A Chat with the 2014 Mount Gay Black Barrel Apprentices

Last year 12 industry professionals jetted to Barbados with Mount Gay, with the Black Barrel Competition open for entries we had a chat with them to provide some inspiration for you.

The Mount Gay Black Barrel Competition is an amazing opportunity for 12 bartenders to follow in the footsteps of last years trip and experience the amazing island and rum it produces. Entries are now open (simply click here for more details and an entry form) so we thought we would help get those creative juices flowing.Barbados-sunset

We will be speaking to all of the 2014 Apprentices over the coming weeks but today we kick off with the first three in the form of Oskar Kinberg from Dabbous, Joey Medrington from London Cocktail Club and Dawn Davies from Selfridges.

So a few days in Barbados with a group of great people enjoying Bajan hospitality sounds terrible, how was the trip for you?

OK: It was a great trip from start to finish. To get to experience the home of such an iconic brand with such a great and passionate team from Mount Gay looking after us was great. It was a good mix of education and leisure time. Equally great experience to listen to the wise words from Allen Smith and get a better insight to his thought process when blending rum to swimming with sea turtles. All this while getting to know other like minded people from the same industry. Some old and some new faces. All in a great trip!
JM: Incredible! One of the best trips I’ve been on. We were treated like visiting dignitaries from the moment we landed to the moment we left. Learnt a lot but also ate and drank like kings. Ticked all the boxes…
DD: The trip was amazing, the Bajan’s are so welcoming and hospitality was faultless, the weather, beach and rum didn’t hurt!!

What was the moment on the trip that made you sit up and think ‘hell this life I chose is a pretty good one’?

OK: As we arrived to the hotel some of us jumped straight into the sea. It was a beautiful sunset, still very hot and the water was the perfect temperature to cool me down after a day of travelling. Those are the moments I ask myself how the hell I ended up here.
JM: Snorkelling with sea turtles.
DD: Spending half a day sailing around the island on a catamaran, snorkelling and drinking rum cocktails was also not too torturous.

Had you tried Black Barrel before we hit the island? What are your thoughts on it?

OK: Yes, shortly before. Great rum! As I have a bit of a sweet tooth I find it great to mix drinks with as once you add a bit of sugar it really comes alive.
JM: I had, tasty stuff. Has the flavour profile and texture of a very mature rum, but blends easily into all classic/contemporary rum cocktails.
DD: Yes we launched it in retail in the UK, I think it is a very drinkable rum that can appeal to a broad spectrum of people from the beginner to the rum lover.

We all got the chance to blend our own Black Barrel (with careful supervision) what did you learn about the Master Blenders skills from that experience?turtle

OK: It’s good to have a clear idea of what you want to achieve. Different distillates have very different flavour profiles and as such they can be blended together to achieve the desired result. It’s a bit like painting a rainbow. Only using green because I like green won’t make a very good one. Use all 7 to get the best result. Maybe not quite the same.
JM: It was fascinating to be in the laboratory environment and to see the level of skill and understanding that goes into the process.
DD: the blending session was for me the most interesting, it is great to see the thought process and techniques behind creating a rum. It makes you realize that every barrel has a place somewhere in the range and although each is unique when they come together they create a product that people will enjoy time and time again.

What are you favourite Black Barrel serves for:

Sitting on a sun-drenched beach in Barbados?
: Mount Gay Black Barrel and pineapple. Just great!
JM: I’m a sucker for a Mojito.
DD: Mount Gay Black Barrel and tonic

Sitting in a bar on a rainy UK evening?
: Rum direction – Mount Gay Black Barrel, banana liqueur infused with cigar, vermouth amaro, homemade falernum, angostura. Rich, delicious and warming. Banana rounds off the drink nicely and mingles well with the nutty rum.
JM: Treacle.
DD: mount Gay Black Barrel Manhattan.

Why would you suggest people get involved in this years competition to win a trip to Barbados?

OK: Because it’s a trip to Barbados with Mount Gay……!
JM: Do anything you can to get on this trip – it’ll be worth the effort!
DD: The best way to learn is to experience where something is made, you get a much better sense of history, production and the spirit of the product than you will ever do from a book or in a bar in london. Barbados is a beautiful country and you are so well taken care of that it is a trip of a lifetime.

Having been out to Barbados and seen the culture what tips would you give anyone entering the competition for either their drink or their presentation?   

OK: Make a good drink and smash the presentation.
JM: I would avoid the pitfalls of going too Tiki on this. Bajan culture is more middle class and the drinking/eating culture is more refined than ‘Beach BBQ’. I would take influence from drinks like the Royal Bermuda Yacht Club rather than the Pina Colada, for example.
DD: Make sure you include history and humour in your drink and presentation as this embodies the character of the island.

Inspired? Then go ahead and enter here