Oct 292014
 

D3S_8870

This is the first review in a set of about six which deals with Caroni rums.  I’m unabashedly starting with the oldest, which is a top-notch rum with few disappointments and flashes of greatness underpinning a rock solid performance. 

(#186 / 78/100)

***

Even before heading to Europe in October 2014, I resolved to sample what I could from the now-defunct Caroni distillery in Trinidad which regrettably closed in 2002.  Part of this is simply curiosity, mixed with a collector’s avarice…but also the high opinion I formed years ago when I tried the A.D. Rattray 1997 edition, and was an instant convert.  Alas, in these hard times, the only place one can get a Caroni is from boutique bottlers, most of whom are in Europe…and that’ll cost you.  I can’t actually remember a single example of the line I ever saw in Calgary, aside from the aforementioned ADR.

Bristol Spirits is one of the craft makers whose products are usually worth a try — remember the awesome PM 1980 that even the Maltmonster liked, much to his everlasting embarrassment? They have a series spanning many islands and lands, and so who can blame me for buying not only an impressively aged rum, but one from a distillery whose auctioned-off stocks diminish with each passing year.

It must be said I enjoy – no other words suffices – the labelling of Bristol Spirits’ beefy barroom bottles. That cheerfully psychedelic colour scheme they use is just too funky for words (as an example, note the fire engine red of the PM 1980). This rum may be one of the oldest Caronis remaining in the world still available for sale, joining Velier’s similarly aged full proof version from the same year.  And as with that company’s products, Bristol maintains that it was entirely aged in the tropics. It was a mahogany rum, shot with hints of red, quite attractive in a glass.

D3S_8873

In crude terms of overall profile, Bajans can be said to have their bananas, Guyanese licorice and dried fruit, Jamaicans citrus peel;  and Caronis too are noted for a subtly defining characteristic in their rums: tar.  This was apparent right upon opening the bottle (plastic tipped cork on a two hundred euro purchase…oh well) – it wasn’t just some unripe guavas, tobacco and softer floral aromas, but an accompanying undertone of said tar that was a (fortunately unobtrusive) mixture of brown cigarette residue and the way a road smells in really hot weather after having been freshly done with hot top by the road crew.  After opening up for several minutes, while this core remained (and it was far from unpleasant, really), it was replaced by an overarching toffee and nougat background.  A very pleasant nose, with not enough wood influence to mar it.

On the plate, superb.  Smooth and pleasant, some spiciness there, mostly warm and inviting – it didn’t try to ignite your tonsils. BS issued this at a we’re-more-reasonable-than-Velier strength of 46% which seems to be a happy medium for the Scots when making rum – but intense enough, and quite a bit darker and more intense than the Bristol Spirits 1989 version I had on hand. Salty, tarry, licorice and burnt sugar. Black olives. More tar – yeah, a lot more like hottop, but not intrusive at all. About as thick as some of the Port Mourants and Enmores I’ve tried recently.  As with other Caroni rums I sampled in tandem that day, while a lot more seemed to happen on the nose, it was actually the overall taste and mouthfeel that carried the show. After the initial tastes moved on, I added some water and made notes on caramel and crackers, dried raisins, and a little nuttiness I’d have liked more of. Perhaps a little unexceptional exit, after the good stuff that preceded it: it took its time, giving back more of that caramel and nutty aftertaste I enjoyed. Honestly, overall? – a lovely sipping experience.

Every now and then, I run across a rum that for its maker, its age, its provenance, and my feeling (or hope) for its quality, I just gotta have, sometimes beyond all reason.  The first was the English Harbour 1981 25 year old. The near legendary Skeldon 1973 comes to mind, and the G&M Longpond 58 year old was another. This one, from 1974 and with only 1500 bottles made, from a distillery I remembered with appreciation?  Oh yeah.  (“I’m just off to the online store, honey…”) And I’m glad I shut my eyes and dived right in…because even costing what it does, even rare as it is, this rum has the kind of profile that makes a man want to be a better person, just so he can deserve to drink it.

***

Rating system

  • 40-50 Hooch. Deficient in either nose, body, flavour or finish (or all of them), barely worth a mix.
  • 51-60 Decent for a cocktail but not much else. Not meant as a sipping spirit. May make a brilliant cocktail.
  • 61-70 You might want to experiment with drinking this one neat..
  • 71-75 Good sipping rum with a few discordant notes that can still make a good cocktail.
  • 76-80 Really excellent, top tier drink. May be unique in some way that goes against the prevailing opinion.
  • 81-90 No additive or ice should ever touch such a superb offering.
  • 90+ Marriage material. Sell the Benz, ‘cause you’ll have to.
 Posted by on October 29, 2014 at 9:24 pm
Mar 262013
 

First posted 12 March 2011 on Liquorature

Simple, rough, surprisingly tasty….good value, I think. You are going to get hit with a molasses club at the inception, and if you stick with it, it’ll reward your patience.  I’d say mix it, but a brave soul may take it as is.

(#070. 54/100)

***

Like most average folks I grew up watching bartenders mix drinks with Angostura Bitters; and one of the endurng memories of my first years in Georgetown was pouring a couple of drops into a cream soda to make a “rockshandy”.  It was years before I realized that the Angostura company also made a whole lotta pretty good rums, one of which, the Premium 5 year old, I’m taking a look at here.  I selected it as one of the three official rums for Liquorature’s February 2011  Gathering, but it was eclipsed in most people’s minds by the Favell’s London Dock, and the Renegade Grenada 1996.  Oh well.

Appearance wise, I’d have to say what I liked most about it was the bottle itself, and the colour: a deep copper bronze. It suggested that here was a rum done more in the demerara style than anything else. Against that, there was the cheap tinfoil cap which did less than enthuse me, as such things usually do, but these days I sort of sigh and move on…it’s ot as if my sniffy opinions are going to change a large company’s capping policy.

I noted above that this was a rum which seemed to have its origins in the Demerara style: this suggests right off the mark that what we would expect is a dark, heavy bodied rum of some sweetness, crammed with molasses and dark sugar flavour.  The initial nose upon breaking the seal confirmed the idea. Soft. Rich.  Molasses like “fuss time,” front and center. It reminded me of nothing so much as Old Sam’s Demerara rum, just not quite so overpoweringly single minded: I mean, the Premium 5 actually had a few extra notes to it, once it deigned to open up…slightly overripe bananas, and the hint of some fleshy kind of soft fruit – peaches or apricots, perhaps. Was there some sweet behind all that, like a grape?  Not sure.  But yummy nevertheless.  And to confirm this was not some old fuddy-duddy overaged grandfather of rum with hoarfrost in its scraggly whiskers, you could definitely sense its boisterous youth – a sharp, slightly uncouth bite to the shnozz.

Do we ever even remember what it was like to be fifteen?  When the world was young and ripe and came every day with an apple in its mouth?  When we burst with energy and felt everything with a zeal and passion that made all experiences black or white with no subtleties or variations?  When we wore shades all the time because we were so cool that the sun shone twenty four hours a day?  When our bodies ran so smoothly, so well, that we could eat all day long and still come out lean and mean, and we could digest a golf bag with no problems and nary the loss of a single bowel movement?  We paid for that fierce level of energy and blazing radiance of youth by not having much intellectual power, just about zero points of experience, and by pissing people off by making brash and brutal statements without even thinking about it.  This rum was something like that.

That edge of youth, that exuberance and cheerful spring, carried over to the taste and feel on the palate.  And while the legs of the rum on the sides of my glass were the slow, fat and voluptuous gams of a “Biggest Loser” contestant, the arrival of the spirit on the tongue came with a blaring tantarra of molasses trumpets, and a dark and medium-heavy body rescued from liqueur-ishness by having a lack of sugar that was just enough to compensate.  A spicy, heated.entrance betrayed its lack of years (or could be argued to emerge from the oak barrels in which it is matured); it was all mixed in with vanilla, chocolate, butterscotch, bananas, and a faint citrus fork that neatly skewered the sweeter, muskier tastes (while staying firmly in the background).

The fade was a little less…well, shall we say exuberant.  Here the lack of years of the Premium Five was the most apparent, because to be honest, it was a rather crabby finish, a bit rough and ungentle, like the words we said to the first girl we so cruelly dumped in our teenage years. The burn was sharp and scratchy, yet I still gained some burnt sugar flavour in the final exhalation of fumes at that back end, which rescued it from being just a malicious product, out to do you harm and cause you pain.

In summary, I think of the Angostura Premium Dark Five year Old as a canecutter’s rum: it’s hot and hairy, strong charactered and not overly blessed with a plethora of sophistication…yet, it’s a rum you’d be glad to have around after a physical day’s work when all you want to do is kick back, have a curry gilbacker with dhal and rice and something to go with it.  Something like this rum, which you can uncork, mix it or not, drink, feel its warm burn, and never have to worry about how to spell “plethora”.

A:5/10 N:15/25 T:14/25 F:15/25 I:5/15 TOT: 54/100

 Posted by on March 26, 2013 at 8:58 am
Mar 262013
 

(#059)

I wrote the full review for Michael Streeter of the RumConnection website in December 2010, and here is the summary :

The price is reasonable, the colour, body and nose are lovely, and the taste is unique, if a bit harsh: if the rum fails at all, it’s in the decision not to mess with it – this has led to the prescence of oak maintaining an influence not all will appreciate.  Are other similarly aged rums better, tastier, smoother and more complex? Yes, absolutely. But I also think that the Caroni is one of a kind, a rum lover’s secret discovery – a sort of prime number of a rum, which is indivisible by anything other than you and itself.

The website link to Rum Connections is here and here is the full text:

***

Why the bottle of A.D. Rattray Cask Collection 13 year old Caroni rum (bottle 128 of 290) states it is “made exclusively for Co-Op” (a grocery chain) on the label is a mystery to me. This is especially the case since I have been able to find it on sale in at least two other countries, and the labels on neither have any such mention. I can only conclude that this is a distribution issue, not a matter of commissioning or purchasing some kind of exclusive bottling (which both other merchants in Calgary — the Kensington Wine Market and Willow Park – indulge in).

The selling point of a rum like this one is never just the rum itself, but exclusivity and rarity. Like the Appleton 30 (1440 bottles) and the English Harbour 1981 (5774), this is an extremely limited edition of 290 bottles, emerging from a single cask. As if this were not enough, it’s 13 years old and un-chill filtered, as well as having no additives at all – just like the two Cadenhead offerings I’ve tried – and these last two points are the Caroni’s great strength and also (to some) a weakness. Fortunately, and curiously, the price of the rum when I bought it was in the forty dollar range, which seems low ….either it isn’t that exclusive, not that good, or someone is testing the water to see if the price point can be supported for premium limited-edition rums as they are by whiskies.

The name of the rum comes from the Caroni (1975) Ltd sugar company of Trinidad and Tobago, which was established in 1887 and taken over by the government of T&T when it acquired Tate & Lyle’s shareholdings in 1970 (51%) and 1975 (49%) – it went under because it consistently lost money and no buyers could be found, in 2004. This may well be some of their last stock still available commercially as a bottled product so even if the rum is not to your liking, it’s possible that as an investment…well, it’s up to you.

The rum itself was attractively packaged in a black cardboard tin, in which a slim bottle of light amber fitted tightly. Tin foil wrapped around a well-seated cork. It’s a thing of mine that I enjoy the voluptuous sound of a cork popping gently out, so points there. At 46% ABV, I’m was not expecting a gentle nose that tenderly massaged my snoot and beckoned invitingly with soft, caramel-scented breath, and I didn’t get one – but it was not as sharp and medicinal as I feared either. In point of fact, it was, in spite of its lack of “post processing”, rather good. Distinct, and clear, separating early into notes of vanilla, nuts and burnt sugar, with the muskier molasses scent underlying everything. And yes, a claw or two to remind you of its slightly higher alcohol content.

I don’t know how many people reading this have ever seen a sugar cane field burn in the tropics at harvest time, and can speak of the experience (I’m one of them): there’s a kind of deep smell of burning brown sugar that permeates the whole area, and lingers in your nose for days. I’ve always liked it when handled well within a rum’s bouquet, perhaps because of the memories it evokes of my boyhood. After leaving the Caroni to open for a few minutes, that lovely aroma stole around and about the other scents, which gradually became identifiable as faint hints of citrus fruit and notes of cherries, not so ripe as to be cloying…just young enough to impart some sting. I could have gone on smelling that for a lot longer than I did.

The body of the Caroni turned out to be sharper than I personally preferred, and lighter, clearer: definitely a medium bodied rum, hot and spicy on the palate, and a bit dry. This mostly likely comes from the additional spirit of the 46% I was sampling, as well as tannins from the thirteen years of ageing in the oak barrels, which was not mitigated. The lack of additives also played its part: that lack is a point of pride of the distiller, but I’m just not convinced it really works for rums, no matter how much it succeeds for whiskies (rummies like their libations sweeter, as a rule). On the other hand, by eschewing the chill filtering process, all the original oils, fatty acids, sugars, esters and phenols remain in the body, and this was what probably accounted for its somewhat richer taste. Certainly, after the peppery spiciness faded, the sweetness (less than usual but still noticeable) came through more clearly, as well as banana, smoke, leather and – alas! – just a shade too much oak.

The fade is excellent, bar the same issue – the burn is deep and long, and that burnt sugar and caramel taste lingered, and spirit fumes wafted up the back of my throat and just…stayed there. The bitterness of the barrel was unfortunately part of what lingered also, so on that level the Caroni failed for me, but I’m perfectly prepared to accept that others will enjoy that aspect more than I did. As an aged rum, as a sipper, therefore, I must concede I like it above the more expensive offerings from Cadenhead; and as a mixer the Caroni is unique and superb (and the lower price makes it suitable for a better than average cocktail). Where I think it falls down is in the thinner body and lack of any attempts to mute the oaken taste, which fortunately is not so prevalent as to overpower everything else, just prevalent enough to make a good rum fall to the middling rank, instead of inhabiting a loftier plane in my esteem (although this may change).

A.D.Rattray, a company established in 1868 by Andrew Dewar and William Rattray, was originally an importer of olive oil and European spirits, which branched out into blending and storage of malt and grain whiskies. Now owned and operated by Mr. Tim Morrison (formerly of Islay’s Morrison-Bowmore distillery, and a descendant of Mr. Dewar), its core mission is to make unusual, exclusive, limited edition whiskies from stock obtained from all the unique whisky producing regions of Scotland. The company would appear to be going with a trend now gathering steam – that of premium scotch makers branching out into other spirits, like rums. I’m all for innovation – I found the Renagade line of the Bruichladdich distillery intriguing essays in the craft, and for all my dislikes of the Cadenheads, I must concede they have tried to take rums in a different direction than the heretofore dominating “sweet and brown” philosophy – and I look forward to seeing what else comes out in the future from such out-of-the-box thinkers.

In summary, the price is reasonable, the colour, body and nose are lovely, and the taste is unique, if a bit harsh: if the rum fails at all, it’s in the decision not to mess with it – this has led to the prescence of oak maintaining an influence not all will appreciate. Are other similarly aged rums better, tastier, smoother and more complex? Yes, absolutely. But I also think that the Caroni is one of a kind, a rum lover’s secret discovery – a sort of prime number of a rum, which is indivisible by anything other than you and itself.

Quite aside from its coming rarity and decent pricing, that’s enough of a reason to give it a shot.

 Posted by on March 26, 2013 at 8:31 am
Mar 242013
 

 

First posted 27 October, 2010 on Liquorature. #043

Excellent presentation; a rich, complex and smooth experience that reminds you why premium rums exist at all and makes for a good gift for aficionados

***

Somewhere in the midst of an alcoholic haze left by the last gathering of the Gentlemen of Liquorature, I had this vague memory of drinking quite a superlative little sipper.  Pat had, of course, been quite miffed when I wrote the review of the Bacardi 8, since he had wanted to surprise me with something I hadn’t had before  – but he got me on the rebound with this one. Fortunately, my tasting notes survive the bender, and once I sobered up and remembered my name, I dug them out for this review.

Angostura is that Trini distillery that now makes the excellent Zaya (Diageo, via its shareholding in Moet Hennessy, now owns the Zaya brand, but I’m unclear whether they own the distillery as well, though the Angostura holding company seems to have interests in quite a few). They have been making blended rums since the early part of the 20th century (1947, according to them).  At that time Bacardi owned some 45% of the stock, which it held until 1997 when CL Financial – the largest T&T conglomerate with fingers in dozens of pies – bought the shares.

I don’t as a general rule make a comment on the bottle, but in this case I’m happy to make an exception: Angostura, home of the bitters and the Royal Oak, have poured the 1919 variation into a short, squat, square bottle with rounded shoulder and a massive, voluptuous cork.  Its excellence is more in the simplicity than anything overt…I had the same feeling about the English Harbour 10 year old.

The 1919 is a blend of rums aged a minimum of 8 years – both bottle and the company website makes this claim – in charred oak barrels which were previously used to age bourbon whiskey.  It’s a golden brown liquid, quite clear, somewhat reminiscent of the Havana Club Barrel Proof and has that same brilliant hue when the sunlight hits it.

On the nose, there is surprisingly little spirit burn.  There’s a mellow billowing scent when the bottle is opened, in which the smooth odours of caramel, vanilla and flowers balance well and softly together. There is a richness to the nose that is quite unexpected, and it promises an excellent drink.  Sipping it is a uniformly pleasant experience: I don’t usually expect too much from younger Single Digit Rums, though those greater than seven years are usually pretty decent mixers (the Flor de Cana 7 yr old is a perfect example): this one, it must be said, is an exception.  As a ground level sipper, it’s bloody good, perhaps a slightly less sweet version of the Captain Morgan Private Stock at about the same price, but equally smooth, equally tasty.

The feel in the mouth is warm and silky rather than harsh, and after letting it breath you get flavours of buttery caramel, vanilla and molasses, but not too much of any one: in fact, the 1919 is remarkably restrained and well balanced among these primaries.  Coiling subtly around this backbone are some fruity and softer floral hints that I can’t quite identify but that enhance the central notes excellently. The texture is slightly viscous and smooth as all get-out.  And the finish is long, warm and spicy, with the faintest hint of sharpness that seems to be there just to remind you this is not the best Angostura wants to give (that might be the 1824 rum).

All in all, for a rum that costs in the forty dollar range, I’m impressed. For all its relatively youth, it scores highly in all the right areas: presentation, nose, flavour profile, mouthfeel and finish.  It is equally good as a mixer or as a sipper, again very much like the Captain Morgan Private Stock. And what it lacks in the complexity and sheer brilliance of the older premium rums (like the English Harbour 25, Appleton 30 or the El Dorado 25 and 21), it makes up for by being, quite simply, one of the best low cost rums out there, one which the average Tom, Dick or Harrilall can afford, and enjoy.

****

By the way, if anyone can apprise me of the meaning of the 1919 in the rum’s title, I’d appreciate it

 Posted by on March 24, 2013 at 7:36 pm
Mar 232013
 

label image

Original Post Date 01 December 2010 on Liquorature. #013

Workable blend that makes for a perfectly solid mixer without shining in any other way, except to maybe pip the low-end Appletons. Best save for the 1919 version.

***

Royal Oak Select Rum is another one of those annoying rums that tell you nothing about how old it is, which instantly informs you it’s a blend.  I don’t care much for whisky, as my humourous posts have made clear (I think the Peat Heads are misguided, but innocently so, and may be dint of effort and tender ministrations be brought to understand the error of their ways), but I do appreciate the fact that every bottle has its age on it. As a rule of thumb, I assume that when this is not the case on rum bottles, then it is less than five years old. Cadenhead Green Label is an exception, of course.

A golden rum, Angostura is young (3-6 years, nothing more definitive), made in Trinidad by the same folks who are now producing the superlative Zaya 12 year old, but not a classic on par with that lovely lass. Like with all single-digit rums (SDRs, as I call them), it lacks the polish and finish of older siblings (yes, yes, with the exception of the fabled EH-5), and I think it is not distilled for the export market, really.  Therefore it may be best used as a mixer.

Still, even for young rum, this baby has its admirers, and I’m one of them.  I wouldn’t drink it straight, since it’s a bit too harsh on the tongue and throat for that – the younger parts of the blend certainly assert their prescence early on.  But the nose has an interesting hint of citrus, and intriguing caramel overtones develop more seriously on further tasting, together with coconut and a certain mellow spiciness.  The body is quite good, with a sort of oiliness that leads to a long lasting flavour.  The finish is medium short, quite a bit of burn, but the caramel sweetness remains, mixed with a faint nuttiness. It’s a bit richer in flavour than I had expected, and while I don’t expect that much from an SDR, its strength (43%) and dominating sugar-caramel aftertaste belie the light colour and make it a good choice to go head to head 1:1 with coke.

In summary, a decent mixer about on par with an Appleton V/X but with a stronger taste and slightly smoother finish, so not as low-tier as the Bundaberg (which I have gone on record as not appreciating).  Anyone who buys this is not scraping the bottom of the barrel by any means.

Note: I must go on record to express my appreciation to Keenan who raided his pantry to provide me with this bottle to sample. He finds it highly amusing to watch while I try to stay sober and drink four of his rums at the same time.

 

 Posted by on March 23, 2013 at 4:28 pm
Mar 232013
 

First posted 25 January 2010 on Liquorature. #009

***

I’m not always and entirely a fan of Renegade Rum, but will unhesitatingly concede that they are among the most interesting ones currently available, and deserve to be sampled. Un-chill filtered at the Bruichladdich Distillery on the Isle of Islay in Scotland, these limited editions have the potential to popularize single-vintage rum if one can get past the whiskey-like finish that jars somewhat with what I expect a rum to be.

My research notes that Renegade Rums trawls the Caribbean estates for traditional single distilleries that are no longer in operation or have some stock to sell, and purchases supplies from places like Guyana, Panama, Jamaica, Barbados, Grenada, and Trinidad — then completes the maturation in oak bourbon barrels, or those which have held madeira, port or wine. This impacts the taste quite significantly, I’ve found, but more than that, it makes the release extraordinarily limited: this one from 1991 was only 1380 bottles.

I’m unclear how old the 1991 Trinidad rum actually is, since it is advertised as 17, but 16 is printed on the bottle. Whatever the true age, the palate on this 46% (92 proof rum) is uniformly excellent, with notes of port and oak and a very subtle taste of caramel. The finish is not as sweet as I would expect, and does not last as long or as smoothly as a 16 year old rum perhaps should, though hints of burnt sugar and apples can be discerned (this is probably from the French port barrels used for the final ageing). What stops this from being a stellar review is simply the way the somewhat harsh and short finish takes some getting used to – when I first tasted this, I grumblingly compared it to a whisky. See, I’ve been getting sotted on the grog for more than half my life, and us West Indian hicks don’t particularly care to have our national drink turned into a Scottish home brew.

Ok, so that is snooty. Don’t get me wrong, however: I liked it precisely because it’s different, had character, texture, body and a good strong flavour. I wouldn’t drink it neat, though, or with ice (though I did both to write this review). This one, for all its rich provenance and comparative rarity, will be drunk rarely.*

* My good friend Keenan, horrified at my cautiously tempering the good stuff with coke (I was just checking, honest), snatched it away, proceeded to drink it with bowed head and misty eyes on the rocks, complimented it most fulsomely on its character, and disdained the cheap Lambs spiced rum (3rd tier, really) I was happily getting smacked on. I may not compliment Renegade’s creation as much as he did — he had to be dragged off, screaming “Leh we tek wan moh shot, bai” when the evening was over — but at least one person really really appreciated it, and the bottle I have will be kept for his use when next he is let out to play.

 Posted by on March 23, 2013 at 7:43 am
Mar 222013
 

First posted 19th January 2010 on Liquorature.

(#002/Unscored)

Surprisingly similar to the Zacapa 23…silky, sweet, smooth, supple, and a great drink by itself.

***

This review is being written in January 2010 (and amended again in April), but we actually had this phenomenal rum for the first time in April 2009, the first time I hosted the Club. A nippy night as I recall, and iconoclastic as always, I obstinately refused to get whisky, and loudly blared to all and sundry that it would be a rum night (and so started a peculiar tradition of Liquorature, which is that the voluble, lone crazy in the corner is a Caner and nothing can be done about him, so let’s buy him a bottle to shut him up when the Club meets ). I’d like to point out that this rum was such a hit that it was repeated at the March 2010 gathering, having, in the interim, gained an almost legendary cachet that made its re-release almost inevitable (whiskey drinkers never have this problem, I grouse – the shop shelves buckle with the weight of the many scotches, while us poor upholders of the sugar-flag must suffer in silence).

In the opinion of this long-exiled West Indian, the Trinidadian Zaya rum is value for money. Zaya’s deep amber color suggests full body and rich flavors. Aromas of caramel, molasses vanilla are most pronounced upon opening. Initial tasting reveals substantial flavors of vanilla, coffee and molasses, followed by more subtle tastes of butterscotch. It is sweet, and that’ll be offputting to some (and I suspect whisky lovers will avoid it altogether), but damn, is it ever smooth. Finish is consistently heavy throughout, leaving behind flavors of vanilla and caramel. The flavours are excellently strong without being overwhelming…for a bit there, I thought I was tasting a spiced rum, to be honest. If you like a bit of burn the finish will please you, but it’s not out of bounds to mix it just a bit. A splash or two of coke does the trick, though I fail to see the point, and I can just drink this baby all night long.

Research informs me that until 2008, Zaya was estate-produced and bottled in Guatemala by Industrias Licoreras de Guatemala, home to Zacapa’s fine rums. where rich volcanic soils and tropical temperatures produce some of the best sugar cane in the world (as a loyal Mudlander, I cannot in all honesty accept this heresy, and so dismiss it as claptrap for the gullible). In the first half of 2008, the distribution of rums produced by Industrias Licoreras de Guatemala was assumed by the giant Diageo, resulting in the Zacapa brand being given priority. Zaya was forced to move production to the Angostura Distillery in Trinidad. Guatemalan rums are said to be some of the smoothest available; Trinidad’s rums by contrast are often more heavy on oak and tar, as evinced by the Caroni line of rums.

Packaging of the two versions is nearly identical, with a few unobtrusive changes to help you determine which version you are holding. The extra-heavy bottle with the leaf-wrapped neck and cork stopper are the same as before, but is now sealed with a sticker that reads: “Trinidad Production”. The labels are slightly modified as well. The small circular crest at the bottle’s shoulder that previously displayed a pre-Columbian native central American mask is now replaced with the Trini coat of arms containing a Scarlet Ibis and two sea horses. More obvious are the words at the very bottom of the main label, which declare the country of origin: “Imported Rum from Trinidad” now replaces “Imported Rum from Guatemala”. The one we had in April 2009 was definitely a Trini one, based on that label.

To my surprise, of all the rums we’ve had thus far, this one was the hit of the season (and it had strong competition that April night with a Jamaica Appleton Master Blender’s Legacy and a Flor Cana 18 year from Nicaragua), and I relate this to the slightly more powerful taste I mentioned, which really struck a cord with the guys. Eyes still grow misty at the memory, or so I’ve been told, and the rum keeps being used as a quasi-baseline in our group. To my mind, it’s been eclipsed by the English Harbour 1981, but there’s also a ~$100 price difference so if I was short on funds, the Trinis would get my cash for sure.

 Posted by on March 22, 2013 at 3:37 pm