Paul Menta is a kiteboarder, distiller, chef, restaurateur, Professional Air Sports Association Master Instructor, author and entrepreneur. Born in Philadelphia on 1st March 1966, he fell in love with water sports as a young man, spending his summers going to the Jersey Shore for surfing and to the rivers for water skiing. Key West, Florida has been his home since 1988 and this is where he and his business partner, Tony Mantia , created Key West First Legal Rum Distillery in 2012, with production starting the following year.
The building once housed the old Coca Cola bottling facility from 1903. Now, it's the first ever legal rum distillery in the Florida Keys, although the spirit has flowed through the islands for years. The rum is distilled on site in two custom-made copper pot stills. A working distillery, they are also open to the public for tours and tastings.
Now, for the first time, their rums are available in the UK through C.Gars.
C.Gars Ltd. is the largest and second oldest specialist cigar merchant in the UK, founded in 1997. Their retail cigar shops, Turmeaus Tobacconists, were established in 1817 and the company became the first UK online cigar merchant in the mid-1990s. They have the largest stock and range of cigars, humidors, cutters, lighters and accessories in the country.
C.Gars also has a spirits side to its business, which includes multi award-winning whisky brand Stalla Dhu. The company recently became the exclusive UK/EU importer and distributor of Key West First Legal, adding two unique Florida rums to its creative spirits portfolio.
C.Gars Chairman, Ron Morrison, comments further: "While sailing around the Florida Keys, I visited Key West where this amazing little town has many tropical attractions including local rum distilleries. I was stopped in my tracks by the rums at Key West First Legal. Their unusually rounded smoothness made me question what was going on! The answer was clearly the innovative way this small team cured their barrels in sea water from the Gulf of Mexico. It was then that I knew I had to bring Raw and Unfiltered and Bad Bitch to the U.K. After spending time over the next year with Paul Menta, the creative distiller/owner, I'm proud to say that we now list these two rums exclusively in all our stores and online. They are rare, unusual and satisfyingly different."
Chef Paul Menta's award-winning rums are aged in salt-cured barrels at Key West First Legal Rum Distillery. Each barrel is taken down the street to the ocean and filled with fresh sea water. After the barrel swells overnight, the ocean water is drained out and the barrel is left to cure for around a week until a white crust forms and all the water has evaporated. The resultant salt residue opens the pores of the wood letting it age better and releasing all the good flavours from the wood into the rum. A pH change then occurs after a year that smooths the rum out even more and gives it a unique taste.
At Key West First Legal, they use locally and naturally-sourced authentic food flavours, including Key lime, coconut, Madagascar vanilla crème brûlée and Florida demerara sugar (never molasses). These high-quality ingredients produce a rum with flavour depths and aromatic heights worthy of the company name, Chef Distilled. "One common task shared by rum distillers and chefs alike", says Menta, "is cooking sugar cane in big kettles or stills. We are chefs first and distillers second."
Rums are distilled six times for purity and flavour, using demerara sugar instead of molasses. This allows for a slower distillation with a lower proof base rum and prevents bitter smoky flavours. "The demerara with such a high mineral content has great flavours which we can bring out at a lower proof and is very clean. Think of it as the extra virgin olive oil of the sugar cane world!", explains Menta.
They also recycle water to cool the stills and reuse all the incoming packaging to pack everything on the way out.
Key West Raw & Unfiltered Rum was aged in brand new US oak barrels, salt-cured at the distillery. The rum shows notes of fig, plum and vanilla, finishing with a pepper-like taste from the magnesium in the salt. It's a one-of-a-kind rum that represents the Key West style that has now become famous worldwide. Never filtered, you will see why Raw and Unfiltered is truly unique!
Spanish Marie was a pirate and rum runner in the Caribbean Sea. She used to smuggle high proof rum from Cuba to Key West. It is said that she would cut her glass of rum with red wine, as there was no water on the boat to dilute the strong spirit. Also, according to local folklore, when she'd finished with her sailor of choice, she'd tie a weight around him and throw him into the Gulf Stream! As a result, she became known as the 'Bad Bitch'.
Bad Bitch Spanish Marie Rum was aged in Burgundy and Bordeaux oak barrels that previously contained red wine and were then salt-cured at the distillery. This provides an amazing flavour and mouthfeel from the red wine tannins with a rich, smooth finish and a note of caramel.
For more information, please contact Paul Hindmarch, C.Gars Brand Manager at email@example.com.