October 1, 2020

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Rum, Ron and Rhum

Restaurant Editor Chris Sherman was a judge at the Polished Palate International Rum Festival in Ybor City. Read what he experienced and see the winners.

Chris Sherman | 5/1/2009

You should thank me. And New York spirits master Jack Robertiello and a half dozen other esteemed barflies for working our way through 60 rums and assorted spirits last week to chose the very best rum that sugar cane and a distiller can make.

Somebody’s got to do it and we set to it soberly in a darkened corner of Ybor City for the Polished Palate International Rum Festival. The work can be hard; at times the smell of varnish and shellac from the lacquer smelled like a wood shop. A few samples tasted wildly out of place, as peaty as an Islay scotch or as vegetal as cantina pulque.

Harder still was sipping and spitting out the good stuff, and there were some dandies, like our Best of Show, Ron Millonario, a liquid spice box, rich as caramel, with a sweet finish. It won a 90 from each of seven judges.

Ron Millonario is a newish label from Peru already drawing a cult favorite and if that’s news to you, welcome to the wide world of rum, which includes almost every island, tropical coast, frozen seaport and even the hills of Tennessee (Try Prichard’s for a taste of American artisan rum). After success in Europe and Asia, Millonario?ill arrive in U.S. markets next month in its trademark straw?asket woven by Peruvian craftsmen much the sameas "Panama" hats. It will sell for over $50.

Indeed, the Spanish Main, from Guatemala through Guyana, makes some of the most fabled, and this year’s judging proved rummies need to update their atlas to include it and well beyond.

Best white rumCarta Vieja ?xtra Clara, a crisp, clean drink from Panama, dry enough to drink with tonic.

Best dark rum Khukri, an amber rum full of butterscotch from, grab your clampons, Nepal. Made from waters of Mt. Everest. For big money, get the Coronation edition, in the wildest bottle on the back bar, glass shaped like the khukri itself, the curved dagger of Ghurka warriors.

Best goldSunset Captain Bligh from St. Vincent and the Grenadines where the captain was a good guy for delivering breadfruit to the island. The rum has a caramel cast and is certainly gentler than Sunset’s other big seller, Very Strong (169 proof).

Best aged (8 years or less)Ron Peruano, again from Peru,courtesy of Rum Nation importers who have collected eight single domaine rums from various countries. Peruano is dark and rich as fruitcake.

Best aged (9 to 15 years)Diplomatico Reserva Exclusiva, the top bottling of Venezuela’s grand name. It’s rich, thick with a buncha bananas, from splits to Fosters.

Best aged (15 years and older) —? Ron Millonario, 15 year solera, the big winner, assembled from rums aged 15 years and more. Maturity never tasted so good.

For a complete list of winners, go here.

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