Arak Haddad Mastic

Arak Haddad Mastic, produced in Jordan, is one of those liquors that stands out on its own. It does not fit in any of the typical categories of liquor so commonly found in retail locations; this is something that one will have to hunt for, or be lucky enough to live near an extremely well-stocked store.

Bottle of Arak Haddad Mastic

The base of this liquor is most likely an Arak, which is made from either rice or palm flowers. That, however, is not what this product is about. The addition of Mastic adds a unique and unusual flavor. In fact, I am hard pressed to recognize any of the underlying Arak in the the taste.

Mastic, for those who have not experienced it, used to be a common base in chewing gum. In recent years it has been replaced with cheaper, less flavorful alternatives, but can still be found at some specialty stores particularly of Middle Eastern origin. It has a very distinct flavor somewhat akin to pine trees, but with a lingering quality all its own.

On the nose, the primary scent is that of the mastic. Completely unmistakable. There are some other less obvious scents underneath that, but it is almost impossible for me to qualify what exactly they are.

Taking a sip, I find a very pleasant light burn along with a heavy dose of mastic. I’m pretty certain that if anyone were to smell my breath, they could tell exactly what I had consumed. There’s a long-lingering hint of what almost feels like wintergreen; the aftertaste lasts unusually long but is very pleasant.

This liquor is certainly not for everyone as mastic has such a strong taste. It is likely to have as many detractors as it does fanatics. If you are someone who is open to trying new types of liquor, this is one that I highly recommend. If you are not someone who can tolerate a junipery gin, which is about the closest I can imagine in flavor profile though missing many subtleties of the taste, you may want to look elsewhere.

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Lemon Hart 151 Proof Demerara Rum

Lemon Hart 151 Proof Demerara Rum has become a staple ingredient for cocktails in my house, and has some interesting qualities that are unique in my experience.

Newer bottle of Lemon Hart 151 Proof Demerara Rum

Lemon Hart is made from sugar grown in the Demerara region of Guyana. If you’ve ever had Demerara sugar, you will realize what flavor implications this would have on the rum. If you have never had Demerara sugar, go out and try some! You may well never go back to the more typical white sugar.

After being produced in Guyana, casks of Lemon Hart are exported to Canada, which is where it is bottled and subsequently distributed to the rest of the world.

On the nose, this rum is incredibly complex. Rich caramelized Demerara sugar boldly makes an appearance, as well as a distinctive hint of raisins. At 151 Proof, possibly the biggest surprise here is that alcohol is not the most prominent scent!

Equally bold as the nose is the robust flavor. Even given the high alcohol content, the flavors of this rum are shockingly pronounced. Caramel, earthy sugar, and even a hint of fruity apricot unabashedly make up the flavor profile.

Old Bottle of Lemon Hart 151 Proof Demerara Rum

This rum has a very strong presence in every way, and will stand its ground even when mixed. A lesser rum may be overwhelmed, but not Lemon Hart 151! Due to both the high alcohol content and the strong flavor profile, a bottle of this stuff should last a long time; a little bit goes a very, very long way.

Ownership of this rum and import rights into the United States has changed several times over the years. At the time of this writing, the Canadian company Mosaiq owns the rum after purchasing it from Pernod Ricard. Due to the ownership change there was a time when it was no longer being exported, but soon it should be available again with a new bottle design.

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Barbancourt 8-Year Rum

Also known as Barbancourt 5-star, this is a very interesting rum. It is the mid-tier offering of the Haitian distillery, higher quality than their 4 year version but falling below their 15 year bottle.

Barbancourt 8 year bottles

Barbancourt 8 year bottles, old bottle design and new

The nose is very typical for a rum. The first impression is distinctly one of alcohol, but there is an under-scent of oak and sugarcane. Subsequent sniffing reveals a sweet flower-like quality.

This rum has a sharp quality upon initial taste, making its sugar origins very evident while avoiding the folly of being too sweet. It is not the smoothest rum by any means, but it avoids being too harsh and falls dead center on the scale between smooth and harsh.

The first sip has a bit of astringency to it, but once allowed to coat the tongue this disappears and is replaced by something akin to the taste one gets when biting into a piece of raw sugar cane. Very nice, and usually a quality that is lost in the process of making a rum. I have heard that this rum is made from sugar rather than processed molasses which is likely what imparts this quality.

After having a few sips and reflecting on the aftertaste, I would have to rate this well above average. The taste lingers while all hints of astringency disappear. No new flavors are revealed, but those that are present seem to become more prominent in a very pleasant way.

All in all, this rum is a very pleasant experience. It is well suited for sipping, which is something most rums are unable to claim.

I have heard that the distillery suffered some serious production setbacks when many barrels were lost during the 2010 earthquakes that ravaged Haiti,  including many barrels of their 15 year variety. The good news is that production has resumed, and the flow to liquor stores will not be interrupted.

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