Remember, remember….Cabal, Champagne and Lime
As Bonfire Night approaches, many fires will be lit to commemorate the Gunpowder Plot of 5th of November 1605 which threatened to change history forever. We’re marking the occasion by uncovering how fire, toasting and the charring of wood continue to play an intrinsic, artful and essential role in the creation of Cabal No.1513.
There’s a well-known link between spirit and cask. Since the eleventh or twelfth centuries, oak’s inherent strength, tight grain, anti-fungal and anti-microbial properties, combined with oak’s natural sugars, have been used to impart and enhance a liquid’s elemental qualities. The result can, often, be incredibly unexpected, exciting and add a whole assembly of different characteristics to the liquid.
For the creation of our first expression, Cabal No.1513, we worked with our team of experts to select cask-aged rums that possessed exceptional characteristics that we believed would marry together and enhance Cabal No.1513’s overall flavour profile. As we later found out, once exiting the Pedro Ximénez cask, each brought their own unique voice and story.
An essential part of the rum selection process was understanding the cask ageing process, the importance of cask type, preparation and grappling with the potential depth, volume and character each could provide and impart. The five rums that, once amalgamated, create our award-winning Cabal No.1513 blend are aged in ex-bourbon, American oak casks.
So, why use American ex-bourbon casks?
Although technically a by-product from the bourbon industry, American oak casks contain tannins that carry a vast colour spectrum with lactones imparting layers of subtle sweet spice flavours that tangle and unite with rum. A bourbon cask’s preparation includes first toasting and later charring the barrel with a flaming torch, warming and then setting alight the inside of the barrel affects and releases different levels of lignans, tannins, lactones and hemicellulose. Some possess unique and desirable flavours which, once affected or released via heat, are fortunately soluble in ethanol, with the later addition of rum reaping the full benefits.
The Bourbon industry typically measures charring in four stages which are in turn linked to the temperature intensity employed and duration. For example, level no.1 (15 second duration); level no.2 (30 second duration); level no.3 (35 seconds duration) and level no.4 (55 seconds duration). Charring in itself is a complex art that requires a high degree of balance and an even greater understanding of flavour and aroma composition. The decision to char can have a drastic consequence for not only the bourbon but also further down the process line, in the rum.
For example, charring at high and intense temperatures imparts flavours such as wood smoke and sweet vanilla with the released and exposed sugars containing hemicellulose eventually caramelising, bringing forth flavours of nuts, caramel and liquorice. Consequently, higher temperatures burn lactones which impart coconut, caramel and heat flavours. A greater range of depth and complexity can also be achieved from charring at lower temperatures. It’s the endless artful endeavour of a balance of flavours.
Flavours derived from lignans are slowly released into the spirit throughout the maturation processes, adding floral, vanilla, chocolate and fruity aromas and flavours to the bourbon, and the later addition of rum. Oak casks that are heavily charred possess higher levels of lignin degradation and a larger surface area for both the bourbon and rum to penetrate the oak and interact with the flavours released. The variable thickness of the charcoal layer, dependant on the char rating, acts as a filter between the spirit and the cask, removing unwanted sulphurous flavours.
The final result…?
The flavours imparted by charring processes decrease throughout time as each barrel is re-filled. All five expressions, scrupulously selected and later blended by our spirit specialists into our award-winning Cabal No.1513, are derived from Guyana, Guatemala, Panama, Trinidad and the Caribbean and are aged for two to five years in American ex-bourbon oak casks. The result is that each expression reaps the full rewards of the toasting and charring processes and the American oak’s characteristics.
If you are looking for inspiration this Bonfire Night, try the Cabal Royale – topped with champagne, this luxurious sparkling refreshment is the perfect serve:
50ml Cabal No.1513
Handful of basil leaves (muddle lightly or tap in hand to release their aromas)
20ml fresh lime juice
15ml maple syrup
Add crushed ice and stir well. Top up with more crushed ice and Champagne. Garnish with one big basil leaf.