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. 77/100)

***

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”.

 

Mar 242013
 

 

First posted 27 October, 2010 on Liquorature. #043 (Unscored)

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

Mar 232013
 

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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.

 

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