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There’s no doubt that Nashville is a whiskey town. In addition to multiple bars that boast deep collections of bourbon, scotch, and Irish whiskeys, there are watering holes named Whiskey Kitchen, Whiskey Bent, and Whiskey Rhythm. But, at Little Octopus, the Caribbean-themed restaurant in the Gulch, owner Sarah Gavigan is aiming to change a few minds.
Gavigan was really surprised at the depth of aged rum when introduced to it. “Like so many labels that food and spirits attain through the years, rum is surprising in that it can have the flavor profiles of whiskey, bourbon, or even scotch,” she says. Gavigan is becoming big fan of rum, and she wants to introduce diners and drinkers to the nuances and vast variety of spirits made from sugarcane.
“We are deeply inspired by the cultures and flavors of the Caribbean and rum is a huge part of that culture, and very under-represented in a part of the country where aged spirits are beloved,” she says.
Plus, the world of rum allows for greater exploration. “Some might say rums have a larger spectrum of flavors than whiskeys,” Gavigan explains. “If you compare a young blackstrap rum versus a 15-year-old rum aged in new American oak barrels, you’re going to find them entirely different. And there are rums to discover and enjoy every step of the way between those two.”
To help patrons facilitate that exploration, Gavigan and general manager Tod Michael have put together a list of extraordinary rums that can be used in traditional Caribbean cocktails but are better enjoyed neat in a snifter or over a few rocks in a glass. Additionally, servers are educated in the characters of individual rums and can help put together flights or food pairings for diners.
Knowing that whiskey is more familiar to many locals, Little Octopus uses whiskeys as a jumping-off point and an organizational element for their rum menu. Selections are divided into sections labeled Country Road, The Bold and the Beautiful, For Peat’s Sake, Along for the Rye’d, and The Beat of their Own Dram.
1) Country Road - include lighter and sweeter spirits for the beginning rum drinker, like Rhum Barbancourt 3 Star.
2) The Bold and the Beautiful - features rums that are more similar in flavor profile to aged, Kentucky bourbons
3) For Peat’s Sake - drink more like scotches than bourbon. Strong smoky notes come through in products from Mezan, a rum house that features single-origin agricole rums.
4) Along for the Rye’d - showcases spicy flavors associated with rye whiskey. A Manhattan or Old Fashioned made with 18-year-old Malecon Rum will change the way you consider those classic cocktails.
5) Beat of their Own Dram - focuses on rums that are just plain wacky like Old Monk XXX and Batavia-Arrack van Oosten—a combination of cane rum and distilled spirits made using Javan red rice.
• Grander Panama: An up-front sweetness with a touch of toffee and toasted oak.
• Bacoo 8 year: A dry, long-lasting caramel, with hints of sweetness, ranging from vanilla to dried, tropical fruit.
• Afrohead XO 15 yr dark: Straight from once-used Jack Daniels’ casks to the hearts of rum and whiskey drinkers. Lush tobacco, leather, and pepper notes carry this experience.
• Kirk & Sweeney 23 yr: Easy sipping with a smooth finish. Lingering hints of wood, with a touch of sweetness.
• Flor de Cana 12 yr: A true homage to the bourbon drinker’s palate. The notes of brown sugar, vanilla, and rich, American oak will give a true bourbon connoisseur a moment of second guessing.
• Foursquare 2004: For the impassioned who love the nuances of bourbon while taking a rum adventure, this rum is entrenched with spice and vanilla, while maintaining a long, full-bodied finish.
• Brugal 1888: In an American style of whiskey, where sweetness and oak meld together as one, this rum shines as a true example.
• Diplomatico Reserva 8 year: A dark, full-bodied rum that embraces the earthy sweetness of a true rye, with undertones of the baking spice and grain found in its whiskey counterpart.
• Plantation 5 year: A touch sweeter alternative, but holding to the characteristics of its cased origins, one can truly taste the influences of the American and French oak that once held this nurtured spirit.