some weeks ago I posted an invite to the Art of Crafting by Mount Gay Rum. This was my first opportunity to blend my own rum and I must say, I am regretting dropping chemistry in the 10th grade. Had I known having an interest in science could lead me to a career in spirits, I may have paid more attention.
I arrived at Miami’s Raleigh Hotel just before the start and met up with a few familiar faces. I was happy to see I was amongst a diverse bunch to include other rum bloggers, bartenders, spirit ambassadors, cultural representatives, and enthusiasts like myself. A buffet style lunch was provided (gotta absorb the booze) and of course, a rum punch to get things going.
We were given an introduction to the brand by not just the North American segment of Mount Gay Rum, but also representatives from Barbados. The history of Mount Gay is familiar so I won’t go into detail here. Of course, rum was in what seemed unlimited supply. No complaints from me.
Information about distillation was provided and the focus of the day was on pot versus pot stills. This was good to know as Part 2 of the Origin Series is releasing which will include both options. We could sample the aged and non-aged versions, some of which makes one thankful for the product we buy. I’m a trooper and willing to try anything once but there were moments where I was thinking, “bring the good stuff.” When you consider the complexity of the flavors one can taste in a rum, it seems that a master blender has quite a challenging job. Our job for the afternoon was to create a rum that is as close to the Black Barrel version using a 2 and 7-year Pot Still Rum, and a 2 and a 7-year Column Still Rum. I felt like a kid with a chemistry set; the time when science seemed interesting, not like dissection classes that ended my interest. Oh, and sampling rum along the way does make science more fun.
I measured, poured, smelled, and sampled. I used my sense of smell more than taste initially because the 4 bottles we were given all smelled so different. It’s amazing how the distillation method really alters such flavors. In all honesty, I wondered if I should have just poured in the 7-year Column Still rum into my vial because it was so tasty. That said, I think I did a decent blend because unlike the person across from me that complained hers was too harsh and needed “more sweet,” I was happy with my blend and drank the remainder neat. It is possible, however, that my blend tasted better simply because I was doing a lot of sampling.
The afternoon did get a little fuzzy (a good thing). We were given an introduction to an apprentice to the master blender, Twanna, and I’m hopeful that one day I can see her signed bottles around Barbados just as I see Allen Smith’s. She’s been with the company for about ten years and while I have tons of questions, something that made me laugh was her explaining a side effect of working in a distillery; as a new employee unaccustomed to the environment, you can leave work and be extremely tired. During the rum-making process, a lot of alcohol evaporates due to the conditions (including tropical climate) and she said it took weeks to become acclimated to this evaporation which reminded me of a London pop-up bar that allows patrons to get drunk via alcohol vapor. Maybe Mount Gay should include such a room at their visitor’s center. Ha!
The final leg of the event was a painting session. Painting With a Twist is something I’ve done before in the past. You basically drink and paint via instruction. I am not the best painter but I understand colors and being a bit of a perfectionist led to my wanting to have the best painting. Nobody could deny my Barbados map was pretty on point.
So 5 hours of rum drinking, painting, and learning with the oldest rum maker in the world was more than what I expected. I knew it would be an afternoon of Mount Gay but I wasn’t expecting to create my own blend or even meet so many like-minded rum drinkers. A special thanks to everyone that considered me for the invite and to any new faces I met. Karlene, you’re awesome! Katelyn and Samantha, thanks so much for always looking out. Vanessa, thank you for all of your interesting articles. Seymour, it was nice seeing you but if I show up to another Bajan event that you didn’t tell me about, we will fight. Partners in rum crimes: Shawniqua & Shari. Mr. Burr, we didn’t speak much at the event but it was great meeting you at the luau. Twanna, I’m coming for your special rums. Also to those whose names I may have forgotten – blame the rum.