Mar 272013
 

This rum fits on my collection like an expensive Italian suit. I don’t really need it, but bought it just the same. For how could I not? It’s actually better than the RN Jamaican 25 year old.

(#104. 89.5/100)

***

To let my humour and attitude slip just a bit: I gotta be honest, people, every now and then I get bored with rums. Another day, another dollar, another new rum to dissect. “The Cussmander Distillery’s new Rambunctious Rum has a standard proofing of 40% topped by a (yawn) rubber cap, and a wrapper made of Komodo dragons, blah blah blah”…. are we there yet? Burnt sugar, vanilla, some oak….yawn.

Today, I am reborn. Today I am again completely fascinated by the rums—as a drink, as an instrument of human ingenuity, as an expression of blending art and design to rival Strad violins and Dubai’s islands. Today I’m seriously considering drawing rums on my notebooks like an obsessed teenager seeing his first Lambo poster.

Thanks, Rum Nation. Needed the lift, there.

Cutting to the chase, Rum Nation’s second oldest product as of this writing, the Demerara 23 year old, is a rollicking reason to recall why we enjoy rums that take the concept in different directions. We don’t have to be satisfied with general purpose one-size-fits-all rums, but can stretch our minds and our imaginations to encompass the nutso Italian design ethic: this one in particular.

Made from rum sourced more than fifteen years ago and aged in bourbon casks and then finished in Pedro Jimenez  sherry casks, the Demerara 23 year old is, quite simply, as extraordinary a rum as I’ve never heard of, not least because it really is a shade on the crazy side. I almost hesitate to recommend it largely because of that quality. It shares a lot with its older sibling the Jamaican 25 – the sliding panel box with the old printing, the jute sacking, the bottle…but it goes one step further, by being just a shade better.  Not in spite of its testosterone inspired tonsil-baiting hydrophobia, but perhaps because of it.

At 43%, the nose was going to be a shade sharp, no surprises there: good in its way. But remember how I remarked on the sulphurous feinty notes of the RN Jamaica 25 year old? This one took it a step further, and must have decided that since it couldn’t be a pornstar’s parlour toy, it might as well be Batman’s rubber suit. The plastic and rubber notes were so much more in evidence, I almost put the damned thing down, yet a perverse masochism made me continue, and I’m glad I did – because once that mellowed out, rich, pure fumes of a really fantastic rum immediately enveloped my nose….better even than the RN Jamaica 25. Wood, perhaps cedar, some oak, dark brown sugar melting in a pan, pears and dates and apricots. And then, as if to flip me the bird, other notes of soggy biscuits, ageing leather, and a mustiness that was redolent of the patient, methodical, aged calmness of a well cared-for old wooden house in GT along the seawall (no, really).

And the taste, wow. Strong and intense, it was exactly sweet enough to counterbalance the influence of oak, had slow and powerful nuances of leather, savoury, spices, and softer tropical fruits…some citrus and banana, perhaps. Behind it all, yup, that slight prankish note of dissonance created by the rubber that wouldn’t go away. And yet the 43% made the flavours so intense it was almost conjugal bliss…the rum rolled down my throat as if it was a harpooned locomotive and announced its prescence like a load of stink – silently and with deadly force. It was kind of jarring to sense tastes this powerful married to notes both this lovely and this out-to-lunch.  The finish was on a level with everything that had gone before, long and lasting, intense and aromatic, with a vague orange peel note joining with dark sugar in a way I really liked. And yes, the sense that Batman had just bailed.

I said about the Jamaica 25 that it was a rude Italian gesture towards the concept of high volume and merely passable quality which sells just about three quarters of the rums in the world today. The Demerara 23 is made in exactly that iconoclastic vein and with exactly that mindset, and maybe a bit more – they are like Cadenhead, in their way, perhaps Bruichladdich, in their refusal to add anything to their products. Rum Nation’s markets are primarily in Europe, and say what you will about the economic situation there, they do have a somewhat more sophisticated tippling class over the pond. This is a rum aimed squarely at them: and at us over here who want to try something a shade loopy and have the courage to go there. For those who want to experience what a rum can taste like if taken out of its (and your) comfort zone, it’s a great way to get to know a variation most would be too timid to approach.

So try it. You may not necessarily like it as much as I did…but at least you’ll know something more about your tastes than when you started. Me, I think I’m gonna get me another shot. Or three. And try to find out from Fabio who the hell his master blender is.


Other Notes

A full biography of Rum Nation is available for those interested in the historical background of the company.

Mar 272013
 

 

An Italian outfit takes on the big boys from Scotland in grand style with a 25 year old of stunning originality and quality.

(#103. 88/100)

***

The Rum Nation Specially Selected Jamaica 1985 25 year old (also known as the Supreme Lord V) 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 (2012 price) rum from Long Pond distillery 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 souped up Bentley 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.


Other Notes

A full biography of Rum Nation is available for those interested in the historical background of the company.

Mar 262013
 

First posted 12 March 2011 on Liquorature

One of the acclaimed limited edition bottlings from Bruichladdich, it will remind you of a dry rye, and is a rum worth your buck; deep, tasty with complex flavour and taste.  It’s long lasting on the palate, but not in the company of your friends.

(#068. 84.5/100)

***

A few days ago I was on the Ministry of Rum, and a guy there proudly announced that he had just bought all twenty bottles of the current Renegade line.  All twenty!!? I’ve only ever seen four in this whole country.  You can imagine with what envy I regarded that little announcement.  I mean, I have relatives in Deutschland and I suppose I can get a few that way, but it just strikes me as wrong somehow that I can’t get a larger selection of these intriguing rums in the only unregulated province in Canada.

Ever since I saw the first sand-blasted bottle of the Renegade line with its metal dog tag, I’ve admired the product line.  Not always appreciated it as much as I should have (chalk that down to lack of experience).  But definitely admired the concept: a whisky maker with a great reputation making rums. And pretty interesting rums at that – rums that strike a newbie rum lover raised on the Bacardis and Appletons as dry and not as sweet as he’s used to, perhaps…but rums that grow on you after a bit, like this one and all its brothers, sisters and cousins did.

The maturation in bourbon casks is only part of the equation, because the Grenada 1996 is then finished in Haute Brion casks, and it shows. The nose was just heavenly: toffee, pineapple, caramel, come first, with – what was that? cheddar? – citrus and burnt sugar emerging later to mix gently with a marshmallow softness that tamped down the spirit burn of a 46% spirit.  I’ve never been convinced that a spirit should be 46% or greater, though I’ve had my share of cask strength rums, and the occasional whisky: still, I might want to make exceptions here or there. The extra strength imparted a deeper and more complex flavour to the aroma than I had expected, and you’d probably like it as long as you’re prepared to tolerate a little more heat and spice than normal at the inception. I seem to recall I made a similar observation about overproofs once or twice.

Spice or not, heat or not, I simply could not complain about the flavour and feel on the tongue. The thing felt like a rye, though a bit drier, just enough sweet, and it leaves a coating on the tongue that is oily and long lasting (this is probably a direct result of the policy of un-chill filtering which leaves the taste-enhancing oils intact in the spirit) . There’s leather, a hint of cedar wood and always, that slightly floral and cherry hint descending from the Haut Brion casks (I may be reaching here).  And I got breakfast spice, cinnamon, caramel and chocolate; yes it’s spicy and burning on the fade and even before, but in a good way.  Curt and I had a long discussion on what heat, spice or burn actually mean in the context of a review, how it should be rated and to what degree it impacts on one’s enjoyment. In this case, I’ll just say that it was mellow and deep and not remotely reminiscent of my wife giving me a hard time after an all night bender when I pour myself through the door and can’t remember the names of the kids. Seriously.

Cask finishing seems to be an upcoming thing right now.  Of course, whiskies have always had variations which were matured in (for example) sherry casks, and rums have a few courageous souls here and there who do a double ageing, once in oak and once in something else (Ron Zacapa 23 is a good example of this idea). But Murray MacDavid of Bruichladdich may have taken the concept a few notches further up the scale by buying up very specific estates’ rums and then enhancing them in some pretty awesome wine casks. This Grenada variant was completed in Haute Brion casks; it comes from the Westerhall distillery, active since 1766, and which these days makes only 3 barrels a day from a copper pot still. The stock was bought and then the casks shipped to Islay for ageing and final completion (and I’m still kinda pissed that the Hippie, when he was there, utterly ignored this aspect of Bruichladdich’s production and brought back no info on their philosophy regarding it). It’s pretty damned good, is a one line summary.

I think a sweet-toothed rum lover such as I has to grow into the Renegade rums. A year or two back, I reviewed two other variations, sniffed rather snootily and said the rums were too much like whiskies.  What a difference experience and the passing of time makes. The Renegade Grenada edition has shown me something of how different a rum can be from my own preconceptions, and yet still be enjoyable.  At ~$60-80 Canadian, it isn’t really for beginners wanting their first intro (my opinion).  But it – and its nineteen relatives in the line – may be the bridge for the truly interested person to broaden his palate to more interesting and offbeat variations…to the point where whiskies actually start to look really appealing and worth an occasional try.

Oh crap…Maltmonster and the Hippie are going to hang me with that.


Other Notes

In 2017 I wrote a biography of Renegade Rums which is useful background to this review

Mar 262013
 

First posted November 27th, 2010 on LIquorature

A dry, slightly overproof schizophrenic rum that is just on his side of being a whisky, and not recommended for purist rum mixologists who like their libation darker and sweeter.

(#051. 76/100)

***

Rum is traditionally matured in used bourbon or other whiskey barrels, but this is the first one I’ve ever seen and tasted which was finished in a Laphhroaig cask.  Was that an accident?  Did it just sort of  slip and fall over and said “Oops!” as it boinked into a cask of whisky?  I dunno, but Cadenhead Green Label 12 yr old Demerara rum is a rum with an identity crisis, a crazy overproof schizo that doesn’t know what the hell it is, and, like the Green Label Classic we tried  way back in February 2009, it does not rank high on our list in spite of the $83 price tag.

The source of this pale yellow rum is rum from Guyana (I wonder if DDL has been sneaking into Scotland again), and part of its claim to fame – aside from the aforesaid Laphroaig casks and some water brought in to bring it down (up?) to drinking strength – is an absolute lack of additives or subsequent processing of any kind to make it a different colour, or adulterate the taste in any fashion. This was also a charatceristic of the Green Label Classic we had last year, except in that case it had no age statement. Both are made by the Cadenhead Distilleries now owned by the Campbeltown distiller J.&A. Mitchell and Co., which runs the  Springbanks distillery in Argyll, and is primarily a single malt brewer. One is left to wonder whether they are copying Bruichladdich’s Renegade line, or indulging in some experimentation of their own.

Appearance wise, the Classic was actually better, with a rounded cardboard box; this one was a fairly straightforward design and label of rough paper.  A lot of the pale liquid inside was visible, and I imagine that alone would catch many an eye more used to darker hues.  The nose is sharpish, not quite medicinal, but not gentle either (the rum is 46% so that’s certainly part of it), and asserts its woody character without apology.  I’m not a whisky drinker by habit (I’ve tasted enough to get the rudiments down and one can’t be a member of Liquorature without picking up something about Scotches) and I have no real sense of Laphroaig aside from its peatiness – I imagine that the woody bite I got on the nose hearkens to this.  It opens up after a while, revealing a fruity note, leavened by – I swear! – sea salt. Like I said…not a normal rum.

The taste to me is flat out whisky.  There is no way I could do a blind test on this and know it was a rum except, perhaps, for the slightly sweet hint to it which is uncharacteristic of whiskies as a whole.  It’s dry as hell, as arid as the Sahara, and yet there again was that salty-brine undernote. It burns and stings of oak, finishes in the same fashion – dry and burning – and this is where I question the decision not to do any further processing on it. Aside from some kind of purist’s bragging rights, what exactly has this decision led to? Not a rum, to me, but some kind of bastardized in-the-middle product that isn’t fish or fowl.

The PeatHeads in the group were vocally disapproving and dismissive – even contemptuous – in their assessment. “Motor oil.” “Rubber.” “Noses like a Barbie doll fresh out of the plastic,” sniffed the Hippie (how does he even know that smell? I wonder).  I don’t know if they actually disliked it, smelled and tasted what they said, or were afraid that rums were starting to approach whiskies in taste and nose and were terrified of the thought, but to my mind the comments were just a shade harsh.

Myself, I must admit to sort of liking it. Oh, don’t get me wrong, it’s not quite my thing, and I wouldn’t blow another eighty bucks to add it to my “special” shelf where I keep the stuff I really like (as opposed to those bottles I buy to review and share) – but there’s an odd underlying harmony to the balance of driness and sweetness in the Green Label 12; and the depth imparted by the slight overpoof nature of the rum added to a profile that I found just intriguing enough not to dislike it outright. Not quite recommended, unless you’re in the mood to buy something really different, but you won’t be entirely disappointed with it if you do.

 

 

Mar 242013
 

First posted 30th June 2010 on Liquorature.

(#029)(Unscored)

This rum is simply too weak and underpowered. It is the Prince Myshkyn of rums.

***

Bajans like to say they did everything first, annoy and harass no end of Guyanese travelling through Grantley Adams, and are a suitably soft-spoken, deprecating folk to boot (“You may enter the war; Barbados is on your side,” went that famously modest telegram to King George in 1939).   However, research shows their claim to produce the first commercial rums in the western hemisphere is likely to be true. Mount Gay is of course the most famous and widely exported, but for some reason they missed the boat on the emergence of premium sipping rums in the last few years, and so very few top-tier liquors emerge from Little England at this time from that house (they didn’t lay in enough stocks twenty years ago, or something). Other rums made on the island are less well known, though I’m sure most know of Cockspur and Malibu (a liqueur) and St. Nicholas Abbey, and maybe Mahiki. I’m still waiting for a good top-end Mount Gay to pass through Calgary, mind you.

Anyway, this XO is supposedly the best of the lot from this Bajan distiller R. L. Seale’s (of Foursquare Distillery) which blends and bottles it for the house of Martin Doorly, an old rum-making concern still in the hands of the founders’ family. Their claim to fame is the double distilling of the blend in used Spanish oloroso sherry casks, which impart a lighter, less dense and clearer aspect to this 40% rum.

I am in awe of people who can flex their probosces, sniff, gargle and spit, and come up with liquorice, aniseed, mint, grapes, treacle, walnut and raisins, plus ten other things including the breakfast cheese the blender had had on the morning of the bottling (plus, perhaps, the name of his favourite marmalade).  I am, alas, nowhere so practiced or adept. Once I broached the squat bottle – love that rare blue macaw on the label – a sniff and a swirl suggested a lighter than usual rum, of toffee-brown hue, and a nose hinting at toffee, fruit, caramel (very lightly so), and a dusting of nuts of some kind.  Sugar, and a sort of perfumed sweetness that goes well with the overall delicacy the rum seemed to embody.

Up front, I have to tell you – I wasn’t pleased. I didn’t pay an arm and a leg for the rum to be a delicate little wallflower, with lace curtains on chintzy wallpaper: I wanted the proverbial cutlass and yo-ho-hos, the dead man’s chest, a little pillage, rape and plunder, damn it.  Was this what almost four hundred years of distillation had taught them? To make rum for the wussies and tourists?

Sipping it neat, and then  on ice, confirmed some ideas, dispelled others: I tasted walnuts, cinnamon, sugar, and there were few hints of the usual burnt sugar which current tastings of other rums to this point had led me to expect. And yet there was that same delicacy again, that slight civilization of rum, which made itself evident in very light notes overall.  In other words, here was not a rum that took you by the johnson and gave a good hard tug: rather, it politely tapped you on the shoulder to get your attention.  Discreet, polite, effeminate. One could almost believe this was a stronger than usual but not-as-sweet port.  This lack of assertiveness carried over into the texture and feel on the tongue. Light, smooth, yes, but was this not defeating the purpose of a rum?

I must admit to being left a shade irritable, as if by a girl who smiled and promised and then bailed just as I was getting my hopes up: it was a rum, sure, but I’d never had one that held back so much, revealed itself so shyly. I was unused to the concentration I needed to bring to tease out the notes on Doorly’s, and even then, my overall lack of a decades-long well-trained snoot put me at a disadvantage.  I liked it – it was smooth on the palate and didn’t burn much on the moderately long finish, so on that level, not bad.  But this lightness and complexity doesn’t work for me – I’ve always preferred strong tastes that “tek front” and don’t dick around.

On the other hand, maybe the Bajans really did overwork Doorly’s, they really did make it for the wussies, my feelings weren’t lying and it really is nothing beyond the gentle delicacy of a tamed wild libation that should have more depth and character.  If that is the case – and I’ll go back to this one again to ensure I’m not marking it unfairly – then the Bajans are staying true to form, and pretending to a civilization and sophistication their other West Indian counterparts would simply shake their heads and laugh at.

And in the case of this mudlander, add a sneer.

Mar 242013
 

First posted 9th June 2010 on Liquorature.

(#023)(Unscored)

Let’s be clear from the outset, that this is a true Cuban rum, not a product of the Bacardi line which produces a rum under the same name and which it is being litigated against.  The marque was first created in 1878 by Jose Arechabala in Santa Cruz del Norte, Cuba.  Some might argue that Fidel had no business nationalizing the company after he took over the country in 1959, but the current crop of rums, produced in a 50:50 partnership with Pernod-Ricard since 1994 suggests that quality has not suffered in the interim (although I so find it amusing to see bourgeois capitalism raising its head in the workers paradise). Unfortunately, the embargo by the US against Cuba has limited the rums’ importation into the States…but we, as Canadians, suffer no such problems or shortages.

As I taste rums from more and more countries – thus far I’ve sampled from the Dominican Republic, Guyana, Australia, Trinidad, Jamaica, Barbados, Canada, Scotland, Venezuela, St. Croix, Antigua, Nicaragua, Puerto Rico and Anguilla – certain characteristics seem to be national in character: Antiguans make a lighter, smoother, sweeter rum, the Jamaicans favour some citrus and funkiness, the Venezuelans a drier, medium variety, and of course Guyanese make their famed Demerara rums with deep rich bodies.  So I was intrigued what I would find from the Cuban stocks…this was my first sample of one, and in a midlevel price range (~$45 Canadian).

The first thing that struck me was the colour.  One of the reasons I picked this picture to use on the post was because it almost perfectly shows  the gold-bronze colour of the rum when sunlight hits it.  Maybe that has something to do with how it’s made: distilled in used whiskey and bourbon barrels of white oak from the usual molasses, then blended together and aged some more in special casks (whatever that might mean) – this process is not the same as the solera method, since the blend is simply put into a second set of barrels in order to get an additional flavour profile.  The box notes this as the “double barrel” method of maturation.

The nose is more complex than I expected.  Hints of the usual suspects abound, but are well balanced with a certain fruitiness and woodsy flavour I could not precisely pinpoint.  On the tongue I really liked it – I made sniffy noises at the Kraken the other day, for which I’m sure The Last Hippe has not forgiven me, but it had that same smooth oily texture that makes it slide down the throat as smooth as a tomcat pissing on a sheet of velvet (well: that’s me being metaphorical, but you get the drift). Vanilla, cinammon, toffee, caramel, brown Demerara sugar….I keep seeing canefields on fire at harvest season when I taste this, so strongly does it evoke memories of my boyhood. And the woodsy taste I noted before fades gently into the background, lending an overall piquancy to the taste. Just sweet enough without being overwhelming – reminds me of those cigarillos I used to smoke, which were flavoured with port wine for additional taste;  the rum was something like that.

In summary, I’d suggest this is a solid top-tier mid-price rum, perhaps even a bit better. It has real complexity and flavour, is sweet enough for me without annoying the peat-heads and can be had neat or over ice, as well as in a cocktail – a coke solidifies the flavour and texture on the palate markedly, and I highly recommend it this way. I’d say that it’s on a level with the Cruzan Single Barrel rum or above, which was a very good piece of work, and so I’ll simply close by noting that for my weekend libations on the deck in the summer, I would never say no to this excellent product of Cuba.

Viva la revolucion!

Mar 232013
 

First posted 25 January 2010 on Liquorature.

(#009)(Unscored)

***

I’m not always and entirely a fan of Renegade Rum, but will unhesitatingly concede that they are among the most interesting ones currently available, and deserve to be sampled. Un-chill filtered at the Bruichladdich Distillery on the Isle of Islay in Scotland, these limited editions have the potential to popularize single-vintage rum if one can get past the whiskey-like finish that jars somewhat with what I expect a rum to be.

My research notes that Renegade Rums trawls the Caribbean estates for traditional single distilleries that are no longer in operation or have some stock to sell, and purchases supplies from places like Guyana, Panama, Jamaica, Barbados, Grenada, and Trinidad — then completes the maturation in oak bourbon barrels, or those which have held madeira, port or wine. This impacts the taste quite significantly, I’ve found, but more than that, it makes the release extraordinarily limited: this one from 1991 was only 1380 bottles.

I’m unclear how old the 1991 Trinidad rum actually is, since it is advertised as 17, but 16 is printed on the bottle. Whatever the true age, the palate on this 46% (92 proof rum) is uniformly excellent, with notes of port and oak and a very subtle taste of caramel. The finish is not as sweet as I would expect, and does not last as long or as smoothly as a 16 year old rum perhaps should, though hints of burnt sugar and apples can be discerned (this is probably from the French port barrels used for the final ageing). What stops this from being a stellar review is simply the way the somewhat harsh and short finish takes some getting used to – when I first tasted this, I grumblingly compared it to a whisky. See, I’ve been getting sotted on the grog for more than half my life, and us West Indian hicks don’t particularly care to have our national drink turned into a Scottish home brew.

Ok, so that is snooty. Don’t get me wrong, however: I liked it precisely because it’s different, had character, texture, body and a good strong flavour. I wouldn’t drink it neat, though, or with ice (though I did both to write this review). This one, for all its rich provenance and comparative rarity, will be drunk rarely.*

* My good friend Keenan, horrified at my cautiously tempering the good stuff with coke (I was just checking, honest), snatched it away, proceeded to drink it with bowed head and misty eyes on the rocks, complimented it most fulsomely on its character, and disdained the cheap Lambs spiced rum (3rd tier, really) I was happily getting smacked on. I may not compliment Renegade’s creation as much as he did — he had to be dragged off, screaming “Leh we tek wan moh shot, bai” when the evening was over — but at least one person really really appreciated it, and the bottle I have will be kept for his use when next he is let out to play.

Mar 232013
 

First posted 25 January 2010 on Liquorature.

(#008)(Unscored)

***

The Renegade line of rums is as clear a statement as any, that packaging sells: their bottles are so curiously different that one is almost compelled to take a closer look when one sees them on the shelves…and having seen, the itch to go spend some cash becomes an incessant feeling that must be assuaged. Or so I felt when I first saw them: that frosted glass bottle with the rich copper-bronze liquid swirling heavily within just makes me burn to blow some bucks, honestly. And it wasn’t a poor purchase either.

As I’ve noted in my review of the Trinidad 1991, Renegade Rums takes stocks from Caribbean distilleries old or closed, and matures them in oak barrels, then finishes them off in French oak casks that may have held Madeira, port, or wine. Their bottling runs are very small, numbering fewer than 2000 bottles. Because of this process, their rums have a characteristic whiskey finish quite unlike a “normal” rum, and are not as sweet – though I imagine dedicated whiskey drinkers will disagree vehemently and shudder as they reach for their single malts.

This Jamaican edition from 2000, originating from the Hampden distillery, was a selection for the November 2009 book club. As before, it has been aged in an American Oak bourbon cask, then enhanced for a period of less than a year in French Oak infused by Barac sweet wine (the bottle says Chateau Climens casks). For an 8-yer old, the nose is impressive, redolent of bourbon and then wine, and more complex yet the more I sniffed it. The taste is of bourbon, mixed with apples and perhaps, just perhaps, a whiff of licorice, and it’s not overly smooth – still, to my mind it’s giving the Renegade Trinidad 1991 some serious competition. However, the  finish spoils it somewhat, since it tastes the faintest bit bitter.

Renegade suggests drinking it neat, but the truth is, it’s a little too harsh for that, and I didn’t care for the not-quite-mellow whiskey-sour-fruit aftertaste. There’s a reason I favour rums over whiskey (quite aside from my background and history). It’s not bad, just not top of the line, and while the first impression is positive, I can’t say the finish is worth it, though whiskey drinkers will likely castigate me most thoroughly for this bit of barbarism. (If memory serves, the club appreciated it, just not to the point of leaving it unmixed).

On balance then, I would recommend avoiding the Renegade rums that are less than ten years old and sticking with the older stuff – but if you can find a decently priced bottle at all, then, bearing in mind their comparative rarity, you would not be going too far wrong if you bought the younger ones as well