Thursday, October 6, 2011

Deco Distilling - the Art of Quality Rum

So I am still working on this whole living in the Pacific Northwest thing.  I know that there are people here who turn green when they hear that I have not converted to the brilliant love of the Willamette Valley and of Oregon - the entire I-5 corridor really.  In reality I really do like it here - but I just spent 5 years in the land of perpetual sunshine.  I miss my vitamin D.  I'm unused to things being damp and having to put rice in my salt shakers to keep them from becoming solid lumps.  I have a hard time getting out of bed days on end to gray clouds.  In short, one of the more prominent aspects of the PNW is getting to me, and I am trying to do something about it.

One of my goals is to get out and about regardless of the rain.  Living in Utah we just went inside when it rained and waited 15 minutes to an hour until it stopped.  Life stopped for the rain.  People ran squealing for cover at the first sign of drops.  I remember once when I was working at a thrift store there being about 30 people milling around by the doors, their purchases already completed, waiting for the sun to crack so they could head back outside to their cars.  Their cars were parked only 10 yards away.

So when my friend Jen came up to visit me from Utah I was bound and determined to set a good example as a newly minted Pacific Northwesterner.  We headed out despite the downpour, and journeyed to Portland's Distillery Row - a series of craft distilleries in Southeast Portland that are creating innovative and fun spirits.  Our first stop was Deco Distilling, located at 1512 SE 7th Ave.

Sporting a trendy tasting room just off the street, Deco combined retro design with the sensibility of reclaimed building space one so often sees in Portland.  We were greeted by Augustina who, when Jen stated she was not a big rum fan, cracked a huge smile and said "you will once you try our rum!"  I had to back her on that one even before I took my first sip.  Since delving into the world of craft distilleries this summer I have learned one universal truth - most of the spirits we drink are crappy.  It pays to get the good stuff. 
We started by sipping on their standard - Deco Silver Rum.  This rum was just barely sweet at the front with a rich, full body and an incredibly silky mouth feel.  The rum was clear and bright with hints of molasses and a light burn just before a sweet, lingering finish.  I did not find it incredibly complex in flavor, but instead it was solid, accessible, and thoroughly enjoyable. 

We moved on to Coffee Rum, made with locally-roasted Arabica.  Now I have had a number of coffee liqueurs and coffee flavored drinks in my day.  Pretty much anything coffee makes me happy.  This was by far the nicest coffee-flavored beverage I've ever had.  First of all the nose was warm and full of dark, rich, coffee along with higher, sweeter notes that led be to believe what I was about to taste would be sugary.  Instead the flavor was full-bodied and reminiscent of the best coffees the Pacific Northwest has to offer.  It was rich and toasty at the front with a light sweetness that gave way to full-bodied dark roast at the center.  The finish had a nice bitter bite along with almost a lightly vanilla and fruity sensibility.  The texture was smooth and thick but not syrupy.  We tried the rum mixed with horchata and it was divine!  I would happily sip this on the rocks, or use it in desserts to amp up coffee flavors without over sweetening.

The Ginger Rum was equally surprising.  The flavor was unapologetically ginger - right in your face with the hot and spicy essence and experience of this incredible root.  The rum is not sweet, but instead hits you hard at the front with a ginger spice that works it way through the palette and up into the nasal cavity, stimulating all of the senses at once with an explosion of ginger that is reminiscent of biting right into the freshly ground stuff.  At the center there are hints of sweetness that come out more fully at the finish just alongside a final spicy nip.  Augustina treated us to a rum and coke made with this and it was incredible!  The spiciness of the rum balanced perfectly against the sweetness of the coke - exciting and fresh.  I do not think I would drink this rum in any way other than mixed into cocktails, but its intensity and uniqueness would spice up any cocktail.  There are a number of recipes on the Deco website that suggest the same.

I appreciated the time Augustina took in speaking with me about the rums and about Deco, and it was a lovely treat to have one of the owners, Bill Adams, come out to speak with us as well.  He talked about starting Deco, the process of rum-making, and was incredibly kind in the face of our rum naivete.  Thanks to you both for your hospitality and amazing rum.  I have had a couple of homemade rum and cokes with the Ginger Rum since visiting and they are fantastic!


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