Mar 272013
 

 

A better than expected, overproof: smoother, tastier, more engaging.  Should be tried neat before you bastardize it with a mix, ’cause it may just surprise you too.

(#109. 56/100)

***

Yeah. Smell that sucker. That whap you feel in your schnozz is a hundred proof hitting you in da face. This is a rum which indulges in a level of unapologetic phallocentrism that would make Ron Jeremy weep with envy This is what they would serve in Buxton’s Tipperary Hall to my squaddies Biggers and Evan, if they could ever get it. I mean, a hundred proof, wow – sure, his is a rum that only now approaches where cask strength whiskies have been for years, but I can tell you, somewhere out there a tractor is feeling inadequate.

Cabot Tower Demerara Rum, made by the Newfoundland & Labrador Liquor Corporation (who I believe are also behind the Young’s Old Sam and a few other bottom feeders I enjoy) is named after a tower in St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador, situated on Signal Hill (from where Marconi received the first wireless signal from Cornwall, back in 1901). Construction of tower begun in 1898 to commemorate the 400th anniversary of John Cabot’s discovery of Newfoundland, and Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee.  The rum itself uses Demerara rum imported from Guyana, blesses it with druids and then distils it to a yummy cask strength 57.5%. That to many would make it an instant mixing agent, I suppose, but I’ve been on a bit of a cask strength and overproof kick for a while, so indulge me while I urge you to take a second taste.

Nose? Well, it’s certainly more enjoyable than many of the 151 overproofs I review, and the case could be made that when it comes to man-sized rums this one is right up there. Deep, heavy and powerful, yet lacking in serious bite and sting…quite mellow in its own way, hinting of burnt sugar, molasses, caramel, honey, vanilla, with perhaps some chocolate at the back end: and an odd mustiness, like truffles Soft and sweet…not at all the vicious claws one would expect from something this (relatively) strong.

Claws there were indeed, of course, once I actually sipped this bad boy. The body on the Cabot Tower was like an agile baby hippo…heavy, spirited and playful, and also cleaner and clearer than the dark colour and heavy nose might lead you to expect. Dry, a shade sere and not that sweet after all: the vanilla and chocolate take a back seat and I simply noted a spicy sort of brown sugar with some oak making itself felt as well. The fade was excellent, mind, as a result of the extra alcohol (and some nice zesty licorice notes), and I must tell you, after stuffing myself at a neighborhood restaurant that evening, this rum carved its way down and was an excellent way to aid my digestion. Damn right you can drink it neat. It really is a pretty good rum in and of itself.

People kind enough to read past reviews posted here know of my sneaking admiration for the Newfie products, and that’s not just because one of my best friends hails from there: Young’s Old Sam and Newfoundland Screech both received nice reviews from me, irrespective of their relatively lacking pedigree (a St Nicholas Abbey 12 year old they are not). I just wish I could find out more about it, because even the NLLC website says nothing about methods of distillation, age or blending, let alone what barrels, if any, they were aged in (sure I can say American whisky barrels, because aren’t they always? …but that just seems like a cheat somehow). Kind of annoying.

Summing up, I liked Cabot Cove rum.  A lot. It somehow managed to overcome the cask strength curse that too often attends overproofs where the only thing you feel is bite, and came up with an impressive marriage of puissance and profile (I wanted to use the word “puissance” just once in my writing, so here you are). I spent almost half my life in the Caribbean, and some of my love for dark rums comes from that experience. Sipping this thoroughly cheerful dark red rum which makes no apologies for being what it is and succeeds beyond expectations, all I can say in my own uninspired way is God bless Newfoundland, praise Jah for rums…and thank the Good Lord for Guyana.

A:5/10 N:16/25 T:15/25 F:11/25 I:9/15 TOT: 56/100

 

 

 Posted by on March 27, 2013 at 5:57 pm
Mar 272013
 

This review was posted first on RumConnection in two parts in May 2012.  Thanks to Mike Streeter who lends his site to such occasional contributions that exceed his normal article length.

***

My own, slightly edited (and scored) review which corrected some minor issues and changed the wording a bit, is below.  Suffice to say, this is one of those overproofs I really enjoyed.  I tried it by itself to write the review, but it’s as a mixer and base that this strong, dark Demerara rum really shines.

(#107. 49/100)

*

It’s big, it’s bad, and it’s tougher than a Brickdam jailbird’s meat ration. It’s 75.5% of tonsil-tearing muscle, a dark brown rum hurricane, and among the meanest, strongest rums available anywhere. Lemon Hart 151 stomps up to you (and maybe over you), casts you a mean, cold-eyed glare, and mutters into your traumatized corpus, “Fear me. Respect me. Honour my eye-watering awesomeness.” In the annals of badassery, this rum will always be one of Sweet Sweetback’s baddest songs.

Overproof rums are a rather astonishing display of rum-on-human violence, and the only drinks I can come up with where participants run the risk of traumatic injury every time they try some — to my knowledge, only industrial ethanol, Brazilian alcool or Stroh 80 can claim higher alcohol levels. Yet they have their adherents (I am one of them). Yes, you can get drunk faster on ‘em, and yes, they make great cocktails, and yes, for those in penury how can they be beat? – but then they exist on a level beyond that, at a point in space and time where you find ultra-marathoners, HALO parachute jumpers and all those nutso A-types who actually enjoy taking a badass risk every time they try whatever it is they try. This rum is absolutely made for such people. Like any massively overproof rum, it is for the taster an equal mixture of pleasure and pain. Few are the surviving drinkers who do not bend a trembling knee after the fact in a showy, post-trauma, did-I-actually-drink-this? thank-you-Jesus-for-letting-me-live piety. Yet, is it bad for all that? I suggest not.

Coming at me, it sat on my table, dark, squat, ugly with brooding menace and the promise of violence in its dark brown-red stare. In trying it, I didn’t waste my time making nice or taking a sniff immediately, because overproofs usually have enough raw alcohol to stun an ox into catatonia; instead, I let the vapours burn off and the concentrated flavours settle. What I got for my trouble was the spiritous equivalent of a weaponized flatus on steroids – it certainly punched like it. Damn but this was strong. A shade muskier than I would have expected. Chopped fruit…oh, prunes, maybe Christmas black cake. My Aunt Sheila used to make cake that smelled like that, back in Guyana.

In the spirit of reviewing rums, I must confess to a certain masochistic pride at being able to drink any rum, no matter how foul or how strong (I can just see one of my whisky loving bête noires snickering “Isn’t that all of them?“). In this case, I’m glad I did, because the taste of the Lemon Hart isn’t half bad at all for such a hellishly potent overproof. Oh sure, it’s as raw as sandpaper on the palate, and I’d never tell you it was a sipper’s onanistic must-have…but there’s more taste there than you might expect, stronger, more intense. That’s what makes it work: I got a spicy molasses darkness mixed up with burnt brown sugar, bananas, liquorice (again), baking spices, and just a sly hint of cinnamon. That last is reaching, though. Lemon Hart 151 is plain-simple, powerfully constructed and straightforward dy-no-mite, and I should not pretend it’s some kind of top end table tipple.

As for the finish, well, I run out of ways to describe it in flowery language, so, to be blunt: raw and harsh and had fumes like a porknocker’s searing effluent…made my eyes water, my throat cringe and my sphincter oscillate. To be fair, even through all that there were weak hints of brown sugar and cloves that cried to their mommies (the cask strength whiskies), as they attempted to emerge through the carving heat of the alcohol, so all was not lost. It’s a mixer for sure, yet surprises are in store for the persistent and slightly deranged who stick with it.

The base liquor for Lemon Hart 151 is made in Guyana (which immediately means DDL) and bottled by Canada’s Newfoundland Liquor Corporation, which also makes the Young’s Old Sam and the Cabot Town 100 proof Demerara, both heavy, dark molasses-snorting rums that pride themselves in not catering to a connoisseur’s sophistication, and for both of which I have a sneaking affection. Previously Pernod-Ricard had owned the marque before selling it on to a privately held concern, Mosaiq, in 2010, and Lemon Hart does indeed have quite a pedigree….it was itself first marketed in 1804 by Mr. Lehmynn Hart as the rum of choice for Royal Navy when he created the Lemon Hart company in that year, having moved the business he started in the late 1700s from Cornwall to London. Whether they market it as such or not, in the darkness and strength of the current product, you can still see the whispers of that old maritime tradition. (I’ll leave it to you to decide whether Pusser’s, Lamb’s, Favell’s, or Lemon Hart has the right to the crown of “Navy Rum”.)

I remarked once that overproof rums are getting to the stage that they can seriously be considered drinks in their own right as opposed to seeing them as only Tanti Merle’s black cake ingredients or mixologists’ wet dreams. Unfortunately, like single digit rums or popular blends, they labour under a cloud of perceptive disapproval, often thought of as no more than poor student’s tipples or backdam stand-bys for the bushmen I used to drink with in my youth. I mean, can you honestly see a guy who waxes rhapsodic over the English Harbour 25 year old buy one of these bad boys? Lemon Hart 151 for sure has little couth, zero class, laughs at complexity, and does not give a good goddamn about any of that (or your tonsils, so be warned). What it cares about is giving you a concentrated burst of simple, powerful flavours wrapped up in a sheet of such stunning white lightning that, when your DNA settles back from being devolved and you can speak coherently again, you actually can consider the rum as being…well…kinda good.

Addendum: this is the reissued Lemon Hart 151 which only started to hit shelves in the last year or so and lacks the 1.5% Canadian rum the previous iteration had…it’s not the original rum people may be more familar with, which did have that inclusion.

 

A:5/10 N:13/25 T:11/25 F:11/25 I:9/15 TOT: 49/100

 

 

 

 

 Posted by on March 27, 2013 at 5:55 pm
Mar 262013
 

 

***

Big, stompin’ rum maybe meant to be a mixed-drinks base but really good neat. Definitely helpful for getting loaded when dollars are tight; interesting when mixed in any number of cocktails. Feeling lonesome in some cold winter clime and miss the Ole Country? This will cure what ails you.

First posted 29 January 2012 on Liquorature. 

(#92. 61/100)

***

I don’t always get top end rums like Barbancourt’s Estate Reserve 15 year old to try, and often, I don’t even want to try them. Sometimes, like most people who’ve had a hard week, I just kick back with a glass of hooch that makes no pretensions to grandeur, pour it, mix it and glug it, and like the fact that it’s just there to make me feel better. Myer’s Planter’s Punch Dark Rum falls squarely into that category, and joins – maybe exceeds – fellow palate-deadeners like Young’s Old SamBacardi BlackCoruba or Potter’s at the tavern bar. These are single digit rums or blends, meant for mixing (cowards cut them with whisky) and for my money, they’re all sweaty rums for the proles, displaying a remarkable lack of couth and subtlety – I appreciate them for precisely that reason.

Pour a shot of the stuff and you’ll see where I’m coming from: Myer’s is a dark brown-red, oily rum quite distinct from Appleton’s lighter coloured offerings, and the scents of molasses, liquorice, nutmeg and dried fruit don’t merely waft out onto your nose – they gobsmack your face off. Once you stop crying like a little kid at the neighborhood bully or staring at your glass in wonder, I imagine you might try to recover your dignity, and observe how you can detect caramel, vanilla, perhaps a bit of nutmeg, coconut, citrus. Quite encouraging for something so cheap (less than $25).

The tromping arrival of unleavened flavour square-dancing across your tongue is perhaps the main selling point of a rum like Myer’s. What is lost in subtlety is made up for by stampeding mastodons of a few distinct profiles that actually mesh quite well: caramel, coconut shavings, molasses, fruit, burnt sugar with maybe some orange peel and baking spices thrown in. There’s a weird butteriness in the taste somewhere… maybe from the ageing? Overall, I wish I knew for sure whether they augmented the profile – as I think they have – with any additives: a rum this cheap is unlikely to be this interesting merely on the skill of a blender (if it was, it wouldn’t be so cheap). And there’s a fade here, boys and girls, but it’s strong – more like the exit of a gentleman bank robber discretely blasting away with his gat than the soft silken swish of something more polished. And it’s long, very pleasant – this is a rum which could easily be stronger and still be good.

Mix Myer’s Dark Rum in a Planter’s Punch, in a dark-rum cocktail (feel free to consult Tiare’s excellent site a mountain of crushed ice or any tiki site for ideas) or just mess with the old stand-bys, and the few weak points of the drink as a neat drink are smoothened out and it becomes an excellent base for whatever you feel like making. I’m reviewing it as a sipper, as I must, but this should not discourage you from trying other variations.

Canadian rum…is there such a thing?

Myer’s Dark Rum is hardly an unknown, of course, having been a staple of the cocktail makers’ bars the world over for decades: It was indeed made specifically to address the popularity of Planter’s Punch (which could be equally said to originate in a recipe dated 1908, or in a Charlestonian doggerel from 1878 depending on who you ask). The company founded by Fred Myer in 1879 is now owned by Diageo, and they continue to blend nine rums out of Jamaica at the southern distillery of Monymusk (the plantations of origin are more secret than Colonel Sanders’s recipe) into the drink that we know today. Monymusk, as you may recall, also makes the middling Royal Jamaican Gold rum, which isn’t anywhere near as fun as Myer’s. Aside from calling it the “Planter’s Punch” variation, it is supposedly the same as that first produced in 1879, made from Jamaican molasses, and a combination of distillates of both pot and column stills, then aged for four years in white oak barrels. I’ll also note that my bottle clearly states Myer’s is a blend of Jamaican and Canadian rums, at which I immediately sneer and say…well, “Bulls..t”, not the least because after years of crisscrossing the country in my beater, I still haven’t found a single sugar plantation and therefore I somehow doubt Canada has a rum of its own.

I have to be careful in assigning a rating to Myer’s. It’s not quite a sipper (damned close, though), but some of my review must address the sheer enjoyment I get out of it both as such, and in a proper mix – and even if it *is* added to. Like Young’s Old Sam, it exists in a somewhat less hallowed underworld of rums embraced by bartenders and not so much by connoisseurs, and which some believe must be braved only with fireproofed throat and iron-lined stomach for the crazies who drink it neat. It’s strong, powerful tasting, heavy on a few clear flavours – and doesn’t so much whisper its antecedents as bellow out the sea shanties. It may not be the coolest rum you’ve ever had, or the smoothest, but by God, when you’ve tasted this thing you know you’ve just had a *rum*.

 

A:6/10 N:18/25 T:16/25 F:12/25 I:9/15 TOT: 61/100

 Posted by on March 26, 2013 at 12:05 pm
Mar 262013
 

A dark navy rum that starts slow and nasty and evolves into a most amazingly flavourful product, and which can even be tolerated by the masochistic as a drink to sip on its own.

First posted 23rd November 2011 on Liquorature

(#087. 51/100)

***

Honesty forces me to confess that the only reason I bought this rum was because Keenan and I had had it in local pub on a wing night and we couldn’t believe what a powerful deep-tasting mixer it made. Seeing it the other day in a shop, I snapped it up, and I have to tell you, for less than $30, you could do worse than try this pretender to the Navy rum throne. Too bad The Bear had bailed for booze-regulated eastern climes by then. I comfort myself by snidely noting his pickings are now as slim as a frog hair split four ways and sanded smooth.

There is something uniquely and even amusingly provincial – nay, Canadian – about Potter’s. The label, which tongue in cheek informs you that if you are reading it, you probably aren’t on a tropical beach (try finding that on a product made in the US); the bottle; the unassuming nature of it all. Okay, enough snickering (yeah yeah, I can see you there in the front row, fella) – I know it has a chintzy kind of faux-70’s bottle design – much like the Alberta Premium – but how can one not help but smile at the sheer chutzpah of makers who can so insouciantly flip us all the bird?

In the glass, Potter’s is copper bronze, almost red (pretty cool, that), with middling thin legs hesitantly draining down the sides. Wafts of molasses and brown sugar were immediately in evidence even before I put my beak into it, and at that point I have to tell you flat out – the initial nose may be the single worst reek since the Bundie (or, for the generous among you, the most distinctive). Plastic, plasticine, playdo and sickly sweet grape esters leapt out at me and sought to crush my sense of smell with a mass attack – I felt like my nose just harpooned a steam locomotive. Molasses, burnt sugar and some vanilla tried vainly to get out from under that crushing stench, but were mercilessly clubbed to the ground.

So pretty bad, right?

Not at all. That’s the crazy thing. Potter’s opened up like a shy bodybuilder, and after the initial bludgeon relaxed, it was actually quite good – one kind of was able to pick out the individual scents (not without effort, admittedly), and while it’ll never be on my list of alltime favourites, it wasn’t all bad. Liquorice, molasses and burning canefields all coiled around the core smells of burnt sugar, and Potter’s made no attempt to be coy or complex – what you nosed was exactly what you got, and nothing more (contrast that against the Pusser’s 15, which had hidden treasures under them tights).

And tastewise, oh man – what the hell did Potters do here? The rum is stupid good – no cheapass rum should have such a strong delivery, be this bold, or this distinctive. Dark, smoky, heavy, like the best Navy rums, or el Dorado 5 yr old, better than Lamb’s Navy, or  Coruba by a sea mile, and as good or better than Young’s Old Sam’s.  I tasted liquorice, tobacco and molasses, heavy and smoky on the tongue, with leather, pipe tobacco and perhaps a touch of dried grapes (my six year old son took a sniff and disdainfully remarked “blue cheese” before walking off with his pocketmoney, but he has a point – there is some kind of well aged rindy cheese in there too). Dry and uncompromisingly sere, not too sweet (but not too much in the opposite direction either), and quite smooth for such a seemingly unaged product. And the fade is also good – dry, deep burn down your throat, not bitchy, just slow and powerful – it lacks the sophistication of the Pusser’s 15 yr old, but guys, it ain’t far off, and it costs less. In short, this rum is, in my opinion, an unheralded mid-ranger punching well above its seemingly low-class antecedents – it’s like an accountant who strips off his tie and becomes, oh, I dunno, Superman’s poor doofus cousin. About the only thing I wish I knew was whether they had added anything to enhance the flavour profile.

So who is Potters made by? By the same outfit that makes the utterly forgettable Momento rum I so dissed not too long ago – Highwood Distillers out of Alberta. I didn’t think that the Momento cut it, and said so, but thankfully I didn’t just dismiss the whole distillery out of hand. After tasting this rum, about which not much is said on their website (actually, they just reprinted the blurb on the label), I am happy to report that if they were to branch out into aged rums, perhaps, they might really have something going here. Certainly as navy rums go, I have some fault and much praise to find in the product, because it appeals to all my basic desires in a rum – I don’t have to filet the thing, dissect it into ten different components – it is a straightforward, strong and unapologetic product made for simpler times, and simpler people than we have become.

Now, all things considered, I think Potter’s has a shade too much sulphur and is a bit too feinty to be classed as a good sipper (don’t let that stop you if you’re of a mind – it ain’t half bad that way); something about that background muskiness and cloying nature of it puts me off. And even the label suggests it isn’t one, and I may be one of the few who can stomach it as such given the initial reek (it’ll batter most others into catatonia). As a mixer, though…wow. Rounds out a coke or ginger ale just fine. I could drink it with a cola or as a cocktail base all night long, and all I could think of as I tasted it that night, was that I wish my friend had been with me, and that he hadn’t left to take up a job elsewhere. This rum was made for a guy like him, and in fact, it was a rum like him – outwardly simple, deceptively unpretentious, effective, unforgettable, humourous, powerful and the best essence of all that is north of forty nine.

 

A:8/10 N:14/25 T:15/25 F:11/25 I:3/15 TOT: 51/100

 

 

 Posted by on March 26, 2013 at 11:27 am
Mar 262013
 
http://www.highwood-distillers.com

First posted 01 October 2011 on Liquorature

A strange rum from Alberta’s Highwood Distillery, Momento is aimed at the high end market without having the cojones to put its quality where its marketing leads it.  It’s clean texture and originality of make are its best features, but I can’t say it really works for me.

(#079. 43/100)

***

There are some cases where a distillery looking to go in a different direction begets some kind of bratty, youthful rum that dances on your tonsils and tries out its chubby biceps on your palate. Bruichladdich comes to mind, or the reblenders and rebranders like Gordon & MacPhail and A.D Rattray (whisky makers all, I sigh). Remember the Caroni 13 year old, the Renegade line, or even (bow head here) the Longpond 1941? Rums like those made you laugh with pleasure, and walk out the store clutching your prizes, with a cape, red boots and big friggin’ “S” stamped on your chest.

Highland Distillers, alas, does not make the cut with this insouciant Momento rum. It aspires to the heights without trying to scale them, and yet, my inquiries with the company brought forth the comment that they really were aiming for the premium segment of the market. Take my word for it: this is not premium. Nice, inoffensive, original, different. But not top of the line by a long shot.

I must concede I liked the appearance of the bottle, with its transparent label and fancy lettering: there is a spartan simplicity to it which I appreciated. Long slender bottle, enveloping a clear, straw yellow rum topped off with a white cork. If nothing else, that certainly is pretty good.

My disappointment started with the nose. It was a sharp skewer though the schnozz, a cannibal’s bone through the septum, redolent of chemicals and paint thinner. Pungent, thin and grassy…almost like fresh hay. It reminded me of the play-doh in a badly maintained day care. The body (hinted at by swift sprinter’s legs that would make Usain Bolt weep with envy) was thin and unimpressive, tangy and medium sweet – I’ve tasted white wines with more body and depth. And the cloying medicinal properties of the nose followed the palate and arrived with the screaming tantara of a badly tuned clarinet, added to by a briny, almost seaweed like taste, a tad spicy and not particular sweet. Perhaps I sensed some caramel and citrus, but I’d be reaching if I said that with assurance. The rum’s one redeeming feature to me was a certain light clarity, a tight, clean texture on the palate which was a real pleasure to feel, if not to taste. The finish was also some consolation, short and smooth: delicate, light fumes caress your throat before bailing in labba time for the backdam.

So, I give it points for originality, but you’re getting my drift – this is definitely not my glass of the good stuff. I’m barely convinced it’s a rum, and I’m not the only online reviewer to make that observation: maybe because it’s a whisky distiller that makes it, it has many properties that would appeal more to a lover of the Scotches than the rums. As a mixer it is without doubt competent; as a sipper, I’m afraid it falls down flat. Thank God it was paid for: I’d feel real bad taking this as a free sample and then have these negative feelings about it. And yet its antecedents stem from Guyana, DDL stock to be exact, and after coming to Alberta, aged in charred oak barrels for an indeterminate time. Highwood remarked in an email to me that they make no age statements on the blend, and the Arctic Wolf thought it was six to eight years old, but my own take is that it’s quite a bit younger than that – it’s too raw, too rough for any kind of serious ageing and the oak makes almost no imprint on the taste buds.

Look, I’m not really in a bad mood or trying to be bitchy ‘cause it’s fun to write a negative review. What I want is rums to be taken seriously, and this one isn’t helping me any. When a distillery with a pretty good pedigree like Highwood Distillers makes a rum this odd and appears not to be taking the blending all that seriously (unlike their startlingly deep-flavoured Potter’s, which may be one of the best mixer’s extant in the bars of Calgary), I get the impression they’re just making this rum so they can round out their portfolio (maybe it’s because they have so many different spirits in their repertoire – 90-plus, according to their rep).

The Momento might, over a period of years, morph into something pretty cool and interesting, but as it stands, all it is is a snazzy bottle encasing a pale coloured, underdistilled rum wannabe without serious taste or body, and about the best thing I can say for it is that it’s original as all get out, has that clean texture, and goes better with a cola than Doorley’s. I didn’t think it was possible to best the Prince Myshkyn of the rum world at its own game, but with the Momento, you’ve got a winner on that score, however much of a loser it is at all the others.

A:7/10 N:11/25 T:12/25 F:10/25 I:3/15 TOT: 43/100

 

 

 Posted by on March 26, 2013 at 10:17 am
Mar 242013
 

First posted 01 October 2010 on Liquorature. #038

***

Lemon Hart is an instructive case study in how one can chose a rum without knowing a damned thing about it. As I’ve noted on more than one occasion, if you go into a store without a blessed clue, you are down to three bases for your decision and only three: the price; the look; and knowledge you have when you enter the joint. Anything different is somebody else choosing for you.

So here, what did I have? Well, the price for a flattie, which was less than twenty bucks; the look, which was simple and unadorned and referred to Demerara – perusers of my writing will know I have a soft spot for the old sod; and my knowledge.  Admittedly, I do have a bit of a larger base of knowledge than some, and so I had certain advantages there.

Knowing the history of the brand though, doesn’t mean anything.  It’s how good the rum in this brand is, in this bottle, that counts.  And I had never had any of Lemon Hart’s variations before, so I couldn’t tell whether any of its cousins were any good and extrapolate up or down, and therefore…well, in the end, I guessed.  How disappointing is that?

Lemon Hart owes its making to the Navy Rums of yore.  I’ve covered this in more depth in my review on the Pusser’s, but to recap, the British Royal Navy, as far back as 1655 until they abolished the practice in 1970, regularly issued a tot of rum to all hands in order to ward off scurvy (they added lime juice to the mix which is why I mentioned before that rum has been mixed since the beginning of its existence, and why Jack Tars are called limeys even today).  Navy rum by tradition is not heavily sugared or added to, which is also part of its distinctive cachet: Lemon Hart, Pusser’s and Lamb’s all pretend to this inheritance (for my money, the Pusser’s makes the strongest case, but that’s just me). Lemon Hart was one of the original suppliers of rum to the Navy, beginning in 1804; Alfred Lamb came a few decades later with his London Dock rum.  Both used raw rum stock that came from the Caribbean, mostly the dark, full bodied rums of Guyana.  Indeed, Lemon Hart states this quite specifically on the bottle I have: Demerara rum product of Guyana. But it is bottled in either Ontario or England.

Lemon Hart is a dark rum, brown with reddish tints, and has the characteristic thickness and full body of Demerara rums.  When you swirl the liquid in the glass, it has slow fat legs sliding languorously back in. The nose, what there is of it, hints at straightforward rum without embellishment. You can tell it’s young from the harsh burning and medicinal reek, but this is swiftly gone, to be replaced with a powerful molasses overlay. Behind that is a slightly salty tang, just a hint of bitterness as if from some sort of citrus rind. On the tongue it demonstrates its youth with the rawness of the taste.  Yes it’s a bit oily and coats the mouth very nicely, but behind the molasses taste (which is quite overwhelming) and brown sugar, caramel and some fruit, there’s not much here: on the other hand, if simplicity is your thing, LH will definitely shine for you.  The finish is medium long and not very smooth, but since I wasn’t expecting much, it wasn’t too disappointed.

In summary then: a mixer’s rum for sure. Lemon Hart is dense and viscous enough to need only a reasonable addition of cola or ale or Christmas drinks or whatever else your poison is, but it does need it.  Once that is done, you have a decent drink you can enjoy at length without worrying too much about the overall price tag.  And if you have guests, you may even get some brownie points for taking the time to hunt out what appears, in other parts of the world, to be a drink somewhat harder to obtain there than it is here.

Note: There is also a Lemon Hart Jamaican rum somewhat more commonly sold and distributed down there, but I have been unable to ascertain whether it is the same maker of the Demerara variety or not.  It seems not to be, but if anyone reading this review can shed light on the matter, please feel free to comment below.

 Posted by on March 24, 2013 at 7:16 pm
Mar 242013
 

First posted 18 August 2010 on Liquorature. #033

***

Fresh from the intense concentration I brought to the Elements 8 Gold rum, I trotted out the flattie of Smuggler’s Cove Dark to chillax with.  I would have damaged the Young’s Old Sam, but it was almost done, so off I went to this one.  My more romantic side likes to think that the humourous and positive reviews of Newfie Screech and Lamb’s so impressed the family of one of my Maritime friends at the office, that when she went back to Nova Scotia for some R&R (rather more recreation than rest, I’d say), they chipped in to assist in the purchase of a flattie just for me, to drink, enjoy and review. “Drink, mon!” that gift joyously asks, and I am duly grateful and gave Tanya a big (but chaste) smooch to express my gratitude.

Smuggler’s Cove is made by Glenora Distillery in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia which opened its doors in 1990: a good example of how low on the pecking order they consider their rum is the fact that they advertise themselves not as a rum distiller (which to me would make them a damned sight more famous and distinctive), but as the only single malt distillery in America (they make the Glen Breton Rare Canadian Single Malt whisky – Hippie, take note! – and they have a legal battle with the Scotch Whisky Association as a consequence of using the name “Glen”). And yet, you really have to search and peruse and squint to find the shy – almost apologetic – remark somewhere in the fine print, that they make amber, white and dark rums as well.  Given that the Dark won a Gold Medal in the 2003 International Rum Festival, I find that a troubling and sad omission.  On the other hand, that just keeps the price down for me, so maybe it’s all good.

After the complex interactions of the Elements 8 which I likened to a young girl growing up but not out of her braces, and learning how to smooch properly (while not exactly succeeding), it is clear that Smuggler’s Cove Dark is her boyfriend who was out to teach me a goddamned lesson.  He’s the captain of the football team, doesn’t have a brain in his head, but sports a massive set of biceps and very stern case of hallitosis. The nose practically knocks you off your feet: molasses, sugar and spices, with armpits reeking of flowers (maybe he’s got questions about his masculinity?).

Honesty compels me to admit that I took one sip of this neat, and, like the Coruba, shuddered and reached for the mixin’s. That powerful taste of caramel, vanilla and molasses is well nigh overwhelmed by Football Boy kicking me in the sack with his steel toed Spirit boots, and the burn ain’t pleasant either. There’s a whisper of real potential – nutmeg, fruit and spices whisper gently – under the strong rum reek, but it’ll never come out on its own.  A cola added 1:1 does, on the other hand, provide an intriguing counterpoint and I think it’s not too far from the Old Sam, though the balance of flavours isn’t quite as good as that particular low-end mixer. The finish on its own is brutally strong, like an uppercut you never saw that lays you out, and scratches the back of your throat as efficiently and sharply as might a hangnail on the finger of the doc giving you a prostrate exam.

I’m not suggesting that Smuggler’s Cove is one of the premier low-class hooches out there, like EH-5 or Appleton V/X, or Old Sam’s…but I am saying that as a mixer, it’s quite good, with subtler hints a neat sip would not suggest it had.  I’d actually rate it ahead of the V/X. And, it has to be said that much like every Maritimer I ever met, once you get past the the craggy frontage, the dour kick to the tenders and the glorious lack of sophistication, once you accept it for what it is, you might just end up making a friend for life and a staple that stays — constantly replenished — in your rum cabinet forever.

 Posted by on March 24, 2013 at 6:35 pm
Mar 242013
 

First posted 31 May 2010 on Liquorature. #022

All humour and snide Newfie jokes aside, Screech is a thoroughly rock solid rum: not brilliant at any one thing, it is simply good at everything without shining anywhere.  Odd, but if you’re after something that just goes ahead and does what it does, here’s the one for you.

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One has to smile when seeing a name as evocative as Screech. It has all these connotations of pain about it, mixed up with the Newfie seafaring heritage and their backwoods image so beloved of Canadian humourists: and so one’s imagination goes riot as the tipple of Newfoundland comes on the table for a taste.  Will it be a mess of agony as it sears one’s defenseless throat?  Will it be redolent of paint thinner, drano and various vile poisons meant to lure the unwary to their doom? One of those harsh hooches originally made on small wooden pot stills by somebody’s Uncle Seamus and not to be sampled by the unwise?

Screech has been so panned over the years, so made into an object of humour, that it’s quality (or lack thereof) have been made the butt of jokes, as opposed to being evaluated on its own merits.  Being a peasant myself and having grown up on low class paint remover and equally vile smokes made from kongapump leaves (don’t ask…but just whisper it to any Guyanese and he will nod wisely), I happily suffer from none of these hangups, and am perfectly prepared to sample this Single Digit Rum as one more interesting drink on my liquid road to nirvana. And I’d be lying if I wasn’t at least a little intrigued by something with so memorable a title.

Originally, Newfoundland hooch was not called that, or anything at all…it was just 18th and 19th century backwoods booze gleaned from the sticky leavings from the insides of molasses or rum barrels that had come through Newfie harbours from the West Indian trade.  It was melted out of the barrels with boiling water and then distilled in homemade stills to produce a hellishly strong rotgut akin the Brazilian alcool, or South African Cape Smoke, and as likely to make you go blind as anything else.  I worked in Labrador a few years ago, and the stories I heard suggested one can still buy its modern (and equally vile) descendants under the table in a few more rural areas.

The story goes that some poor sap from south of 49 took a hefty shot of the stuff while stationed on The Rock during the forties, and, seeing a Newfie toss it back (as any real man should), followed suit: apparently his howl of pain and misery (accompanied by a most interesting purplish colour change to the face) echoed for miles, brought his detachment in on the run, and they demanded to know what the hell that ungodly screech had been.  The Newfie (I like to think he bears a suspicious resemblance to the Bear) raised an eyebrow, blinked mild eyes, and said “The screech? That be the rum, boyo.”

Anyway, the stuff I was tasting is a more refined variant, based on blending of real rum stock imported to Newfoundland from Jamaica.  It’s a two year old distillate of molasses that gets aged in used whiskey or bourbon barrels, isn’t spiced or dandified like a tart’s handkerchief, and doesn’t pretend to be anything but what it is: a young rum, happy to be brazen, rough and a bit uncouth, showing off its spankin’ new sailor’s wellies.

Okay, so enough anecdotal nonsense.  Is it any good?

I thought it was. Oh, it kicks like a St. John’s fishwife on a bad hair day, no doubt; it’s not subtle, but bold and assertive and sports a hefty pair of biceps, together with a deep spirity nose redolent of molasses and caramel and not much else. It might make the eyes of the unwary water, the way any young brew does (the Coruba is another good example of a rum that does this). It has medium legs and a darkish copper-red, medium-dark colour and body…and it is just on the right side of enough sweet for me: not as spicy or caramelized as the Captain Morgan Private Stock, and not as whiskey-like as the Renegades. Quite a decent flavour profile, with some hints of fruit I couldn’t quite pick out…and maple, I think. A short and searing finish alleviated by…what else?  Another shot.

It’s at this point I should make remarks on what I smell and taste and what have you, but that’s just a waste of time with something so elemental. And being that way, I won’t make any more comments about nose and palate and finish (all are a bit raw, though by no means as harsh as some others I’ve tried) since my experience suggests the terms are overused in a product that is made to be drunk by people with no time to waste on frippery. My more dramatic side suggests that the dour nature of The Rock carried over into the character of its rum, and I liked that just fine.  I took it neat but preferred it with ice, and with cola it goes down very nicely indeed.

In summary then.  Screech is a decent mixer and can be had with colas or other mixin’s with nae problems (make a Scrape for yersel’ if ye want).  But the truth is that only wussies mix it up: real Newfies (or their wannabes) put hair on their chests and weight between their legs by drinking it the way it was meant to be made, which is to say, neat.

And if you be screamin’ yer lungs out after imbibin’, well, me son, it just be the Screech.

(Oh, and forget the cod: that be for tourists only.)

 Posted by on March 24, 2013 at 6:02 pm
Mar 222013
 

Rum Review – Young’s Old Sam Demerara Rum

First posted 25th February 2010 on Liquorature;

(#004 / Unscored)

Young, rambunctious and strong of nose and taste.  It is the epitome of a low ranking Demerara rum, with powerful scents and tastes lacking in anything remotely resembling complexity: and yet, I really kinda like it.  Perhaps because it’s a simple creation of such primary flavours.  It’s not meant for taking neat, but as a mixer? Yummo.

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The bottle of Old Sam I tasted is a “single digit rum” whose ingredients come from the Old Country, where the primary distillation takes place in DDLs facilities — these are the gentlemen who make the excllent El Dorado 21 year old also reviewed on this site —  but is matured and blended in Newfoundland.  There it is made by the same company responsible for making Screech, the much-loved, equally-derided traditional Newfie tipple –  also deriving from a Caribbean raw stock –  and which I have to check out one of these days.

The history of the rum revolves around parts of the old “Triangular Trade” (from Europe with trade goods, to Africa for slaves, over to the West Indies for sale of slaves and goods and loading of fruit, fish, sugar and rum, and then back to Europe – over time stops in North America were added).  Howard Young and Company introduced Old Sam to England in 1797 – why they would ship it to Newfoundland for blending is a mystery, since rum was already being made in commerical quantities in the Caribbean at that time: perhaps it was because back then, Guiana was vacillating between being a Dutch colony and an  English one, and often used as a bargaining chip in the wars of the time between these two powers.

Old Sam is a Demerara Rum, dark and rich, redolent of molasses and bunt sugar. It is aged for a minimum of two years in oak barrels, and then blended with various other 12-year old rums. “Navy” rum is a much bandied-about term — Pusser’s, Lamb’s, Screech and Old Sam all like to make claims to the title, but this low end stuff is nowhere near the much better, smoother Pusser’s, and even the Old Sam website recommends it as a mixer, or a base for cocktails and food requiring a rum ingredient.

Having said that, I have to say that the nose, while sharp, is rich, and develops good hints of caramel, brown sugar – a lot of brown sugar – and a shade of fruity vanilla.  Nothing out of the ordinary, and being relatively young, is not particularly smooth.  Note that I still get all pissy when rums don’t mention their age even if it’s two years old or something, since to me, age and price and word of mouth are the three pieces that go together in assessing whether to buy a rum or not. For this one I have one out of three – price, and since that is quite low (about $22), and since I’ve never heard of this one mentioned, or lauded, it seems reasonable to suppose it’s a young ‘un, not particularly special, and indeed, the tasting pretty much confirmed that. Harsh on the way down, has a burn and kick that would make a smarter man swear off low-end rums for good, and not much of a finish.  About par for a low end rum – it’s definitely not for sipping. As a mixer, it’s pretty good, but not everyone will enjoy that very rich burnt sugar and molasses taste.

Rereading this, it sure looks like I am dissing the rum. That’s unintentional, and perhaps results from me treating it like an upscale sipper, and judging it that way. So let me be clear: it’s disappointing as a sipping spirit….but in a mix, it’s excellent. Brown sugar, molasses, caramel, vanilla and coke.  Fine, just fine.  It kind of proves the point that you don’t have to have a premium sipper to enjoy a rum. Unsuspected riches exist for the diligent trawler and tireless taster, and if you’re into deep, dark Demerara rums, you can do worse than this unpretentious product. Personally, I’ll keep searching for better, knowing that another rum equivalent of Cibola is probably waiting for me out there, somewhere…but that doesn’t mean I don’t like this one.

 Posted by on March 22, 2013 at 3:51 pm