A clean, warm and smooth rum from Peru, which is extremely accessible to anyone who doesn’t like cask strength rums.
Into the shadowed world of dronish and often-boring label design, the screaming green of the Peruano stands out like a neon tarantula on a wedding cake. It’s an assault on the visual cortex that can’t help but make you catch your breath, mutter an amused “wtf?” and move in for a closer look. Not that this has anything to do with the quality of the rum inside, of course. I merely bring up the point to remark on the fact that originality in any form is a vanishing breed in the rum world and we should be grateful for such small winks from the craft makers even if it’s only a marketing plug.
Bristol Spirits is an independent bottler out of the UK which started life in 1993, and is therefore something of a recent entrant to the field (Cadenhead, by contrast, has been around for over a hundred and fifty years). Their barrel selection from the various countries around the Caribbean has created an enviable track record of limited bottlings; I’ll always have good memories of the Port Mourant 1980, and the 1970s era editions remain on my must-have list. They don’t seem to hew to any particular ageing philosophy – some of their older bottlings were aged in the UK, while others, like this one, were kept in situ.
Anyway, the obligatory opening remarks out of the way, what have we got here? An eight year old, molasses-based, column-still rum from Peru, made from the blend of eight barrels (distillery not mentioned) which were then aged at altitude in used bourbon casks before being shipped to Europe. And bottled at what for an independent bottler, seems a rather low-strength 40% (with some exceptions, they make most of their rums at 43-46%)…however, they noted in an email to me that they were quite happy with that proof.
Nosing the blonde spirit gave some clues as to why the decision may have been made in this instance: it was soft, clean…almost delicate. No pot still could have created something this light and unaggressive (my opinion). Initial smooth scents of hay and vegetal flavours gave way to more luscious soft fruit – peaches, ripe dark cherries, even a touch of mocha, but all very restrained, even shy. It was a rum that if you really wanted to dissect it, you really had to put some effort in.
As I poured it out and sampled it for the first time, I wondered what Bristol was trying to do here – make a competitor to Rum Nation’s Millonario 15, maybe? It shared many of the characteristics of that product: light to medium body, slightly sweet, immediately redolent of white guavas, flowers and a smooth cream cheese. But then it went its own way, and I noted a slight sharp whiff of bitterness emerging, bright and clear like the inlay on a ginsu knife. It was at odds with the easy-going nature of what had come before, while not entirely detracting from it – it provided, in fact, a kind of pleasing counterpoint, because the balance of the competing elements was pretty good. Adding water opened up more fruits, vanilla, some oak influence and a whiff of dry tobacco. For a standard strength rum it also exited well, though this was short, shy, bright, a little sharp, as if a can of peaches in syrup had been sprinkled with some cinnamon and lemon juice.
Independent bottlers tend to be more associated with cask strength behemoths than such laid-back fare, so I was not entirely sure what Bristol’s intentions were, with this Peruvian eight year old. Their recent foray into spiced rum territory makes me worry that perhaps they are abandoning their craft-bottler, limited-edition ethic that produced such incandescent gems as the PM 1980, and now they are swinging for easier sales by diluting down to 40% (they didn’t specifically address that point in they communique to me, and I had not asked). On the other hand, the rum is gentle, even elegant (I had similar feelings about the Juan Santos 21 year old), and so perhaps this was something that had to be done lest additional proofage obliterate the subtler harmonies of what I detected.
Be that as it may, for anyone who likes standard strength rums without too much intensity or in-yer-face attitude, this is a good one. I’d be surprised if more editions from Peru don’t follow this one out the door, in the years to come. Because even with its limited outturn, I think a lot of people will enjoy it, and it leaves us all with another colourful tile in the worldwide mosaic of rum…if the label didn’t already provide that, of course.
- Based solely on the profile, I suspect this hails from the same distillery as the Millonario 15 and XO (Rum Nation never identified it); which implies it was from the Cartavio boys in Trujillo. On the other hand those rums are soleras and this one is not, and Trujillo is at sea level on the coast while Bristol noted the ageing took place at altitude: so the question remains open. For the record, Bristol declined to provide the distillery name or the number of bottles issued, but Fabio Rossi via Henrik from Denmark (see comments below) did acknowledge the source.
- Marco on Barrel Aged Thoughts has a company profile and product listing for Bristol Spirits (in German), for those who are interested in other aspects of the company.
It is indeed from the same facility as the Millonarios (and the Rum Nation Peruano 8). As far as I know the Bristol one is a direct sibling of the Peruano 8.
All of which originate from the Peruvian Pomalca S.p.A. facility.
(all of the above has been confirmed by Fabio Rossi by the way)
I’ve given a couple of the Bristol rums a run out. The Spiced Rum (I know) is supposed to be fantastic.
I have found Mezan to be quite a nice little introduction to the more expensive Independent bottlers. At around £30 per bottle they offer some very nice unaltered rums albeit bottled at 40%.
I’ve also been looking at a 60% plus Nicaraguan rum bottled by Cadenhead from the Volcano Distillery! Surely that would count as one the hardest rums on the planet!
Another good review Lance. Nice to see some of our reviews are starting to cross over. I always have a read through both yours and Henrik’s reviews when I’m last to review.
I find I agree with Henrik more but that maybe because I can actually understand his scoring…….
My score sheet is actually enormously detailed, but trying to explain it usually results in bafflement 🙂 It’s consistent, though, and relates well to other scales, so I’m not too unhappy with it.
Thank you for the kind words, Wes 🙂
I do however wish that I was able to score more in line with the Murray system, which seem to be the industry standard, as that would make it easier to compare scores across sites.
Perhaps someday when the experience starts to accumulate…
If Dave Broom can score with a 10 point system (half marks included on mine) then so can we Henrik!
You’ve got a point Wes 🙂
Hi Lance 🙋🏻♂️, this Bristol Apparently it comes from the Pomalca brand, which is the same with which Millonario is made in its various versions. In Peru there are only 2 rum brands that have been consolidated for many years In the market. One is Pomalca, which is produced in the department of Lambayeque, and the other is Cartavio, which is produced in the department of La Libertad; but only Cartavio produces rums under the solera type distance. Another thing if it is true that this Bristol rum comes from Pomalca, I think there would be a marketing error, Since the Department of Lambayeque is on the coast, it is very close to the sea, so 2,000 meters above sea level would be an exaggeration. Obviously Peru has extremely high even above 4500 meters, but this would not be the case.
I would really like to be able to try this Bristol bottle and compare it to another Pomalca, maybe a 7 year old or a 10 year old.
Greetings from Peru.
Your friend Rum Diversity.