Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Cadenhead's Classic Green Label Rum

As promised, we will devote the occasional blog post to personal discoveries and favorites from the distilleries. Though I'm much more a Scotch man, than a Bourbon or Rum guy, once in a while I get knocked off my soapbox by a spirit that makes drinking ordinary fare seem like scarfing rotgut. Cadenhead's Classic Green Label Rum does that!

Cadenhead is a Scots specialty bottler, export-importer, and retail distributor of Scotch and other selected spirits, centered in Campbeltown, Argyll, Scotland. Before the import regs changed a few years back, a lot of their familiar dark green limited bottlings of small batch Scotch reached our shores. 

As a rule, I don't take much Rum straight, because most of it--the run-of-the-mill stuff you get in taverns or grocery stores--is not very inspiring. Most good Rum is produced in the New World--in the Caribbean, to be precise. Many of the most famous bar-drinks are based on white Rum, and a lot of it is consumed world-wide. 

Caribbean Rums vary in color and density from white (clear) through gold, and dark Rum. Dark Rums are richer, somewhat sweeter--the result of longer aging in wood casks. Long aging is common with Scotches, as well as Bourbon, and certain other fortified liqueurs such as Port or Brandy. It's somewhat less common with Rum. 

I was offered a taste of this new Class Green Label at a local tavern, and was immediately struck by its complexity, seductiveness, and power. High alcohol concentrations aren't always suitable. Higher alcohol content often will make for a very "hot" palate, especially with "thin" flavored spirits such as Grappa. High alcohol content can, however, enhance a beautifully balanced, strong flavored spirit, matching its strength and intensifying its effect. Classic Green Label Rum is a perfect example of this. 

Oddly, Cadenhead hasn't chosen to reveal the exact source of the stuff, but a few people on the internet have speculated it's Jamaican, or possibly even Cuban (which of course would be illegal to market in America). It's listed at 50% or 100 proof, making it an "overproof" Rum. 

The nose is candied (Demerera), with hints of cinnamon, charcoal, and marshmallow. Dark gold in color, clear. It begins with a soft, "crackerjacks" sweetness on the tip of the tongue, and is softly caressing along the sides and under the tongue. It settles out with chocolate notes, caramel, and burnt pineapple, lightly tingling at the back of the tongue. No sense of burning, stinging, no bitter aftertaste, gradually filling the mouth with a pleasant warmth and encouragement. 

I've never tasted another Rum like it--but my range of experience with aged Rums is, as I say, pretty limited. I paid a little under a hundred dollars for this bottle. As recently as two years ago, this same stuff was being marketed for under $70, so it's definitely appreciating. I wouldn't recommend it as a mixer, because it's just too good to adulterate with other flavors, and much too good for cooking use.  

This one is a real winner. I'd recommend it to anyone who likes good quality Scotch or Bourbon. You could drink it before or after a meal, or at any time after Noon. But be careful, the stuff is habit forming.



Kirby Olson said...

I taste alcohol once a week at the communion. Other than that, I have never really tasted it. Your descriptions amaze me.

I've heard of things like Rum and Whisky, Scotch and Bourbon, but don't really know what they refer to: it's somewhat hilarious that there are all these flavors rolling around inside of alcohol: burnt pineapple and caramel, marshmallow and charcoal.

You say that the stuff is "habit forming." Are you drunk a lot of the time, Curtis?

Curtis Faville said...


I've probably only been drunk a half dozen times in 40 years. Being a big guy, I have a fairly high tolerance for it, but I'm not into inebriation--frankly, it's a drag--who'd want to be woozy and unstable?

For me, having a single cocktail or two, or two glasses of wine at dinner, is probably about as lethal as a cup of black coffee.

Alcoholics are generally born, not made. Alcoholics usually don't much care what form it comes in, they just need to get enough ingested to get them "over the top" and stoned.

Only a small percentage of the population has a genetic predisposition towards alcoholism, but those who do generally need to be very careful or their lives fall apart. An alcoholic generally has a regular routine, starting in mid-afternoon, and putting away something like a quart of hard stuff by bed-time. It's very sad to see, and there's really nothing that can be done to remove the urge in people thus afflicted. Many, many famous artists, statesmen and professionals in all fields have been alcoholics. It used to be thought that alcoholism was a natural accompaniment to writing. Poe, Crane, Sinclair Lewis, Hemingway, Faulkner, the list goes on and on.

You shouldn't think that everyone who enjoys wine with dinner, or indulges in the occasional shot of spirits is somehow doing the devil's bidding. And, as I say, for the vast majority of people, there's really no danger of addiction.

Unknown said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

agree, i've been trying to become an alcoholic for about as long as i've been trying to become a poet. "alcoholic poet" is my goal in life, but i'm having difficulty achieving either one because i wasn't born to write or drink incessantly. i can only do either in great fits of unsustainable passion, sometimes together, but usually not.

dig your blog dude.

Kirby Olson said...

I have often thought that I tasted the whole history of the church in the communion wafer, with its little touch of wine. I can taste the flavor of St Paul in Ephesus, and the sparkling windows of Notre Dame of Paris, and all the saints, especially Therese de Lisieux, all the way back to the manger, and th epiety of the animals, and the Three Magi.

Taste is strange in that way. There's lots of room for the imagination, perhaps -- more so than in many other empirical realms. Do you thnk that they actually put a few marshmallows into the barrels in order to give it a flavor, or is this something that you imagine -- ?

Steven Fama said...


Straight rum had better be good, and this does sound yummy.

Have your tried any of the new absinthe, including the one from St. George in Alameda?

Curtis Faville said...

I think I did try that absinthe--it's been "legalized" at last--after--what?--75 years or something?

The stuff is terrifically expensive. I hear the restaurant buyers line up to buy the stuff by the case.

The grocery stores had it for a while, but no more.

Probably the larger market's now aware of it, and very little will be "locally" available.

Pernod is okay, but I've never been a big fan.

Unknown said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
eddie watkins said...

People don't drink absinthe for the taste do they? I shared a bottle some years ago with a friend, being interested in the different buzz it offered, but after half a bottle my drunken mind could barely differentiate the alcohol from the absinthe buzz, though there was "something" else, but not even "black moons chasing white moons"... or whatever Rimbaud reported.

Curtis Faville said...

I'm not sure. Either they determined that the amount(s) used in the manufacture weren't dangerous, or the supposed effects weren't bad to begin with. In either case, it's now legal to produce.

The first batches coming out have been snapped up quickly. It tastes very nice.

Kirby Olson said...

They say that the product has "matured." What does that really mean?

Kirby Olson said...

There is aging and then there is maturing. Both terms are used with spirits. Are they synonymous?

Curtis Faville said...

Aging is a complex subject, Kirb.

Someday we can discuss it in detail.

Kirby Olson said...

Well, with human beings aging and maturing aren't always synonymous. But, with spirits, I think that they are synonymous. But perhaps you can tell me all about that as we age (even if we have yet to mature).

hedera said...

As the wife of a recovering alcoholic, I now know much more about alcoholism than I once did, and I'd like to challenge some of the statements you made.

There are alcoholics like the ones you describe, but that isn't the entire population at all. My husband never touched hard liquor at all; he drank wine and beer. He did do most of his drinking in the evening.

It isn't true that "nothing can be done to remove the urge in people thus afflicted." I am personally acquainted with a number of people in addition to my husband (24 months clean and sober) who have successfully stopped drinking, for as much as tens of years. It is true that nothing can be done unless and until the drinker decides that he must stop.

Having decided to stop, a recovering drinker generally (not exclusively) needs support to be steadfast in his decisions, at least for the first few years; hence the popularity of groups like AA and LifeRing Secular Recovery.

Once someone stops drinking, the damage that the alcohol has done to his system begins to heal, just as smokers' lungs begin to clear up once they quit. Without quitting, alcohol abuse will eventually kill the drinker, from liver damage or even malnutrition.

As a non-alcoholic who used to enjoy the occasional shot of single malt, I agree that a really fine aged spirit should not be polluted with mixers! Your rum sounds delicious, but I probably won't try it; I find I just don't drink much any more apart from wine with dinner, and of course we don't keep alcohol in the house.

And given the subject of this discussion, it is beyond weird that the word verification string is "lushfa"!

Curtis Faville said...


For a long time, it was thought that classic alcoholism was a psychological weakness, that all drunks really needed was a good "attitude"--that the causes of their addiction lay in their mental abnormalities or lack of compensation in other "spheres" of their emotional life.

But theory over the last 30 years suggests that true alcoholics are "born" and not made. Scientific research posits a predisposition "gene" which causes certain people (a small minority of humankind) to be deeply susceptible to this dependency.

It is true that certain "dependent" personality types are more likely to become addicted to almost anything--cigarettes, alcohol, drugs, even sex or pornography, or violence. But these aren't "true" alcoholics, because their reliance upon substances or obsessive routines isn't chemically or genetically based: It's simple dependency.

In my work with Social Security over the years, I came into semi-intimate contact with thousands of confirmed life-long alcoholics. The "recidivist" rate for true alcoholics is extremely small--perhaps as low as 3%. I used to discuss this issue with the San Francisco Welfare Department's Alcoholic Payee and Monitoring Contractor during the 1970's and 1980's. Total, continuous monitoring and vigilance could curb and contain the symptoms of physical dependence, but there was never any pretense of a "cure". If you have this tendency, and you take just a single drink, there is nothing short of physical restraint that will prevent you from continuing to imbibe beyond control.

AA is based on this formula: Every day, every hour, every minute is a span of temptation; only constant dedication, determination and discipline can prevent relapse. There is no cure. There is no pill, no operation, no course of psychological therapy which will "solve" the condition. It is permanent. People who are alcoholics know it. The desire is as deep as sexual longing, as irresistible as hunger itself.

Someday medicine will probably figure out what the mechanism is that creates the susceptibility. In the meantime....

Unknown said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
hedera said...

If "cured" means "unable to drink socially without disaster", then it's true, alcoholics can't be "cured." The genetic side of it is in some dispute, I believe. The issue with alcoholics isn't, can they drink socially, it's, can they stop drinking and stay stopped. At that point they're "in recovery."

I'll check with my husband, who has been studying the literature in great detail, and see what studies he might recommend, and post the reference here.

Curtis Faville said...

Perhaps I should also have added to my post regarding blogging, that the internet seems governed by a kind of natural limit with respect to length, density and visual patience.

As seductive as the internet window is, most people (myself included) don't have unlimited tolerance for extended reading and attention. Few browsers will sit still for more than about 800 words of text. Adding references and footnotes also tends to put people off. This is not rational in terms of verifiability or integrity of assertion, it's just a quirk of the computer screen, I think.

You mention online news. It may be that online news will never approach the solidity and gravity of real newsprint--it just has a different "feel".

Regarding addiction: There's not been a lot of research into ethel alcohol effects on the brain, but it's clear from empirical data that some people can be as addicted to it as heroin or coke addicts. For most people, inebriation isn't a particularly pleasant experience, and they tend to resist it. Alcoholics crave it profoundly, and derive intense sensual pleasure from the taste and physical rush it produces, similar to the release of endorphins which most people experience in heightened states such as orgasm, cold morning showers, roller-coaster rides, etc.

Different people are just differently constructed: I know men who have had a single dry martini in the late afternoon nearly every day for 50 years, but have almost never been drunk, and have no craving for more.

Women are supposedly more susceptible to alcohol, but I've never seen anything written about that. Body weight is an important factor. Light, skinny people can get stoned very quickly.

Unknown said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
hedera said...

It's true that some people are genetically unable to "handle" ethyl alcohol - I've read several short stories postulating that this was true of Edgar Allen Poe. However, alcohol dependency isn't restricted to the people who have some genetic quirk. Taking my husband as an example, we married in 1986, and for the next 17 years, he was a normal social drinker. He had wine or beer with dinner on weekends (in fact he was quite an expert on wine), but during the week he drank water or diet soda. He didn't begin drinking every night until after his mother died in 2003, following an extended deterioration into Alzheimer's, and at a time when he was very dissatisfied with his assignment at work. It was the combination that pushed him over into addiction, and once you have the addiction, even if you don't have the genetic susceptibility, the chemical changes of the addiction feed on themselves, along with the associated personality changes.

hedera said...

On the subject of length and density of reading material, frankly, I find that extensive references and footnotes put me off in print as they do on screen. I want to know that the research has been done; but I don't want my nose rubbed in it. I don't mind reading extensive treatises, but I don't want to do it on a computer screen; I want to be in a chair with my feet up!

Unknown said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Curtis Faville said...

I see that in future I'll have to restrict my discussion of alcohol to my taste and personal responses, instead of segueing into alcoholism and the "evils of drink".

hedera said...

I don't want to take up any more space here than necessary, but if Georgie or anyone else is really interested in the current research on addiction management (including alcohol), I did get a list of resources from my husband and have posted them at Hedera's Corner; just click on the link.

Curtis Faville said...

Thank-you, hedera.

If I had wanted to address the issue of alcoholism, I would have written a post about that.

I doubt if I ever will, since I'm not a victim of that condition, nor is anyone I know.

The gravity of the disease shouldn't be underestimated, though it affects a small, though significant, minority of the population.

Unknown said...
This comment has been removed by the author.