Appleton 17 Legend Tasting

We were fortunate snag the last spots to attend a ticketed tasting event for the Appleton 17 Legend release at Harvey Nichols in Knightsbridge. The £50 event included a welcome Mai Tai with Appleton 8 plus tastings of Appleton 8, 12, and 21 – and the latest Appleton Hearts releases: 1993 and 2002. We also had some truffles made with Appleton rums and a lemon sorbet palette cleanser.

Appleton’s Master Blender Dr. Joy Spence led us through tastings of these rums and was joined Campari ambassador Chris Dennis to discuss Appleton’s rum line, J. Wray & Nephew heritage, and the production and release of Appleton 17 Legend – made to replicate the historical Wray 17 used in the original Trader Vic’s Mai Tai.

The approach leading us to Legend made sense, though it was a lot of rum building up (I didn’t finish my samples to keep a clearer head). The inclusion of Hearts, a single marque pot still release was quite useful. I found the 2002 to be a flavor bomb similar to the 1995, 1999, and 2003 releases I’ve tried. But the 1993 had an unusual finish best described as “minty.” The wonders of pot stills.

All of which led us to a small sample pf Appleton 17 Legend and then a taste in a Mai Tai made by Dennis. Issued at 49% ABV like the historic original, this is more than a proofed down Hearts release. The blend of four marques means this is truly unique. There is no traditional Appleton orange peel, nor overripe fruit. Instead there are hints of nutmeg and herbal spices. It is delicious nest from a glass but even better in Mai Tai where the long and lingering finish is truly sublime. Dennis made the Mai Tai with Ferrand Dry Curaçao and homemade orgeat and rich simple.

Locals were able to purchase a bottle for pickup on Monday. At $500, the rum is fab but I’d probably choose almost two Hearts bottles instead.

We left with goodie bags featuring an Appleton jigger, blue glass, and a cute bottle of Appleton 8. We thank Campari and Appleton for putting on such a great event.

Laki Kane: London’s Most Cohesive Tiki Bar

Everyone said to be sure to check out Islington’s Laki Kane, so we made sure to make a reservation and brave rush hour on the Underground to get there. We arrived a few minutes early and staff saw we were dressed up in tiki attire so they let us in a couple minutes early.

Laki Kane is a tiki-leaning tropical cocktail bar that also has a good Thai food menu. There are a few tikis inside, with the music being mellow Afro beats. Staff can be summoned via the button on the table, though our sever was right on top of everything so we never had to use it. We were given welcome drinks that were absolutely fantastic and then we were off to the races.

My Mai Tai was quite assertive, using Appleton 12 and Plantation OFTD rums. I’d have liked this to be a little richer/sweeter, but it was by no means bad. I had a Purple Haze for a second round, featuring three rums including La Hechicera Columbian rum, Clément Canne Bleue, and Equiano Light rums, plus kiwi, dragon fruit, grapefruit liqueur, and orange juice. The small flowers used as a garnish were lit on fire to smoke a bit, adding to the texture. This was a really good drink.

Meanwhile, Mrs. Mai Tai had the Pinup Zombie, a formidable riff that includes Bacardi Cuatro, Plantation Isle of Fiji, Pusser’s Gunpowder proof, cherry and mountain pine liqueurs,  exotic syrups, falernum liqueur, and citrus. Served flaming in a very cool pinup mug. This was a truly outstanding tropical cocktail. Her second drink was a clarified cocktail from a special menu that also was rich, complex, and delicious.

Our Thai food was outstanding. I loved the pork dumplings and we both had the Sweet and Sour plate (mine: chicken, hers: tofu). Really great combination.

Laki Kane does put many pieces together for fans seeking a tiki experience in London. Highly recommended.

DumDum Tiki Bar York, England

We were in York’s famous Shambles on our tour when a thunderstorm broke out, scattering our tour group. Thankfully, a welcome respite materialized in the form of DumDum, York’s first and only Tiki Bar. We arrived just at opening.

The name comes from the Moai character in the Night at the Museum movies, so this isn’t exactly cutting edge in terms of topical relevance. Inside, there are a few tikis and moais but otherwise this feels like a modern topical lounge: chill music, leafy wallpaper, and kitschy neon signs.

The drinks menu borrows heavily from movies and cultural references, but both Mrs. Mai Tai and I were quite pleased with our cocktails. 

My “DumDum Give Me RumRum” had white rum, dark rum, Wood’s Navy Rum, Watermelon syrup, orgeat, and a float of Ting. This was a refreshing tropical cocktail that I enjoyed to the finish. The Ting grapefruit soda played well with the watermelon flavor.

Meanwhile, Mrs. Mai Tai’s “Beach Boys” had Gin, Elderflower, Coconut, Agave, Lime, and Tiki Bitters and was arguably even better. Nice and rich without being overly sweet. We were impressed by the cocktails in this place that seems to gear itself to the shot and party crowd but appears to have additional depth. The staff messaged me saying their Mai Tai is the best in town, but being off-menu I didn’t order it.

DumDum may not be high tiki, nor does it move the genre on a path of inclusion and diversity, but they’re doing many things well. Check them out the next time you’re in York.

Evil Eye York

We had high hopes for this bar on Stonegate in old town York England. There’s a vast menu (perhaps too vast…) with seemingly good or interesting ingredients. The space is elaborately decorated with a mysterious  vibe including some cool beds to lounge on upstairs (sadly, no AC upstairs). They also sell branded gin and rum. Nightly ghost tours of the old city met outside and depart at 7:30 pm.

This place was very active on Sunday night, far more so than some other venues nearby. As such, the drinks are prepared with speed in mind.

Mrs Mai Tai’s “Amaretto in Da Ghetto” featured spiced rum, muddled blueberries, and Chambord. This should have been right up her alley but while drinkable it ended up flat and thin.

The Mai Tai on their Classic Cocktail menu is listed as “two rums, apricot brandy, lime, pineapple, almond syrup” which seemed worth trying. I asked them to sub orange liqueur for the apricot and as they were preparing it it seemed like it might turn out okay. Until the bartender poured at least three or four ounces of pineapple juice, then shaking it like his life depended on it. Hence the huge froth topping that mostly hid the float of Myers’s. Completely unbalanced.

The Evil Eye got me.

Hala Kahiki Derby

We had the fortunate pleasure to have a visit with the lovely Carla and Neil Smith and to check out their home tiki bar Hala Kahiki Derby. Nicely appointed with room for a couple bar stools, a relaxing couch and peacock chair, plus so much artwork and displays of tiki mugs. The working vintage jukebox was a great centerpiece.

Neil had a delicious clarified punch ready once we arrived allowing everyone to relax immediately and for him to prep some ice and such. Thereafter he asked what we liked and Mrs Mai Tai requested something from the coconut branch of exotic cocktails, so he made a fab Tradewinds for her.

Of course I requested their house Mai Tai which as well as was quite fab. A Smuggler’s Cove devotee, Neil uses Denizen Merchant’s Reserve which is difficult to get in the UK but I was more than happy to mule a bottle over from California. I also brought the Smiths a bottle of the very good but somewhat scarce Hamilton Rum Florida Rum Society blend. Neil says this rum works great in a Banana Daiquiri. Neil also shared a dram of some locally made rum which I also enjoyed.

We are indebted to the Smiths for being wonderful hosts. Truly above and beyond for us fairly inexperienced UK travelers. Cheers to Carla and Neil!

The Smugglers Cove Liverpool

Not affiliated with SC in SF, The Smugglers Cove is a nautical themed restaurant at the Albert Docks. Not really tiki, there are pirate and medieval elements.

They have a Mai Tai made with Appleton Reserve 8 Rum and Clement Creole Shrubb, so pretty good ingredients. This leans sweet but overall is very fine Mai Tai.

Mrs Mai Tai had the Lychee Elderflower Daiquiri which we both thought was great. We also shared a Truffle Camembert Fondue that was delicious.

There is a barrel outside that says “World Record Rum List” which is total hyperbole. While they do have some rare rums behind the glass in a cabinet (Black Tot Last Consignment et. al) there isn’t a lot of rum on the back bar. So not really world class.

Trailer Happiness, Notting Hill Cocktail Bar

We were close enough to walk over to Trailer Happiness after dinner and had a pretty good experience. We landed around 18:30 Thursday and there were a few people up at street level at some tables but we went downstairs into the lounge. Not yet busy, we could see from the decor and music this could be clubby later in the evening.

We’d heard mixed things but felt our cocktails and the friendly service were great. I like the modern tropical vibe in here. Mrs Mai Tai’s Espresso MarTiki was really great, using rum rather than vodka.

I was impressed by the Mai Tai, one of the best I’ve had in a long while. Appleton Estate Reserve 8 is the rum here, a really great choice, and Grand Marnier as the orange liqueur. The orgeat shines in this cocktail with a long finish and great mouthfeel. I was told a new Mai Tai rum blend is coming including Chairman’s Reserve Legacy that features a bit of cane juice distillate that likely will increase the complexity of flavors coming from the spirit.

Trailer Happiness has a good rep for a rum selection and indeed we saw several beauties on the back bar.