I have been going into Hostaria 24 so regularly that the other night the Italian boss stopped by my table just as I was finishing my meal to have a drink with me.
He had noticed me gradually working my way through his rum list and offered me whatever rum I wanted on the house. We got chatting about the rum. Surprisingly, his more unusual rums all come from New York, arranged by a friend working in wine sales. The irony of a restaurant in the Caribbean sourcing rum from New York! If only more restaurants would go to this kind of trouble.
The boss was keen to treat me with something I had not yet tried. Sadly he had underestimated me. By the time of his gracious intervention I had tried pretty much everything on his rum list. I told him that Sea Wynde, sadly out of stock, was the only rum on his list that I had not tried. ”It’s not out of stock,” he said, “I have a bottle upstairs”, and with those words he vanished. The length of his disappearance stretched out ominously, and I became concerned that the rum may have met with foul play. Just as I was wondering about the Dominican Republic legal system, and how long a bottle of rum has to have been declared missing before the police are obliged to start searching for it, he reappeared, bearing an impressive looking bottle.
He sat down, uncorked the bottle, and we were unexpectedly bathed in intense and surprising aromas.
We drank the rum and chatted about the Dominican Republic and Haiti. He had come to the Dominican Republic nearly a decade before, immigrating there with a Dominican woman he had married in Italy. Their relationship had not survived the transition of living in the Dominican Republic rather than Italy, but he had stayed on after divorcing her. He ran his restaurant partly as a hobby and had a couple of other businesses on the side. He lamented Dominicans’ lack of taste. He has a point there. It is difficult to walk into a bar in the Dominican Republic and order a rum other than Brugal, or a beer other than Presidente. While both products are fine (admittedly Brugal more so than Presidente), these two giants have cornered the market and made things rather boring. His Haitian experiences were worth listening to. He was one of the few Dominican Republic residents I had met who visited Haiti regularly. Most people seem to see Haiti as highly dangerous. He said it was worth visiting and you simply needed to take care and not wander the streets after dark. Maybe I will go to Haiti after all then.
All the while we chatted the spectacular Sea Wynde rum accompanied us, and a very unusual rum it is too.
So on to the tasting. . . After drinking it with the boss, I went back the next day and did a proper tasting where I took notes. This review is based on that second tasting.
Sea Wynde (46%)
This rum presents itself as the true British Navy rum. Supposedly a U.S. based rum blender has somehow obtained the formula for the rum the British Navy dispensed to sailors as their daily rum ration. The practice of the daily rum ration stopped in 1970, and with it the production of authentic Britsh Navy Rum. However, Sea Wynde claims to replicate the taste of British Navy Rum, using the same blend of Guyanese and Jamaican pot still rums used in the original.
Regardless of its authenticity as ‘British Navy Rum’, Sea Wynde is a very interesting product. The majority of the world’s rums are exclusively or primarily produced in efficient industrial column stills. Compared to these column stills, pot stills are an older, more artisanal, and costlier technology. The uniqueness of pot stills lies in their ability to produce a more complex and flavorsome spirit, albeit a rougher one than a column still would produce. These days the main centers for pot still rum production are Guyana and Jamaica, and most of this production is blended with smoother and cheaper column distilled rums to provide complexity they would otherwise lack. A blend of pot still rums such as Sea Wynde is thus very unusual, and should be a potent flavor bomb.
The rum pours with a light honey color. It does not appear especially heavy bodied, at least in the sense of being syrupy. Perhaps it has a certain oiliness though.
The nose is eccentric and unlike your typical rum. When the bottle was first opened (when the restaurant boss and I had a glass) I thought for a moment he had picked out a grappa after being unable to find the rum. Maybe I am easily influenced by my surroundings (i.e. I see an Italian guy with a bottle of spirits and think ‘grappa’), but there really is a huge fruitiness about this rum. Moreover, the fruitiness is not Zacapa type ‘stewed fruit’, or the ‘dried fruit’ you get in something like Brugal. Instead it is ‘distilled fruit’. Sea Wynde smells like a bizarre fruit schnapps, and if I had to pick the base fruit I would probably end up saying pineapple. There was also a chamomile tea type note, or at least something that reminded me of the grappa tasting I did in New Orleans during which we tried a grappa based chamomile liqueur. Demerara sugar was also a presence, but an unobtrusive one.
It is hard to talk about the palette of this rum as something separate to its aroma because the aromas are so intense they practically are the palette. The palette has a fierce alcohol burn, with a very dry finish that lingers and lingers. Water is definitely needed to moderate the burn. The rum tastes stronger than 46%. Also, the flavors are almost too intense to pick out until the spirit is diluted. A single small piece of ice did little, so I ended up adding several small pieces, tasting after each one until the rum became smoother.
Dilution, plus a little sitting time, seemed to bring out the pineapple taste. Meanwhile, the chamomile settled into a mild herbal tea type flavor. The demerara in the nose became oily golden syrup on the tongue. Even with considerable dilution the aromas remained very intense. This is more a rum you smell than one you taste, and yet the aromas are intense almost to the point of being unidentifiable.
I rate this rum very highly, although it is so intense and eccentric tasting that it may not be for everyone. It is too intense to drink straight. However, different degrees of dilution should keep bringing out new elements. I am sure this would be a brilliant mixing rum in Tiki drinks. This has to be the perfect rum to use as a float in a pineapple juice containing drink that calls for a rum float. Tons of potential here and definitely a rum to pick up.