I just imbibed an angry blender set to “pulse”.
Even now, the words of the Roman poet Horace, resound: “Mix a little foolishness with your serious plans. It is lovely to be silly at the right moment.” Every time I try one of the barking mad overproof 151 rums, these words come to me, because all I can think is that some mischievous guy in a lab somewhere is happily whipping up these rums like Professor Snape in his dungeon. Surely there is little reason for rums this powerful to exist, but exist they do, and just like all those crazies who eat suicide wings by the cartload, I’m drawn to them like a rice-eating mongrel to the outhouse – gotta see what’s in there, why people constantly troop in and out, even if there’s a risk I might fall in.
Cavalier 151 is one of the select entries into the pantheon of 75.5% overproofs made by companies as diverse as J. Wray, Tilambic, Bermudez, Bacardi and Lemon Hart…and a few other rums even stronger than that. Honestly, there’s not really much point to reviewing one of these from the perspective of advising a drinker whether to have it neat or not, and what its mouthfeel compares to. These porn-inspired liquid codpieces are made for local markets, or for cocktails which channel a Transformer on crack – not for more casual imbibers.
The Cavalier is from the same outfit that produced the English Harbour series of rums as well as the long-out-of-production Cavalier 1981 . It’s a straw coloured rum distilled from fermented molasses, and aged at least 2 years in used American bourbon barrels.
Some of that ageing shows in the initial profile (I let the glass sit down for about half an hour before approaching it). Yes it had some of the fierce, stabbing medicine-like reek of almost pure alcohol; it also had an appealing kind of creaminess to it, with a vague background of fruits and berries (blackberries, soft blackcurrants and the sharper spiciness of red ones), some faint vanilla…it was more than I was expecting, to be honest. If tamed, I could almost sense the aged English Harbour expressions coiling behind.
As we might expect, on the palate, the thing turned feral. I know the label says it’s a “refined and mellow rum” but if you believe that, then I have some low tide real estate you really should look at. It was deep and hot and spicy to a fault, and care had to be taken not to take too large a sip lest my my gums fell out. The heat and power of this overproof were, as with most others, its undoing as a neat spirit. First neat and then with water, I sensed muted flavours of vanilla, leather, some smoke, caramel, butter cookies, all wound around with coconut shavings, followed by more black-currants and blackberries – they were just all so faint, and the heat so intense, that it made picking things out something of a lost cause, as it more felt like I had just swallowed the freshly stropped shaving razors of the Almighty. No issues with the finish – long, long, long, hot and spicy, with a last sharp puff of coconut and biscuits left behind to mingle with some vanilla.
So, yeah, of course it’s a little unrefined. With that much alcohol in the liquid, there ain’t a whole lot of space left over for the finer things. Yet flavours were indeed there, however mild and overawed by the raw booze…and they were very nice when I spotted them. It supports my contention that overproofs as a whole are meant for deep and massive mixed drinks, barflies and bartenders and lovers of the Tiki, and not so much for any kind of snooty tasting. They may be more throwaway efforts than serious exemplars of the blenders’ arcane arts, but in that very unsophistication lies their attraction (that, and some bitchin’ cocktails).
I would suggest that’s more than enough foolishness to get us all through a season of silliness or two. And it’ll put a ridiculous smile on our faces for sure. That alone might make such a bottle worth buying.
As far as I know, rums stronger than the more common 151s are:
- Sunset Very Strong 84.5%
- Marienburg 90%, currently the ultimate in badass
- SMWS Longpond 9 Year Old 81.3%
- SMWS Barbados 75.3% just misses the cut, but it’s close and I wanted to mention it
- Stroh 80
- After finding more and more of these things, I finally combined them into a post of their own, titled the 21 Strongest Rums in the World, in late 2019
- For additional details on the history and development of 151 overproof rums, this article provides all the background