Nov 102023
 

In 2015 an up and coming small rum maker called Plantation wanted to make a bar mixer to go beyond its decently regarded and well-selling Original Dark, which back then was primarily Trinidad distillate. The company had already made a name for itself in the bartending circuit with its blends like the Three Star, and its initial attempts at becoming an indie bottler got some decent reviews (mine among them). People liked them. The secondary maturation abroad and dosage, had not yet become issues. Their rums were deemed pretty good.

To the end of filling a gap in the overproof dark rum segment of the mixing market, Alexandre Gabriele the owner, repeated the process he had used to make the Three Starhe consulted with people who were in the industry, and brought together six personages of the rum world whose experiences behind the bar and within the cocktail culture were such that their opinions held real weight: JeffBeachbumBerry from Latitude 29, Martin Cate from Smuggler’s Cove, Paul McFadyen who was then at Trailer Happiness, Paul McGee from Lost Lake, Scotty Schuder from Dirty Dick, and Dave Wondrich, a cocktail historian. Based on lots of samples and lots of tastings (and probably lots of cheerfully inebriated arguments) they set to work to make a mixer that it was hoped would elevate tropical cocktails and Tiki drinks to the next level, take on Lemon Hart and Hamilton’s overproof rums, and carve its own niche in the world.

Products designed by committee rarely succeed, but here may be the exception that proves the rule: from that beginning so many years ago, the OFTD, first released in July 2016, has become one of the most popular mixing drinks ever made, perhaps not quite rivalling Bacardi in ubiquity, but so versatile and affordable and let’s face it, even drinkable, that it has become a commercial and private bar staple. Even as the groundswell of dislike for Plantation has grown into ever more poisonous online discourse, the Old Fashioned Traditional Dark, made from rums deriving from Barbados, Guyana, and Jamaica, has flourished. It eclipses every other rum in the company’s “Bar Classic” series of the line (Stiggins’ Fancy and Xaymaca are popular for other reasons); it is a step above and much more interesting than the overly sweet “Signature” blends and surely easier on the wallet than the Single Cask, Extreme or Vintage editions.

What makes it so popular and so well regarded? To some extent it really is how well the blend works; the strength certainly helps, and for sure so does the lack of any additivesit is one of the few rums Plantation makes which is not dosed. When one looks under the hood, it’s really quite a bit more complex than at first seems to be the case: back in 2018 The ‘Wonk said that the makeup was Guyana (Port Mourant distillate aged 1-2 Years in new and ex-Cognac French oak), Barbados (WIRD distillate, 4 years in new French oak and 2-4 Years in heavy toasted American white oak); and Jamaica (Clarendon MLC 1-2 Years in new French oak, Long Pond TECC 1-2 Years also in new French oak, Long Pond STCE 8½ years in ex-bourbon and ex-Cognac, and lastly some Long Pond TECA 19½ years in ex-bourbon and ex-Cognac). All blended and tied up in a bow at 69% ABV, and while perhaps by 2023 the blend has shifted somewhat, that’s not an inconsiderable amount of taste profiles to be balancing against one otherthat anything drinkable comes out at the other end is some kind of minor miracle, because my experience is that blends trying to do so much with so many things, often crash and burn.

Not here, I don’t think. The nose is no slouch and gets going immediately: hot fierce and sharp as befitting the strength, and starting the party off with banana (at one point I got banana bread, at another flambeed), caramel, and brown sugar damp with molasses. Coffee grounds, unsweetened chocolate, anise and allspice are there, leavened with coconut shavings, a touch of anise, brine, and even a mild pinch of citrus. It’s initially quite sharp and alcoholic and it’s recommended to let the glass stand a bit to let that burn off, and once you get there, it’s a nose that sticks around for a long time.

The palate is where one has to make a decision regarding the strength because it is young and it is rough at the inceptionmany reviews and write ups suggest adding a bit of water to tame it. I don’t think that’s really necessary but then, I have had a lot of rums north of 70% so maybe I’m just used to it. Anyway, the initial palate is all ethanol until it burns off; some rubber and licorice and damp sawdust (that may be the PM talking), molasses and caramel, bitter coffee grounds and chocolate again with traces of ripe mangoes, grapes and even some pineapple (which may be the Jamaican tekkin’ front). There are some vanilla, bon-bons, citrus notes and black pepper here and there, and a finish that oddly reminded me of chocolate oranges mixing it up with salt caramel ice cream topped with a few strawberries…go figure, right?

Evaluating it after trying it maybe four or five times over a period of a year, I get why it’s popular: once you get past the initial burn, you can sip the thing. It is dark, strong, noses nicely and tastes a treat, and such burn and sharp stabs as it displays are, to me, just products of its relative youth (I doubt that there is a whole lot of the aged Longpond elements in there), and in fairness it is designed to be mixed, not sipped. It makes a cool rum and coke of course, and does yeoman’s work in both a daiquiri and a mai tai as well as any other libation a creative bartender can come up with. On top of all that, the damned rum is really affordable: I’ve heard that bars are incentivised with huge cash-back enticements, and that the bulk capacity of WIRD helps keep production costs down, but all that is behind the scenesthis is a rum that subjects itself to the Stewart Affordability Conjecture and takes it seriously.

And if the taste doesn’t sway you, consider the popular statistics. It is a fixture on just about every “with what do I start stocking my home cocktail bar?” recommendation list I’ve ever seen, and the reddit comment sections are filled with people remarking that it’s a rum worth having on any shelf. There is almost no negative review on any subreddit that I’ve looked at, and even those that are less than complimentary usually concede that some aspects of it are fine, or that it has its points here and there and that it’s a moral decision for them not to buy it or stock it. Of the 185 consumer ratings on Distiller from 2016 to 2023, 95% are three-star or higher; on Rum Ratings, nearly 90% out of 257 raters gauged it at 7/10 or better and on Rum-X it has an average of 7.5/10 from 194 people who left a score. These are representative of wide cross sections of the rum drinking public and cannot easily be discounted, whatever one might think of the parent company (and nowadays that is almost all negative). Paul Senft, The Fat Rum Pirate and Rum Shop Boy have all written about it and liked it.

Summing up, the Plantation Old Fashioned Traditional Dark is a deserved yet unusualperhaps even controversialentry to the Key Rums series. It is a multi-country blend, not something that showcases a certain country. Yes, it was deliberately created to do only one thing, and therefore its value as an all-round consumer drink is somewhat circumscribed; yes it’s really strong, and surein that segment it stays and plays. Yet as I have suggested here, it has qualities over and above all that. It supercedes the modest aims of its creators, to the point where it actually can stand by itself. It remains, nearly a decade after its introduction, one of the most reviewed, commented on and widespread rums around and if its shine is less now than it was when first introduced and now that it has stiffer competition, there is no reason to doubt either its many uses or availability. It remains, for all its parent company’s woes, an incredibly popular and in-use bar staple and drinking adjunct to this day. It demonstrates, if nothing else, how well the Caribbean distillates work with each other in a way that is not often seen. And that’s no mean accomplishment for any rumespecially one made by this outfitto claim. One can only ask why more of the company’s rums don’t adhere to its philosophy.

(#1038)(84/100) ⭐⭐⭐½


Other Notes

  • In this essay, I have made a deliberate decision to focus on the rum: not to get into the conflict and bad press Plantation gets (or why they get it), not to express my personal opinion on the issues surrounding the company, and to simply mention that such issues exist. There are sufficient resources aroundreddit has some good if heated discussions on the matterfor anyone with an interest to find out what the story is.
  • I am unsure if any part of the ageing takes place in Europe and was unable to confirm it one way or the other.
Sep 062023
 

Bristol Spiritsalso known as Bristol Classic Rumholds the distinction of being one of the earlier independent UK bottlers who was and remains specifically not a distillery or a whisky bottler, such as the ones which held sway in the 1980s and 1990s. While Gordon & MacPhail, A.D. Rattray, Cadenhead and a few other companies from Scotland occasionally amused themselves by issuing a rum, few took it seriously, and even the indie Italians like Samaroli and Moon Imports and Rum Nation took a while to get in on the act. Of course, the worm is turning and the situation is changing now with the rise of the New Brits, but that’s another story.

Bristol Spirits, unlike those old houses, focused on rum almost immediately as they were founded in 1993, and while their earlier bottlings are now the stuff of misty legend and tall tales, I can tell you of some releases which are now considered near-classics of the genre: the 1980 30YO Port Mourant, the 1974 34 YO Caroni, and the pair of Very Old Rums from 1974 (Jamaica, 30YO) and 1975 (Demerara, 35YO); plus, some would likely add the Rockley Still 26YO 1986 Sherry Finish. Gradually as the years wore on, John Barrettwho remains the managing director of the company and runs it personally with his son in law Simon Askeybranched off into barrel selection and ageing and does a brisk sideline in trading aged rums or laying down new stocks with other small indies or private clients, and occasionally dabbles in the blending game…more to assuage a creative itch and see what will happen, I sometimes think, than to make the final sale (Florent Beuchet of Compagnie des Indes has also gone down this path).

One of these blends which Bristol came up with is this interesting overproof bottled at 59% – unfortunately there’s very little I can tell you about the off-white product, since there is literally nothing online anywhere that speaks to it. The strength and that it comes from Guyana and Guadeloupe is all I know, though Simon tells me it was released around the late 1990s / 2000 (after which, in an interesting bit of trivia, JB soured on doing miniatures such as I had scored for this review) and the Guadeloupe component was likely Damoiseau (to be confirmed) – other than that, the still of the former, the distillery in the latter, the proportions, the ageing, the source material, the actual release dateall the usual stuff we now almost take for granted is missing from official records.

Well, that makes it a really blind tasting, so let’s get to it. Nose first, and it’s an odd one: charcoal, ashes and iodine, balanced by some brine, olives, figs and dates. The fruits take their time arriving, and when they do one can smell green apples and grapes, tart apricots, but little of the crisp grassiness of any kind of agricole influence. The Little Big Caner, who was lending his snoot, remarks on smells of old bubbling oil leaking from a hot engine block, a sort of black and treacly background which I interpret as thick blackstrap molasses, but more than that is hard to pin down, and there’s a kind of subtle bitterness permeating the nose which is a little disconcerting to say the least.

The taste is more forgiving and if it’s on the sharp and spicy side, at least there’s some flavour to go with it. Here there is a clean and briny texture, that channels some very ripe white fruits (pears, guavas, that kind of thing), with some lemon zest and green grapes hamming it up with watermelon and papaya and just a touch of peppermint. There some herbaceousness to the experience, yet all this dissipates to nothing at the close, which is briny, spicy, sweet and has sweet bell peppers as a closing note of grace.

In assessing what it all comes down to, I must start with my observation that so far I have not found an agricole-molasses British-French-island-style blend that seriously enthuses me (and I remember Ocean’s Atlantic). The styles are too disparate to mesh properly (for my palate, anyway, though admittedly your mileage and mine will vary on this one) and the warm tawny wooden muskiness of Guyanese rum doesn’t do the ragtime real well with the bright clean grassy profiles of the French island cane juice agricoles.

And that is the case here. There are individual bits and pieces that are interesting and tastyit’s just that they don’t come together and cohere well enough to make a statement. At the end, while this makes for a really good mixing rum (try it in a daiquiri, it’s quite decent there), as a rum to be tried on its own, I think you’ll find that the whole is less than the sum of its parts.

(#1023)(79/100) ⭐⭐⭐


Other notes

  • The rum is a slightly pale yellow, almost white. The label blurb calls it a blend of white rums (on the left side) but below the logo of two intertwined Gs is a remark that they areselected and bottled from the wood”, which implies at least some ageing. More cannot be said at this time.
  • It was confirmed that John Barrett blended this himself. As soon as I get more information on the sources, I’ll update the post. Many thanks to Simon, who helped out a lot on short notice.
Aug 292023
 

The real question is not so much how good this Malabari Vaatte is, where it originates, or what it purports to be…but what exactly it is. Part of the issue surrounding the Mandakini is that the wording on the label could equally well be describing a real rum, a disguised alcoholic beverage claiming to be one, a spiced spirit, or some peculiar amalgam of all of the above.

The rum (I’ll use the term for now) is made in Canada, and therefore falls into the rabbit hole of the country’s arcane liquor laws, one of which, like Australia’s, states that a rumassuming it meets the basic criteria of being made from cane derivatives like molasses, juice or vesoucan only be so labelled if it is aged for a minimum time of one year. That’s all well and good except for this catch: the same terms one would use to describe a true rum not quite meeting the criteria (for example by being a completely unaged one), are also used to describe a neutral spirit that is doctored up to be more palatable. In this case it is labelled as being an “unaged spirit from sugar cane extract” which could be either one or the other, or neither. So which is it, exactly? The producers never say.

After scanning all available sources without resolution, I finally picked up the phone and asked them directly. The bottom line is that the Mandakini derives from a wash of blackstrap molasses fermented with natural yeast for two weeks or more, and is then double-distilled through a third party’s pot-still, after which a small amount of neutral spirit is added to the mix and it’s diluted down to 46%. There’s a reason for the addition, according to Abish Cheriyam, one of the founders who very kindly took the time to tell me all about itit’s to bring the price down so it’s affordable to the target audience, as well as smoothening out batch variation.

Trying it out (with three other Indian rums on the table as comparators) makes it obvious that this is not a rum of the kind we know, even taking into account its heritage. The nose is all sweet light candy and icing sugar, some vague sugar water, swank, lime peel, peppermint, bananas, and the kind of weak syrupy essence they dash into your flavoured coffee. Unfortunately the neutral spirit takes away from what could otherwise develop into much more interesting drink: it smells too much like a lightly sweet vodka. Those who are into Jamaican high ester beefcakes or strong unaged indigenous white rums will not find the droids they’re looking for here, and will likely note that this does not channel a genuine product made by some village still…at least not what they’ve come to expect from one.

The taste also makes this point: it is quite inoffensive, and it doesn’t feel like 46%, which to some extent is to its credit. Light, sweet, a little sharp, yet the downside is that there is too little to distinguish it. Some light florals, sugar water, coconut shavings, bananas and maybe the slightest touch of allspice. There is nothing distinctive here, and the rum feels too tamped down and softened up. I try to keep an open mind and am not exactly looking for the raw nastiness and sweat infused crap that real moonshine (like, oh, say, clairin) is often at pains to providebut at least a hint of such brutality would have been nice. It shrugs and coughs up a touch of mint, alcohol, medicine, cotton candy, it flexes its thin body a bit, and that’s pretty much the whole ball game. The finish is short, light, has some alcohol fumes, white fruit and light candy floss to recommend it, but alas is gone faster than my paycheck into Mrs. Caner’s hands when purses are on sale.


While members of the Indian diaspora would probably get this, the rum does not channel the subcontinent to me, and that’s not a guess, because Mandakini, irrespective of its Indian origins (all three of its founders are from the southern state of Kerala), is actually made by a small craft distillery called Last Straw, in Ontario. This is a small family outfit that was founded in 2013 as a whisky distillery with two small stills; it makes all kinds of spirits on its own accountwhisky, vodka, gin, rum and experimentals (including the fragrantly named “Mangy Squirrel Moonshine”) — and nowadays also does contract distilling, designing products from scratch for any client with an idea.

Clearly Abish Cheriyam, Alias Cheriyam and Sareesh Kunjappanengineers all, who have worked and lived in Canada for many yearshad such an idea, one that they felt deeply about, though unlike the Minhas family in western Canada, they had no background in the spirits business aside from their own enthusiasm. They did however, identify some gaps in Canada’s liquor landscape: there was very little Indian liquor on the shelves aside from Amrut’s whiskies or their Two Indies and Old Port rums, and Mohan Meakin’s Old Monk; and none at all that was an Indian equivalent to vaatte, a locally distilled liquor native to Kerala (also called patta charayam or nadan vaattu charayam), which, though banned in the state since the late 1990s (a holdover from pre-independence days when the Brits forbade local liquor so as not to damage sales of their own), retains an underground popularity almost impossible to stamp out. Rural folks disdain the imported whiskies and rums and ginsthey leave that frippery to city folks who can afford it, and much prefer their locally-made hooch. And like Jamaicans with their overproofs or Guyanese with their High Wine, no wedding or other major social occasion is complete without some underground village distiller producing several gallons to lubricate the festivities.

Since they could not afford to launch a distillery or wait for the endless licensing process to finish, they went to Last Straw to have them create it, and after experimenting endlessly with various blends and combinations, launched in August 2021, calling it a Malabari Vaatte (the similarity of that word to “water” is likely no accident), and aiming at the local Sri Lankan and Indian diaspora. Both the shape of the bottle and the lettering in five languages (Malayalam, Hindi, Punjabi, Tamil and Telegu) is directed at this population and the fact that the first batch sold out within days in Ontarioat the distillery, because they had not gotten a deal with the LCBO at the timesuggests it worked just fine. People were driving from all over the province to get themselves some.

In Kerala, Malabari vaatte is often made from the unrefined sugar called jaggery or from red rice like arrack, and also with any fruits or other ingredients as are on hand; it has a long and distinguished history as a perennially popular underground hooch, and that very likely comes from its easygoing nature which this one channels quite well. It shares that with other Asian spirits, like Korean shojus, Indonesian arracks, Cabo Verde grogues, or Vietnamese rượu: in other words, it is a (sometimes flavoured) drink of the masses, though Abish was at pains to emphasise that no flavourings or additives (aside from the aforementioned neutral alcohol) were included in his product.

As a casual hot weather drink and maybe a daiquiri ingredient, then, I freely admit it’s quite a pleasant experience, while also observing that true backwoods character is not to be looked for. To serious rum drinkers or bartending boozehounds who mix for a living, that’s an issuesome kind of restrained unhinged lunacy is exactly what we as rum drinkers want from such a purportedly indigenous drink. A sort of nasty, tough, batsh*t-level taste bomb that leaves it all out there on the table.

That said, I can see why it sellsespecially and even more so to those with a cultural attachment for itOld Monk tapped into that same vein many decades earlier. But that to some extent limits the Mandakini to that core audience, since people without that connection to its origins might pass it by. For all its good intentions and servicing the nostalgia and homesickness of an expatriate population far from their homelands, the Mandakini does not yet address the current market of the larger rum drinking population. It remains to be seen whether it can surmount that hurdle and become a bigger seller outside its core demographics. I hope it does.

(#1021)(74/100) ⭐⭐½


Other notes

  • The name “Mandakini” is a common female name, familiar to most Indians from north or south. It was chosen not to represent anyone in particular but to instantly render it relatable and recognizable.
  • TheMalabariin the title refers to Kerala’s Malabar Coast, famed for its spices: it’s where Vasco da Gama made landfall in 1498 after rounding Africa.
  • There is currently a 65% ABV version of the Mandakini called “Malabari 65”, available at the distillery in Vaughn. This is one I wouldn’t mind trying just to see how it compares. If they were to make a high ester version of that, my feeling is it would fly off the shelves.
  • The range is now expanded to the original Malabari Vaatte, the 65, a Spiced Vaatte, and a Flavoured Vaatte. The latter two are apparently closer to the kind of drinks the founders initially envisioned and which are popular in Kerala, having ginger, cardamom and other spices more forward in the profile.
Aug 252023
 

Killik distillery, located in the east of Melbourne, is one of the “New Australian” outfits I have an eye out for: like others located up and down the east coast of Australia (and elsewhere), they are seeking to bootstrap a homegrown rum industry into something greater by applying modern techniques to old-style rum-making and adding an occasional dash of crazy to set themselves apart. So far it’s mostly local sales that keep these small and often family-owned operations afloat, yet slowly their reputation is spreading beyond the Bundies and Beenleighs everyone knows. The Boutique-y Rum Company’s recent bottlings of Black Gate and Mt. Uncle distilleries speaks well for the future of antipodean rums, and Killik is sure to be a part of that movement.

Readers with pachyderm-level memories will likely recall that we’ve looked at a Killik Gold (rum) beforethat one was a year or so old and matured in Chardonnay casks, while this one is of somewhat more recent vintage, no finishing or fancy cask, and a different age. When I addressed this question to the Brothers Pratt (the owners), they remarked that although the overall production process remains the samethey continue to tinker with wild yeast fermentation and Jamaican high-ester-style rum making as a core ethosthe small size of their output means that until they expand it to larger sizes, batches are and will be strikingly varied, and those batches come out quite often. In that sense they are somewhat like the six-month ageing-and-output cycle Nine Leaves in Japan used to have.

One thing to look out for is the label. Now recall, Australia has that 2-year rule that states a cane based spirit cannot be called rum until it is aged for at least two years (producers are trying to address a potential revision to this outdated law through the courts)…so strictly speaking Killik should only be able to call itas beforea “gold” or a “cane spirit” or some variant thereof. However, in what I personally consider a stroke of marketing genius, they trademarked their name and the image of the anchor device together, as “Killik Handcrafted Rum,” and cheerfully added that to their labels, right above the word “Gold”. They therefore stayed within the law while simultaneously skirting it and unambiguously stating what they’re making.

This particular versionit’s hard to identify it precisely since there is no notation on the label or the websitewas confirmed to me to be at least twice as old as the version from 2022 that had come from the 2021 advent calendar. It is therefore a completely different rum, still made on a hybrid still, with dunder and wild yeast part of the recipe pushing the congener count up. It is also a blendof 75% original stock rum now aged to 3 years, plus 25% of one year old fresh make. As before, the barrels are from a local cooperage and I have an outstanding query as to whether it was used or new barrels and if used, what they previously held.

Bottled at the same 42%, the Gold takes a few more chances than the original didit noses as slightly richer, rounder, fuller. And while the funk and congeners remain as muted as before, there’s an overall sense of something slightly richer here: paint and furniture polish, a touch of wax, acetones and new plastic. This dissipates over time and is replaced by some middling-sharp fruity notesapples, green grapes, diluted lemon juice, apricots, pineapples and unripe peaches. There are also, after some minutes, hints of vanilla, cherries, lemon key pie, hot sweet pastries, cookies, and unsweetened yoghurtvery nice for something so relatively young.

The palate maintains that sense of something more complex and richer than its predecessor, even if the strength undercuts that somewhat. And yet overall still it tastes pretty goodgreen apples, light pineapple slices, bananas, pine tart and grapes, combine nicely with the sense of pastries steaming fresh from the oven, vanilla, light sugar water, lemon zest, and bitter chocolate and crushed walnuts. The finish wraps up the show as best it can, and sums up the tart and creamy fruits and pastries vibe quite wellit is quite easy drinking with a bit of a sour edge, occasionally sharp, not too hot. More cannot really be said here.

Overall, I think the low strength hamstrings a decent rum that could actually be even betterthat 42% is okay for casual drinking, but for more appreciation you do need more oomph. The relatively young age is something of a mixed blessing as well, since along with the slightly added complexity comes a bit of roughnessand so I can’t completely recommend it as a sipping rum. That said, the thing makes a really fine daiquiri, and on that front, with those sharp fruity notes leaning up against the warm pastries, the rum walks down strange and interesting yet hauntingly familiar paths inhabited by hot Jamaican patties and fierce white overproofs served in plastic tumblers at backcountry rumshopsand if nothing else, those are the qualities which define it as a rum too good to walk away from.

(#1019)(83/100) ⭐⭐⭐½


Other notes

Aug 222023
 

Rumaniacs Review #R-157 | #1019

Somehow, in all this time of reviewing rums from around the world, from around Barbados, and from within the Foursquare oeuvre, I never got around to looking at the Doorly’s “Macaw” white rum. Not the new 40% 3YO and its 47% ABV sibling which is in line with the redesigned and now-consistently labelled range as it currently exists (3YO, 5YO, 8YO, XO, 12YO and 14YO, and if this piques your curiosity just head over to Alex’s excellent vertical review of the lot) but the rather older and more venerable one at 40% and a sky blue label. Maybe it’s just in time, because it’s now been quietly discontinued.

Note the care with which I define the rum: in spite of several online references to it, it is not, as sometimes described, a three year old rum, but a blended NAS (no age statement) workhorse of the bar industry that goes back a fair bit. It is a mix of various pot-column distillates some of which (according to Richard Seale, who was as forthcoming as ever) are in the three-years-or-so age range, but often with a jot of something older for oomph.

In a reorganisation of the Doorly’s line a few years ago, the idea was to replace this with a true 3YO and beef up the proof a bit; what ended up happening was that the 40% proved so durable and popular that the 3YO was released in two strengths, the standard and the now main edition, the 47% (no other rum of the line has this double release as far as I know)…and each of those is slightly different from the other one in terms of its blend profile. That, however, left the older Macaw as the rum that got overtaken by the times, as the light, inoffensive white rum style pioneered by the Bat became less popular, and more muscular and distinctive whites began to climb in favour. It’s a rum that if you like it you need not necessarily fear of running out any time soon, as it still remains reasonably available (as of this writing in 2023)…but a stock-up might not be a bad idea.

ColourWhite

Strength – 40%

NoseQuite soft and easy, like a cream soda or rock-shandy soda and a whiff of vanilla. A little strawberry bubble gum. Quite clean, though somewhat alcoholically sharp at the inception. Some mild glue and acetones and white fruits.

PalateAgain, that cream soda like taste, light fruits, cucumbers, melons, papaya and maybe a ripe pear or two. Freshly grated and still damp coconut shavings, vanilla, bananas, an interesting melange of soft and sharp. Could be stronger.

FinishFaint and short and easy. Mostly vanilla, sugar water and some mild fruitiness.

ThoughtsThe Macaw remains what it always was: a mixing white rum from yesteryear that actually shows some character, and a profile more than just stuck in neutral. It shows what could have been done by all those bland and anonymous rum producers who slavishly aped Bacardi in the previous century, had they possessed some courage. I’m not a complete fan of the rum, but when compared against so many bland blends that characterised the periodsoulless, tasteless, flavourless, characterlessit bloody well shines in comparison.

(#1019)(76/100) ⭐⭐⭐


Other notes

  • Alex Sandu of the Rum Barrel blog met up with me in Berlin after this year’s rumfest, and we had a private tasting session where he very kindly brought this along.
Aug 102023
 

Bundabergor “Bundie”may the most globally famous rum from Australia, the rum that (according to the local wags) coke, ginger beer and weekends were invented for. Even if you’ve never seen a bottle or tried it, you’ve likely heard the name. Aussies seem to love hating on it with a sort of gruff affection, but God help the gronk or the pom who disses the thingthen you get comments like Gunnar’s, which, I have to be honest, made me laugh harder than the closing sentences of the latest Plantation diss. Though they have something of a hammerlock on low end rum sales in Australia (especially Queensland), they don’t do that well outside Oz (many know the brand, though fewer have tried it), since they have not, to my knowledge, ever bothered to sell bulk abroad, cultivate a serious export market, or delve into specialised bottlings of their own until very recentlyeven with the deep pockets of Diageo, which bought the brand in 2000.

Yet Canada gets some, from time to time, and I’ve tried a couple. It’s been more than a decade since Keenan and I suffered the agonies of our tonsils being tied into pretzels by the original Bundaberg, but that merely exemplified what a deficient knowledge of Australian rums we possessed back then, because, well, what the hell did we know? I did try the Black labelled “Reserve” some time later; and thought it was better…still, I felt no particular urgency to take it further, acquire more, taste more widely, not even when my desire to highlight Australia became more pronounced a few years ago. It took Gunnar’s cheerfully bellowing and sneering comment on that first review the other week to reignite my curiosity: enough for me to run out, and buy the only other available Bundie in my local market,

The rum I bought was the Overproof. As far as I know it’s been in commercial production and distribution for most of this century, and though the website doesn’t say so and details are surprisingly thin on the ground, it’s a pot-column still blend of a rather indeterminate age, likely less than five years old. It’s also rather good, with a solid 57.7% strength that provides a wallop that really allows the flavours to pop.

Walk with me here. I can’t speak for you but I still recall the buttery tequila and rotten cashew fruit taste of the Original and to a great extent this is what people remember with such distaste nowit’s “rough as a badger’s arse” according to one redditor just a year ago. Little of that is in evidence on the nose of the Overproof. What you do get is overripe green grapes, hard and too-sweet bon-bons gone stale in a dusty room, salt and a slight agave note: nothing near as overpowering as before, just enough to recall the low end Bundies of yore. Also ginger snaps, a little rubber, light molasses, lemongrass and squishy bananas in hot weather. Not normal, no….not bad either, however.

The taste is where it all hangs in the balance, and here it falters. “Oh wow, this actually hurts going down,” said The Little Big Caner who was helping me do tasting notes, and had little experience with the care needed in testing stronger fare. This is not a rum he likes, apparently. Yet there’s pepsi, hot buttered scones and pastries, olive oil, overripe soft brown bananas, damp brown sugar and molasses. A slight sweetness, vanilla, caramel, some florals. The strength requires some care, and once one is acclimatised it comes across as reasonably smooth, distinctive and not completely unpleasant drink. The finish is long and aromaticcola, ginger, some vanilla, anise and that faintly sickly sweet-salt-sourthicksense of a dosed tequila. That’s the DNA of this thing and allows it to be tied to all its forebearsif I didn’t know better (or knew more) I’d say this was the local terroire.

Sowhat to make of it? Well, I believe that the Bundaberg Overproof is a kind of exceptional low grade Rummus Maximus, the sort of in-your-face, colourful, fiery, vegemite-munching experience you really can only appreciate to the fullest after having been bludgeoned into catatonia by its low-rent everyschmuck predecessors. It’s difficult to convey the scope of the (minor) achievement the rum provides because most of us lack a good frame of reference: we have all tasted dozens of Barbadian, French-island, Fijian, Venezuelan, Cuban, Guyanese or Jamaican rums (to name just a few), but Bundies? … not so many.

Comparisons with other Bundies aside, however, I consider the Bundie Overproof “Extra Bold” to be a strong, vulgar, distinctive and uncouth rum…and still a fine and interesting rum to try at least once. And if it retains the vestigial taste profile that so many Aussies claim to detest, I at least can assure you it’s not excessive and you won’t soon forget its unique brand of crazy. It may not have been “suckled straight from a breast of the finest proportions,” as Gunnar rhapsodized, but I see no reason to doubt his claim that many a night of vile debauchery and shenanigan fun has been fuelled by this beverage. In fact, I think my bottle will accompany me to the very next party I attendjust to check.

(#1015)(83/100) ⭐⭐⭐½


Historical Background

Bundaberg Distillery was founded in 1888 by seven Queensland sugar mill owners of the time, at the dawn of the sugar industry there. Within a couple of years it was being sold around the country; and shortly after went belly-up in one of the many disasters to befall the place. Bought out of receivership by three of the original investors in 1894, it again went under for seven years in 1907 (a bad fire), and would you believe it, once again in 1936 (after yet another fire which ruptured the storage area so badly that the Burnett River nearby ran overproof for months).

Yet already by that time it had become a peculiarly Australian and hugely popular libation. In 1899 Bundie accompanied the Aussie soldiers to the Boer War. The distillery was rebuilt in 1914 in time for the Royal Australian Navy and the British Royal Navy to commandeer their entire output and yes, it was there wherever Australians were in WW2 as well.

With the economic downturn of the post-war years, Bundaberg struggled with drought, higher taxes and lessening sales. Yet they continued to produce rum, selling it for the most part as an overproof to local agents who bottled it themselves and it was only in 1974 that they began producing rum under their own branding, using the now-famous square bottle, three-piece label and the polar bear iconography (meant to imply that a Bundie could ward off the deepest cold) which had been introduced in 1961.

Diageo bought the brand in 2000 and moved the entire operation to Sidney in 2014, while spending millions in an expansion plan to meet an increasing global demand. The standard Original flagship was thereafter joined by several different BundiesRed, Black, Extra Smooth, Black, Reserve, and even a limited edition 18 year old. Say what you will about the pernicious effects of cold hearted cost-cutting accountants rationalising distilleries by closing them, Diageo has both grown Bundaberg’s sales and expanded the lineup of rums the company produces. To this day, however, the majority of sales remain regional, with Queensland still being the biggest single consumer. It remains to be seen if they can ever grow a worldwide audience.

May 152023
 

Rumaniacs Review R-148 | 0996

Pampero is a lesser known Venezuelan rum brand founded in 1938 by two friends, Alejandro Hernández and Luis Toro, who established their distillery in Caracas, and soon became one of the more popular brands in the country with their light, golden rums. In keeping with the times they eschewed really serious long term ageing, and stuck with the mid range, producing various youngish rons like the Añejo “Extra”, “Dorado”, “White”, “Especial”, “Premium Gold” and so on. These various brands have gone through several name changes over the years and nowadays the line is made up of the Añejo Especial (also known as “Oro” for the yellow label), the Aniversario (well known for its bottle in a leather pouchI actually have one in my mythical basement somewhere and have yet to open the thing), the Blanco and the Selección 1938 Ron Añejo.

The cowboy on the rearing horse logo is to some extent chanelling a misconception: Venezuelan prairies are referred to as llanos, not pampas, the latter and its gauchos being Argentinian terms, yet this is the image that gives the brand its name. In Venezuela I am led to understand the rum and its brandstill popular after all these yearsis called Caballito Frenao (“Rearing Horse”), and sells briskly…even though the brand is no longer in local hands.

In 1991 when the company was sold lock stock and barrels (95% of it all, to be precise) to United Distillers, then a subsidiary of Guinness and which eventually became Diageo, Pampero claimed to be the bestselling golden rum in the world, a claim hardly likely to be either proveable or refutable, even then (you’ll forgive me if I doubt it). United Distillers evidently had some differing opinions on how to market their acquisition, for in the next year some of their stock was shipped to Europe for the indies to play with, which is why we have two Secret Treasures 1992 editions of the Pampero, as well as others from Duval et Cie and Moon Import, also from that year. However, these days it’s all branded sales, most of which takes place in Europe (Spain and Italy) and inside Venezuela, with a smattering of sales to other countries like the US.

Modern production is molasses based, triple distillation on column stills to near absolute alcohol (96%) and subsequent ageing in white oak cask: they clearly adhere to the light Spanish style rons for that portion of their blend. However, it should be noted that according to their website, their triple distillation process “combines continuous column (light rum), kettle batch (semi-heavy rum) and pot still (heavy rum) to produce a high-quality alcohol,” so it would seem they have more than just a bunch of heavy duty industrial sized columnar stills churning out bland nothingness. However there are few if any references available to speak more to the subject, and even less that tells what the process was like pre-Diageo, to when this version was made.

The little bottle I found was made for the US market in the 1980s by a spirits importer called Laica, which disappeared from view by 1990; and since the US was still using ounces as a unit of measure on bottle labels until the late 1970s, I’m okay dating this to the decade of big hair, shoulder pads and breakdancing.

Strength – 40%

ColourGold

NoseNothing excessive or overly sharp. Subtle dusty and cereal-y aromas start the ball rolling. Pleasantthough rather restrainednotes of honey, chocolate, nuts, almonds and molasses, More piquant fruits enter the aromas after some minutes, mostly cherries, bananas and overripe soft apples.

PalateIt’s too thin to make any kind of statement, really, and a lot of what was nosed just up and vanishes. Molasses, some brown sugar, red wine, vanilla, and just enough of a rum profile to stop it from being a throwaway

FinishWeak, short, faint, is there and gone too quickly to make itself felt. Disappointing.

ThoughtsBy now I’ve had enough rums from South America, and from that era, to be unsurprised at how bland the experience istheir skillset is in light age and consummate blending, not fierce hogo or still-bestowed character. One can reasonably ask if back in the day they had added any of that heavier pot still juice to the blend, the way they do nowone suspects not, and unfortunately that leaves a rather anonymous rum behind, which starts decently enough but which ends with a whole lot of nothing to report.

(72/100) ⭐⭐½

May 122023
 

For all the bad press Plantation gets1, it is, as I remarked in the Rumcast interview back in 2021, in no danger of going out of business any time soon. Its stable of rums, whatever their provenance, is simply too wide ranging and usefuland often affordableto ignore, and many of them have become reliable workhorses of backbars the world around. Not the high end stuff, of course, like the single cask bottlings of the Extreme Series which are regarded with desire or despite in any representative rumdork population…but the modest and less ambitious rums of the line that we the proles drink.

If I had to pick the best known rums of the starter setthey call them the “Bar Classics”it would have to be the OFTD, and Stiggins Fancy, with a bit more upscale name recognition from the “Signature Blends” going to Xaymaca and the Barbados XO. The Three Stars white mixer is an interesting essay in the craft, and rounding out the bar is the Original Dark, the subject of today’s look-see.

In brief, the Original Dark was one of the first bar mixers the company madereferences to it predate 2010 — and at the inception was a rum using only Trinidad (Angostura) rums which were blended from stocks aged 3-5 years, added to with some eight year old, all of which was then aged for a further year and a half or so in ex-Cognac barrels in France, then bottled at 40%. By 2017, which is around the time Maison Ferrand (the parent company) acquired WIRD in Barbados and with it a ⅓ share in National Rums in Jamaica, its formulation was changed to include some Jamaica rum, and nowadays it’s all 1-3 year old Barbadian rum with some high-ester aged 10-15 YO Jamaican rum for kick, aged for about half a year in the usual Ferand style, in SW France. Oh, and of course, there is that 15g/L of sugar which is officially declared, but which I think is more 2.

So there we are. A sweetened, finished rum, a bartender’s mixing agent, retailing for a pretty affordable price point. What does it sample like?

Well, the smell is actually not too shabby, and packs a punch that is appreciably better than the 3-Star, the Barbados XO, the Grande Reserve and the Gran Anejo (though not the Xaymaca). Aged prunes, plums and dates, bitten into by the shaper fruitier notes of fresh pineapple and limes. There’s some interesting (if rather vague) Demerara-like action here and there if you stick with itlicorice, caramel, brown sugar, cinnamon, clovesand overall the nose is an essay in light faintness that may simply be trying to do too much and mostly not quite making it. Still it’s a nice nose, quite intriguing once you get accustomed to the rather anemic strength.

Alas, that sense of piquant and potential complexity flops over and pretends it’s dead by the time you get to the palate. I’m sorry, but it turns into a rather anonymous every-rum of the sort in vogue in the mixing era of the 1970s and 1980s (of which I’ve reviewed far too many for the Rumaniacs). It’s not bad per se…just not that interestingit channels vanilla, brown sugar, cloves and cinnamon, a touch of licorice and sugar water, maybe some raisins and behind it all is the memory of pineapple but not the reality, fading into a finish that’s as soft and indifferent and wafts an even fainter set of those same notes at you…plus a marshmallow.

There’s a real promise when one smells it but it just doesn’t carry over into a drinking experience, and beyond dunking it into a mix, is there a purpose here that isn’t better served by, say, the OFTD, the Xaymaca or the 3-Star? It may be time to retire this old warhorse: it helped establish the company’s backbar staples a decade or more ago, but is now too long in the tooth to come up well against the new batch of more distinctive rums the company makes, let alone that of the competition.

Until overtaken by the OFTDwhich is a completely separate and different rumthe Dark was one of Plantation’s most successful products, almost, but not quite, straddling the divide between sipper and mixer., and all the early reviews at the dawn of the internet gave it glowing encomiums. The same elevage and dosage and secondary ageing that is now sneeringly dismissed as gimmicky French nonsense was then lauded as innovative and distinctive and worthy of note.

These days not many writers or bloggers bother with Plantation’s Original Darkmost save their digital ink for the OFTD, the Xaymaca or the Striggins; at best you’ll find a few sentences in a throwaway Facebook or Instagram post, or a brief reddit review, and there the reviews are pretty uniformly less than stellar. “Not a fan.” “Tastes like a spiced rum.” “Artificial”. couldn’t do anything with [it]. It even ruined Coke.” “Too sweet.”Doesn’t hold up to scrutiny.” These are more recent comments, contrasted against those at the beginning of its career when people were more effusive with their praiseyet they speak to a dissatisfaction with the rum which I share today.

Because in the end, it’s too bland, too quiet and too easy; it’s an un-aggravating, impersonal goodbye from a pretty date with whom I could not connect: who didn’t really like me but felt I should be treated politely for my trouble. And so I get a chaste kiss, a quick goodbye and no memories or experiences worth a damn I could reflect on later. How sad that is, for something that starts so well.

(#995)(79/100) ⭐⭐⭐

Apr 102023
 

At first I thought the Barbados Grande Reserve Aged Rum was a replacement for the five year old Barbados rum from Plantation which I had tried many years ago, but further investigation showed them to be quite separate. Both, however, are part of the Signature blends which include the Barbados 5, the XO, Grand Anejo and Xaymacathese are what one might infer are entry level rums for the curious (to call them ‘premium’ would be a stretch). They are neither bartenders’ mixing staples like the Three Star, OFTD or Original Dark, nor expensive limited editions like the upscale Extreme, Single Cask or Vintage series, and exist in a kind of everyman’s universe where “reasonableness” is the watchword.

That said, the production ethos of the company pervades even this introductory rum. It originates from the West Indies Rum Refinery in Barbados (we all know Ferrand, Plantation’s parent company, owns it) where it is blended from pot/column still molasses-derived rums aged from one to three years, before being shipped off to France and aged in Ferrand’s facilities there for another year. It’s released at 40%, the sweetening is glossed over, and overall, like most rums of this kind from this house, it attracts equal parts dislike and appreciation depending on who’s doing the talking.

It’s not my intent to rehash the polarising nature and background of either the company or its production practises here, except insofar as to note there aren’t many reviews of this rum to be found1, and wonder if the vitriol surrounding the company may have an impact on any writers’ desire to get sucked in. Be that as it may, the rum has to be tried sooner or later, and for new rum drinkers who wet their beaks for the first time with it, there’s little to actively dislike: it’s as good a rum to start one’s journey with as any, and better than quite a few I’ve looked at of late.

So, let’s get started. Nose: an introduction of crisp yet ripe fruit, like raspberries, red currants, pineapples, around which coils a waft of stinky sweet bubble gum in hot weather. Brown sugar and molasses and coconut shavings are discernible, plus some mushy bananas and tangerines that have seen better days. Nice enough nose, with enough going on not to be categorised as simply an entry-level molasses based product: it’s a bit better than that.

The palate now…not too shabby. No, seriously. A touch sharp going in at first sip, then it steadies: sweet and sour pork, hot black tea sweetened with condensed milk and cardamom (bush tea, we called it and I still make a mug a few times a month), light fruits plus a touch of unsweetened salt caramel, vanilla, cinnamon, honey, orange juice and even marzipan. The problem is it tastes a bit…flattened, even dull, like Emile’s sense of taste compared to Remy’s in Ratatouille. The music is there but the bass is too high and the top- and mid-range notes don’t come through clearly enough and this is also the case when considering the finish; which turns out to be nothing we haven’t seen before, and is even a bit boringslightly briny, sweet, coconut shavings, vanilla, light citrus and some chocolate.

It goes down easy without reaching and that may be the key observation. Overall, it’s a relatively simple rum compared to others I’ve had (including some from Plantation themselves), yet a rum one can, with care and lowered expectations, have neat without too many issues. To be honest, I thought the rum was better than it had a right to be considering the sweetening Plantation is known for (I tested it after the session, not before…so the level was unknown to me while trying it).

The Grand Reserve stops short of being a cloying muddle, and is fortunately a ways from being a complete sugary messyet the additives/sugar do spoil it and make for a lesser experience, especially if one knows what one is looking for. For someone now getting into rum, it’s serviceable and they could use it as a stepping stone to get more into the field, though for getting into the Barbados style it’s useless, so forget that aspect. Those with more experience can use it as a bellwether for what to look for in Plantation’s successively more upscale (and expensive) offerings; and for those who’re really into rums, well, there’s not much to say to them, since they already know all there is to know.

(#987)(78/100)


Other notes

  • The Plantation website has no details on any of the Signature rum series at all (thelearn morelink does not work)
  • Most articles mention 15-16 g/L sweetening, or “dosage”. My hydrometer shows 36% ABV when measuring the rum, which works out to 15 g/L
  • Leaving the empty glass in the sink to evaporate overnight leaves a slightly sticky residue to be found the next morning.
  • The rum has been in production for a very long time, hence the various label changes. The first reference I can find for it dates from 2008, and is on one of the first rum review websites, Refined Vices, run by an old friend from Finland, Tatu Kaarlas (who now lives in Australia). That Grand Reserve Barbados rum had a label which stated it was from cane juice (felt by most at the time to be unlikely) not molasses…and came from Foursquare. Yeah, that’s not happening now, for sure.
Feb 172023
 

Last year Chris Seale and I were talking at Paris’s WhiskyLive and he mentioned that he had read some of my earlier work on the Doorly’s line of rums and thought I had been unnecessarily rough on the brand. I responded that this was very trueit’s hardly something I could pretend was notbut it faithfully reflected my feelings and opinions from more than a decade ago and of course, I’ve moved on to developing a real appreciation for Foursquare in the many years between then and nowespecially the new Habitation Velier LFT and pot still editions, and the ECS series, to say nothing of the Collaborations. That said, I did remark I just found the Doorly’s brand as a whole too lacklustermost are public-facing and mass-market: the low-cost components of the house. They’re too weak, too easy, to everyman-pleasing; they are therefore not aimed at me but at those who are closer to starting their journey.

While completely acknowledging the house’s impact and importance, especially to the bourbon crossover crowd who I believe to be among the brand’s most fervent admirers (next to the Brits), I think it’s taken the Doorly’s 14 year old 48% pot-column blend (a part of the blend was aged in ex-Madeira, though specific details are lacking) released around 2019, to make me accept that finally there’s one of the line I can get serious about and introduce to my mommy. It presses more buttons than all its siblingsit’s stronger, has a bit more pot-still oomph, more decisive tastes and is to me, at the perfect age for what it is. Close your eyes and you could be drinking any top flight indie bottling.

Consider how it opens: the nose begins with the attack of light skirmishersvarnish, glue and brine, quicky gone, not sharp or aggressive, just making themselves felt. Next comes the light cavalry on the flanks: green apples, grapes, papaya, watermelon, pears, a touch of soursop, and then the heavy infantry masses to take over, and here the more traditional aromas of caramel, vanilla, toffee, blancmange, molasses, supported by the spices of cumin, rosemary, and cinnamon.

Once we start tasting the thing, the palate is where the battle is joined. Flavours vie for dominancebrine and olives and some nail polish duke it out with sweeter fruity notes of ripe red apples, pears and peaches in syrup, and very ripe dark cherries. On the flanks the molasses, toasted coconut and musky port-infused tobacco are having their own separate argument with a miso soup and kimchi, but the key takeaway is that when all is considered together, the whole palate is well-balanced between sweet, salt and sour. And the finish concludes this nicely by closing off the show with a spicy, long, dry, fruity and aromatic exhalation that somehow doesn’t give any side a win but shows off the best part of all of them.

This sounds like a lot, sure, but then, I tend to give Doorly’s more attention than most, precisely because thus far I’ve been less than impressed with the line. When the dust finally settles and the tally is made on the 14 YO, I consider this a very good sipping rum for us proles and the one Doorly’s I have no problem recommending to anyone, without resorting to a lazy and overworked references to bourbon or Pappy that just chases away those who have no interest in either. In fact, what this reminds me of quite closely is the ECS Criterion.

And yet, curiously, although my belief is that the rum is pretty damned fine not everyone agrees or goes that far. The rum garners positive reviews, yes, just not raves of the sort that more exclusive limited editions of the Collaborations or the ECS line get almost routinely (score aggregators cluster most user evaluations of the D14 at around the mid eighties with the others trending higher). Overall I think it’s a good rum, well made, well assembled, succeeding on every level without reaching for the moon, a sipper for every occasion for any income bracket, and frankly, I believe it’s an ECS edition in all but name. I call mine “Misnomer.”

(#973)(84/100)

Dec 082022
 

Rumaniacs Review #142 | 0957

As noted before (and repeated below for the curious), Cadenhead has three different bottle ranges, each of which has progressively less information than the one before it: the Dated Distillations, the Green Labels and the Caribbean blends.

The Green Label releases are always 46% and issued on no schedule; their labels and the company website provides so little information on past releases that one has to take some stuff on faithin this case, my friend Sascha Junkert (the sample originator) noted it was a 10 YO bottled in 2000, although even the best resource on Cadenhead’s older bottlings, Marco Freyr, cannot verify the dates in his detailed post on the company and the accompanying bottle list, and Rum-X only mentions one distilled in 1998. There are only a handful of Green Label 10 YO rums from Guyana / Demerara at all, and the 2000 reported date doesn’t line up for any other published resourcewhen they bother, most mention 1998-2002 as distillation dates. So some caution is in order.

What’s particularly irritating about the label in this instance is that it lacks any information not only about the dates and the still(s), but also the casksand so here one has to be careful, because there are two types of this 10YO Demerara: one “standard” release, and one matured in Laphroaig casks. How to tell the difference? The Laph aged version is much paler and has a strip taped vertically across the screw top like a tax strip. Hardly the epitome of elegant and complete information provision now, is it.

The Laphroaig aged expression. Note the identifying strip at top.

ColourPale yellow

Strength – 46%

NoseDry, dusty, with notes of anise and rotting fruits: one can only wonder what still this came off of. Salt butter, licorice, leather, tannins and smoke predominate, but there is little rich dark fruitiness in evidence. Some pencil shavings, sawdust, glue and acetone, and the bite of unsweetened tea that’s too strong.

PalateContinues the action of the sweet bubble gum, acetones, nail polish and glue, plus some plasticinenot unpleasant, just not very rum-like. Also the pencil shavings, sawdust and varnish keep coming, and after a while, some green fruits: apples, soursop, grapes. At the last, one can sense candied oranges, caramel bon bons, and more very strong and barely-sweetened black tea teetering on the edge of bitterness.

FinishReasonably long, reasonably flavourful, quite thin. Mostly licorice, caramel, tannins and a touch of unidentifiable fruit.

ThoughtsIt’s not often appreciated how much we pre-judge and line up our expectations for a rum based on what we are told about it, or what’s on the label. Here it’s frustrating to get so little, but it does focus the attention and allow an unblinking, cold-eyed view to be expressed. In fine, it’s an average product: quite drinkable, decent strength, enough flavours not to bore, too few to stand out in any way. It’s issued for the mid range, and there it resolutely stays, seeking not to rise above its station

(82/100) ⭐⭐⭐½


Other Notes

  • The three ranges of Cadenhead’s releases are:
    • The cask strength, single-barrel Dated Distillation series with a three- or four-letter identifier and lots of detail on source and age; I submit these are probably the best and rightly the most sought-after rums from the company (aside from a 1939-distilled Green Label from Ago). The only question usually remaining when you get one, is what the letters stand for.
    • The Green Label series; these are usually single-country blends, sometimes from multiple distilleries (or stills, or both), mostly from around the Caribbean and Central/South America; a few other countries have been added in the 2020s. Here you get less detail than the DDs, mostly just the country, the age and the strength, which is always 46% ABV. THey had puke yellow labels with green and red accents for a long time, but now they’re green for real, as they had been back in the beginning.
    • Classic Blended Rum; a blend of Caribbean rums, location never identified, age never stated (anywhere), usually bottled at around 50% ABV. You takes your chances with these, and just a single one ever crossed my path.
    • Strictly speaking there is a fourth type sometimes referred to as a “Living Cask” which is a kind of personalized shop-by-shop infinity bottle. I’ve only tried one of these, though several are supposedly in existence.
  • These older Cadenhead’s series with the puke yellow and green labels are a vanishing breed so I think the classification in the Rumaniacs is appropriate.
  • The pot-column still tagging / categorization is an assumption based on the way it tasted. I think it’s an Enmore and Versailles blend, but again, no hard evidence aside from my senses.

 

Nov 102022
 

The new rums of Velier’s first edition of the Magnum Elliot Erwitt series of rums are only four in number, and it’s too early to tell whether future editions will materialise. Honestly, I don’t see any need to create a new series at all: both the Hampden and Foursquare rums already have well established collaborative series of their own, Saint James could have been folded into the 25th AOC Anniversary bottling and I’m sure a home could have been found for Mount Gay somewhere. The Magnum photographic connectionto rum, Velier or the distilleriesis tenuous at best and even the selected photographer is a relatively obscure choice.

Still, if the intent was to release four rums that stand out in an arresting and visual fashion, then that works, and surely Velier is treading on familiar ground they themselves have helped establish. And there have been one-offs and smaller series before, like the original Damoiseau 1980, or the twin Basseterre rhums, or the two Indian Ocean series releases. Nothing says it needs to be an ongoing multi-year effort like, oh, Rom Deluxe’s “Wild” series. Next year there will likely be yet another one and I do enjoy looking for and at those distinctive designs.

What thoughts like these suggest, however, is a diminishment of the importance of a rum range that retains a quality and consistency level over long periods. The Demeraras, the Caronis, the HV series of rumseven the 70th Anniversary Collectionare all examples of successful and important long term ranges Velier has created. By making a series of short-lived “little” series like Warren Khong, Indian Ocean, Japoniani, Villa Paradisetto (among others), one wonders if there really is an overarching philosophy at work, some kind of through-line that makes each range truly unique in some individual fashion, over and above the arresting designs and colours.

I make this observation because of the four rums in the first collection, the Foursquare is the one that, to me, stood out the least (I tried all four together). The production stats, on paper, are all sterling: pot-column-still blend (the website calls it a “100% pot still pure single blended rum” but that’s a contradiction in terms, and I confirmed it is indeed a blend of the sort Foursquare is known for), distilled in 2005, double aged in ex-bourbon and sherry casks for sixteen years, then released with an outturn of 1200 700ml bottles and 600 1.5L magnums at 61%. A serious, old tropically aged rum. The distillery doesn’t make much that’s older than that.

What it doesn’t do is break new ground in any significant way. The nose is light for the strength, for example, and feels consistent with my memory of other ECS releases. Dusty and somewhat papery at first, before the more usual salt-caramel, vanilla, and aromas of grapes, peaches and ripe apples emerge. There’s a creamy, briny, almost tart laban background, macaroons, some nuttiness, a touch of orange peel and cinnamon, a bit of basil and rosemary herbs. A decent nose, about what is expected.

It tastes about the same. The texture is great, very solid and emphatic, and channels fruitiness well: mostly cherries in syrup (minus the excessive sweet), ripe red grapes and apples and peaches; there’s also brown sugar, vanilla, coconut shavings, some molasses, white chocolate and nuttiness, set off with just the suggestion of citrus. The finish sums all that up, adds little additional complexity and its major claim to fame is that it it is really quite epically long, with notes of unsweetened yoghurt, caramel, vanilla and some indeterminate fruitiness.

Overall, it’s good. That said, it didn’t move me muchwhat’s missing is something of the exceptionalism, the blazing fire and shoot-the-moon excellence that define Velier’s best collaborations with Foursquare, and that distillery’s own finest ECS editions. This is a hyped limited release with serious artistic pretensions; the profile is consistent, the taste is good, it adheres to most of the markers that we seek in a limited edition Barbados rum…and yet it’s one that doesn’t ring my bells, doesn’t make me sit up in stunned wtf-level amazement and then head straight over to wherever is selling it so I can get me a bottle and consider myself fortunate to pay three figures for the privilege. Barbados rum lovers will not be disappointed, of course (it would have to be a real dog for that), and investors will continue to buy it because of the limited outturn, so it won’t fail in the market. For me though, it’s a pass at the price.

(#949)(84/100) ⭐⭐⭐½


Other Notes

  • From the Velier Mount Gay “Magnum EE” Review: The Magnum series of rums capitalises on the same literary concept as the seven founders of the famed photo agency wanted for their own organisation when they created and titled it in 1947, namely the multiple meanings and connotations of the wordgreatness in Latin, toughness in the association with the gun, and celebration in its champagne mode (it’s just a happy coincidence that when discussing the matter they always drank magnums of champagne). Since Luca Gargano is a photo buff himself, I’m sure the references resonated with him. Four photographs made by Elliot Erwittan American photographer who was asked by Robert Capa to join the agency in 1954 — grace the four (black) bottles of the first release, but they have no direct relationships with the contents of the bottles in any way, and were likely chosen simply because they were appreciated as works of art.
  • This is particularly the case here, where the label photograph is of the Peace Memorial Park in Hiroshima, taken in 1970. What that has to do with the rum or either of the involved companies, is simple: nothing.
  • Others’ opinions of this rum are almost exactly reversed from the Mount Gay Magnum edition which I liked more. Just about everyone who has written in about it loves this one, while I think it less. Secret Rum Bar rated it 92 points, WhiskyFun gave it 86, while Rum-X has an average of 88 points off of 25 ratings, with several topping 90.
Oct 172022
 

Foursquare’s Exceptional Cask Series gets the lion’s share of the attention showered on the distillery these days, and the Doorly’s “standard line” gets most of the remainder, yet many deep diving aficionados reserve the real gold for the Foursquare-Velier collaborations. And while some wags humorously remark that the seriesare only excuses for polysyllabic rodomontade, the truth is that the collaborations are really good, just not as visible: they are released less often and with a more limited outturn than the big guns people froth over on social media. So not unnaturally they attract attention mostly at bidding time on online auctions, where they reliably climb in price as the years turn and the stock diminishes.

There currently eight rums in the set, which have been issued since February 2016 (when the famed 2006 10 YO came out): they are, in order of release as of January 2023, the 2016, Triptych, Principia, Destino (whether there’s only one, or two, is examined below), Patrimonio, Plenipotenziario, Sassafras and Racounteur. All are to one extent or another limited bottlingsand while they do not form an avenue to explore more experimental releases (like the pot still or LFT Foursquares in the HV series, for example), they are, in their own way, deemed special.

On the face of it, the Destino really does not appear to be anything out of the ordinarywhich is to say, it conforms to the (high) standards Foursquare has set which have now almost become something of their signature. The rum is a pot-column blend, distilled in 2003 and released in December of 2017: between those dates it was aged 12 years in ex-Madeira casks and a further two in ex-Bourbon, and 2,610 of the “standard” general release edition were pushed out the door at a robust 61%, preceded by 600 bottles of the Velier 70th Anniversary edition at the same strength.

What we get was a very strong, very rich and very fruity-winey nose right off the bat. It smells of sweet apple cider, strawberries, gherkins, fermenting plums and prunes, but also sweeter notes of apricots, peaches are noticeable, presenting us with a real fruit salad. A little vanilla and some cream can be sensed, a sort of savoury pastry, but with molasses, caramel, butterscotch all AWOL. Something of a crisply cold fine wine here, joined at the last by charred wood, cloves, soursop, and a vague lemony background.

The citrus takes on a more forward presence when the rum is tasted, with the initial palate possessing all the tart creaminess of a key lime pie, while not forgetting a certain crisp pastry note as well. It’s delicious, really, and hardly seems as strong as it is. Stewed apples, green grapes, white guavas take their turn as the rum opens up: it turns into quite a mashup here, yet it’s all as distinct as adjacent white keys on a piano. With water emerge additional flavours: some freshly baked sourdough bread, vanilla, dates, figs, with sage, cloves, white pepper and cinnamon rounding things out delectably.

The finish is perfectly satisfactory: it’s nice and long and aromatic, yet introduces nothing new: it serves as more of a concluding summation, like the final needed paragraph to one of Proust’s long-winded essays. The rum doesn’t leave you exhausted in quite the same way as that eminent French essayist does, but you are a bit wrung out with its complexities and power when you’re done, though. And the way it winds to a conclusion is like a long exhaled breath of all the good things it encapsulates.

So…with all of the above out of the way, is it special? Several of the ECS releases are of similar provenance and have been rated by myself and others at similar levels of liking, so is there actually a big deal to be made here, and is there a reason for the Destino to be regarded as something more “serious”?

Not really, but that’s because the rum is excellent, and works, on all levels. It noses fine, tastes fine, finishes with a snap and there’s complexity and strength and texture and quality to spare. It does Foursquare no dishonour at all, and burnishes the reputation the house nicely (as if that were needed). The rum, then, is special because we say it is: viewed objectively, it’s simply on a level with the high bar set by the company and is neither a slouch nor a disappointment, “just” a very good rum.

Sometimes I think Richard may have painted himself into a corner with these rums he puts out: they are all of such a calibre that to maintain a rep for high quality means constantly increasing the quality lest the jaded audience get bored. There is a limit to how far that can be done, but let’s hope he hasn’t reached it yetbecause know I want more of these.

(#944)(86/100) ⭐⭐⭐⭐


Other Notes

  • There is a “47” and a “17” on the “Teardrops” box’s top left and bottom right tears. They reference the founding of Velier in 1947; and the issuance of the rum and 70th Anniversary of the Company, in 2017. There are total of seventy tears, of course. The numbers are repeated on the back label
  • Wharren Kong the Singaporean artist, designed the Teardrops graphic.
  • The pair was tried side by side three times: once in 2018, again in December 2021 in Berlin (from samples) and again at the 2022 Paris WhiskyLive (from bottles).

AddendumThe Two Destinos

Are the two expressions of the Destinothe general release “standard” and the Velier 70th Anniversary Richard Seale “Teardrop” editiondifferent or the same? The question is not a mere academic exercise in anal-retentive pedantry of interest only to rum geeks: serious money is on the line for the “Seale” release. The short answer is no, and the long answers is yes. Sorry.

What happened is that as the Destino barrels were being prepped in 2017, Luca called Richardsome months before formal releaseand asked for an “old rum” for the 70th Anniversary collection. Richard, who doesn’t do specials, anniversaries or cliches, initially refused, but after Luca practically broke down in tears (I exaggerate a little for effect), Richard raised his fists to heaven in a “why me?” gesture (I exaggerate a little more), grumbled a bit longer, and then reluctantly suggested that maybe, perhaps, possibly, just this once, it could be arranged to have six hundred bottles of the Destino relabelled and reboxed with the Velier 70th Anniversary colours. This was initially estimated as two casks of the many that were being readied for final blending. Luca agreed because the deadline for his release was tight, and so it was done. The label on the “Teardrops” was prepared on that basis, way in advance of either release.

Except that for one thing, it ended up being three casks, not two, and for another, “Teardrops” was in fact decanted, bottled and released a couple of months earlier than “Standard.” Yet they both came from the same batch of rum laid down in 2003, and aged identically for the same years in ex-bourbon and ex-Madeira … in that sense they are the same. The way they diverge is that three barrels were separated out and aged a couple of months less than the general release. So, according to Richard, who took some time out to patiently explain this to me, “In theory they are ‘different’- like two single casksbut in reality it’s the same batch of rum with the same maturation.”

Observe the ramifications of that almost negligible separation and the special labelling: on Rum Auctioneer, any one of the 600 bottles of “Teardrops” sells for £2000 or more, while one of the 2,610 bottles of the standard goes for £500. People claim “Teardrops” is measurably better because (variously) the box is different, the taste is “recognizably better”, or because the labelling says “selected two of his oldest Rum casks” and “very old ex-Rum casks” and not ex-Madeira and ex-bourbon. Or, perhaps because they are seduced by the Name and the much more limited 600 bottles, and let their enthusiasm get the better of them.

Yes the box is different and the labelling description is not the same: this is as a result of the timing of the box and labels’ printing way in advance of the actual release of the rum, and so some stuff was just guessed, or fluff-words were printed. We saw the same thing with Amrut catalogue-versus-label difference in 2022), but I reiterate: the liquid is all of a piece, and the rums within have the miniscule taste variation attendant on any two barrels, even if laid down the same day and aged the same way. Maybe one day I’ll do a separate review of Teardrops just because of that tiny variation, but for the moment, this one will stand in for both.


 

Oct 132022
 

Do we even need to make mention of what Black Tot Day represents any more, and what the rum is all about? Probably not, but for the sake of new entrants to the field and those who don’t know, it is named after the day in 1970 that the (British) Royal Navy ceased issuing the daily tot of rum to its sailors…a day that to some will live in infamy, given the scandalous break with a centuries-long tradition. 1 However it would be too much to expect that all rums were finished at the same timeand some indeed was left over and this was sold on to private interests, one of which was Elixir Distillers, a bottler and blender owned by the people behind The Whisky Exchange (which these days I guess means Pernod-Ricard, after they bought out the founders in 2021).

Elixir initially released some of the stores they had as the Black Tot “Last Consignment” in 2014 — it remains available, though expensive at a thousand bucks or more per bottle. It sold slowly, but the responselimited as it wasdid suggest that a market existed for such blends if one could bootstrap the name as a brand. And so, since 2019, after two years of experimentation and fiddling around with blend recipes, a number of Black Tot bottlings began to appear for those of more limited means, whose scrawny purses don’t have a grand to blow on a bottle which, let’s face it, was always more about heritage and rarity than taste. That’s not to say all the new editions were particularly cheap: the the annual Master Blender’s Reserve series, the Heart of the Tot 40 YO (with only Port Mourant 1975 juice) and the 50th Anniversary, all of them ran into three figures or more.

The Black Tot Finest Caribbean Blend, by contrast, is the consumer version of the brand. Costing around £60 it is a blend of rums aged a maximum of five years (it is unknown how much the final blend was aged, if at all) in the following proportions: unaged and aged Guyanese rums from pot and column stills (60%), 5 YO Barbados rums from ot and column stills (35%), and a pinch of 3 YO Jamaican rum for kick (5%). The distilleries are not disclosed: reading around suggests Foursquare for Barbados and Longpond for Jamaica (that’s sure to be interesting). Stating “Diamond” for Guyana is pointless, because for that country it’s not the distillery we need to knowthere’s only the onebut the actual stills involved since they are all so distinctive. That aside, the rum is bottled at 46.2% ABV, so it’s not going to hurt anyone and can find wide acceptance exactly as it is.

To say I was surprised at the overall quality of what is being marketed as a downmarket Black Tot is to understate matters. I’ve tried loads of Navy Rum wannabes, real or imaginedrums from Lamb’s, Woods, Kinloch (Navy Neaters), Pusser’s, URM, Townsend (Red Duster), Lemon Hart, Challis Stern (Four Bells), Velier, AH. Riise, Cabot Tower, Potters…and only a few have impressed me with their quality. This is one of them.

The nose opens with a distinct Jamaican funk bomb, and I am instantly reminded of a low-rent TECC or TECA, less intense, but possessing similar notes of rotten bananas, whitening orange peel, and all the delightful aromas of a midden heap in hot weather. It’s a basic funk bomb, to which are added smoke, leather, salted caramel, bitter coffee grounds, and oranges. That’s the Jamaican side of things: as it develops there’s a heavier note becoming evident, licorice, molasses, brown sugar and spices like cloves and sage and cinnamon. And so that’s the Guyanese. The Barbados portion hides somewhere in between all that, providing structure and a backbone, but to say I could pick out the notes that were its own would be pretentious. Let’s just say there was an element of “not Guyana or Jamaica” in there, and that’s the Bajan influence.

Palate wise, it’s completely solid, and here the Guyana part “tek front.” What was smelled, was tasted: bitter chocolate, coffee grounds, salted caramel, unsweetened black bush tea, toffee, some rubber and glue (I guess that was the unaged part of the blend) and vanilla. In a curious inversion of the nose, the Longpond then stood up to be counted with pineapple, chocolate oranges, bubble gum and some unsweetened chocolate and the remainder of what could be tastedcherries, kiwi fruits, coriander, dill, flambeed bananas and pearshearkened to Barbados, with a touch of flowers and delicate sweetness finishing things off.

At Paris’s WhiskyLive, when Mitch Wilson (their brand ambassador) threatened grievous bodily harm and the extinguishing of my entire house if I did not immediately try the thing, I was hesitantbecause as is well known, one does not simply walk into the Black Tot. The expectations are enormous. And yet, having tried it (twicehe doesn’t know I filched an extra sample in my fourth glass), I really liked this rum. It is lighter than the Last Consignment, cheaper than half a hundred indie bottlings I see that are long on promises, high in price and don’t come through and deliver. It’s crisp, remarkably punchy and dynamic, with the flavours kaleidoscoping around and constantly changing, sometimes one note dominating, at times another. It invites long leisurely examination and doesn’t disappoint.

If Oliver Chilton is to be believedhe’s the master blender behind these Tot expressions, who cheerfully admitted to a certain flair and “mucking about” when creating the blend (he’s quite a character and I strongly recommend you chat with the guy whenever you see him at a rum show) — he just ceaselessly experimented for an extended period, trying everything, trying weird, trying crazy, knowing what he wanted but never being entirely satisfied with what he got…until he finally got it. And I’m here to say that yeahhe really did.

(#943)(85/100) ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Aug 042022
 

It’s been a few years since I last looked at Beenleigh’s Inner Circle rum from Australia, and while that iteration from around 2004 was the same strength as this one — 57.2% — there are several differences between it and the current version. For one, it is no longer named “Overproof” but “Navy Strength” (incorrectly, in my view, but maybe that’s just semantics), and uses molasses from three separate sugarcane regions along the east coast of Australia 1 to produce its own distillate from Beenleigh’s column and pot stills, while back in the day it was (supposedly) pot still distillate from Fiji. Too, the older rum was aged just about two years, and the new one sports fiveboth slept in ex bourbon casksand is now topped off with a smidgen of Beenleigh’s “best ten year old”. The green dot on the label, a heritage design item reflecting the strength of the rum, remains, which is nice.

All of this is fairly basic, and for those who want something deeper, I include more historical background after the review, including what the coloured dots are all about. For the moment, it should simply be noted that I had not been particularly impressed with the earlier Inner Circle Rum, commenting rather acidly that it was “as vague as a politician’s statements,” and was surprisingly mild for something at such a strength, with faint tastes that left me rather indifferent.

No such issues afflict this one, which asserts a formidable nose that reeks nicely of dust, sawdust, some acetones and a smorgasbord of fruits from all over the map. The aromas range from a mild raspberry yoghurt, squishy yellow mangoes, dark and ripe cherries, to a dusty and somewhat woody background dusted over with pine needles, some tannins, toffee and vanilla. Plus there’s ice cream, pears, coca cola and even some freshly-ground coffee beans, all of which is reasonably distinct, front-facing and not at all meek and mild.

The taste is thick, fruity and nicely aromatic, and just a bit spicyfor a five year old it is therefore entering sipping territory if one judges solely on mouthfeel and stays there if it’s taste that’s your criterion. First off there’s the thick herbal-sweet aroma of damp tobacco leaves, fresh coffee and very strong black tea into which an inordinate amount of condensed milk has been dunked (this used to be one of my favourite “food-drinks” as a student, and I remember it well). The fruits are also well represented, musky and sweet fleshy onespears, sapodilla, kiwi fruit, overripe bananas, and apricots. With some effort one can make out blueberries, vanilla and some chocolate, not much more, and a citrus tang is oddly absent throughout. The finish is quite pleasant and gives a soft send off, redolent of some brine, dark fruits, raisins, vanilla, cinnamon and a mild touch of wet sawdust.

Overall, it’s a pretty good five year old. While not a complete success as a sipping rum, it remains more than good enough for Government work: its minor drawbacks are the relative simplicity, some tastes that don’t entirely gel, and the occasionally rough heat which has not entirely been sanded down by the oak (it succeeds better with a touch of water to tone it down). Beenleigh has its own flagship rums and this is an old brand name with some heritage and history that came through a convoluted road to their distillery, so it may succeed better in Australia, where memories and tradition ensure a certain familiarity with the product, than in other countries which don’t know anything about it.

Other than that, there’s no real reason for avoiding the rum if a slightly different taste profile is what you’re looking for to wake up your latest cocktail, you don’t want to spend a huge amount of money to get something interesting, and are curious about an aged rum from Down Under. This one fits the bill nicely on all of those.

(#927)(84/100) ⭐⭐⭐½


Other notes

  • Inner Circle’s website notes it is a pot still rum (“small batch pot distillation”) but other sites and Steve McGarry (lately of Beenleigh), contend it’s a pot-column blend that copied the original process that was historically also a mix of column and pot still distillates.
  • Limited outturn of 2700 bottles.
  • As always, my appreciation to Mrs. and Mrs. Rum for the 2021 advent calendar, and I’m keeping my fingers crossed that there will be another in 2022.

Historical Background

Inner Circle was originally made by a now-defunct company called the Colonial Sugar Refinery, which had a long history pretty much unknown outside its country of origin. Formed in 1855, CSR established refineries in Australia, New Zealand and Fiji by the 1890s, and in 1901 they opened a distillery in Sidney, using pot stills to make rums from Fijian and Australian cane. The Inner Circle brand name, which first appeared in 1950, came from the limited high-quality rums they made for distribution to the favoured elite of the company and its clients, and around 1970 it got a broad commercial release in Australia: at that time it was bottled in three strengths, which in turn were identified by coloured dotsUnderproof (38-40%, the red dot), Overproof (57% or so, green dot) and 33% Overproof (73-75%, black dot).

The distillery was sold off in 1986 to Bundaberg and the brand disappeared, though CSR remains as a company involved in manufacturing of building products, no longer rums. The Inner Circle brand was resurrected in 2000 by Stuart Gilbert (the Australian Olympic yachtsman) in concert with Malcolm Campbell, one of the distillers of the company who had the original recipe, and I believe they did so with the financial backing of the Australian VOK group, which also took over the Beenleigh Rum Distillery in 2003. The rums was un-retired and is now a Beenleigh product, thought it seems to be kept as a separate brand and line of rums from their regular releases, judging from their individual and separate websites.


 

Jun 202022
 

For years, South Pacific Distillery out of Fiji has been sending bulk rum abroad, which the indies of Europe have been snapping up and releasing as limited edition single cask bottlings: TCRL, L’Esprit, Samaroli, Rum Cask, Duncan Taylor, the Compagnie, Kill Devil and others have all released a bottle or two, and that is pretty much the only introduction most of us have to Fiji’s rums. However, like most distilleries which either dominate a country or seek to diversify in the region, they do have an in-house label of their own: the “Bounty” brand, which I must hasten to distinguish from St. Lucia Distillery’s brand of the same name, and which is sold mostly in the Asia-Pacific/NZ/Australia region (if online sales listings are anything to go by).

The St. Lucia brand title is of course a play on the words “bounty” and “bountiful”; I suspect that this is half of what’s behind SPD’s name as well, with the other half coming from the name of the ship involved in the most famous mutiny in naval history (“after the Potemkin!” you can hear the Eisenstein fans protest immediately). Bounty from Fiji has had limited penetration into European and American markets (which is why there are so few reviews of the thing and why the Rum-X entry doesn’t have a distillery attached to it), and SLD’s Bounty stays mostly within the Caribbean, so maybe that’s the reason there’s never been a lawsuit between the two companiesand why one has to be very careful to peruse label and origin statements of any Bounty bottle one comes across.

Be that as it may, I always liked South Pacific Distillery’s rums, and the TCRL 2009 was hands down the best and most memorable of those I’ve tried, so I’m always game to try another one, especially if the distillery itself makes it. What we have here is a blend issued at 58% (though my hydrometer rated it 60.1%, go figure), molasses based, and first brought to market in 1979. The distillery has both pot and column stills, and in his own review, the Fat Rum Pirate remarked that the descriptor of “small batch” on the label of this rum suggested a pot still origin, though this is nowhere explicitly mentioned, either on the label or by SPD itself (and neither is the outturn, or the age).

This is about par for the course for such brands who don’t take on board the Hampden or Renaissance labelling ethos (to name just two), so let’s just get right into it. Nose first: it’s very solid, almost brutal, in the way it runs right into your face with an initial attack of brine, wine-y notes, spoiled grapes and a sort of clean and clear scent of new rain on hot bricks. There’s dust, cereal, a touch of sawdust, which gradually gives way to acetone and nail polish, and then a lush basket of fruits: raspberries, red currants, strawberries, pineapple, cherries, pungent and tart and a little sour. Oh and there are notes of freshly turned wet sod, grass, and (get this) even fish oil. As a marker of its distinctiveness, that’s quite a combination.

Alas, it doesn’t last. The whole experience settles down from that rather wild-eyed and untamed mustang of a nose. On the palate, the tastes are firm and spicy, bordering on sharp, with a texture that flows well: there’s licorice and bags of fruit herecrisp white pears, strawberries, yellow half-ripe mangoes, red guavas, and yellow cashews. Also cereals and pastries, dusted with icing sugar, brown coconut sugar, licorice and honey. There’s some caramel sweetness to taste and that makes it actually quite pleasant to sip, though by the time you hit the finish it gets to be a bit overbearing and masks the crisper flavoursyou can hardly call it more than a simple finish, really, and it’s perhaps too reliant on brown sugar and molasses at the end.

This dampening of citrus and fruit portion of the profile by molasses, caramel and brown sugar lessens the overall experience, I think (and it was that sweetness that made me test the rum to begin with). That the result suggested no additional sugar at all hardly invalidates the profile as described, and in fairness, it works…within its limits. It’s a decent product for sure. It’s also reasonably affordable when available, and can be found on occasional auctions in Europe, if not in shops.

Those who drop some coin on it are hardly likely to be disappointed, though my personal opinion is that a truer representation of the distillery and the country is probably better found with the independent bottlings, since those select casks based on seeking out the “Fiji” part more than the “rum”, while the Bounty does exactly the opposite, and so becomes less distinctive. It may therefore be better to use the overproof as an introduction to the country and the brand: keeping one’s expectations modest and not seeing it as some kind of top end sipping rum, may be the key to enjoying the Bounty Premium Overproof to its fullest.

(#917)(83/100) ⭐⭐⭐½


Other Notes

  • A short introduction to the distillery and a listing of independent bottlers’ releases from it, is provided by Single Cask Rum.
  • South Pacific Distillery has a history rather longer and more complex, with many more changes in ownership, than is commonly known. A small bio will go up soon, as even that small history is too long to include here.
  • The label does not represent, as some believe, the outmoded trope of a pirate ship, but is a picture of the “Bounty” ship made famous by Messrs Bligh and Christian and after which the brand is named..
May 092022
 

One of the downsides of working and living where I do is that the latest newest releases pass by and can’t be tried in time to catch the initial wave of advertising and consumer interest. Sometimes whole years pass by between the much ballyhooed arrival of some interesting new product and my ability to write the review…by which time not only has the interest flagged but also the supply, and a whole new raft of fresh rums are hogging the limelight. This is particularly thorny with respect to the very limited issues of independent bottlers who do single cask releases, but fortunately is not quite as bad with primary producers who keep their flagships stable for long periods of time.

A well-known company which falls in the middle of the divide between extremely small batches of single barrel rums (of the indies) and much more plentiful globally-available supplies (of the major producers) is Foursquare, specifically their Exceptional Casks Series. These are regular releases of many thousands of bottles…though they are finite, even if some are more plentiful than others. Fortunately they are widely dispersed geographically which is why one does see a small but steady trickle of posts on social media about somebody picking up this or that bottle at what remains a reasonable price for the age and supply.

One of these is the “Premise” which was released along side the “Dominus” and the “2005” in 2018 and had a substantial 30,000-bottle outturn 1it was ECS Mark VIII, one of the “red line label” low-alcohol sub-series of the line which include the Port Cask, Zinfadel, Detente, Sagacity, Indelible, etc. I touched on it briefly as one of the eight bottlings which made me see the series as a Key Rum of the World, an opinion which has only solidified over the years. Recently I was able to try it again, and it’s interesting how the summary notes made three and a half years ago remain relevant…there really isn’t much I would change, except perhaps to fill in and expand the details.

It’s a pot/column still aged blend, made up of three years’ ageing in ex-Bourbon casks and seven in sherry casks, released at 46%, and let me tell you, this is one case where the lower strength really is an advantage, because there is a bright sprightliness of a warm spring morning about the nose, redolent of flowers and a basket of freshly picked fruit. There’s the spiciness of cumin, vanilla and masala, mixed up with apricot and green apples (which somehow works real well) plus grapes, olives and a nice brie. A bit salty, a bit tannic, with a touch of the sour bite of gooseberries.

Tastewise, the low ABV remains solid and presents as quite warm and spicy, with a clear fruity backbone upon which are hung a smorgasbord of cooking spices like rosemary, dill and cumin. Also brine, some strong green tea, to which are added some faintly lemony and red wine notes from the sherry, merging well into vanilla, caramel and white nutty chocolate and then smoothly leading into a delicately dry finish, with closing notes of toffee, vanilla, apricots and spices.

“Straight sipper?” asked Ralfy (probably rhetorically). “Absolutely!” And I agree. It’s a great little warm-weather sundowner, and if it treads ground with which we have become familiar, well, remember what it was like four years ago when blended rums this good from major houses in limited release were the exception, not the rule. If I had to chose, I would rate it ahead of the Zin and the Port Cask, but not as exciting and fresh as the superlative Criterion 2(which admittedly, had more sock in its jock, but still…). However, this is semantics: I enjoyed it, and moreover, everyone has their own favourites from the lineup, so mine will be different from yours

Now, it’s long been bruited around that Foursquare, more and better than most, makes rums that particularly appeal whiskey anoraksthe dry, woodsy, fruity core profile makes it a good rum to entice such drinkers (particularly those into Bourbon) away from the Dark Side…and given the popularity of their rums in the US, surely there’s some truth to that. The overused term “gateway rum” is one I don’t like much, but here is a rum that actually does deserve the title. Like others in the red line ECS series, the “Premise” has a very large outturn that allows most who want it to get it; that combines an approachable strength (for the cautious) with an accessible price (for the impecunious); for newcomers it’s soft enough not to intimidate and for aficionados it’s complex enough to appreciate. There’s something for everyone here, all in a single bottle and believe me, that is no small feat for any one rum to achieve.

(#906)(84/100) ⭐⭐⭐½


Other Notes

A “premise” as a noun, is A statement or proposition from which another is inferred or follows as a conclusion, or as a verb, means to base an argument, theory, or undertaking on. The evocative name of the rum was not chosen by accident: back in 2017 when the rum was being finalized, Richard Seale was making a specific point, that a rum could be additive free and unmessed-with and still be a good rum. This was the place he started from, the basis of his work, and although even as late as 2018 it was mostly the UK bloggers who were singing the company’s praises, the conclusion that the Mark VIII left behind was surely a ringing endorsement of the core premise: that confected rums need not be held up as ideals to emulate or be seen as ends in themselves, when so much quality could be achieved by adding nothing at all.

May 012022
 

It’s an old saw that time grants experience at the expense of youth, and indeed the entire review of the El Dorado 21 YO rum was an extended meditation on this theme. But perhaps, had I wanted to illustrate the issue more fully, it would have been better to reflect on the descent of the Barbados 20th Anniversary XO in my estimation over the intervening years since I first tried and wrote about it in 2012. Back then I awarded it what by contemporary standards is an unbelievable 88.5 points and my opening blurb naming it “one of the top sipping rums of my 2012 experience” can in no way be repeated a decade later without causing howls of disbelieving and derisive laughter from all and sundry, and a recent re-tasting of the rum shows why this is the case.


The rum’s nose opens with a light, medicinal sort of aroma reminiscent of quinine, except that it’s sweet and not sharp at all. It develops into hints of honey, caramel, blancmange and soft ripe fruitsflambeed bananas, raisins, apples on the edge of spoilingthat combine into a softly congealed sweetness that hides the sharpness one suspects may be lurking beneath it all. There are marshmallows, coconut milk, sweet pastries with a surfeit of icing sugar, but little acid bite or edge that would balance this all off. It’s a heavy dull, sweet nose, covering the senses like a wet blanket.


The deepening disappointment I feel about the rum has nothing really to do with the War of the Barbados GI (as I’ve heard it described), or the choice of Plantation as a brand name (with all its subsequent negative connotations), or some of the questionable business practices of the company. Those matters have been discussed and dissected at length and will continue to raise blood pressures for years to come. It doesn’t even have anything to do with Ferrand’s careful marketing, problematic labelling and the cold-eyed sales strategy, none of which, after all, is personalit’s just business. But all these dodgy issues aside, the fact remains that if ever there was a poster child for how tastes evolve and how what was once a real favourite can turn into a symbol of so much that no longer works, this rum is it.


On the palate, the initial sensations suggest all is well. The tastes are nicely fruity: sugar cane sap, vanilla, coconuts shavings, white chocolate, giving one the impression of a liquid Ferrero Raffaello Confetteria (but not as good). And yet, all the fruits striding forward to centre stage are too ripe, hereyellow mangoes, peaches, apricots, cherries. Thickly sweet tastes overwhelm the sharper rummy notes of caramel and light molasses with a barrage of marshmallows, candy floss and sugar water and blattens everything flat.


That profile as described might surprise many emergent rum fans from America in particular. After all, if one were to consult those three great repositories of crowdsourced rum opinionReddit’s /r/rum, Rum Ratings and Rum-Xthe vast majority of the respondents just love this thing, as the high consolidated scores on those platforms attest (the last one is the lowest with a 79 point average from 414 ratings).

And on the surface, there’s no question that it presses many of the right buttons: it’s been widely available (since 2007) at a slightly-higher-than-cheap price, has got that faux-ultra-premium bottle and gold etching; and it’s not part of the “standard backbar line” of the 3-Star, OFTD or Original Dark but one level higher (the “Signature Blends”). It remains bottled at 40% ABV and continues to be touted as being a blend of “quintessential extra-old rums from Barbados”. The company website provides disclosure: the various ages of the blend, the pot/column still makeup, the dual-ageing regimen, and of particular note is the 20g/L “dosage” element, which is considered to be the sugaring that makes it sweet (it’s not, really, but serves as a useful shorthand). So all that provision and declaration and presentation, and it’s all good, right?


The finish is smothering, though light, and thankfully escapes the kiss-of-death word “cloying”. There’s stuff going on here and it’s delicious: caramel, honey, brown sugar, vanilla, raisins, honey and even some tamarind, but there’s not enough of it, and what is sensed remains covered over by a sort of placid languor, a dampening effect of the sweetening that provides a sweet and warm conclusion, just not a memorable one.


Not entirely. For all its current disclosure, Plantation sure wasn’t talking any more than anyone else, back in 2012 and it was only after 2014 that they started to come up to scratch (trust me, I was there). That’s when they and many (but not all) others belatedly came out of the closet in a come-to-Jesus-moment and saidYeah, but we always did it this way, it’s been a long standing practice, and it makes the rum better.1.

What’s often not addressed in the denunciations of dosage is exactly why the sugaring was and remains considered such a bad thing, so here’s a recap. A common refrain is that it destroys the purity of rum, the way spicing does, so one is not getting an original experienceand worse, one may be paying a higher price for a cheap rum cunningly dosed to make it seem more premium. Secondly there’s a lesser but no less important point of reasons related to fitness and health. But those matters aside, it really is because rum chums hate being lied to: the practice was never disclosed by any producer, while being fiercely denied the whole time. These and other social issues surrounding the parent company go a long way to explaining the despite the rum gets, though at end, much of this is window dressing, and it’s how the rum works (or not), and perhaps how it’s classified, that’s the key issue, since disclosure is now provided. Other than that, the matters above don’tor shouldn’timpact on any evaluation of the rum at all (though no doubt many will disagree with me on this one).

By that exacting, laser-focused and narrow-bore standard, then, all the markers suggest a rum with luscious potential…but one which doesn’t deliver. It is really too faint to be taken seriously and too sweet to showcase real complexityalthough this is precisely what many new entrants to rum, weaned on Captain Morgan, cheap Bacardis, Kraken, Bumbu or Don Papa, consider smooth, sippable and top end. As with earlier El Dorado rums, nowadays for me the real question is not the dosage per se (after all, I can simply chose not to drop my coin on the rum) just why it continues, since it is really quite unnecessary. The rum is discernibly fine and can be better with less additions, or no sweetening at all; and I think that the state of the rumiverse generally is now sufficiently educated and awarein a way we were not back in the early 2000sfor it to be re-released as an adulterated / spiced rum or reissued without the dosage as something more seriousrather than pandering the way it does and having the best of both worlds.

That might make me a purist…but I chose to believe it’s more that I don’t think that a rum that’s already intrinsically decent needs to have such embellishment, which we never asked for, no longer need and really no longer want. It cheapens the whole category and lessens any kind of serious consideration of the spirit as a whole

All that, and it really is just too damned sweet.

(#904)(76/100) ⭐⭐⭐


Other notes

  • My hydrometer tested this out at 35.07% ABV, which works out to just about 20g/L so the website is spot on. This is a reduction from the decanter version I had originally reviewed a decade ago.
  • In this retrospective, I have deliberately chosen not to go deeper into the theme ofseparating the artist from the art”, as that is a subject requiring a much more nuanced and opiniated exploration. It is, however, on my radar, and not only for this company.
  • What exactly the “20th Anniversaryis, remains debated. Some say it’s of Mr. Gabriel’s becoming a master blender, others have differering opinions. It’s not the age of the rum, though, which is a blend of 8-15 YO distillates. It may of course be simply a number put there for marketing reasons, or something of significance to Maison Ferrand.
Apr 032022
 

Of all the rums that St Lucia Distillers makes, perhaps the best known and most widely drunk is the line of Chairman’s Reserve. It was already well regarded when I started this gig in 2009, and it remains a workhorse brand of the company today, more than twenty years after its debut. The Bounty brand is below it, the Admiral Rodney was once above it (in perception if nothing else) but the Chairman’s Reserve always held a cachet all its own, even when it was represented by just that single expression that started the cart rolling.

Made as a blend of pot and column still distillate with around five years ageing, the Chairman’s Reserve aims at a middling sort of profile that eschews the extremes of either light Latin ease or hard-edged funky uniqueness. The rum was created in the late 1990s when Laurie Bernard (the Chairman himself) felt it was time to create a premium rum that would showcase what the island had to offermore than just bulk rum shipped elsewhere, more than merely the local or tourist trade island rums like Bounty and Denros…something a bit more upscale. I don’t doubt that some inspiration was taken from the enormous success of the 1992 release of the El Dorado 15 year old and Mount Gay’s own experiments with premiumization, but what was created was so good and remained so popular, that even two decades in, the rum has not lost its lustre.

Which is not to say the rum stayed the same, or that others did not come along that changed the marketing. In 2011 the Chairman’s Reserve “Forgotten Casks” rum was released; the Admiral Rodney and the annually reformulated “1931” limited editions were trotted out at roughly the same time, all aimed at taking the distillery brand more upscale. This process continuedperhaps even acceleratedin 2017 when SLD was acquired by GBH (Spiribam) and a game of musical rums began. They expanded and switched around the Admiral Rodney rums, from being a single rum positioned between the Bounty and the Chairman’s Reserve, to several older and named “ship” expressions at the top end. The yearly 1931 series was discontinued entirely (No. 6 was the last one), the profile was locked into a single stable “1931” (it’s got about 9% cane juice, I’ve heard), and was moved to the top of the premium line with the words “Chairman’s Reserve” added to the labelling.

Now, Chairman’s Reservethat one single special rum they had started withhad to that point been seen as the premium face of SLD, the recognized face of the brand’s exports, right back from the time of its introduction in 1999. However, when the portfolio was being rationalised, it was likely felt that it was a little too staid, maybe no longer top-tier…and so it was decided to expand it, a lot. The Reserve became a whole range in its own right, a series varying in both quality and pricewhen last I checked there were nine separate rums bearing the imprimatur of Chairman’s Reserve: the Original, Forgotten Casks, “2005”, “2009”, “Lewellyn Xavier,“ “White Label”, Legacy” “1931” and the “Masters Selection.” They range from about twenty pounds for the Original, to over a hundred for the Master’s Selection, and only one (the Master’s) exceeds 46%.

With all that competition and expansion and premiumisation, the Original seems to have faded to the back, but I submit to you that this should not be the case. It remains enormously affordable and one of the few of the St Lucia Distiller’s stable one can find just about anywhere; it is widely commented on, and almost every reviewer still standing has, at some point, taken a crack at the rum (or one of its descendants). It was the first St. Lucia rum the Fat Rum Pirate tried in 2014, and he loved it; so did the Rum Shop Boy, six years later, as well as The Rum Howler; the boys at Rumcast mentioned the CR series in their 2020 roundup (Episode #17 at 0:24:50), John Go in the Philippines came to it more indifferently in 2021, but if Rum Ratings and reddit are anything to go by, people have been encouraged to go for the other variations in the Chairman’s line precisely because the original colonised our mental mindspace so comprehensively…even if they have forgotten the first one from which all others descend.

And when I went at it again in 2021, I came to understand something of its enduring appeal, because even at 40% ABV, even with its great familiarity (I’ve tried it many times, though only in social settings that precluded taking detailed notes upon which to base a review), it held up its end really really well. Granted it was standard strength, and that doesn’t always work: but the nose it started out with was quietly impressive. It was creamy, buttery, slightly sweet (but not sweetened) and smelled deliciously of toffee, Danish cookies, salted caramel ice cream, vanilla, honey and a touch of brine. Not a whole lot of sharp fruits presented themselves, and apricots and banana and ripe cherries were pretty much all, so no sharper citrus notes were there to start a riot. There were hints of herbs like rosemary, and spices like cinnamon to round things off.

Taste wise too, it was assembled with self-evident care and skill. Here it was saltier than the nose had suggested it would bemore salted caramel, more saline, a hint of olives, butterto which were added lemon meringue pie drizzled with brown sugar and a tawny, rich honey, leading to a fully respectable finish that summed up all the preceding pointsmusky caramel, toffee, molasses, bon bons, vanilla, brine, honey and a good mocha, with a little sharpness added to round things off.

This is a rum that would never be mistaken for a Guyanese, Jamaican, Brazilian, Cuban, or French island rhum, ever, and in fact, my thought was that the closest it came to was actually a slightly more pot-still-driven Barbados pot-column blended rum like Doorly’s or the Real McCoy. The overall profile was not so much uber-complex as completely and solidly precise, each note coming into its own, distinctly and clearly, then being replaced by another one. Never too many, never too few, nothing too demanding, always just enough to make for a seriously sippable drink that broke neither palate nor wallet.

Indeed, my feeling about this rum has always been that it wouldn’t scare anyone off the boat and would actually entice quite a few to come on board, not just to rums in general, but St. Lucia in particular. Because by all the measures of price, availability, brand recognition, overall taste, and approachability, the original Chairman’s Reserve just nails it. It’s a fair bet that most people wanting to dip their toes into St Lucia territory will start not with the Bounty rums, or the Admiral Rodneys (that premium cachet, rightly or wrongly, is not conducive to starter efforts), but with one of the Chairman’s Reserve expressions and they can all, every one of them, trace their ancestry back to this one original, the progenitor of the line. It’s a perennial classic for beginners or experts, for sippers, swillers or mixers, a mainstay of rum collections old and new, and it continues to call upon us to heed and hearken to its siren song. Few who do so walk away disappointed.

(#896)(84/100) ⭐⭐⭐½


 

Feb 242022
 

Photo (c) Killik Handcrafted


Note: Although the bottle label does not refer to the product asrum” – which suggests that under Australian law it cannot be so called because it is aged less than two yearsI am referring to it as such given the fact that under rules elsewhere in the world (and my own common sense) all of its production criteria make it one.


Killik Handcrafted Rum is a small distillery in southern Australia that shares several similarities with its neighbour in Melbourne, JimmyRum, and, in fact, with several others that will form part of this small series of Australian rums. For one, it is of recent vintage, having been envisioned, established and brought to operation in 2019 by a family team (Ben and Callan Pratt); makes gin and cocktails to help cover costs until the rum stuff gets a head of steam; and has an attached cafe to the distillery which gets the urban customers rolling in for a bite to eat to go with the tasting menu. The distillery compound in a picturesque section of eastern Melbourne just by Sherbrooke Forest makes for a good location to entice day-trippers and tourists who stop by for a snack and a cocktail.

What distinguishes the small distillery from otherswho also have a good location, also established an on-site restaurant-cum-cafe and also had to come up with imaginative approaches to survive doing lockdownsis its stated focus on recreating a high-ester, hogo-laden series of rums. This they do (according to their website) primarily by using “a wild fermentation process” that I can only assume is by utilisation of a non commercial yeast strain or wild yeast itself. Whether they actually follow what high-ester Jamaican rum makers douse muck to supercharge ester fermentationcannot be gleaned from that website, which is actually not very helpful about much and doesn’t even mention what kind of still they use or whether they start off with molasses or cane juice.

However, Mr. and Mrs. Rum’s daily instagram notes in December 2021 fill in the pieces: the company uses molasses, and yes, they do add in dunder at various stages of the ferment; the still is a 1000-liter hybrid with option for four plates, six plates, or pot distillation; and they source barrels from a local cooperage. All that leads us into the three rums they make: the silver, the silver overproof and the one we’re looking at today, the “Gold” which was aged in Chardonnay casks (for less than two years, hence the qualifier about calling it a “rum”) and is noted as being a high ester rum with a strength of 42% ABV but with no reference to whether it is from pot or column still, or a blend. Honestly, I wish this kind of thing was better explained and laid out for the genuinely curious (and these days, that’s most of us).

Clearly the Gold is made for a market that is timorous in its tastes, because 42% is not, I suggest, enough to showcase serious hogo action (though it does dampen it down enough so that the uninitiated would not to leave the premises traumatised, tearful and trembling). The first aromas are a testament to that: paint, plasticine, rubber overlaid with the forest green scent of damp rotting logs covered with moss and Fisherman’s Friend cherry bonbons. That may not sound like something you’d want to bring home to Mommy, but it really is not too shabby, and in any case, be of good cheer, for there’s more and better coming. As the initial sharply fruity and offbeat aromas dissipate, they are replaced by vanilla, sweet Danish cookies, caramel, toffee, nougat, nuts and honeynot too strong, quite straightforward here, and good enough for Government work.

The palate stays with this easygoing motif and lets the aggro of the initial nose go its own way (which I submit is our loss); there’s some initial brine and olives, a faint lingering memory of rubber, and then a small bowl of fruit is opened up: pears, melons, papaya, a touch of strawberries and tart mangos, and a pimento infused bitter chocolate or two for kick. There’s some caramel and sweet dark grapes coiling around behind it all, and the whole experience wraps up in a short, breathy finish with just the memory of some fruits, a bit of tart but creamy yoghurt, and that’s all she wrote.

So, how to rate it? Now, I ran it through my glass blind and didn’t know anything about it before beginning, so I went in with no preconceived notions and came to the conclusion I did based purely on the tasting and a knowledge of the strength; and the score it was given reflected a better-than-average sort of quality, because all this high-ester hogo business was not on my radar and I discovered it for myself. Would I have rated it higher had I known it was daring to be a Jamaican, or lower for not being one? Maybe, but that’s why I taste and score first and research later wherever possible, and not the other way ‘round.

Short version, the rum feels like an entry-level product, with the esters evident, dissipating fast, and not making enough of a statement. While the rum’s tastesespecially the first onesare interesting, they lack force, complexity, integration. And yet for all that, the Killik Gold is not a fall-down fail. It’s merely a rum that starts well, is minimally aged, and in the early stages of being something else, something in the producers’ minds which has yet to snap more clearly and more distinctively into focus. In five years Killik will probably have something really fascinating for us to try: here though, we’re being given an early essay in the craft, a rum that suggests rather more exciting potential than it currently manages to deliver.

(#887)(78/100) ⭐⭐⭐


Other Notes

  • As with all the Australian rums reviewed as part of the 2021 Aussie Advent Calendar, a very special shout out and a finger-tap to the fedora to Mr. And Mrs. Rum, who sent me a complete set free of charge. Thanks again to you both.
  • The website entry for this rum notes it as being aged 12 months in Chardonnay casks, nothing else.
  • At first I thought the logo represented an aboriginal motif similar to the Canadian First NationsInukshuk (a marker made from carefully placed stones), but Killik’sAboutpage showed that the name and the logo they chose was no accident and actually related to shipping: The name “Killik” is derived from the word “killick”, being an old anchor handcrafted by encasing stone in a wooden frame. To us, Killik represents strength and stability, while taking a nod to the classic archetype of bottles of rum making their way around the Caribbean on old rustic ships. After reading around some more, I found out that a killick was also a slang term for a sailor first class (orleading seaman” – the term has been retired) in the Royal Canadian Navy. The discontinued old style insignia for this rank used to be a ‘fouledanchoran anchor with a length of rope twisted around it). Both term and insignia continue to be used in other navies, including the British, from whence it probably originated.