If there's one kind of drink associated with ships, it is rum, with Mount Gay Rum from Barbados being prominent in most major sailboat races these days. On May 22, Mount Gay Rum will join with another icon of the golden age of ships, as the Queen Mary in Long Beach hosts their 2014 Barrel Series Caribbean Island Rum Dinner. Yesterday, Twain Schreiber, Director of Food and Beverage for the Queen Mary, spoke to the Examiner about it. “The Mount Gay Rum dinner is the second in the Barrel Series Dinners for the year. We've got a couple really cool things for that night, different rums, all from Mount Gay, which is in Barbados. It's a beautiful, beautiful island. Mount Gay's Master Distiller is Allen Smith and he's got some amazing products that he has done”.
Twain continued, "We've seen that the Barrel Series, and having the Signature Barrels, is very important to us. That's what sets the Queen Mary apart from everybody else. Not only are we on this most beautiful of ships, but the history.....everything. Then there are the cocktails we have done and having these Signature Barrels sets us apart from everybody else”. The Caribbean Island Rum Dinner will feature Mount Gay Rums from the island of Barbados.
The British Royal Navy has had a long history with rum, having started the 'rum ration' in the early 1700's, around the time that Sir John Gay started his distillery on the island of Barbados in the British West Indies. Commercial ship lines such as Cunard, the Queen Mary's line and the White Star Line of Titanic fame still doled out a 'tot of rum' to the crew every day into the mid 20th Century. The Royal Navy did not discontinue the daily rum ration until 1970.
Sailboat racing has always been closely associated with rum and especially Mount Gay Rum. Many major race events, such as the Quantum Key West Race Week and the Mount Gay Round Barbados Race include Mount Gay as a major sponsor. Locally, the Long Beach Race Week and the Newport to Ensenada International Yacht Race both include Mount Gay Rum as one of their sponsors.
Twain talked about the progression of rums that the Queen Mary was featuring at the dinner. “We'll start with some cocktails and hors d'ouevres first. Then, we'll go into the first course, with some different rums.” The Mount Gay Silver Rum will be featured with the first course, while the second course will be accompanied by a glass of Mount Gay's Eclipse Rum.
The third course will be the start of some very interesting, delicious glasses of rum. Twain described it as “Leading up to it, they've got the 'Extra Old'. The previous Master Distiller came up with 'Extra Old' which is just the incredibly beautiful, vanilla-y rum. Mount Gay is very different from most other rums. It has more of a dryness to it than the usual sweeter rums such as Malibu and Bacardi. They've all got their places, but Mount Gay is beautiful rum. They make it out of molasses, instead of like the other rums that are made out of sugar cane juice. It's a little bit different of a process. You can actually taste that molasses in it, which is cool”.
He continued on about the rum for the fourth course. “'Extra Old' was the signature rum of the previous Master Distiller. Allen Smith worked for Mount Gay for many years until he left to join Coca Cola as their Blender. After deciding he did not have the freedom that he wanted to change anything at Coca Cola, he returned to Mount Gay as the Master Distiller. He introduced his own signature rum, a new high-end product, '1703', named after the year Mount Gay started. It's very different, very robust and yet delicate at the same time, it's done so well that when you are drinking it and tasting it, you don't think you are drinking rum. You think you are drinking more of a cognac or something to that effect; it's just really delicious”.
Guests will enjoy the final course of cigars and rum on the Verandah Deck of the Queen Mary. “We've teamed up with General Cigars again to do the cigars. La Gloria Cubana is the choice, it's a beautiful, beautiful cigar. With that, we will unveil the Mount Gay Queen Mary Black Barrel Rum. I went down to Barbados and we got single-distilled and double distilled. The single-distilled rum is distilled once through a tall cylindrical still and then put into a barrel. The barrel is an ex-bourbon barrel and the rum is aged for a period of time. When I asked Allen how long would it age, he commented with a glint in his eye, 'When it's ready......”
“Barbados is very hot and very humid”, Twain pointed out. “The barrels are stacked, not rotated such as in a winery. As the heat goes up and down, it just extracts those flavors from the barrels. Potentially, it extracts the flavors much quicker because of the variations in heat. You also get the rain affecting it. It's funny, because the rain may last for 35 seconds, or 5 minutes, but it's a torrential downpour. Then the sun is back out!”
“The double-distilled is made in a classic copper pot still. It's distilled twice, 'heads and tails'. “ He continued, “Then that's aged in a barrel. We pulled the single and double distilled barrels out and tested them completely for volume of the alcohol and everything else. We hit the flavor profile, so then we blended it. We blended the single and double distilled and then we added some water to get it down to 80 proof. We got exactly what we thought we were looking for. Allen came along and tasted it; he really liked it!”.
Twain remarked that “Allen did a little 'tweak' to it, since it's his name on the front on the label. Then we put it back into the barrels. That's where that 'Black Barrel' comes from. You've taken single-distilled and double-distilled and married them. Then you put it into a brand-new barrel that has got a medium to medium-heavy char on it, which then sat for a period of time again. We bought that and they bottled it and sent it over to us. Beautiful packaging, beautiful bottle, the flavor in it is truly incredible. It's delicious and fun. You can taste the slight hints of vanilla and molasses, the slight char from the second barrel. I'm really starting to like putting things back in a barrel for a second go around”.
Twain summed up the finale of the dinner by saying, “We were talking with General Cigars about it. We tasted a few different cigars, we tasted the rum, tasted the cigars, tasted them both some more. We came up with this cigar that we feel is really the complement for the rum; you take a drag of the cigar, a sip of the rum, let the flavors run over each other. They complement each other so well that it's actually quite unbelievable. It's just fun! It's a beautiful product with flavors you just can't help falling in love with. The “Extra Old' is of course just a huge, beautiful product; and the '1703', which is their crème de la crème. I'm just so excited about it!”.
The Caribbean Island Rum Dinner will be held on May 22 in the Queen's Salon on the Queen Mary in Long Beach. Cigars and Rum will be served on the Verandah Deck overlooking the Long Beach skyline after the meal. Commemorative bottles of the Black Barrel Rum will be available for purchase. 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