Thursday, June 26, 2014

Rum Stroll At Middleton Place--A Perfect Blend Of Spirits And Elegance

Shaken by a gentle breeze, droplets of water left by an earlier cloudburst fell from the leaves of the old oak tree. A table set underneath, next to the brick ruins of the original house, served rum punch to the gathering crowd. It was the second stop on the provided map. Soaking in the panorama of the plantations famous gardens on the Parterre, I sipped the tasty brew. Far off in the distance, directly over the river, a rainbow formed. Its brief appearance embellished the peacefulness of the beautiful setting. Delicately juggling my drink with my camera, I successfully made the tricky maneuver to get the shot.

The third stop was a tour of the house, which for the moment I bypassed and moved on to the fourth stop where rum balls and peanut brittle awaited--delightful. The exquisitely sultry affair was hot, humid and accompanied by the occasional rumble of thunder. As the evening progressed through the various tables, there was not a dry shirt among us. Seeking out a breezy space was every now and then essential.

Throughout the plantation stable yard, food stations were setup featuring island-inspired treats and hors d’oeuvres created by Middleton's own Executive Chef Brandon Buck. At one table, fish cutters were being prepared and served. At another, conch fritters along with fried plantains were offered. The food complimented the rum offerings appealingly. The rum balls were my favorite of the treats.

The rest of the tables scattered about the grounds and stable yard featured rum tastings and specially prepared rum punches. At one table, costumed interpreters discussed the rum making process and the proper proportions of sour, sweet, strong and weak of punch preparation.

Charleston was represented by rum makers Highwire Distillery and Striped Pig Distillery. Each offered a tasting of their rum and a rum punch. It appeared the Striped Pig Distillery brought a mascot with them because there was a black and white striped pig wandering around the area of their table--just an assumption on my part, but seemed to be a reasonable observation. I didn't ask for confirmation.

Mount Gay Rum of Barbados, Pusser's of the British Virgin Islands and Total Wine were the three other distributors present. Of all the rum punches, Pusser's Signature Cocktail stood out for me with Highwire's blend a very close second.

The Middleton Place Rum Stroll was a celebration to the historic rum culture of the Lowcountry and the Middleton's connection to Barbados and the rum trade, which figured heavily in the Carolinas of the 18th century. It was reminiscent of the plantation's glory years. A time when rum figured heavily in the everyday life of the planter elite and was considered a staple of diet. When well-to-do Charlestonians strolled the elaborate gardens sipping on rum punches and munching on conch fritters and fish cutters.

The stroll for me was a step back in time paired with an introduction to Charleston's local rum distillers and distributors of today. It was a perfect blend of Middleton's natural and cultivated beauty with a celebratory salute to smooth tasting rum spirits. Cheers to a wonderful evening at the timeless Middleton Place.

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