Jul 082021
 

After a successful debut in around 2016, the Transcontinental Rum Line, the indie bottler offshoot of La Maison du Whisky in Paris, has faded some from public view, though they continued to release rums as late as 2020). That said, with current distribution in the US and parts of Asia, it may see something of a resurgence with that increased awareness. And that’s a good thing: as with all indies of a diverse portfolio of rums it’s a bit hit or miss, but overall they have done pretty well.

La Maison was formed by Georges Bénitah in 1956, and has had a long history with spiritsparticularly the importation and distribution of rare whiskies. From what I gather, Georges’s son Thierry and Luca Gargano had (and continue to have) a long and amiable relationshipso the eventual joining of forces into the joint venture La Maison & Velier, which now distributes Velier rums in France, was perhaps inevitable. Still, before that happened, LMDW was interested enough in the rising popularity of the indie single-cask rum scene in Europe to branch out on its own, and the TCRL range was launched in 2016 with a mix of various “standard” rums all indies seem to prefer, at either cask or standard strength.

Leaving aside the unoriginal selections from all the usual locations (Fiji and Australia were welcome aberrations, admittedly), what distinguished them right off the bat was their visual imagery and marketing strategy, which was and remains centered around the pictures of the luxury ocean liner which graced their labels, accompanied by old fashioned text font. In the style and the evocation of this era of restrained Edwardian pomp (even if it wasn’t, see other notes, below) one felt a certain genteel sensibility, as one did, for example with the bare and faded yellow labels of Berry Bros. & Rudd.

So, this rum, from Belize. The major distillery of note on Belize is Travellers (Copalli is a new up and comer), which makes the Travellers 1-barrel, 3-barrel and 5-barrel rums for which they are best known, as well as the excellent Don Omario Vintage 15 year old (some backstory for the curious is in the 1-barrel review). This rum dripped off a column still in 2005, and was aged for nine years there before being shipped to Europe for an additional two years ageing, and for whatever reason, they decided to release the two-cask-output of 792 bottles at 46%.

Given the lightness of the profile, that may not have been accidental1, because the rum, even with all that tropical ageing, was soft and warm and pillowlike, completely without the sullen potential for violence displayed by, say, a young pot still Jamaican sporting high proof, dreads and a ‘tude. It presented, I’m afraid, a nose of few surprises: toffee, white chocolate, and some coconut shavings, all very easy and relaxed. A few minutes later it was joined by vanilla, almonds, ice cream and pears, all quite solid, just unassertive and not really trying be overly complicated.

This restrained, lean-back-in-the-berbice-chair simplicity carried over on the tongue as well, and I wish they had beefed it up some, to be honestit gave up tastes of coconut shavings again, caramel, honey, nougat, peaches in syrup, cherries and chocolate oranges, which expanded with some water to introduce a chocolate/coffee vibe that was nice, just not particularly unique in any way. It all moved sedately and quietly into a finish of no real length or strength, which merely repeated these distinct, simple notes, and faded out with warmth and charmth. Yawn.

It’swell, it’s fine. Tasty little rumlet. But a straightforward presentation of such relaxed and quiet tastes is pretty much what I’ve gotten bored with, with Latin-style rons as a whole. There’s not much real fun in the whole thing, little challengethough I fully concede this is a hot-weather rum, to be had when force and striking power is not the objective. By that standard, it’s a very pleasant sundowner sip, and I think the key to enjoying it fully is to pick the right time and place and mood to have it. As it turned out, I had it on a hot July day in Berlin and wasn’t in a mood to play around with its laid-back aw-shucks style, so its charms were unfortunately lost on me.

(#835)(81/100)


Other notes

  • One has to be a little careful about touting the “originality” of the labelling, because the same ship, a reproduction of a painting of the Queen Mary 2, appears on multiple labels and it wasn’t until somewhat laterthe 2020 releases referred to abovethat each bottle got its own ship. The sensory ethos and evocation of a past time embodied in those ships, the style of painting and the labelling font, remained the same, though

  • I particularly appreciate the extra information the back (and now the front) labelthe division of how much time it spent ageing in tropical vs continental climes, the still, and particularly the other bottles in the range (referred to as “lines”, like it was a shipping concern going off to exotic localesone wonder what they would have done of somebody in the marketing department liked trains).

 

Oct 042016
 

travellers-3-barrel-2

A light, easygoing, tasty three year old that’s better than average.

#309

Located in Belmopan (capital of Belize), Travellers is a distillery which traces its origins to 1953 when Master Blender Senor Omario Jaime Pedomo opened a bar he named Traveller’s as a nod to the rum sales made to people travelling to and from Belize City. The company currently uses molasses with natural fermentation (both source of the former and duration of the latter are unknown to me at this time) and double distills the result in a triple column continuous still, for a supposedly smoother, lighter taste. Like many other likker outfits that are big in their own country (DDL comes to mind) they also produces liqueurs, brandies, gins, wines, and vodka, mostly for the local market.

Given that I enjoyed the other rums made by them, it’s odd how long this Belizean hooch escaped my grubby little paws and maybe says something for my purchasing priorities, or where I’ve been buying. It’s the mid-range companion to the quite interesting 1-Barrel and 5-Barrel expressions (the numbers refer to the years of ageing), which may not have scored in the stratosphere, but were tasty, workmanlike rums by any standard. If I had to stratify them, I’d say they were a kind of mix of the softer Bajan and Spanish styles, but that’s just me.

travellers-3-barrel-1The 3 barrel also evinces a peculiarity of the Traveller’s design philosophyevery one of their three products sports a different label, this one with that “parrot” moniker on it which was absent in the other two, and the five even went with a different bottle shape entirely. It doesn’t really matter, not does it impact my enjoyment, it’s just a curious divergence from the norm of consistency, and I wonder whether it’s deliberate.

Anyway, moving right along: a light orange-gold rum aged three years, distilled at 40% for the North American market (I’ve not seen any Europeans review it, which suggests it’s either attracting zero attention there or simply not available). A quick sharp jab of turpentine and wax flared briefly on the nose, and then was gone, followed by wood, sawdust, salted caramel, Haagen-Dasz toffee ice cream and vanilla. Only barely could some light fruity notes be discerned, maybe cherries, maybe apricotsin either case they were overripe. It was an interesting smell, overall, especially in how it developed, but admittedly somewhat schizophrenic between sweet and salt and fruity.

The rum was medium bodied in the mouth, a little sharp, because the ageing had been brief enough to just take some of the edges off a rawer, more jagged profile, not all. In a peculiar reversal of the way flavours usually develop, it started off with large, dominant flavours of butterscotch, caramel, crushed walnuts and toffee, plus a minor key of cinnamon, apricots and faint citrus, maybe orange peeland crushed apples bleeding juice before being made into cider. The finish was perhaps the oddest part of my experience with this rumit was short and the initial smells that I noted did an Alcatraz at the beginning, were back here: wax, paraffin, some turpentine and furniture polish, as well as sweeter, shyer notes of fruits, more caramel, more butterscotchthere really was too much of this.

On balance, the Parrot 3 Barrel showcased rather more potential than actuality. Digging out my initial tasting notes for the 1 and 5 barrel, it’s clear this falls right in the middle, the tastes of the former being tamed a little and being more developed, while not quite at the level of the latter. Something about the overall dominance of the toffee and caramel and vanillas was vaguely off-putting, and didn’t allow the subtler flavours to come through as well as they might have.

So although it’s a well made drink, I think it’s a bit of a yawn-throughstill not in the ballpark of either the 5-Barrel or the Don Omario’s 15 year old, and yet lacking the 1-Barrel’s unashamed, almost joyous assertiveness and youth. Like a middle child not knowing which one of the siblings to hang out with, this rum uneasily tries to bridge the divide while balancing precariously in the centre. That it succeeds at all (and it does, more or less) and provides an enjoyable experience, is quite a feat under such circumstances

(81/100)

 

Jun 182013
 

D3S_5953

 

Ambivalence personified

Ever since I sampled Traveller’s Liquors 1-barrel expression, I’ve wanted to move up the chain – that rum, for its youth and antecedents, was a pleasure to drink, and I really appreciated its ten year old cousin, the excellent Don Omarios Vintage Rum. As with the latter, it was a bottle which “Rum Balls” Tony brought back when he was on holiday over in that part of the world: he obliged his parched amigo by schlepping a bottle of this Belize-made rum back for me to try (with him in attendance, of course). So once again, big hat-tip to Da Man.

I remarked in the Don Omario review that the 5 Barrel would really have to have an oomphed up game to beat it, and the initial nose of the amber coloured, thick legged rum suggested it might: it had a musty, earthy pungency to it, a certain driness, reminding me of an old carpet I used to beat the crap out of in the days before the family had a vaccuum cleaner. Licorice, caramel, brown sugar in a plastic baggie, and a lingering whiff of a cloying overripe (dark red or black) grape notes, something like a sweet red wine. Not quite my thing, that last, though overall, nothing to gripe about, and much to admire.

The taste was an interesting counterpoint. Light and smooth and clearclean is a word not inappropriate to use in this context, and odd after that darker earthier nose. The rum itself was bottled at 40% and was medium to light bodied, but care must be takenI’m not comparing the taste on the palate to an agricole, because here the balance was different, well handled between the light clearer flavours of androgynous fruit like papaya, kiwi and breadfruit. The caramel and sugar notes were held in check while not being entirely overwhelmed, and if I had to make on contrary observation here, it was that there was a salty, almost crackers or biscuits background at the last I simply didn’t care for. The finish was shortish, smooth, warm, and decent without brilliance: it simply reaffirmed all the aforementioned flavours. The Omario, which counted this as its weakest point, was still better.

Summing up, I liked the 5 Barrel quite a lot, but those odd discordant notes that crept in somewhat marred the experience for me. At end I can’t help but feel faintly let down. It’s not that it’s a bad rum (quite the oppositein fact it’s a perfectly solid rum in its own way). I just expected, given the sterling encomiums it was given by individuals for whom I have respect, that it would be, somehow…better. When I compare it to both the 1-barrel, which I enjoyed but which it eclipsed, and then the Don Omario’s, which edged past it, you can perhaps forgive me for being just a shade sniffy about the matter.

If I was feeling bitchy, I’d close by making grumbling, snarky comments about where it failed and what it didn’t do for me and how could it be said to be such a premium expression when it really isn’t, and so on. I won’t, though, because truly, as a mid-range sipping rum, there’s not much fault to find. The thing is solid, just not brilliant (for me…your mileage will inevitably vary). So what it comes down to is expectation versus reality, the very conundrum that infects our daily lives. I go into every new job as an unbridled optimist, thinking that this will be the last one, the best one, this is the one I’ll make my pile from and retire in. Anyone who knows the penurious state of my finances and the precariousness of employment in my drone-like cubicle knows how laughable that sentiment is.

And so also for rums. The Traveller’s Five barrel is what it is, a decent, workmanlike entry into the genre, well put together, decently blended, nothing to be ashamed of at all. My expectations aside, there’s no reason for meor you, for that matterto ignore it if it ever came across my path again.

(#168. 82/100)


Other Notes

 

 

Jun 152013
 

D3S_5967

Sedate, but not quite docile. Urbane with just a hint of bad boy. An excellent fifteen year old out of Belize.

The humourist in me likes to think that Travellersthat excellent rum house out of Belize which also makes the 1-barrel, 3-barrel and 5-barrel rumshas a resident Irishman on the payroll, and he changed his name, and was instrumental in making a left field product with his name on it (I had a similar feeling when I ran into an Irish pub in Kazakhstan many years ago). The reality is different, of course, but it tickled me mightily. Anyway, all that aside, I was otherwise enthused by the vintage rum called Don Omario’s Vintage which “Rum Balls” Tony brought over. He is, you will remember, the guy who has now put me under the table on several occasions with the rums he brings for me to try (while cheerfully pilfering my own vintage stocks).

Traveller’s has been in business since the 1950s, founded by Omario Perdomo (yeah, that’s the guy), after whom this rum is named: the company derived its moniker from its origin in serving the various travellers in and out of Belize City. Like many other national companies (DDL and Tanduay spring to mind), they produce a wide range of spirit products for both the domestic and export market, and thus far, the only previous rum from their range which I had tried was a very pleasant 1-barrel (and I now have the 3- and 5- barrel variations to check out if I can ever get around to them).

There’s a certain retro aspect to this bottle that’s quite uniquein fact, it may be one of the most unusual designs I’ve seen in recent memory: it is shaped roughly like a six pointed star when seen from above (too bad that’s not the way it’ll appear on the shelves, isn’t it?). Good cork, so-so labelling, all-over faux-1970s design. Inside was a copper mahogany liquid that poured out along the sides of the glass with the slow plump legs of a chubby baby.

D7K_1881

I should confess that the nose on this rum was something a few orders of magnitude ahead of the 1 Barrel I was sampling alongside it. Luscious in depth, it reminded me a lot of the Dictador 20: earthy background, coffee, chocolate, fleshy non-acidic fruitsprunes, dried apricots, even dates. The smell advanced past this to mild white pepper notes, caramel and burnt sugar, and came together really, really well.

As for the taste, no complaints from me there. Medium to heavy bodied on the tongue, bottled at an excellent 45%my research suggests it was double distilled from molasses. Smooth and pleasant, with initial warm notes of well humidified tobacco leading off, handing over to chocolate and caramel notes, limmed with burnt sugar and a lovely background of coffee and roasted nuts. The nose hadn’t lied either, because fruity scents hadn’t disappeared, and were a shade more intense than previously promised: peaches freshly cut and still oozing sap, prunes and that flirt of apricots. Good stuff. I should point out that it displayed a few discordant notes here and theremostly some sharpish oak and a tad of dry astringencyas I went back and forth, and I suggest to you that this gives it a nice character, a little bit of bullyism to the palate, something that makes it more than just another rum that pleases.

The finish is about the weakest thing about an otherwise sterling product: dry, short and straightforward, and I’m not damning it for that, by the way, because for all its minimal length, it was soft and billowy, giving up closing aromas of nuts and coffee grounds faintly mixed up with toffee and butterscotch. The close may be too rapid for some, but given what had come before it, I muted my bitch button and simply accepted it as a very pleasant fifteen year old rum, one I would say nice things about to anyone who asked. The 5-barrel I’ve heard so much about would really have to be spectacular to beat it, I think.

So where does this leave me? Well pretty happy, all in all. Traveller’s have made an interesting, professional fifteen year old, smooth, silky, tasty and good for sipping on a cold Calgary night. It is at this point not for sale here, but I will have fond memories of my experience with it, and recommend it as an excellent all-round rum bottled at precisely the right strength for what it attempts, which is to make you savour the visit of a squaddie like Tony who’ll bring it with him for you to try.

(#167. 85/100)


Other Notes

  • Originally I named this a ten year old based on some online background pages I read, though the literature is inconsistent about the matter: some mention it as being ten years old, some as fifteen. I have emailed Traveller’s to see if they can clear up the matter. Tony himself confirmed that when he bought it in Belize, it was specifically sold to him as being a fifteen year old, and so I have retitled my post.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nov 062011
 
A medium-bodied golden rum with nose and plalate and finish all a cut above the normal – if this is what Belize can make with so little fanfare, we should all go and get ouselves some of their wares.

First posted 6th November 2011 on Liquorature

Belize , formerly the British Honduras, is a small piece of the Yucatan peninsula (the eastern side), and a pleasant little parliamentary democracy where that staple of West Indian culture, cricket, is oddly absent (for shame). On the other hand, they are making a sterling little rumlet from one of the four distilleries in the country, and for that I give them full credit. The 1 Barrel Refined Old Rum is a lovely piece of work, and for a rum aged for so little, I’m actually more than a little impressed.

Travellers is a distillery which traces its origins to the heydey of the 50s when the Caribbean was a mafia and tourist playground. In 1953 Senor Jaime Pedomo opened a bar he named Traveller’s, meant to cater to the transient clientele that dominated the economy even then; as with most establishments of the time, it was not enough to merely sell imported hooch and locally fermented swill, but eventually to make one’s own, and pretend to some level of quality. Don Omario (after whom the eponymous 15 year old rum is named) followed this noble moonshining tradition, developed his own recipe, and its popularity grew by leaps and bounds – I see no reason to doubt various claims that it’s the most popular rum in the joint.

Appearance-wise, there’s not much to say. Standard slope shouldered bottle, the label in the shape of the pictured barrel (just one, to go along with its name, I would surmise). Screw top plastic cap, utilitarian and effective, no fancy stuff here at all. Never having had anything from Belize before – and being intrigued by anything new, I had no problem forking out the ~$30 to give it a try when I discovered it based on a tip, in a small out of the way little likker establishment in Calgary.

Good thing, too, because here’s a golden rum that will make my second “10 Decent Rums (roughly) under $50” list for sure. The nose, admittedly, had an initially slight plastic-ey note to it (don’t ask), and fortunately this disappeared and was replaced by sweet vanilla, sugars and light phenols. After opening up it assumed a darker character, something more assertive, more mellow…sort of like sucking off the crap from an M&M and then getting to the chocolate. Fleshy fruits, hints of burnt sugar, freshly shaved coconut. It was mild and soft and actually improved over the minutes.

Nor did the taste disappoint, though here I should mention that 1 Barrel is really not a sipper: it’s good, no doubt, just a shade uncouth at times. Still, just as the nose transmuted into a kind of spicy clarity more reminiscent of white flowers and cherries, the taste, as it stayed, mellowed like the nose did, without losing that edge, and so the memory you’re left with is one of a kind of half-crazed caramel-vanilla nuttiness and butterscotch that grabs your tongue and then jabs it with a pitchfork a few times just for fun. Maybe that’s the lack of ageing, because the 1 barrel is only aged for a year (in used Kentucky bourbon barrels) – so some of that youthful insouciance and braggadocio of an unbridled and untamed hooch remains to remind you of its origins.

In spite of that sharpness, it was actually milder than one might expect after having been assaulted by, oh, a Coruba or a Smuggler’s Cove; and richer, with the burnt brown sugar scents gathering force as the minutes went by. All of these elements came together, and then mellowed into a caramel enhanced butterriness about as amazing to experience as hearing my nineteen year old daughter tell me she loves me without prompting her with a new car. The finish wasn’t bad either, though shorter than I might have liked, and a shade more raw than I cared for. But overall, not nearly as bad as my previous horror-show with the Bundie had been – I didn’t lose my voice or my sight on this occasion, for a start (much to the disappointment of several hopeful relatives, I’m sure) – and as a mixer, the smokiness of the burnt sugar really comes out.

So to summarize: an excellent entry-level golden rum which just fails as a sipper but can certainly be endured as such; and a good mixer if that’s your bent. Perhaps the best way to round out this review is to simply say I enjoyed it, and it makes me eager to try the higher and more aged entries in Traveller’s food chain.

(#085. 76/100)


Other Notes

  • The Company website is remarkable scant on details. Other sources note that thexbarrels of the 1, 3 and 5 barrel rums refers to the years of ageing (in ex-bourbon barrels).
  • The distillery was built in the 1960s and completely revamped and upgraded in the 1990s but I can find no reference as to the kinds of stills it uses. Indirectly, the rum-x app notes a lot of independent bottlings as being column still, as did the wikipedia page (without sourcing)