Crackers and butter
Given how much I care for Guyanese style Demerara rums (even if some of them actually originate from plantations closer to Berbice), and knowing something of the various profiles hailing from these plantations, I must confess to being quite surprised at the sharp left turn this 45% ABV Plantation rum made.
No really. As soon as I opened the bottle to pour the gold-amber rum into my glass, the very first scent that reached me was salt biscuits and creamy, unsalted butter. This, to me was quite unmistakable, because in my youth I was once caught on a tramp steamer in the Atlantic for three days, and all we had to eat was salt biscuits, crackers and peanut butter (and some jam) – and the Guyana 1999 rum mirrored those scents so faithfully it was, quite frankly, like being back on board. Okay, it did mellow out, I can’t kid about that – into smoke and wet, rain drenched wood, tannins from oak, only slowly deepening into almonds, faint citrus, hibiscus flowers and softer caramel and burnt sugar (for which I was thankful – I’ve never appreciated salt biscuits since that time).
The Guyana 1999 suggested a certain clarity and hardness rather than softer, more voluptuous tastes. Very little soothing gentleness here, yet also no real bite and sting on the palate. Indeed, the somewhat briny, tannic nose transmogrified into a creamier, very pleasantly oily feel on the tongue, and the previously restrained ponies of sugar, vanilla and caramel were allowed freer rein, though they never went so far as to dominate the overall flavour profile. Indeed, were it not for that clear, dominant “I am here” taste of butterscotch and burnt sugar, this rum would have been a lot more delicate and flowery to taste. And there were few, if any fleshy fruit or citrus notes here at all, nor where there any on the finish. It’s a very strange rum to try, yet also a pretty good one – this is one case where the palate exceeds the nose (I often find the opposite to be the case). The fade is medium to long, with a rather hard denouement of blackberries and almond nuttiness that goes on for quite some time.
Plantation is one of the famed rums made in series and in quantity by what is termed an independent bottler – Cognac Ferrand from France, in this case. There are many others – Rum Nation, Renegade, Fassbind, Berry Brothers & Rudd and Velier are just a few examples – but most of these tend towards a few thousand bottles per run, originating in a few casks, while I get the impression that CF does quite a bit more than that for each of its editions. The claim to fame of the Plantation line, and what gives them such a great street rep, is their finishing for a final few months in cognac casks, which imparts an intriguing flavour to each and every one of their rums I’ve been fortunate enough to try thus far, providing an intriguing counterpoint to the Renegade line, which to my mind attempts the same thing a little less successfully.
Also, I think that the slight saltiness and background cracker taste on the fade makes the rum drop a bit more than usual for me – oh, I liked it, but I enjoyed other Plantations more (the Nicaragua 2001, for example, and the Barbados 20th Anniversary for sure). For a Mudlander, even one in exile as long as I have been, that’s nothing short of embarrassing. Still, I have to make this observation – I tried it side by side with the Renegade Barbados 2003 6 year old (coming soon to the review site near you), and doing the tasting in tandem revealed something of the character and richness of the Plantation rum which Renegade lacked…so it’s certainly better than a solo-only tasting or my ambivalent wording here might imply.
There aren’t many rums I try that evoke such strong, definitive memories. I may not have enjoyed eating stale crackers and jam for three straight days on the Atlantic Ocean, no…what I took away from that experience was more of the black, moonless nights, blazing with stars, phosphorescent green water lapping against the hull, desultory conversations with the mate at three in the morning (while sharing some unspeakable hooch), being young, immortal and seventeen, and considering myself part of a grand adventure. This rum, with a middling nose and finish and a very pleasant palate, brought back that experience in a way that was nothing short of amazing.
Don’t know about you, but for me that’s priceless.