By Jennifer Rigby
Prague is a beer town. I get it. But sometimes, only spirits will do. And sometimes, that spirit has to be rum. Warming and sweet, rum evokes dreams of sunnier climes, beach parties, and cocktails in coconuts. I think we all need a bit of that.
But there is also a different side to rum – the premium side, where the drink is sipped, swilled, sniffed and generally appreciated like a fine wine or a whiskey. It’s in this guise that Havana Club’s latest brand hits the Czech Republic – Havana Club Seleccíon de Maestros.
It’s an ultra-premium brand, definitely at the pricier end of the market, and not designed to be tipped down your neck with wild abandon. In fact, I even went to a rum tasting to find out how best to drink it.
Odd as it sounds, I’ve been to a rum tasting before, at a bar in London. It didn’t go well. We were presented with about eight different full-to-the-brim glasses of the amber nectar, a glass of water, and a stern rum expert who insisted every sip needed to be held in the mouth to get the full flavor. Obedient as I am, I did this. Dear Reader, it burned. I have no idea what it tasted like because my eyes started streaming and all I could taste was alcohol, pure, pure, alcohol. The remaining seven glasses loomed large in front of me.
I abandoned his advice (but listened to his interesting explanations of molasses and dark and white rums and how they are made) and somehow got through the rest of them. I then had to quickly administer food in order to remain upright (I think it’s safe to say that most people would be in trouble after that much rum and I am no heavyweight in the rum arena).
So I was interested to see how the Prague version of rum tasting would play out. And thank goodness, it was much more civilized. Watched over by expert and walking rum encyclopedia Saša Mikšovic, small samples of the rum were poured out into white wine glasses in the convivial surroundings of La Casa de la Havana vieja, a Cuban cocktail bar in the city center.
He gave the same instructions as the London expert – smell the rum, appreciate the caramel notes, the pecan, even the tobacco.
Then, drink the rum – but don’t just toss it back. Instead, swill it around in your mouth and as you do so, sniff the rum again. Only then can you swallow it.
But somehow, this time, it worked. I got it. The taste of the rum was heightened by smelling it at the same time, and then the warming sensation in the throat lasted, pleasantly, for several minutes – apparently, the better the rum, the longer that sensation lasts. Drinking the liquid became a much more sensual and interesting experience as a result of the instructions, lending the rum the feel of a magical brew that could warm you, taste good and gently intoxicate you.
So give the new brand a try – or indeed any nice brand of rum (La Casa de la Havana vieja has many) – and try this way of drinking it, appreciating and savoring it properly. It takes a bit of getting used to (at 45 percent alcohol it certainly packs a punch), but it’s a different drinking experience – and one I would recommend. Even if I did go on for a beer afterwards.