Mount Gay Rum, a taste of Barbados in Fitzrovia
On being invited to taste Mount Gay’s superb selections of rum I was intrigued, as I have to admit – rather embarrassingly – to being something of a rum virgin. Until now, my very limited experience of the spirit began and ended in copious glasses of rum and coke one French holiday as a 15 year old in the Dordogne. However, I knew that it’s been the drink of choice for pirates, and until relatively recently, navy’s around the world have given a daily tot to their sailors as a matter of course. I’d even heard that The Clash would only hit the stage after they’d taken a good swig. So yes, I was intrigued – there had to be something special about this legendary liquid.
On a sweltering early July evening in central London I wended my way through the streets of Fitzrovia to the very hip restaurant Dabbous in Whitfield Street . My journey had taken me past many hostelries, all with clientelle spilling out onto sun-dappled pavements – this was definitely an evening to be in the open air, with a cool glass of something. However, on entering the venue I was ushered downstairs into the dark, candle-lit, atmospheric basement of Oskar Kinberg’s cocktail bar. I was here for an evening hosted by Mount Gay Rum – a “Storied Supper” in celebration of the UK launch of their new label, Black Barrel. Each course from Dabbous’ inspired European cuisine was to be matched with rum concoctions expertly mixed by the man himself, Oskar.
Before a word was spoken, an elegant and delicious Hemmingway Daiquiri was in my hand, paired with truffled cheese on toast. This had all the makings of a fine evening, I thought, my rum story had begun. But I did need some facts to fill the gap in my alcoholic understanding, so I was very much looking forward to being educated in this Barbadian spirit, and the charming form of Miguel Smith, Brand Ambassador for Mount Gay Rum, was the perfect man to do it.
Miguel explained that a legal deed dated from 20th of February 1703 confirms the existence of a “pot still house” on a sugar cane Estate in Barbados, establishing Mount Gay as the World’s oldest rum producer. Named after Sir John Gay, who perfected the distinctive style of using only the finest sugar cane molasses and pure water filtered through the coral heart of the island, Mount Gay rums are handcrafted from a blend of single column and double copper pot distillates and matured in toasted oak bourbon barrels. With the harmonious blending orchestrated by the Master Blender, Allen Smith, these outstanding rums show aromatic, flavourful taste, body and refined character, a long-standing Barbadian tradition.
We were soon seated and quickly enjoying a sublime peas and mint mousse matched with a fabulously named ‘Wingman’. Over the next hour or so we enjoyed beautiful barbecued lamb chump with a ‘Rum In ‘It’. Burrata and roast nectarine with honey and thyme accompanied with the extraordinarily imaginatively named ‘The Day Christopher Robin Left’. To finish we had Raspberries, yoghurt, barley and marigolds matched with a ‘Rice, Rice Baby’. The food was truly sublime and great care had been taken to complement it with each of the fine cocktails.
I have to admit to being sceptical as to whether cocktails and food could work well together, but fantastic work Oskar, you pulled it off! With the meal over it was time to make our way home, according to Miguel I had become ‘a brother in rum’ and I had to agree with him. I felt my quest was complete and the warmth of the Barbadian welcome and its great export left me feeling fantastic. I now know what The Clash and all those sailors were going on about, yo, ho, ho and a bottle of Mount Gay Rum perhaps.
Man about town.