Feb 252021
 

Back in 2013 when I wrote about the Scotch Malt Whisky Association’s release R3.4 Barbados 2002 10YO “Makes You Strong Like Lion”, several people went on FB and passed the word around that it wasn’t a Foursquare rum, which was hardly needed since I noted in the review that it was from WIRD, and the Rockley Still. Four years later the SMWS did however, decide that the famed Barbados company shouldn’t be left out and bottled an aged rum from Foursquare (the first of two), named it R6.1, and gave it one of their usual amusing titles of “Spice At The Races.” One wonders when they’re going to try for a Mount Gay distillate, though I’m not holding my breath.

Now, for years, every rum geek in the observable rumiverse (bar a few of my acquaintances who don’t drink kool aid) has formed up behind the oft-repeated idea that there is no way a continentally aged rum is the equal of one left to sleep in its island or country of origin. I’ve always taken that statement with a pinch of salt, for two reasons: one, its adherents always talk about taste and age, yet it’s actually touted for social and economic reasons, which is a point often lost in the shuffle; and two, I’ve simply had too many aged rums that ripened in both places for me to be so dogmatic in my assertions, and I’ve seen as many failures as successes in both. Ultimately, it’s the taste that counts no matter where it’s bottled.

This pale yellow rum cost around £75 when initially released, was 57.3% and with a 210 bottle outurn, aged for a solid 14 years old (yes, in Europe) , illustrates the problem with making such sweepingfour legs good, two legs badgeneralizations, because it’s a really a fine rum in its own peculiar way, and one I enjoyed a lot.

Consider first the nose, which opens with the firm assertiveness of my primary school teacher wielding her cane. It smells of sawdust, dusty cardboard, glue, has an odd medicinal touch to it, and also a nice smoky-sweet sort of background. Then the fruits begin their march in: orange peel, strawberries, bananas, pineapple, some light cherries and peaches. The citrus line, augmented with other sharper aromas of persimmons and ginnips provide a lovely through-line, and the smokiness and leather lend an intriguing edge.

The taste is admittedly odd at the inception; my first notes speak of a pair of old, well used, polished, leather shoes (with socks still in ‘em). This is not actually a bad thing, since it is balanced off by ginger, mauby and some rich fruit notesapples, guavas, almost ripe yellow Thai mangoesand these make it both tart and delicately sweet, gathering force until it becomes almost creamy at the back end, with a sort of caramel, port, molasses and vanilla taste to it. This is one of these cases where the finish lingers and doesn’t do a vanishing act on you: it’s slightly acidic and tart, with vanilla, oak, smoke, unsweetened yoghurt and a touch of delicate florals and fruits. Nice.

So, a couple of points. Marco Freyr of Barrel-Aged-Mind, who was sampling it with me, and who has an encyclopaedic knowledge of the various Bajan rum profiles, wondered if it was even a Foursquare at all (I chose to disagree, and accept the rum as stated). Also, It’s unclear from the labelling whether it’s a pure pot still distillate, ormore consistent with Foursuare’s own releasesa blend of pot and column. Rum Auctioneer classed it as a pot-column blend. The bottle remains silent. The Rum Shop Boy, one of the few who’s reviewed it, noted it as pot still only in one part of his review, and a blend further down (and didn’t care much for it, as a matter of interest). However, he further noted in an earlier Kintra Foursquare review some months before, that Mr. Seale had confirmed some 2002 pot still 4S rum had indeed been sold that year. My own initial take was that it was a blend, as I felt it lacked the sort of distinctiveness a pot still distillate would impart and I didn’t think Mr. Seale shipped his pot still juice over to Europe. However, Simon’s quote from him, and Seale’s subsequent note on FB put he matter to resthe confirmed it was a pot still spirit.

All that aside, it was a really good rum, one which shows that when they want to, the SMWS can pick rums with the best of them (especially with more familiar and more famous distilleriestheir track record with less known and less popular marks is a bit more hit and miss). If various laws and regulations being pursued stop indies from getting continentally aged juice in the years to come (though this is unlikely given the extent of Scheer’s stocks), I think the Society can still rest comfortably on its laurels after having issued a rum as fine as this one, young as it may be in tropical years.

(#804)(86/100)


Other notes

  • Rum Shop Boy scored the rum 67/100, so about 83 points by my scale and 3½ out of 5 on Wes’s. Like Marco, he commented on how different it was from the Foursquare rums he knew, and rated it “disappointing”.
  • Angus over at WhiskyFun liked it much more and scored it 87, rolling out the tongue-in-cheek “dangerously quaffable” line, and meaning it.
  • Ben’s Whisky Blog (near bottom of page) rates it a “Buy” with no score
  • Post details regarding source still is updated based on a conversation on FB the same day I put it up. It could indeed be a pot still rum, but the jury remains out.
Feb 282019
 

Until Velier came along last year and produced that incredible Long Pond Quartet, you would have been hard pressed to get much from that distillery, which sent most of its stock overseas to age and be issued by others. Much of their production was placed into blends, and occasionally a small single cask release would be spotted on the marketthe Juuls Ping 9, BBR 1977, Compagnie’s 2003 12 YO, Rum Nation’s 1986 Supreme Lord VI, the snarling 81.3% bronto of SMWS R5.1, and, of course, greatest of them all, the near legendary G&M 1941 58 year old.

Now, we hear a lot about E&A Scheer these days, but that doesn’t mean other bulk importers don’t exist in Europe. One of these is Rum Albrecht GmbH, a north-German subsidiary of the family owned Heinz Eggert & Co, which is an importer and exporter of distillates, spirits, aromatics essences, alcoholic raw materials, wines and liqueurs for over sixty years. Since working with aromatics and rums leads directly towards high ester rums, perhaps it’s no surprise that as of 2004 they began releasing limited editions of the “LPS” series of rums from Long Pond, and have thus far produced several: an 11 YO, a 13 YO, a 17 YO and an 18 YO , all from the distillation year of 1993.

Unfortunately, that and the strength (53% across the range) is about all the information easily availablethe label is a masterpiece of nothing-in-particular, really. Flo of Barrel Aged Thoughts noted in his 2013 review that the rum was imported from and fully aged in Jamaica and simply bottled in Germany, with a release of 342 bottles, and he also remarked on it being a pot still distillate, (said info provided by RA themselves, since the label mentions nothing of the kind). So okay, we have that.

But none of that really mattered, because when tried in concert with several other Jamaicans, this thing shone even without knowing precisely what it was (at the time). It was so different from the Ping 9 as to be a different rum altogether, and seemed to share DNA more with the 1941, or even a Hampden than anything else. Its nose began with rubbery, waxy and lots of clear fruity-estery notes and then proceeded into aromas of cream cheese and chives, cereals, honey, lemon peel and cumin. And as if it got bored with that, after an hour or so it coughed up a few extras for the patient, of cardamom, overripe bananas and sour cream, all very crisp, very aromatic, a veritable smorgasbord of Jamaica.

The taste was similarly complex: while initially a bit sharp, it calmed down rapidly and glided smoothly across the palate, and the first notes I made were about rough black bread and cream cheese, brine and olives and many of the bits and pieces carrying forward from the nose. Vanilla, caramel, toffee, plus cumin, freshly sawn cedar planks, nougat, almonds and a hint of smoke and leather, with an excellent, long-lasting finish that summed up everything that came beforemostly brine, rubber, cedar, nuts and sharper fruits (apples, green grapes and firm yellow mangoes). I know Jamaicans from the old and famed distilleries can have bags of flavour, but honestly, the assembly of this rum was nothing less than outstanding.

What’s even more surprising about the rum, is how under-the-radar it was when it was released in 2013 (and continues to be, nowI mean, have you ever heard of it?). Granted, back then the Jamaican rum renaissance was just beginning to get a head of steam, the Velier Hampdens and the Long Pond Quartet were just glints in the milkman’s eye, and all was somewhat overshadowed by the burgeoning reputation of Foursquare. But a rum like this, from the 1990s, 17 years tropical ageing (another thing that hadn’t quite taken off back then), from Long Pond? It should have been lauded from every hilltop and rumfest in sight and disappeared off the shelves faster than you could say “Was zum Teufel? in Jamaican.

My own feeling is that Albrecht didn’t really understand what they were sitting on and released it to the German market without much fanfare, and the story goes that some 10-15 far-sighted cocktail-loving people bought like 80% of the entire outturn to juice up their bars, and then it just sank out of sight in spite of the German reviewers’ praises. Well, there probably isn’t much of it remaining after all these years, and I’ve never seen one go up for sale on the auction sites of FB sales pages. But I know that if it ever does, I’m buying one, and I sure hope Albrecht has squirrelled away a few more like it for future release to the Faithful.

(#603)(88/100)

Feb 252019
 

Just to reiterate some brief details about HSE (Habitation Saint-Étienne), which is located almost dead centre in the middle of Martinique. Although in existence since the early 1800s, its modern history properly began when it was purchased in 1882 by Amédée Aubéry, who combined the sugar factory with a small distillery, and set up a rail line to transport cane more efficiently (even though oxen and people that pulled the railcars, not locomotives). In 1909, the property came into the possession of the Simonnet family who kept it until its decline at the end of the 1980s. The estate was then taken over in 1994 by Yves and José Hayot — owners, it will be recalled, of the Simon distillery, as well as Clement — who relaunched the Saint-Étienne brand using Simon’s creole stills, adding snazzy marketing and expanding markets.

This particular rum, then, comes from a company with a long history and impeccable Martinique pedigree. It is an AOC millésiméa rum issued in relatively small quantities, from the output of a specific year’s production, considered to be a cut above the ordinary (2005 in this case) and finished in Sauternes casks.

Given that it is nine years tropical ageing plus another year in the Sauternes casks, I think we could be expected to have a pretty interesting profileand I wasn’t disappointed (though the strength did give me pause). The initial smells were grassy and wine-y at the same time, a combination of musk and crisp light aromas that melded well. There were green apples, grapes, the tart acidity of cider mixed in with some ginger and cinnamon, a dollop of brine and a few olives, freshly mown wet grass and well-controlled citrus peel behind it all.

Well now. That was a pretty nifty nose. How did the palate rate?

Very well indeed, I thought. It was a smooth and solid piece of work for its proof point, with clear, firm tastes proceeding in sequence like a conga linelight acetones and flowery notes to begin with, then bubble gum, ripe cherries and plums. The profile proceeded to display some sharpness and herbalscitrus, cider, well-aged sharp cheddar, a touch of apricots and almost-ripe peaches together with softer honey and ginger. What distinguished it and made it succeed, I think, is the delicate balancing act between sweetness and acidity (and a trace of salt), and even the finishgrapes, honey, cane juice and wet grass for the most partdisplayed this well assembled character. It impressed the hell out of me, the more so since I walked in expecting so much less.

The other day I wrote about a similarly-aged, light rum from Don Q, which I remarked as being somewhat too easy and unchallenging, bottled at a low 40%; and while competently made, simply not something that enthralled me.

On that basis, you might believe that I simply disdain any and all such low-proof rums as being ultimately boring, but now consider this 41% agricole from Habitation Saint-Étienne as a response. It emphatically demonstrates to anyone who believes standard strength can only produce standard junk, that a rum can indeed be so relatively weak and still have some real quality squirming in its jock. And with respect to the HSE 2005, that’s a statement I can make with no hesitation at all, and real conviction.

(#602)(86/100)


Other Notes

  • This rhum should not be confused with the others in the “Les Finitions du Monde” series (like Chateau La Tour Blanche or Single Malt finish labelled as exactly that), which are also 2005 millesimes, but not bottled in the same month, have other finishes, and different labels.
  • According to Excellence Rhum, this 2005 edition is the successor to the 2003 Millesime which is no longer produced.
  • The outturn is unknown.
  • Nine (9) years aging, plus from 12 months of finishing in Château La Tour Blanche barrels, 1st Cru Classé de Sauternes.
Feb 242019
 

It’s a peculiarity of the sheer volume of rums that cross my desk, my glass and my glottis, that I get to taste rums some people would give their left butt cheek for, while at the same time juice that is enormously well known, talked about, popular and been tried by many….gets missed.

One of these is the Don Q series of rums out of Puerto Rico made by the Serrallés family who, like Old Facundo, hailed from Catalonia and came to Puerto Rico in around 1820. In the 1830s they established a sugar plantation on the outskirts of Ponce in South-Central Puerto Rico and in a short time became very successful, exporting sugar to the US, France and the UK; in 1865 they started to manufacture rum on a pot still brought over from France (seeother notesbelow), though the various brands they produced were short lived and not really big sellers. In response to that, in 1932 they launched the Don Q brand as a way of breaking into the more premium sector, as well as expanding local market share, followed by new distillation apparatus installed in 1935 (one imagines the pot still was marginalized after this, if not discontinued entirely). The rums of the line proved to be enormously popular, overtaking Bacardi which was seen as a foreign brand and not as refined.

These days it is considered the best selling rum in its home turf, exported all over the world, and the recipe remains consistent with the original developed so long ago. In the current environment where unadulterated rums get a lot of praise, it also grabs brownie points for having none itself.

Technical details: distilled on a column still, 40% ABV, gold colour, no additives. According to their website, the Gran Añejo “contains rums aged between 9 and 12 years, and solera rums aged up to 50 years” which means that by accepted parlance it’s a blend, 9 years old.

Given it’s a column still low proof, I would expect it to be a light sort of experience to smell, and indeed it wasso much so that it took real effort to disassemble. The nose was almighty peculiar to start, redolent of charcoal, burnt wood, ashes, an overdone ox turning on a spit (seriously). I don’t know if that was intentional, just that it took me somewhat off balance; still, it developed nicelygradually aromas of rotting bananas, overripe fleshy fruit, and even a little brine, combined with a delicate hint of orange peel.

The palate was pleasant and easy to sip, quite solid for the living room strength. Here notes of caramel, vanilla, lemon peel, apples, molasses and treacle abounded, nicely balanced. It was velvety, but also dry, vaguely sweet with some brine and well-polished leather. What it lacked was force and emphasis, though that was to be expected, and the finish sort of limped along past the tape, providing closing notes of vanilla, nutmeg and pineapple, all very soft and light, nothing for the rum junkie to write home about, really. It’s soft and easy-going, overall.

For my money this is something of a low-rent Havana Club. Given that the main markets for Don Q are the US, Mexico and Spain (it’s exported to many more, of course), it stands to reason that over-aggressive high-ester profile and a Brobdingnagian strength are not on the cardsthat’s not the Catalan style of rum-making brought over to the new world, or preferred in those markets: That may guarantee it solid sales and great word of mouth where it sells, but I’m not sure it guarantees it future sales in places where there is already a surfeit of such rums, or where something with more character is the norm.

The Don Q, for all its understated quality and its audience in other parts of the world, demonstrates why I moved away from Spanish/Latin American column still rums. They lack oomph and emphasis. They’re too easy, and too light (for me), require little effort and are no challenge to come to grips with. It may have taken years to come around to trying it, but now, having done so, I can’t honestly say that an amazing undiscovered gem has been missed out on.

(#601)(81/100)


Other notes

According to the company website, the still brought over from France in 1865 was a pot still, though this is odd given France’s love affair with the columns back then; but Tristan Stephenson’s 2018 bookThe Curious Bartender’s Rum Revolutionmentions it as being a 5-tray columnar still. Once I track the discrepancy down, I’ll amend this section of the post.

Feb 142019
 

Photo (c) Excellence Rhum

Few profiles in the rum world are as distinctive Port Mourant, deriving from DDL’s double wooden pot still in Guyana. Now, the Versailles single wooden pot still rums always struck me as bit ragged and fierce, requiring rare skill to bring to their full potential, while the Enmores are occasionally too subtle: but somehow the PM tends to find the sweet spot between them and is almost always a good dram, whether continentally or tropically aged. I’ve consistently scored PM rums well, which may say more about me than the rum, but never mind.

Here we have another independent bottling from that stillit comes from the Excellence Collection put out by the French store Excellence Rhum (where I’ve dropped a fair bit of coin over the years). Which in turn is run by Alexandre Beudet, who started the physical store and its associated online site in 2013 and now lists close on two thousand rums of all kinds. Since many stores like to show off their chops by issuing a limited “store edition” of their own, it’s not an illogical or uncommon step for them to take.

It’s definitely appreciated that it was released at a formidable 60.1% – as I’ve noted before, such high proof points in rums are not some fiendish plot meant to tie your glottis up in a pretzel (which is what I’ve always suspected about 151s), but a way to showcase an intense and powerful taste profile, to the max.

Certainly on the nose, that worked: hot and dry as the Sahara, it presented all the initial attributes of a pot still rumpaint, fingernail polish, rubber, acetones and rotten bananas to start, reminding me quite a bit of the Velier PM White and a lot fiercer than a gentler ultra-old rum like, oh the Norse Cask 1975. Once it relaxed I smelled brine, gherkins, sauerkraut, sweet and sour sauce, soya, vegetable soup, some compost and a lot of licorice, vanilla; and lastly, fruits that feel like they were left too long in the open sun close by Stabroek market. Florals and spices, though these remain very much in the background. Whatever the case, “rich” would not be a word out of place to describe it.

If the aromas were rich, so was the palate: more sweet than salt, literally bursting with additional flavoursof anise, caramel, vanilla, tons of dark fruits (and some sharper, greener ones like apples). There was also a peculiarbut far from unpleasanthint of sawdust, cardboard, and the mustiness of dry abandoned rooms in a house too large to live in. But when all is said and done, it was the florals, licorice and darker fruits that held the heights, and this continued right down to the finish, which was long and aromatic, redolent of port-infused cigarillos, more licorice, creaminess, with a touch of rubber, acetonesand of course more fruits.

While PM rums do reasonably well with me because that’s the way my tastes bend, a caveat is that I also taste a whole lot of them, and that implies a PM rum had better be damned good to excite my serious interest and earn some undiluted fanboy favour and fervor….and a truly exemplary score. I started into the rum with a certain indulgent, “Yeah, let’s see what we have this time” attitude, and then stuck around to appreciate what had been accomplished. This is not the best of all Port Mourants, and I think a couple of drops of water might be useful, but the fact is that any rum of its family tree which I have on the go for a few hours and several glasses, is by no means a failure. It provides all the tastes which showcase the country, the still and the bottler, and proves once again that even with all of the many variations we’ve tried, there’s still room for another one.

(#599)(87/100)


Other Notes

  • Major points for the back label design, which provides all the info we seek, but forgot to mention how many bottles we get to buy (thanks go to Fabien who pointed me in his comment below, to a link that showed 247 bottles).
    • Distilled May 2005, bottled April 2017.
    • Angel’s share 31%
    • 20% Tropical, 80% Continental Ageing
Feb 112019
 

Rumaniacs Review #091 | 0598

Overproof rums started out as killer cocktail ingredients, meant to boost anything they were put into by, I dunno, a lot. For many years they were pretty much the bruisers of the barflieslow-life, lightly-aged mixers (or occasionally unaged whites) which only islanders drank neat, largely because they had the least amount of time to waste getting hammered. Still, as time passed and cask strength rums became more fashionable (and appreciated), the gap between the strength of a cool aged casker and an overproof shrank, to the point where a 75% bottling of a “regular” rum that’s not labelled as an overproof is not out of the realms of possibilityI know several that stop just a bit short of that.

One of the old style overproofs is this rum from the Takamaka Bay rum company located on Mahe, the main island of the 115-island archipelago comprising the Seychelles, in the Indian Ocean off East Africa. The company is of relatively recent vintage, being formed in 2002 by the d’Offay brothers, Richard and Bernard d’Offay, and sourcing sugar cane from around the islandthey are, according to their website’s blog, one of the few distilleries in the world that make rum from both juice and molasses. They have two copper pot stills and a columnnar one, and this white rum, now discontinued and replaced with the 69 Rhum Blanc, is an unaged, unfiltered column still distillate with possibly a touch of high ester rum from the pot still. I’ve read on a Czech site that the rum is triple distilled from cane juice and then diluted, which was later confirmed by Bernard d’Offay.

ColourWhite

Strength – 72% ABV

NoseSweet and light soda pop, like a 7-Upwith fangs. Tons of herbs here, grass, thyme, mint, light lemon zest. Sugar water. Light fruity esters. Bananas, nutmeg, cardamom.

PalateFruit juice poured into my glass, clean and light. There’s the crispness of green apples, cane juice and red cashews, melding well with the tart creamy sweetness of ginips and soursop. Herbs remainedparsley, dill and mint. It was hot and delicately sweet, presenting with force, yet it also reminded me somewhat of a tequila, what with a background of brine and olives and a faint oily texture on the tongue

FinishQuite good. Long, dry, spicy, fruity, redolent of bananas, red currants, blackberries, watermelon and sugar water.

ThoughtsIt’s really quite a good rum, and I’m sorry to see it’s no longer being made. Before I got a response from Takamaka Bay, I thought the column still produced this from cane juice spirit (this proved to be the case). It’s a mixer for sure, though anyone who finds it and tries it neat won’t be entirely disappointed. It’s a fiery, flavourful white which may now no longer be made, but lives on in its slightly lesser-proofed brotherwhich I have a feeling I’ll be looking for quite soon.

(84/100)

Feb 022019
 

Rumaniacs Review #090 | 0595

We’re all familiar with the regular roundup of major Appleton rums like the Reserve, the 12 YO, the 15 YO, 21 YO and 30 (old version or new), as well as their halo rum du jour, the 50 YO. But the company also had and has distinct and not so well known brands for sale locally (or niche export markets), such as Edwin Charley, Coruba, Conquering Lion, JBW Estate and Cocomania. And as the years turned, the company outlived some of its own brandsfor example the previously well-known One Dagger, Two Dagger and Three Dagger rums which went out in the 1950s. Another casualty of the times was the C.J. Wray Dry White Rum, which was launched in 1991 as a broadside to Bacardi; at the time there weren’t many light whites out there and the Superior was the market leader, so Wray & Nephew decided to take lessons from the very successful premium vodka campaign of Absolut (against Smirnoff) and launched their own, supposedly upscale, alternative.

But by the early-to-mid 2000s, the Dry was discontinued. The reasons remain obscure: perhaps on the export market, it couldn’t compete with the vastly more popular poor man’s friend and bartender’s staple, the 63% overproof, being itself a meek and mild 40%. Perhaps there was some consolidation going on and it was felt that the Appleton White was enough. Maybe it just wasn’t deemed good enough by the rum drinkers of the day, or the margins made it an iffy proposition if it couldn’t sell in quantity.

Technical details are murky. All right, they’re practically non-existent. I think it’s a filtered column still rum, diluted down to standard strength, but lack definitive proofthat’s just my experience and taste buds talking, so if you know better, drop a line. No notes on ageinghowever, in spite of one reference I dug up which noted it as unaged, I think it probably was, just a bit.

ColourWhite

Strength – 40%

NoseLight, mild and sweet. Dry? Not for this guy’s schnozz. Initial aromas narrow in on vanilla, nougat, white toblerone and almonds, with a little salt and citrus peel to liven up the party. It’s very soft (no surprise), gentle, and warm, and going just by the nose, is perfectly acceptable to have neat, though I saw some fans posting back in 2008 who were itching to try it in a daquiri.

PalateNot as interesting as the nose, really, but every bit as nice. Tinned cherries and pineapples in syrup was the first thought that ocurred to me as I sipped it; a trace of salt and brine, with perhaps half an olive, vanilla, almonds, andif you crease your brow, sweat a bit and concentratecitrus, raisins, cinnamon and maybe a shaving of fresh ginger.

FinishShort, mellow, slightly fruity, a little herbal. Nothing to write home about.

ThoughtsFor a low-end white, it’s actually quite an interesting drink. Sales must have been low, margins too scrawny, reactions too muted, and it was put down as an act of mercy (or so the storyteller in me supposes). That’s too bad because while the profile does suggest that it was doctored (entirely a personal opinionit lacks something of the punch and edge of a clean and unmessed-with rum, though this may simply be over-enthusiastic filtration), it’s a neat little rumlet if your expectations are kept low and you like easy. Maybe, had it been left in place to gather a head of steam, it might have found some legsthese days, good luck finding any outside an estate sale or an old salt’s collection.

(80/100)

 

Jan 312019
 

More than four years ago I wrote about the Rhum Vieux Millésimé 1998 10 YO made by Dzama and concluded that I was pretty stoked to see what else the brand had in the larder. It’s taken a long time for me to make good on that desire, so here we have something lower down on the totem pole from the same company, and I thought it was a good effort, for all its youth and in spite of the niggly questions it raised.

Let’s refresh the memory first: for the geographically challenged, Madagascar is that huge island off the south east coast of Africa; and the Dzama rums are made by Vidzar, formed in 1980 due to the efforts of Mr. Lucien Fohine, who noted that the small sugar factory on the tiny island of Nosy Be produced a distillate that had distinctive flavours which persisted into the final distilled products…mostly low level rum for local consumption, to that point. He concluded it came from the ylang-ylang plant (also known as the macassar oil plant, or the perfume tree) whose roots intermingled with that of the cane.

He formed a company Vidzar (a contraction of Vieux Rhum de Dzamandzar), which initially concerned itself with whisky bottling. It was located close to the sugar cane fields of Nosy Be, near to a village called Dzamadzar, but a few years later, as their operations expanded, they transferred production to Antananarivo (the capital, in the center of the island) The company, which now claims a majority of rum market share in Madagascar, makes a range of rums, including the Dzama Club, 3 YO and 6 YO, the Millésimé 1998 10 Year Old, Dzama 15 and 25 year old rums and a Cuvée Noire. Most of these are untried by the vast majority of rum drinkers, and remain relatively unknown, though many have won prizes between 2010 and 2015, in Miami, Paris, Berlin and Madrid.

All that said, there isn’t much on the company website about the technical details regarding the 3 year old we’re looking at today. It’s a column still rum, unadded-to, aged in oak barrels, and my sample clocked in at 52%, which I think is an amazing strength for a rum so youngmost producers tend to stick with the tried-and-true 40-43% (for tax and export purposes) when starting out, but not these guys.

Now, the theory is that the oils and perfumes of the various botanicals to be found on Madagascar (vanilla, cloves, pepper are often cited) leach from their roots into the soil and are intermixed with the cane plants’ own root systems, into their stems, and thence to the ultimate distillate. I’m no chemist or botanist, but one could just as easily wonder why similar processes aren’t observed on the spice island (Grenada) for example, so I reserve judgement on that score.

Be that as it may, the nose is quietly rich for a rum aged a mere three yearsnot Velier-Demerara-go-for-the-brass-ring rich, just more than one would expect going in. This nose was initially redolent of creamy feta cheese, brine, red olives and cashew notes, and had a nice line of rotting bananas and funk coiling about in the background which provided an underpinning of real character. It also gave off subtler aromas of candied oranges, pears and other light fruits, just not enough to take over and make it a fruit bomb. But towards the end there was a more dominant element of toffee, coffee grounds and vanilla which I thought pleasant but overdone, especially since it was delivered with some real force.

Though it teetered right on the edge of being too hot, it presented a solid if sharp drink, an amalgam of salt and sweetand a lot of brown sugar and vanilla There were bananas, strawberries, cherries, and some of that tart and creamy sensation you get from an unsweetened fruit smoothie made from, oh, firm yellow mangoes and pineapple. The vanilla remained, the coffee disappeared, and amusingly, I could actually taste sweet green peas. Much of the saltiness and nuttiness of the nose was gone, though still noticeable, and it did not unbalance the fruity aspects. The finish was where it failed, I thoughtit was medium long, somewhat spicy, just rather mild, with closing notes of fruits, vanilla, salted caramel, coconut shavings, and a little citrus.

Well, what to make of this? The nose was decent, the palate was nearly as good, a reasonable drink even by itself….particularly if you like the hints of spices. Does that mean natural or other spices have been added? They say no, and hydrometer tests show no obscurationbut I can’t help but wonder. Rums this young tend to be rather sharp and retain competing notes that saw across the palate, better off in mixed drinks than to have neat; the Dzama 3 YO was sippable and had the edge toned down, and for that to happen at that strength raises the eyebrow. However, in the absence of more information, I’ll leave it there for now as a note for those who want to know.

That first Dzama I tried, the 1998 10 YO, had what at first sight seemed like an utterly standard profile that then expanded into something quite unconventional and interesting. The 3 year old is not on that level. The vanilla is a shade too dominant, and while fortunately having enough other taste elements in there to move beyond that, it remains ultimately straightforward. But it is, nevertheless, a good drink for what it says it is, and demonstrates that a rum doesn’t have to be the latest Velier, Worthy Park or Foursquare juice, or from some independent’s minuscule outturn, to be a rum worth checking out.

(#594)(80/100)


Other Notes

Wes was much more disapproving of the spiced profile in his review. It’s his hydrometer test I referenced.

Jan 282019
 

Speaking in general terms, my personal drift away from Latin- or South American rums over the last few years derives from the feeling that they’re a little too laid back, and lack pizzazz. They’re not bad, just placid and easy going and gentle, and when you add to that the disclosure issues, you can perhaps understand why I’ve moved on to more interesting profiles.

Far too many producers from the region do too much unadventurous blending (Canalero), don’t actually have a true solera in play (Dictador), have a thing for light column still products which may or may not be tarted up (Panama Red), and are resting on the laurels of old houses and family recipes (Maya) whose provenance can hardly be established beyond a shadow of doubt (Mombacho or Hechicera). Moreover, there is too often a puzzling lack of easily-available background regarding such rums (more than just marketing materials) which is out of step with the times.

Still, I have to be careful to not paint with too wide a brushthere are many good rums from the region and I’m not displeased with all of them. In a curious turnabout, my favourites are not always released by from or by Latin American companiesat least, not directlybut by independents who take the original distillate from a broker and then release it as is. This avoids some of the pitfalls of indeterminate blending, additives, dilution and source, because you can pretty much count on a small indie outfit to tell you everything they themselves know about what they stuffed into their bottle.

That’s not to say that in this case the Compagnie is a poster child for such disclosurethe distillery on this one is noted as being “Secret”, for example. But I suspect that Florent was a bit tongue in cheek here, since any reasonably knowledgeable anorak can surmise that the 11 YO rum being reviewed here is a Flor de Cana distillate, column still, and aged in Europe.

Compared to the Mombacho 1989 that was being tried alongside it (and about which I still know too little), the nose was much more interestingperhaps this was because the Compagnie didn’t mess around with a soft 43%, but went full bore at 69.1% for their favoured clients, the Danes (this rum is for the Danish market). Yet for all the strength, it presented as almost delicatelight, fruity (pears, guavas, watermelon., papaya), with a nice citrus tang running through it. When it opened up some more, I also smelled apples, pears, honey, cherries in syrup, and a pleasant deeper scent of aromatic tobacco, oak and smoke, and a touch of vanilla at the back end.

The palate was also very robust (to say the least). It was sharp, but not rawsome of the rougher edges had been toned down somewhatand gave off rich tastes of honey, stewed apples, more sweet tobacco and smoke, all of it dripping with vanilla. Those light fruits evident on the nose were somewhat overpowered by the strength, yet one could still pick out some cherries and peaches and apples, leading into a very long and highly enjoyable finish with closing notes of gherkins, brine, cereals, vanilla, and a last flirt of light sweet fruits.

Perhaps it was a mistake to try that supposed 19 YO Mombacho together with this independent offering from France. On the face of it they’re similar, both from Nicaragua and both aged a fair bitbut it’s in the details (and the sampling) that the differences snap more clearly into focus, and show how the independents deserve, and are given, quite a bit more trust than some low-key company which is long on hyperbole and short on actual facts.

As noted above, neither company says from which distillery its rums hail, though of course I’m sure they’re Flor de Cana products, both of them. We don’t know where Mombacho ages its barrels; CDI can safely be assumed to be Europe. The CDI is stronger, is more intense and simply tastes better, versus the much softer and easier (therefore relatively unchallenging) Mombacho, even if it lacks the latter’s finish in armagnac casks. Beyond that, we get rather more from the Compagniebarrel number, date of distillation and bottling, true age, plus a little extrathe faith, built up over many years of limited bottlings, that we’re getting what they tell us we are, and the confidence that it’s true. That alone allowed me to relax and enjoy the rum much more than might otherwise have been the case.

(#593)(84.5/100)


Other notes

  • Controls this time around were the aforementioned Mombacho, the Black Adder 12YO, and another Nicaraguan from CDI, aged for seventeen years. I dipped in and out of the sample cabinet for the comparators mentioned in the first paragraphnot to re-evaluate them, just to get a sense of their profiles as opposed to this one.
  • Distilled December 2004, bottled April 2016, 242 bottle-outturn
  • We should not read too much into the “Secret” appellation for the rum’s source. Sometimes, companies have a clause in their bulk rum sales contracts that forbids a third party re-bottler (i.e., an independent) from mentioning the distillery of origin.
Feb 212017
 

 

Savanna, a distillery on the Indian Ocean island of Réunion (it’s east of Madagascar) was founded in 1870 as part of the drive by France to diversify sugar production after the loss of Saint Domingue (Haiti) and Ile de France (Mauritius) in the early 1800s. Distilleries had already appeared on Réunion by 1815 when Charles Desbassayns built the most sophisticated sugar cane mill of the island in the region of Chaudron, but records suggest primitive versions were in existence there for at least a hundred years before that. Rum production began to take on greater importance as a diversification measure after 1865, when the sugar crisis precipitated by the discovery of the beetroot sugar-making process required other sources of income to be exploited. The sugar crisis also had the effect of requiring consolidations and closures of the various estates – in 1830 there were 189 sugar factories, by 1914 they were reduced to around twenty and now there are only three.

Originally located in Saint Paul on the west of the island, what was later Savanna was then calledParc à JacquesorBout de l’étangand was one of the first settlements there. At the beginning of the 19th century, Olive Lemarchand bought the property, which was then called the Sugar Estate of Savanna. In 1876, the Society of the Domain of Savanna was formed and the records of a functional distillery begin around this time, with molasses being the principal source of the spirit.

Photo (c) distilleriesavanna.com

Under various owners the sugar factory and its associated distillery continued operations until the post WWII years. The man most associated with Savanna in its current iteration was an enterprising islander named Émile Hugot (1904-1993), an engineer. He trained as a chemist in sugar factories on the French mainland at Artres and Bucy-le-Long before returning to Réunion in May 1928 where his priority was the provision of energy to the sugar factories. He became the Managing Dirctor of the Adam de Villiers Sugar Company at La Mare in 1932 (this was a factory to the west of the current Savanna location) before the Second World War interrupted his work and he mobilized. In the post-war years he restructured the sugar-based economy of the island and merged the factories and properties of La Mare, Savanna and Grand-Bois and the properties of La Convenance and l’Eperon) to form the Bourbon Sugar Company in 1948, to which he added the assets of Stella in 1952.

Savanna remained as a separate distillery under this umbrella, although there were some rhums issued asRhum Bourbonby the parent company (dates unknown). In 1992 the distillery – as noted, it was originally established in Savanna in Saint Paul de la Réunionwas transferred to the Bois-Rouge site in the north-east of the island, near to the sugar refinery of the same name, with the ageing cellars following suit in 1995 and expanded further in 1999. It is completely integrated from the cane fields to the final bottling all taking place on site and, somewhat uniquely, makes both agricoles and molasses based rums as well as exporting bulk rum. The distillery runs with a continuous still which was constructed and put into operation around 1964.

Photo (c) PlanetRum.com

Changing market conditions and expansion into other areas of the Bourbon Sugar Company – most importantly international shipping and retailing – overshadowed the historic sugar-based backbone of the company, and gradually it divested itself of these holdings, and by 2001 it had sold Savanna to Groupe Quartier Français (which already controlled Rivière du Mât). GCF was a Reunion based company headquartered in the north of the island which dealt primarily in sugar and rum. But in 2010 GQF itself was acquired by Tereos, a global French-based conglomerate which had its origins in the 19th century, and deals to this day in sugar, beets and its derivatives, distilleries and cereals. (GQF was dissolved in 2013 and no longer exists). This is the situation today.

The Distillery of Savanna distills and aging a complete range of rum: light rum, traditional rum, agricultural rum, and various aged rums. It is the first European distillery to be ISO 9002 certified. The French Association for Quality Assurance awarded it ISO 9001 (2000 version) in July 2003. Although from the outset Savanna produced rums for bulk sales, with 80% of its production exported to metropolitan France and the European Union, in 2003 the company developed its own range of rums, some agricoles, some not.

Note: Particular attention can be paid to their so calledGrand ArômeLontan line of rums, which are high-ester spirits that are to all intents and purposes the tastiest of the lot. Once I start to buy and try some, I’ll report back.

References

 

Rum list

(Note: because the company has been active for so long, this list is the best I could come up with and I may have missed a fewbut as always, it’s a good starting point, and is good as of 2017).

  • Vieux Rhum Bourbon 49% ABV (year unknownmay not be Savanna)
  • Rhum Bourbon Blanc 49% ABV (year unknownmay not be Savanna)
  • Cap Savanna Rhum Vieux de la Reunion 43%
  • Cap Savanna Rhum Vieux de la Reunion 7 YO 43%
  • Savanna Intense Rhum Traditionnel Vieux 2004-2014 9YO Port Finish 46%
  • Savanna Intense Rhum Traditionnel Vieux 2002-2011 8YO Port Finish 46%
  • Savanna Intense Rhum Traditionnel Vieux 2007-2014 7YO Port Finish 46%
  • Savanna Intense Rhum Traditionnel Vieux 2000-2008 7YO 64.5%
  • Savanna Intense Rhum Traditionnel Blanc 40%
  • Savanna Intense Rhum Traditionnel 1999-2015 15 YO Port Finish 46%
  • Savanna Lontan Rhum Grand Arôme Vieux 2001-2008 6YO 63.2%
  • Savanna Lontan Rhum Grand Arôme Vieux 2002-2011 8YO 57.8%
  • Savanna Lontan Rhum Grand Arôme Vieux 2003-2015 11 YO 59.7%
  • Savanna Lontan Rhum Grand Arôme Vieux 2003-2011 8 YO 46%
  • Savanna Lontan Rhum Grand Arôme Vieux 2004-2011 8YO 57.4%
  • Savanna Lontan Rhum Grand Arôme Vieux 2004-2016 12YO 64.2%
  • Savanna Lontan Rhum Grand Arôme Vieux 2007-2016 7YO 60.4%
  • Savanna Lontan Rhum Traditonnel Grand Arôme Blanc 57% (60th anniversary)
  • Savanna Lontan Rhum Tradionnel Vieux 2001-2009 7YO 46%
  • Savanna Lontan Rhum Traditionnel Grand Arôme Blanc 40%
  • Savanna Millenium Rhum Vieux Traditionnel 1999-2014 15 YO 43%
  • Savanna Rhum Vieux de la Reunion 15 YO 43% (issued 2003)
  • Savanna Millesime 1998 Cuvee Maison Blanche 1998-2008 10 YO 43%
  • Savanna Millesime 2002 Cuvee Maison Blanche 2002-2012 10 YO 43%
  • Savanna Millesime 2005 Cuvee Maison Blanche 2005-2015 10 YO 43%
  • Savanna Millesime 2006 Cuvee Maison Blanche 2006-2016 10 YO 43%
  • Savanna Millesime 2008 Cuvee Maison Blanche 2008-2018 10 YO 43%
  • Savanna Créol Rhum Agricole Blanc 45%
  • Savanna Créol Rhum Agricole Vieux 2002-2010 7 YO 46% Muscatel Finish
  • Savanna Créol Rhum Agricole Vieux 2002-2012 10 YO 46% Porto Finish
  • Savanna Rhum Vieux Traditionnel 3 YO 43%
  • Savanna Rhum Vieux Traditionnel 5 YO 43%
  • Savanna Rhum Vieux Traditionnel 7 YO 43%
  • Savanna Rhum Vieux Traditionnel Cuvée Spéciale 5 YO 43%
  • Savanna HERR (High Ester Rhum of Reunion) 2006-2016 10YO 63.8%
  • Savanna Rhum Traditionnel Métis 40%

Wild Island Edition 2020

  • Savanna Traditionnel 2003-2019 16 YO Armagnac Finish 52.7%
  • Savanna Grand Agricole 2012-2018 6 YO Calvados Finish 57.6%
  • Savanna Grand Arome 2005-1018 13 YO 56.4%
  • Savanna Grand Arome 2003-2018 15 YO 66.5%
Jan 262016
 

cdi-logo

***

For a company in existence for such a short time, it’s quite impressive what a wide range of rums Compagnie des Indes (which translates as the East India Company, hereinafter referred to as CDI) has managed to put out the door. As of the 2015 release season, fourteen separate countries are represented (2 from east of Greenwich). Unlike the trend in the USA and Canada, where creating one’s own new distillery and brand is more common, in Europe it’s always been more about being an independent bottler (or re-bottler, I suppose). Such enterprises don’t want to reinvent the wheel or invest in technology – though this does in fact happen as well, of course (e.g. Severin Simon in Germany). Their strategy is to exhaustively seek out barrels from either source or broker, maybe age them a little more somewhere, and then issue them under their own label, usually in limited quantities of less than a thousand bottles per release.

While it could be argued that this hardly makes them cradles of innovation, it’s tough to fault the results when we can so rarely find the source distillers daring to go in the full-proof direction. Until very recently, when was the last time you saw St. Lucia Distillers, FourSquare, Appleton, Mount Gay, Angostura, Travellers, Abuelo, Bacardi, Flor de Cana or other major brands, go the cask strength route in anything but their overproof 151s? So smaller companies, whose founders often emerge from a whisky background, tend to be more into the full proof concept which has only recently started to gain great recognition in the rum world.

Such a person is Florent Beuchet, who pursued international business studies with a specialization as an International Trade Master of wine and spirits in Dijon, France. After working part time for his father, who himself was a winemaker and ran a small distillery making absinthe and aniseed, Florent became the brand manager for Banks in New York in 2011 (his family owned shares in the company, and Florent’s father acted as a consultant for it). This lasted for close on to two years, after which he bought a small spirits trading company he named “Diva Spirits” in 2013. This outfit dealt with the import and export of wines and spirits between Europe and the USA, and built on a network his father had created over the previous thirty five years.

cdi logo 2

Photo (c) L’homme a la poussette

While his studies had focused primarily on wines, Florent realized after working with Banks that rum interested him rather more: partly this was its versatility (read: absence of rules) but also because he saw that the concepts of terroire, distillation, ageing and blending were readily applicable to rum just as they were to wine. More, he sensed that while the Europeans had a rather more sophisticated view of rums than Americans did, many still labored under the impression that it was a disreputable sort of drink, cheaply made, good only for a mix, and very sweet. The potential of exactingly made rums from single casks issued at full proof was still gathering steam (online reviews of rums made to precisely those specs were just beginning to appear at this time, if you discount Serge Valentin, who’d been issuing notes on them since 2010, and modesty be damned, some of them were mine). So he saw an opening in the field that to this point had been dominated by Samaroli, Rum Nation, Velier, Moon Imports and others, few of which had the visibility and cachet they acquired in the subsequent years.

Seeking to put his ideas into practice, he formed CDI in March of 2014, in France. He sourced the rums he wanted via brokers in Holland and the UK, chose only unadulterated rums, and eschewed Rum Nation and Velier’s practice of going directly to the original distilleries in person to root around the warehouses seeking the perfect barrel (as of 2016, he has only been to Cuba, oddly enough). The label design, with its old fashioned seal and fancy stylistic touches at the top was a calculated decision on his part – he wanted to provide something of the atmosphere and heritage of old times, sailing ships and galleons and parchment (one wonders how the famous aphorism of rum, buggery and the lash figured in his thinking, but never mind). It’s noteworthy that he had taken a sense of the room, and understood the need for providing clarity and information – and so each label also had a Velier-style section at the bottom on age, source, strength and barrel.

He also doesn’t hide that he is a disciple of honesty in rum making. He has little patience for the solera style of rum making, which he sees as dishonest way to market what is actually a blend with a misleading age statement; and he disdains rectified column-still spirit that is added to with flavourings and sugars and fancy backstories to disguise the fact that it is a commercial low end “rum”…and is then sold to an unsuspecting public as a real rum, when its artificiality is self-evident. In that he is a follower of Richard Seale and Luca Gargano (among others), who have long championed pure rums and label disclosure.

cdi rums

Photo (c) Whiskyleaks.fr

His initial offerings from that year into the market were modest: first a Caribbean blend, then two Belize rums (same source, different strengths), a Cuban, a Guadeloupe and an 18 year old Caroni. From the outset he knew he was going after unadulterated, pure rums, but felt that to make any kind of initial splash he perhaps had to compromise the principle, and so has added 15g/L of organic liquid cane sugar to the Caraibes blended rum and the 2015 release of the Latino, as well as 10g/L to theCalbarJamaican (but to none of the others). To his credit, this information is disclosed and he makes no secret of it. (And given the RumDiaries take on the Caraibes, Florent may have been right, though Josh of Inakena disagrees, finding the dosing too obvious; current releases of Caraibes no longer have any sugar). Age is also exactly what it purports to bemeaning the true age of the rum in barrels; and even in the blends, it is never the oldest, but always the youngest portion of the blend which is noted.

Issued to the European market, sales were positive and encouraging. In April 2015 I tried the Cuban 15 YO in Paris, and was mightily impressed, scoring it at 88 points, and remarking that “…If this is anything to go by, CDI is going to take its place among the craft makers whose rums I want to buy. All of them.” My purse and my time are limited so I have not been able to try as many as I would have liked, but certainly the customer response was gratifying enough for CDI to expand into a larger selection in 2015, when they added rums from Martinique, Barbados, Fiji, Haiti, Jamaica, Panama, St. Lucia and Indonesia to the mix.

The Haitian rhum was intriguing, what with the recent upsurge in interest in clairins issued by Velier; Fiji has some tongues wagging…but the Indonesia rum in particular excited quite a lot of interest because it was so unusual (and because the distillery was not disclosed) – Florent wanted to recreate something of the flavor of Batavia Arrack, one of the progenitors of rum, and whether or not he succeeded, I don’t know – I just know I liked it quite a bit. Jamaica was also a good issue, because most lovers of the funky style are more familiar with Appleton’s work, not Hampden or Worthy Park, or New Yarmouth which was issued in 2017. So certainly CDI is putting some interesting footprints into the sand of the rum world, and showing that while the trailblazers like Renegade, Samaroli, Rum Nation and Velier provided and continue to make many amazing rums for the consuming public, there remains space for new companies with a slightly different ethos to make their mark and provide greater variety of rums for us all to try.

A peculiar divergence from the norm is the rums issued only in the Danish market. These are some of the rums certain to pique the interest of the cdigreater rum loving public – especially the aged Guyanese rums and the cask strength 60% Panamanian, which is surely quite an unusual product (I honestly can’t remember when was the last time I saw a full proof Panama rum). Henrik of RumCorner, as helpful as always, and who had spotted me the CDI Guadeloupe from there which I have to write about soon, informed me that “…those releases were done in collaboration with the Danish distributor. Denmark is one of the fastest growing markets for premium and ultra premium rums, so they asked CDI for some limited cask strength products and voila. In my opinion the Barbados FourSquare 60% rum [for example] really shows what is possible at high strength in comparison with the standard issue 40% horde.” Florent confirmed that, remarking “Once I started selling single cask to Denmark, my importer and his team told me that they’d like to know if I could bottle rums at cask strength. I told them that I could but due to duties, the prices in France would be too expensive and they wouldn’t sell so that they would have to buy the whole cask. [They did.] That’s why I decided to mention on the label that it was only bottled for Denmark…[Denmark] has quite an educated brown spirit clientele that are willing to pay a lot for pretty exclusive bottles. That’s mostly the story.

So where to now? Promotion and marketing will be a big focus. Florent thinks traditional magazine space is too expensive, and prefers to engage with the public at festivals (which is where I met him and bored him to tears – twice), as well as using social media to interact with his customers. That’s usually where he can be found lurking. He will continue to have all his packaging, corking, labelling etc, done in France. Ageing of his selected barrels is primarily in Europe, though some tropical ageing does take place. In that he departs from Velier, who championed in-situ tropical ageing because of the accelerated maturation and richer flavour profiles they so preferred; Florent believes that wood takes on an dominance under such conditions, which replaces subtler, fruitier notes which he likes better. (Steve James’s review of the Barbados 16 YO made mention of this difference which he attributed to the ageing regime.)

CDI Florent

Florent in Berlin RumFest, 2015.

The year 2016 suggested that the Danish market full proof editions were no mere flash in the pan. Whether more were issued for them, or the clamour to have a wider distribution of rums bottled at >50% was acted on, the fact is that the 2016 releases sported no fewer than twelve rums bottled at cask strength (most at around 60%). Maybe some kind oftwinningis being worked on, where a standard table strength rum is issued with its mate offered to the cognoscenti at a higher proof pointthis makes for higher prices since the volume issued would be less, but it seems as though Florent has sensed a market opportunity here and is working on maximizing it. Blends which tread the path of the Caraibes will also continue, with rhums like the Tricorne and Boulet de Cannon being issued at intervals. And there’s also a flavoured/spiced rhum called Darklice (licorice and other additions, and the name is evocative if nothing else) added to the stable, which is his first foray in that direction.

The current stable of countries will be expanded upon in the future (2018 and 2019 saw additional rums from Venezuela and Australia join the lineup, for example), though of course there will continue to be releases from each of the existing rum producing islands in the Caribbean. And just to say “Martinique” is an oversimplification, since one rhum from there that CDI issued was from Dillon and another from Simon, and that is a small percentage of the distilleries over there. So while they are more expensive than rums from the English and Spanish Caribbean, they can’t be ruled out for more releases, and of course there will always be rums from Barbados, Trinidad, St. Lucia, Guyana and Jamaica to beef up the portfolio.

My own hope is that he won’t be seduced by the sales of the spiced and blended variations of his line, but will sleuth out little known islands and distilleries and geographical regions and do what Luca has done – bottle and promote rums we haven’t seen in a while, or ever, which we’d like to try and which exemplify the global reach of the spirit. They may not all be the best available (Fiji did not find much favour with me, sorry), but you have to give points to the new kid on the block, who’s really doing something interesting for rum. That’s worth ten truckloads of Don Papa right there.

***

References:

  1. Personal conversations and emails and messages with Florent Beuchet
  2. Interview with FB by whiskyandco.net
  3. ReferenceRhum.com
  4. Posts on CDI Facebook page
  5. Tiare’s post on A Mountain of Crushed Ice
  6. Rumporter
  7. Rumconer.dk
  8. 4FineSpirits.de interview with FB
  9. Online posted interview with FB by Joerg Meyer (2016)
  10. Rumporter October 2016 article
  11. Company site

A list of rhums issued by CDI as of May 2019 is below. As always, if you know something has been missed, send me a correction with the specs.

  • Australia 11 YO 2007-2019 43% #ASS53 (Secret Distillery)
  • Barbados 12 YO 2003-2015 45% #BD91 (FourSquare)(323 bottles)
  • Barbados 12 YO 2003-2015 45% #BD92 (FourSquare)(302 bottles)
  • Barbados 16 YO 1998-2015 45% #BD24 (FourSquare)(354 bottles)
  • Barbados 16 YO 1998-2015 45% #BD36 (FourSquare)(363 bottles)
  • Barbados 16 YO 1998-2015 45% #BD47 (FourSquare)(351 bottles)
  • Barbados 16 YO 1998-2015 45% #MRS236 (FourSquare)
  • Barbados 16 YO 1998-2015 60% #MRS235 (FourSquare)(Denmark only)
  • Barbados 20 YO 1998-2016 45% #BYR5 (Multiple distilleries)
  • Barbados 16 YO 1999-2016 62% #FS8 (Foursquare)
  • Barbados 16 YO 1999-2016 62% #FS9 (Foursquare)
  • Barbados 16 YO 1999-2016 62% #FS20 (Foursquare)
  • Barbados 9 YO 2006-2016 62.1% #MB45 (Foursquare)
  • Barbados 9 YO 2006-2016 62.1% #MB46 (Foursquare)
  • Barbados 9 YO 2006-2016 62.1% #MB47 (Foursquare)
  • Barbados 10 YO 2007-2018 62.9% #BFD019 (Foursquare)
  • Barbados 10 YO 2007-2018 43% #BFD014 (Foursquare)
  • Barbados 10 YO 2007-2018 62.1% #BFD015 (Foursquare)
  • Belize 8 YO 2005-2014 44% #B86 (Travellers) (400 bottles)
  • Belize 8 YO 2005-2014 44% #SF17 (Travellers) (415 bottles)
  • Belize 8 YO 2005-2014 64% #SF48 (Travellers) (277 bottles)
  • Belize 11 YO 2005-2016 66.2% BL11 (Travellers)(Cask Strength)
  • Belize 10 YO 2006-2016 TBA% #TBA (Travellers)
  • Belize 10 YO 2006-2016 TBA% #TBA (Travellers) (Cask Strength)
  • Brazil 16 YO 2000-2016 43% #BR10 (Epris)
  • Boulet de Canon No. 1 2015 46% (blend Guy/Bar/T&T)
  • Boulet de Canon No. 2 2016 50% (blend Guy/Bar/T&T)
  • Boulet de Canon No. 3 2016 50% (blend Guy/Bar/T&T)
  • Boulet de Canon No. 4 2017 46% (blend Guy/Bar/T&T)
  • Boulet de Canon No. 5 2017 46% (blend Florida rums)
  • Boulet de Canon No. 6 2018 46% (blend Nicaragua/Panama)
  • Cuba 15 YO 1998-2014 45% #C67 (Sancti Spiritus) (280 bottles)
  • Cuba 16 YO 1998-2014 45% #CM5 (Sancti Spiritus) (232 bottles)
  • Cuba 16 YO 1998-2014 45% #CM8 (Sancti Spiritus) (280 bottles)
  • Cuba 16 YO 1998-2015 45% #CM34 (Sancti Spiritus)
  • Cuba 18 YO 1999-2017 45% #CSS11 (Sancti Spiritus)
  • Cuba 18 YO 1999-2017 59% #CSS7 (Sancti Spiritus) (Denmark only)
  • Darklice Blend 2016 46% (Guy/Bar/T&T) + licoriced water
  • Dominidad No. 1 15 YO 2000-2016 43% #SB1 (Small Batch)(33% 15YO DR / 67% 16YO T&T)
  • Dominidad No. 2 15 YO 2000-2016 43% #SB2 (Small Batch)(33% 15YO DR / 67% 16YO T&T)
  • Dominidad No. 3 16 YO 2002-2017 43% #SB3 (Small Batch)(33% 15YO DR / 67% 16YO T&T)
  • Dominican Republic 15 YO 2000-2016 64.9% #RDV 3 (Various)
  • Dominican Republic 13 YO 2003-2017 46% #RDM 1 (Various)
  • Dominican Republic 16 YO 2001-2017 62% #RDV 2 (Various)(Denmark only)
  • Dominican Republic 8 YO 2010-2019 43% #DRA3 (AFD. (Acoholes Finos Dominicanos))
  • Dominican Republic 8 YO 2010-2019 62.1% #DRA6 (AFD. (Acoholes Finos Dominicanos))
  • El Salvador 9 YO 2007-2018 43% #A46 (Cihuatan)
  • Florida 13 YO 2004-2018 45% #FMSC1 (Distillery Unknown)(finish Moscatel Cask)
  • Florida 14 YO 2004-2018 44% #FMM21 (Distillery Unknown)(finish French Whisky Casks)
  • Guadeloupe 16 YO 1998-2014 43% #GM 21 (Damoiseau/Bellevue)(355 bottles)
  • Guadeloupe 16 YO 1998-2014 43% #GM 32 (Damoiseau/Bellevue)(355 bottles)
  • Guadeloupe 16 YO 1998-2014 43% #G 51 (Damoiseau/Bellevue)(300 bottles)
  • Guadeloupe 16 YO 1998-2015 43% #CG 91 (Damoiseau/Bellevue)
  • Guadeloupe 16 YO 1998-2015 43% #CG 1704 (Damoiseau/Bellevue)
  • Guadeloupe 17 YO 1998-2015 43% #CG 14 (Damoiseau/Bellevue)
  • Guadeloupe 18 YO 1998-2016 55.1% #GMB57 (Damoiseau/Bellevue, Denmark Only)
  • Guadeloupe 20 YO 1998-2018 43.1% #PLG79 (Pere Labat)
  • Guatemala 9 YO 2007-2016 43% #GOS16 (DARSA)
  • Guatemala 8 YO 2009-2017 58.5% #GDS12 (DARSA) (Denmark only)
  • Guatemala 8 YO 2009-2017 59.1% #??? (DARSA) (Denmark only)
  • Guyana 10 YO 2005-2015 58% #WPM 75 (PM Still, Denmark only)
  • Guyana 13 YO 2002-2015 59% #WPM 36 (PM Still, Denmark only)
  • Guyana 13 YO 2002-2015 58% #MPM 35 (PM Still)
  • Guyana 13 YO 2002-2015 43% #MPM 63 (PM Still)
  • Guyana 21 YO 1993-2015 56% #GU 4 (Uitvlugt Still, Denmark only)
  • Guyana 24 YO 1990-2015 58.1% #MEY 04 (EHP Still, Denmark only)
  • Guyana 12 YO 2003-2016 45% #MSG6 (Diamond)
  • Guyana 12 YO 2003-2016 45% #MSG15 (Diamond)
  • Guyana 12 YO 2003-2016 45% #MSG16 (Diamond)
  • Guyana 12 YO 2003-2016 45% #MSG17 (Diamond)
  • Guyana 10 YO 2005-2016 57.5% #MPM18 (Port Mourant, Romhatten only)
  • Guyana 18 YO 1997-2016 45% #MGA4 (Uitvlugt)
  • Guyana 18 YO 1997-2016 57.9% #MGA5 (Uitvlugt, Denmark only)
  • Guyana 27 YO 1988-2016 52.7% #MEC7 (Enmore, Denmark only)
  • Guyana 14 YO 2003-2017 43% #GDD40 (Diamond)
  • Guyana 9 YO 2008-2017 59% #GYD71 (Diamond, Mahlers Vinhandel DK only)
  • Guyana 11 YO 2007-2018 60% #Gxxxx (Armagnac finish)
  • Guyana 10 YO 2010-2018 43% #GPM51 (Port Mourant)
  • Guyana 29 YO 1988-2018 48% #GEN2 (Enmore)
  • Latino 5 YO 2010-2015 40% (15 g/L sugar)
  • Latino 6 YO 2010-2017 46% (finish Vosne-Romanee red wine cask)
  • Nicaragua 11 YO 2004-2016 69.1% #SN18 (Distillery unknown)
  • Nicaragua 17 YO 1997-2015 64.9% #NCR30 (Distillery unknown)
  • Nicaragua 12 YO 2005-2017 66% #NS10 (Distillery unknown)(Denmark only)
  • Oktoberum 5 YO (2016)
  • Panama 11 YO 2004-2015 60% #MRS 255 (Distillery unknown)(Denmark only)
  • Panama 11 YO 2004-2015 44% #MRS 263 (Distillery unknown)
  • Panama 11 YO 2004-2015 44% #MRS 322 (Distillery unknown)
  • Panama 11 YO 2004-2016 61.5% #PMD 43 (Distillery unknown)
  • Panama 9 YO 2008-2017 43% #PSC 8 (Distillery Unknown)
  • Panama 9 YO 2008-2017 43% #PSC 77 (Distillery Unknown
  • Panama 13 YO 2004-2017 56.9% #PS 99 (Distillery Unknown)
  • St. Lucia 13 YO 2002-2015 43% #SLD 84 (St. Lucia Distillers)
  • St. Lucia 13 YO 2002-2015 56.3% #SLD 46 (St. Lucia Distillers)(Denmark only)
  • Trinidad 16 YO 2003-2019 63.5% #TLBF15 (TDL)
  • Trinidad 13 YO 2005-2018 45% #TT035 (TDL)
  • Trinidad 15 YO 2003-2018 44% #TTW9 (TDL)
  • Trinidad 20 YO 1998-2018 59.8% #TTCR14 (Caroni)
  • Trinidad 23 YO 1993-2017 53.1% #TCC3 (Caroni)
  • Trinidad 25* YO 1991-2016 56.2% #TP8 (Caroni)
  • Trinidad 22 YO 1993-2016 48% #TC4 (Caroni)
  • Trinidad 16 YO 2000-2016 63.6% #TT 96 (TDL)
  • Trinidad 24 YO 1991-2015 56.3% #SC 2 (Caroni)
  • Trinidad 21 YO 1994-2015 57.8% #SC 707 (Caroni)
  • Trinidad 19 YO 1996-2015 53.2% #SC 1 (Caroni)
  • Trinidad 18 YO 1996-2015 61% #SCT 9 (Caroni)
  • Trinidad 18 YO 1996-2014 43% #SC 3 (Caroni) (456 bottles)
  • Trinidad 18 YO 1996-2014 43% #SC 2 (Caroni) (456 bottles)
  • Tricorne Unaged White Rum 2016 43% (Blend cane juice/molasses/arrack)
  • Venezuela 12 YO 2006-2018 43% VCA 1 (Corporation Alcoolés del Caribe (CADC))
  • Venezuela 12 YO 2006-2018 58% VCA 5 (Corporation Alcoolés del Caribe (CADC))
  • Venezuela 16 YO 2003-2019 63.5% VNT 61(Corporation Alcoolés del Caribe (CADC))
  • Veneragua 13 YO 2005-2018 45% (blend, 3 barrels Venezuela + 2 NIcaragua)
  • West Indies Blended 8 YO 2010-2018 40% (blend of Bdos, DR, Pan, Guy)

*Miscalculated as 26 YO on label

Feb 132010
 

(First posted on Liquorature, February 2010. Edited December 2014 and August 2015)

In my wasted youth, those with more discerning palates often confused my rather simple mind with their scientific analyses of their spirits, making sober statements about bouquet, oiliness, finish, colour, nose, mouthfeel, texture, blah blah blah. I was always confuddled. Smoke? Peaty taste? Waddat?

So here I’ll take the time to talk a bit about what distinguishes the rums from each other. Note that this is not a tasting test runthrough. It’s simply a way to distinguish different rums, and gain some insight as to the properties that make them what they are. Not surprisingly, my own experience factors in there as well, since I’ve been drinking the stuff for a very long time. Full disclosure: wines are not part of the discussion, since no true rummie will admit to tasting the wussy drink, which in any case requires a more finely tuned, subtle palate than most Real Men possess (which is why they are rummies and not winos).

***

Perhaps a result of its association with the Caribbean, seafaring, slavery and piracy, there has always been that vaguely odious cachet of disrepute hanging over rums, which in my opinion, is undeserved. The schnozz of a rum taster must be every bit as attuned to subtle hints of flavour and texture as the snoot of a whisky lover or the trumpet of a somelier. Rums, after all, in spite of their less lofty reputations, display all the variety, colours and methods of distillation as their unfairly favoured Scottish bretheren or French cousins.

Several differing methods of distinguishing rums exist. Country, colour, strength, additives and , of course, age. My research suggests that many categories overlap each other, which adds nothing to the clarity of the rankings.

Originally, all rums were dark and fairly unrefined (there’s a reason the Bajans referred to it asKill-Divil”). However, a contest held by the Spanish to improve refining methods in the 1800s led to the creation of a process that produced a better quality, more golden rum (the winner went on to found Bacardi). The colour of rumclear (white, or silver), gold (light brown) or dark (also known as Navy) is not entirely a function of the length of distillation (as some would like to infer), but more of the distillation process and ingredients added, and their ratios to each other.

Rum is traditionally made from cane juice or molasses (which itself is a by-product of boiled cane juice), yeast and water: the shorter the fermentation period, the lighter the rum (referring in this case to colour), the longer, the darker. After the distillation process is complete, rum is aged in barrels made of various materialslike oakwhich impact the flavour of the final productI’m unclear at what point further additives like fruit are brought into the mix. While rum may be clear before going into the aging process, colour is added by both the barrel itself, and the inclusion of caramelwhite rum is an exception, since no caramel is brought in, and any colour added by the barrel is removed by straining. I should also mentionaguardiente de cana” (“burning water”) which is a kind of coarse South American cane-hooch infused with anise, and agricoles, which are primarily French island rums distilled from cane juice, and which may be aged or not.

Based purely on the criteria of colour, rums can be categorized as follows

Dark or Navy Rumsone of the major divisions of rum, with long ageing time and strong flavour. Aged in oak barrels, hence the colouring (plus more molasses and caramel involved). Commonly used in cooking. Much of the molasses flavour is retained. Often made in a pot-still or simpler columnar distillation unit, like cognac or some scotch.

Gold Rumintermediate, and aged to a particular colour, but this does not tell you anything about the age or flavour. Aged in wooden barrels, and are more complex in flavour than light rums. Usually aged a few months or years

Light Rumclearer in colour, and a less ‘heavyflavour. Subdivided into ‘silverand ‘lighttaste, though only a matter of degree except to the delicately long-snooted. Little or no ageing.

On the other hand, other designations exist:

Overproof rums are often referred to as having a strength greater than around 50%. There’s an overlap with Premium rums here, since many premiums are also overproofs. These days, the term is pretty flexible, since the original meaning meant anything over 100 proof, which was (at that time) 57.1% ABV. See article on proofs here if you’re interested.

For what it’s worth I have, after some yearsexperience with rums that are made for sipping yet bottled at around 55-60% (and which cannot be classed as overpfoofs), decided to make some personal changes to how strength is denominate

  • Standard strength for me is 40-50%
  • Full Proof is a strength of 51% to 70%
  • Overproof is anything over 70%
  • I kind of stay away from rums under 40% which can be termed Underproofs

Flavoured rums, which have deliberate inclusions to add the taste of citrus or mango or anything else. Juan Santos makes a coffee infused rum which isn’t bad.

Spiced Rums, which normally bring up the caramel or nutmeg to the level where it overpowers any subtlety gained from the barrel or from ageing. Labels usually indicate this is the case.

Premium Rums are those which for one reason or another are supposedly above average: in age, in taste, in distillation methodology, or in exclusivity and availability (therefore mostly age, since any fool can make a rum in 24 hours, while it takes slightly more expertise to fashion something for 25 yearsand age develops the complexity of flavour, making it deeper and more intense).

Ultra-premiums are are not just above average, but marketed as being the cream of the croppresentation, age and price are all usually very good (or at least sold to us as being that way). Age is still seen as the primary marker of this type.

Strictly speaking, colour tells me very little about the quality of a rum, since I’ve had some decent gold and dark ones whose colour gave no hint as to how good it was. Whites are for mixing, Flavoured are for cocktails, and I’ll drink Spiced ones like Lamb’s or Captain Morgan, but only with a chaser, since they are not made for sipping. Mixing additives only improves such drinks. Since I was at a penny-grubbing stage in my life for a long time, I logically drank only the cheapest, and since the cheapest also demanded you cut them with something, it’s no surprise that coke or pepsi were (and to some extent remain) my chasers of choice.

We can therefore stratify rums with level of flavour

Light or silverunder-proof, and/or clear rums

Medium (or Gold, or Amber) – ths covers most rums I’ve ever tasted

Full-Bodiedthese tend to be darker, but the designation is more a marker of intensity of flavour

AromaticMalibu is a good example of this, but any spiced or flavoured rum qualifies

see what I mean about confusion? There’s lots of overlap here

Anyway, so does this assist in categorizing rums? Not entirely.

Rums are made in many countries, and not surprisingly, almost all are tropical (I have heard it’s something to do with sugar cane not growing well in winter-prone climates). The best known are, of course, Caribbean, and as a loyal West Indian myself, I sniff disparagingly at the offerings of other parts of the world, even as I happily indulge myself in tasting them. A non-exhaustive list of rum producing states includes the USA, Canada, the French West Indies, Barbados, Anguilla, Antigua, Cuba, Dominica, Trinidad, Jamaica, Guyana, Guatemala, Honduras, Brazil, Fiji, Hawaii, Finland (Finland??), India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Mauritius, Reunion, Australia and some European countries. Europe acts mostly as a blender of rums, not as a maker of origin, which would therefore explain what Bruichladdich’s Renegade brand does. Some 1500+ rums are said to be in existence. I honestly believe that to be a low number.

Rums have supposedly notable geographical styles and nuance. If one defines rum as either light in colour, or dark, then they roughly follow divisions introduced by country of origin: Spanish speaking countries such as Cuba, Puerto Rico and Latin America, produce primarily light rum; English colonies like Barbados, Guiana or Jamaica, mostly the dark. This is an extremely broad rule of thumb, so be careful in applying it.

Barbados is known for semi-light rums, with soft, almost smoky flavors. Cuba and Puerto Rico, the largest producer of rum, produce very light, dry, opulent rums. Trinidad and the Virgin Islands tend to produce medium to medium-light mellow rums. From Guyana comes the very dark, medium-bodied but rich tasting Demeraran rum made by adding spices and fruits to the distillation process. Jamaican and Martinique rums, made with molasses, are usually full-bodied, sumptuous and pungently flavored. Java distills a rum called Batavia Arak, an aromatic rum made with molasses and red rice, which is then shipped to The Netherlands for further aging and which I have never yet seen or tasted. Haitian rums, made from cane juice and double distilled in pot stills, are appreciated for their smooth and delicate flavor. Thus far (2010), I’ve not had enough non-Caribbean rums to make a determination whether they are on a class above, below or on-level with my favourites. The Bundie from Autralia was not particularly prepossessing for example, but I have to have a more serious retest to write my review.

The distinctive characteristics that make up a rum’s taste depend on factors such as the sugar cane’s quality and origin and whether it was made from molasses or directly from cane juice. Most rum is made from the former, which contains minerals and other trace elements that contribute to the final flavor. Rums made directly from cane juice, primarily those from Haiti, Guadeloupe and Martinique, have a vegetal, clear, clean aspect. The yeast type and fermentation speed, as well as the kind of still, also tell. Light-bodied rums are produced in sophisticated multi-column distillation units and have a more delicate rum flavor. Heavy-bodied rums are produced on simpler multi-column distillation units or by means of traditional pot stills. Distillation temperature also matters—the higher the temperature, the lighter the body and more neutral the taste.

Finally, perhaps the most important factor determining quality is the length and type of aging. Rum develops more complexity in small charred oak barrels. Aging in casks also adds a tawny color, although some producers mix in caramel tints. Rum aged for a year or less in stainless steel is clear and has little flavour. The best rums I have ever tasted have all been aged for more than 20 years old, and in oak.

Having said all of the above, I cannot in all honesty state that I apply these categories or criteria to every rum I taste. It’s still a very subjective sort of thing. Burn, finish, body, taste and flavour, strengththey all have their place. I have a sweet tooth, so that counts (if they ever made a white-toblerone-flavoured rum, I do believe I might die a happy alcoholic). I do, however, like to know about the provenance of the rums I sample, and something about how they are made, and what their colours or tastes denote. It is in an effort to put my reviews on a more consistent base, and to answer questions of the curious like Clint, that I did the background work on this post.

Update August 2015

Having been at this for more than five years now, I have come to the conclusion that there are two, and only two, primary markers of how rums should be classified in the first passwhether it is from molasses or cane juice, and whether it is made on a pot still or column still. Subsequent gradations cane be age, colour, what type of columnar still, and maybe strength and Broomes’sstyles”. The debate is heating up in social media, so it’ll be interesting to see where this leads in the years to come.

Update July 2017

A good summary of the proposed classification systems is here. For what it’s worth, I have participated in many of the discussions regarding the Seale-Gargano method and translated the Rumaniacs version which the article from Distilledsunshine draws on, from the original French language article written by Cyril of DuRhum.