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  • Immortal Meals #19: Rum Up at Harewood House January 2, 2015

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Modern , trackback

    cobweb bottles

    ***Dedicated to Chris who sent this one in***

    The year is 1805, the month December and the location Harewood House, a delightful stately house near Leeds, Yorkshire. The cellar records have a special note for this meal as something extraordinary happened there. The Lascelles family, who had built and owned Harewood, ordered up eight bottles of their precious Barbados Rum: bottled a generation before in 1780 and brought to Harewood by Barbadian sugar magnate Edwin Lascelles (obit 1795), who happened to be the builder of Harewood House. The rum packed a punch: dark rum managed about 55% alcohol and light rum about 65%. If there had been fewer than fifteen at table it would have been a question of alcohol poisoning all around. We will never be able to recover the details of this rum orgy, thirty two years before Victoria came to the throne: it is something that would have been difficult to imagine in the more elegant England of 1850, say. But should you want, incredible as this may sound, you can still taste the rum. A number of bottles from an initial lot of 226 bottles survived through the years, helped by the family’s sparing use of what had become heirlooms and by the fact that rum was an increasingly unfashionable drink. They were there in the cellars in 1969 when a full inventory was carried out and they were still there in 2011 when Mark Lascelles (a descendant of Edwin) found the bottles encased in cobwebs. (The real reason for this post is the incredible photograph above). The bottles were sold off in two lots at the London auctioneers Christies. Twelve in time for Christmas 2013 and this December (2014) sixteen. The original estimates were for about eight hundred stirling a bottle, whereas the selling price was closer to ten times that. Anyone reading this has missed the auction but go to the Mayfair wine seller Hedonism and you will find on its shelves a bottle of Harewood rum, retailing for 12,498.70 sterling. Sell your car and you could be drinking a spirit bottled two hundred and twenty five years ago. It goes without saying that Lascelles used slave labour on his estates in Barbados and, in fact, this rum will have been produced with the sweat and blood of Lascelles slaves, which should give anyone rich enough to shell out for a bottle a bitter aftertaste. The money raised at the auction, in fact, is going to the Yorkshire’s Geraldine Connor Foundation, a charitable body with its roots in the Yorkshire West Indian community. Karma? Beach is always interested in old bottles: drbeachcombing AT yahoo DOT com Memories of a toast from Poland and the Baltic fridge.