Plantation Rums Brings Out the Rarities at Tales of the Cocktail 2015

The agony and ecstasy of Plantation Rums is a direct result of their many, many releases of rums purchased from distilleries around the world and finished in France. Once you’re hooked on their sublime expressions and start collecting their numerous bottlings, you realize it’s a herculean task; there’s always some obscure release you didn’t know about that needs a home on your bar shelf. Sure, Plantation has staples like the Barbados Grand Reserve five-year, the Original Dark, and the 3 Star Blend, but once you start collecting single vintages, say Panama 2000, or the even more exotic Black Label series, it’s like Pokémon card collecting. You can’t have just one.

Plantation often makes small releases for a single country, or custom bottlings of just a few barrels for a retailer, so it’s anybody’s guess how many different offerings are out there. If you’re not familiar with Plantation, you should read this post before continuing. Continue reading “Plantation Rums Brings Out the Rarities at Tales of the Cocktail 2015”

Grape Escape: Peru’s Pisco Varietals at Tales of the Cocktail 2015

Pisco is a spirit that’s taken me a while to wrap my head around. A clear, grape-based spirt from South America, I’ve been enchanted by it since my first sip, and later making my first pisco punch at home. But once you seek to move beyond the Pisco Sour, its many styles and terminology are daunting. In exchange for gaining this awareness, you’ll discover a world-class spirit that’s a joy both neat and in cocktails, and yet is a bargain when compared to tequila, cachaça, brandy, and so on.

Much like bourbon has specific rules (at least 51% corn, aged in new American oak barrels, etc.), the production of Peruvian Pisco also has very specific regulations, which make it equally worthy of attention as French Cognac (also a grape-based brandy) or single-malt Scotch. I have explicitly specified “Peruvian” pisco here because both Chile and Peru claim it as their own and have intense national rivalries about who makes the “real” Pisco. From an outsider’s perspective, the Peruvian regulations are more stringent and, based on price, are more highly valued. For our purposes here, “pisco” means Peruvian Pisco.

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Rumtastic Happenings at Tales of the Cocktail 2015

It’s 8:45 AM on the second full day of Tales of the Cocktail 2015, and I’m in bed, dreading the imminent alarm clock. Only a few hours earlier I’d been drinking 140 proof Jamaican Rum and cask-strength rye at an impromptu hotel room get-together, followed by a nightcap at the Monteleone’s Carousel bar, before finally falling into bed at 2:30 AM. What I really need is more sleep, but I’m scheduled to drink more rum in an hour. Ordinarily I’d miss the rum and opt for more shut-eye but this is no ordinary tasting. No sir! Plantation Rums had reached deep into their rum reserves, picked of their best casks from all over the Caribbean, and bottled just enough for two dozen people to enjoy at Tales. At 10 AM. The things I do for rum….

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A Wonk’s First Trip to Tales of the Cocktail

It’s 11 PM, and after a long day, Mrs. Wonk and I are bone-tired. Yet we’re standing in a large courtyard in New Orleans where despite the late time, it’s still approximately 1000 degrees. On a raised platform some twenty feet above us, a Star Wars storm trooper DJs away. Behind him is an actual, honest-to-goodness World War II-era bomber, suspended in mid-air. Nearby a dystopian Thunderdome scene plays out as sporadic giant belches of flames erupt into the (already way too hot) night. Yet a few hours earlier, I was sipping a magnificent selection of Guyanese rums, pulled straight from the cask, not available anywhere else.  At Tales of the Cocktail, this is just another day as usual.
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Meet Dozens of Pacific Northwest Distillers at Proof Washington – July 11th, 2015

While visiting distilleries is always the best way to meet the folks who craft your spirits, the Proof Washington Distillers Festival is the next best option for sampling spirits from dozens of distillers based in Washington and nearby states. Washington State has the most craft distilleries of any state in the U.S., and the Proof festival is the official event of the Washington Distillers Guild.
The event, now in its third year, is one night only–July 11that Fremont Studios (155 N. 35th Street in Seattle). Roughly three dozen distilleries have tables where you can sample their products and chat with representatives who are frequently the owners and distillers. Among the well-known distilleries attending are Westland, Captive Spirits, Sun Liquor, and Sound Spirits. But wait! There’s more: Over a dozen local restaurants–including 8oz. Burger & Co., Bluebird Ice Cream, Moshi Moshi, and Urbane, among others–will have food booths with small bites. If you’re looking for a little education, local cocktail celebrities Paul Clarke (Imbibemagazine), Amanda Reed (Tavern Law), and Andrew Friedman (Liberty) are presenting 45-minute classes during the event.
Last, and certainly not least, spirits from participating distillers will be for sale at the event. This is a pretty big deal as finding spirits from smaller distilleries at local stores can be a challenge, even in Washington State. And in contrast to prior years, you can now buy directly at the distiller’s booth, rather than waiting in line at a “store” area.

Tickets are $40 for general admission and $60 for VIP, which gets you in an hour earlier and includes additional drink tokens. I recommend the VIP pass and going early–it’s a bit less noisy during the VIP time, which makes it easier to have a relaxed conversation with your new distiller friends.

Check out Pacific Northwest distilleries and watch me judge a cocktail competion

This Friday, 5/15, is the Seattle Uncorked “Meet Your Makers” event. A number of local and nearby distilleries (including 3 Howls, Captive Spirits, Oregon Spirits Distillers, Westland, and Oola) will be there.

Part of the event is a cocktail competition featuring local bartenders creating original drinks while utilizing “The Barbarian” from Barbarian Bar Tools, a multi-function bar tool which I’ve written about recently. I’ll be a judge along with Natalie Migliarini from Beautiful Booze. It should be a ton of fun and I wouldn’t miss it even if I weren’t judging!