“Time Flies When You’re Having Rum…”

Those seeking rum head to Cottons Salon de Rhum – it’s in the Guinness World Records as having the most varieties commercially available…

Review by Martin Stickley

Lord Byron once said “There’s naught, no doubt, so much the spirit calms as rum and true religion,” and whilst I’m not so sure about the second point, I’m certainly with him on the first. Of all the spirits that mankind has produced, none evoke such vibrancy and exhilaration as rum, so it didn’t take a lot of persuading to encourage me to check out a tasting class hosted by Angostura at Cottons Salon de Rhum in London’s Notting Hill.

To mark their entry into the GUINNESS WORLD RECORDS® as the bar with the most varieties of rum commercially available (a staggering 372 different types!), Cottons Restaurant and Salon de Rhum in Notting Hill has started running a series of monthly free rum master classes. The bar has teamed up with some of the world’s leading rum brands to offer free sessions where guests will get to smell, taste and learn all about individual rums, as well learn how to mix (and hopefully drink) the perfect rum cocktail.

For those unfamiliar with Cottons the company started life as a bar in Camden back in 1982 however it wasn’t until the opening of Cottons rhumshack, Shoreditch, in 2013 that the group really started to branch out. Cottons Notting Hill Gate opened in April 2016 and has since become the jewel in the family crown offering a more refined cocktail and dining experience without foregoing the colourful vibe and authentic Caribbean experience for which they have become renowned.

The evening started in the best possible way, as anyone attending the classes is greeted by the cocktail of the month, expertly mixed by Cottons’ rum expert Barry Lamine. On this night, as the event was hosted in conjunction with Angostura, I gratefully received a “Queen’s Park Swizzle” a drink named after the Trinidadian hotel where it was first created combining rum and syrup with a bouquet of fresh mint, a squeeze of lime and several dashes of Angostura bitters. The Queen’s Park was a luxurious juxtaposition between the peppy mint and the rich 7-year rum and almost immediately it had me wondering where I could get a hammock and a return flight to Port of Spain a Wednesday evening in West London.

After a chance to soak up the atmosphere (and sup the delicious drink) I was then lucky enough to be given an insight into the fascinating history behind one of the key ingredients to this, and many other cocktails.

Angostura Limited was founded in 1830 in the Venezuelan town of Angostura by Johann Siegert, a German Surgeon-General in Simon Bolivar’s army. Before setting up the company he had tried to find a medicine to improve the digestive well-being of the soldiers stationed in this tropical region before finally creating a unique blend of herbs which he called “Amargo Aromatico” or aromatic bitters. It wasn’t long before he began exporting his bitters to the Caribbean where it became popular with European sailors. Within 40 years Dr. Siegert’s company became purveyor to the King of Prussia, Spain, and King George V. To this day Angostura bitters have remained a key ingredient in many cocktails, for example pink gin and the Manhattan but despite the fame garnered by the bitters, it’s not so common knowledge that since 1947 Angostura have also been producing some particularly fine quality rums, a few of which I was lucky enough to sample. The first two (a 3 year-old white rum and a 5 year-old golden rum) are perfect for mixing in cocktails, but the real stars were the older rums which followed. These I would be more than happy to sip neat on a Trinidadian beach whilst watching the sun go down over the sea. The pinnacle being the “1824” an utterly exquisite rum created by Angostura to showcase their anniversary, it’s aged for a minimum of 12 years (the rule being 1 year in the Caribbean = 3 years in Scotland when it comes to spirit aging) and tastes truly divine with a creamy palate of vanilla, honey and rich, dark molasses.

All in all, the evening was perfect for anyone who enjoys a fine tipple and imaginative cuisine along with an enlightening glimpse into the story behind one of the world’s most famous rum manufacturers.

Cottons will be hosting two rum master-classes on the last Wednesday of every month until late July, each with a different guest maker. There will be a daytime class for bar staff and industry folk at 2pm and a more light-hearted version of the class for rum lovers at 6pm. Guests are encouraged to stay for dinner and sample the master-class rum cleverly incorporated into food by Cotton’s creative chefs in a one-night-only menu. Dishes on the one-night-only rum menu will be priced individually and as space is limited, advance booking for the sessions is essential.

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Enquiries: Cottons Salon de Rhum, 157 – 159 Notting Hill Gate, London W11 3LF / 0207 2430090 / http://cottons-restaurant.co.uk/notting-hill/

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