Mar 112015
 

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An assembly of two rums that are great on their own, made even better by being blended before ageing.

(#206. 91/100)

***

Permit me a brief box-ticking here: Velier issues cask strength monsters akin to top end whiskies (but which cost less); they hearken to individual distilleries, sometimes to individual stills within that distillery; and Luca Gargano, the maitre, has stocks of Guyanese rums and the Trini Caronis that beggar the imagination; and while occasionally there are rums that don’t quite ascend to the brilliance of others, the overall oevre is one of enormous collective quality. Here, Velier has taken something of a left turn – this rum is what Luca calls an “experimental”.  Which is to say, he’s playing around a bit.  The price of €150 is high enough to cause a defense contractor to smile, and reflects the rums rarity – only 848 bottles are in existence (as an aside, compare this price to the 7000 bottles or so of the thousand-dollar Black Tot).

Blending of rums to produce the final product which makes it to our shelves usually takes place after they have slept a while in their wooden beds.  Ever-willing to buck the trend and go its own way, Velier blended the core distillates (from the Port Mourant double-pot still, and the Enmore wooden Coffey still) right up front, and then aged the mix for sixteen years (it’s a 2014 release).  The theory was that the disparate components had a chance to meld from the beginning, and to harmonize and age as one, fully integrating their different profiles.  It’s a bit of a gamble, but then, so is marriage, and I can’t think of a more appropriate turn of phrase to describe what has been accomplished here

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Appearance wise, box is decent; bottle and label were utterly standard, as always seems to be the case with Velier – they have little time for fancy designs and graphics, and stick with stark minimalism.  Black bottle, white label, lots of info, plastic tipped cork, surrounding a dark amber rum inside. When that rum poured, I took a prudent yet hopeful step backwards: prudent because I didn’t feel like being coshed over the head with that massive proof, hopeful because in remembering the PM 1974 and the Skeldon 1973, I was hoping that the aromas would suffuse the atmosphere like the police were quelling a good riot nearby.

I wasn’t disappointed on either score. That nose spread out through the room so fast and so pungently that my mother and wife ran to me in panic from the kitchen, wondering if I had been indulging in some kind of childish chem experiment with my rums. It was not as heavy as the Damoiseau 1980 which I had had just a few hours before (I was using it and the Bristol Caroni 1974 as controls), but deep enough – hot, heavy to smell and joyously fresh and crisp.  Tar, licorice and dried fruits were the lead singers here, smoothly segueing into backup vocals of black bread and butter, green olives, and a riff of coffee and smoke in the background. It had an amazing kind of softness to it after ten minutes or so, and really, I just teased myself with it for an inordinately long time.

Subtlety is not this rum’s forte, of course – it arrived on the palate with all the charming nuance of a sledgehammer to the head, and at 62.2% ABV, I was not expecting anything else. So it wasn’t a drink for the timid by any stretch, more like a hyperactive and overly-muscular kid: you had to pay close attention to what it was doing at all times.  It was sharp and heavy with molasses and anise at the same time, displayed heat and firmness and distinct, separable elements, all at once: more molasses, licorice, chopped fruit, orange peel (just a bit), raisins, all the characteristic West Indian black cake ingredients.  Adding some water brought out cinnamon, black grapes, ginger, flowers, tannins and leather, with some aromatic smoke rounding out an amazingly rich profile.

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Man this thing was an immense drink. I said I expected three profiles, but it was practically impossible to separate them out, so well were they assembled. There was just no way I could say how much came from PM, and how much from Enmore (Velier provided no information on the ratios of one to the other, merely remarking that the Enmore is dominant). It was the sort of rum that when you fully drop the hammer on it — which is to say, drink a gorilla-sized two ounce shot, hold it down for a few seconds, before slugging it down and asking for a refill — its flavours bang away at your throat like the Almighty is at the door (and pissed at you). Even the finish displayed something of that brooding Brando-esque machismo – long lasting, heated, with closing notes of strong black slightly-bitter tea, raisins and anise. It is a brilliant bit of rum-making, and answers all questions people have when they wonder if 40% is the universe. When I see my friends and commentators and reviewers and ambassadors wax rhapsodic over spiced rums and the standard proof offerings from the great and old houses, all I want to do is smile, hand them one of these, and watch their reaction.

Sooner or later, no matter how many rums I try, I always circle back to Velier. I think of the company’s products almost like James Bond films, following familiar territory time after time, differing only in the details.  It’s always fun to try a new expression of an estate specific Guyanese rum, if only to see what madness La Casa Luca has come up with this time. And here, I think we may just have the brilliance of a film like Skyfall, with its originality and uniqueness intact, hearkening back to all that has come before, recalling not only all the old glories of times past, but the remarkable synthesis of those same elements, combined into something startlingly and wonderfully new.

That was a film to treasure…and for the same reasons, so is this rum.


Other notes

  • Velier has also issued a Diamond+PM 1995 blend in 2014, for which I have detailed notes but not yet written the review.
  • This was the third of four samples Luca Gargano sent to me personally in September of 2014 when he heard I would be in Europe in October of that year. He has agreed that I pay for them either in cash, or with a really good, high priced dinner in Paris.

  8 Responses to “Velier EHPM (Enmore and Port Mourant) 1998 16 Year Old Rum – Review”

  1. Fantastic reading as always!
    Also a pretty damned good rum 😉

  2. Always a pleasure to read your reviews!
    I agree on the quality of this little gem.
    Bought the EHPM myself a few months ago, and I’m savouring every drop of it.
    Can’t wait to read your upcomming review on the PM/Diamond. I haven’t cracked that one open yet, but I have very hopes concerning what’s in store for me 🙂

    • I thought it was very good also, and an intriguing essay in blending of styles. Because I know it scores within 2% of the EHPM, it’s really down to a matter of opinion, then, and how the small details work for you. I was lucky enough to crack my bottles side by side, and the comparison was really useful.

  3. If I am not mistaken, it was DDLs George Robinson who decided to blend the components right after distillation. Sorry if I come off as a know-it-all, but I thought this great man should be mentioned. By the way, whenever you write about one of Veliers rums, you make me want them so badly. Your descriptions of them hit a nerve in me. Too bad I have already blown my pocket money.
    I have one question: How big are the similarities between this rum and the Albion 1994? I’ve been hunting for the latter quite a long time, I’m almost obsessed with it. By now I’m not sure if it’s worth it. How unique is it when compared to other Velier bottlings? Should I keep looking or just take the EHPM as a substitute?

    • I knew Luca was talking about an experimental approach, but I doubted he was the first to have thought of it. Nice to know it was a DDL man who also went in that direction…

      The Albion may be sightly better. But it must be said that it was the first Velier I ever had, and rose tinted glasses play their part too…I mean, a single point separates these gems, right? Wish I could find another one myself…or the unicorn of the 1983.

      To answer your question: these are all so very limited, so get the ones you can get when you can get them. Don’t wait. If I had to chose between two bottles that are available now, I’d always go for the older one, or the rarer one. Fortunately, my pockets are deep enough…but even so, I dread going into Velier’s store in Paris.

      • Well, then I will keep searching. When I read your review of the Albion 1994 some time ago, it was the first time I heard about Velier. So thank you for pointing me in that direction. Since then I bought some bottles, but never managed to get the Albion. Normally I just buy something that is available, since there is so much fantastic rum out there, but somehow I find myself looking for that specific bottling over and over. It became my personal white wale, I guess.

  4. Hi really enjoy your site…my son is going to paris .do you know if they ship to us? I am in niagara and can hop over the border to pick up….as can $ low compared to euro can you recommend some caroni, veliers that are under 60eros….cheers and thanx. Russ..oh, should he bring a bottle of screech to trade lol

    • No online store will ship to Canada, but they will to the USA.

      There isn’t any Velier rum I’m aware of under sixty Euros: there may be Caronis from other makers that fall within that price range.

      I’ve found Canada customs quite accommodating for the most part, as long as you bring in less than $800 worth of stuff and don’t try to hide it. I’ve brought back eight bottles at a time and declared them, and was always waved through without paying a cent.

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