Anthony Bourdain once said that there is one dish that will make a traveler think one lifetime will not be enough, one dish that makes a person’s normal life seem colorless at the thought of return. I find it true for food and also with booze.
For the curious, that dish for me is a delicious serving of otoro sashimi. It’s simple and small, raw, and made with the fattiest slice from the tuna’s underside. I’d happily kill for a taste of it. That one bite ingrained the idea of “less is more” in me: the high-quality soy sauce brushed on the sashimi. The deceptively simple but mind-blowing rice prepared with vinegar. The right amount of wasabi added in between the fish and rice. Now that my food rapture has been introduced, let’s turn to liquor.
Samaroli will be more familiar to the readers here as a Scotch independent bottler. I have sadly and oddly never had any of their Scotch bottlings, but I have had a few rums. Sadly, the owner and founder, Mr. Silvano, passed away in 2017. I guess I should count myself lucky to have bought one of his bottles that were released when he was still alive; I have heard of some collectors being cautious about ones released after his death.
I have mentioned before that an interview with Smuggler Cove’s Martin Cate made me curious about rum. That’s true, but it was when I drank an earlier and (I think) older release of this Samaroli Jamaican Rhapsody that my curiosity sailed full steam ahead.
I still remember it clearly. It was during the Singapore Cocktail Fest of 2017. I walked into the (unfortunately) now-closed Sugarhall bar in Singapore. It was a rum-focused cocktail bar, quite ahead of the Asia scene. I asked the cute bartender to recommend a good Jamaican rum, and she gave me a glass of an earlier release of what I’ll review today, because she liked it a lot.
It was a moment I’d liken to gears magically cranking inside my mind, as if the rum reached the insides of my brain, not just my stomach. As it passed through the parts we barely feel day to day, it slowly revitalized lifeless, unused alleyways blocked by a dam of ignorance before that moment. Imagine magical water flooding through a dying valley, instantly bringing it back to life.
Up to that point, the only Jamaican rum I’d had was from Appleton. They’re good, but marketed to beginners like tourists, or for mixing. Aside from those, I’d only had supermarket rums like Bacardi and Havana Club.
My mind quickly raced and asked a barrage of questions. This is all molasses-based and ex-bourbon casks? How is this Jamaican Rhapsody so different from Appleton and the supermarket rum? This is rum? But not as diabolically diabetes-inducing as Don Papa “7”? Of course, I had no idea about the importance of fermentations and distillation back then. I was still naive about the lies of brands like Don Papa, Ron Zacapa and Diplomatico at the time. All I knew was that my palate had changed forever.
Samaroli Jamaica Rhapsody Blended Rum 2016 – review
One of 520 bottles, bottled at 45% ABV.
On the nose: Dry funky scents of toffee, nuts, rotting banana, coffee, nutmeg and persistent swimming pool water. More scents of nuts, caramelized orange oil, civet coffee, vanilla and honey.
In the mouth: Very similar to the nose. A bunch of dry and astringent tastes of nuts, latte, nutmeg, saba bananas, caramelized orange oil, peppers, baking spice and muscovado syrup.
This is indeed a rhapsody. The Jamaican rum flavors, as they tend to be, are really expressive. They take quick turns in revealing themselves, which gives me reason to think that this bottle has mostly young rum. The Scotland aging has mellowed down the usually sharp youthful flavors.
I can only tell there’s some Hampden rum in here. The dry nutty and nutmeg flavors give it away. I’m going to guess this has a bit of heavier Worthy Park distillate, but with rum, a release can have different marks from one distillery, so it is really hard to tell.
I don’t find this bottle as good as the earlier bottling I had in Sugarhall, but that could just be my memory playing tricks. Maybe that earlier bottling had older rum in it? Maybe my senses were simply too amazed by the new sensations? Regardless, it was still a very eye-opening experience at the time.
Because I was still new to exploring rum, drinking that other Rhapsody made me curious as to how other expressions might taste. The one I had in Sugarhall left enough of an impression for me to look for another bottle of it, and it led me to the Ministry of Rum and all that I’ve tried now.
I still have more rum I want to try, from islands like Grenada, Reunion Island and Guadalupe. Asia’s sugarcane juice rum scene is also increasing: Vietnam, Japan and Thailand are among the leading producers. Regardless, this Jamaican one yielded an enjoyable memory and I don’t regret giving it a try.