Dec 152017
 

Rumaniacs Review #064 | 0469

When sampling yet another Caroni from the glory years of the 1980s, it’s something like opening a long-shut box redolent of the past, and maybe one can be forgiven for – in these times – rhapsodizing about the way hard honest rums were supposedly made by sweaty proles who had no patience for fancy finishes, plate manipulation or barrel strategy.  So in a way it’s ironic that Caroni was not considered a particularly good rum back then – it was not that well known, it certainly wasn’t the estate’s prime focus, its signature taste was disapprovingly considered a mark of poor production methodology, and few outside of Trinidad cared much about it.  But look what the passing of less than two decades since its closure has done: transmuted what we once lovingly referred to as humdrum gunk, into a definitively-profiled country-specific must-have, a treasure to be dissected and talked over like few others, whose minutest nuances of taste are endlessly debated in the cafes, lounges, clubs and elegant online drawing rooms of the rumworld.  Here’s another one to add to the trove of our knowledge, then.

Colour – Gold

Strength – 55%

Nose – Compared to some of the others in the last weeks, this one is rather light – all the expected hits are playing, but in a lesser, almost minor key. Tar, rubber, acetone — these notes never get old and I never get tired of finding ’em — segueing into softer (but still delicate) dates, fruits, molasses, more tar, brown sugar, some caramel. Delicious.  I could eat this thing.

Palate – The light profile continues,  with some muskier, spicier tastes adding to the party: ginger, maybe cumin; honey, salt caramel, lemon meringue pie, an olive or two, tar and cigarette filters.  The tar and furniture polish gradually bleed away, giving pride of place to nougat, white chocolate. Not overly complex…it’s almost simple in a way, though what flavours are there are crisp, clear and elegantly expressed and come together harmoniously.

Finish – Medium long, not very dry, nice and warm.  Last notes of honey, citrus, salt caramel, and fresh green herbs from Jamie Oliver’s kitchen garden.

Thoughts – More than most of Velier’s Caronis, this one made me think, because the conclusions to walk away with are that (a) Caroni cannot be pigeonholed so easily into some kind of heavy rum reeking of tar and fruits – it’s got far more than that up its sleeves across the range, and (b) ‘light and simple’ as a descriptor (Serge called it “shy” which is just as good) conceal depths heretofore unsuspected. This is a pretty good Caroni, issued somewhat at right angles to most others from Velier and are from Luca’s first batch, which came on the market in the mid-to-late-2000s.

(86/100)


Other notes

 

 

 

Dec 102017
 

Rumaniacs Review #063 | 0467

Having tried several of the ur-proofed rums of the rumiverse (Sunset Very Strong 84.5% and Marienburg 90% come to mind) I must confess that while stronger stuff exists, trying high-test like this makes me think I’ve run out of steroidal fortitude. It’s a shattering experience, not just because of its strength but because somehow it pushes all the boundaries of a very precise Caroni profile – it’s like getting hit with the spirituous equivalent of a fully boosted luxury freight train (assuming Louis Vuitton made one).  And it is to its credit that it not only makes a bold statement for cask strength, but also adheres to all the markers that make Caroni a must-have rum to try if one can get it.  Which may be problematic because here’s one that only got issued at a measly 123 bottles…so if you have dibs on one, treasure the thing.

Colour – Amber

Strength – 77.3%

Nose – Initially somewhat indistinct before the clouds clear and the forked lightning of specific aromas lights up the firmament.  Phenols, acetone, furniture polish get things rolling.  Salty, olives, some caramel, tar, licorice and caramel, even a touch of vegetable soup.  It’s fierce and sharp and should be savoured. The smells are quite distinct and at this strength are easy to pick apart.

Palate – Whew! Taste carefully, young padawan, for this juice be hot.  Oily and mouth coating in the best way – toffee, salty caramel ice-cream, flambeed bananas. and that’s just the beginning.  Once it builds up a head of steam, there’s tar and pretrol, creme brulee, molasses, ripe peaches, prunes, cherries, dark grapes, and some brine and sweet red olives.  Really good stuff, once you get past the sharp edge it displays – some water is highly recommended here, but just a little.

Finish – Long, dry, hot, fruity, tarry, with last notes of anise and toffee.  Like a guy who makes the best jokes at your evening soiree, you just don’t want him to leave so you can enjoy the fun some more.

Thoughts – Not the best Caroni ever, but it’s good, very good.  The strength to some extent works against it since lower proofed Caronis are every bit as tasty and easier to come to grips with (and much more available) and so perhaps more approachable than this brontosaurus.  This rum is a brutal, ascetic skewer that doesn’t try to please everyone but does one thing really remarkably well – it showcases one single slice and aspect of Caroni in a way that perhaps a softer one might not have been able to do.  And I suspect that was what Luca intended all along.

(86/100)


  • Olivier Scars and Jean-Paul Bouwyn posted a major two-day Caroni session on DuRhum in August 2017 (in French), well worth a look through.  They tried this one on Day 10
  • Serge of course dealt with this rum in his 11-Caroni lineup back in mid-November 2017
  • Rumaniacs link to be posted once other have put up their reviews.
  • Luca remarked in the addenda to DuRhum’s tasting that this was among the first of the Caronis he issued, back in 2005, and he took a deep breath and a real chance to issue it full proof, which was not considered a good selling proposition back then.  The Caronis sold out instantly, thereby solidifying his idea and proving it was a viable sales concept.  Thank goodness 🙂

Dec 052017
 

Rumaniacs Review #062 | 0465

It’s a mind game that never gets old – how many Caroni bottles are there?  I speculated that Velier alone likely has around a million in circulation and when one sees an outturn like this – 20,986 bottles! – I think that even though the long-closed distillery’s rums are now becoming must-haves on par with the Demeraras, there’s no danger of running out of possibilities in the near future.  Though as I remarked once, when we start to see Caronis being issued from the post-2000 era, the end will be near.

Be that as it may, it’s always fascinating to try another one, and this Caroni is no slouch either, like almost all the variations I’ve tried.  I’m not one of those deep-divers who dissect a single distillery’s every possible expression up and down the scale until they know them all by their first names, and can write doctoral dissertations in the slightest, most minute details of divergence or similarity from the mean…but after having sampled quite a few, certainly it’s getting easier to see commonalities and aberrations here or there.  And, of course, fun.

Colour – Amber

Strength – 52%

Nose – Rather light florals and some tar, quite restrained here.  Batman’s Trojan factory is back, dialled down but quietly asserting its prescence.  Acetones.  Leather. Caramel, sweet red grapes, cereal and brown bread, nicely balanced.  Letting it stand for a while allows yet other aromas of peanut butter and honey to emerge, together with a clear citrus twist for some edge.

Palate – Quietly delicious, with a light and crisp sort of snap.  Kind of medium heavy to light, really, so don’t be misled by the title of heavy, as this does not refer to the mouthfeel.  Caramel, vanilla, florals, some tart soursop and white guavas.  Brine and some oak influence are clear, plus an olive or two.  Overall, perhaps a bit too crisp – it verges on real sharp-ended jaggedness, without ever quite stepping over the edge.  Oh and the lemon citrus remains there throughout, faint but perceptible.

Finish – Quite long, but again, light and easy.  Hot black tea, tar, caramel, vanilla, brine, leather, nothing really original here, just well-balanced flavours and aromas throughout.

Thoughts – Not really one of the best, but even so the general quality can’t be denied.  Luca has remarked that he believes this rum (and some others from the 1980s) was put to age at a higher proof than usual (~75%) instead of 65-70%.  That might account for the profile.

(86/100)


  • Olivier Scars and Jean-Paul Bouwyn posted a major Caroni session on DuRhum in August 2017 (in French), well worth a look through.  They tried this one on Day 1
  • Serge of course dealt with this rum in his 11-Caroni lineup back in mid-November 2017
  • Rumaniacs link to be posted once other have put up their reviews.

 

Nov 292017
 

Rumaniacs Review #061 | 0463

So here’s a Caroni marked ‘Light’which supposedly means somewhat less esters than the one we looked at last week (the ‘Heavy’) but let me assure you that even though it’s a shade less proofed than that one (and less esters, supposedly), it in no way lacks for really deep tastes. If I had to chose I honestly think I would select this one for the buy…always assuming I could find it at all.  The 12 and 15 and 23 year old Veliers from the closed distillery are issued in the thousands of bottles, which is why they remain available, good intros to the line, and brisk sellers….but here we just have 820 bottles, so most likely the price would be higher than usual. I suspect that here’s a Caroni which will appreciate in value a lot, in the years to come.

Colour – Dark Amber

Strength – 55.2%

Nose – Serge on Whiskyfun thought there was not much tar here, but I thought that it was like licking a freshly laid down new road in hot weather (or maybe scarfing down an overused cigarette filter, take your pick). Loads of molasses, raisins, prunes.  Heavy aromas all around this thing – salty caramel, nuts, deep chocolate and stale coffee grounds (smells better than it sounds), and a background of fuel oil and furniture polish.

Palate – With the amount of licorice and dark fruit – raisins, prunes, black olives – in here, you might be forgiven for thinking this something from one of the DDL wooden stills.  No, really. It tastes great though, don’t get me wrong.  Fat, oily, some ashy mineral tastes, citrus, more polish, more fruits and lemon zest, with a well-controlled oak influence sliding into the background and giving some sharpness to the experience. Brine, salty caramel, dates, figs honey, finally morphing with water into overripe fruit that could have derailed the rum….but didn’t (thank heavens).

Finish – Intense and heavy on the close, with candied oranges, smoke and leather, more dates and a last dose of citrus and molasses.  Oddly short though, I was expecting something longer lasting.

Thoughts – Very good indeed, the richest, most flavourful, most enjoyable for me, and of the six Caronis I’m trying, the best of the lot.  If ‘Heavy’ and ‘Light’ are your personal determinants for rums because of the relative ester counts, well ditch the idea – this one may have less, but it’s better. See if you can get one, and I wish you lots of luck in your search, because it’s great.

(89/100)


Other Notes

As always, the Rumaniacs are looking at this Caroni too (link to be added), and Serge ran it through its paces in an 11-Caroni lineup not too long ago for those who want comparisons now.

Nov 232017
 

Rumaniacs Review #060 | 0461

If there is ever a rum to compete with Foursquare’s latest drool-worthy offerings, it surely must be Velier’s Caroni rums.  Who would have thought that a rum many thought was over-tarred and phenol-ly back in the day would have ascended to become one of the must-haves of the rumiverse?  About four years ago I saw an Italian listing for some thirty or more Caronis which he was letting go for €2000 altogether…and we all thought was batsh**t crazy expensive, smirked and moved on, which goes to show how much we knew. Nowadays, can you imagine that happening?  That’s like discovering a Caputo 1973 on sale for a hundred bucks.  About all we can say about the entire series (so far) is that I have yet to find a dog in the lineup, whether it’s a heavy (high-ester) or light (low ester) version, and that’s formidable street cred by anyone’s reckoning.

Colour – Dark Amber

Strength – 58.3%

Nose – Lovely, deep and dark and sweet, molasses, caramel, port-infused cigarillos (heavy on the tobacco), oak, with some trojans held way back.  Flowers and bubble gum (yeah I know how that sounds), nuts, honey, citrus, flowers and some dark overripe fruits – black grapes, cherries or prunes. Talk about aromatic…this thing sings.

Palate – Tarry and oaky, quite thick.  But it’s more than just oak, it’s like a well varnished cricket bat wielded by Sir Garfield, right in the face, bam.  More sweet caramel, bags of dark fruit (those prunes and cherries just starting to go), vanilla, honey, flowers, ginger, cumin and (get this!) a vague curry taste.  Water brings out some faint citrus, more oak and some mint, and it’s all very balanced in stays discreetly in the background.

Finish – Long, spicy, that curry and a masala note remain; lemon zest, florals, light honey, leather, muskiness, and not very dry.  Great ending, really.

Thoughts – It’s fat and juicy and flavourful and almost perfect at that strength. A real gem.  Oh and the outturn? … 4,600 bottles.

(88/100)


  • As always, you can find the other Rumaniacs opinions on the website.  Sneak peek, though, if you want a heads up on a bunch of Caronis altogether, the estimable Serge Valentin ran past a massive session last week.

Nov 182017
 

Rumaniacs Review #059 | 0459

If we assume Luca found four thousand barrels at that legendary Caroni warehouse, and the average outturn from each was 250 bottles, a simplistic calculation suggests somewhere in the neighborhood of one million bottles of the Trini juice from Velier alone is waiting to be bought, and that doesn’t even count the other independents out there who are releasing their own.  Figuring out which Velier Caroni to buy is complicated by the bewildering array of aged expressions that have been released, some differing only by the proof point (years and age being the same) – but the general thesis I’m coming around to is that you can pretty much buy any of them and be assured of a really good rum.  This one from 1984 is no exception. Not sure how many barrels this came from, but 580 bottles emerged…so maybe two?

Colour – Amber (these things are all amber, more or less)

Strength – 54.6%

Nose – Wow, this is nice – deep caramel, petrol and tar aromas meld well with an undercurrent of burnt brown sugar, cream cheese, Danish cookies and licorice.  There’s some bitter chocolate in the background, and after some minutes a thin blade of citrus emerges and lends a really nice counterpoint to the heavier, muskier smells.

Palate – If it didn’t have tar and petrol it wouldn’t be a Caroni, right?  There’s bags of the stuff here, a Carnival jump-up of them, but so much more too – that dark unsweetened chocolate, green grapes, coffee grounds.  Some ash and minerals, and fruits kept way back, and also honey and nougat and an olive or two.  It’s actually somewhat salty, and the sharper oak bite is a bit dominant after ten minutes or so.

Finish – Dry, briny, tarry, sharp, with some caramel and raisins and prunes to give it depth.  Still too much oak and the chocolate disappears, leaving only the slight bitter aftertaste, like the Cheshire cat’s grin.

Thoughts – Great strength for what was on show. 1984 was a good year (and that was a memorable anno for me personally since I fell in love and got dumped for the first time then, so the period kinda sticks in my mind) and this rum is an excellent line into the past…a Trini in the best sense of the term, and a Caroni lover’s delight.

(88/100)


Other Notes

Check out Cyril’s 10-Day Caroni Challenge.  He tried this one on Day 2 and it was Luca’s own favourite from that day’s tasting.

Once the other ‘Maniacs have done their bit, you can find their differing opinions of this rum on the Rumaniacs site

Nov 082017
 

Rumaniacs Review #058 | 0458

If there ever was a rival to the famed and fabled Demerara rums issued by Velier, it is surely the Trinidadian Caroni line, which is wept over by aficionados and considered the Port Ellen of rum (my personal belief is that Port Ellen is the Caroni of whisky, but anyway…).  They hail from the long-shuttered Trinidadian distillery which closed in 2002, and it has now passed into legend how Luca Gargano found thousands of barrels of ageing rum on the estate in a forgotten warehouse, and managed to buy most of them.

Points have to be awarded for resisting the urge to blend the lot into a homogeneous, equally-aged mass and selling that in the jillions.  What in fact happened is that dozens of expressions of hundreds – or, in many cases, a few or several thousand – bottles apiece exist, just about all greater than ten years old, and many, like this one, over twenty.  It’s a treasure trove the likes of which we will probably never see again.

We have six Caroni rums from the cellars of Velier to look at over the next weeks.  Not a huge amount given my master list so far has 36 entries (and I may have missed a few), but good enough to be going along with. Let’s begin.

Colour – Amber

Strength – 59.2%

Nose – Rich and generous, with aromas of tar, rubber, party balloons.  Letting it stands allows some evolution to occur, moving towards slight sweetness, bubble gum, acetones, flowers, a little chocolate and honey.  In comparison with some of the other Caronis it almost seems delicate, but it isn’t, not really.

Palate – Here’s where it comes into its own.  It glides on the tongue (that strength is near perfect), giving earthy notes, salty, caramel, cherries, pralines, and some dark bread and cream cheese.  A little tar sticks to the back end, and a nice counterpoint of molasses (not much).  Also some bitter chocolate and cloves, and the oak is somewhat excessive here, leading to some sharp spiciness that’s not perfectly integrated, yet in no way poorly enough to sink this as a sipping dram.

Finish – Long, dry and salty (think maggi or knorr cubes), olives, some herbs, more cloves and coffee grounds, and a last bit of caramel sweetness and nougat.

Thoughts – A rich and tasty Caroni, very solid in all the ways that count.  Water helps but is not really needed, it’s delicious all its own, if a little sharp. That nose though…really good.

(85/100)

Other notes

 

Aug 032016
 

CDI Caraibes 1

Lack of oomph and added sugar make it a good rum for the unadventurous general market.

(#293 / 82/100)

***

Your appreciation and philosophy of rum can be gauged by your reaction to Compagnie des Indes Caraïbes edition, which was one of the first rums Florent Beuchet made.  It’s still in production, garnering reviews that are across the spectrum – some like it, some don’t. Most agree it’s okay.  I think it’s one of the few missteps CDI ever made, and shows a maker still experimenting, still finding his feet.  Brutally speaking, it’s a fail compared to the glittering panoply and quality of their full proof rums which (rightfully) garner much more attention and praise.

To some extent that’s because there is a purity and focus to other products in the company’s line up: most are single barrel expressions from various countries, unblended with other rums, issued at varying strengths, all greater than the anemic 40% of the Caraïbes… and none of them have additives, which this one does (15g/L of organic sugar cane syrup plus caramel for colouring).That doesn’t make it a bad rum, just one that doesn’t appeal to me…though it may to many others who have standards different from mine.  You know who you are.

I know many makers in the past have done blends of various islands’ rums — Ocean’s Atlantic was an example — but I dunno, I’ve never been totally convinced it works. Still, observe the thinking that went into the assembly (the dissemination of which more rum makers who push multi-island blends out the door should follow).  According to Florent, the Caraïbes is a mix of column still rums: 25% Barbados for clarity and power (the spine), 50% Trinidad & Tobago (Angostura) for fruitiness and flowers, and 25% Guyanese rum (Enmore and PM) for the finish. At the time, it didn’t occur to me to ask what the relative proofs of the various components were. The unmixed barrels  were aged for 3-5 years in ex-bourbon casks in the tropics, then moved to Europe for the final marriage of the rums (and the additives).

Where I’m going with this is to establish that some care and thought actually went into the blend.  That it didn’t work may be more my personal predilections than yours, hence my opening remark.  But consider how it sampled and follow me through my reasoning.  The nose, as to be expected, channelled a spaniel’s loving eyes: soft and warm, somewhat dry, if ultimately too thin, with some of the youth of the components being evident.  Flowers, apricots, ripening red cherries plus some anise and raisins, and unidentifiable muskier notes, it was pleasant, easy, unaggressive.

The mouth was quite a smorgasbord of flavours as well, leading off with cloves, cedar, leather and peaches (a strange and not entirely successful amalgam), with vanilla,  toffee, ginger snaps, anise and licorice being held way back, present and accounted for, very weak.  The whole mouthfeel was sweeter, denser, fuller, than might be expected from 40% (and that’s where the additive comes into its own, as well as in taking out some sharper edges), but the weakness of the taste profile sinks the effort.  Rather than smoothening out variations and sharpness in the taste profile, the added sweeteners smothers it all like a heavy feather blanket. You can sense more there, somewhere…you just can’t get to it.  The rum should have been issued at 45% at least in order to ameliorate these effects, which carried over into a short, sweet finish of anise and licorice (more dominant here at the end), ginger and salted caramel ice cream from Hagen Dasz (my favourite).

CDI Caraibes 2

All right so there you have it.  The 40% is not enough and the added sugar had an effect that obstructed the efforts of other, perhaps subtler flavours to escape.  Did the assembly of the three countries’ rums work?  I think so, but only up to a point. The Guyanese component, even in small portions, is extremely recognizable and draws attention away from others that could have been beefed up, and the overall lightness of the rum makes details hard to analyze. I barely sensed any Bajan, and the Trini could have been any country’s stocks with a fruity and floral profile (a Caroni it was not).

In fine, this rum has more potential than performance for a rum geek, and since it was among the first to be issued by the company, aimed lower, catered to a mass audience, it sold briskly.  Maybe this is a case of finance eclipsing romance…no rum maker can afford to ignore something popular that sells well, whatever their artistic ambitions might be. Fortunately for us all, as time rolled by, CDI came out with a truckload of better, stronger, more unique rums for us to chose from, giving something to just about everyone.  What a relief.

 

Feb 012016
 

caroni 1982Rumaniacs Review 017 | 0417

We’re down to the last sample of the old Velier rums I’ve got, this one from Caroni, and like the 1985, also bottled in 2006, though two years older. My background notes say 4600 bottles issued from 15 barrels and handsomely issued at 58.3%.  What else can I tell you about Caroni you don’t already know? Probably nothing, so let’s move on.

Colour – Dark amber

Strength – 58.3%

Nose – The 1985 was great, and this one raises the bar a smidgen. With these old, bold rums, sometimes the oak takes charge too aggressively…not here. Toasted nuts, almonds and caramel lead off.  Raisins and black grapes shoulder those aside after a while.  There’s a chirpy little citrus note coiling in the background, plus more fruits and some tar…but I was oddly reminded of the UF30E, for some reason, as I sampled this rum

Palate – Yeah, here comes the flexing musclebeach of the Caroni profile kicking sand in your face. Warm and pungent and heavy; thick, almost chewy to taste, coats the mouth very well.  Caramel, molasses and tar trumpet their arrival.  All the hits are playing, loudly.  With water, more raisins and grapes, vanilla beans, chopped dark dried fruit, ginger, unripe mangos, that citrus again…and over the half hour or so I spent with this rum, it got slightly crisper, even cleaner, in a way that enhanced, not detracted from, the overall sensation.

Finish – Long, heated, deep, a little dry.  Invites savouring. Closing notes of tar, some teriyaki and ginger, vanilla, leather and molasses.

Thoughts – I’ve had quite a few Caronis now, and they are all sprigs off the same tree. These are rums that benefit from higher proofs – the tastes are brought out in a way that diluting down to 40% would harm, rather than improve.  Whatever the case, this is one of the better ones for sure, and with that many bottles in issue, it’s likely that it can still be found somewhere. if one searches. At least we can hope so.

(89/100)

Jan 192016
 

Caroni 1985Rumaniacs Review 016 | 0416

Two more Veliers to go before we move onto other old rums, this is the “younger” one, bottled in 2006, from that Port Ellen of the rumworld, Caroni.  Here in 2004, legend has it, Luca was (as usual) talking rum, chewing sugar cane and taking pictures, when he literally tripped over (not into) a warehouse of stored casks, probably forgotten, all of  which he eventually bought.  Talk about a coup de maître – they should make a film about him: Indiana Gargano and the Lost Warehouse, know what I mean? No one in the rumworld, before or since, ever came close to uncovering this kind of treasure.  And to his credit, he didn’t blend the lot, but issued them in no less (and probably more) than 31 separate bottlings, which is good for us as buyers, even if we get threatened with divorce quite often when we fork over our pieces of eight.

Colour – Dark amber

Strength – 58.8% (6600 bottle outturn)

Nose – Damn, Caronis get better every time I try them, and this one gets better with every snooting (had enough for three passes at the thing). Beats out the Albion 1986, actually. Wooden tannins and vanilla, tarry and deep and hot, with some of that funkiness of the Jamaicans sneaking around in the background. Vague promises of fruits and licorice were being made, just enough to keep me enthused.

Palate – Dry, furiously oaky and sharp.  Some brine and olives, more vanillas, ripe red cherries, a flirt of caramel, and then a barrage of dark fruit, esters and licorice lands on you with the solidity of an Egyptian pyramid block. Gotta be honest though, even with all the fruity stuff, that oak is more dominant than usual here. Water helps, and mutes that oak knife, allowing more tars and some floor wax to take their usual central role.

Finish – Long, pungent, hot. Some coffee, licorice, sweeter fruits, more tannins (better controlled than on the tongue). Not entirely dry, but not lusciously damp either.

Thoughts – Kinda conflicted on this one.  Started out great then got hijacked in mid-palate by tenacious oaken flavours which, however tamed, still were too obvious. Not one of the worst Caronis, but not one of the best either. No matter, I still enjoyed what I got.

(87/100)

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