Windward Antilles, December 2012. Caribbean sailing and rum go hand in hand. There’s no better place to sample the local aged spirit, and no better ship to taste delicious rum cocktails than aboard Island Windjammers tall ship, S/V Diamant.
Home berthed in Port Louis, Grenada, “the Portofino of the Caribbean”, S/V Diamant is an immaculate 101-foot schooner, with rich mahogany woodwork throughout, comfortable cabins, large private bathrooms (heads) and showers, air conditioning, and plenty of deck space for privacy or shared group activities. Passengers are well taken care of by an attentive crew. You couldn’t ask for a better sailing itinerary, a prettier ship, or a more accommodating crew. Or any more rum.
As the cruise host, I cast a wide net for rums to serve. Samples from Caribbean islands, Central America, South America and Europe are featured. Rum complements sailing in the last unspoiled parts of the Eastern Caribbean. We sailed to a tiny new island each day, dropped anchor and went exploring. By sundown, passengers were back aboard, their thirst quenched by rum cocktails du jour. After dinner, not-so-serious rum sessions went long into the night. This was everyone's favorite part; participating in tasting sessions with excellent aged rums.
All Things Rum was represented:
• Rum history, styles, aging and distillation methods.
• Flavored & Spiced Rums, and How to make your own.
• Barrel Aging, featuring four fine rums from Diplomatico.
• Advanced Rum Aging techniques featuring Dos Maderas rums and barrel samples of Ron Zacapa.
• History of the Daiquiri, how to make the classic and its fruit variants.
• Cocktails du jour – Rum Punches, Painkillers Coconut Cocktails and other popular boat drinks.
• Pairing rum and chocolate! A dozen different chocolates ranging from creamy 32% cocoa to dark 90% cocoa. The rum and chocolate flowed freely and often.
Early in the week we made our own spiced rum by adding vanilla bean, clove, fresh nutmeg, cinnamon bark, allspice berries and star anise to a bottle of Westerhall Plantation rum, selected for its smooth quality and Grenadian heritage. Spicing cannot make a bad rum taste better, so we started with one we already liked. After allowing the spices to macerate in the rum for a few days, we compared our chemistry experiment with local spiced rums. Judging purely by consumption, our ship's concoction was the hands-down winner in the Spiced category. In the Flavored rum department, Arehucas Ron Miel from Spain’s Canary Islands was an instant favorite, enjoyed on the rocks with a simple twist of orange rind.
Rum Tasting session #1 was all about Barrel Aging. Westerhall Vintage 10 year old rum made a surprise guest appearance. And a vertical flight of Diplomatico rums exposed passengers to the magic that maturing in oak casks can perform on fine rum. Starting with Diplomatico Añejo (a four year old light rum perfectly adept at mixing, we moved up through the ranks. Next was the fine, aged and filtered Blanco six year old white rum, then the eight year old Reserva. Always a crowd pleaser, Reserva Exclusiva closed out the night’s session with its marvelous blend of 12 year old light and heavy rums. Not surprisingly, each passenger discovered their own personal favorite and could explain why they preferred one rum over another.
Rum Tasting session #2 focused on Advanced Aging Techniques. Barrel samples from Guatemala's Ron Zacapa Centenario 23 year old demonstrated how different barrels contribute flavors to expertly crafted rums. Samples from used and re-charred American oak barrels were followed by rum aged in Sherry barrels, then samples of rum aged in used Pedro Ximenez barrels. The ultimate expression included several rounds of the finished product: Ron Zacapa 23, which is a blend of all the samples tasted earlier. Spain's wonderful Dos Maderas 5+3 and Dos Maderas P.X. 5+5 accentuated the concept that great rums can be enhanced by aging in various used Sherry casks. With so many fine rums and barrel samples to taste, my work was easy.
A sincere Thank You to all the distillers who generously supported Island Windjammers annual Rum Cruise with excellent rum. Passengers had a ton of fun, and next year's cruises are booking up fast. If interested, consider sailing in 2013 aboard Sagitta, sailing from St. Martin July 7-13, or Diamant, sailing from Grenada December 13-19, 2013. Both ships deliver extraordinary island hopping vacations to a sliver of paradise. Island Windjammers Rum Cruise Specials.