Last night, the Queen Mary held the second of its 2014 Barrel Series Dinners. This pairing dinner was based on the famous Caribbean Island drink from Barbados, Mount Gay Rum. In an exclusive Examiner interview after the dinner with Scott Fitzgerald, National Brand Ambassador from Mount Gay Rum, the Examiner asked about the current state of rum's popularity. “The liquor world is cyclical. Five years ago, if you walked into a bar, any bar in California, you would find that seventy percent of the back bar was flavored spirits and white spirits. Now, if you walk into any of those bars, any dive bar, any hotel bar, any cocktail bar, eighty percent of your bar is going to be brown spirits”.
Scott continued, “You're going to have ryes, rums, brandies, scotches. People really prefer flavors that are more distinct. What really led that brown spirits revolution was bourbon and rye. Rum has just about had it's time. Rum was huge for hundreds of years. Rum was really big in the '80s. Mount Gay Rum reached it's peak in the '80s and rum started to go into kind of a slumber here. I think though with rums like the Black Barrel, rum is going to be the next notable step in that brown spirits revolution”.
The dinner itself started out with selection of passed hor d'oeuvres, served with large cold glasses of Rum Punch. Guests enjoyed choices such as Bacon Wrapped Scallops and a Jerk Chicken, Tomato and Fig Kabob. The Queen Mary's Executive Chef Todd Henderson enjoyed preparing the menu for the evening's dishes. He explained that rum's characteristics make it not only easier to use to complement foods but that it blends with different foods in a better way than most spirits.
Notable in the crowd were several of the official “red hats”, the Mount Gay Rum hats awarded to sailors who have competed in Mount Gay sponsored yachting events. These hats, a badge of honor among sailors, are awarded for completing events such as the annual Newport to Ensenada Race and Long Beach Race Week on the West Coast, the Round the Island Race around Martha's Vineyard and the Block Island Race on the East Coast. Internationally, Barbados' own Round Barbados Rum Race, Australia's Gosford to Lord Howe Island Race and the Havana Club Rum Race in New Zealand are all prestigious races where the cherished “red hat” is earned.
Twain Schreiber, Director of Food and Beverage for the Queen Mary, introduced Scott to the crowd that filled the Queen's Salon on the Queen Mary. Between courses, Scott Fitzgerald commented both on the rum choices and told several stories about the history of rum in general as well as specifically Mount Gay's role in history. Scott said, “the best thing about rum, the reason that I really love rum above all others it's truly about the history, truly about what it represents”.
As the dinner proceeded, guests sat down and received their first course, a “Spice and Ice' Lobster Ceviche, along with their first glass of the evening's designated rums, the Mount Gay Silver Rum. The rum, assertive in flavor and with a noticeable heat from the alcohol, went along very well with the lobster and it's salad that included jalapeno, poblana and radish sprouts. The salad was inspired, truly one of the best lobster dishes to be found. With fresh, lively flavors and a citrus tinge to it, the 'Spice and Ice' Lobster gave a great start to the meal.
Scott proceeded to describe the tasting points for the next rum, the Mount Gay Eclipse Rum. He gave a bit of a history lesson too, saying, “the best thing about rum, the reason that I really love rum above all others it's truly about the history, truly about what it represents. In the 1600's and 1700's, when America was still growing into becoming America, there was a huge, huge rum following. Rum was the most important spirit in the formation of this country, more so than anything else. More than bourbon, more than rye, more than any other spirit. There were more distilleries per capita, in New England, than there were of any other spirit nationwide. Rum was actually a currency in Massachusetts in the 1600's”.
The second course included a roasted Kurobuta Pork Tenderloin, with spiced apples topping it. Beneath it, sauteed cabbage was cooked perfectly, soft and tender with just a touch of crispness remaining to give a nice textural contrast. The demi-glace was rum infused, echoing the notes in the glass that everyone had of the Mount Gay Eclipse Rum. The Eclipse was a contrast to the Silver Rum, smoother and with less of a 'burn'. It had nice notes of vanilla in it and complemented the pork extremely well.
Scott told an interesting story before the next course about George Washington. In his 20's, young George had traveled to Barbados to seek a cure for his brother's tuberculosis. Unable to come up with the cure, he instead partook of the island's bountiful charms, including it's women, culture and rum. George went on to become a plantation owner, politician and the first American hero. He never forgot Barbados and what he loved about it, however.
As Scott said, “On the night of his inauguration, the apex of his career, the apex of politics in America to that point, the proudest day in the formation of a new nation, a new Republic, he was still so enamored, so in love with Barbados rum that he had drank when he was in his 20's in Barbados, that he requested six barrels of Bajan Rum, which at that time would have been Mount Gay, to be served at his inauguration. At the creation of the greatest country on this planet, the way he wanted to remember it, to celebrate it, was by drinking this beautiful Bajan Rum”.
The third course was presented with a glass of one of Mount Gay's previous Master Distillers. The 'Extra Old' Rum was a signature rum and was a smooth, complex drink. It paired well with the flavorful Smoked Peppered Ribeye that Chef Todd had prepared. A Bordelaise Sauce napped the flavorful beef. Along with it, a new Potato and Plantain Hash added a touch of island flavor. The dish was topped with a thin, crisp slice of plantain to add a distinctive texture to the dish.
For dessert, an Espresso Rum tartlet and a chocolate rum dessert that looked like a Hostess Twinkie but had a marvelous taste and texture were served. For this, Mount Gay's '1703' rum was poured. This rum, especially produced as Allen Smith's high-end rum, was extremely smooth, with hints of molasses, vanilla and banana. Sipping it slowly, the guests savored the delicious rum, delicate and making a perfect foil for the chocolate-based desserts.
At the conclusion of the evening, everyone was invited to the Verandah Deck on the queen Mary. Here, on the teakwood deck overlooking the harbor and the night skyline of Long Beach, guests had their choice of regular and robust La Gloria Cubana cigars from Lana, the rep for General cigars. Along with the cigars, glasses of the Black Barrel Rum that Twain Schreiber had personally travelled to Barbados to work with Mount Gay's current Master Distiller, Allen Smith on blending just the right amount of single and double-distilled rums in order to make a barrel reflective of the splendor of the Queen Mary.
The Black Barrel Rum was a treat, to be sipped slowly. It's flavor was more akin to a delicate cognac and worked perfectly with the fine cigars. A sip of rum, a puff on the cigar, and another sip to savor the fine rum allowed everyone to appreciate how delicious a quality rum could be. Talking to the Examiner between sips of the rum and puffs on the cigar, Scott talked about some of the lore of fine rum, an expression called the 'angel's share'.
Scott said, The 'angel's share' is actually because we use white American Oak casks and oak is porous, so you are eventually going to have evaporation, no matter what you age, no matter whether it's in Scotland, America or Barbados. So 'angel's share' refers to the amount of evaporation that happens per year. The reason that it's called 'angel's share' because there's a belief that if you want to drink 'heavenly liquid' you have to pay the angels in order to access the liquid”.
He concluded the discussion by saying, “So the angels get to drink their share and what you get to drink is a little bit of heaven. In Barbados we lose about three times more because of the temperature. We lose anywhere from ten to fifteen percent per year in 'angel's share', usually an average of twelve to thirteen. That means the liquid is so much more focussed, so much more complex. It has characteristics that you wouldn't see in whiskies until they're in the the later years of their maturity. Rum really matures at a much faster rate”.
Over final sips of rum and the excellent cigars, the crowd enjoyed their conversations on the Verandah Deck. Some spoke of rum, while others told stories of sailboat races where they had received the honored “red hat's”. A the crowd drifted off, another of the Queen Mary's excellent Barrel Series Dinners had come to an end.
The next Barrel Series Dinner, the Herradura Tequila Dinner will be held on August 14 in the Queen's Salon on the Queen Mary in Long Beach. Cigars and Tequila will be served on the Verandah Deck overlooking the Long Beach skyline after the meal. Several specially distilled and aged tequilas will be showcased, including an exceptionally smooth sherry oak cask aged tequila. Tickets are available through the Queen Mary's website or by calling (877) 342-0738.
The Queen Mary
1126 Queens Highway
Long Beach, CA 90802