Jul 102018
 

Now that Americans can bring back Cuban booze without sanction, it’s likely that their rums will get a boost in sales, and if the Havana Club trademark war ever gets resolved – though I doubt it will happen any time soon – then we’ll see many more on the market.  However, at this period in time, over and above the big names from the island like Santiago de Cuba or Havana Club, to get seriously aged juice that’s really from Cuba, we still have to look primarily at the independents for now.

One of these is Kill Devil, named — as any rummie can tell you — after the old term for rum used in its infancy in the Caribbean many centuries ago.  Kill Devil is is the rum brand of the whiskey blender Hunter Laing, and they’ve been around since 1949 when Frederick Laing founded a whisky blending outfit in Glasgow.  In 2013, now run by descendants, the company created an umbrella organization called Hunter Laing & Co, which folded in all their various companies (like Edition Spirits and the Premier Bonding bottling company). As far as my research goes, the first rums they released to the market – unadulterated, usually at 46%, unfiltered – came in 2016, and they have issued releases from Barbados, Jamaica, Guadeloupe, Guyana, Fiji and this one from Cuba.  One imagines that they read the tea leaves and real.ized there was some money to be made in rums as well as whiskies, though by coming into the market so relatively late, they’re butting heads with a lot of other new entrants – good for us as consumers, for sure, perhaps not quite as rosy-cheeked for them.

As for Sancti Spiritus, this is a Cuban distillery also known as Paraiso, dating from 1946 (there is some dispute here – another source says 1944) that is located almost dead center in the island.  Much of what is known of their rums comes from independents like Compagnie des Indes, Cadenhead, Bristol Spirits, Secret Treasures, Samaroli, Duncan Taylor, Isla del Ron and Renegade, implying a substantial export market of bulk rum to Europe.  But they also make rums of their own under the Santero brand, like the Añejo Blanco, Carta Blanca 3 YO, Palma Superior, Añejo Ambarino, Añejo Reserva, Carta Oro 5YO, Añejo 7YO and Firewater (none of which I’ve tried, to my detriment). And I’ve heard it said they supply Havana Club as well, so there’s no shortage of places for anyone with an interest to get some.

Some brief stats, for the propellerheads like me: the single-cask rum here is from the above-noted distillery, coloured pale gold, distilled in 1999 and bottled in 2016, with 362 bottles released.  And it has a strength of 46%, similar to rums issued by Renegade and L’Esprit and others, keeping it within reach and tolerance of the greater rum drinking audience.

That may be, but it was still quite a forceful piece of work to smell, much more so than I was expecting, and would perhaps come as a surprise to those who are used to softer, milder Bacardis as “Cuban style” exemplars. Presenting rather dry and spicy – almost hot – it seemed to steer a course somewhere between a light molasses column still rum, and the grassier and more vegetal notes of an agricole…without actually leaning towards either one. It had a mix of cherries, peaches and tart soursop, unsweetened yoghurt, vanilla, oak, cinnamon, nutmeg, and a very faint line of citrus running through the whole thing. It felt somewhat schizophrenic, to be honest – both acidic (in a good way) as well as lightly creamy – and that made it intriguing to say the least.

As it was sipped, it became somewhat less creamy than the nose had intimated – “sprightly” might be a good word as any to describe it. It was quite clean in the mouth, tasting of green grapes, apples, cider, mixed up with something of the saliva-flooding crisp tartness of red currants, or lemons just starting to go off. What made it stand out was the background notes of light flowers,caramel, vanilla, bananas, ginnips, and wet dark brown sugar, plus those spices again, mostly cinnamon. The finish was also quite elegant, and left memories of light caramel and fudge, oakiness and vanilla, with a little citrus for bite. It lacked a certain roundness and smooth planing away of rough edges, but I suggest that’s a good thing – it made it its own rum rather than a milquetoast please-as-many-as-you-can commercial product you’ll forget tomorrow morning.

Overall, the rum shows that even with all our bitching about pot still rums being better and yet not represented often enough, there’s little that’s bad about a column still spirit when done right, and the Kill Devil is a good example.  Even though I don’t know at what strength it came off the line, I feel that whatever complexities seventeen years of ageing imparted managed to provide an end result that was quite a nice rum (Cuban or otherwise). Which likely demonstrates that if we want to have a good column still experience from a juice aged in continental climes, there are certainly candidates for your coin out there, and as long as you come to grips with its slightly odd personality, this is one of them.

(#527)(84/100)

May 052018
 
Enmore 1988 1

Photo (c) Barrel-Aged-Mind

Rumaniacs Review # 077 | 0508

The 1988 Enmore vintage has quite a lot of siblings from the same year: Berry Brothers, Bristol Spirits, Compagnie des Indes, the Whisky Agency, Rum Cask and Silver Seal have all issued rums from that year, with varying ages and qualities — some more and better, some less and less.  But all are variations on a theme, that of the Enmore wooden still from Guyana now housed at Diamond, and perhaps only rum geeks with their laser-like focus bother to get them all in an effort to write a dense analysis of the finest, most minute differences. This one is, to my mind, one of the better ones…even though it’s likely that this is not from the Enmore wooden coffey still, but the Versailles single wooden pot still (see other notes below).

Colour – Dark blonde

Strength – 51.9%

Nose – Yummy. Surprisingly light at first nosing, then develops some heft and complexity after a few minutes, so don’t rush into it. Coffee, petrol, wax notes at first, opening up into oak, fruits, anise, olives, prunes, dates and not-so-sweet fruits and molasses.  It’s deceptive, because at first it doesn’t seem like much, and then it just keeps coming and providing more and more aromas. Just because it starts quiet and unobtrusive sure doesn’t mean it ends up that way.

Palate – Coffee, oak, fruitiness, some toffee, wax and shoe polish open the show, as well as being briny and with olives galore plus a little bit of sour cream – these come out a little bit at a time and meld really well.  Lemon zest, coconut and background anise notes develop as it opens up (this is definitely one you want to take your time with).  It’s crisp and clear, skirting “thin” by a whisker, yet even so, satisfactorily rich, tart, creamy and flavourful.  There’s a even a wisp of molasses lurking in the background which is quite pleasant.  It’s warm, well-balanced, and pretty much under control the whole time.

Finish – 51.9% is a good strength: it allows the finish to go without hurry, as it heads for a creamy, briny, lemony and licorice-like exit, with perhaps some coffee grounds and bitter chocolate wrapping up the whole experience in a bow.

Thoughts – Two years ago I rated it 89 points in Paris.  This time around, trying it with a few other Enmores (including the DDL Rare First Batch Enmore 1993), I felt it remained an excellent product, even though it slipped just a little in the company it kept.  But just a smidgen, within the margin of error, and it remains a great exemplar of the wooden stills and the country that no-one would ever be ashamed to own, and to share.

(88/100)


Other Notes

  • The label states the rum derives from the Single Wooden Pot Still – but that’s not the Enmore (which is the “filing cabinet” shaped wooden coffey continuous still) but the Versailles.  Luca has confirmed elsewhere that it is Versailles (which means the label is a misprint), and I’ve been told that several of the 1988s share this confusion…which likely arose because while this still originated in Versailles, it was moved variously to Enmore and Uitvlugt, before finding its final home in Diamond (DDL Website)
  • The translation of the Italian on the back label notes that the rum is aged in Europe (continental).
Mar 192018
 

#498

By the time we get to the third Rare Collection rum issued by DDL to the market in early 2016, we have to move on from our preconceived notions of how these rums were issued: okay, so they booted Luca out and us rum junkies were pissed, but from a purely business perspective, perhaps we should have seen it coming.  And anyway, the world didn’t come to an end, did it? Life continued, taxes got paid, rums got drunk, and civilization endured. Time to move on. It was surely nothing personal, just business, caro amico.  Lo capisci, vero?

Which brings us to the Port Mourant 1999, which some say is a fifteen year old and I say is sixteen (just because of the years), bottled at ferocious 61.4% ABV, and deriving from the double wooden pot still which produces (along with the Enmore wooden Coffey still) what I think are the best Guyanese rums available. You’ll forgive me for mentioning that my hopes were high here. Especially since I never entirely got over my feeling that it cost too much, so for that price, I wanted it to be damned good.

For a sixteen year old (or fifteen, if others write-ups are to be taken) made from one of my favourite stills, I felt it was remarkably light and clear for a Port Mourant, and even this early in the assessment, dominated by the sharpness of tannins that had been left to go nuts by themselves for far too long. It was dry and leathery on the nose and, as for both the Enmore 1993 and particularly the Versailles 2002, my personal feeling was and remains that the oak had too much of an influence here – the rum equivalent of sucking on a lemon.  Fortunately, this calmed down after a while and allowed other aromas to be sensed: lemon peel, raisins, pears, black cherries, an olive or three, cloves, freshly sawn lumber, a little brine, and lastly those dense, solid anise and licorice notes that basically danced with the oak and took over the show from there on forwards.

The copper coloured rum was surprisingly citrus-forward when tasted, a little sweet and quite dry on the first sip.  Also musky, with leather and smoke and wooden tannins, very assertive, lots of oomph – it really needed some water to bring it back down to earth.  With that added, the fruitiness came to the fore – tart green apples, cherries, pears, red guavas, raisins, plus of course the solid notes of licorice.  It really was a bit too much though – too sharp and too tannic, and here I truly felt that it could have been toned down a shade and provided a better result.  The finish, though – long, warm, dry, redolent of licorice, hot black unsweetened tea and lighter fruity nuances – was quite good, for all of the concussive nature of what went before.

Looking at The PM 1999 in conjunction with the other two, I’d suggest this was not one of my all-time favourite expressions from the still…the ever-present oakiness was something of a downer, and the lack of real depth, that aridity and bite, kind of derailed the experience, in spite of the redeeming fruitiness and intense heat that normally would earn my favour.  I can’t entirely dismiss it as a lesser effort, or even a failure, because it isn’t, not really – too much still went right (the intensity gave as much as it took away). It’s just that if DDL wanted to own the Demeraras, they dropped the ball with this one.  Partly that’s because the Port Mourant and Enmore profiles are so well known and endlessly revisited by all and sundry, so deficiencies are more clearly (and more quickly) noted and argued over; and the real stars shine right from the get-go, and are known.  But for me it’s also partly because there’s better out there and in fine, I guess I just have to wait until the next releases come my way, because for its price, this is not one of the better PMs in the rumiverse. I wish it were otherwise, but it just isn’t.

(83/100)


Summing up the First Release of the Rare Collection

Overall, I think that DDL — in this First Release — captured the spirit of the Velier Demeraras quite well without entirely ascending to their quality.  Yet for all that qualification, against the indie competition they hold up well, and if they are batting against a behemoth, well, I call that teething pains.

Keep in mind that not all the Velier’s were stratospheric scorers like the UF30E, the Skeldon 1973 or the PM 1972 and PM 1974: there were variations in quality and assessment even for this company.  But perhaps more than any other currently fashionable independent bottler, or the ones that preceded it, Velier placed full proof Demeraras squarely on the map by issuing as many as they did, with many of them being singular deep dives into tiny Guyanese marques nobody else ever bothered with, like Blairmont, LBI, Albion. Which is not a niche I see DDL wanting to explore yet, to our detriment.

What this situation created for DDL was a conceptual competitor for their own single barrel or full proof rum lines like the Rares, which perhaps nobody could have lived up to right off the bat. Yet I submit that Serge’s glowing review of the VSG (90 points) and the FatRumPirate’s satisfaction with the Enmore (5 stars out of 5), as well as my own reviews of the three, gave DDL all the street cred it needed as an inheritor of the Demerara full proof lines. Say what you will, they’re good rums.  DDL has shown they can do it. Perhaps they’re lacking only the global mindshare to sell better, perhaps a more stringent quality review…and maybe for the halcyon memories of the Demeraras Velier made before to fade a little in people’s fond remembrances.

Reading around, it’s instructive to see how popular the El Dorado series is, with what genuine anticipation the Rares were awaited, even when prematurely announced.  People might have been miffed at DDL’s strategy and the relatively high prices, but they were willing to cut DDL a huge break…and for evidence of that, think about this: when was the last time you saw so many reviewers review all three of a new rums’ issue, all within months of them coming out? Aside from the current Foursquare and Velier releases, that was well-nigh unprecedented.

And if, as has been bruited about, the second release is better than the first, then while we may no longer be living in a Golden Age of full proof Demeraras, well, perhaps we’re living in a highly burnished Silver one which may with luck become aurus in its own good time. We can certainly hope that this will turn out to be the case.  In which case both DDL and the buying public will be well served.


Lastly, for some perspectives on the PM 1999 from the other writers out there: all the big guns have written about it by now so….

  • WhiskyFun scored it 82, remarking on its oak-forward nature
  • RumCorner felt it was only worth 79
  • Barrel Aged Mind rated it at 82, and called it “burned”, suggesting the use of charred casks may have been partly responsible.
  • The Fat Rum Pirate called it “a big flavourful menace” and gave it 3.5 stars out of 5
  • The RumShopBoy gave it 54/100, which could roughly equate to around 80-82 points on a Parker scale, and thought it could have been issued at a lower ABV.  He really didn’t like the price.
  • Cyril of DuRhum also weighed in with a dismissive 83 points, thinking that something was missing and it was bitter, with less balance.
Jan 302018
 

Rumaniacs Review #071 | 0484

As we proceed down memory lane with the aged Neisson rhums, the single cask expressions begin to take on greater prominence, displacing larger-volume blended outturns with more exactingly made products for the cognoscenti. These are expensive rhums, old rhums, not easily available, and are aimed at the upper slice of the market – the 1% of connoisseurs, I would suggest.  Ordinary drinkers who just like their rums without fuss or fanfare are not the target audience – these products are made for people who are deep into their variations, for the rhum equivalent of philatelists who don’t simply go for Martinique stamps, but specifically green stamps from the second half of 1926…that kind of thing.  Because Neisson has such a wide range of ages and millesimes, these minuscule variations are endlessly debated, discussed and noted, but one thing is clear – they’re are almost all quietly amazing.  This one is no exception.

Colour – Amber

Strength – 48%

Nose – If we lose the malaria medicine I didn’t really care for in the 1992 10 YO (R-068), what we have here is something similar: a lovely rich nose redolent with promise that for once, delivers on just about everything it suggests it has under its petticoats.  Sherry, caramel and red fruit notes lead in, raspberries for tartness, cherries for depth, followed up by apples and pears, herbal and watery and grassy all at once.  Some dates, grapes, light olives, but very little of the salty tequila background I’ve mentioned many times before; and what makes this stand out is that it presents old but simultaneously feels young and vibrant.

Palate – Thrumming and deeply vibrant rhum, one wonders how they wrung such depth out of a “mere” 48% – however, I’m not complaining. Dark and hot black tea.  Ripe apricots, overripe mangoes, honey, cherries, wound about and through with citrus peel.  Also some anise, coca cola (odd, but there you are).  Dill, sage, a flirt of mint, grass, a faint wine-y tone and yes, there’s a whiff of chocolate as well.

Finish – Reasonably long.  Sums up all the foregoing.  Mostly crisp herbal and citrus notes, leavened somewhat by fleshier fruits and just a touch of brine.

Thoughts – the charcteristics of hoary old age (in rum years) are neatly set off by a taste and feel that appears much younger, fresher, and the product as a whole is given character by a great melange of crisp tastes together with muskier, more solid tones.  It’s a considerable achievement by Neisson, and my only regret is that with such a limited outturn (290 bottles) and high price (€600 or so), it’s not likely to gain wide renown.  Perhaps that’s what the Rumaniacs are there for.

(87/100)


  • WhiskyFun took a gander at a bunch of Neissons a few months back in a multi-rum session, here….he scored this one at 90. All the Rumaniacs reviews of the Neissons will be posted here. Also, my good friend Laurent from one of my favourite (and most imaginatively named) of all rum sites “The Rhums of the Man with a Stroller”, gave it a French language, unscored review (part two of his two-parter) which is well worth a read.
Jan 242018
 

Rumaniacs Review #070 | 0482

The deeper one dives into the series of aged agricoles from Neisson, the more the similarities and differences become apparent.  They all have points of commonality which speak to the philosophy of the bottler as a whole, yet also aspects of uniqueness in the smaller, more detailed ways, which individual tastings done over long periods might not make clear.  Even the variations in strength create detours from the main road which only a comparison with a large sample set bring out.  What this particular series emphasizes, then, is that Neisson’s aged range is quite a notable achievement, because like exactingly chose independent bottlers’ single cask expressions, there’s hardly a dog to be found in the entire lineup, and one can pretty much buy any one of them and be assured of a damned fine rum.  As long as, of course, one’s tastes bend towards agricoles. Mine do, so on we go…

Colour – Amber

Strength – 43.6%

Nose – For an agricole, this is remarkably deep and flavourful, if initially somewhat round and indeterminate, because the aromas merge gently before separating again after some resting time.  It reminds me of the fruitiness of a cognac mixed up with notes of a good and robust red wine….plus (not unnaturally), the tequila and briny-olive-y profile for which Neisson is renowned. Further smells of sweet soya, rye bread and in the background lurk barely noticeable hints of vanilla ice cream and caramel.  Some oak in there, not enough to detract from anything, accompanied by bland fruits (bananas) and hazelnut chocolate. Plus some aromatic tobacco.

Palate – It always seems to be on the tasting that Neisson comes into its own — nosing is fun and informative, but sipping a rum is what it’s there for, right?  Starts watery and a bit sharp (odd, considering its low proof point), then settles down rapidly into a bright and crisp rum of uncommon quality. First, blackcurrants, black berries, blueberries, vanilla and caramel .  Then nuts, coffee, bitter chocolate and oak, tied up in a bow with licorice, Wrigley’s spearmint (very faint) and lemon zest. The successful balancing of all these seeming disparate components is really quite something.

Finish – Lingering, light and somehow quite distinct.  Some citrus here, caramel, a few dark fruits, and also some tart notes – sour cream and unripe mangoes in salt.  Unusual…yet it works. A good ending to a fine rhum.

Thoughts – it’s all a bit faint as a result of the low ABV, but assertive enough, complex enough, complete enough to make its own point.  This thing is almost the full package.  Aged rhum, well-known maison, complex tastes, terrific nose.  Hard to imagine it being beat easily, even by its brothers from the same maker. It is, but not easily, and I’ll save that for another quick review that’s coming up soon.

(86/100)


Other notes

  • 1000- bottle outturn These days this rhum costs upwards of €600…ouch.
  • Different label from the others we;ve looked at before…no idea why.
  • WhiskyFun took a gander at a bunch of Neissons a few months back in a multi-rum session, here….he scored this one at 90. All the Rumaniacs reviews of the Neissons will be posted here. Also, my good friend Laurent from one of my favourite (and most imaginatively named) of all rum sites “The Rhums of the Man with a Stroller”, gave it a French language, unscored review (part one of a two-parter) which is well worth a read.
Jan 182018
 
1993 RF mod

Photo credit (C) Reference Rhum

Rumaniacs Review #069 | 0480

These double-digit aged agricoles are joys to behold (we’re talking carafe or flagon styles with fancy stoppers here), look awesome on the shelf (put these on a faux-silver salver on the sideboard with a couple other and you could pretend you’re a closet billionaire when pouring it into an ersatz crystal glass that was once a peanut butter jar), and best of all, they taste awesome, whether in a glencairn, a cut crystal Lalique, or in that old Canadian standby, a screw top jar.  I know the middle aged agricoles of around 6-12 years or so grab all the highlights because of the intersection of price and quality, but man oh man, these old Neissons are quietly, unfussily amazing on a whole different level, in their own unique way. Here is another one, distilled in 1993 and bottled in 2012…which coincidentally was the year when I discovered a near-unknown Genoese company called Velier and went quietly nuts.

Colour – Amber gold

Strength – 46.3%

Nose – This is a smorgasbord of spices and flowers and fruits held in a sort of trembling tension that somehow balances off without allowing dominance by any one thing.  It starts musky with tumeric, cumin and paprika (honest!), before Neisson remember who they are and quickly add in the flowers, almonds, tequila, brine, olives and salt caramel ice cream.  And then rush to apologize by adding green grapes, oranges and some minty chocolates…and some stale tobacco.  And off nose, whose originality could not be faulted.

Palate – By the time we get to the tasting, the rum has settled down somewhat and is a little milder and less prone to heedlessly going off in all directions. Nice though, very nice. Caramel, more brine, tequila and olives (of course – it would hardly be a Neisson to me if those weren’t there), spices, tobacco, bitter chocolate, hot black tea.  Some oak and vanilla make themselves felt, well integrated into other tastes like pears, bananas, guavas and some citrus to balance it all off.

Finish – Medium long, buttery, warm, like a good creme brulee.  Coffee grounds, cumin, light fruits, tobacco, and that’s just about it.  I was sorry to see it go.

Thoughts – There’s some variation of quality and taste profile across these aged Neissons, but the core remains remarkably consistent.  It’s like a clothes horse upon which the garments keep changing but is itself always there to lend the support they need.  A lovely piece of work that honours the Neisson line and heritage.

(86/100)


WhiskyFun took a gander at a bunch of Neissons a few months back in a multi-rum session, here….he scored this one at 89. All the Rumaniacs reviews of the Neissons will be posted here. Also, my good friend Laurent from that most imaginatively named of all rum sites “The Rhums of the Man with a Stroller”, gave it a French language, unscored review which is well worth a read.

 

Jan 132018
 

Rumaniacs Review #068 | 0478

As I’ve observed before, agricoles come into their own at a younger age than the industrielles, so a very good one can always be found in the 5-10 year old range with minimal trawling, and they’re usually sub-50% ABV, which also allows them to find a greater audience…but to find rhums ten years old and older, and from the 1990s and earlier, now that takes a little more effort.  Rest assured, the search for such agricoles is often worth it, though for a handsome decanter like this one comes in — which perhaps says something for the esteem in which Neisson hold this edition —  you are going to be set back quite a pretty penny as well.

Colour – Amber Gold

Strength – 49.2%

Nose – Somewhat startlingly, the rhum opens with a medicinal, bitter, quinine aroma that’s quite unmistakeable (and after all the years I spent getting dosed with the stuff and getting malaria umpteen times nevertheless, I know whereof I speak) but thankfully it doesn’t last long and tart fruits, flowers, caramel, brine and light citrus emerge from hiding.  There’s a richness to the nose that’s impressive, adding coffee grounds, nuts and at the last some (unappreciated) camphor and light quinine notes.  Although I can’t say I was entirely won over by it, the sumptuousness of the nose can’t be gainsaid.

Palate – No bad, overall, with brine, olives pecans and caramel leading the charge, supported by medicinals I can’t say enthused me.  The tequila-ish Neisson profile is represented in fine style, with sweet held way back in reserve, to which is added herbs, dill, unripe green mangoes, bell peppers and a good miso soup with sweet soya and a dash of lemons.

Finish – Long and fragrant, really nice denouement. Lemons, licorice, more pecans (or was that salty cashew nuts?), some sweet, caramel, bitter chocolate and coffee grounds and tequila.  Absolutely no fault to be found here. A lovely piece of work.

Thoughts – A very crisp and almost definitive Neisson, with not a year of the ageing wasted.  Only the bitterness of the quinine mar the experience for me, which says a lot about how smells really can release  less pleasant memories sometimes, and these creep into one’s unconscious ideas of “good” and bad”.  Beyond that?  A lovely piece of work.

(84/100)


WhiskyFun took a gander at a bunch of Neissons a few months back (same as I’ll be doling out over the next weeks) in a multi-rum session, here….he scored this one at 92. All the Rumaniacs reviews of the Neissons will be posted here. Also, my good friend Laurent from that most imaginatively named of all rum sites “The Rhums of the Man with a Stroller”, gave it a French language, unscored review which is well worth a read.

Dec 232017
 

Photo (c) WhiskyAntique

Rumaniacs Review #066 | 0473

The Velier Albion 1983 bottled at standard strength shares space with others of the original Velier rum lineup bottled by Breitenstein such as the Enmore 1987 and LBI 1985; it comes complete with colorful box which was discontinued some years later, and in tasting it you can see, even from so far back, the ethos of the company’s founder start to shine through…but only faintly. Five casks of origin, no notes on tropical vs continental ageing or the final outturn, sorry.  I’d suggest that these days finding one of the original Velier bottlings from nearly twenty years ago is next to impossible, and probably at a price that negates any sense of value it might come with given the paltry ABV…but never mind.  Let’s try it, because I love the products of the First Age and history is what we’re after in the series anyway.

Colour – Amber-gold

Strength – 40%

Nose – A nose like this makes me gnash my teeth and wish better records had been kept of the various stills that were moved, swapped, cannibalized, dismantled, repaired, tossed around and trashed in Guyana’s long and storied rum history. Maybe a Savalle still or some now disappeared columnar still — certainly not one of the wooden ones. It was a rich, deep Demerara rum kinda smell, presenting with admirable force and clarity even at 40% – butterscotch, a little licorice, nuts, molasses, molasses coated brown sugar. To which, some patience and further snooting will add flowers, squash, pears, cumin and orange peel.  Oh, and also some brine and red grapes topped with whipped cream.  Yummy.

Palate – Very soft and restrained, no surprise.  Some of the nasal complexity seems to fade away … but not as much as I feared. Blancmage, creme brulee, vanilla, caramel toffee, brown bread and herbal cream cheese.  Leather and some earthier, muskier tones come forward, bound together by rich brown sugar and molasses, white chocolate and coffee grounds. There’s a little citrus, but dark-red grapes, raisins, prunes and blueberries carry off the Fruit Cup.

Finish – Surprisingly, unexpectedly robust and long lived.  The closing aromas of deep dark grapes, burnt sugar, light citrus, licorice, molasses and caramel is not dazzlingly complex, simply delicious and doesn’t try to do too much

Thoughts – A very good forty percenter which showcases what even that strength can accomplish with some imagination and skill; observe the difference between a Doorly’s XO or 12 YO and something like this and you will understand my whinging bout the former’s lack of profile.  There’s just so much more going on here and all of it is enjoyable.  There’s a 45.7% 25 year old version issued (also from 2003) which I’m dying to try — and of course, the masterful 1986 25 Year Old (R-013) and 1994 17 Year Old, which kicked off my love affair with Veliers — but no matter which one you end up sourcing by bottle or sample, I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.

(86/100)


Link to other Rumaniacs’ reviews will be posted later….

Sep 062017
 

#386

Let’s be honest – 2017 is the year of FourSquare.  No other company since Velier’s post-2012 explosion on the popular rum scene, has had remotely like this kind of impact, and if you doubt that, just swim around the sea of social media and see how many references there are to Triptych and Criterion in the last six months.  Which is admittedly an odd way to begin a review of a competing product, but I wanted to mention that for all the (deservedly) amazing press surrounding the latest hot juice in the rumiverse, there remain equally solid names as well, who may not be as glitzy but have great products nevertheless, reliably issued year in and year out.

One of these is Rum Nation, which remains — after all the years since I first came across them in 2011 — among my favourites of all the independents. Their entry level rums, which usually sell for under a hundred dollars, are relatively standard proofed and are pretty good rums for those now getting into something different from mass-produced “country-brands” (even though they suffer from the dosage opprobrium that also on occasion sullies Plantation’s street cred). And because they are made from several barrels, usually have outturn in the thousands of bottles so there’s always some left to buy.  But the real gems of the Rum Nation line are — and always have been — the Jamaican Supreme Lord series, and the aged Demeraras, all over twenty years old, and all bottled at an approachable strength of under 50% (dosing remains a fierce bone of contention here and is somewhat inconsistent across the line).  At least, they were at that strength, because Rum Nation, never being content to rest on their laurels, decided to go a step further.

In 2016, bowing to the emerging trend for cask strength, Rum Nation introduced the small batch “Rare Rums”.  These are much more limited editions of rums north of 50% and so far hail from Jamaica (Hampden), Reunion (Savannna) and Guyana (Enmore, Diamond and Port Mourant) – they are much closer to the ethos of Samaroli, Silver Seal, Ekte, Compagnie des Indes Danish and Cask Strength series, and, of course, the Veliers.

This also makes them somewhat more pricey, but I argue that they are worth it, and if you doubt that, just follow me through the tasting of the 57.4% 2016 Batch #2 Port Mourant, which started off with a nose of uncommonly civilized behavior (for a PM) – in a word, arresting.  With a spicy initial attack, it developed fleshy fruit, anise, licorice, spicy to a fault, adding prunes, plums, yellow mangoes, deep deep caramel and molasses, more licorice…frankly, it didn’t seem to want to stop, and throughout the exercise.I could only nod appreciatively and almost, but not quite, hurried on to taste the thing.

I am pleased to report that there were no shortcomings here either. It was warm, breathy and rich.  It may have come up in past scribblings that I’m somewhat of an unredeemed coffee-swilling chocaholic, and this satisfied my cravings as might a well-appointed Haagen-Dasz store: dark unsweetened chocolate, a strong latte, caramel, anise and burnt sugar, which was followed – after a touch of water – by dark fruit, raisins, figs and a touch of salt and bite and harshness, just enough to add character.  I was curious and wondered if it had been tarted up a mite, but honestly, whether yes or no, I didn’t care – the rum was still excellent. Rum Nation took two casks and wrung 816 bottles out of them, and I can assure you that not a drop was wasted, and even the finish – long, warm, breathy, piling on more chocolate and creme brulee to a few additional dark fruits – was something to savour.

This rum (and the Small Batch Rare Collection 1995 21 year old I tried alongside it)  exemplifies what I like about RN.  Honestly, I don’t know how Fabio Rossi does it.  Back to back, he issued two rums which were years apart in age, and their quality was so distinct, they were so well done, that I scored them both almost the same even though they were, on closer and subsequent inspection, appreciably different sprigs from the same rum branch.  No, it’s not the best PM ever (or even from RN itself), and is eclipsed by its own brother issued in the same year…but it’s a variant in quality not many other makers could have put out the door.  It’s a rum that is quite an experience to drink, and if I like the 21 better, well, it’s only a quarter-second, half a nose and a single point behind…and that’s no failure in my book.  Not by a long shot.

(89/100)

Aug 312017
 

#385

Perhaps it would be better to start with the straightforward tasting, lest my snark bend your mind were I to lead in with the commentary instead of finishing with it. The Mombacho 1989 Central American rum does, admittedly, boast and flourish some impressive chops on the label: 19 year old rum (1989-2008), finishing for the final two years in armagnac casks, reasonable strength of 43% (I said ‘reasonable’, not ‘outstanding’). Looking at other bottles of their range it seems within the bounds of reason to assume it’s from Nicaragua, though the ‘Central American’ noted on the label might suggest a blending with other rums from the region.

The nose is quite good for something I feared would be rather thin: unsweetened chocolate and coffee, some dark fruit – nothing as deep and brooding as a good Demerara, mind, but nevertheless, there’s a kind of muskiness to the aromas that worked well.  Baked apples and a sort of cereal background, something like nice blueberry tart – I assume that was the armagnac finish lending its influence – with an ashy background to the whole thing.

Tastewise, also nothing to sneeze at, with a rich red wine taking the lead, plus prunes, apricots, stewed apples and burnt sugar. In its own way, it felt a little over-rich so maybe something was added?  I tried it in conjunction with the Compagnie des Indes 17 year old and the Blackadder Raw Cask 12 year old (both from Nicaragua) and it is in the comparison that I got the impression that either it was doctored a mite, or the finishing was simply too dominant.  With water additional flavours of honey, vanilla, cereal and tobacco could be discerned, plus licorice and some oakiness, and overall it had a nice rounded feel to it.  Even the finish had that balanced quality to it, though quite short – cherries, peaches, prunes, anise, gone too quickly.  

It was said to be the best rum in the world in 2008, but I’ll tell you frankly, when I read that I just smiled, shrugged and moved on – it was good, but not that good.  Not bottom shelf by any means…and not top shelf either. Let’s put it somewhere in the middle.

(83/100)


Opinion (you can ignore this section)

So what to make of a rum that is purported to be nineteen years old, yet whose provenance is shrouded in mystery?  Mombacho is a rum brand which has a website and a Facebook page (among others) that are masterpieces of uninformative marketing.  About all you get from these sources (and others) is the following:

  • They issue aged bourbon-barrel-aged expressions with fancy finishes
  • This rum is named after a volcano in Nicaragua
  • It’s distributed in Europe by an Italian company named F&G SRL out of Torino.
  • There used to be a moonshine distillery on the slopes of that volcano (the whole area is now a nature preserve) selling a rum called Mombachito
  • The rums in the brand’s lineup are variously aged from 8 to 21 years.
  • Some of the rums from Mombacho are called “Nicaraguan” and others “Central American”.

My personal assumptions are as follows: I believe this is a Flor de Cana based rum. The taste profile, and the absence of any concrete contact info of the producing distillery, if there is one, points to this (some online webpages speak to a distillery, never named, never located). I think it has been bought aged as is from FdC (they laid in a lot of stock in the 1980s as a hedge against hyperinflation and political problems, so the assumption is reasonable), and the rebottler/blender, whoever they are, aged it a further while in the armagnac casks for the finish.  Some blending of barrels is highly likely, because any limited outturn would have the number of issued bottles proudly displayed as well.

Everything else I found in my research is glitzy pictures and self-promoting blah of zero interest to the diligent, curious rumhound. Even on the large Facebook rum clubs where an occasional mention can be found, about all you’re walking away with is that some people got one of the rums from the brand, but without details or facts of any kind on the brand itself. It’s been a long time since I’ve seen such an informational black hole

This enormous lack of background material does not make me a happy camper.  I can’t trust a company which has no information behind it, therefore I can’t trust the provenance, so I can’t trust the age, it throws suspicions onto the entire label,  and with all these doubts, it inevitably leads to suspicions that the price I paid (€120) was excessive for what was on show.  I honestly don’t care if the makers are marketing tyros or business neophytes or freshie rum dilettantes – more should have been provided, even back in 2008.

This is where honesty in labelling becomes so very important.  If this was a thirty-dollar rum, I would not worry overmuch about it, but for three figures it begs some questions.  And when none of this is readily available, it devalues every other statement made in the marketing literature, or the bottle label itself.  If anything positive emerges from this tirade, it is that it shows what is demanded in 2017 for any rum on the market nowadays. I doubt a new entrant to the field could get away with what Mombacho did nearly ten years ago, and the 28 year old Panamanian Arome may be the proof.

So yes, it’s a decent rum, and no, I wouldn’t buy it again.  Not because it doesn’t have some quality, but because I rarely spend that kind of money more than once on a no-name brand with little but air behind it.

Other notes

I sent out a note to many of my rum swilling friends….none of them could tell me anything about the company.  Mombacho’s FB page has so far declined to respond to my message asking for further info, an the mombacho.eu website was similarly unhelpful.  But, if I do get some feedback, I’ll update this post.