Southern California-based rummy, Forrest Cokely, shares some insight into his love affair with cane spirits. Take a look at our interview.
How and when did you become interested in rum?
As a child, there was a family across the street who had a full bar built out in their garage. I had many opportunities to go in there and ’mix’ drinks. I found out at an early age that rum needed less to become more and surprisingly became more than you could ever expect with the slightest bit of imagination/insight.
My love only grew from there. As time passed, I have been fortunate to meet many like minded individuals, who willingly shared their time, their passion and their rum.
How many rums are in your collection?
First off, let me say that I am not a collector. I drink my rum (and other things). I am quite happy to run out of something knowing that I only have a memory to inform me when I am granted another opportunity to taste something that I have previously enjoyed. Needless to say I attempt to give the utmost attention to nuance/ detail/ specificity, but primarily to enjoyment. If I taste a glorious specimen and then I am not afforded the opportunity to try it again for many years, I still remember the pleasure of the experience (and usually some details!). That being said, when i counted my rums, the total was a paltry 71 (different rums, there are multiple doubles).
What is your favorite rum (or rums) in each category and why?
Well to use an often quoted phrase “My favorite rum, is the one in my Hand!”
Right now some current favorites are:
Crusoe –so crisp and clean, with full ‘sugar’ flavor, a sumptuous mouth feel and an excellent finish.
El Dorado 3 Year- this one is still vibrant, active, exciting flavor that have been subdued with aging/filtering to become a magnificent demonstration of grace and complexity.
La Favorite-Dry, cane, bamboo and raisins how could you resist?
Of notable mention and exquisite quality there is also Matusalum Platino, Diplomatico Blanco, Clement Premiere Canne, Rhum JM . . .wait I think I could go on forever—did I mention that I really love rum?
Clement VSOP—so ridiculously sexy, elegant tropical fruit to milk chocolate, yum!
Ron Botran Oro- this one is my work horse. It does most of the heavy pouring at my home bar, we have it for such a great deal and the clean spicy, smoky sugar cane goodness works in just about anything.
El Dorado 5—gorgeous. Full bodied, dried fruits and leather—heck I could use a glass right now.
Ron Matusalem Classico—creamy gold goodness with a clean finish.
Some notable mentions: Plantation Grand Reserve (Barbados), Ron Abuelo 7, Mount Gay Sugar Cane, Bacardi 8.
Corruba, Cruzan Black Strap
One of favorite rums ever was the Bristol Classic 15 Year Demerara or Cadenheads 25 Year Old Demerara. Since I can’t get anymore of that I have been deeply enjoying: Zafra, Ron Matusalum, Clement (all of them) Appleton (all of them), Rhum JM (all of them), El Dorado -any of them, Mount Gay Extra Old & 1703, Diplomatico, Dos Maderas 5+3 & 5+5, The entire Plantation Single Plantation line—again to many to mention.
Crusoe Spiced, Castries Rum Cream, El Dorado Rum Cream, Kracken, These all enjoyable easy drinking . . . I just had some Horchata Rum Liqueur that was tasty. These things aren’t really my bag but who doesn’t like a sweet tasty now and again?
I’ll admit it, I like over proof. J Wray is tasty, bright, dry and estery. While we are talking estery—that Smith & Cross is a palate adventure. An old favorite, that is now lost, is the Matusalem Red Flame—oh yeah! Cruzan and Goslings over proof are the preferred products out of their entire line and Bradah Kimo’s is da bomb!
I’m sure I left a bunch out and what little list i have made has been painful. Choosing is so hard when there is so many great rums. If you are a rum producer that I didn’t mention, send me a bottle and I will review it! My head hurts, I need a rum.
Do you have a favorite rum bar?
Well the best selection, coupled with excellent food and service would be Eva’s Caribbean Kitchen in Laguna Beach, California. As a matter of fact it would be doggone difficult to beat their selection and one day I may even get past trying the rarities and have a cocktail. Wait a minute, I did have few rum punches that were delicious—that counts.
What is your favorite cocktail?
I love a Daiquiri in it’s many forms, and for rum, to me it is tops.
Do you have a favorite spirits shop for buying rum?
This is kind of an unfair question. I work at Hi Time Wine Cellars in the Spirit Department and, as far as I have seen, we have the best selection around and great prices too! [Though I haven't had much cause to look elsewhere]
Which rum would you travel to buy?
I used to regularly travel to Mexico to get Cuban rum before the quality (and price) of rum available in US began vastly improving.
When did you launch your website, A Drink with Forrest.com, and what is your focus?
January 1st, 2009. Originally I launched it because I was asked to join the Rum XP and needed a place to post my reviews. Since then I have been arbitrarily posting on a variety of spirits, cocktails, events and whatever else tickled the fancy. I do intend on achieving a better structure in the future, posting more and would definitely like to review more rum / rum drinks because they are so near and dear to me.
What are a few trends that you see in the rum market?
Well, on a couple of fronts I see innovation. Smaller distilleries are making wonderful ‘local’ rums (Leopold Brother, Montanyo, Crusoe, Charbay). Larger corporations are trying to environmentally cleanup their act. The availability of products has definitely improved and the understanding of and embrace of rum as a spirit of high quality, value, usefulness and deep enjoyment is growing in leaps and bounds.
On the down side, the corperatization of the market place is disheartening. Monolithic behemoths acquiring brands, forcing homogenization and dumbing down the the beauty of the product, forcing artisan producers out of the marketplace and saturating the common market with bullshit, bubble-gum, lame-o brand extensions.
Words of wisdom……
If you can’t be with the rum you love, love the rum you’re with.