Photo above: At the Rum Ritual ceremonies in the Silver Palm Lounge at The Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman, rums are paired with chocolates made from cacao produced regionally and served on handcrafted trays and pedestals made of Caymanite. Photo: Alan Markoff
The ceremony starts with an aroma of cedar with hints of leather as the fragrance wafts through the room, preparing guests for the unveiling that comes next.
Two members of the Silver Palm Lounge staff at The Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman roll over a service cart and carefully open the doors of a stately 10-foot-tall and six-foot-wide wooden armoire, which was handcrafted and custom-built by local cabinetmaker John Bird.
A wooden ladder is moved over and, after one of the staff members climbs to a level where he can reach the upper shelves, the other staff member carefully hands him the treasures on the service cart.
First, several small humidors containing a broad selection of cigars — all kept in ideal humidity conditions — are placed on a high shelf.
Then, 12 bottles of various collectable rums are delicately placed on the middle shelves.
After the staff member comes down from the ladder, pieces of chocolates are placed on small pedestal trays, handcrafted by local artisan Launa Green from semi-precious Caymanite stone, and then placed on the lower shelves.
"We call it our happy box," says Monica Dubar, The Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman beverage manager and sommelier who often attends the "Rum Ritual" ceremony to talk with guests along with Silver Palm Lounge bartender Angelo Solimando.
Dubar says the purpose of this nightly ritual is to pay tribute to important elements of Caribbean history.
"It helps give our visitors a sense of place," she says, "and it gives them a story."
HIDDEN GEMS OF THE CARIBBEAN
The dozen rums aren't necessarily the most expensive rums on the market, but some are. Some are aged and some are young, but what they all have in common is a story behind them. Take the El Dorado 50 Years Grand Special Reserve for example. Made with a blend of rums distilled between 1966 and 1983 and packaged in a crystal decanter adorned with an 18-carat gold medallion, this aged spirit commemorates the 50th anniversary of Guyana gaining independence from the United Kingdom in 1966. It certainly qualifies as a rare rum.
"Only 600 bottles were made for the whole world," says Solimando.
Other rums in the armoire are less rare, but just as interesting. The Mount Gay 1703 Master Select from Barbados is made from a blend of the finest rums produced each year, while Oloroso Cask Selection, made locally by the Cayman Spirits Co, is a special release rum has aged two years in a bourbon barrel and then another two years in oloroso sherry cask.
"We have bottle number one," Solimando says of the extremely rare rum.
Other rums available include Blackwell 007 Rum from Jamaica, Saint Benevolence Clairin from Haiti, Ron Barillito 3-Star from Puerto Rico and Papa Andres Brugal from Dominican Republic. There's also Damoiseau Vintage 1953 from Guadeloupe, one of the oldest "rhums" available in the world.
The available cigars from around the Caribbean region include selections from Arturo Fuente in the Dominican Republic, Rocky Patel in Nicaragua and Cayman Cigar Company's Sovereign series, among others.
"We have flavoured cigars, too," says Solimando, adding that there's a special area on the Silver Palm Lounge outdoor terrace available to those who wish to smoke.
Another unique aspect of the Rum Ritual involves pairing each rum with a piece of chocolate made with cacao produced from around the Caribbean and Latin American regions. The Cayman Spirits Co.'s Oloroso Cask Selection is paired with a piece of white chocolate from St. Lucia, while other rums are paired with various kinds of chocolate curated from Ecuador or Dominican Republic.
The Silver Palm Lounge's Rum Ritual occurs daily starting at 6 p.m. and the armoire is open for service until closing.
This article was originally published in the May/June 2022 print edition of Camana Bay Times.