While celebrity booze is a huge trend, what with Ryan Reynolds flogging gin, Sean “Diddy” Combs and Channing Tatum turning vodka vendors, and George Clooney earning a billion dollars from the sale of his tequila company (not to mention everybody and his cousin –- some of the latest being Snoop Dogg and Post Malone – sponsoring a signature wine), Bruno Mars’ rum still seems to be flying below the radar. A 2018 Esquire roundup of famous folks’ booze brands passed Mars’ SelvaRey brand over entirely, despite the fact that Mars himself had recently taken home the Grammy for album of the year as well as performed at the Grammy ceremony.
Well, that was just too bad for Esquire’s reviewer, since Mars’ product, according to rum connoisseurs, is of high quality — unlike the not-so-great rums marketed under the names of Kenny Chesney, Sammy Hagar, and (we kid you not) Ron Jeremy. Mars’ rum is branded SelvaRey, and in its name (not Mars’ name, but the one on the label) lies the real secret of its success.
It was named after a legendary rum maker
SelvaRey translates, roughly, to “King of the Jungle,” and Spirits Review says that the name was chosen in homage to the legendary rum maker Don “Pancho ” Francisco Fernandez. The Cuban-born Fernandez left his homeland for Panama, but he did not do so for political reasons. According to Liquor.com, he’d enjoyed a long and satisfactory career working for Cuba’s Ministerio de la Industria Alimentaria and helped develop brands like Matusalem and Havana Club, but when the latter was sold in 1993, Fernandez decided to pursue rum-making opportunities in Panama instead.
Several decades later, SelvaRey, according to a spokesperson who spoke with Arizona Foodie, “scoured the world to find a distiller who was up to the challenge of creating a white rum that was fine enough to drink on the rocks.” Two years and nine countries (and who knows how many Advils) later, they’d tasted a lot of good rum, but none of it was quite what they had in mind.
At long last, they wound up in Panama, where they met up with “arguably the most respected master blender in the world,” and decided that Fernandez was their guy. Not only did they hire him to create their product, but they also decided to give him a shout-out right on the label. Now that’s some real respect, especially when it’s coming from a celebrity of Mars’ stature.
It gets rave reviews
While Spirits Review posted rather a lengthy review of SelvaRey using such insider terms as “slightly oily entry with a sap like mouthfeel,” and “a slightly drier, almost vanilla ash like note,” they put a Cliff’s Notes tag right at the beginning that just about anyone can understand: SelvaRey is “one of the best aged white rums out there at present.”
The reviewers seem to think that SelvaRey nailed that whole drinkability thing, calling their product “a much more mellow alternative to a standard white rum in most drinks.” They also gave this rum a shout-out for being relatively affordable for such a high-quality product, saying that most of the more expensive aged rums on the market aren’t as good as this one.
The voice of the people also holds Selva Rey in pretty high esteem. Flaviar member reviews included such high praise as “gorgeous, the best Rum I’ve tasted,” “A spirit that holds its own against those twice its price,” and “Oh yum! So smooth, sweet and flavorful … Plus the bottle is gorgeous what’s not to love?”
It comes in chocolate, too!
There are actually two varieties of SelvaRey, a white rum that Flaviar notes as having a “palate … rich with marshmallow, creme brûlée, turbinado, and a dash of white pepper” and a cacao rum described as tasting of “vanilla, oak, and distant mole’ sauce (some spice and cacao).” Evidently, when SelvaRey tracked down Fernandez, they found him experimenting with roasted cacao-infused rums (via Arizona Foodie), so, of course, they weren’t going to pass up on that.
It’s a good thing they decided to go for the chocolate as well as the white rum version since both of them are equally amazing. Spirits Review calls SelvaRey Cacao “an outstanding flavored rum” that is “well made [with a] wonderful taste, and highly versatile.” They say this rum offers “a rare opportunity to … use a chocolate flavored spirit that does not taste like chemicals or is syrupy sweet,” and suggest adding it to Manhattans, mojitos, Old Fashioneds, or Rob Roys.
SelvaRey wants to put some kick in your coffee
Rum and coffee is a naturally perfect pairing, and chocolate rum and coffee even more so. Three of the tropics’ finest products, reunited in one delicious beverage. While the idea of spiking coffee with rum dates back as long as there’s been coffee and rum, and today this “gunfire breakfast” is a revered part of Australia and New Zealand’s Anzac Day celebrations (via Stuff), it’s usually been hot coffee that has benefited.
Well, in 2019, SelvaRey teamed up with ready-to-drink coffee maker illy to promote the “Summer of Spiked Coffee,” presumably to make sure everyone stayed wide awake as they partied into the wee hours. PR Newswire reports that illy’s baristas collaborated with SelvaRey’s mixologist to develop two drinks, Spiked Iced Coffee and Spiked Iced Caramel, which were sold out of cocktail carts at festivals nationwide as well as being served up in bars and restaurants.
Although summertime and festival season are both behind us, mixologist Brian Klemm says you can do a DIY version at home by “simply mix[ing] SelvaRey Cacao with illy’s sweetened caffè ready to drink for a perfect combination.” You could also try spiking your bottled Frappuccino slushie, but if you try it, we suggest adding the booze after you’ve done the chill’n’shake, since higher-proof types of alcohol (like rum) don’t freeze.
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