Words by Eddie STATS Houghton
This past Sunday, the LargeUp crew had the opportunity to wet a toe at an informal bashy at Navy Beach in Montauk, Long Island. Attendees comprised an eclectic mix of young and old, LES kids and Hamptons types, well-heeled socialites and elegant dancehall queens. (Also a few celebs, but Vogue or Guest of a Guest could tell you more about that). One of our favorite selectors (Max Glazer) provided the reggae and soca, the hostesses of our favorite downtown spot (Miss Lily’s) set off the dancefloor and a chef flown in from Kingston skewered the jerk chicken spiced the veggie patties. If the vibe sounds good, the occasion was better: the launch of a new brand of premium rum from Chris Blackwell, founder of Island Records and owner of a name practically synonymous with Bob Marley, Grace Jones, Ian Fleming…in a word, Jamaica.
Expectations, of course, will be high when such a name attaches itself to something Jamaica-philes are as passionate about as rum. But the grog itself didn’t disappoint; a touch on the sweet side, dark, rich and smooth whether sipped neat or in a “Black Storm” cocktail. In a unique partnership with rum-makers Wray & Nephew, the spirit is made from roughly the same raw materials as the venerable Appleton’s brand, plus a secret ingredient or two that add subtle notes of coconut and coffee, but with none of the harshness (or headache) that sometimes shadow infused rums.
Quantity, on the other hand, is another story. So far the brand is only available in Jamaica and New York–and even here only in a few select spots. Like a reggae special that has to prove its mettle in dub-plate form before being pressed into black gold on 45, we assume Blackwell rum will see a wider release soon, but for the moment you must know where the right sound a play to enjoy these notes. To have it served by a professional mixologist, bar selection is pretty much limited to Apotheke unless you’re willing to make the pilgrimage to Navy Beach.
Florida and California will be the next markets to get a dose–in about a week’s time–and then Chicago come October. That, however, is just the tip of the black iceberg. Or at least that’s the vibe we got from Mr. Blackwell himself, who was gracious enough to sit beach-side with us for a quick interview about his personal (and family) history with rum production in Jamaica, and what, exactly, made the island such a mecca for the ultimate Caribbean spirit (<–involves pirates). That story will soon be told but for the moment, check for a complete list of shops that stock Blackwell in Manhattan, Brooklyn & Queens (after the jump)–and watch out for an invite to the next bashment.
Manhattan: CRUSH, ASTOR WINE & SPIRITS, CELLAR 53 WINE & SPIRITS, BOWERY & VINE, FAIRWAY WINES & SPIRITS, RAY AND FRANK LIQUOR STORE, MCADAM BUY RITE, AMBASSADOR
Brooklyn: THE GREENE GRAPE, GNARLY VINES
Queens: GRAND W & L