Ruminsky

Dec 062016
 

aldea-tradicion

A unassuming and ultimately flawed 22 year old rum

#324

As one goes through the line of the various Ron Aldeas, which are serviceable mid-tier rums, one notices that the clear agricole profile gets progressively more lost, which I attribute to primarily the strategy of using variously toasted barrels in varying proportions.  Depending on whether you want an agricole-style rum to taste like one, this may not be to your liking.  This rum does not hail from the French islands or subject to the AOC (its influences are more Spanish than anything else), and therefore what we are tasting is something from elsewhere – the Canary Islands in this instance. No doubt different taste and blending and ageing influences come to bear when makers from other parts of the world approach the same distillate.

As usual, some general information before we delve into the tasting notes. The Tradición is a cane-juice-derived,  column still product, bottled at 42% with a 3428-bottle outturn. The 1991 edition I tried came out in 2013, making it a 22 year old, and was matured in barrels of different kinds of oak, with differing levels of toast; for the final two years the rum is transferred to used barrels of red wine (not identified) to add finish. Therein lies a problem because while that finishing regime does add some complexity, it also adds sweetness; and when I read that Drejer measured 27 g/L (which is assumed to be sugar), I can understand why it was issued at a slightly higher proof point.

That level of sugar is not immediately apparent. Somewhat at a tangent, nosing the bronze rum makes one wonder immediately where the agricole notes went off and hid themselves, because as with the Ron Aldea Familia (and to a lesser extent the Superior), the clean grassy and herbal smells that characterize the profile are utterly absent.  Still, what was presented wasn’t bad – peaches in cream, toffee, nougat, white toblerone, almonds were immediately apparent, with fruitier raisins and dried fruits coming up from behind, probably courtesy of those wine barrels.  Not a very potent nose, just a soft and warm one.

I noted above that the rum tested positive for sugar.  On the palate, that was unavoidable (my original handwritten notes, made before I knew of Drejer’s results, read “wht’s wth sweet?  ths all cmng from wine barrels?”).  It may be a comfort to those who don’t mind such things that enough flavours remained even after that inclusion to make for an interesting sip.  Initially there was the same vanilla, oak and leather, with a warm, smooth mouthfeel, and as it opened up the fruits came out and did their thing, presenting  green apples, raisins, some cider and red grapes…just not what they could have been. They felt dampened down and muffled, not as crisp and clear as they might have been.  It all led to a finish that was warm and hurriedly breathy as a strumpet’s fake gasps – and alas, like that seemingly spectacular activity, the experience was far too fleeting, without anything new to add to the profile as described.

Of the four Aldeas I tried in tandem, this is undoubtedly the best — a warm, fragrant, almost gently aged rum, lacking the fierce untrammelled power and purity of a stronger drink. The finishing in wine barrels also adds a little something to the overall experience (which the additives then frustratingly take away). In these characteristics lie something of the rum’s polarizing nature – those who want a beefier rum will think it’s too soft; those who see “cane juice origin” and want that kind of herbal taste and don’t get it, will be miffed; and those who want a clean rum experience will avoid it altogether. The rum is rather light, and the sweetness imparted by the finish and the additives work against the delicacy of the distillate, deadening what could have been a better drink, even with the extra two percentage points of proof over the standard.

But all that aside, it’s not entirely a bad rum; as with the Centenario 20, various Panamanians or soleras (which this is not, but the similarity is striking), one simply has to walk into it knowing one’s preferences ahead of time — then buy if it’s one’s thing, try if curious, avoid if turned off. Starting the sip with preconceived notion as to what one wants, what the rum is, or what the makers seek to achieve, might just be a recipe for disappointment.  And that would be unfair to what is, as noted in my one line summary, quite a pleasant and unassuming 20+ year old product. Strength aside, my only real beef with the thing is the utterly unnecessary adulteration – by doing so, Aldea, for all their skill in bringing this well-aged rum to the party, have left several additional points of easily attainable quality behind on the table and diminished my ability to provide an unqualified endorsement for a rum that should have been better.

(84/100)

Dec 052016
 

aldea-familia-1

A decent fifteen year old faux-agricole trying to moving away from its origins.

#323

Sorry, but “Chairman’s Select Hidden Treasure,” “Special Top Brass Only Reserve,” “Family Laid Away” casks, you know the kind of special rums to which I refer…stuff like this just makes me smile.  Largely because I see it as nothing more than a name applied so as to move product.  Of course, in the old days of landed estates run by the plantocracy, such special hooch really was made, exclusively for the caudillos and the nobility, for the chairman, business titans, princes, presidents, political hacks, Government apparatchiks, visiting tourists, the special invitees, Santa Claus, retiring veeps and senior managers (are we sure we speak only of the past here?).  

And now, through an enormous stroke of good fortune and generosity of the makers, us. One wonders how it is possible for something made for so exclusive a clientele, by any of the makers who issue them, to ever get into the grubby paws of the the great unwashed masses and the hordes of the illiterate rabble (you know, like me and you), but I suppose economics is economics and the producers of these apparent ambrosias wish to share their street cred just to, well, show they have it in the first place.

In any case, editorializing aside and whatever the source, let’s just call it what it is, a fifteen year old rum with a name meant to showcase its exclusivity, and move on…if I go along this line of thought I might let my snark off the leash, and nobody wants that.

Aside from such historical company details as are already in Cana Pura review, the background to this Canary-Island-made rum are fairly straightforward. This is a true fifteen year old rum limited to 6964 bottles, aged from 1998 to 2013 in French oak of different levels of toast (you could call this an “enhanced” recipe, I suppose), thereby following on from the Ron Aldea Superior’s barrel strategy. The Familia, like the Superior, is derived from cane juice not molasses, although in this instance one could be forgiven for wondering where the rhum went since the profile is so much more “traditional.”

That might be a rather controversial opinion, but observe the profile as we step through what it sampled like. The nose was gentle, subtle, easy, and too faint, really, which is a bitch I have about all 40% rums these days, some more than others – here it’s about par for the course, maybe a bit richer than normal for that strength. There were pleasant notes of vanilla, aromatic tobacco, cheerios with some cinnamon and nutmeg, toffee and caramel. But very little of the agricole content which we might have expected .  Pleasant yes, agricole no, and overall, too light for easy appreciation of the smells.

More of the same was on the taste, nice as the mouthfeel and texture was – vanilla, caramel, aromatic pipe tobacco, some winey notes.  It was a little sharp, no problem, light in the mouth overall, perhaps on the border of thin. Briny, an olive or two.  Fruits, I suppose, but they’re too indistinct and jumbled up in the mix to be easily separated and individually identified and so let’s call it a dampened-down fruit salad and move on. The finish was reasonable, ending things with a warm, medium long, and vaguely fruity close.  It’s the faintness and lack of firmness, that final exclamation point, that makes it fall down, and yes, that’s traceable to the 40%, which in honesty I felt should have been at least five points higher to make a statement worth noting.  Let’s be fair, however – for those who like the lighter Spanish style rons, this will go over well.  Just because I prefer hairier, stronger rums doesn’t mean you do, or will, or should.

So back to that opinion. The rum falls somewhat short of the quietly tasty Superior rum made by the same company.  There, the agricole background was more interestingly integrated into the flavour notes, and you couldn’t miss it.  Though both of these rums are from cane juice (and may therefore be termed agricoles), and while neither supposedly have additives***, the French island profile of the Familia has been kind of lost on me, and therefore it presents much more like a molasses-based British Caribbean rum (with some Spanish influences).  That makes it relate to a whole different crop of rums, and in that crowded field, it somehow lacks sufficient gravitas to command either attention or my unadulterated appreciation.  

(81/100)

*** The master rum sugar list shows this to have 20g/L of sugar, so the big question is where’s this coming from, and why isn’t it disclosed?

Dec 042016
 

aldea-superior-1

#322

With respect to companies which don’t want to make (or be seen to make) spiced or flavoured sugar bombs, it’s always instructive to observe the techniques that they use to avoid the dreaded “A” word. Some play with ageing or blends, some with finishing (the new El Dorado 15 year old series comes to mind), some with unorthodox schemes (like Lost Spirits or 7 Fathoms), some with toasting, but all are trying to do the same thing – impart an extra smidgen of taste to their rum, without actually adding anything to it, which I’m sure makes any rum nerd’s heart pitter-patter happily. Ron Aldea, a rum company from the Canary Islands, in the place of combined finishing and ageing regimes such as Gold of Mauritius and Mauritius Club utilize, prefer to experiment with their cask strategy – in this case they used brand new American oak barrels with heavy toasting levels, which I take to mean an inordinate level of char – but fortunately without any wine or port sloshing around inside.***

For those who didn’t read about the Caña Pura White Rum (I felt it tried unsuccessfully to straddle some kind of middle ground between soft mixer and individualistic white), it’s worth mentioning that all Ron Alddea’s rums derive from cane juice distilled to 62% in a 150-year-old, wood-fire-fed double column copper still — made by the French firm Egrott — in the Canary Islands. For those interested in historical details of the company itself, the Caña Pura review has it at the bottom of the page.

aldea-superior-3This particular rum, renamed the Maestro for the 2016 release season, was the 2013 edition limited to 9258 bottles, and dialled way down to 40%. It was a darkish gold colour, and initially presented a nose that was quite lovely…breathy even (“Hi sailor-man…want a good time?…”) before thinning out and gasping for air, which is a characteristic all 40% rums share, unfortunately. Still, all was not lost – fresh peaches and apricots were there, weak but accessible, plus clearer, purer aromas – cucumbers, pears, sugar water, cut grass in rain, herbals, and a last rounding off of vanillas and a vague bitterness of oak. Char or no char, ten years in new oak was discernible, though well handled and not overbearing,

The agricole origin of the rum (perhaps I should call it rhum) develops from the hints given in the nose, and blossoms into something much more in the realm of such products: grassy, clear vegetals; more peaches and apricots and softer fruits, yet with some tartness, like unripe but yellow mangoes, under which coiled a creamier background of soft sweet white chocolate coffee and sugar…almost a cappuccino. The divergence from the norm came with an odd taste of ashy mineral-like notes that fortunately stayed well in the background, but were definitely noticeable. The finish was about standard for a 40% rum – short and heated, quite nice in its own way — not overly complex, just as comfortable and easy as an old chesterfield, with closing hints of chocolate and vanilla, and very little of the spicier, fruity notes. Perhaps that was to its detriment – the integration of these various tastes matters, and here it was impossible to pick apart individual notes – but I acknowledge that’s a matter of private opinion. And as a matter of record, I did enjoy the Superior quite a bit.

Overall, for its strength and age it’s a pretty good mid-tier rum (or rhum). It’s not as distinctive as the El Dorados, say, or the various Jamaicans, or even those from St Lucia or the French islands, but I’m not sure that’s the intent. Santiago Bronchales, who I’ve been watching and talking to since his involvement in the interesting if flawed Ocean’s rum, is more of an experimenter, not a copier or a follower-on of old traditional rum profiles, and likes to go in original directions. He takes what he can, does what he is allowed, and is trying to come up with his own version of the perfect profile at the strength he knows will sell. The Superior 10 year old he’s made here is another step on the road to discovery of his own personal truth, and is an interesting rum to try when you have the chance.

(83/100)

***Drejer has measured this rum to have 22g/L of sugar/additives.  Initially I was prepared to argue that the vanillas and sweetness I noticed where barrel related, but a measurement of that magnitude kind of throws me, and I’ve sent a note along to Ron Aldea for their response.

 

 

Dec 012016
 

mauritius-club-rum

Too young, too dressed up, when it didn’t need to be

#321

The Mauritius Club Rum 2014 (Sherry Finish) is an interesting essay in the craft, and for my money, slightly better than the Gold of Mauritius Dark rum I looked before. The sherry finishing makes its own statement and adds that extra fillip of flavour which elevates the whole experience in a way that drowning the Gold in port casks for a year did not.  Note that there’s a strange disconnect between what I was told in 2015 by the brand rep, who informed me it was aged three months in oak casks (not what type) and then finished for two weeks in sherry casks; and what I see online these days, where the buying public is informed it is aged for six to eight months in South African wine barrels before finishing in sherry casks.

Well, whatever. Whether three months or six, with or without the sherry ageing, the overall profile strikes me as doing too little and hoping for too much, which is a shame – with a few more years under its belt, this could have really turned heads and attracted attention. The things is, ageing can be either done right and for a decent interval (perhaps three years or more, with many believing the sweet spot is between eight and twelve), or dispensed with it altogether (as with the various unaged whites for which I confess a sneaking love).  Go in the middle with less than a year? Plus a finish?…that may just be pushing one’s luck. It’s heading into spiced or flavoured rum territory.

The reason I make these remarks is because when I started nosing it, believing that 40% couldn’t seriously harm me, it lunged out in a schnozz-skewering intensity that caught me unprepared, the more so when had in a series with the far gentler and warmer and more easygoing muffled blanket of the Gold I’d just sampled before.  To be fair though, once it settled down, there were notes of red wine (no surprise), raisins, caramel, chocolate vanilla, and something vaguely sharper, like those chocolate After-Eight mint biscuits.

The palate was softer, smoother, warm rather than hot, after the initial heat burned away..  Again, lots of sweet wine, and the sherry makes itself felt.  Honey, some nuttiness (I was thinking breakfast cereals like cheerios) plus a little fruitiness, cherries, more vanilla, more chocolate and vanilla.  Truth is, too little going on here, and overall, somewhat uncoordinated and quite faint. A 40% strength can be perfectly fine, but it does make for a lesser experience and dampened-down tastes that a shooter wouldn’t capture and a mix would drown and a sipper would disdain.  The finish was okay for such a product, being short and easy, warm, redolent of nuts, more cheerios, honey and a very faint note of tannins. There was some character here, just not enough to suit my preferences.

I know it sounds like I’m dissing the rum, but not really – as noted above, I liked it better than the Gold of Mauritius Dark even though it was younger, which I attribute to a better handling of the blend, and the sherry influence.  Still, it must be said that the rum displayed something of schizoid character, too young and raw to be tamed with the port/sherry for the few months it aged, yet being promoted as being more than an unaged starter (that would lower expectations, which may have been the point).  Moreover, when any maker puts a moniker of a single year on the bottle — “2014” in this case — it creates an impression of something a little special, a “millesime” edition of a good year…and that’s certainly not the case, as it’s simply the year the rum was made.  And lastly, I argue — as was the case with the Gold — that by mixing it up with these external and rather dominating influences, the potential to experience a unique rum originating from a unique location with a very individual taste, was lost — to our detriment.

So after this experience, I resume my search for the definitive rum from the island, the big gun that will put Mauritius on the map and allow us to use it as a quasi-baseline. Something that isn’t mixed, adulterated, finished or otherwise tampered with.  I know it’s out there somewhere – I just have to find it. This one isn’t it.

(79/100)

Nov 302016
 

gold-of-mautitius-dark

Good with dessert.

#320

You’d think that with the various encomiums the rum has gotten that it’s some kind of diamond in the rough, an undiscovered masterpiece of the blender’s art. “Incredibly rich…mouth watering…a cracker,” enthused Drinks Enthusiast; and the comments of Master of Malt (which one should take with a pinch of salt), are almost all four- and five-star hosannas. Me, I think that although it has a nifty squared off bottle and a cool simple label, beyond that there’s not much to shout about, though admittedly it has its points of originality in simplicity that must be acknowledged.

Let’s get the facts out of the way first. The Gold of Mauritius is a 40% ABV darkish amber-red rum, aged around a year to fifteen months in South African port barrels which have residue of port still in them; and is a blend of rums from various small distilleries around Mauritius (the specific distillery or distilleries which comprise this one are never mentioned).  Caramel colouring is added to provide consistency of hue across batches. The guy who’s done the most research on this is my buddy Steve James of Rum Diaries (who also liked it more than I did), so for those who want more facts I’ll point you to his excellent write-up, and move on.

Overall, the nose was interesting at first, leading in spicy before chilling out to become softer and sweeter, with a ton of coffee and vanilla notes duelling it out with ripe cherries and apricots.  There was a dry hint in there, chocolate, salt caramel (it kinda nosed like a tequila for a while). It was surprisingly deep for a 40% rum, which I liked.

It’s on the palate that one got the true measure of what the rum was.  Here, the port influence was massive.  It was warm and sweet, with an initial dark mix of molasses, sugar and smoother vanilla.  It’s not particularly complex, (the dark likely refers to the taste profile rather than the colour or long ageing), and it reminded me somewhat of a dialled down Young’s Old Sam, perhaps less  molasses-dominant.  Some faint fruitiness here, a bit of tart citrus, but overall, the lasting impression was one of chocolate, coffee grounds, salted caramel ice cream, crushed almonds, molasses and vanilla: simple, straightforward, direct and not bad…but in no way unique either.  Even the finish added nothing new to the experience, being short, warm and faintly dry.

Let’s be honest. I thought it was rather forgettable, and felt its cousin the 3-month old 2014 Sherry Cask to be better, perhaps because the sherry there had somewhat less influence than a whole year of port.  Too, I don’t really see the point – the rum is not “finished” in the conventional sense of the term, but completely and fully aged with the port barrels, and that gives them an influence over the rum which masks the uniqueness of what Mauritius as a terroire should be able to showcase.  In other words, while I’m a firm believer in the whole concept of geographical regions imparting distinctive tastes to rums, there’s nothing here that says “Mauritius” because the port influence so dominates the flavour profile.

Overall, then it leaves me not getting a rum, but a flavoured version of a rum.  And that’s not to its advantage, though for those preferring simple, straightforward dessert rums, I suppose it would be right up their alley.

(77/100)

Nov 272016
 

 

Rumaniacs Review 026

While the 1975 30-year old rum issued by Berry Bros isn’t actually one of their “Exceptional Cask” series, it remains one in all but name and is one of the best of the Demeraras coming out of the 1970s, taking its place in my estimation somewhere in between the Norse Cask 1975 and the Cadenhead 1975, maybe a shade behind the Velier PM 1974 and the Bristol Spirits PM 1980.  It could have been even better, I think, if it had been a tad stronger, but that in no way makes it a lesser rum, because for its proof (46%) and its profile (Port Mourant), it’s quite a wonderful rum.

Colour – dark amber-red

Strength – 46%

Nose – Smooth, heavenly notes of licorice and wax, some well polished wooden furniture, molasses and burnt brown sugar. It gets deeper as it rests, more pungent and well rounded, adding some oak, leather, sawdust and deep dark fruitiness.  These then give way to cinnamon, nutmeg, cherries and coffee grounds in a lovely, well-integrated series of smell that makes re-sniffing almost mandatory.

Palate – 46% is not problem and makes it very approachable by anyone who doesn’t like cask strength rums (which may have been the point). Strong and heated attack, slightly sweet, more licorice, vanilla, breakfast spices, molasses-soaked brown sugar, tied together with sharper citrus and fruity notes…half-ripe mangoes or guavas, just tart enough to influence the taste without overwhelming it.  With water there’s some ripe sultanas and butterscotch to round things off.

Finish – reasonably long and spicy; those grapes are back, some white guavas, licorice and toffee, brown sugar, a flirt of vanilla.  Not the most complex endgame, just a very good one.

Thoughts – It’s a firm and very tasty rum of excellent balance and complexity – it doesn’t try for overkill.  What it does do is present a great series of flavours in serene majesty, one after the other, showcasing all the well-known elements of one of the most famous stills in the world.  Any maker would have been proud to put this out the door.

(89.5/100)

NB – other Rumaniacs’ reviews of this rum can be found here. Here’s my original review from 2013, for those who’re interested.

Nov 222016
 

velier-enmore-1987-0

Among the first Velier Demerara rums, eclipsed by its better-made brothers in the years that followed

#319

It’s become almost a game to ferret out the initial issuings of rums made by companies whose names are made famous by the passing of time. Back in 2000, who had ever heard of Velier outside of Italy?  Yet even then, the company was forging into the future by issuing rums defiantly called full proof, although there could have been few who were entirely sure what the term meant. 40% ruled the roost, “cask strength” was for whiskies, and only the occasional Demerara rum from an independent bottler was to be seen anywhere, usually tucked away on a liquor shop’s dusty back shelves, almost with an air of embarrassment.

velier-enmore-1987-2The Velier-imported, Breitenstein-bottled Enmore 1987 full proof rum may have the distinction of being one of the very first of the Demerara rums Velier ever slapped its label on – certainly my master list in the company biography has few from Guyana issued prior to that.  That might account for how at odds this rum tastes from other more familiar Enmores, and how strange it feels in comparison.

Consider: the nose opened with some brief petrol smells, which dissipated rapidly.  Then came pears and green apples, and creamed green peas, again gone in a flash. It was light and sweet in comparison to the other Enmores from Silver Seal and CDI I was sampling alongside it, and I dunno, it didn’t really work for me.  Later aromas of cake batter dusted with icing sugar, caramel and toffee, cinnamon and some faint bitter chocolate were about all I could take away from the experience, and I really had to reach for those.

The palate was also something of a let-down.  Sharp, salty, and somewhat thin, a surprise for the 56.6%, with such acidic tastes as existed being primarily lemon rind and camomile. With water some cinnamon buns grudgingly said hello. The rum as a whole was surprisingly demure and unassertive, with somewhat less than the nose promised coming through, even after an hour or so – vanilla and caramel of course, brown sugar, some light citrus peel, a melange of vague fruitiness that wasn’t cooperating, and that was pretty much it.  Even the finish was hardly a masterpiece of flair and originality, just a slow fade, with some more allspice and toffee and vanilla coming together in a sort of tired way. It was certainly not the lush, rich and firm tropical profile that Luca’s subsequent rums prepared us for.  I suspect that the rum was aged in Europe, not Guyana — the bottler, an old Dutch spirits-trading firm from the 1860s that morphed into DDL Europe in the later 2000s, was unlikely to have done more than provided Luca with a selection to chose from, aged in Holland. That might account for it, but I’m still chasing that one down since it’s my conjecture, not a stated fact.

Anyway, that’s what makes this something of a disappointment – one can’t help but compare it to the high bar set by rums that came later, because those are far more available and well-known…and better.  In this Enmore we saw the as-yet-unharnessed and unpolished potential that matured in rums like the Port Mourant series (1972, 1974, 1975), the legendary Skeldon 1973 and UF30E, and the 1980s and 1990-series Enmores, Diamonds, Uitvlugts and Blairmonts.  In 2000 Luca Gargano had a pedigree with wines and other occasional rums (like the Damoiseau 1980), and now in 2016 he is rightfully acknowledged as a master in his field.  But I feel that when this rum was bottled, he was still a cheerful, young, long-haired, piss-and-vinegar Apprentice mucking about with his rum-assembly kit in the basement, knowing he loved rums, not being afraid of failure, but not yet having the complete skillset he needed to wow the world.  How fortunate for us all that he stuck with it.

(82/100)

Other Notes

Thanks to Eddie K. who pointed out that there were in fact older Veliers issued in the 1990s by Thompson & Co. – so I changed the review (and the Makers rum listing) to reflect that this one is not the first.

velier-enmore-1987-1

Nov 202016
 

marienburg-90-1

To the extent that a shot of this rum is all sound and fury signifying nothing, it achieves its objective. The history is perhaps more interesting than the rum.

#318

Regular readers of the meanderings of the ‘Caner in the rumiverse know something of the near obsessive (some say masochistic) search for the most powerful rums in the world that peppers these pages.  Back in the day, the 151s had my awe.  Then I tried the SMWS Longpond 9 year old 81.3% and thought appreciatively, “Dat ting wuz a proppah stink bukta.”  Lo and behold I spotted the Sunset Very Strong a year or three later, bought that, and was blown into next week by the 84.5%.  Every time I think I’ve gotten to the top of the ABV food chain, along comes another to upend my knowledge (if not my expectations).  So permit me to introduce the Marienburg 90% white rum, which crows about being (so far) the most powerful commercially available rum in the world, and who knows, maybe they are (unless Rivers Royale in Grenada wants to make a grab for the brass ring).

Who makes this alpha male of rums?  A titan of the industry with deeper pockets and more stills than common sense?  A small up-and-coming indie pushing a leaky creole still to the screaming limit?  The guy next door claiming to use his grandmother’s bathtub?  Actually, it’s made by none of these (though you can’t help but wonder what the three listed candidates might have done, right?) – a  DDL-like outfit in what was formerly Dutch Guiana has the honour of being first on the podium now.

marienburg-90-2The Marienburg 90% rum is issued by a company in Suriname called Suriname Alcoholic Beverages (SAB), formed in 1966 by several local distributors who pooled resources to consolidate the making and marketing of alcoholic beverages in the country.  However, the genesis of the underlying company is far older: the Marienburg sugar factory was established in 1882 by the Netherlands Trading Society, which bought the assets of the abandoned Marienburg plantation, itself founded way back in 1745 by Maria de la Jaille.  Bad luck seems to have dogged the enterprise, as it underwent several changes in ownership, even becoming a coffee plantation for a time before the Society bought it.  The Society felt it could buy sugar cane from all the surrounding smaller plantations and built a processing factory and 12 km of railway line, opening for business in 1882 and gradually buying up more and more of the smallholdings that once supplied it.

Poor business judgement, political issues and falling sugar prices led to the Marienburg factory being closed in 1986 and it’s now a tourist attraction of rusting machinery and overgrown train tracks.  Nowadays SAB does all of its processing in Paramaribo, where it’s offices also are located. Like DDL and other national companies, they produce a range of spirits for domestic consumption, as well as the Borgoes line of rums which can be found in Europe (they used to produce Black Cat and Malbrok rums the latter of which is no longer being made).  Their rums are Trinidad-molasses based, distilled on a column still, with the resultant spirit put to age in american oak barrels: note that they also have a pot still, but I’m unable to establish which rums are made with it.

That’s all there is to tell you. Let me save you the trouble of the rest of the review and simply state that the rum is falls rather flat.  Potent yes, strong yes, masochistic overkill, absolutely…but alas, it serves no useful purpose and contained none of the delicately fierce redeeming features of either the SMWS Longpond or the Sunset Very Strong, which at least coaxed some fascinating tastes out of their barrels to provide a surprising level of heft and interest that backed up the juggernaut of their power.  Still, if you want to make a killer cocktail, for sure this one is your candidate, so there’s that, I suppose.

This the way I felt when smelling the Marienburg, which presented its initial nose with all the grace and finesse of  a somnolent pachyderm. It’s got bulk, it’s got heft, and absolutely nothing happens with it after I passed through the initial scents of  glue, acetone and sugar water, with maybe olive oil, faint petrol, some light flowers barely peeking around the curtain of the stage…and that’s it. One could sense the power behind all that, yet frustratingly, most of it was kept under wraps.  I should also mention this: there was surprisingly little sting or real heat on the nose, none of the potency one is led to expect from something brewed to this level of badass.  

Still, say what you will about the smell (or lack thereof), on the palate the rum was rough enough to make a zombie fear the apocalypse.  Even a small shot, the tiniest sip was a searing oily mass of heat and power on which you could possibly grill a good steak, causing lips to blister, and the tongue to shrivel up, and if you coughed, a thousand flies would die on the spot. On that level, all was as expected…but heat and savagery aside, it was something of a let down – again, there was so very little there.  No real complexity, no real taste such as makes a 60% CdI or Velier rum so amazing, just scraping clear sandpaper and moonshine. Rubber, more acetone, sugar and salt water.  No sweet undercurrent of anything: paint thinner, interspersed with (get this!) the faintest hint of bubble gum.  Cherry flavoured gum at that.

Given that the power was there but not the taste, I was forced to conclude that this rum didn’t get issued and it didn’t get released…it escaped before it was properly ready, and even the finish, long and heated as it was, offered little additional anything to make it perhaps worth a third or fourth look. It was like the elephant never really woke up and stabbed around with the tusks, y’know?  I have a feeling that it was aged a few months and then filtered but there is no evidence for that aside from my own tasting.

So, my recommendation is simply to save it for any mixed drink or cocktail that you feel like making to show off your bartending skills (logically, since no sane person would ever drink it neat), and to embarrass your less-endowed rum friends who bugle loudly about how they can hold their hooch.  They may say that in front  of their girls all they want, but serve them this and it’ll put them down for the count faster than Mike Tyson on a bad hair day.  And maybe that’s all such a rum can be used for, in spite of the high hopes I had for something a little more interesting, that would put its weaker overproof cousins to shame.  But I guess the independent bottlers still have bragging rights for those.

(69/100)

Nov 172016
 

rrl-2015

Not quite as good as the 2012…but damned close

#317

One of the genuine pleasures to be had in the field of rum reviews is the unstinting, generous assistance given by members of the subculture.  After I wrote about the Rhum Rhum Liberation 2010, Liberation 2012 and the amazing 2012 Integrale, a reader from Holland contacted me and offered to send along a sample of the 2015 Integrale, for no other reason than because he wanted to see how it stacked up against the others…and to my great good fortune, it arrived while I was still in Germany, and I was able to run all four past each other for a good comparative session.  So big hat tip and many thanks to Eddie K., and may his rum shelf never be empty of the good stuff.

Just to recap the basics for those who don’t want to wade through the other three reviews: all these Libération rhums stem from Bielle on Marie-Galante (Guadeloupe), and are part of a collaboration between Gianni Capovilla and Luca Gargano; cane juice derived, double distilled in small copper stills designed by Mr. Capovilla (built by Muller out of Germany), aged around six years in Sauternes white oak casks.  Need I say that there were no additives or filtrations of any kind here?  Probably not.

rhum-rhum-liberation-integrale-2015Tasting such a delectable rhum in tandem with its brothers really allows the profile to be taken apart in a way a more casual tasting probably wouldn’t.  Certainly it reaffirmed my initially high opinion of the 2012 Integrale, but you know, this 2015 version bottled at 58.4% ABV wasn’t half bad either.  Consider first the nose, which playfully started the party with light grassy notes and some rubber, as quickly gone as a strumpet’s smile. Then tree sap, some sweet-and-sour teriyaki sauce, a bit of brine, and then the caramel, burnt sugar, cheesecake, bananas and cherries were given their moment to shine, in a smell that was clear and clean and very crisp, nicely leavened by a creaminess which provided a rounded nose I quite liked.

And I savoured the taste of this thing – it was good and solid, hot and punchy, in a good way, with gradually unfolding flavours of flowers and vanillas plus honey (what is it with the Guadeloupe agricoles and that light honey taste?  It’s great). After opening up and with some water, I tasted chocolate, coffee, spices like cinnamon and cardamon, maybe nutmeg.  There was some vague bitterness of oak to be sensed, a slight imbalance, fortunately brief and soon supplanted by the tartness of apples and cider and brine.  Overall, very well rounded and remarkably drinkable, which is one reason that sample is now gone.  As for the fade, it was long, crisp, briny — no vagueness of tastes, none of that inconclusive mashed-up-porridge of a lesser rhum, but bright and clear, with black tea, more honey, fudge and a sprig of mint and a lovely tart fruitiness that resisted my attempts to pin it down.

It was close to the 2012 Libération for sure, maybe even a bit better…and if, as noted above, it wasn’t quite up to the level of the 2012 Integrale, I didn’t feel cheated or let down, since I have a feeling that such remarkable rhums are occasional visitors to our planet rather than regular inhabitants.  And in any case, the 2015 Integrale is a damned fine rhum by any standard, with many strong points and a very few weak ones, which any lover of agricoles would be glad to have. It’s good to see that in an era of commercial sameness by far too many old houses, it’s still possible to find some that don’t let anything like restraint or commonsense stand in their way, and just go ahead and push all their skill and art into making something that’s really very, very good.  When they were done with this one, I can almost imagine them standing around holding their tasting glasses, and all of them with silly grins of appreciation on their faces.  Much like mine, now that I think about it.

(87/100)

Nov 142016
 

Photo copyright (c) Henrik Kristoffersen of RumCorner.dk

Impossible to forget, traumatic to recall. 

#316

I don’t know why they bothered. This is three years’ additional ageing, pretty much wasted.  It’s Don Papa 7 version 2.0, and just about the whole experience is the same, except the raspberries from the younger variation, which are now dark grapes. Everything else – and I mean everything else, mouthfeel, taste, finish, smell, the works – remains the same, without even some additional oakiness or complexity to make the extra expense worth it.

All right, so by now it’s clear that I’m late to the party here and all the discussions and post mortems have been done on this industrial grade spiced Phillipine rum, which it doesn’t admit to being, but which I say it is. And while there was a firestorm of online vituperation which greeted the release of the rum, making you believe that the majority of the rumworld absolutely hates this thing, the truth is actually more prosaic. Reviewers hate the rum…but most casual imbibers at whom the Don Papa is aimed are actually quite tolerant of the rums they scarf down, and the amount of people in the world who truly want a more detailed sense what they’re drinking — or have access to and desire for what we term top class hooch —  is still a minimal part of the rumiverse in spite of all us bloggers’ doing our best to raise the bar.  But everyone agrees on one point: bad or good or in-between, the makers of the Don Papa should absolutely have disclosed its adulteration. Maybe they thought the age statement would allow them to skate around such petty concerns

If so, they were mistaken. Even bumping it up to 43% for some added bola ng bakal didn’t do much. It had the same nasal profile of sour cream, yogurt, some sweetish fruits, and over-generous helpings of vanilla, bubble gum and yes, there it was again, that distasteful excess of soda pop sprite and fanta and pepsi masquerading as “rumminess”. And no tart raspberries this time, but some dampened down dark grapes, overripe ones, plus a twist of licorice. Oh joy. My glass runneth over.

By now you should have few illusions left: the palate offered no redemption, leading any reasonable tippler to ask in genuine bewilderment, “What on earth was the rum doing for three additional years?” I mean sure, there was some bite and bitter in the mix (which initially gave me hope), just too little.  And the few aromas of peaches and cream were bludgeoned into insensibility in labba time by wave upon wave of more vanilla, soda pop, the syrup in canned peaches (minus the peaches), cola…it was all just too much, too sweet, too cloying, and with few discernible differences from its younger sibling, and a finish that was to all intents and purposes the best thing about it, because at least now the experience was drawing to a close.  

You know, if they had honestly called it a spiced or flavoured rum I would have nodded, smiled, passed it by and never bothered to write a thing. But they didn’t…and so I did too. And my evaluation is simply that Don Papa 10 is a hollow rum. Age or no age, it’s column still industrial spirit that’s been tarted up, where no such embellishment was required if they took some time and care and blending mastery to the task.  It takes its place proudly with the Whaler’s, Kraken and Pyrat’s XO and the AH Riise Navy 57% on the bottom of any reviewer’s shelf, and with good reason — it’ll get you drunk no problem, and at a reasonable price, but if you wake up the next morning wondering what camel voided its bowels in your mouth and why you have a tattoo of “Don Papa” on your left buttock in hieroglyphs, don’t come crying saying I and all the others didn’t warn you.

(61/100)

Other notes

It gives me no pleasure to write reviews like this.  Oh the words flow easily, the rum really isn’t worth it and I can stand by the opinion. I just don’t understand why, in this day and age, I should have to. We’ve been hearing for years how rum is in its new golden age.  So why would anyone who loves rum enough to actually make one, create something that is so clearly not?  In my more generous moments, I say it’s because they want to make what sells to the tippling masses and will do better as their skills improve; in my blacker moods, I think it’s a full-proof money grab adulterated with the cloying additive of indifference.

Compliments to Henrik of RumCorner, who provided both a large sample and the photo.

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