I Hate Oddly Shaped Bottles

There’s only so much surface area and height inside the few liquor cabinets I have stashed around the house. So bottles that are wide and short are less ideal than bottles with a small foot and that are taller. But bottles that are extra tall aren’t better, either.

So you know that the rums inside these bottle must be pretty special.

Saint Benevolence Rum Clairin from Haiti is one my favorites, so I always restock when a bottle is finished. Definitely a more savory taste than molasses-based rums from places like Jamaica or Barbados, but so far away from the overly grassy sugar cane juice-based agricole rhums from Martinique. Easy to sip but also great in cocktails. Makes a killer Mai Tai.

The El Dorado single still releases were something I tried at the San Francisco Rum Fest, and when Bitters & Bottles put them on sale I knew I had to buy one from the series. So, I splurged on the Port Mourant. More about this rum in a future post.

SF Rum Fest Recap: The Rums

Had a great time in the city for this annual Rum Fest, this time being billed as the San Francisco Rum Fest now that there’s a companion new event in Los Angeles.

This is an event that’s mix of educational seminars, rum education, rum exploration, and social meetup. Having tasted more of these rums over the years, I lean more into the social side but there’s always some new brands or expressions to try. View the video of the layout.

I was impressed by the single-still releases from El Dorado: Enmore, Versailles, and Port Mourant. These are all aged 12 years and provided at cask strength. I was told these would retail at ~$90, in which case that would be a steal. I do see them offered online for ~$150 which seems to be more what I’d expect. In any case, these are flavor bombs that are so great. I was most impressed by the Versailles, with the Port Mourant being a close second.

Diamond Distilleries was also showing off a fruity and light white 151, aged six months. And a heavier dark 151 aged two years, somewhat more reminiscent of the famed LH151 but still quite lighter.

Rhum Barbancourt had a white expression I’d never tried before and liked. It’s a lighter style than the Haitian rum clairin from Saint Benevolence, which has an aged expression in the market and more things to come.

Copalli rum from Belize seems to be everywhere. I liked both the white and the barrel rested expressions. They were serving a great daiquiri riff by local bartender Maritza Rocha-Alvarez that was superb.

Rhum Saint James from Martinique seemed to be making a push to get better distribution and had a number of new and interesting expressions.

I spoke to the Hawaiian producers about their product, which will be covered in a deeper dive in a couple weeks.

96 Tears by Nathan Robinson

I ran across this recipe from cocktail developer extraordinaire Nathan Robinson and thought I’d try it. It didn’t hurt to use one of my favorite rums, the unaged Clairin from Saint Benevolence. This is a wonderful cocktail.

96 TEARS
2 oz Haitian Clairin, unaged (Saint Benevolence)
¾ oz oz Orgeat
¾ oz oz Lime juice
3 dashes Angostura bitters
Recipe by Nathan Robinson, 2021

Shake all ingredients with ice and strain into a chilled coupe. Garnish with a lime.

Three Dots and a Dash (modified)

I decided to use some of this year’s most highly anticipated new rum releases and put them into a cocktail together. I love the Worthy Park 109, which is a Dark Jamaican rum that to me approaches the flavor profile of a Demerara rum. And the aged Clairin expression from Saint Benevolence is an amazing alternative for cocktails calling for an aged rum from Martinique. 

So, I chose a cocktail where the new rums would drop right in. The Three Dots and a Dash is a popular Don the Beachcomber cocktail, the recipe for which was unearthed a few years ago by Jeff “Beachbum” Berry. Thanks, Bum!

Three Dots and a Dash (modified)
½ oz Lime Juice
½ oz Orange Juice
½ oz Honey Syrup
¼ oz Falernum
¼ oz Pimento Dram
1½ oz Saint Benevolence Aged Clairin
½ oz Worthy Park 109 Jamaica Rum
1 dash Angostura Bitters
6 oz Crushed Ice
Flash blend and garnish with three cherries (three dots) and a pineapple (and a dash)

Aged Clairin Mai Tai

I’m such a big fan of Saint Benevolence rum, especially their Rum Clairin expression. An unaged rum from Haiti, I’ve long extolled the virtues of this flavorful, savory spirit.

The newly available aged expression is the same rum, just aged in barrell for at least a year. A great way to see how barrel aging changes a spirit, and makes the rum more approachable for many consumers.

It tastes great on its own, not “too oaky.” And it is wonderful in a Mai Tai of course. Had to use one of my tall Saint Benevolence glasses.

Saint Benevolence is worth seeking out. I bought my bottle of Aged Clairin at Bitters & Bottles.

Saint Benevolence Rum

One of the highlights of the California Rum Fest was the rums from Saint Benevolence. Two of their expressions are Clairins from Haiti, and profits from the business are funneled back to medical, educational, and economic charities in Haiti. Saint Benevolence is currently available in nine states, Canada, and the U.K. I’m a big fan of the unaged Rum Clairin expression.

I took another pass at tasting on their new aged rum This is the same clairin that’s been available for a couple years, but aged for at least a year. This aged version does present some different tasting notes including vanilla and spice. Totally worth seeking out.

Cocktails at The Kon-Tiki Room

After dinner at Palmetto, we walked around over to The Kon-Tiki Room for more cocktails. It was a fun vibe and the bartenders were so helpful at working with us on our orders.

I had a fantastic Fogcutter and then asked for Mai Tai made with the aged rum Clairin from Saint Benevolence. While the spirits selection at The Kon-Tiki Room is not as vast as the original Kon-Tiki location at 14th and Webster, they do have some interesting expressions and the bartenders were accommodating to use an alternative spirit in one of their standard cocktails. A little extra orgeat and the Clairin Mai Tai was very good and a nice change of pace.

We were bummed the frozen Disco Banana wasn’t quite ready when we got there around 6:30. That was the only glitch during our Kon-Tiki Room visit. The checking of vaccination status and the requirements for masks when not drinking was not problem during our visit.

Pro tip: save old corks

We almost had a big problem when I couldn’t open my bottle of beloved Saint Benevolence Rum Clairin, and then broke the cork!

Thankfully, I was able to extract the remaining cork using a wine corkscrew. And then I used a cork from an old empty bottle.

The Saint Benevolence Rum Clairin is a delicious and savory rum that is different than the pot still rums from Jamaica or Barbados, but also not the same as rhums from Martinique. It is heavy, but not grassy. Super flavorful even in a Mai Tai. Seek it out.