Angostura started making bitters back in 1824 and added rum in the mid-1970s. Native Trinidadian and chemical engineer John Georges became the distiller at Angostura Rum in 1982. He has pursued the distilling process as much as an art form as a science, and is responsible for pioneering aged rum blends and the Angostura international rum collection.
The master distiller talks about what makes Angostura rums different, how to drink them, and passes along the best places to eat and drink in Trinidad.
BITTERS & RUM
What started as a cure-all elixir ended up being the path to making rum. In 1824, Angostura began making their classic bitters based on a recipe created by Dr. JGB Siegert. His aim was to cure soldiers' stomach ailments. He bought the raw rum spirit that was needed to extract the flavors from a variety of botanicals. Years later, Dr. Siegert’s great-great grandson, who was a chemist, decided that in order to have consistently good rum as a base, Angostura needed to produce their own. Around 1947, the modern Angostura distillery was established.
Creating a rum and defining the style is not something that occurs overnight says distiller John Georges, “They analyzed the style of rum that they wanted to make, rather than buying other people’s rum.” The development process required defining the fermentation and distillation parameters with extensive research and development. “Our goal is to make sure that Angostura rum has that same kind of iconic status as our bitters do -- one hopes that it will be there forever.”
“When they are fresh off the still, our rums have a slight, sweet, pomelo, citrus note to them.” John describes the Trinidadian palate as craving a lighter-style rum with a measure of aromatic qualities, but not too perfumed. “Anything more than that and we are not happy with with it.” For Barbados rums, he says they are more aromatic, but in a different range, and more oily. For example, if you try Mount Gay rum, you’ll pick up a propanol note.
For darker Trinidad rums, he describes them as having primarily barrel notes from the wood, as well as having dried fruit notes in a raisiny type of flavor.
Angostura's range covers the spectrum from white rum to sipping rums and everything in-between. The Reserva, Angostura's white rum, spends three years in cask to round out the spirit and is ideal for classic cocktails like daiquiris and mojitos, but also for mixing with coconut water. The 5-year old and the 7-year old are further aged and perfect for a mojito. For a rum and coke try the 7-year. The extra age adds roundness. John's personal favorite is the 7-year. Rums more suited to sipping are the 1919, the 1824, and the No. 1. For unique pairings, John recommends trying the 1919 with a steak or chocolate dessert because it's a gentler, softer style rum. Pari the 1824 with smoked trout as a appetizer, or more naturally with a cigar after dinner, since the characteristics display leather and tobacco notes,.
DISTILLER’S TRINIDAD GUIDE
DRINK RUM | Shakers
When I take someone out to drink rum, I come to Shakers. They have quite a few rums and they carry our rums too. We’ve done some blends specially for them.
Ariapita Avenue, Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago
T: +1.868.624.6612 | www.shakerstrinidad.com
DRINK | The Cellar at Jenny’s On The Boulevard
It’s a nice and quiet little pub in a basement. It’s a combination of food and drink. You can have a good time down here and they serve local food.
EAT ROTI | Shiann’s Roti Shop
They deliver great roti. No drinks, but great roti. You can pretty much get any kind of roti you like here.
Corner Tragarete Road and Woodford Street, Port-of-Spain, Trinidad & Tobago
EAT FRENCH | Chaud
It’s Trinidadian and French haute cuisine by chef Khalid Mohammed. It’s fancier. If you want something more upmarket with chef schooling behind it, come here.
2 Queen's Park West, Port-of-Spain, Trinidad and Tobago
T: +1.868.623.0375 | www.chaudkm.com
EAT SANDWICHES | Richard's Bake & Shark
You should not leave Trinidad until you come here and enjoy a bake and shark. It’s been described as the best fish sandwich ever tasted. It’s fried shark meat served in a fried bun [fried, instead of baked bread], loaded up with condiments like mango chutney, chadon beni, tamarind sauce, and garlic sauce. It’s very Trinidadian.
N Coast Road, Maracas Bay Village, Trinidad and Tobago
BUY & TASTE RUM | Angostura Distillery
In addition to our international rums, we also have local rums which are primarily sold in our market. The Single Barrel Reserve is the rum you should bring home from a trip to Trinidad. I am surprised at how many people enjoy that rum and it is just not available internationally. It’s aged in oak and is between three and five years old. It’s a little heavier in character than the international rums and it doesn’t have the same spiciness. Flavor-wise, it is somewhere between the 7 year old and the 5 year old.
Corner Eastern Main Road and Trinity Avenue, Laventille, Trinidad & Tobago
T: +1.868.623.1841 | www.angostura.com
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