Sunday, February 8, 2009

Sui Generis

I have always taken great pride in my extensive collection of spirits. Not for it's sheer volume. Any idiot with money to spare can stock a full bar over night. Believe me, I've done it. It usual ends with the cashier at the state store giving you an inquisitive, and yet concerned look, as you roll on up with 3 shopping carts of $400 worth of liquid stupid. You get this sense of juvenile pride, as the group of prepubescents in the parking lot stare in awe as you carry your bounty to your car. So, we've established that my bar is big. In fact it puts most establishments I've imbibed at to shame. When friends, neighbors, the police see it for the first time, the usual response is something along the lines of "Holy F*ck", "wow", or sometimes they just stand there gurgling and drooling all over themselves. But, what I take the most pride in with my bar is its vast variety of unique spirits.

In the great Commonwealth of Pennsylvania the state store system is truly top notch. The PLCB is the single largest purchaser of wines and spirits in the U.S. But even with such substantial purchasing power, you still can never get your hands on everything out there. It's for this reason that I make a habit to drop about $200 in booze every time I find myself traveling outta state or country.

I just love stocking my bar with the odds and ends that just aren't available locally. And my friends love it too. I've collected quite a few unique spirits over the years. Some I have absolutely loved and always make sure to pick more up when I get a chance. Others have been downright nasty and would probably be better suited as an industrial cleaner or as a means of euthanizing the hippies (god damn those hippies). But here are a couple of favorites, that if you ever come across them in your local store, you should consider picking up a bottle or four.

Oronoco RumOronoco Rum had me sold just from the sight of the bottle. There is just something about a bottle wrapped in stamped leather and antiqued paper that just says "I'm not your typical mass produced, hyped out, bottle of piss". Well my gut feeling was correct, unlike last night's decision to dine Mexican, and it was well worth the purchase. This small batch artisan rum is distilled from fresh cut Brazilian mountain cane. It offers a light clean taste of vanilla and a smooth rounded finish. This is the only white rum I've ever come across that I would call "super-premium". Most white rums are so overladen with added sugar they become too sweet, or they are just a step above rubbing alcohol with some rum extract flavoring.

Bushmills Single Malt
Bushmills 10 yr Single Malt hails from the world's oldest licensed distillery. It is the original single malt. For those who find single malted scotches too harsh, this whiskey offers a well balanced flavor that is smooth and mellow. No peat is used in drying the malt, preventing it from absorbing the fire's smokiness while retaining the malt's distinctive character. This one I drink straight up or over just a small amount of ice. You don’t mix this one, or the booze gods will shove a lighting bolt up you ass.

Black Strap
When the words "Navy Tradition" and "Black Strap" exist on the same label, I envision sodomy on the high seas. And as disturbing as that may be, this rum tastes so good, you may drink enough to be open to just about anything...almost. Seriously though; Cruzan Black Strap Rum is a rich full-bodied navy rum. While many dark rums are bitter in taste, this one's creamy vanilla and molasses notes make it a great substitute when making your more traditional rum drinks.

Pimm's No. 3Pimm's is a product of the UK that has not gained wide popularity here in the States. Pimm's is something of an enigma, being more of a tonic with an alcohol base, rather than a liqueur. Depending on which you choose, each variety has a different base. Pimm's No. 1 Cup is the original and most popular, and is made with a gin base. The Brits like to mix it with lemonade or tea for a cool summer drink. No. 1 can be found in most state stores, but there are also Nos. 2-6, each with its own base, including whisky, rum, brandy, rye, vodka. Unfortunately all but a few of these have been phased out. Pimm's No. 3 Cup has the brandy base, but in recent years it's formula has changed and has become known as Pimm's Winter Cup. I have a friend who has brought a bottle back for me from the UK a couple of times. I keep telling him not to waste his duty free allowance on me, but he just smiles and says he smuggled it in where they won't find it. I never felt the desire to ask. Anyways, The No.3 makes a great alcohol base for egg nog during the Christmas Season.

Sangsters Rum CreamSangster's Jamaican Rum Cream truly is the nectar of the gods. Not available in the U.S., this liqueur is made with premium aged Jamaican rum. I got hooked on this stuff the first time I visited the island. It's just perfect poured over ice, but if you really want to enjoy it, you should try a traditional Jamaican cocktail called a hummingbird. It only takes one sip, and if I close my eyes, I am in Jamaica, if only for a moment.

There is something to be said for sampling the drink of the people. Every culture, every region, every walk of life enjoys getting shit-faced. Yes, even the Muslims, but they won't admit it. I'd like to think that what one imbibes says something about them. It's my own little way of taking that culture home with me, consuming it, and 5 hours later cursing it to hell. I encourage you to go out and try something new. You may just learn something about yourself.

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