Sep 302020
 

In spite of rums from various 1970s years having been issued throughout that period (many are still around and about and surfacing every now and then at wallet-excavating prices), it is my contention that 1974-1975 were the real years that disco came to town. No other years from the last century except perhaps 1986 resonate more with rumistas; no other years have as many Demeraras of such profound age, of such amazing quality, issued by as many different houses. I’d like to say I’ve lost count of the amount of off-the-scale ‘75s I’ve tasted, but that would be a damned lie, because I remember them all, right back to the first one I tried, the Berry Brothers & Rudd PM 1975. I still recall the rich yet delicate solidity of the Norse Cask, the inky beauty of the Cadenhead Green label 40.6%, the black licorice and sweet tobacco of the Rendsburger, Velier’s own 1975...and now, here is another one, dredged up by another Italian outfit we never heard of before and which, sadly, maybe we never will again. Unlike Norse Cask, it has not vanished, just never bothered to have a digital footprint; in so doing it has left us only this equally overlooked and forgotten bottle of spiritous gold, and some more recent bottlings known only to ur-geeks and deep-divers.

For the kitch, I’m afraid there is not much. Thanks to my impeccably fluent lack of Italian, I can tell you it’s a 1975 Port Mourant that was bottled in 2007, and it appears to be one of those single barrel releases often indulged in by importersthis time an Italian outfit called High Spirits, which doesn’t exist beyond its odd one-page website that leads nowhere and says nothingsee below for some notes on this. The rum is 56.1%, dark red brown….

and smells absolutely magnificent. The aromas are, in a word, loaded. The distinctiveness of the PM still comes through in a wave of aromatic wine-infused cigarillos’ tobacco, coffee, bitter chocolate and, yes, licorice. You pause, enjoy this, sniff appreciatively, dive in for Round 2 and brace for the second wave. This emerges after a few minutes: and is more musky, darker in tone shot through with jagged flashes of tarter sharper notes: muscovado sugar, molasses, plums, blackberries, ripe black cherries, bananas, all the best part of, oh, the Norse Cask, of which this is undoubtedly the equal. And then there’s a bit extra for the fans, before the taste: cinnamon, vanilla, herbs, and (I kid you not) even a touch of pine resin.

And the profile, thank God, doesn’t let us down (think of what a waste that would have been, after all this time). People like me use the nose a lot to tease out flavour-notes but the majority of drinkers consider only the taste, and here, they’ll have nothing to complain about, because it continues and underlines everything the smells had promised. Again, thick and pungent with bark and herbs and fruit: plums, dark ripe cherries, ripe mangoes, bags of licorice, and an interesting combo of mauby and sorrel. Caramel and toffee and chocolate and cafe-au-lait dosed with a generous helping of brown sugar and whipped cream, each flavour clear and distinct and outright deliciousthe balance of the various soft, sharp, tart and other components is outstanding. Even the finish does the rum honourit’s long, fragrant and lasting and if it could be a colour, it would be dark brown-redthe hues of licorice, nuts, raisins, dates, stewed apples and caramel.

There’s just so much here. It’s so rich, smooth, warm, complex, inviting, tasty, sensual and outright delicious. Just as you put down the glass and finish scribbling what you optimistically think is the final tasting note, you burp and think of yet another aspect you’ve overlooked. Yes, High Spirits probably bought the barrel from a broker or an indifferent Scottish whisky maker who passed it by, but whoever selected it knew what they were doing, because they found and teased out the muscular poetry of the core distillate that in other hands could (and in its knock-offs sometimes does) turn into a schlocky muddled mess.

At end, over and beyond how it tasted, I find myself coming back to that age. Thirty two years. Such rums are getting rarer all the time. Silver Seal and Moon imports and Cadenhead and G&M occasionally upchuck one or two in the twenties, and yes, occasionally a house in Europe will issue a rum in the thirties (like CDI did with its 33YO Hong Kong Hampden, or those 1984 Monymusks that are popping up), but the big new houses are mostly remaining in the teens, and tropical ageing is the new thing which further suggests a diminution of the majority of aged bottlings. To see one like this, with the barrel slowly seeping its influence into the rum over three decades from a time most rum lovers were unborn and the rumworld we live in undreamt, is an experience not to be missed if one ever has the chance.

(#766)(91/100)


Other Notes

  • My thanks to Gregers, Pietro and Johnny for their help on this one, the pictures and background, and, of course, for the sample itself.
  • If I read the label right, it’s possible that as few as 60 bottles were issued.
  • For a recap of several 1975 Port Mourant rums, see Marius’s awesome flight notes on Single Cask.
  • High Spirits is a small Italian importer of whiskies and rums and moonlights as an occasional bottler. It is run by a gentleman by the name of Fernando Nadi Fior in Rimini (NE Italy), and he is an associate and friend of Andrea Ferrari and Stefano Cremaschi of Hidden Spirit and Wild Parrot respectively. High Spirits has quietly and primarily been dealing in whiskies and very occasional limited bottlings of rum since the formation of the company after the dissolution of the previous enterprise, Intertrade Import in the 1970s, but is still mostly unknown outside Italy.
  • I’ve often wondered about the prevalence of 1974 and 1975 Guyanese rums, so many of which were Port Mourant, We don’t see 1970s PM rums that often to begin with (Velier has a 1972, 1973 and other years as well, but they’re an exception), yet for some reason these two years seems to be unusually well represented across the various companies’ lines, and I doubt that’s a coincidence. Somehow, for some reason, a lot of barrels from Guyana went to Europe back then and yet for few other years from that decade. Hopefully one day we’ll find out why.

Mar 092020
 

In a time of exploding visibility of masterful ladies in the rum worldJoy Spence, Maggie Campbell, Trudiann Branker, Karen Hoskins, Dianne Medrano, and so many othersit’s good to also remember Chantal Comte, who bottled her first rum in 1983 (it was a Depaz, and possibly even this one, though I’m still tracking that down), who has fiercely and doggedly stuck with her first love of the French islands’ rums in all the years from then to now. She is, in my opinion, along with Tristan Prodhomme, one of the undiscovered treasures of the indie bottling scene.

Yet her rhums remain peculiarly elusive: it’s rare to find a review of anything the woman has released, let alone any of the older bottlings, and this in spite of the fact that the quality of her wares is beyond dispute. A few years ago a newspaperman in Trinidad wrote about a secret handshake that united the underground lovers of Luca’s Caronis, but the statement really should be applied to hersand most especially for the one she herself considers her favourite, the Depaz 1975, which is almost as good as the utterly spectacular Trois Rivieres 1980 I was fortunate enough to find all those years ago.

The full and rather unwieldy title of the rum today is the Chantal Comte Rhum Agricole 1975 Extra Vieux de la Plantation de la Montagne Pelée, but let that not dissuade you. Consider it a column-still, cane-juice rhum aged around eight years, sourced from Depaz when it was still André Depaz’s property and the man wasastoundingly enough in today’s markethaving real difficulty selling his aged stock. Ms. Comte, who was born in Morocco but had strong Martinique familial connections, had interned in the wine world, and was also mentored by Depaz and Paul Hayot (of Clement) in the late 1970s and early 1980s, when Martinique was suffering from overstock and poor sales.. And having access at low cost to such ignored and unknown stocks allowed her to really pick some amazing rums, of this is one.

Still, if we disregard the bottle and just do the pour, the mud-brown liquid does not, at the inception, inspire. That misleading first impression lasts about as long as it takes the nose to take the first sniff. Because it’s thick, it’s fruity, it’s juicy and it feels solid enough to get your teeth into. The whole thing is a smorgasbord of fruitsripe pineapple and mangoes for sure, pears, white guavas and papaya (all the light hits of the agricole pantheon)…but also more dark fruits than we usually associate with rhumsblack grapes, kiwi fruits, rich plums, dates. No tartness here, though a whiff of citrus peel pervades the background, just a combined fruit smoothie in harmonious combination with a trace of molasses, cereal and chocolate brownies

And that’s not all: the palate is equally complex and well-crafted, and at 45% – usually a middling strength which can be too soft or delicate or thin if done indifferently or badlyit expands the tableaux of observable notes. It melds the soft smell of old leather satchels with pears, herbs, spices, coffee grounds and a touch of brine, and if you hang around long enough the light acidity of citrus peel and tartness of sour cream coil behind and lend some texture and depth. Which is to say nothing of the delicate grassiness and softer caramel hints that you can almost, but not quite, tastethey are sensed rather than experienced, and just enhance the supple, smooth drinking experience. I would have preferred the finish to be a little longer and perhaps a shade more emphatic, but overall, the closing notes of prunes, apricots, ginger, 5-spice and light sugar water was quite enough to give the rhum a lovely, low-key send off.

Clearing away the dishesthis is not a rum that revels in strength and furious points of power. It lacks decisive and clearly discernible tastes like funk or woodsiness. What it does do, and well, is subtly combine the component profiles while at all times allowing the drinker to pick up some element that pleases, and identify it precisely within the amalgam. It’s interesting that Ms. Comte remarked once that she felt a product (rums) so complex and of such quality could notshould not! – possibly be overlooked or despised the way it was, just around the same time as Luca Gargano was coming to similar conclusions over at Saint James: one gets the impression she’s followed that principle ever since, of not worrying about singular taste profiles, but more pleasing symphonic harmonies.

Anyway, the Depaz 1975 is, at end, a rum that reminds us what a long journey agricoles have made since back in the 1980s when it came out. It starts off by seeming quite ordinary, an agricole like many others we’ve triedthen it gathers force and power, it gets better with every passing sip, and by the time you’re done it will take its place as one of those rums you can’t imagine yourself forgetting. Deservedly so, in my opinion, for here is one of a series of bottlings which raised the bar for the French Caribbean islands, indie bottlings and La Maison de Chantal, and forced everyone to sit up and pay attention. We have never forgotten, and they have never looked back, and that’s all as it should be.

(#709)(89/100)


Other Notes

  • Many thanks to Sascha Junkert and Johnny Drejer for their forbearancethey both know why 🙂
  • Outturn unknown, exact age unknownI think it’s around 8-10 years old. A query is pending.
Apr 072018
 

#503

If you’re looking at this title and muttering to yourself “What the hell is Rendsburger?” you’re certainly not alone. Aside from Spirits of Old Man out of Germany or Norsk Cask from Denmark, they may be among the least known independent bottlers out there and before a bunch of samples drifted across my scope, I sure hadn’t heard about them either. Strictly speaking, Rendsburg is the north-west German town close to Flensburg in which the parent company Krugera small, family-run whisky and spirits specialist mainly known for its large whisky auction househas its home. Therefore they have much in common with the makers of White Cat, the eminently forgettable white rum I looked at some time back and share some of the same centuries-old trading DNA which made the history of the White Cat more interesting than the rum itself.

By now many of us still-specific rum nifflers more or less agree that the 1970s were very good years for rum, especially the period 1972-1975 which is the source of many amazing products made by independent bottlers in the first decade of the new millenium and which at the time of issue were pretty much ignored. Rums like the Velier PM 1972 and PM 1974, the Norse Cask PM 1975, BBR 1975 PM, Silver Seal 1974 28 YO Demerarathe honour roll is long and distinguished, even if we can barely source them any longer and they’re drifting into “unicorn” status.

That a small outfit like Krugerwhich doesn’t really “do” rumscould bring out something as excellent as this says a lot for the heritage stills DDL now has dibs on, and how far back they go (and perhaps, how underutilized they were as marques in their own right until quite recently). Kruger named its rums after the town in which they operate, slapped the picture of various mayors on the line of outturns of whiskies and occasional rumsand somehow in the middle of all that, managed to pick up a barrel the likes of which Velier would have been proud, issued a 56.9% 32 year old PM in 2007 and met with exactly zero fanfare and almost total indifference.

How this aged rum created nary a ripple in the wider rum worldeven back in 2007 – is mystifying. It’s a real Port Mourant beefcake in all the ways that matter. Sniff this dark brown monolith and just revel in the deep, dark aromas: slightly bitter chocolate, licorice, backed up with salt caramel ice cream, a thrumming undercurrent of molasses, and that was just in the first sixty seconds. It let forth billowing fumes of anise, dark fruitsprunes, plums, blackberries, overripe cherries, raisins, to which were added (over some hours) sweet soy with just enough salt to add some character, faint citrus, smoke, leather and even a touch of vanilla.

As for the palate, man, I’m in heaven, because I just found another 1975 to add to the pantheon. That same growling, thick richness of the nose segued to the tongue with no pause, no hesitation and no detours. The strength was near perfectit gave strength without sharpness, allowing all the flavours to march solidly across the stage and present themselves one after the other: licorice, vanilla, caramel, bags of fruits, a little saltiness, biscuits and cereal. The whole thing was warm and thick with dark flavours that never seemed to want to stop showing off and even the oak, which at first I thought started to take on an unhealthy dominance after some minutes (I was actually writing “Mozart just exited the scene and is replaced by Salieri!” before crossing it out), retreated into the background, chilled out, and was (to my relief) content to be a part of the troupe rather than a scene stealing hog. The exemplary and traditional Port Mourant profile finished long, slow, voluptuously and with chocolate, coffee grounds, some oak, vanilla, raisins and anise, and overall, my take was it was simply one of the Grand Old Men of the plantation and the still.

Of course, when it comes to Guyana, Enmore and Port Mourant are the stars of the show, boasting well-known and oft-analyzed profiles, and name recognition nearly off the charts. Versailles rums, good as they are, often live in their shadow. What this means for deep-diving rum nerds, is that the PM profile may be one of the best known of its kind, its variations endlessly dissected, the minutest deviations pondered over by PhD students in rumology. Here, I submit there’s no needthe rum is superlative. It’s one of the best of the independent Port Mourants rums in existence and shows how high the bar has been set not only by the rums listed above, but by itself. It’s a bottle hungering to be cracked, has a cork demanding to be poppedan ambrosia begging to be sampled, drunk, enjoyed and, damnit, shared.

As I unhurriedly went through this rum, leaving many others to await their turn another day, I thought of W. H. Davies, who wrote in “Leisure”

What is this life, if, full of care

We have no time to stand and stare?

Here we do need to stand and stare, I think: because rums like this need to be savoured, to evoke dreams of old days gone by; not hurried over, or guzzled quickly and moved away from as the next hot-snot new bottling comes on the scene. It rewards not only patience but slow appreciation, and about the only regrettable thing I can say about it is how rare it is, how unknown. For rum junkies in general and Port Mourant lovers in particular, it conjures memories, exhilaration and, at the end, perhaps even a little sadness. It’s simply that kind of experience, and I’m glad I managed to try it.

(90/100)


Other Notes

  • Rendsburger also has single cask bottlings of Barbados and Caroni, which I’ll get to sooner or later.
  • Sharp eyed readers will be amused at the bottle pictureI sure was, and compliments to that great guy Malte who traded me the sample: for the effort he put in, the rum itself and his sly sense of humour. The real bottle label is below.

Photo (c) Whyskyrific.com

Jun 262017
 

#375

Velier rums have now become so famous that new editions and collaborations disappear from the shelves fifteen minutes before they go on sale, and the “classic” editions from the Age of the Demeraras are all but impossible to find at all. Still, keeping one’s twitchy ears and long nose alert does in fact get you somewhere in the end, which is why, after a long drought of the company’s rums in my battered notebook (if you discount the legendary Caputo 1973), I managed to pick up this little gem and am pleased to report that it conforms to all the standards that made Velier the poster child for independent bottlers. It’s one of the better Port Mourant variations out there (although not the best – that honour, for me, still belongs to the Velier PM 1974, the Norse Cask 1975, with the Batch 1 Rum Nation 1995 Rare PM running a close third), and drinking it makes me wistful, even nostalgic, about all those magical rums which are getting rarer by the day and which speak to times of excellence now gone by.

And how could I not be? I mean, just look at the bare statistics. Guyanese rum, check. Full proof, checkit’s 56.7%. Massively old, double-checkthe thing is 32 years old, distilled in May 1975 (a very good year) and bottled in March 2008 (my eyes are already misting over), from three barrels which gave out a measly 518 bottles. The only curious thing about it is the maturation which was done both in Guyana and Great Britain, but with no details on how long in each. And a mahogany hue which, knowing how Luca does things, I’m going to say was a result of all that king-sized ageing. All this comes together in a microclimate of old-school badass that may just be a characteristic of these geriatric products.

How did it smell? Pretty damned good. Heavy and spiced. A vein of caramel salty-sweetness ran hotly through the fierce dark of the standard PM profile, lending a blade of distinction to the whole. The first aromas were of anise and wood chips, tannins, leather, orange marmalade. The wood may have been a bit much, and obscured what came laterherbs and molasses, raisins, raw untreated honey from the comb, with a bit of brooding tar behind the whole thing. Lightness and clarity were not part of the program here, tannins and licorice were, perhaps too much, yet there’s nothing here I would tell you failed in any way, and certainly nothing I would advise you to steer clear of.

On the taste, the anise confidently rammed itself to the fore, plus a bunch of oak tannins that were fortunately kept in check (a smidgen more would have not been to the PM’s advantage, I thought). There were warm, heavy tastes of brown sugar vanilla, caramel, bananas, and then a majestic procession of fruitiness stomped along byraisins, prunes, blackberries, dark cherries, accompanied by nougat, avocado and salt, orange peel and white chocolate. All the tastes I like in my Demerara rums were on display, and with a warmth and power conveyed by the 56.7% that no 40% PM could ever hope to match, undone onlyand ever so slightlyby the oaken tannins, which even carried over to the finish. Fortunately, the anise and warmer raisins and salt caramel came along for their curtain call as well, so overall, all I can say is this is a hell of a rum, long lasting, tasty and no slouch at all. Frankly, I believe that this was the rum DDL should have been aiming for with its 1980 and 1986 25 year old rums.

So, how does it rate in the pantheon of the great Demeraras from the Age? Well, I think the oak and licorice, though restrained, may be somewhat too aggressive (though not entirely dominant), and they edge out subtler, deeper flavours which can be tasted but not fully appreciated to their maximum potentialthe balance is a bit off. This is not a disqualification in any sense of the word, the rum is too well made for that; and in any case, such flavours are somewhat of a defining characteristic of the still, so anyone buying a PM would already know of itbut for those who like a more coherent assembly, it’s best to be aware of the matter.

Just consider the swirling maelstrom of cool, of near-awe, that surrounds this product, not just for its provenance, or its age, but for lustre it brings to the entire Age’s amazing reputation. It’s a rum to bring tears to the eyes, because we will not see its like again, in these times of increasing participation by the indies, and the <30 year aged output. Who would, or could, buy such a rum anyway, at the price it fetches nowadays (I saw one on retail for €2000 last week)?

At this stage in the state of the rumworld, I think we should just accept that we can no longer expect to be able to source full bottles those original monsters with which the giants of the subculture made their bones. Anyone who has one of these is holding on to it for resale or for judicious sharing among the hard core rum chums who have pictures of every Velier bottle ever made hanging on walls where the Lamborghini Countach or Pamela Anderson was once posted. You can sort of understand why. They are all a cut above the ordinary and this one is no exception. In its own way, it’s great. And even if it does not ascend to the stratosphere the way I felt the 1974 did, then by God you will say its name when you taste it, and all your squaddies will doff their hats and bow twice. It’s simply that kind of experience.

(89/100)

May 292017
 

Rumaniacs Review #046 | 0446

We’re going back down memory lane now, to a point where the AOC designation is a dream on the horizon, and for once we have an age: this rum is sixteen years old (based on the bottom of the bottle where it saysBottled February 1991in French). This of course leads us to puzzle our way through all the others we’ve looked at already, because if here they can call a 16YO arhum vieuxthen the other Bally rhums are in all likelihood similarly agedwe just have no proof of the matter.

In any event, age or no age, rums and rons and rhums are evaluated based on what they are, not what they are stated to be. So let’s put aside all the whinging about information provision (which is a never ending grouse of mine) and simply taste a rhum made when I was still living in Africa and had never heard of Martinique (or much about Guyana, for that matter).

ColourAmber

Strength – 45%

NoseSo far nothing has beaten the Bally 1982, but this one is on parperhaps better. The nose is amazingdeep purple grapes and vanilla, with the traditionals of sugar cane sap, wet green lemon grass, with a mischievous hint of wet cardboard and cereals. Threading through these smells are additional notes of Turkish coffee (no sugar), cocoa and some black chocolate, but curiously there’s less fruitiness to sniff in this one than in the later editions, and it’s backgrounded by something vaguely metalliclike licking a small battery, y’know? Some cinnamon, well-polished leather and honey fill in the spaces.

PalateIt’s creamy, spicy, sweet and salty all at once (plus lemon). In a way it reminds me of a very well made Thai green curry in coconut milk. The fruits are here at lastgreen apples, pears, white guavas, but also pastries and cheese, to which are added very light hints of creme brulee and caramel, milk chocolate, some honey and licorice. Would be interesting to know the barrel strategy on this one. Whatever. It’s a fine fine rhum to try, that’s for sure.

FinishMedium long, vegetal, grassy and breakfast spices for the most part, some more of the white fruit, and the woody notes are here to stay. Not the best fade, but pretty good anyway.

ThoughtsIt had great balance and the tastes were excellent. Something like this is best had in conjunction with something newer from Bally because then you gain a sense of its achievement, and how rhum has developed over the years. People swear by the AOC (and in an era of marketing nonsense dosed with outright lies, quite rightfully so), but sometimes you wonder whether something hasn’t been lost as well. The Bally 1975 emphatically demonstrates the quality of what was being done, at a time way before regulations changed the industry.

(86/100)

The boys of the Rumaniacs liked this rhum even more than I did.

 

May 282017
 

Rumaniacs Review #045 | 0445

By now two things are clear about these older Bally rhumsaside from some educated guesswork, we don’t know how old they are, and by this time, 1979, the AOC noted on the label is somewhat of a puzzler, unless the thing is seventeen years old, in which case it would hardly be labelled a mererhum vieuxbut anXO”. So maybe after the initial ageing they stored it in tanks or flagons and only bottled it after 1996or, more likely, it came under a previous version of the official 1996 AOC designation. At this point, it’s somewhat academic, thoughgiven it was made nearly forty years ago, it presents as a rhum that shows something of the evolution of the agricole world over time.

ColourAmber

Strength – 45%

NosePungent, grassy, clear and quite light, quite dry. There were olives in brine, grapes, black tea, some citrus peel and aromatic tobacco, but also something softer, milder: strawberries and bananas, I’d say, forming a nice counterpoint. It takes its time opening up, once this happens, it gets somewhat fruitier, while never entirely letting go of the grassy, herbal aromas.

PalateCreamy and salty, black bread and cheese. It’s also somewhat sharper and more more tannic than the earlier Ballys from 1992 and 1993, with wood taking center stage, and a taste of something green, like grass, fresh sap, Japanese tea. So also somewhat bitter, and the clean purity of agricoles with which we are more familiar has recededfortunately I could still taste tart apples, lemon zest and raisins, plus whiffs of dark chocolate and some unripe fruit.

FinishPleasant close outdry, edgy, warm. White guavas and pears, plus the tartness of soursop, pencil shavings and perhaps too much oak. Not entirely a success here, perhaps a shade too peppery and not as well balanced as the nose or palate.

ThoughtsHere we have moved away from the almost standard profile of the ’80s and ’90s demonstrated so clearly by the newer Bally rums, and returned to agricole rumsrootsbut also something of a tangent from those profiles we are now used to. A solid rhum, but not one that ascends to the heights.

(83/100)

Other members of the Collective have written about the rhum as well, on the official website.

Nov 272016
 

 

Rumaniacs Review 026 | 0426

While the 1975 30-year old rum issued by Berry Bros isn’t actually one of theirExceptional Caskseries, it remains one in all but name and is one of the best of the Demeraras coming out of the 1970s, taking its place in my estimation somewhere in between the Norse Cask 1975 and the Cadenhead 1975, maybe a shade behind the Velier PM 1974 and the Bristol Spirits PM 1980. It could have been even better, I think, if it had been a tad stronger, but that in no way makes it a lesser rum, because for its proof (46%) and its profile (Port Mourant), it’s quite a wonderful rum.

Colourdark amber-red

Strength – 46%

NoseSmooth, heavenly notes of licorice and wax, some well polished wooden furniture, molasses and burnt brown sugar. It gets deeper as it rests, more pungent and well rounded, adding some oak, leather, sawdust and deep dark fruitiness. These then give way to cinnamon, nutmeg, cherries and coffee grounds in a lovely, well-integrated series of smell that makes re-sniffing almost mandatory.

Palate – 46% is not problem and makes it very approachable by anyone who doesn’t like cask strength rums (which may have been the point). Strong and heated attack, slightly sweet, more licorice, vanilla, breakfast spices, molasses-soaked brown sugar, tied together with sharper citrus and fruity noteshalf-ripe mangoes or guavas, just tart enough to influence the taste without overwhelming it. With water there’s some ripe sultanas and butterscotch to round things off.

Finishreasonably long and spicy; those grapes are back, some white guavas, licorice and toffee, brown sugar, a flirt of vanilla. Not the most complex endgame, just a very good one.

ThoughtsIt’s a firm and very tasty rum of excellent balance and complexityit doesn’t try for overkill. What it does do is present a great series of flavours in serene majesty, one after the other, showcasing all the well-known elements of one of the most famous stills in the world. Any maker would have been proud to put this out the door.

(89.5/100)

NBother Rumaniacsreviews of this rum can be found here. Here’s my original review from 2013, for those who’re interested.

Mar 132016
 

D3S_3845

It’s instructive to drink the Norse Cask and the Cadenhead in tandem. The two are so similar except in one key respect, that depending on where one’s preferences lie, either one could be a favourite Demerara for life.

The online commentary on last week’s Norse Cask 1975 32 year old rum showed that there was and remains enormous interest for very old Guyanese rums, with some enthusiasts avidly collecting similar vintages and comparing them for super-detailed analyses on the tiniest variations (or so the story-teller in me supposes). For the benefit of those laser-focused ladies and gentlemen, therefore, consider this similar Cadenhead 33 year old, also distilled in 1975 (a year before I arrived in Guyana), which could have ascended to greatness had it been stronger, and which, for those who like standard strength rums of great age, may be the most accessible old Demerara ever made, even at the price I paid.

D3S_3848The dark mahogany-red Cadenhead rum was actually quite similar to the Norse Cask. Some rubber and medicinals and turpentine started the nose party going, swiftly gone. Then the licorice and tobaccoof what I’m going to say was a blend with a majority of Port Mourant distillatethundered onto the stage, followed by a muted backup chorus of wood, oak, hay, raisins, caramel, brown sugar. I sensed apricots in syrup (or were those peach slices?). It’s the lack of oomph on the strength that made trying the rum an exercise in frustrated patience for me. I knew the fair ladies were in therethey just didn’t want to come out and dance (and paradoxically, that made me pay closer attention). It took a while to tease out the notes, but as I’ve said many times before, the PM profile is pretty unmistakeable and can’t be missedand that was damned fine, let me reassure you, no matter what else was blended into the mix.

The palate demonstrated what the Boote Star 20 Year Old rum (coming soon to the review site near you) could have been with some additional ageing and less sugar, and what the Norse Cask could have settled for. The taste was great, don’t get me wrong: soft and warm and redolent with rich cascades of flavour, taking no effort at all to appreciate (that’s what 40.6% does for you). It was a gentle waterfall of dark grapes, anise, raisins, grapes and oak. I took my time and thoroughly enjoyed it, sensing even more fruit after some minutesbananas and pears and white guavas, and then a slightly sharper cider note. The controlled-yet-dominant licorice/anise combo remained the core of it all though, never entirely releasing its position on top of all the others. And as for the finish, well, I wasn’t expecting miracles from a standard proof rum. Most of the profile I noted came back for their final bow in the stage: chocolate muffins drizzled with caramel, more anise, some slight zestit was nothing earth-shattering, and maybe they were just kinda going through the motions though, and departed far too quickly. That’s also what standard strength will do, unfortunately.

That this is a really good rum is not in question. I tried it four or five times over the course of a week and over time I adjusted to its calm, easy-going voluptuousness. It’s soft, easygoing, complex to a fault and showcases all the famous components of profile that make the Guyanese stills famous. If one is into Demerara rums in a big way, this will not disappoint, except perhaps with respect to the strength. Some of the power and aggro of a stronger drink is lost by bottling at less than 41% and that makes it, for purists, a display of what it could have been, instead of what it is. I suggest you accept, lean back and just enjoy it. Neat, of course. Ice would destroy something of its structural fragility, and mixing it might actually be a punishable offense in some countries.

D3S_3846The word “accessible” I used above does not mean available, but relatable. The majority of the rum drinking world does not in fact prefer cask strength rums, however much bloggers and aficionados flog the stronger stuff as better (in the main, it is, but never mind). Anyway, most people are quite comfortable drinking a 40-43% rum and indeed there are sterling representatives at that strength to be found all over the place. El Dorado’s 21 year old remains a perennial global favourite, for exampleand that’s because it really is a nifty rum at an affordable price with an age not to be sneered at (it succeeds in spite of its adulteration, not because of it). But most of the really old rums for sale punch quite a bit higher, so for those who want to know what a fantastically good ancient Demerara is like without getting smacked in the face by a 60% Velier, here’s one to get. It’s a love poem to Guyanese rums, reminding us of the potential they all have.

(#260. 87.5/100)


Other notes

  • Distilled 1975, bottled October 2008. Outturn is unknown.
  • The actual components and ratios of the blend is also not disclosed anywhere.
  • The rum arrived in a cool green box with a brass clasp. And a cheap plastic window. Ah well
  • Cadenhead has several versions of the 1975:
    • Green Label Demerara 30 YO (1975 – 2005), 40,5% vol.
    • Green Label Demerara 32 YO (1975 – 2007), 40,3% vol.
    • Green Label Demerara 33 YO (1975 – 2008), 40,6% vol.
    • Green Label Demerara 36 YO (1975 – 2012), 38,5% vol.
    • Green Label Demerara 35 YO (1975 – 2010), 40.0% vol.

 

Mar 082016
 

D3S_3787

Sometimes amazing rums come into being, made by people you’ve never heard of, blindsiding you with creative genius. Here’s one from Denmark.

Often, writing about a rum that is good with flashes of great leaves me with the vague feeling of dissatisfaction, because it seems that with a little more effort and imagination and maybe even chutzpah, it could have scored higher, been more, wowed my socks off. How often have I written “excellent work, but…”? The Danish made Norsk Cask, which I bought together with Henrik of Rumcorner, was a rum that neatly sidestepped those concerns and has proved to be one of the best Demeraras I’ve ever had. It shows that Velier and Silver Seal and Moon Imports aren’t the only ones who can create rums with full-proof iron-man jockstraps.

A few words about Norse Cask, once headed by a gentleman called David Larsson. Apparently he was behind a company called Qualityworld, which imported several brand name spirits as well as doing some independent bottling. Unfortunately, during the economic crisis in 2008 the bank pulled the plug on his company and it went belly-upto our detriment, I suggest, because this guy, just on the basis of this one rum, sure looks like he knew how to pick ‘em.

Think I exaggerate? Not in the slightest. What we had here was a rum with a strength on the exciting side of 50%, a 57% dark red-brown rum aged an amazing 32 years (no information as to where) that exhibited a nose strong and fragrant enough to make Velier take a step back and mutter a disbelieving “Che cazzo? (and then rush to buy one). The nose started out a little sharp, not too much, fading rapidly to heat, and exuding initial aromas of bananas, licorice and a little rubber tap on the schnozz. Man this rum was deepI had almost forgotten what an aged-beyond-all-reason Demerara could smell like. Black pepper, dark chocolate, coffee, cedar, lemon zest, anise and burnt sugar marched in stately progression across my nose. And then this rich smorgasbord was followed by licorice, more brown sugar, red currants and elderberries, with some musty hay notes. Wow. Justwow.

D3S_3788

The palate didn’t drop the ball, and continued to elicit my admiration: it was really well put together, rich to a fault, and I felt that not one year of the 32 was wasted. I scorned the A.H. Riise Navy rum as an abominable sugar grenadethis restored my faith. Raisins, dried black fruits. Esters lurked coyly in the background. Flowers, apricots, lemon rind. Some woodiness and tar was present, well held in check, more cedar, olives in brine and (get this!) a weird faint taste of marmite on jelly on a slice of rye bread. It somehow married the sort of supple sleekness that would give a mink nightmares with the heavy, massive stomp-’em solidity of a Clydesdale. And the finish? Medium long, yet very memorablerich with black olives, sawdust, wood and some smoke, port, raisins and giving with all the love of a repentant ex-girlfriend. I tried it in conjunction with (among others) a similarly aged Cadenhead from 1975 bottled at 40.6% and it eclipsed them all without busting a sweat.

So for once there are no qualifiers. No buts, howevers or althoughs. There are just wistful wishes: I wish I knew more about the components; I wish there were more like it; I wish the bottle were bigger. It’s so good I’m going to hoard this one and jealously guard it like a knight of old with his daughter’s chastity. A lesser rum would be about trying to summon maybe one or three clear (maybe even contrasting) tastes, and balance them uneasily, sometimes not well. This rum, which breathes, which challenges, which is excitingly alive and complex to a fault, wants to see each note as part of something better, a greater whole, a synthesisa whole symphony. And melds them in a way which is quite remarkable.

It’s a great Demerara rum. No, scratch that, I lied. It’s a spectacular Demerara rum.

(#259. 91/100)


Other notes:

  • Distilled 1975, bottled July 2008.
  • No colouring, additives or chill filtering
  • 178 bottle outturn
  • No notes on the still, but for my money it’s the PM
  • Many thanks to Henrik for the history of Norse Cask.

D3S_3789

Mar 012013
 

Tropic Thunder

Building a boutique, aged superrum at the top end of the scalewhether that scale is price or power or bothis at best an uncertain business. Too expensive, nobody will buy it, too oomphed-up and too many won’t try it. Both together and you’ll scare away all but the wealthy who casually buy not one but several of the Appleton 50s. I think that this 46% rum hits all the high notes and finds a harmonious balance between age, price and proofage. It may be among the best rums I’ve tried so far, in my lonely sojourn of the rum islands in a resolutely whisky filled ocean.

Berry Brothers and Rudd has the rather unique distinction of being one of the oldest spirits houses in the world; they have occupied the same premises in London since 1695 when Ms. Bourne founded her shop opposite St James Palace. It may be relatively unknown to rummiesyet when I remarked to the Scotchguy of KWM that I had picked up this vintage 1975 30 year old rum, he immediately knew the company and gave me quite a rundown on its antecedents.

Compared to the vaguely rococo label of the Coruba 12 label I looked at last week, or the monolithic spartan menace of the Albion 1994 I liked so much, there’s something resolutely old fashioned here: a standard barroom bottle (perhaps a little slim), with a thick paper label that is subtly genteel, even Edwardian, surmounted by a plastic tipped cork. Just a step above middle-of-the-road, I thinkit gives all the information needed in a straightforward, aesthetically pleasing way. Inside, there’s a dark, almost red liquid that had me sighing with anticipation, truly (well, I blew €160 on it so I think I’m entitled).

Port Mourant rum is made on the famed double wooden pot still that actually used to hang out in the estate distillery of the same name on the Corentyne Coast, and is now housed at Diamond Estate where DDL has its base of operations on the East Bank of the Demerara. Since I have at least several rums from that one stillBristol PM 1980 and 1988, the Rum Nation 1989 23 year old, this one (and I harbour lingering suspicions about the Albion 1994 given its profile) — there are certain elements I expect from any rum bearing the appellation. And the 1975 for sure had them all. In spades.

The nose on this dark red-brown rum may be among the richest, deepest, most pungent I’ve ever experienced to this point. None of the raw alcoholic screaming hellburn of an overcoked rock god torturing his guitar like Bacardi 151, the Stroh 80 or the SMWS Longpond 9 81.3%. Just wave after wave of molasses, licorice and dark chocolate to start, mixed in with a strain of plasticine, wax and rubber (similar to what I noted on the Rum Nation Jamaica 25 or the Demerara 23, if you recall), which then dialled themselves down and walked to the corner to give other flavours their moment to hog the stage. Cherries, cinnamon, nutmeg, coffee, caramelman, this thing just kept on givingit was one of the most luscious noses of any rum in recent memory.

The more I thought about it, the more I realized that it really was a rum that rewarded patience. The longer I let it stand and open up, the more it gave back to me, and this was not merely relegated to the aromas. The taste was similarly rich: rough and heated, yet without that sharpness that bespoke untamed and rebellious (and maybe stupid) youth, more like the firm hug bestowed upon you by your father when you were young. Slightly sweet, licorice and anise, vanilla, cinnamon and nutmeg, and the darkest burnt sugar and caramel notes you’ll ever have, bound together with molasses and red guavas. It married tempestuous performance to a weirdly calm and deceptive disposition, a quality of deep spirituous serenity that was almost but not quite zenuntil the last smidgen of butterscotch and toffee settled on the palate and stayed there. The exit was long and spicy, and finally faded with a last fanfare of molasses and dark brown sugar, and a faint note of sea salt.

What a lovely rum indeed. It’s a fabulous, fascinating synthesis of strength and style and taste. It’s better than the hypothetical offspring of Sheldon and Penny, and without any of the nuttiness. It offers buyers (all five of them) just about everything: lose-your-shorts nose; strong and purring arrival and a stupendous finishan overall mien of strapping, extreme flavour, yet also of charmingly cultured physicality. It’s a 1930s hood dressed in Dockers and a button down shirt.

Is it worth it? Hell yes, if you can ever find a rum so relatively obscure. Me, I covet something this unique like it was Uriah’s wife. Of course, at some point in their drinking lives, rum lovers will accept there is more to life than full proofed, deep-tasting rums; and reviewers and aficionados will see that pricey, aged and rare rums are overrated and…oh, who am I trying to con here? There will always be rums like this old, fascinating Bugatti around. And we will always love them.

(#147. 90.5/100)


Other notes

  • Not sure if this is 30 years old or not. Research suggests it is, but as usual, there is maddeningly little hard information the BBR website.