The main bar strip in Sosua has an excellent little Haitian-staffed Italian restaurant called Hostaria 24. The pasta there is always al dente, the sauces are great, and to keep things interesting they even do Haitian stewed goat. The real bonus though is their rum selection. The menu lists an impressive range of rums from Haiti, Martinique, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Venezuela and Guyana. If nothing on the list tickles your fancy you will find more rums sitting around behind the bar that somehow never made it onto the menu.
I have been eating there regularly as I try and work my way through their rum list. Yesterday I stopped by for some spaghetti carbonara, which I washed down with Prestige Beer (Haiti’s national brand), Monte Cristo 12 year old rum, and Santa Teresa 1796 Ron Antiguo de Solera. Tasting notes follow. No tasting notes on the spaghetti but it was good.
Prestige Beer (5.6%)
Haiti’s national beer bills itself as an ‘American style lager’, and apparently won a medal in this category at some beer competition in 2000. It tastes more bitter than average, with slightly fruity hops, average to low maltiness, and a sweet, rounded finish. Thankfully it lacks the the skunkiness that Presidente (the leading Dominican brand) often exhibits. I also liked that it was not too gassy. On first taste I was reminded of Australia’s Victoria Bitter. Perhaps that was the bottle shape playing tricks on my mind though?
As I drank, the assertive hops made me think of Thailand’s Singha, though Prestige has nothing on Singha’s extreme hoppiness. Higher than average alcohol level is another similarity shared by the two beers, though once again Singha enjoys a comfortable lead. I assume both beers contain a high dose of rice or other non-barley adjuncts, giving them their strength, rounded sweetness, and low maltiness. Perhaps Prestige can be thought of as Singha light?
This beer does not much remind me of the American beers it supposedly models itself on – though how often do I really drink those? In any case, you could do worse than reach for a Prestige.
Santa Teresa 1796 Ron Antiguo de Solera (40%)
This Venezuelan offering pours with a light copper color and a slightly heavy consistency. The nose is alcoholic, with demerara sugar, a little sherry-like wineyness, and an odd medicinal undercurrent reminiscent of certain Islay whiskeys. It smells very interesting. Unfortunately as I was trying to pick out the medicinal taste a pair of Latin American tourists at the next table lit up. Somehow their being horny and demonstrative lesbians covered in ‘tribal’ tattoos made their cigarette smoke all the more irritating.
Nosing the thing was getting less and less productive so I went ahead and tasted it. There was a fair bit of fierce alcohol on the tongue, and the rum tasted much stronger than its 40%. Behind the alcohol was a rich bodied spirit full of demerara sugar, rich sherry, honey, and dried fruit (prunes or apricots). My overall impression was of Christmas cake without the spice. The sherryish notes made me think of Zacapa 23 YO, the difference being that this stuff is dry rather than sweet and spiritous rather than smooth. Where Zacapa resembles a liqueur, Santa Teresa actually tastes like rum. This stuff offers a warming balance of burn and sweetness, like a whiskey toddy.
Adding a little little ice moderated the alcohol and made the rum drier and smoother, cutting back the fruitiness and bringing out the demerara sugar. The rum kept getting smoother as I drank, and a vanilla and toffee note reminiscent of Barbancourt began to emerge alongside the dry demerara.
This is an excellent rum. It reminds me of both the sweet Zacapa and drier Demerera rums, making for an interesting balance of flavors. Importantly, it has an enjoyably rum-like character. Absolutely recommended.
Monte Cristo Rum 12 YO (40%)
This Guatemalan rum comes from the same people who make Zacapa. It pours with a light copper color and slight viciousness. The nose is soft, with a little astringency lingering in the background, and a dominant demerara sugar and fruit character. The main note I get is pear.
Mirroring the nose, the palette is soft, not overtly alcoholic, yet also not without some bite. I get demerara sugar and fresh pear, together with a rich creamed sugar and butter texture. The taste progresses pleasantly from dry fruit through to a taniny fruit-peel finish. The aftertaste is bitter-sweet and surprisingly long. The flavors are intense but not especially complex. Adding ice lightened the flavors, cut the sugar, and probably made things more interesting as the rum moved away from fruity to become increasingly dry, and bitter-sweet.
This is a quality rum. Its simple nature makes it a little hard to get lost in though, and there are other rums I prefer.