Jun 192016
 

K&S 12 YO 1

Not a bah-humbug rum…more like something of a “meh”.

(#280 / 81/100)

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I have an opinion on larger issues raised by this rum and others like it, but for the moment let’s just concentrate on the review before further bloviating occurs. Kirk and Sweeney is a Dominican Republic originating rum distilled and aged in the DR by Bermudez (one of the three Big Bs of Barcelo, Bermudez and Brugal) before being shipped off to California for bottling by 35 Maple Street, the spirits division of The Other Guy (a wine company).  And what a bottle it is – an onion bulb design, short and chubby and very distinctive, with the batch and bottle number on the label.  That alone makes it stand out on any shelf dominated by the standard bottle shapes. It is named after a Prohibition-era schooner which was captured by the Coast Guard in 1924 and subsequently turned into a training vessel (and renamed), which is just another marketing plug meant to anchor the rum to its supposed piratical and disreputable antecedents.

Dark orange in colour, bottled at 40%, the K&S is aged for 12 years in the usual American oak casks.  Where all that ageing went is unclear to me, because frankly, it didn’t have a nose worth a damn.  Oak?  What oak? Smelling it revealed more light vanilla and butterscotch than anything else, with attendant toffee and ice cream.  It was gentle to a fault, and so uncomplex as to be just about boring…there was nothing new here at all. “Dull” one commentator remarked. Even the Barcelo Imperial exhibited more courage, wussy as it was.

K&S 12 YO 2To taste it was marginally better, if similarly unadventurous. Medium bodied, with an unaggressive profile, anchored by a backbone of vanilla and honey.  There was a bit of the oak tannins here, fiercely controlled as to be almost absent; not much else of real complexity. Some floral notes, cinnamon, plums and richer fruits could be discerned, but they were never allowed to develop properly, or given their moment in the sun – the primary vanilla and butterscotch was simply too dominating (and for a rum that was as easy going as this one, that’s saying a lot).  The Brugal 1888 exhibited a similar structure, but balanced things off  a whole lot better. Maybe it was just me – I simply didn’t see where all the ageing went, and there was little satisfaction at the back end which was short, soft as a feather pillow, and primarily (you guessed it) toffee and cocoa and more vanilla. 

So the rum lacks the power and jazz and ever-evolving taste profile that I mark more highly, and overall it’s just not my speed.  Note, however, that residents in the DR prefer lighter, softer rums (which can be bottled at 37.5%) and its therefore not beyond the pale for K&S rum to reflect their preference since (according to one respected correspondent of mine) the objective here is to make an authentic, genuine DR rum.  And that, it is argued, they have achieved, and I have to admit – whatever my opinion of it is, it’s also a very affordable, very drinkable rum that many will appreciate because of that same laid back, chill-out nature to which I’m so indifferent.  Just because it doesn’t work for me doesn’t mean a lot of people aren’t going to like it. Not everyone has to like full proof rums, and not everyone will ever be able to afford indie outturns of a few hundred bottles, if they can even get them; and frankly not everyone wants a vibrating seacan of oomph landing on their palate.  For such people, then, this rum is just peachy. For me, it just isn’t, perhaps because I’m not looking for rums that try to please everyone, are too easy and light, and don’t provide any challenge or true points of interest.

Opinion: you can disregard this section

Years of drinking rums from across the spectrum leads me to believe that there’s something more than merely cultural that stratifies the various vocal tribes of rummies. It is a divide between rum Mixers and rum Drinkers, between bourbon fanciers moving into rums versus hebridean maltsters doing the same (with new rum evangelists jumping on top of both), all mixed up with a disagreement among three additional groups: lovers of those rums made by micro-distillers in the New World, aficionados of country-wide major brands, and fans of the independent “craft” bottlers. Add to that the fact that people not unnaturally drink only what they can find in their local likker establishment, and what that translates into is a different ethos of what each defines as a quality rum, and is also evident in the different strengths that each regards as standard, and so the concomitant rums they seemingly prefer.

That, in my opinion goes a far way to explaining why a rum like the K&S is praised by many in the New World fora as a superb rum…while some of the Old World boyos who are much more into cask strength monsters made by independent bottlers, smile, shrug and move on, idly wondering what the fuss is all about.  Because on one level the K&S is a perfectly acceptable rum, while on another it really isn’t…which side of the divide you’re on will likely dictate what your opinion of it and others like it, is.

Other notes

  • I actually think it’s closer to a solera in taste profile – the Opthimus 18 was what I thought about – but all online literature says it is really aged for twelve years.
  • Bottle purchased in 2013…I dug it out of storage while on a holiday back in Canada in 2016
  • K&S also produces an 18 and 23 year old version.

 

Mar 242013
 

First posted November 19, 2010 on Liquorature.

#048

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Bermudez is the second rum I managed to find from the Three Bs distilleries in the half-island of the Domincan Republic (Brugal, Bermudez and Barcelo), and is both less and more than its possibly better known sibling, the Ron Añejo Brugal which I took a look at yesterday.

J. Armando Bermúdez & Co., C. por A. is a distillery located in Santiago de los Caballeros in the north central region of the DR. It was founded in 1852 (hence the year on the label of this Anniversary edition) by Erasmo Bermúdez, who created the formula of the Bitter Panacea, an early rum meant to be taken as appertif, and which soon became very well known. To this day the descendants of Erasmo run the show, but there are stories about how the various members of the family have squabbled among themselves on the direction of the company, and so it no longer holds the pre-eminent position it once had. It certainly is the oldest of the Three Bs, Brugal being established in 1888 and Barcelo in 1930.

There is no age statement on the bottle, so one is forced to resort to external resouces to see what’s in this baby.  Wikipedia refers to the Anniversario as a golden high-end premium blend (not particularly helpful), and Chip Dykstra’s notes suggest it has either a twelve or a fifteen year old backbone, based on the supplier’s say-so. Given its middling price of just around forty dollars, he may be right,  but I find it frustrating in the extreme to find the company website unavailable, and no other notes of consequence anywhere to inform the casual reader on the matter.

Anniversario is a tawny gold colour, however hidden it may be in a nearly opaque dark green bottle. I can’t say the tinfoil cap impresses me much – if this is a premium rum you’d think something more would be added to the initial presentation to justify the price, not a cheap covering and an equally cheap sigil on the front above the label.

A thin oily film devolves into slow thin legs that meander slowly back into the glass; on the nose, the medicinal sting and reek is more pronounced (much to my surprise) than the Brugal I had right beside it and ten minutes previously (I promptly poured another glass of it to make sure this was not an accident and yup, it was confirmed).  After I left it to open up a bit, other flavours emerged: a sort of earthy, dark taste, like rich chocolate, balanced off by a dry and woody flavour and a hint of citrus.  Later it developed a sweet floral hint, though not as light and clear as the Brugal: it was more…heavy, a bit like lilies as compared to white roses.

The Anniversario is a dry, unsweet medium-bodied rum which seems to be characteristic of the Latin islands. Tasting it confirmed some notions, dispelled others.  A sweeter taste shyly emerged from out of the nose, and the driness became more pronounced, as did the slight bitterness coming from the oaken tannins.  On the back end and leading into the finish, the faint traces of molasses and caramel I so like could finally be discerned.  The finish is short and spicy, a slight burn that just misses being sharp (for which I give thanks), but again, is nowhere near as smooth as the Brugal.

I wish I knew more about its distillation and provenance: it smelled and tasted like a single digit rum, yet it was obviously aged and seemed to be marketed as something more. And against that, the 3-5 year blend of the Brugal has a phenomenally smooth finish which this one can’t even approach. In fine, I’m underwhelmed by the Anniversario.  It has a relatively modest price tag, but if it is true that it is a blend of double digit teen rums, then it has a pedigree I simply cannot see as justified (on the other hand I must say that it’s a matter of what one reviewer has said, plus some anecdotal evidence gleaned from hours of searching online – no real hard facts I can hang my shapka on).

At the end of it all, it must come down to my opinion based on what I tasted.  The Bermudez Ron Añejo Anniversario tastes like a dry cognac, not a rum, is not sweet enough and lacks a real body.  The blend just doesn’t work as well as it should for me, in spite of the fact that it may have a blended series of aged components in the double digits. It has an interesting marriage of flavours, but this groom, alas, ain’t buying today.

(73/100)