Rumaniacs Review R-147 | 0990
After an hours-long tasting session of old rums from the seventies and eighties that were straining to reach the pinnacle of their mediocrity (and mostly failing), there were few surprises left when I came to the another one of the Hawaiian Distillers’ rums called Whalers.
For those who are curious there is some background in the other “Original Dark” review, the Hana Bay entry, as well as that of the Spirit of Hawaii: all of these brands were made by the same company, and although Hawaiian Distillers no longer exists, the brand of Whalers does and is nowadays made (with the same enthusiastically uninspiring indifference as before) by Hali’imaile Distilling Company. As to the term Whaler’s, it supposedly hearkens back to New England sailors who hung around Hawaii when whaling was a thing in the 1800s, which is about as romantic a story as that of pirates in the Caribbean and their cutlasses, grog and yo-ho-hos.
The rum is so similar to its red labelled cousin that it may actually be the same – separated only by a different year of make, a tweaked blend, or a different market in which it was sold. It’s hard to tell these days since records are scant. But it’s the same strength, practically the same colour, and equally hard to date – I think the late 1970s / early 1980s remains a good estimate, though the actual ageing is a complete unknown. If any full sized bottles remain in existence, they can only be in collections like Luca Gargano’s, Mr. Remsburg’s, the Burrs, or in some forgotten attic somewhere in the US waiting for someone to inherit it.
Strength – 40%
Colour – Dark brown-red
Nose – Thin but there’s stuff there: cranberries, red grapefruit, brown sugar, molasses, cherries in syrup. Also that same wet-earth loamy sense of woodland moss and forest glades after a rain that I had with the red label variant. And, finally, the marching armies of vanilla. A lot of it. One is merely surprised — if grateful — that so much stuff came through before it got taken over. It does, as a matter of interest, take some effort to tease out notes of this kind because it comes from a time when light blends were the thing, not stronger, heavier, pot still signatures.
Palate – The vanilla is there from the get-go, if less intensely. Really faint notes of licorice, caramel, molasses, coconut shavings, a touch of brine. Honestly, the rum is really not quite a fail, largely because there is no untoward blast of sugar to dampen the few sensations that do make it through to be sensed and noted but the effort it takes to get coherent tastes out of this thing almost defeats the purpose of drinking it.
Finish – Longish, soft, easy. Molasses, caramel, brown sugar. Thin, weak,
Thoughts – I wasn’t expecting a whole lot and was rewarded for that with a bit less. It’s nothing special, breathy, light, easy hot-weather drinking. It’s pointless to have the Whalers neat, so any simple island mix is just fine and even there you would hardly taste the rum itself. I tried the samples first thing in the morning when the palate was still fresh – which is how I picked apart as much as I did – and on that level it’s okay. But just as it is made with what seems like careless indifference, it excites no more than that in its turn. Name aside, history aside, it’s about as forgettable a brand as those local rums I see in Canadian supermarket annexes nowadays.