A Ritz-y Rum Experience
Welcome to August, also known as my birthday month and better known as National Rum Month. Let the celebrations begin and that means, sipping, savoring, and mixing it up all month in the Magic City and across the country with our buddy, Ron. You know, Tio Ron — also known as my Uncle Rum in Spanish (wink, wink). As an ode to this sugarcane-distilled liquor, The Ritz-Carlton Key Biscayne, in collaboration with Akal Chai Rum, raised the glass with a noteworthy, limited availability, sensory experience at the RumBar, located in the lavish lobby of this famed, oceanfront hotel for $95 per person. It was set the day before #NationalRumDay on Sunday, August 15, 2021, and we were their special guests, which meant it was a genuine #SundayFunDay treat for us!
Guests were greeted with a bang — a classic, Old-Fashioned style rum cocktail served in a vintage coupe glass with premium, brandied cherries nestled on the bottom and a large bubble of smoke atop. To indulge in their elaborately constructed welcome drink, it required a poke of the finger to pop and release a billow of smoke that permeated your personal space, creating a subtle smokiness in the world’s first botanical rum. Botanical, in this rum, refers to the fermented mash of Indian tea leaves and Caribbean flower petals combined with the byproducts of sugarcane.
While it may seem dramatic with hints of hyperbole, our journey into Chai Rum began with an around the world “swirl and whirl” in our glass or as Chai Rum has tagged it, “The World Distilled In A Glass.” From high altitude tea growing in India to the art of the parfumier in Europe to the rum distillers of the West Indies to the founders in Miami, Chai Rum is an ultra-premium, sophisticated and worldly, single bourbon barrel-aged rum from Trinidad with love. It meshes the skill of distilling, the mastery of tea craft, and the perfecting technique of perfuming into an award-winning spirit innovation. Recognized by the Government of Trinidad & Tobago, this rum won an innovation award for being the first limited reserve Trinidadian rum to couple Caribbean flower petals and Indian tea leaves for a smooth and subtly spiced rum. Kiran Shiva Akal, the founder of Akal Chai rum, was born in Trinidad of Indian descent, so the heritage created in this bottle makes for a cohesive story and legacy.
Evidenced in this cosmopolitan rum that received 95 points from Tasting Panel Magazine, the new age of exploration and discovery in spirits appears to be one of tantalizing the senses. Using mixology and infusions to elevate and expand flavors, guests partook in a private, interactive rum experience with founders, Kiran Akal and John Fleming. Both skillfully guided the small, socially distanced room through a reserve tasting of their rum served neat, on the rocks and then aromatically infused with smoke from burning blocks of cedar, cherry, and maple woods, all complemented with some chef-inspired tapas with a Latin flair.
Each presentation showed the diversity and complexity of their Reserve Classic. They began the demonstration served neat, showing off an aromatic and spicy spirit with hints of nuttiness and an apparent finish of Chai tea. Adding the rocks, they toned it down to a very smooth, sipping drink with very calmed notes of spice. Then finished with a crescendo of smoke infusions, starting with cedar smoke in the glass creating savory flavors, then charring a cherry block for sweet undertones and closing with the table’s favorite, maple wood, giving rise to a viscous nip for dessert. Each brought about a different perspective for a very memorable rum tasting experience.
Such a perfect way to brunch on a rainy Sunday afternoon, it energized a gloomy day and inspired the idiom, “Time flies when you’re having rum.” Or prompted a proverb like, “Life’s better when you’re having rum… And fun!