"This smells awful, what was this?... Bacardi Superior, wow shocking, and if I can help it I am never having this light rum again". - July 7th 2010 - concluding my own personal blind light rum tasting.
When I first started this blog and video channel, it came out of a necessity to really examine what I was drinking and to have some balance between seriousness and fun. As time has gone on I've learned quite a bit, and it's always interesting to revisit past tastes. When I think of Bacardi I can only think of one thing, and that is of course rum. They are the largest distiller on the planet and make ubiquitous products for easy consumption in my opinion. Most of their really good stuff is impossible to get or just flat out unheard of (I can think of ONE product). I sort of think of them as the Anheuser Busch - InBev of the rum world. However, I was given another opportunity to spend some more time with Bacardi in a historic setting, in what looked like an excuse more than anything to also have a good time. It was almost 2 years since the last visit with the bat himself for me.
There was an event in Old Town Alexandria VA that was being held at Gadsby's Tavern, a historic place which was built in 1785 (with the adjacent hotel coming in 1792, check out the website link for the fabulous history of this place). It was here that the 8th annual Rum Punch challenge was being held. Punch?! I asked myself.. Could I go drink 6 different rum punches, complete with catered food snacks, judge the entries made by local restraunters and vote on who was the best? I think I needed to pay a visit, as many others did the same.
The first one I tried was "Jones Point Punch" from the actual Gadsby's Tavern Restaurant. Using Bacardi Select Dark, the punch didn't have the sense of dark rum to it to me. It was memorable in how I always associated punch, kind of fruity, summery. There was a good amount of fruit in this one, somehow it really tasted like pineapple juice too much to me. However, as nice as it was it didn't really grab me.
After two punches it was obvious to me that there was some good thought that was going into these punches. Rum punch is actually one of the classic serving summer cool downs of yore. Much of it was consumed here in George Washington's day.
After three punches I was beginning to think of the angles each participant was going for. Should they go for something fruit and basic? Or were there going to be more things challenging unexpected??
I got a bunch of ingredients listed that were very unexpected. Strawberry puree, agave nectar, the two rums of course, some club soda, honey (I think?), and some jalapeno for kick. Wait.. did he say jalapeno?
I quickly grabbed a good chug. But I was sort of jealous that I asked what was in it before tasting, for I would have been even more surprised I do think. Yup you heard that right, strawberry backbone with a sweet rum kick, mixing some syrup sweetness and this just right peppery green punch from the jalapenos. Talk about a unique creation, and I DON'T LIKE STRAWBERRIES! but was VERY impressed by this one. Someone here was making something unique, someone did some serious homework here, and everything was balanced nicely. However, it was a big risk to make a punch like this, it was so different and was probably going to rub some people the wrong way. This was a polarizing punch for sure. But that's what you have to do some times you have to take a chance. This was my other personal favorite, a summer beat the heat punch with pepper kick and fruit, just great.
THE DOGFISH HEAD BREWERY IS HERE!! I was ready to see if Sam was under the table, and my mind started racing as the beer geek in me was ready to explode out. Palo Santo and Dark rum! What about Noble rot and something? okay wait a minute calm down now... I don't think punch is going to have BEER in it (not that you couldn't try), but this was a rum night dude. Then I forgot... Dogfish makes rum! I even remembered I have their rum at home.
Speaking of rum, there was a new product that was being offered by Bacardi that was in two of the punches. One was in the Pomander, the other in the next and last punch I tried the "Oak Ball Punch" with a new rum from Bacardi called Oakheart Spiced.
I asked a server if I could try the rum just by itself which I could. It had that similar great vanilla nose, but even at 70 proof the rum had that harsh varnishy quality, not unlike the superior of days past, also had next to nothing texture wise. It really did not taste good by itself.
So with all punches taken and imbibed, I had to decide on favorites. It was clear that two punches stood out for me, and both felt seasonal. One seemed right for winter, the other for a hot summer day. I took 2 of my 5 tickets giving two votes to both "isla besos" and "Queen Anne's Revenge". I threw my last vote into "Pomander" mostly cause of all the other punches it has the best bouquet.
Votes were tallyed by all who attended, with a runner up and first place announced. The runner up was....
Gadsby's Tavern and their Jone's Point Punch.
The winner of the best punch competition was:
Pomander Punch by Bittersweet.
There's no question, all the punches made tonight were far better than the Cava version I made myself ;)
Gadsby's rum punch challenge offers a well planned out, executed and fun night of merriment. Food doesn't run out, punches are out with no losers, and with it all comes with a great piece of historic setting that makes rum punch the center piece and star. I don't think I'd want to have rum punch anywhere else in the world.