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 132017
 

#468

Velier’s Last Ward is an elegaic and haunting rum that evokes memories of old times and old places, yet is brought smack bang up to date for the modern connoisseur and rum lover.  It is a summing up of all things Mount Gay that matter if you’re in tune with it, just a really good rum if you’re not, and is one to savour and appreciate and enjoy no matter what your state of mind or preference in rum.  One can only wonder, with all the great distilleries that are represented in the independent bottlers’ more popular and better-known wares, how a small batch production like this one was ever conceived of, let alone made it out to the general marketplace.  It is one of the best rums from Mount Gay not actually sold under the brand.

The “Last Ward” is about as evocative a title for a rum as I’ve ever come across.  It breathes of Barbados, of history and of rum. It speaks to the Ward family who ran Mount Gay for over a century (Aubrey Ward acquired it in the early 1900s) and still appear to have involvement with the company which was officially in existence since 1703 (unofficially much before that) and acquired in 1989 by Remy Cointreau. Frank Ward started producing a brand called Mount Gilboa in 2007, naming it after the original plantation and distillery before it had been renamed in 1801 after Sir John Gay Alleyne, whom John Sober had inveigled to manage the new company when he had bought it in 1747.

Did all that history and age and heritage translate into a rum worth drinking?  It’s not always the case, of course, but here the answer is a firm yes. It started with the nose, where the very first word of my notes is “Wow.” It was smooth and heated, handling the 59% ABV quite well, smelling of furniture polish, leather, light flowers, bags of white chocolate, nougat, toblerone, coffee grounds and salt caramel.  It was aromatic enough to make me think of a warmer, softer Savanna Lontan, to be honest, and continued with almonds, pecans and vanilla, all of which harmonized into a nose one might not initially pick out as specifically Bajan, but which was definitely worth spending some time with.

The palate developed with somewhat more force, being sharp and intense without losing any of the aromatic character I liked so much on the nose.  Oak took more of a leadership role here, and behind it coiled flavours of flowers, citrus and marzipan. Letting it stand for some time (and later adding some water) cooled it down and allowed other components to emerge – bon bons, more caramel, coconut shavings, bananas, white chocolate, tied together with a vague complementary sweetness which made the whole experience a very approachable one. The sharpness and intensity which began the taste was almost totally morphed to something quieter and by the time the finish arrived.  And that was very pleasant indeed, long lasting, sweet, with caramel and vanilla walking a fine line next to orange peel and nuttiness.

Almost everything about the production details is stated clearly on the label in a fashion that shames brands who indifferently genuflect to the concept (like for instance the Dictador Best of 1977, remember that?): double retort pot still origin; triple distilled in 2007, aged ten years in Barbados with an angel’s share of 65%, no sugar, issued at a robust 59% ABV. About the only thing missing is in what kind of barrels it was aged in, but those are ex-bourbon, so now you know as much as I do. (As an aside for those who like such details, the still is made by McMillan from Scotland, who are still in business making copperware for distilleries the world over, and have been ever since their founding in 1867).

Mount Gay has now started producing its cask strength series of the XO (63%) which I thought was very good, a German indie called Rendsburger made a 1986 Rockley Still 18 year old rum I quite liked, and we’ve been trying WIRD rums for years now — these demonstrated with emphasis and aplomb what could be done even if you didn’t hail from Foursquare…and this rum is as good as almost all of them. Just about everything works here, comes together right – it finds the intersection of a name redolent of memory, a presentation in quiet pastels, all married to a profile of strength, reasonable complexity, and, dare I say it? – even beauty.  

If I had any note of caution to sound about the matter, it’s that those who like fierce and brutal purity in their cask strength rums might not entirely appreciate one which is firm rather than sharply distinct, and rather more diffuse and melded together in a way that makes individual notes lack a certain clarity; and the pot still heritage is not as evident as I might have liked – but to me that’s a minor whinge….overall, this thing is good. The Last Ward is a like a WIRD rum taken out to left field and torqued up to just about the max, and represents a triumph of the imagination as much as the better known Foursquare Exceptional Cask series or Mr. Seale’s collaborations with Velier. It may not entirely beat the Foursquare 2006 10 year old, but believe me when I say that that is no reason to leave it on any shelf where you see it.

(89/100)


Other notes

Both The Fat Rum Pirate and Single Cask Rum, whose reviews are also available, noted that it derived from 19 of the oldest barrels remaining. Luca got back on to me and aside from confirming the 19 barrel number, said the actual outturn was 4,746 bottles.

 

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

 

Oct 202017
 

#395

Velier’s star shone brightly in 2017, so much so that if you were following the October 2017 UK rumfest on Facebook, it almost seemed like they took over the joint and nothing else really mattered.  Luca’s collaboration with Richard Seale of Foursquare over the last few years resulted the vigorous promotion of a new rum classification system, as well as the spectacular 2006 ten year old and the Triptych (with more to come); and for Velier’s 70th Anniversary – marked by events throughout the year – a whole raft of rums got issued from Jamaica, Barbados, St. Lucia, Guadeloupe, Mauritius, Japan….So much happened and so much got done that I had to re-issue an updated company biography, and that’s definitely a first. The Age of Velier’s Demeraras might be over and the Caronis might be on a decline as the stocks evaporate…but company is in no danger of becoming an also-ran anytime soon.

Still, all these great rums aside, let us not forget some of the older, lesser known, more individual rums they put out the door, such as the Damoiseau 1980 and the Basseterre 1995 and 1997, some of the Papalins and Liberation series, the older Guyanese rums distributed at lesser proofs by Breitenstock…and this one which is on nobody’s must-have list except mine.  It holds a special place in my heart – not just because it was issued by Velier (thought this surely is part of it), but because the original Courcelles 1972 is the very rum that started my love affair with French island rhums and agricoles…so for sure this one had some pretty big shoes to try and fill.

It filled them and then some. Reddish gold and at a robust 54% ABV (there’s another 42% version floating around) it started off with a beeswax, honey and smoke aroma, heavy and distinct, and segued into treacle, nougat, white chocolate and nuts.  Not much of an agricole profile permeated its nose, and since it’s been observed before that since Guadeloupe – from which this hails – is not AOC controlled and uses molasses as often as juice for its rhums, the Courcelles could be either one. No matter: I loved it. Even after an hour or two, more scents kept emerging from the glass – caramel and a faint saltiness, aromatic flower-based hot tea, and just to add some edge, a fine line of mild orange zest ran through it all, well balanced and adding to the overall lusciousness of the product.

The palate, which is where I spent most of my time, was excellent, though perhaps a little more restrained…some attention had to be paid here. The brutal aggro of a rum bottled at 60%-plus had been dialled back, pruned like a bonsai, and left a poem of artistry and taste behind: more honey, nougat, nutmeg, brown sugar water, and calming waves of shaved coconut and the warmth of well-polished old leather, cumin, and anise, with that same light vein of orange peel still making itself unobtrusively felt without destabilizing the experience.  At the close, long and aromatic aromas simply continued the aforementioned and quietly wrapped up the show with final suggestions of rose tea, almonds, coconut and light fruit in a long, sweet and dry finish.  Frankly, it was hard to see it being the same vintage as the Velier Courcelles 42% which was tried alongside it, and was better in every way – the 54% was an excellent strength for what was on display and I enjoyed every minute of it.

There’s a streak of contrariness in my nature that seeks to resist flavour of the month rums that ascend to the heights of public opinion to the point where their makers can do no wrong and every issuance of a new expression is met with chirps of delight, holy cows and a rush to buy them all. But even with that in mind, quality is quality and skill is skill and when a rum is this good it cannot be ignored or snootily dismissed in an effort to provide “balance” in some kind of perverse reflex action good only for the personal ego.  Velier, even when nobody knew of them, showed great market sense, great powers of selection and issued great rums, which is why they’re just about all collector’s items now.  The Demeraras and Caronis and collaborations with other makers showed vision and gave us all fantastic rums to treasure…but here, from the dawn of Luca’s meteoric career, came a now-almost-forgotten and generally-overlooked rum that came close to breaking the scale altogether.  It is one of the best rums from the French islands ever issued by an independent, a cornerstone of my experience with older rums from around the world…and hopefully, if you are fortunate enough to ever try it, yours.

(91/100)


  • The Courcelles distillery in Grande Terre (one of the two “wings” of Guadeloupe island) was established in the 1930s and closed way back in 1964 when the then owner, M. Despointes, transferred the inventory and equipment to another distillery, that of Ste Marthe. They continued using Courcelles’s pot still and distilled this rum in 1972.  This is probably the last year any Courcelles was made – I’ve never been able to find one made more recently.
  • Distilled in 1972 and set to age in 220 liter barrels until 2003 when it was decanted into “dead” vats, and then bottled in 2005.  I chose to call it a 31 year old, not a 33.
  • The profile does not suggest an agricole, and since Guadeloupe is not AOC compliant, it may derive from molasses…or not.  If anyone has definitive information or a link to settle the issue, please let me know.

Jun 262017
 

#375

Velier rums have now become so famous that new editions and collaborations disappear from the shelves fifteen minutes before they go on sale, and the “classic” editions from the Age of the Demeraras are all but impossible to find at all.  Still, keeping one’s twitchy ears and long nose alert does in fact get you somewhere in the end, which is why, after a long drought of the company’s rums in my battered notebook (if you discount the legendary Caputo 1973), I managed to pick up this little gem and am pleased to report that it conforms to all the standards that made Velier the poster child for independent bottlers.  It’s one of the better Port Mourant variations out there (although not the best – that honour, for me, still belongs to the Velier PM 1974, the Norse Cask 1975, with the Batch 1 Rum Nation 1995 Rare PM running a close third), and drinking it makes me wistful, even nostalgic, about all those magical rums which are getting rarer by the day and which speak to times of excellence now gone by.

And how could I not be? I mean, just look at the bare statistics. Guyanese rum, check. Full proof, check – it’s 56.7%. Massively old, double-check…the thing is 32 years old, distilled in May 1975 (a very good year) and bottled in March 2008 (my eyes are already misting over), from three barrels which gave out a measly 518 bottles. The only curious thing about it is the maturation which was done both in Guyana and Great Britain, but with no details on how long in each.  And a mahogany hue which, knowing how Luca does things, I’m going to say was a result of all that king-sized ageing.  All this comes together in a microclimate of old-school badass that may just be a characteristic of these geriatric products.

How did it smell?  Pretty damned good.  Heavy and spiced. A vein of caramel salty-sweetness ran hotly through the fierce dark of the standard PM profile, lending a blade of distinction to the whole.  The first aromas were of anise and wood chips, tannins, leather, orange marmalade.  The wood may have been a bit much, and obscured what came later – herbs and molasses, raisins, raw untreated honey from the comb, with a bit of brooding tar behind the whole thing.  Lightness and clarity were not part of the program here, tannins and licorice were, perhaps too much, yet there’s nothing here I would tell you failed in any way, and certainly nothing I would advise you to steer clear of.

On the taste, the anise confidently rammed itself to the fore, plus a bunch of oak tannins that were fortunately kept in check (a smidgen more would have not been to the PM’s advantage, I thought).  There were warm, heavy tastes of brown sugar vanilla, caramel, bananas, and then a majestic procession of fruitiness stomped along by – raisins, prunes, blackberries, dark cherries, accompanied by nougat, avocado and salt, orange peel and white chocolate. All the tastes I like in my Demerara rums were on display, and with a warmth and power conveyed by the 56.7% that no 40% PM could ever hope to match, undone only – and ever so slightly – by the oaken tannins, which even carried over to the finish.  Fortunately, the anise and warmer raisins and salt caramel came along for their curtain call as well, so overall, all I can say is this is a hell of a rum, long lasting, tasty and no slouch at all. Frankly, I believe that this was the rum DDL should have been aiming for with its 1980 and 1986 25 year old rums.

So, how does it rate in the pantheon of the great Demeraras from the Age?  Well, I think the oak and licorice, though restrained, may be somewhat too aggressive (though not entirely dominant), and they edge out subtler, deeper flavours which can be tasted but not fully appreciated to their maximum potential – the balance is a bit off.  This is not a disqualification in any sense of the word, the rum is too well made for that; and in any case, such flavours are somewhat of a defining characteristic of the still, so anyone buying a PM would already know of it – but for those who like a more coherent assembly, it’s best to be aware of the matter.  

Just consider the swirling maelstrom of cool, of near-awe, that surrounds this product, not just for its provenance, or its age, but for lustre it brings to the entire Age’s amazing reputation.  It’s a rum to bring tears to the eyes, because we will not see its like again, in these times of increasing participation by the indies, and the <30 year aged output.  Who would, or could, buy such a rum anyway, at the price it fetches nowadays (I saw one on retail for €2000 last week)?

At this stage in the state of the rumworld, I think we should just accept that we can no longer expect to be able to source those original monsters with which the giants of the subculture made their bones.  Anyone who has one of these is holding on to it for resale or for judicious sharing among the hard core rum chums who have pictures of every Velier bottle ever made hanging on walls where the Lamborghini Countach or Pamela Anderson was once posted.  You can sort of understand why.  They are all a cut above the ordinary and this one is no exception. In its own way, it’s great. And even if it does not ascend to the stratosphere the way I felt the 1974 did, then by God you will say its name when you taste it, and all your squaddies will doff their hats and bow twice.  It’s simply that kind of experience.

(89/100)

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