Unless you’re fond of map reading, you can be excused for not knowing the location of Mauritius.
If, however, you’re a fan of fine rums, check your globe. The island nation off the east coast of Africa — actually off the east coast of Madagascar which, itself, is off the east coast of Africa — is showing signs of coming into its own as an international purveyor of fine rums.
Some months ago, as a judge in the first International Cane SpiritsCompetition, held in Tampa, Fla., I had the opportunity to sample Starr African Rum, perhaps the best Mauritius has to offer. The judges awarded it a gold medal in the white rums category (including spirits aged less than a year).
The three other gold medalists in that category were more mainstream labels — Santa Teresa Blanco, from Venezuela; Prichard’s Crystal Rum, from the U.S., and Ron Botran White Rum, from Guatemala.
My tasting notes for the event called the Starr African Rum "peppery; floral; and with a long finish." There are hints of cardamom and citrus, all of which work well in various rum punches.
Now, Mauritius will be expanding its sales in India as part of a new trade agreement signed between the two countries. (About 70 percent of Mauritius’s population is of Indian descent.) The agreement allows Mauritius to triple its rum exports to India.
The change is part of a steady growth in the presence of Starr African rum. It received a "Superb 90-95 (Recommended)" rating from Wine Spectator last year, then the gold medal in Tampa, and has been popping up at various "beautiful people" events at which clever PR types have been managing to link the names of show biz luminaries.
When that happens, can mainstream success be far behind?
–If Heaven Hill Distilleries is successful with its fall launch of a
S150-a-bottle version, then we know rye has truly made a comeback. The
Bardstown, Ky., distiller has produced 32 barrels, or about 3,000 of the
750ml bottles, of Rittenhouse Very Rare 21-Year-Old Single Barrel Straight Rye Whisky, a 100-proof concoction. Bottles priced above $30 are considered premium, those above $49 super premium. Heaven, or Heaven Hill, only knows what to call a $150 category.
–After a three-Manhattan evening and seeing Samuel L. Jackson on "The
Daily Show" with Jon Stewart, the perfect sequel to Jackson’s movie "Snakes On a Plane" occurred to me: "Snakes On a Submarine." Just saying.
— One of the many new vodkas coming to market is Ocean Vodka, direct from Hawaii, with the assistance of DRinc. of Idaho. Hawaii Sea Spirits of Maui is touting its use of desalinated ocean water with alcohol distilled in Idaho from organic corn and rye. I’m thinking a niche within a niche within a niche. Ocean has partnered with Koyo USA Corp., maker of MaHaLo Hawaii Deep Sea Water, which markets the desalinated mineral water in Japan and operates a luxury water bar in Waikiki.