I had the good fortune to pick up a bottle of Angostura 1919 rum and a bottle of Clement Creole Shrub from the new Total Wine that opened up in Bellevue. The 20% + 3.77/liter surcharge on hard liquor in WA state is probably worth it considering that we now have Total Wine and soon, Bevmo. It does raise the price on the bottle of Angostura rum from thirty-six dollars to forty-eight, and that burns, but it’s better than not being able to buy Angostura rum at all. There’s still nowhere to buy Smith and Cross, except maybe the obscenely overpriced Wine and Spirits World in Wallingford.
No one outside of Seattle really cares about that, though. On to the reviews!
Angostura 1919 Rum
According to the manufacturer, this rum is blended from rums that are aged a minimum of eight years in bourbon casks. I definitely could notice a bourbon quality in the nose, which is full of vanilla, and as I take a sip, I am greeted immediately by honey, which then gives way to tobacco. The strongest flavor in this rum, by far, is the flavor of fresh tobacco, which permeates the swallow and lingers on the finish. It’s very smooth, and distinctively flavored. It might be a bit simple for some palates, but I greatly enjoy when an aged spirit captures one or two flavors very well, as I think you would agree this rum does with the flavor of tobacco.
I do not smoke cigars, but if I did, I think this rum would be a perfect accompaniment. If you can get it for thirty-six dollars, it’s a pretty fair price, but fifty is a little much. Angostura 1919 is not the first rum I’d buy for my bar, and it’s not the second, but it very well might be the third. (After Smith and Cross or Wray and Nephew, and Zacapa 23) It’s great on ice or in an old fashioned cocktail, but as with most high-end rums, mixing it into a more complicated drink is probably a waste. If you want to go the aromatic route, I suggest mixing it with dry Amontillado sherry and a dash of Angostura bitters, of course.
Clement Creole Shrubb
This orange liqueur received extremely good reviews, and I was very eager to try it. Clement Creole Shrubb is the only curaçao liqueur I know that uses Rhum Agricole as the base, as opposed to brandy or a neutral spirit. It’s very similar to Gran Marnier, and it’s probably not worth keeping both in your bar unless you are a very serious curaçao enthusiast, but it’s certainly worth keeping one or the other. I think this liqueur is extremely suited to tiki drinks or any rum-based concoction, because it already has a lot of rum notes from its base spirit. If you sip it neat, it greets you with a very bright orange oil flavor with a sugarcane backend and a little bit of pepper. I like it perhaps a bit more than Gran Marnier for mixing, but not quite as much for sipping neat. It makes a killer Sidecar, Mai Tai, or Daisy, that’s for sure. High quality Curaçao is a must have for your home bar, and this is light years ahead of Gran Gala, which is only fit for removing grease stains from my driveway.
Fancy Old-Fashioned Rum Cocktail
1.5 oz Aged Rum (Angostura 1919)
.25 oz Curaçao
1 Dash Aromatic Bitters (Angostura)
Stir over gently over ice and pour over one large ice cube. Garnish with an orange peel.
I wanted to experience both of these spirits simultaneously, and of course, they were highly complementary to each other, so I made a fancy Old Fashioned. When using a liqueur such as Maraschino or Curaçao in place of simple syrup it becomes “fancy”, and it should be called as such. When making this substitution in drinks with a large volume of syrup (more than .5 oz), it is generally better to use .5 oz of the liqueur, and simple syrup for the rest, lest you overpower the other flavors in the drink.