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Master of Malt Blog

Tag: Dark Rum

The search for perfect snack & spirit pairings

If you’ve ever felt uncertain mixing spirits with snacks, you’re not alone. However, through rigorous and very scientific testing methods, we think we’ve uncovered some perfect pairings… Food and drink….

If you’ve ever felt uncertain mixing spirits with snacks, you’re not alone. However, through rigorous and very scientific testing methods, we think we’ve uncovered some perfect pairings…

Food and drink. The phrase rolls off the tongue in such a way that it makes me believe they should rarely be apart. Breakfast deserves orange juice. Tea demands biscuits. They complement each other so carefully that you can almost imagine every type of drink having an invisible string connecting it to its faithful food friend.

But then spirits enter the picture, and the strings end up getting a bit tangled. You can enjoy an excellent spirit with food, I just don’t think I’ve ever quite found a perfect duo. However, I truly think there’s opportunity for greatness when spirits meet snack foods, and so through my Very Important Research, I set out to uncover some impeccable pairs.

First order of business was to assemble a snack selection. I chose eight snack foods that I believed stood a good chance of complementing a spirit – with some caveats. For starters, I’m a vegetarian, which automatically ruled out some snacks – my apologies, pork scratchings aficionados. I’ve also seen the dangers of introducing cutlery to a casual pub setting first hand, so anything involving knives and forks was also not considered. With this in mind, the final snack list was…

The snack ensemble

Crisps – Specifically cheese and onion flavoured crisps. It’s the best readily available flavour of crisp and I am willing to fight my corner on that.

Peanuts – Specifically salted peanuts. Why wouldn’t I want my legumes to be covered in tiny mineral crystals?

Tortilla chips – Specifically salted tortilla chips. I usually want to avoid having my fingers covered in that bright orange dust found on cheesy tortilla chips.

Plantain chips – Specifically salted plantain chips. OK, this time I was limited by the selection at the shop, but probably what I would have chosen anyway.

Popcorn – Specifically salted popcorn. I refuse to acknowledge sweet popcorn.

Olives – Specifically green olives. You might think olives need cutlery, or at least a toothpick, but I don’t. Does this make me a monster? Maybe.

Pretzels – Specifically salted pretzels. Other jazzy flavours are available, but let’s be real. Let’s be really real. If you’re getting pretzels, you’re getting salted pretzels.

Pickled onions – Specifically… Actually, never mind. They’re pickled onions.

Next, a spirit selection was assembled. For this list, I picked out drinks that wouldn’t raise too much of an eyebrow if you were to see them on the back bar of your local drinking establishment. OK, the genever might be a bit surprising, but I really like genever and wanted to see what if there were any good matches. I’ll admit I was playing favourites. To allow for general applications of the findings I won’t be revealing any of the brands, but I aimed to use good examples of the spirit and style. The final list was peated single malt, sherried single malt, bourbon, dark rum, gin, genever and reposado Tequila.

Snacks chosen. Spirits chosen. The science soon followed. These tastings were done over a series of days, and the routine was to sip Spirit A, eat Snack A, assess, take a good glug of water, eat Snack A, sip Spirit A, assess, take a good glug of water, repeat with Snack B, and so on. Tasting the spirits and snacks both ways around seemed important to me when I started, but it only ever really made a difference a handful of times. If a combination tasted bad one way around, nine times out of ten it tasted bad the other way around too. I did get to eat more pickled onions than I would have done otherwise, though. Silver linings.

Well then. Here’s how it all played out.

Peated single malt

Top Snack: Peanuts

Peat and peanuts!

It appears that peanuts and phenols are good friends, as the salted peanuts were the best partner for peated single malt. It ended up tasting like smoky peanut butter, which absolutely should be a thing. I am willing to lose crunchy peanut butter if it means we can have smoky peanut butter instead. The briny intensity of olives stood up well to peaty whisky, and the tangy brightness of pickled onion was enjoyably refreshing when juxtaposed with the smoky single malt. Popcorn is the enemy of smoky whisky – the combo was astringent and unpleasant.

Sherried single malt

Top Snack: Plantain chips

Plantain chips and sherried whisky makes for a fruit-forward combo

The sweet, subtle fruitiness of plantain chips blended brilliantly with the red berry and chocolate notes in sherried single malt, making it the best partner for this whisky. However, the rest of the snacks didn’t really put up much of a fight for the top spot. The cheesy crisps we’re pretty good (after a few seconds – it starts out a bit too sweet, but gets better), and pickled onion is definitely worth a go, though neither were anywhere near great. Tortilla chips and sherried single malt somehow ended up having the consistency and flavour of spent coffee grounds. As you can imagine, not great.

Bourbon

Top Snack: Pickled Onions

Who didn’t see this one coming?

Pickle juice and bourbon is a strange combination that sounds terrible but is the complete opposite. With that knowledge, I will admit that I approached bourbon and pickled onions with an inkling that this would be a winning pair. Reader, I was right about pickled onions and bourbon. They’re such a great team. Popcorn performed well here, as did the tortilla chips, which I think has something to do with their corn content and the corn content of bourbon. The sweetness of plantain chips did not help its cause, with the combination becoming unappealingly marshmallowy. Sadly, olives are just too funky to pair with bourbon very well at all.

Dark rum

Top Snack: Popcorn

I was a big fan of rum and popcorn

Popcorn was the biggest surprise here. I’d say it “really pops”, but that’s the kind of pathetic pun that makes me want to push chairs over instead of do a polite giggle. Anyway, the heaviness of the dark rum along with its powerful fruit notes pair brilliantly with the lightness of the popcorn, as well as feeding into the classic sweet/savoury dynamic. If you really like peanuts, dark rum is a good match, as it somehow manages to bolster and intensify the peanut’s flavour profile. The subtle estery notes of plantain chips blended well with rum, giving it a tasty, tangy kick, too. A strange, acidic bitterness developed when introducing pickled onions to rum, so that combo is to be avoided, I reckon.

Gin

Top snack: Inconclusive

So here’s the thing. I didn’t find a snack that I could confidently say paired perfectly with gin. That isn’t to say one doesn’t exist. This was only a test of eight snacks, I have of course missed great swaths of snack foods, including ones across the globe that I have never had the chance to try (but really want to – if anyone knows where I can get halva in Ireland, give us a shout). I did taste a few good matches, though. To the surprise of no one, olives work well with gin. The creamy, subtle sweetness of plantain chips helped to balance the herbal bitterness, as did the very light toastiness and saltiness of pretzels. Pickled onions were fine, if a little bit too punchy. The best thing to be said about crisps and gin was that it opened up the chance to write something about “crisps and crisp juniper”, but even then it was kind of hard to fit into a sentence naturally. A missed opportunity.

Genever

Top Snack: Peanuts

Got all artsy with the peanut placements

You might think that genever is too similar to gin to yield any different outcomes, and that my personal love of the spirit might influence the results. However, try genever and peanuts and tell me that combo isn’t awesome. I dare you. Spiciness, creaminess, saltiness, a whiff of earthiness and subtle sweetness – it’s all there, and it’s great. Plantain chips are on a similar wavelength to peanuts when paired with genever, except leaning a bit more on the sweetness. Tortilla chips, crisps and popcorn helped the herbaceous elements of genever come through a little brighter, which was cool. Pretzels and genever ended up being a pretty bland combination, while the pickled onion overwhelmed the genever completely, which is a sin in my book.

Reposado Tequila

Top Snack: Olives

My favourite combo of the lot – Tequila and olives

Only one snack and spirit pairing made me swear out loud, and that was olives and Tequila. It’s such a good combo – instantly bright and juicy on the palate, with savoury, oily notes lasting, plus a little hint of funk popping up later on. But that’s not all – both popcorn and pretzels really impressed me with the Tequila too. The big, crunchy salt crystals on the pretzels supercharge the vegetal earthiness of the spirit, and the softly toasty popcorn created an almost bourbon-esque flavour profile with the Tequila. The oniony notes of the crisps made for an enjoyably tangy experience, while the estery elements of the plantain chips were bolstered wonderfully. Tortilla chips performed pretty well, but did get a bit lost underneath the Tequila, while the opposite was the case for pickled onions, which took over the palate once again. Peanuts started out alright, but after a few chews the combination became surprisingly way too sweet.

I recognise that I have written a lot of words about snacks, all of which sort of amounts to a series of yummy/not yummy verdicts. I wouldn’t blame you if you skipped past them in the hopes of there being a graph or something you can refer to and quickly see what snack you should pick up to pair with a tasty bottle you’ve got on your shelf. If you did do that, you’re in luck. Inspired by a colleague’s deep love of charts and graphs, feast your eyes on this incredibly artistic chart that I made. Enjoy.

Artistic, scientific, and very colourful

What did we learn from this? Well, personally I think I have learnt that Tequila may be my favourite spirit to pair with food. It produced the best combo with the olives, and worked well with almost all of the snacks. While I was very excited to see how pickled onion would fare, I found that it wasn’t actually a great match for most of the spirits on the list. I’m honestly not surprised, but I think it’s good to have that confirmed – I’ll stick to eating them straight from the fridge when I accidentally wake up at 2 a.m. I also decided that further research will need to happen to find a good partner for gin. Even with top tier Martini and Gibson garnishes in the running, nothing made me jump out of my chair. Perhaps sweet snacks are the way to go? Only time will tell. On the topic of more testing, I really would love to do this again with different spirit and different snacks. If you reckon there’s a spirit out there that could use a partner, or snacks that deserve investigation – or if you’ve done your own analysis and found your own perfect match – let me know in the comments!

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A lip-smacking round up for Rum Month

It’s been a busy ol’ Rum Month, so we thought we’d take some time to have a look at a few of our favourites to round the month off deliciously….

It’s been a busy ol’ Rum Month, so we thought we’d take some time to have a look at a few of our favourites to round the month off deliciously.

Some people know July as “I’m going to see that one big movie and maybe I’ll go to a park to kick a ball” month. Others know it as “my boss won’t look at me funny for coming to the office wearing shorts” month. Ice cream van owners probably know July as “aw beans, I’m going to need to order more flakes” month. While these all may be correct, they are all missing one important thing. July is Rum Month. That important fact is the catalyst for this blog post’s existence, because we’re taking a moment to show off some of our favourite rums that we enjoyed during Rum Month!

Pusser’s ‘Gunpowder Proof’ Black Label

Pussers Gunpowder Proof Black Label

Pussers Gunpowder Proof Black Label

The last day of July is Black Tot Day, which commemorates the last ever daily rum ration issued by the Royal Navy on 31 July 1970. Though the bosun’s call of ‘Up Spirits’ no longer rings out, Navy rums are still very much a thing. As such, it’s only right that we kick off this rum round up with the incredible Pusser’s ‘Gunpowder Proof’ Black Label, produced in accordance with the Admiralty’s recipe and bottled at a generous 54.5% ABV. You can expect all sorts of dark fruit, brown sugar and dry spice notes running through this one.

Pineapple Grenade Spiced Rum

Pineapple Grenade

Pineapple Grenade

If you’re looking for a particularly punchy rum for… Well, for punches and the like, then Pineapple Grenade is exactly what you’re after. Built around a molasses-based rum from the ever-excellent Diamond Distillery in Guyana, Pineapple Grenade is flavoured with a secret mix of spices as well as salted caramel and the eponymous pineapple. It’s bottled at 65% ABV, which we agree, is rather strong indeed. You’ll want to dilute it well in your mixed drinks – speaking of which, this stuff goes excellently with ginger ale.

Issan (That Boutique-y Rum Company)

Issan That Boutique-y Rum Company

Issan That Boutique-y Rum Company

When you think of countries where rum is produced, Thailand probably doesn’t spring to mind. Which is too bad, because it turns out that tucked away in the north-east of Thailand, there’s a distillery making some fascinating rum with an eco-friendly approach. This rum from the Issan Distillery was bottled by That Boutique-y Rum Company, and made using the juice from red sugar cane (as seen on the label). It’s full of classic rhum agricole funkiness, with hints of fresh berries and vanilla coming through later on.

Havana Club Máximo Rum Extra Añejo

Havana Club Máximo Rum Extra Añejo

Havana Club Máximo Rum Extra Añejo

Got a hefty wodge of cash that you’re looking to turn into a very special bottle of rum? Havana Club can certainly help with that endeavour. Máximo is an extra añejo Cuban rum expertly crafted by maestro ronero Don José Navarro using some incredibly well-aged stocks, with only 1,000 bottles produced each year. You might be thinking “Gosh, that sounds nice, I bet it comes in a very fancy bottle…”, and you’d be absolutely right. Máximo is presented in a handmade crystal decanter alongside a sufficiently weighty crystal stopper.

Rumbullion!

Rumbullion!

Rumbullion!

We’re finishing things off here with another reference to Black Tot Day – this time it’s a shout-out to the grog tub, the robust vessel from which tots were dispensed up until 1970. You’ll see one of these on the label of Rumbullion!, a marvellous spiced rum featuring the likes of Madagascan vanilla, orange peel, cassia, clove and cardamom alongside the high-quality Caribbean rum. A terrific cockle-warmer, but more than suitable for enjoying on a warm evening with ice and a good whack of lime.

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10 of the best super spooky Halloween spirits!

Whether you’re attending a party full of deadly debauchery or spending a quiet night at home treating yourself, we’ve got the tipples to tickle your festive fancy this Halloween… Halloween…

Whether you’re attending a party full of deadly debauchery or spending a quiet night at home treating yourself, we’ve got the tipples to tickle your festive fancy this Halloween…

Halloween has come around again, promising a day of ghosts and ghouls, spiders and scares and all things frightening and foul. But there is truly nothing more terrifying than the idea of enduring the endless barrage of begging children or the heaving town centres without a decent drink in hand (severed or otherwise)…

So, let us set the scene for spooky celebrations and paranormal partying this year. Spare yourself the tricks and instead treat yourself to these spooktacular offerings. We’ve compiled a list of spine-tingling spirits, each with the scariest of serves, from peculiar punches to creepy cocktails.

So come and join us – if you dare – and cast your eyes upon the most bewitching boozes around. Oh – and be sure to check out our Halloween 2018 page for more ghastly greats… Mwahahaha!

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Avast! Treasure ahoy for International Talk Like a Pirate Day!

Yarr, ahoy an’ yo ho ho! It be International Talk Like a Pirate Day, so we gots a treasure chest full o’ treats to be showing off! Smartly read on,…

Yarr, ahoy an’ yo ho ho! It be International Talk Like a Pirate Day, so we gots a treasure chest full o’ treats to be showing off! Smartly read on, ya swashbucklers!

If ye be noticin’ folk runnin’ around, hollering “Yarr!” at the top o’ their voice this morn’, ye best greet them with a rousin’ “Yarr!” of yer own, for it be International Talk Like a Pirate Day! But avast – what does this have to do with boozes? Well, landlubbers, we gots a trove of tangentially-pirate-themed treasure for ye to gaze at through yer spyglass!

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Renegade Rum Distillery: the future of rum?

Last week, Renegade Spirits broke ground on a US$20 million distillery on the Caribbean island of Grenada. We caught up with CEO Mark Reynier – founder of Bruichladdich and Waterford…

Last week, Renegade Spirits broke ground on a US$20 million distillery on the Caribbean island of Grenada. We caught up with CEO Mark Reynier – founder of Bruichladdich and Waterford distilleries – to find out why his terroir-driven single cane rum could be the hero the category deserves…

“All men have limits. They learn what they are and learn not to exceed them. I ignore mine.” – Mark Reynier

Pretty profound, huh? Alright, full disclosure. He didn’t actually say that, Batman did. But he could’ve, because in many ways Reynier is the Batman of the spirits industry.

Like Batman, he excels at subverting the system. Drawing from years of experience as a vigneron, shipper, wholesaler and retailer, Reynier turns traditional practice on its head. By channelling a winemaker’s approach to distilling, he paves the way for a new normal. And (like Gotham), the booze is far better for it. No word on whether he too knows 157 different types of martial arts.

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Ten delightful dark rums to enjoy beyond Rum Month

Similar to how dogs are not just for Christmas, rum is not just for Rum Month. As July nears its end, we take a look at ten terrific dark rums…

Similar to how dogs are not just for Christmas, rum is not just for Rum Month. As July nears its end, we take a look at ten terrific dark rums for you to enjoy now and savour during months that aren’t quite lucky enough to be officially designated as Rum Month.

All good things must come to an end, and that includes Rum Month. However, there is nothing stopping you from taking the things you have learnt during Rum Month and applying these lessons to other months of the year. Y’know, months like August, March, November, et cetera. We may not have mentioned your favourite month there, but rest assured, other months do exist.

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When will rum’s golden hour arrive?

For years, industry insiders have been prophesying rum’s meteoric rise – but the category is still waiting in the wings. What is rum doing to move forward, and how can…

For years, industry insiders have been prophesying rum’s meteoric rise – but the category is still waiting in the wings. What is rum doing to move forward, and how can it attract new fans? A group of experts pondered its prospects at the first ever Think Rum event. 

It has heritage akin to Scotch whisky and the regional diversity found in gin, so why isn’t rum taken as seriously? Well, the category is broad and complex for starters. It’s also privy to a party image, and largely underrepresented in bars and pubs. However, that’s not to say rum is struggling – far from it. In fact, UK sales topped £1 billion for the first time ever in 2017.

For this level of popularity to be sustainable, rum must not rest on its laurels. Now more than ever, drinkers want to be educated about the various styles and brands within any given category, and it’s important that the entire rum community, from producers to bloggers, is poised to deliver if the category is to thrive.

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Master of Cocktails – Mai Tai

This week’s #MasterofCocktails is an absolute doosie. We’re making a Mai Tai. Probably one of the most abused and under-appreciated drinks in the world. Now, if you’ve ever ordered one…

Master of Cocktails Mai Tai

This week’s #MasterofCocktails is an absolute doosie. We’re making a Mai Tai. Probably one of the most abused and under-appreciated drinks in the world.

Now, if you’ve ever ordered one of these in a bar, you’ll either have had a delicious variant on a Daiquiri, or a juice-laden mess that bears as much resemblance to a proper cocktail as a bottle of Hooch and an apple schnapps chaser.

Can you guess which version we’re going to be making?

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The Whip – Bar Review

The Whip at The Running Horse Pub 50 Davies Street, London, W1K 5JE Tel: 020 7493 1275 Nearest Tube: Bond Street Monday to Saturday, 12-11pm Hunter S Thompson’s famous Kentucky…

The Whip bar

The Whip at The Running Horse Pub
50 Davies Street, London, W1K 5JE
Tel: 020 7493 1275
Nearest Tube: Bond Street
Monday to Saturday, 12-11pm

Hunter S Thompson’s famous Kentucky Derby inkings were in my mind last Saturday as I climbed the stairs to The Whip in Mayfair – a newly opened bar which carries on the equestrian theme of partner operation, The Running Horse (located downstairs). Brandishing some serious bourbons, the menu is a mouthwatering selection of Derby classics – Mint Juleps were in order, and The Whip’s elegantly styled confines were a suitable location.

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Plunder a Free dram o’ Rumbullion! for Talk Like A Pirate Day!

Garr! What be this shiny box? What be a blog? Can I fight it? Garr! Ahoy there, mateys! It be International Talk Like A Pirate Day, it be! Well, it…

Pirate blog

Garr! What be this shiny box? What be a blog? Can I fight it? Garr!

Ahoy there, mateys! It be International Talk Like A Pirate Day, it be! Well, it actually be tomorrow, but why settle for one day, when ye can have two? Set sail for yellin’, poor grammar ‘n’ parrots! Yarr!

International Talk Like A Pirate Day be the best day for rum! Spicy like a hell-hound’s bark ‘n’ temptin’ as a Siren’s song, rum be some o’ arr favarrite booty. Yo ho ho ‘n’ a bottle o’ rum!

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