An Italian outfit takes on the big boys from Scotland in grand style with a 25 year old of stunning originality and quality.
The Rum Nation Specially Selected Jamaica 1985 25 year old is a limited bottling rum that is a big vaffanculo to the commercial establishment and hoi polloi of drinkers. No Model T of rums, not meant for the masses of drinkers and cocktail mixers, it’s a rapier, not a club. This rum was meant for people who really like ‘em, and especially appreciate rums that are rare, unique and as different from the standards as, oh, 2011’s “The Artist” is from 1927’s “Wings”. When Rum Nation said this is a single domain rum, they were serious, and they didn’t give a damn if the rest of the West didn’t get it (not surprisingly, they’re almost unknown here).
Everything about the presentation of this $165 rum had that old fashioned genteel-ness about it. It was packed in a stenciled wooden box with a sliding panel; the box itself was lined with jute sacking. The bottle was cork tipped and unpretentious, and sported a Jamaican stamp from empire days on the label (the Demerara 23 has a similar motif). If you’re sniffing and asking “so what?” well, consider that the St Nicholas Abbey 12 year old is half the age, and a quarter again the price, and while absolutely excellent itself, is nowhere near as unique (though the etching is admittedly prettier).
You think I jest when I say “unique”? Consider the nose. Tire rubber as thick as a black strip laid down at the Boulevard in Georgetown by a rich kid’s Mercedes braking too fast assaulted me right away. Plasticine coiled right behind it. What the hell? And yet that faded, replaced by the damp smells of wet autumn leaves. Rich earth and a nip to it that recalled memories of my younger professional days when I rested up in Europe and went for long walks on cobbled, windswept streets in old cities. And then that was replaced by fleshy fruits and heavier floral hints (apples and green grapes), all mixed up with a hint of tobacco.
On the palate, things got a lot better…. caramel and lighter fruits (apples and green grapes), merging with rich, aromatic pipe tobacco and more leather than you’d find on a well-outfitted Bentley. Not overpoweringly sweet. No citrus notes of the sort Appleton has taught us to expect in Jamaican products, though perhaps a little oaky (not enough to dissuade me from having more, mind you). And smooth, very smooth – that inauspicious start merged into a really lovely sipping rum – top class all the way, no matter how odd it sometimes became. And the fade was smooth and long lasting, with a background of burnt sugar, nuts and cherries and even here, a bite of that crazy rubbery note that seemed to want to stay there just to piss me off a little. My personal take was that whisky drinkers are gonna love it.
A comprehensive take on Rum Nation will wait until I have both more details and all the reviews of their products up on the site. In brief, this Italian outfit has brought out a stable of current releases that I found so intriguing that not only did I buy the entire 2010 line in one go, but in my estimation they should be thought of in the same breath as the better known Cadenhead, Gordon & MacPhail, AD Rattray and Bruichladdich. They take stocks from various Caribbean island nations (this pot/column still rum was sourced fifteen years ago) and then mature them for however long they feel like in ex-bourbon casks, with a finishing in ex-sherry casks, and then they bottle it without adding anything further…well, no wonder they taste so distinctive.
Now, I’m not going to tell you flat out that you’ll like this rum. It certainly will have rubbery notes and feinty tastes to it which many will despise with all the hot-eyed zealotry (and lust) of a Roman eyeing a vestal virgin. I was hoping I’d never have to write these words, but for sure this is an acquired taste for you as an individual – I don’t think I myself could have given it a fair shake as recently as a year ago. All I can say as a reviewer is that I thought it as crazy and offbeat as a modern-day Jeff Spicoli; smooth and strong and well put together, and maybe a little stoned — and if Rum Nation has not, perhaps, made a Model T like the Bacardi Black, or a Ferrari like the English Harbour 25, then believe me when I tell you that they have made a beautifully jazzed-up Aston Martin DB9 with as much leather as Judas Priest and more rubber than Janet Jameson’s boudoir…and maybe just forgot to fumigate a little.