Friday, May 31, 2013

Finding New Rum!!!

Sometimes a new rum will rise up and smack you in the face. During our recent tour of four distilleries we squeezed in a vacation. We stayed at the Charleston Harbor Resort & Marina and during that stay we visited The Reel Bar which is at the Beach and Pool area. A nice place for a drink and the pool is great too. We had just checked in and I was ordering a drink while we waited for dinner. The in house restaurant (Indigo Grille) uses the Reel Bar for drinks and our waitress was at a loss when I inquired about rums. So I went to the bar.

Turns out they had a great selection (Had Naked Turtle from the US Virgin Islands as well as many imports) but I piqued their interest when I whipped a Rick the Rum Runner card on them, explained my mission in life; and they proudly announce they had their own rum!! I was intrigued...

Their HELLO My Name is Rum is actually a blend of some local craft rums and they age it in a cask. They also have Apple Jack Sparrow Rum. When I asked to see them they brought out the bottles and I was able to taste the aged rum, but the apple escaped my grasp due to HUGE crowds and I could not get back to the bar later. A damned good reason to go back!!

I can say the aged rum was pretty good! Since I suspect they add as they go, (hence the Reposado name) it is a baby aged rum but it has good flavor and both sipped an in a Coke it was great!! And while I will say their labels, while novel, need a bit of work... I enjoyed their spirit and the spirits! Will have to go back and investigate more!!

Yeah.... It's me

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Richland Rum -- Our Final Stop

I have yet to relate the full story of our discovered rum at the Charleston Harbor Marina and Resort... That will follow soon. However, Richland Rum was the last stop to make a visit to a Rum Distiller, on this trip.

Richland Georgia is a small community outside just about 2 hours south of Atlanta. Richland Rum is on what is becoming the New Main Street and is helping lead the way to become a destination for not only Atlantians and tourists but also people from all the surrounding countryside. This is part of one of the absorbing stories behind the distillation of rum. As it happens the rum has it's birth in the memories of its creator, Erik Vonk.

Mr Vonk related a story to me that he remembered a time in his childhood when his father and uncles would drink a rum that seemed to be a tradition and a staple to their lives. A binding agent so to speak that branded them as family. As Erik grew, he recalled the taste as he too was introduced to the hearty rum his family and friends had drank, not as a cocktail - but as a sipped, warming cordial. Sometimes straight, sometimes with a bit of ice or splash of water, this was a rum that was savored, not just .

As an adult, he decided one day to re-discover the spirit that he recalled so fondly. On the American Market there were few, if any that offered the body, the robustness that he recalled. Searching makers world wide he found some that recalled some, but none brought back the taste he relished. Some twenty years ago, he made the decision to remake those memories.

From a small experimental still, he began to rediscover and rebuild the rum of his heritage. The "hobby" grew. He'd gladly share his successes and learn from early failures. Each step he felt, brought him closer. Another still, this one copper and a bit larger. From the very beginning he had obtained the permits and licenses needed to distill. His rum was pretty popular locally and was gaining notice from stores, restaurants even fine hotel dining-rooms began to seek him out. Finally the town asked him to join in the effort to help rebuild the Main Street. Richland Rum Distilling had a home.

Let's talk about the rum. The large still in operation is to be joined soon by its twin and the slightly smaller still most likely used as an R&D vessel. Rather than putting it in my words, I'll let the story unfold in the words of its makers. 

imageNot only to control quality, but also simply because of our affinity with artisan techniques, Richland Rum is handcrafted in small batches. We do not apply any continuous or industrial processes; our production design and volume are defined by quality, not by efficiency.

Richland rum has only two ingredients: sugar cane juice or premium sugar cane syrup and water. Each year, for a very short period - limited by the Georgia sugar cane harvest season - we use estate, - or locally grown fresh sugar cane juice. The remainder of the year, our base ingredient is premium sugar cane syrup, NEVER molasses.The very limited quantities of Richland Rum made with fresh cane juice will be released in later years as a Proprietor's Reserve.

Richland Rum is an all natural product which does not have preservatives, artificial aromas, coloring, additives or chemical enhancements of any kind.

Recognizing that fermentation plays a key role in defining the taste profile of our Rum, we have perfected a proprietary fermentation recipe over a 15 year time span.

We 'play' our handbuilt, gas-fired copper potstills as if they were musical instruments and each day the performance is a joy!
Every morning, our master Distiller personally inspects the previous day's run, gallon by gallon. Subjecting the Virgin Rum to vigorous test for taste, aromas and clarity, he separates Heads and Tails from the run's Hearts and determines which portion of the spirits deserve to be barreled, sending the heads and tails back for re-distillation.
The Master Distiller takes pride in never compromising on quality.

Our Virgin Rum is pampered to maturity in new, American white oak, medium charred barrels for minimally one year. A portion of the production is earmarked for aging 5 years and beyond.

We expect to release 4,500 cases in 2013.

There is more, I'll be back to tell about coming expansion, returning to the community and the never bending boundaries that guard the quality of the product... Keep reading -- and we all keep learning... Enjoy Richland Rum and tell them you found out about it from me:

Monday, May 27, 2013

Firefly Distillery


Drove out to Firefly Distillery today - a beautiful South Carolina day. We also stopped at the Charleston Tea Plantation (The only one in North America!) where, among great brands of teas, they make the tea used in Firefly Vodkas and Bourbon Sweat Teas. We thought it would help to learn about some of the ingredients.

Just a short trip further brought us to the Irvin Vineyards and Firefly Distillery. They have a great installation with everything they need to make and market their distilled spirits and the wines.

We did not waste too much time and after a bit to eat and a sip of water, we went to the Distillery Tasting Room. It was not long before we had a nice conversation with the young lady pouring samples about Rum and Rum Making. She brought Jim Irvin to meet us and talk about his passion, the farm where wine and spirits are made.

After working more than 45 years, Jim had retired and was looking for a new direction. Widowed for some time, he met and married his new wife and together they began by planting the vines that make the wines bearing their name. Soon, Jim was experimenting in distilled spirits. Their list contains liquors from Moonshine to Bourbon, their famous Vodkas as well as Rum. In fact, they have nearly thirty flavors and variations of their products! Sampling as he explained each product gave me a real look at the man behind the still, so to speak. Easy going but very into the nuances of what he wanted. He explained that his quality control for flavors was 12 people. If he did get a thumbs up from all 12, the flavor needed tweaking. 

Let's taste the rums:
First I had was the White Rum. This was filtered, never barreled and bottled right after distillation. It had a great buzz on my tongue., very clean, just a hint of sugar/molasses at the finish. The aftertaste lingered nicely too. A great sipper or mixed with fruit style drinks and or colas as well.

Gold Rum. Aged in bourbon barrels for 4 years, this has the toasty wood flavor and definite bourbon influences.The toasty oak and mellow rum seem to bring caramel to the forefront. I find it a VERY good aged rum, certainly one of the best to date.

The Spiced Rum was, for me, a real surprise. If you recall, I have never been a fan of spiced rums, but was entranced by craft rums use of spices and the fact that they all seem to blow away the mass produced rums. Well this one is no exception. One sip and I was a fan. Jim mentioned, "If you can't drink a spiced rum alone it's no good..." Well his is very good alone. 

Finally we had his Java Rum. If you like coffee, you will love this -- face it; coffee and rum is a marriage made in heaven. Toss in that it is sweetened coffee and you have an after dinner, dessert rum that is good by itself and ready for any mixing that you'd like to taste real coffee. Jim mentioned using it as the rum in a Pina Colatta, and I plan to try just that!

I have more and will continue another day with recipes and stories on Sea Island Rums and from Jim. Stay tuned his story is amazing.
As for me -- I remain

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Ready to hit the road

We have one, final Distillery stop. That is Richland Rum. It is a 6 hour drive and looks like it will take every minute of that. We hope to make it there by 3 or 4 this afternoon. 
On to the road.....

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

One never knows

We checked in to the Charleston Resort & Marina tired from a long day. Looking for a quick dinner, we choose the in house grill. While ordering drinks we find the Bar has its own rum! I plan to explore it further over the next few days. In the meantime Firefly Distillery is next on the list for a Rick the Rim Runner visit. More on that tomorrow.
We're here, we're tired, we are full. Night all.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Hello from Savannah

We are spending a few days here in Savannah GA. Our next distillery will be Firefly, once we are headed to Charleston. Stop by and check here often as I'll update from time to time, just not the Monday, Wednesday, Friday schedule you are used to.    


Sunday, May 19, 2013

Muddy River Distillery

We managed to  make the six and a half hour Drive from Lexington Kentucky to Charlotte North Carolina in time to get a taste, a tour and an interesting glimpse into the future of Craft Rum from the Proprietor of Muddy River Distillery. Great Rum - good talk and wonderful dreams that are no longer just formless imagines, but concrete and steel plans.

Back to the road.... We managed to travel through 4 states today to end up in Belmont NC. Belmont is a near suburb of Charlotte and as we find the ideal place for a budding business. In an industrial park rental unit, MRD is a small, gritty, fun-filled place; determined to manufacture the best Rum in North Carolina -- if not the USA. Running through traffic, rain and well, a bunch of miles, we made it to the Distillery in time to meet and talk with the owners.
 Caroline at "Freedom"

The Distillery is set in a great aged building, there is not much room for show rooms or gift-shops - but the REAL necessities are all there. The location IS on the banks of the Catawba River which upon securing their Distillation house had flooded the area. Yeah, it was muddy. This business is still stretching from its birth. It can already see the potential and realistic market-place for small batch craft rum. They have spirit (as well as spirits) and Caroline and Robby Deleney make a great team. All that aside though, one must have a product that deserves the title Rum, better: Craft Rum. 

I have found in my tours of these micro distilleries is that they have their histories, the Distillery itself is often old; a product not just of history (take as an example - Barrel House actually being on the grounds of a long-time distiller) but for price.
Practicality makes humble starts a necessities. In Muddy River's case - their humble start will not last long. It's my opinion that they have a real winner here and will very soon look back with pride on their beginnings, but from bigger digs. More on that at a later date. Let's talk Rum.

The still was running as we came in. Freedom is the name of the smaller, Democracy the larger one of the pair, it was just starting to yield. Being a warm day (first really warm one of the season) it was going to be a long run. Robby Delaney mentioned it may be 2 AM before this batch was done. It's part of the Distillation business. You can't hurry distilled spirits. In fact the longer run makes the best alcohol. It's dedication like that that makes Carolina Rum, the Distillery's rum, white and an aged recipe up to their expectations. I got to taste and compare both.

Carolina White -- As with most un-aged white rums, this comes on at the lips. I call it "the buzz", that tingle as the rum touches your lips. Now, I tasted much more sugar than I taste in some other whites, still it had a buzz. I was surprised that they used molasses and not much sugar in their batch. However, the molasses is top-notch and plenty sweet on its own. I find it pleasingly luscious. The aftertaste, falls off nicely with a clean finish after another sweet back rush at swallow. Very smooth in the mouth and overall, a good rum for mixing and -- I bet (I will report on my further tastes) -- with a splash of water or over a rock or two. 

Carolina Aged -- six months or so in a Bourbon barrel does wonderful things to rum. Besides the darkened color, it also imparts that toasted flavor and for me releases a caramel tang in the sugars. I have mentioned here before that I never was a big fan of aged rums before I got deeper into my journey. Now, I find rums taste like nothing else when wood aged and while I tend to dislike the wood flavor in many spirits (even some wines) I have now become a believer in aged rums. Carolina aged hits the spot for a great sipping rum -- again - I would drop a rock into it or even chill the rum first. I have found that the smokiness of aged rum also comes alive with certain sweet drinks as well. 

I will be following up over the next few blogs with some recipes and some designed for Carolina Rum from Muddy River Distillery. We will get "in to" that then. Oh - a few more photos from MRD's website.

Robby innovating
Just breaking out and straining at the restriction of sale and distribution, Carolina Rums and Muddy River Distillery will continue to grow and attract followers. If they get distribution out of just a few states and become more readily available they will have many many fans. I know I plan to keep a bottle on my back bar and be more than willing to share with my friends who I am am introducing to Craft Rum...

In The Upcoming Days & Weeks
So far, there are so many more, bigger, stories behind the little stories I write that I don't want to jam it all into one blog. So, watch for more about each and every Distiller we visit. Stories of beginning, of growth or learning as well as futures and realities; sprouting from dream. I plan to touch upon it all over the coming times. Make sure you come a visit this blog often. Register your email so you can get a fresh story as it is written. Please comment, email me with comments question or information about your favorite rum(s)...

                    So, till next time, from the road - I am:

Friday, May 17, 2013

Barrel House Distillery....

It is good to see a distillery that really has a presence in the city/town/area it is in.
It's hard enough in the business world to get your name and product(s) out there. What struck us is that Barrel House is pretty well known here. Even prominently listed in our hotel guide for Thing To Do.
Located in the barrel house of a past distillery, BHD boasts a large Event hall for catered events just a few blocks down the street from its decidedly cool distillery, railroad industrial location. Just knowing various alcoholic spirits have been distilled here since the early 19th century, makes it unique personality even warmer and friendlier.
We were met by Noah, who took us on a tour of the distillation process, explaining the steps in the different liquors they make (They have Pure Blue Vodka, a nice Bourbon as well as some Devil John Moonshine last and not least Oak Rum) noting the use of local ingredients where possible and the drive to experiment and improve each batch. I found many of their experiments and trials fascinating, noting a trial of sorghum based rum spirit. Those who read this blog know I happily tasted and thoroughly enjoyed Mississippi River Distilling Co's "Sorghrum" so I am looking forward to news of that product perhaps later this year or early next.

Sampling the spirits was a joy. I find BHD products robust, to say the least. There is no shortage of flavor. The Pure Blue Vodka was good, clean but with a front taste as well as an after taste that let me smacking my lips. The Devil John 'Shine was also full of flavor. Rather than using fermented corn mash they distill with their grind and get a great corn taste that is very smooth. For me, of course the Oak Rum was greatly anticipated. It did not disappoint. There is a bit of caramel upfront, a real smoothness - I think from the bourbon used barrels, and a delightful sweet after taste that lingers and I find both comforting and warming.
This is a sipping rum but I think it would be a wonderful addition to Horchata and even an eggnog, the sweetness of these being accented by the smokey rum.
Don't let me limit the drinks though - be open and I guarantee you won't be disappointed either!
We met the partners Pete and Jeff, they were two men obviously loving the journey they've chosen. They even suggested a nearby restaurant for our dinner and were willing to answer questions and chat even though they had a running still and an even planned for just a bit later that evening. Thank you Guys and Ramsey's was very good. I went Country Fried Pork Chops -- YES....
I have to admit, a bit worn after 6 hours of driving -- but time well worth spending. Now, a soak in the hot tub, early to bed and off to the next stop -- Stay tuned!

Kentucky we are here!

Almost to Louisville. Been a GREAT drive so far. Bright but not glary and only about 30 seconds of rain.....
See you in Lexington next!
Rick the Rum Runner 

If all went well.........

Most likely, when you read this the Rick The Road Runner blog should be on the road!!! Please check here often (you can register your email too and get a link sent when there is a new post) to catch some (hopefully) entertaining commentary, pictures. I hope to post picture, maybe videos and posts from the Distilleries. I may even just post some dining and relaxing pictures as well.....

If I happenstance upon interesting run stuff -- You will find it here -- and I will try to utilize Twitter more as well......


Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Still prepping

Oil is all new. Car is checked out. Got her clean and getting anxious!!
Normally when my wife and I travel via SUNNI1 ( car's name), we go top down, avoid a lot of interstate and take our time. This trip we have SO much ground to cover. We will be top up pedal to the metal. Means we will get to our destinations quicker. Actually, once we've gotten passed Lexington, most of the roads are not big 4 lane interstates, having learned that last year, I know the driving throughout the South will be tough.
Tough mostly because it is hard to drive with all that natural beauty around. I often don't see the best stuff till I review all the pictures.
Ok see you tomorrow for updates -- check here often!

Trip prep and remote blogging

It seems travel time approaches quickly. I promised to start packing today so I am not going out the door, trailing stuff behind me. To start the day I sit in the garden, enjoying a cup of coffee.
I have a few errands today. Need to wash the car as well. I will pop on and off a few times, perhaps post pictures and in general include you in the prep.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Battling the Odds but Road Trip still on!

Yeah I have been hit with a flu (let's just call it a gastrointestinal attack) that sidelined me a bit, but I should be fine for Friday's start of the first Rick The Rum Runner Road Trip (RTRRRT). I had left off last week talking about the first couple stops - let's look at the other two Distillery Visits on the itinerary.

 By Sunday May 19 we will be in Savannah GA. I plan to lay back, take in the sights, food and see what interesting Rums I can ingest. There is a good chance we can link up to family who will be visiting Savannah for business, perhaps we can turn it into a bit of pleasure too. We plan to leave there Wednesday and head up to Charleston SC. Now a very interesting stop is in the works sometime in the 4 days we'll be there. We plan to go to Wadmalaw Island and see the Firefly Distillery. Besides the Sea Island Rum, they have a Sweet Tea flavored Vodka (again -- my wife will be excited too on this one) we plan to spend some time here and get to know these products a bit better. The thing I find interesting is the tea is from the US and there is a Tea Plantation nearby. Perhaps we can get to see it all....

Once we leave South Carolina Saturday morning we have a 6 hour drive to Richland GA and Richland Rum. We hope for a nice visit and sampling -- but still have 3 hours to drive to our room for the night, so we will need to be rested and ready for a drive into the night.

We stay in Atlanta and then have a 10-11 hour drive home that we may just divide up and meander home Monday.... While everyone Celebrates Memorial Day -- we will have finished a Memorable Week of Fun, Rum and Southern Hospitality.... !

Stay tuned and check the blog often as I plan to begin some mobile up dates even before we start!

Friday, May 10, 2013

Let's talk ROADTRIP!!

OK looks like all is set for Friday May 17 – we will leave the friendly confines. We have a 6 hour drive to Barrel House Distilling Company. Depending upon the time – we will either check in to the hotel first or visit the Distillery first. I hope we have time to check in then head over as I am rather excited to meet the people who make Oak Rum as well as Pure Blue Vodka (looks like my wife will be very happy), Devil John Moonshine and as Barrel House Bourbon. Be on the lookout folks as you'll the bright Yellow car long before me! I just checked and out room is only about 15 minutes away from Barrel House... Sweet.
get to Lexington Kentucky and

After spending some time at Barrel House and getting a good nights rest we will be headed out to our next stop which will be Belmont North Carolina. That will be a 6-7 hour drive (let's all hope for good weather!) that takes us to Muddy River Distillery.... We are about 20 minutes between hotel and Distillery – so, again – we hope to spend some fun times, taste some great rum and swap a few stories...

I hope that everyone will stop in – Please check the blog daily as I will be posting irregularly, not just Monday, Wednesday and Friday. If you have ANY questions that you like me to ask any of the Distillers, or comments you have about their product – please feel free to email me.

So as time ticks away --- Hope to hear from you all soon and I hope you will enjoy or road trip

Coming up next time ---- Georgia and South Carolina..... Maybe another test of Remote blogging....

See ya 

Wednesday, May 08, 2013

Remote blogging....

Testing 1, 2, 3....
Hopefully, you are reading this as Wednesday, May 8, 2013's blog. I have not explored scheduling on my iPhone app for Blogger, so Jack Sparrow knows when this will hit the blog.
"Why," you may be saying to yourself, "is Rick doing this??" Well, I wanted to try this app to see what I can and can't do. That means you may be subjected to some pictures, even videos over the next few blogs that are worse than even the regular fare here. However, no progress without experimentation
As I get better at this (I hope) I plan to post parts of our visits to the distilleries in  written and visual form. So much fun when you are somewhere new! Hopefully fun for you too. 
Got a new hat.... Proclaiming my identity. So all you in the areas we are headed watch for me, in that hat, driving this car:
 So, that's about it for today. I remain Rick the Rum Runner.....

Allllllllll Righty - then. I am now at the laptop. and discovering I can only save remotely and then Schedule and publish from my computer..... Sounds good with me!!! Hopefully, I won't bore everyone exploring but --- I hope to make it up with unbelievable stories from the road!!! Please stay tuned and if you are any where near the Distilleries that we plan to visit --- introduce yourself and let's have a lil lap of rum together!!!