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

First posted 6th November 2011 on Liquorature

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(#085. 76/100)

Other Notes

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

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