The 50th anniversary of Jamaica’s independence was observed here in Cayman with a rare and exquisite Appleton Estate 50-year-old rum called Jamaica Independence Reserve at an event at Abacus restaurant in Camana Bay on 23 July.
Not many people have tasted rum that was aged in barrels for 50 years, and there’s a good reason for that: There’s not much 50-year-old rum in existence – anywhere.
However, Jacques Scott Wines & Spirits and Abacus restaurant teamed up with J. Wray and Nephew Ltd. – the owner of Appleton Estate – to offer guests in Cayman an opportunity to try a rare and special 50-year-old rum along with a four-course wine dinner.
The dinner was held a couple of weeks before Jamaica’s 6 August Independence Day. Jacques Scott Managing Director Peter Dutton noted that not only was Jamaica celebrating 50 years of independence with 50-year-old rum, but that Jacques Scott and Company was started in Cayman 50 years ago.
Dutton noted that half the proceeds of the tickets sales benefited the Special Olympics Cayman Islands.
“So you’re not only supporting this event and a beautiful rum, but also the Special Olympics,” he said.
The event started out with cocktails made by talented Rum Point Club Restaurant bartender Seggy Quizeo, who featured the drink he created to win the Appleton Cocktail Competition 2012 in late June.
The drink, called a Tarragon Spring Martini, featured Appleton VX, chopped fresh tarragon, apricot puree, and fresh lime juice shaken together and double strained, and then topped with a St. Germain liqueur foam.
Quizeo then finished the drink off by flaming the oil from a piece of orange zest over the top of the foam.
The tasty, easy-to-drink cocktails were served while guests, which included many prominent Jamaican-born residents of Cayman, mingled inside and outside the Abacus bar.
After guests were seated, it was time for Abacus Executive Chef Ron Jacobson’s time to shine.
The first course served was a ceviche called ‘Red Snapper Aquachile, marinated in local pepper, citrus and Appleton Reserve’. Topped with a fried jalapeño slice, the amuse bouche-sized dish was tart and spicy, a perfect appetite enhancer.
The second course featured a unique combination of a seared sea scallop surrounded by a guava nectar swirl along with foie gras pâté.
Duck is one of those ingredients that can be difficult to work with, but it’s one of Jacobson’s specialities. The third course featured outstanding smoked duck breast, served over a frisee salad with mango and almonds,topped with a warm pomegranate vinaigrette. Boldly served medium rare, the duck breast was tender and delicious and the highlight of the meal.
Next up was rack of lamb chops with mint mojo gastrique, served over local vegetable ratatouille, a nice way to round out a menu that went from sea to air to land.
The meal was served with two Jacques Scott wines, one white for the first two courses and one red for the last two.
The white was Sonoma-Cutrer Russian River Ranches Chardonnay. Produced in the Russian River Valley AVA in Sonoma County, Sonoma-Cutrer a classic California Chardonnay that is buttery, but not too buttery, oaky, but not too oak and fruity, but not too fruity, with just a touch of minerality, adding complexity to the wine.
It had flavours of citrus and green apple, which made it a good pairing with the scallop, but its crisp acidity and buttery notes made it a surprisingly nice match with the foie gras pâté.
The second wine was 2006 Salentein Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon from Argentina,a deep red wine with flavours of sweet dark fruits and notes of pepper. An American Cabernet Sauvignon would have most likely been too tannic to pair with the duck, but the soft, sweet tannins of the Argentinian Salentein allowed it hold its own with that course, before pairing more classically with the lamb.
After dinner, before the rum highlight of the evening, cheese boards were brought to each table, which proved to be perhaps the best pairing of the night with the Salentein Cab.
The welcome, the food and the wine were all thoroughly enjoyed, but the guests were really there for the taste of the 50-year-old Limited Edition Jamaica Independence Reserve rum.
The rum was made in 1962, just before Jamaica received its independence from the United Kingdom. It was decided to set aside 24 barrels of specially blended rum to be aged and bottled to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Jamaica’s independence in 2012. Over the years, nearly half the rum was lost to evaporation – called angels’ share in the spirits industry – so that there were only 13 barrels of rum left. This equated to only 800 bottles.
With a target retail price of US$5,000 for a decorative 750ml bottle – which amounts to about US$300 per shot – the pours were precise – one 45ml shot per snifter glass.
As the glasses were poured at a table near the back of the dining area, a sweet, woody aroma filled the room. Before the rum was served, Dutton told everyone not to touch their glasses before they were given their instructions from the special guest of the evening, Appleton Estate master blender Joy Spence.
The years of barrel aging created a dark, rich, ultra smooth rum with complex aromas and flavours.
In the glass, the rum exhibited thick ‘legs’ – the narrow beads of liquid that run down the side of the glass when it was swirled slightly.
Spence told the guests to first smell the rum, which exhibited powerful, bourbon-like oak aroma with notes of vanilla, maple syrup and cinnamon.
“Now take your first sip of the ultimate experience,” she said.
The first thing noticed when tasting the rum was the exceptional smoothness. The smokiness on the palate gave way to a honey-like finish.
Spence said the rum was comparable to any fine single malt whisky.
“But it would take three times as long – 150 years – to gain the same complexity in Scotland,” she said, explaining that the aging process is faster in tropical climates. “So when you’re buying it for $5,000 US, it’s a steal.”
Squares of Ghirardelli dark chocolate were served and Spence told everyone to try the rum with a bite of the chocolate in their mouths. The rum countered the bitterness of the chocolate to create a wonderful taste.
After all the glasses were poured for guests, about a third of one bottle remained. Jacques Scott agreed to auction the bottle off and another $2,100 was raised for the Special Olympics, with local sommelier Harvey Setterfield taking the prized rum home.