The dirty dozen rum review

Did a major tasting session with my current favourite liquor, rum. In the afternoon, just to make it more challenging. And it wasnt even my birthday. Thanks Suzanne!

Rums are complex, unique spirits, but there tends to be very limited variety here. Everybody seems to only know Bacardi of course, which actually is a very basic, commercial rum. There ‘re shitloads of styles and varieties that come from the Caribbean islands, the home of rum.

Left view...

...Right view

My favourite are the aged ones. Superb.

The shootout took place courtesy of Flavours magazine, who needed my ‘expertise’ as one of the tasters for its drinking article on a dozen popular rums. A dozen! Nice.

The last one i did with them was this tasting for wines below $80, which was fun! Coz i tasted 28 wines.

In session

I was a lil late, so had to catch up on the first few rums, which were white. All taken neat of course, and blind.

Numbers 1 to 3 were pretty straight. Low on flavours, not very complex. The Angostura Reserva was pretty vodka-like, and i scored it 8/20 (points – max 2 for colour, 6 for nose, and 12 for overall taste, for a max score of 20).

Dats one bowl i sure would never use, except to park stuff

The Havana Club Anejo Blanco (Cuba) scored 8 as well, with a sweetish finish. The first white that i downed was number 3, Matusalem Platino, well-rounded and a 10/20 for me.

Then come the gold rums, starting with the Mount Gay (Barbados, scored it 12/20), which has a sweet start but is harsh later. With a nose of tequila and a sweet-spicy taste, the Bundaberg (Aust) is a little more complex.

Nose the dose. The man, Junior, mixologist from View Bar

By now, am starting to buzz. Just to make sure, the next rum is the Bundaberg Overproof. I didnt know that of course, and wrote “Boom! on the tongue, strong alco flavour start to finish. Smells better than it tastes!” Haha. Waddya expect from an an ass-kicker at 57.7%.

Rum number 7 turns out to be Captain Morgan Spiced, which i used to like. Its got a nose of caramely-spice, with tastes of cinnamon & spice, vanilla, fruit, but with a harsh n boring finish. These days i dig Captain Morgan Black Label. Killa.

Come here!

Out come my highlight, the dark rums. Yea!

Obvious bias there.

It began with the Matusalem Reserva, which gave me hints of tobacco n spice, and was a lil harsh (12/20).

Sweet ass

Then i hit the Ron Zacapa Centenario, a rum from the high altitudes in Guatemala. It’s from rums aged between 6 and 23 years. Taken neat, it’s almost honey-like sweet, consistent throughout, some woodiness, good vanilla too. Fruity, velvety and well-rounded, it would be great on the rocks. Scored it 17/20.

Followed by the Angostura 1824, which is from Trinidad. A nose of leather, spice and oak. Taste: chocolaty spice, very smooth, silky even. This is a rum with depth, spiciness, and some complexity. Extremely smooth taken neat, like a good Cognac. It got a high score from me, 18/20.

The 1824 is aged in charred American oak bourbon barrels for a minimum of 12 years.


Rum number 11 was the Angostura 1919, with a nose of leathery musky cologne, and taste-wise, it’s very spicy, roasty caramel; oaky n spicy finish. Not the smoothest, but an interesting complexity. Would drink it again (17/20).

The final rum – Angostura 7 Years. I found the start to be very harsh, and too goddam spicy for me. Might be good with ice n water (14/20).

'Hard work'

It was probably the most exciting tasting i’ve been to. Rums are fun, and many of the aged, premium ones are as interesting as cognacs and whiskies. It aint just for pirates.

But u can get your pirate name here. Mine’s Wayward Dizzy-Eyed Pignut. Watdefuck’s a pignut?

The best part of the session is, i got to keep a bottle of my favourite rum, the 18/20 Angostura 1824 baby!

Man, these things should happen monthly! Or i should just live in the Caribbean.


Brain damage: 8/10


With the Blue Man

The Johnnie Walker Blue Label Ambassador is Jonathan Driver.

Blue Label. Nice job.

Met up with him when he hit town recently – he was around to launch the brand new Blue Label bottle. He’s a travelling man, on da road for most of the year.

Jonathan sure loves his job. His enthusiasm when talking about his job and product is real obvious.

Can u blame him?

The man enjoying his product

He introduces the new bottle, saying that “the Blue Label bottle aesthetics is definitely younger. It would fit in nicely at a nightclub, it would fit in a restaurant.”
I was a fan of the previous bottle; classic style. But the new bottle? Refreshing, trendy and classy at the same time. A beautiful piece, so it’s time I upgrade mine!

Ta daa!

Although Jonathan himself represents the Blue Label, it’s not a drink he consumes daily. “I do enjoy Tanqueray and tonic.” He also enjoys Black Label over ice. And a cup of tea!

Amazingly, he’s a qualified and certified sake brewer, after having spent some years in Japan. “Part of the training included spending a week brewing sake during winter in a temple in the mountains!” Obviously he’s a big sake fan, adding that he’s amazed by the sophistication of sake.

Jonathan showing us the origins of Scotch on his pimped map

He’s been on the job now with Johnnie Walker for 18 years. “These days, I’ve become more than a travelling showman, I also help develop the liquid, and work with the master blender.”

Envious? Good.


Boozepimp of the Month – Yi Shawn

Boozepimp of the Month is a column that features respectable players in the alcohol industry. These are interesting personalities in the scene that have made a significant impact, or have the potential to do so.

(If u know of a candidate, u can lemme know).

It’s been a long time since i did the Boozepimp thing! Got a few more lined up.


The Boozepimp of the month is bartender Chong Yi Shawn, 25.

He’s the local champ of the Diageo Reserve World Class Bartending Competition 2011, and represented Malaysia this year, where he performed in New Delhi last month (It was won by Manabu Ohtake, from Tower’s Bar Bellovisto, Tokyo, whittled down from 10,000 around the world).

Winning the local competition gave  Shawn three months training. He’s won it twice so far.

He was a hospitality student who worked with Hilton KL in a restaurant before moving to the bar. Shawn is basically self-taught, learning on the job and via YouTube.

He might not look like one, with the specs n all, but he is a bartender. Shawn is currently freelancing.


1. So why did u become a bartender?

I enjoy it as it’s not a static job. You meet different people, make different drinks. Everyday is different. I like making drinks and making guests happy. Communication is important.


2. Yea man, communication and service. How was the event in New Delhi?

It was awesome. Four days. They treated the 34 of us like superstars.


3. Nice. If it was me, i wouldnt remember a damn thing. What were u judged on?

It was challenging. There were six challenges in total. Some of the criteria were the drinks we made, communication skills, product knowledge, technical skills, grooming and presentation.


4. So wadya think are your strengths and weaknesses as a barman

I think i’m very willing to learn, and i’m a fast learner. Weakness, maybe a lack of experience.

In competition

5. What kinds of cocktails do u like to drink and make?

Thus far i’ve created about 15-20. I like something i call Ignited Passion – Ron Zacapa rum, Grand Marnier, blackberry jam, home-made syrup, and lime and cranberry juice.


6. And you fave drinks?

Rum n Coke, Cuba Libre, Margharita, and cider.


7. Cider eh? Will let u try my brew sometime. And what cocktail would you recommend if someone wants something that tastes good, light-tasting on the alcohol, and gets them high in a hurry?

Hmm. I think Mai Tai, tho the recipe has been bastardized. The original is rum, lime juice, triple sec, and almond syrup. Or the Zombie.


8. How often do you drink and how many?

About once a month, with other bartenders.


9. What do u like about alcohol?

It’s unlimited what you can do with it.


10. Yea man. So many varieties. And what are the global trends for cocktails at the mo?

Looks like the Classic Cocktails are making a comeback.




ACE in town

Carlsberg Malaysia recently launched ACE (A-class Experience). It’s to upgrade the skills and service of bar and restaurant staff.

Long way to go, but it’s a start. We all know service levels in Malaysia are going down, as i commented on once.

Pay attention now..

The event was attended by employees from various outlets. Taylor’s University is involved to improve bar operation skills and customer service. Since it was done in English, i assume the foreign staff didnt understand much.

I sat out the training module as it was only for outlet staff. (sorry, all pix by camera phone.)

Brands distributed by Carlsberg Malaysia via Luen Heng

The highlight that day was the attendance of George Reisch, the main man, aka Brewmaster of Anheuser-Busch InBev, which owns brands like Becks, Leffe, Hoegaarden, Budweiser and 200 others. Its the world’s largest global brewer, with 25% of the market, revenue of more than 100 billion a year, and staff of 116,000.

He gave a presentation about beer as well. One memorable statement from him – when storing your beer, keep it in a dark spot so it dont get ‘light-struck’ – light affects beer quality. Hence beer bottles tend to be dark.

Lightstruck! Haha!

We also got to taste half-made lager.

Shady-lookin brews

The oldest was a 20-day (with added wood chips for flavour as is done with Bud), which tastes as good as regular lager. The 5-day End of Aplha is pretty raw, with a nose of cider. Taste is quite bland.

Like Jaz Beer.

The cold wort is very young, and smells to me like Guinness Malta. Its cloudy, and tastes bitter-sweet.

That's George

George enlightened us that 400 different compounds / molecules have been found in wine, and 1,200 in beer. More complicated that you think.

Hmmm. Tough choice. I'd probably go for some Leffe

Also met Carlsberg Malaysia's new marketing director, York Spencer

The program went on for a day. Let’s hope there’re some better-educated bar staff out there now!


Brain damage: 5/10

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