Top Aruban rum U.S.-bound

Destilerias Unidas is hoping its success peddling rum throughout the Caribbean and Latin America will translate to the American market.

DU, working with U.S. importer Velocity International, is bringing its aged Aruban rum, Cartavio, here. The rum, Aruba's top seller, has been a staple in many Spanish-speaking countries since the distillery was begun by the Cartavio Sugar Co. in 1929. It already has a solid niche in the Euopean market as well.

In 1929, Cartavio Sugar Co. purchased 10,000 oak cases from Slovenia, at the time the source of the best white oak . The same barrels and the same process still are used to create the rum in Aruba.

"The aging process has not changed at all over the past 76 years, despite modern developments, because the flavor and aroma of Ron Cartavio can only be maintained using the oak casks," said Mario Maggi, executive vice chairman of Destilerias Unidas. "Our rums are handcrafted from all-natural sources, starting with our artesian water through to our traditional distilling process where no additives are used."

The Cartavio line ranges from the white rum Blanco Superior, with sweet vanilla aromas, to the 12-year-old Old Rum of Solera, with hints of spices, light chocolate and light coffee.

Cartavio's distillery has 15 rooms, houses 40,000 casks and contains 8 million liters of aging rum.

"We plan to cover several European countries and the United States with a broad launch over the next two years," Maggi said.

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Introducing, the Cocktail of the Century

Forget your Singapore Slings, Harvey Wallbangers and Tequila Sunrises. The quintessential cocktail of the 20th Century, and still in the lead early in the 21st, is the martini.

That's according to sales of a gajillion of them worldwide, with the martini outpacing all other drinks by a wide margin. If you want that ranking formalized, here it is: The martini finished No. 1 in the Anchor Hocking "Drinks of the Century" survey of 150 members of the United States Bartenders Guild, the exclusive U.S. affiliate to the International Bartender's Association.

Anchor Hocking, celebrating its 100th year of glassware manufacturing, commissioned the survey as part of its anniversary celebration as well as part of Las Vegas centennial celebration and, of course, as a way of calling attention to its line of cocktail glasses.

"The view from behind the bar tells us that the martini is adored by Americans more than any other cocktail," says Tony Abou-Ganim, a well-known mixologist. "Martini lovers may argue over the merits of vodka versus gin, olives versus onions, but they all agree that the emblematic martini glass, elegant in its design and classic in its simplicity, is the only way to serve
a perfect martini."

The survey also defined 10 additional cocktails that define each of the decades between 1900 and 2000, with a few milestones to further define the period for you . They are:

Old Fashioned
Milestones: Wright brothers take flight, Henry Ford makes the Model T, Cubism emerges.

Singapore Sling
Milestones: Einstein's theory of relativity, steel invented.

Bloody Mary
Milestones: Charles Lindbergh's solo Atlantic flight, penicillin discovered, the Jazz Age.

Milestones: Great Depression, golden age of radio, Swing music emerges, Art Deco at its peak.

Mai Tai
Milestones: World War II, the Cold War, the NBA begins play.

Vodka Martini
Milestones: Sputnik, rock and roll, the Beatnik generation.

Whiskey Sour
Milestones: The Beatles, Muhammad Ali, 007, Woodstock, Martin Luther
King's "I Have a Dream," the lunar landing.

Long Island Iced Tea
Milestones: The Sexual Revolution, detente, "Jaws," Microsoft founded.

Sex on the Beach
Milestones: Yuppies, Apple Macintosh, cable TV, Hip Hop goes mainstream.

Milestones: Launch of the World Wide Web, the threat of Y2K, Nelson Mandela freed.

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The Admiral goes abroad

It's difficult enough to keep up with the never-ending introduction of new vodkas on the domestic market, as I keep saying ad nauseum, but if you've been able to do so and want to get ahead of the curve, international travel will give you that opportunity.

If you're heading for Russia or England, for example, you can try the latest Russian vodka just being released in the UK: Dovgan Admiral Vodka. Not that it's a new brand -- in fact, it's been made in very limited amounts for about a century -- but it is new to the Western market.

Dovgan Admiral has been made for domestic sale only since 1901 by the distillery Buturlinovskiy, Russia’s oldest, and the recipe for the drink was created in 1885. It's a smooth vodka, with overtones of sweet vanilla and a peppery finish. The formula has not been altered for the international market. Other Russian vodkas are made from a common spirit base bought in from formerly government-owned producers.

“For the UK market, Blue Planet Spirits has insisted that the recipe for Dovgan Admiral remains exactly the same and that the label be almost untouched,” commented Matthew Barnett, managing director of Blue Planet which has the distribution contract. “So, yes, a lot of the copy on the bottle is still in Russian and the bottle has a traditional styling, but that’s the point, Dovgan is a genuine Russian vodka that has stood the test of time and is a contemporary Russian brand that will be equally at home in the UK market.”

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But is moonshine still OK?

West Virginia is reining in excessive alcohol consumption -- the kind you get from overproofed drinks.

Simply put, if the alcoholic beverage is 190 proof (95 percent alcohol), it's out.

The push for such a government ruling came from colleges, law enforcement and community groups. It makes West Virginia one of at least a dozen states with such limitations.

Carla Lapelle, a dean at Marshall University, in Huntington, WVa, said the alcohol is not something you drink at a cocktail party. Rather, she said, college students buy it "intent on getting very drunk."

The Associated Press notes that at least a dozen other states ban or limit the sale of 190-proof grain alcohol, and that neighboring Pennsylvania and Virginia, for instance, sell it only for medicinal or commercial use, and require a permit for its purchase.

The ruling obviously was expected to be made because the state's Alcohol Beverage Control Administration already had stopped stocking 190-proof grain alcohol at its warehouse, which provides all liquor sold in the state. And, a month earlier it asked liquor retailers to remove the product from their shelves.

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Pennsylvania vodka may join the parade

Western Pennsylvania once was the unofficial center of American alcohol distilling.

It was there that President George Washington had to put down what became known as the Whiskey Rebellion when predominantly Scoth-Irish farmers refused to pay ever-increasing taxes on their whiskies. Many of them pulled up stakes and moved to Virginia and Kentucky, and the whisky business in the Keystone State essentially dried up.

A local businessman has thoughts of returning the region to alcohol-based riches by taking advantage of the worlwide boom in vodka consumption.

Marketing consultant C. Prentiss Orr Jr., buoyed by a $165,000 state grant, Pittsburgh businessman is looking into distilling western Pennsylvania potatoes into premium vodka.

"We're in the very early stages of our research, but I'm intrigued with the possibilities," says Orr, 50, who organized Pennsylvania Pure Distilleries LLC. Orr previously served as a vice president of the Greater Pittsburgh Area Chamber of Commerce. He was quoted in the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review newspaper.

Orr estimates that 1.3 million pounds of potatoes grown locally would enable him to distill about 50,000 bottles of vodka. He said a feasibility study funded by the state grant will include marketing and branding options.

Vodka accounts for 27 percent of U.S. liquor consumption, according to the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States.

If Orr's explorations lead to actual production, his would be the third distillery in the nation to make vodka exclusively from potatoes. The existing ones are Distilled Resources inc. in Rigby, ID, which makes Teton Glacier vodka, and Maine Distilleries, which recently introduced Cold River vodka.

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(it better be) Good to the last drop

Some time ago I wrote about the joys of tasting a rare Scotch whisky from The Glenlivet Collection that sells for $2,000 a bottle. Little did I know that was mere pocket change.

Johnnie Walker is topping that pricing level with a blend that goes for $24,150 a bottle -- or, as some experts have figured it out, $862 a sip.

Diageo, the British drinks conglomerate that owns Johnnie Walker, came up with the idea of mixing a variety of Scotland's best whiskies, all over 30 years old and some as old as 70, to obtain its 1805 anniversary pack. Only 200 bottles have been made, and released just in time for high-rollers' Christmas shopping.

The aptly-surnamed Jim Beveridge, Diageo’s Master of Blending, created the offering. The first bottle was sold at a spirited (no pun intended) auction during a high-tech promotional blowout (see photo) in Shanghai, where Diageo pulled out all the stops to try cashing in on a large market of young Chinese partygoers with plenty of disposable income.

Meanwhile, in Calgary, Alberta, Canada, a liquor merchant has become the first to obtain a $100,000 barrel of Scotch from Glenfiddich. Willow Park Wines & Spirits purchased the 1974 vintage cask that will yield 220 bottles at about $600 a bottle.

Store purchaser David Michiels said 220 bottles will come from the cask. Peter Gordon, a great-great-grandson of the Glenfiddich founder, plans to visit Calgary to celebrate the buy from his 139-year-old distillery in Dufftown, Scotland.

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Tastiest spirits take the golds

The results are in from the 2005 International Wine & Spirit Competition and the gleam in the eyes of several distillers and blenders is a reflection of the gold medals.

The best-in-class golds, as opposed to the standard gold medals, for spirits went to, in alphabetical category order (any classes not listed received no best-in-class golds):

Absinthe: Absynthe Apsinthion De Luxe, Apsinthion Absinthe (both Poland).

Aquavit Clear: Simers Taffel Aquavit (Norway).

Aquavit Golden: Saturnus Kallsupen Akvavit (Sweden).

Armagnac VSOP: Janneau VSOP (France).

Calvados 24-38 YO: Calvados Domaine Familial Louis Dupont 38 Year Old (France).

Calvados XO: Boulard Grand Solage, 3-5 YO (France).

Cognac Extra: Cognac Maxime Trijol Extra Grande Champagne (France).

Cognac VS Grand Champagne: Louis Royer Tres Vieux Grande Champagne Distillerie Les Magnolas (France).

Cognac VSOP: ABK6 Coganc VSOP Super Premium (France).

Cognac VSOP Fine Champagne: Louis Royer VSOP Fine Champange Force 53 (France).

Cognac XO: Louis Royer XO (France).

Cognac XO Fine Champagne: Hine XO Antique Cognac (France).

Cognac XO Grande Champagne: Hine Triomphe Grande Champagne Cognac 40 years old (France).

Fruits Spirits/Berry: Hämmerle "Vom ganz Guten" Vogelbeeren Brand (Austria).

Fruit Spirits/Pip: Hämmerle "Vom ganz Guten" Williams Birnenbrand (Austria).

Fruit Spirits/Stone: Hämmerle "Vom ganz Guten" Marillenbrand (Austria).

Gin 40%: Svensk Gin 40% (Sweden).

Gin 40-44%: Sainsbury's Blackfriars Gin (England).

Gin 50%+: Plymouth Gin Navy Strength (England).

Grape Brandy/Jerez:Soberano 5 (Spain).

Grape Brandy/South Africa 3-5 YO: Barry & Nephews Muscat Cape Potstill Brandy.

Grape Brandy/South Africa 10 YO: Uitkyk.

Grape Brandy/South Africa 12 YO: Van Ryn's Collection Reserve.

Grape Brandy/South Africa 14-15 YO: Van Ryn's Collection Reserve 15 Year Old.

Grape Brandy/South Africa 20 YO: Van Ryn's Collection Reserve 20 Year Old.

Grappa/South Africa: Helmut Wilderer Muskat Barrique 2003.

Irish Whisky Single Malt 8-12 YO: Locke's Premium Single Malt Whiskey.

Irish Whisky Single Malt Peated: Connemara Peated Single Malt Irish Whiskey.

Liqueur/Aniseed: Puccini Sambuca (Netherlands).

Liqueur/Cassis: Gabriel Boudier Crème De Cassis De Dijon (France).

Liqueur/Dairy, Flavored - Toffee/Caramel: Dooley's Original Toffee & Vodka (Germany).

Liqueur/Fruit, Citrus - Orange: Mandarinetto di Sicilia Russo (Italy).

Liqueur/Mint: Mitjans Mint Cream (Chile).

Pisco, Non-Aromatic: Pisco Payet Quebranta 2003 (Peru).

Rum/Blended 57%: Bounty Millenium Fiji Black Label Rum (Fiji).

Rum/Blended, South America 12-18 YO: Flor de Cana Centenario Rum.

Rum/Blended, West Indies, No Age Stated: Admiral Rodney Extra Old St. Lucia Rum 6 YO (St. Lucia).

Rum/Pot Stil, 15-21 YO: El Dorado Rum 21 Year Old (Guyana).

Rum/Pot Still 57%: Inner Circle Rum "General Managers Reserve" Green Dot (Fiji).

Rum/Pot Still 75%: Inner Circle Rum "Directors Special" Black Dot (Fiji).

Rum/White 37-43%: Matusalem Platino White Rum (Dominican Republic).

Rum/White Over 60%: Clarke's Court Pure White Rum (Grenada).

Scotch Whisky/Blended: Asyla Blended Scotch Whisky.

Scotch Whisky/Blended, Cask Finish 21 YO: Whyte and Mackay 21 Year Old Special Reserve Blended.

Scotch Whisky/Deluxe Blend, 12 YO: Grant's Premium.

Scotch Whisky/Deluxe Blend, 15-17 YO: Grant's Deluxe.

Scotch Whisky/Deluxe Blend, 17-18 YO: Buchanan's Special Reserve 18 Year Old.

Scotch Whisky/Deluxe Blend, 18 YO: Chivas Regal.

Scotch Whisky/Deluxe Blend, 21-25 YO: Grant's 25 Year Old Rare & Extraordinary.

Scotch Whisky/Deluxe Blend, 30-35 YO: Ballantine's 30 Year Old.

Scotch Whisky/Single Grain: Girvan 1964 Single Grain.

Scotch Whisky/Single Grain, Cask Strength, 40 YO: Duncan Taylor Rare Auld Cask Strength Invergordon 1965.

Scotch Whisky/Single Malt, Highland, 12 YO: Aberfeldy Single Highland Malt.

Scotch Whisky/Single Malt, Highland, 14 YO: Clynelish.

Scotch Whisky/Single Malt, Highland, 16-17 YO: Balbair 16 Year Old Old Single Malt.

Scotch Whisky/Single Malt, Highland, 30 YO+: The Dalmore Stillman's Dram 30 Year Old Limited Edition.

Scotch Whisky/Single Malt, Highland, Cask Finish, 38 YO: Balblair.

Scotch Whisky/Single Malt, Highland, Cask Strength, 20-25 YO: Glen Ord 25 Year Old.

Scotch Whisky/Single Malt, Highland, Cask Strength, 30-35 YO: Duncan Taylor Rare Auld Cask Strength MacDuff 1969 Sherry Cask.

Scotch Whisky/Single Malt, Islands, 14-16 YO: Scapa 14 Year Old.

Scotch Whisky/Single Malt, Islands, 18-21 YO: Talisker 18 Year Old.

Scotch Whisky/Single Malt, Islands, Cask Strength, 25 YO: Talisker.

Scotch Whisky/Single Malt, Islands, Cask Strength, 30 YO: Limited Edition Isle of Jura.

Scotch Whisky/ Single Malt, Islay, 12 YO: Caol Ila 12 Year Old, Caol Ila 12 Year Old Islay Single Malt, and Caol Ila Single Malt 12 Year Old.

Scotch Whisky/ Single Malt, Islay, 16-18 YO: Bowmore 17 Year Old.

Scotch Whisky/ Single Malt, Islay, 20 YO: Bruichladdich 20 Year Old Flirtation.

Scotch Whisky/Single Malt, Islay, Cask Strength, 12 YO: Lagavulin.

Scotch Whisky/Single Malt, Lowland, 21-29 YO: Auchentoshan 21 Year Old Lowland Single Malt.

Scotch Whisky/Single Malt, Lowland, 30 YO: Linlithgow.

Scotch Whisky/Single Malt, Speyside, 10 YO: Aberlour.

Scotch Whisky/Single Malt, Speyside, 12 YO: Origene Pure Highland.

Scotch Whisky/Single Malt, Speyside, 14-16 YO: Glendfiddich 1991 Vintage Reserve.

Scotch Whisky/Single Malt, Speyside, 18 YO: Glenfiddich Ancient Reserve.

Scotch Whisky/Single Malt, Speyside, 21 YO: The Glenlivet 21 Year Old Archive.

Scotch Whisky/Single Malt, Speyside, 27-29 YO: Tomintoul.

Scotch Whisky/Single Malt, Speyside, 30 YO: The Stillman's Dram Limited Edition Tamnavulin.

Scotch Whisky/Single Malt, Speyside, 35 YO: The Balvenie Vintage Cask 1971.

Scotch Whisky/Vatted, (Pure) Malt, 15-18 YO: Old Parr Classic 18 Year Old.

Scotch Whisky/Vatted, (Pure) Malt, 21 YO: Bennachie.

Scotch Whisky/Vatted, (Pure) Malt, Cask Strength, 10-12 YO: Matisse 12 Year Old.

Scotch Whisky/Vatted, (Pure) Malt, Cask Strength, 12 YO: Whyte and Mackay.

Shochu Barley: Long-term stored Mugi Shochu Aya Selection (Japan).

Shochu Buckwheat: Long-term stored Soba Shochu Nayuta No Toki (Japan).

Shochu Rice: Ryukyu-Bijin (Japan).

Tequila, 100% Agave, Aged: El Tesoro de Don Felipe Paradiso nd Sierra Antiguo Tequila Anejo.

Tequila, 100% Agave, Reposado: Tequila Amatitlan Reposado.

Tequila/Blended, Joven (Young): Sauza Extra Gold.

Tequila/Blended, Reposada (Rested): Sauza Hacienda.

Vodka/Flavored, Vanilla: Svensk Vodka Vanilla (Sweden).

Vodka/Non Flavoured, 42%+: Export Strength Premium Vodka (England).

Vodka/Non Flavoured, 37%+: Renat Brannvin Vodka (Sweden).

Vodka/Non Flavoured, 40%: Vikingfjord Vodka (Norway).

Worldwide Whiskey/Bourbon, 8-12 YO: Van Winkle 12 Year Old and Van Winkle Reserve Kentucky Straight Bourbon.

Worldwide Whiskey/Bourbon, No age stated: Elmer T. Lee Single Barrel Kentucky Straight Bourbon.

Worldwide Whiskey/Japan, 21-25 YO: Suntory Whisky Hibiki 21 Year Old.

Worldwide Whiskey/Japan, Cask Strength, 21-25 YO: Suntory Single Malt Whisky Vintage Malt 1982.

Worldwide Whiskey/Japan, Cask Strength, Peated, 12-14 YO: Suntory Single Malt Whisky Vintage Malt 1991.

Worldwide Whisky/Bourbon, Overproof: Knob Creek Kentucky Straight Bourbon.

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All vodka, all the time

I am close to making a major change in this blog: Subdividing it into two categories, "Vodka" and "All Others."

Why such a drastic thought? The never-ending flood of vodkas being introduced to us from all corners of the ... well, not just the nation, but the globe.

My regular readers have been kept apprised of this flow from such surprising places as China, but the parade shows no signs of ending. The two latest entries in the expanding luxury-niche market come from Italy and Scotland, not known as hotbeds of vodka making but everyone is getting into the act so don't be surprised by points of origin.

Roberto Cavalli, the Italian fashion designer, is introducing his Roberto Cavalli Vodka to the New York, Miami and Los Angeles markets this month. The small-batch vodka is made of mountain water from northern Italy, and filtered through -- get this -- crushed, layered Italian marble. Of course. That's why it costs $60 a bottle.

The other is Blackwood's Nordic Vodka from Scotland, triple distilled using crystalline water from Shetland, then filtering over Nordic Birch charcoal. An added gimmick: When you chill the bottle in the refrigerator or freezer, the label changes color from frosted to "iceberg blue." When it turns blue, it's best to drink. Price: $27, although that's for a 700ml bottle compared to the average vodka bottle of 750ml.

These two are not the only new high-end vodkas recently introduced. Here are a few more, in descending order of price:

• Stolichnaya Elit (Russia), $60, based on a very old Russian recipe.
• Jean-Marc XO (France), $50, using mineral spring water filtered through limestone.
• Perfect 1864 (France), $40-$45, made from French wheat and Vosges mountains water.
• Siku Ultra Vodka (Greenland), $35, the most fascinating of the new vodkas simply because of its water source -- melted crystal ice from Greenland's 60,000-year-old Qalerallit Sermia glacier.

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Yum. Yuck! Yum. Yuck!

Everyone is getting into everyone else's act. Bourbon king Jim Beam Brands has gotten into wine. The Mogollon Brewing Co., a popular Flagstaff, AZ, micro-brewery, is getting press for its entry into the vodka wars. Now, beer ultramegagiant Anheuser-Busch has formed a spirits unit called Long Tail Libations Inc.

Its first product: Jekyll & Hyde.

It is two products packaged as one. As Mic Zavarella,, Long Tail's director of innovations, describes it, Jekyll is "a 60 proof, scarlet-red product with a wild berry flavor" and Hyde is "80-proof, black in color a little licorice tasting." The bartender or consumer mixes the two liquids to create the final cocktail.

Don't go rushing out to your local spirits shop to look for it. Jekyll & Hyde is just in the market testing stage, sold only in selected restaurants and bars in the test markets -- Columbia, MO, Denver, Las Vegas and Orlando, Fla., the company said.

The move isn't a total surprise. The U.S. beer industry has been losing customers to mixed drinks, particularly among younger drinkers, especially women.

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Vodka evolution or revolution?

Vodka is the hottest drink in the Western world. Strings of vodka bars are popping up across Europe and vodka-based specialty martini menus are now commonplace in upscale bars and restaurants.

In Ukraine, a former part of the old Soviet Union where one would think vodka had been marketed as broadly as possible, a new vodka called La Femme has just been launched to appeal to women.

Anyone who thinks the fad may quickly dissipate isn't paying attention. In the U.S., vodkas of all sorts are being embraced with a passion once reserved for activities to keep you warm during a long Russian winter. Vodka-themed cookbooks are hitting the shelves. Guided vodka bar-hopping tours are popping up in major metro areas. A jump in the practice for fun and/or profit of infusing vodkas was the catalyst for a new English-language Web site on the topic from Fris, the Danish distiller. Such things attest to the widening trend.

As further evidence of its durability, I point to the ever-rising flood of vodkas on the American market that seems to have no end in sight.

I'm not speaking of merely new brand names, but of new twists from established labels as well as new bases from which new vodkas are springing.

In just the past few weeks we've seen the entrance of a variety of new vodka flavors from established distillers as well as the debuts of these players in this most crowded niche of the distilled spirits market:

Medoff's, distilled from Oregon barley.

Anglesey, a toffee-flavored vodka from Wales.

Han, a barley-based vodka from China.

Cold River, made in Maine at the state's first distillery, from Maine potatoes.

More and more, older brands such as Stolichnaya, Absolut, Skyy, Barton, Finlandia, Ketel One and others are flooding the market with such floverd vodkas as orange, melon, raspberry, chocolate, lemon and on and on.

If you think you're too discerning to be won over by the heavy print and billboard ads for all these vodkas, not to mention dueling liquor store displays, bear in mind that the sales forces are working longer and harder on thinking how to get their brand names into your skull than you are about keeping them out.

One perfect example, which kicks off this month on the Sundance television channel: "Iconoclasts." It's a weekly series underwritten by the French vodka maker Grey Goose that is aiming to extend its high-end vodka brand by creating entertainment that appeals to the demographic groups that like the Sundance Channel.

Each episode will team up two innovators from different fields, including film and television, architecture and design, fashion, food, music and sports. They'll each explore the other's world, acting as a guide for the viewer.

Sundance Channel does not air commercials, so there will be no spots for Grey Goose vodka, but the company will support promotional events, demographic tartgeting research and advertising.

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