Frequently Asked Questions About Rum and Vizcaya VXOP Cask 21 Rum

Q. What is rum made from?
A. Premium rums, like Vizcaya VXOP, are made from the freshly pressed juice of sugar cane. This juice is then fermented, distilled, aged and bottled. Many popular rums that are widely available in both bars and liquor stores in the United States today, however, are made from molasses—which, rather than being produced specifically for the creation of rum, is a byproduct of other processes. Molasses generally results in an inferior product, but when you drink Vizcaya VXOP, you can be assured of experiencing only the highest quality spirits, made from sugar cane harvested at the peak of freshness.

Q. Is all rum aged? Does rum continue to age in the bottle, like fine wine?
A. Not all rum is aged, although most of it is aged in oak barrels to provide a mellow, more elegant taste to what might otherwise be a somewhat raw-tasting tipple. Vizcaya VXOP is aged in select oak barrels that once contained fine bourbons or armagnacs, in order to impart to this distinctive sipping rum a rich, nuanced quality. Most rums are aged before blending, and then bottled. This arrests the aging process, so you can be confident that each glass of Vizcaya will taste as consistently delicious as every other.

Q. What is “rhum agricole” or “methode agricole”?
A. The “methode agricole” is a unique distilling process that can be likened to the “methode champenoise” used to produce fine champagnes. It originally referred to spirits that were produced from freshly squeezed sugar cane juice and distilled to approximately 70 percent alcohol (140 proof) by volume. Rhum agricole, which simply means “agricultural rum,” is in direct contrast to mass-produced industrial rums. Vizcaya VXOP Cask 21 rum, which is painstakingly crafted in the Dominican Republic in the old Cuban style, is a rhum agricole and the ultimate sipping rum.

Q. So what is a sipping rum? Can’t I use Vizcaya with mixers or in cocktails?
A. A sipping rum typically has more complex, refined flavors that are intended to be enjoyed for their own merits, rather than combined with other ingredients that might overpower or obscure them. Sipping rums like Vizcaya are often paired with cigars or food to bring out the rum’s unique characteristics—notes of spice, butterscotch, vanilla, wood smoke and fruit, as well as a warm, inviting bouquet and smooth finish. Considered the ultimate sipping rum, Vizcaya VXOP may be best enjoyed neat, n on the rocks, or with just a splash of water to let its full flavor profile shine through. Nevertheless, we’re not going to tell you that you can’t enjoy Vizcaya as a component of an extraordinary cocktail—make the rum your own and savor it however you wish, as long as you don’t overdo it.

Q. Did pirates really say “Yo-ho-ho and a bottle of rum”?
A. Probably not. The phrase comes from a fictional sea shanty in Robert Louis Stevenson’s famous novel Treasure Island, and has been referenced or used in everything from poems, to television series, to a graphic novel, to a ride at Disneyland. Nevertheless, the tradition of rum drinking aboard ships, whether Navy or pirate, is a long-standing one, and singing “yo-ho-ho and a bottle of rum” fits nicely with the romantic vision we have today of brave, seafaring men.

Published in: on August 24, 2010 at 10:40 AM  Leave a Comment  
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Commemorate Black Tot Day with Vizcaya VXOP

This Saturday, rum lovers across the globe will raise a glass of their favorite spirit in tribute to a sober anniversary: Black Tot Day.

It was 40 years ago, on July 31st, 1970, that the British Royal Navy discontinued its centuries-old policy of issuing a daily rum ration to sailors. The practice of handing out rum to naval crewmembers was first begun in 1655, becoming standard practice by 1731. Originally, beer was the ration of choice—a gallon a day, according to historical records—but cargo and spoilage issues soon made this impractical on increasingly long voyages. After the British conquest of Jamaica, sailors were given a “gill” or quarter-pint of straight rum, twice a day, in the afternoon and evening, in order to buoy their moods on the long, disheartening journeys.

Canny sailors, however, began to save up their rations, or “tots,” as they were called, in order to drink them all at once and feel the intoxicating effects. In response, Admiral Edward Vernon, who was known by the nickname “Old Grog” because he wore a grogram cloak, ordered in 1740 that the ration be diluted—four parts water to one part alcohol. Sugar and lime were added to improve the flavor, and the resultant mixture soon became known as “grog” as a backhanded tribute to the admiral.

The tot was valued on board ships not only for its own sake, but because it could be bartered or given to other sailors, operating as a form of currency. In fact, the tot was probably more valuable than money, as there was nowhere on ship to spend real currency, while tots were always useful. In true military spirit, a solemn and elaborate ritual sprang up around the issuing of tots. The boatswain’s mate whistled “Up spirits” at 11:00am, after which a procession consisting of the petty officer, the cooper and a detachment of Royal Marines escorted the delivery of the keg of rum to the quarterdeck. There, it was mixed with the water and flavorings before being doled out at noon, when the mate piped “Muster for rum.”

Rum was named the official beverage of the Navy in 1831. Although the portions of the tot varied, the tradition continued for over a century, until the House of Commons ruled in 1970 that the ration was interfering with sailors’ ability to operate the increasingly technological and complex equipment on board ship. Officially abolished in 1970, the tot has nevertheless been celebrated and commemorated by rum enthusiasts and former sailors the world over, typically on July 31st. It is said that on the original Black Tot Day, some ships conducted ceremonies to say farewell to the ration, including one held on the HMS Dolphin that included a coffin and a funereal march; others threw their final ration overboard, either in protest or as an offering to the sea.

Whether you want to protest the discontinuance of the charming, cheerful ritual that accompanied the daily tot, or you would rather see Black Tot Day as a time to salute the generations of rum drinkers who have enjoyed this noble spirit both at sea and on land, do raise your glass of Vizcaya VXOP Cask 21 rum this Saturday. Be it in commemoration or celebration—cheers.

Published in: on July 29, 2010 at 9:59 AM  Leave a Comment  
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A Primer on Rum: What Is “Rhum Agricole”?

Most commercial rums—the ones that conjure up images of peg-legged pirates with snarky parrots on their shoulders—are made from molasses. The ultimate sipping rum, Vizcaya VXOP, however, is crafted from pure sugar cane, and therefore is classified as a rhum agricole.

The literal translation of rhum agricole is “agricultural rum”—which provides a hint to the spirit’s genesis. Rather than using the molasses which is created as a byproduct of the sugar refining industry, rhum agricole begins with the sugar cane itself, which is harvested at the peak of its maturity, during the short dry season of the tropics.

Botanically speaking, sugar cane is a perennial grass of the genus Saccharum, and is characterized by jointed, fibrous stalks that grow to between six and 19 feet tall. Since it requires a tropical or temperate climate, it is primarily grown in Asia, the Carribean and the Mediterranean.

Sugar cane can be harvested mechanically or by hand. Did you know that a skilled harvester, using a cane knife or machete, can cut 1,100 pounds of sugar cane per hour?

After the harvest, the sugar cane stalks are crushed to release their aromatic juice, which is then fermented. Next comes distillation. Most rhum agricole is distilled to about 70 percent alcohol, which helps ensure that the rum retains all of the full-bodied character of the sugar cane and its fresh, vibrant flavor.

Another crucial part of the production process is aging in oaken barrels. Vizcaya VXOP is aged in casks that once held fine armagnac; it is this maturing period that gives the rum its warm, earthy, golden character and notes of spice and vanilla. As with many spirits, aging the rum also allows it to develop a more complex taste, making it ideal for sipping. Purists feel that rhum agricole should be taken neat, or perhaps with a little ice or water. Others like to gild the lily and use a rhum agricole like Vizcaya VXOP to make their favorite cocktail that much more delectable. Nevertheless, everyone can agree that this is a rum to be savored, not swilled.

So leave the cheap stuff to those who fancy themselves pirates. Spirits aficianados know that the real treasure is in a glass of luxurious rhum agricole—like Vizcaya VXOP.

Published in: on June 8, 2010 at 11:32 AM  Leave a Comment  
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