Jul 062020
 

Rumaniacs Review #117 | 0742

Bardinet was a French companynow part of La Martiniquaise-Bardinetformed by Paul Bardinet in 1857 in the south of France: he came up with the not-terribly-original idea of blending various rhums, much as various merchant bottlers were doing across the channel. Arguably their most famous product was the Negrita brand, originally a blend of Reunion, Martinique and Guadeloupe rhums, which was first released in 1886 with the now famous (or infamous) picture of the black girl on the label.

That picture, drawn by Max Camis (a famous poster designer and press cartoonist of the time) is supposedly the oldest character in French advertisingit’s surprising to see such consistent longevity, and one wonders if in these times it should not be retired. It has remained a visual staple of the Negrita brand for over a century, and maybe the brand owners feel it has created a heritage and cachet of its own that they are loath to changebut if 1423 be taken to task, and both they and Plantation can change names deemed culturally offensive, then surely this should be on someone’s list to speak to as well.

That polemic aside, one issue created by a label that has remained stable for so long, is difficulty in dating the bottle itself. The auction where it was sourced suggested a date of 1970s-1980s and the frayed and much decomposed back label seemed to refer to a person or place named Olympe, which, when I practiced my Google-fu, turned up a restaurant run by Olympe Versini, a starred chef who was the first woman to have a radio and TV show in France in the 1970s. Artur (see comments below this post) pointed out that not only were barcodes widely introduced in the 1980s but the referred to book on the label was published in 1981, so although originally I thought the 1970s were a good dating, the truth is that 1980s are probably correct. We do not, unfortunately, know about any ageing it has been through, or how old it is.

ColourDark amber

Strength – 44%

NoseDoesn’t lend itself to quick identification at all. It’s of course pre-AOC so who knows what made it up, and the blend is not disclosed, alas. So, it’s thick, fruity and has that taste of a dry dark-red wine. Some fruitsraisins and prunes and blackberriesbrown sugar, molasses, caramel, and a sort of sly, subtle reek of gaminess winds its way around the back end. Which is intriguing but not entirely supportive of the other aspects of the smell.

PalateQuite good, better, in fact, than the nose. Soft, smooth, warm, slightly sweet, with lots of ripe fruitsmangoes, papayas, a slice of pineapple, plums, blackberries, cherries. There’s a trace of coffee grounds, vanilla and a nice background tartness to the whole thing, a creamy citrus hint, that gives it an edge I like.

FinishShort, warm, almost thick, smooth. Mostly fruits and a bit of toffee and the tiniest whiff of brine.

ThoughtsIt’s not a bad rhumindeed, it’s quite interestingjust one we don’t know enough about in terms of what went into its blend. I’d suggest both Martinique and Guadeloupe, though that’s guesswork based on a taste that could be interpreted in many other ways. Good for a sip and a share, however, for those who like sipping back into history.

(82/100)

Apr 092020
 

Rumaniacs Review R-113 | 0717

My apologies to anyone who has bought and enjoyed the Superb Tortuga Light Rum on some Caribbean cruise that docked in the Cayman Islands for the last three decades or more….but it really isn’t much of anything. It continues to sell though, even if nowadays its star has long faded and you’d be hard pressed to find anyone of the current crop of writers or commentators who has ever tried it.

The white rum, a blend of unidentified, unspecified Jamaican and Barbadian distillates bottled at 40%, is not really superb and not from the island of Tortuga north of Haiti (but from the Cayman Islands 500 miles to the west of there); it’s filtered and bleached to within an inch of its life, is colourless, lifeless and near out tasteless. It incites not gasps of envy and jealous looks, but headshakes and groans of despair at yet another downmarket rum marketed with ruthless efficiency to the holiday crowd, and which for some reason, manages to score an unbelievable “Best Buy” rating of 85-89 points from someone at Wine Enthusiast who should definitely never be given a white Habitation Velier to try lest it diminish our personal stocks of rums that really are superb.

Think I’m harsh? Perchance I suffer from enforced isolation and cabin fever? Bad hair day? Feel free to contradict what I’m smelling: a light, sharp, acetone-like nose that at best provides a note of cucumbers, sugar water and sweet cane sap with perhaps a pear or two thrown in. If you strain, real hard, you might detect an overripe pineapple, a squirt of lemon rind and a banana just beginning to go. Observe the use of the singular here.

Still not convinced? Please taste. No, rather, please swill, gulp and gargle. Won’t make a difference. There’s so little here to work with, and what’s frustrating about it, is that had it been a little less filtered, a little less wussied-down, then those flavours that couldbarelybe discerned, might have shone instead of feeling dull and anaemic. I thought I noted something sweet and watery, a little pineapple juice, that pear again, a smidgen of vanilla, maybe a pinch of salt and that, friends and neighbors is me reaching and straining (and if the image you have is of me on the ivory throne trying to pass a gallstone, well…). Finish is short and unexceptional: some vanilla, some sugar water and a last gasp of cloves and white fruits, then it all hisses away like steam, poof.

At end, what we’re underwhelmed with is a sort of boring, insistent mediocrity. Its core constituents are themselves made well enough that even with all the dilution and filtration the rum doesn’t fall flat on its face, just produced too indifferently to elicit anything but apathy, and maybe a motion to the waiter to freshen the rum punch. And so while it’s certainly a rum of its own time, the 1980s, it’s surelyand thankfullynot one for these.

(72/100)


Other notes

  • The Tortuga rum is not named after the island, but to commemorate the original name of the Cayman Islands, “Las Tortugas,” meaningThe Turtles.
  • TheLightdescribed here is supposedly a blend of rums aged 1-3 years.
  • The company was established in 1984 by two Cayman Airways employees, Robert and Carlene Hamaty, and their first products were two blended rums, Gold and Light. Blending and bottling took place in Barbados according to the label, but this information may be dated as my sample came from a late-1980s bottle. Since its founding, the company has expanded both via massive sales of duty free rums to visitors coming in via both air and sea. The range is now expanded beyond the two original rum types to flavoured and spiced rums, and even some aged ones, which I have never seen for sale. Maybe one has to go there to get one. In 2011 the Jamaican conglomerate JP Group acquired a majority stake in Tortuga’s parent company, which, aside from making rums, had by this time also created a thriving business in rum cakes and flavoured specialty foods.
Mar 042020
 

Rumaniacs Review #111 | 0707

Back country Mexico has creole hooch like the Paranubes to keep the flame of pure rums alive, and larger, better known brands like Mocambo, Ron Prohibido, Los Valientes et al are there for those with deeper wallets or more upscale tastes. And Bacardi has long been known to have made rum in the countrynot just their own eponymous brand, but also a lower-priced, lesser-ranked ron called Castillo, which was created specifically to take on low cost alternatives which were cutting into Bacardi’s market share.

That’s the rum I have in front of me, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention others: the Castillo brand name is found in rons from Ecuador, Cuba, Spain, Panama, sometimes but not always made by Bacardi. What’s available now (the Gold and Silver) is made in Puerto Rico, which suggests some brand relocation by The Bat; and this Imperial underproof is, as far as I know, no longer being made since about the 1980s. In that sense, it’s a victim of the timesconsolidated, moved, reworked, reblendedI found references to the Imperial going back to the 1940s when a Mexican company called A. Laluque y Cia was making it (using pretty much the exact same label), which says something for its longevity.

ColourLight Gold

Strength – 38%

NoseMild, soft, fruity, not bad. It has some olive oil and brine notes to it, a touch of red wine. Some light fruitsapples, watermelon, pears. Gets weaker over time

PalateDon’t expect much from 38%, you’re sure not getting it. It’s light, it’s watery, it’s nigh tasteless, and can be had neat easilynot just because of the low strength but because, like Spicoli, there’s so little of anything behind it all. Some pears, pineapple juice (much diluted), papaya, cucumber, a touch of citrus peel. Caramel and sweetened chocolate.

FinishLacklustre, pretty much tasteless. Light sweet sugar water infused with caramel and a sprinkling drip of molasses

ThoughtsDid people actually drink stuff like this as a “serious” rum, even forty years ago? I guess it would perk up a cocktail without leaving anything of its own character behind, like a Cheshire’s smile, and that was the thing back then. But it was created as a budget rum, and they sure got what they paid for, back then.

(74/100)

Jan 162020
 

Rumaniacs Review 0108 | 0693

This rum is a companion of the Lamb’s 70º Demerara Navy and other UK rums made by various merchants bottlers, e.g. Four Bells Finest Navy Rum, Mainbrace, Black Heart, Red Duster Finest Navy, Old Vatted Demerara rum, and so on. It’s admittedly a treat to try them and trace their dusty, almost-forgotten companies of origin.

This Navy wannabe was made when the UK had moved beyond the degrees proof (in 1980) but while United Rum Merchants was still located in Tooley Street, London and not yet taken over by Allied Domecq in the early 1990s. At this stage in the recent history of rum, blends were still the way to go, and if anything had a name-recognition factor, it was certainly “Demerara rum”, which this presumed to be. Alas, that’s all we really getso while the label helpfully notes it is a blend of rums from Barbados, Guyana, Jamaica and Trinidad, do not hold your breath waiting for a dissertation or scholarly analysis of the proportions, the ageing, or even which stills or distilleries made up the blend. Such details are long lost or long buried.

ColourDark Amber

Strength – 40% ABV

NoseQuite a bit different from the strongly focussed Demerara profile of the Navy 70º we looked at beforehad the label not been clear what was in it, I would have not guessed there was any Jamaican in here. The wooden stills profile of Guyana is tamed, and the aromas are prunes, licorice, black grapes and a light brininess. After a while some salt caramel ice cream, nougat, toffee and anise become more evident. Sharp fruits are held way back and given the absence of any kind of tarriness, I’d hazard that Angostura provided the Trinidadian component.

PalateSweet, medium-thick and quite pungent, which is nice for a 40% rum. It’s mostly pears, anise and caramel that jockey for attentioneverything else is a second order effect. It’s briny off and on but not of sea water or an olive, more like butter or caramel. It’s nicely dry, with some dark fruits coiling restlessly around and about, all quite indeterminate.

FinishQuite nice. One does not expect a long denouement with a standard strength rum, of course, yet even by that low standard this isn’t bad, being dry, leathery, not very sweet or dark, and some prunes, dates, and blackberries.

ThoughtsIt’s a rather tame blend, maybe aged a wee bit, lacking any kind of single-mindedness of taste or smellwhich may have been the point, as the official Navy recipe was never a static thing, and (for example) the Jamaican portion kept varying based on the opinions of the day. It’s milder and not overwhelmed by either the funky Jamaican or the dour, wood-forward Demerara components, and that’s its selling point and strength. I do like uncompromising Port Mourant based rums, but this one isn’t half bad for what it is.

(81/100)(#692 | R-0108)

Dec 012019
 

Rumaniacs Review #106 | 0681

Mainbrace Rum is a Guyanese and Barbados blend released by Grants Wine and Spirits Merchants of London, one of many small emporia whose names are now forgotten, who indulged themselves by selling rums they had imported or bought from brokers, and blended themselves. It is unknown which still’s rums from Guyana were used, or which estate provided the rum from Barbados, though the balance of probability favours WIRR (my opinion). Ageing is completely unknowneither of the rum itself, or its constituents.

The Mainbrace name still exists in 2019, and the concept of joining two rums remains. The fancy new version is unlikely to be associated with Grants however, otherwise the heritage would have been trumpeted front and centre in the slick and one-page website that advertises the Guyana-Martinique blended rum nowin fact, the company that makes it is completely missing from the blurbs.

So what happened to Grants? And how old is the bottle really?

The “Guyana” spelling sets a lower post-independence date of 1966. Grants also released a Navy Rum and a Demerara Rumboth from Guyana, and both at “70º proof”. The address is written differently on their labels though, being “Grants of Saint James” on the Demerara label (Bury Lane is in the area of St. James, and a stone’s throw away from St. James’s Streetand BBR). Grants was still referring to itself as “of St. James” first (and until 1976 at least), but I think it’s the 40% ABV that’s key here, since that only came into effect in the mid 1980s in the UK.

Lastly, a new Grants of Saint James was incorporated in 1993 in Bristol, and when I followed that rabbit run, it led me to Matthew Clark plc, a subsidiary of C&C Group since 2018, and there I found that they had acquired Grants around 1990 and at that point it looks like the brand was retiredno references after that date exist. And so I’ll suggest this is a late 1980s rum.

ColourDark Amber

Strength – 40% ABV

NoseVery nice indeed, you can tell there’s a wooden still shedding its sawdust in here someplace. Cedar, sawdust, pencil shavings, plus fleshy fruits, licorice, tinned peaches, brown sugar and molasses. Thick and sweet but not overly so. That Guyanese component is kicking the Bajan portion big time in this profile, because the latter is well nigh unnoticeableexcept insofar as it tones down the aggressiveness of the wooden still (whichever one is represented here).

PalateDry and sharp. Then it dials itself down and goes simple. Molasses, coca-cola, fruit (raisins, apricots, cashews, prunes). Also the pencil shavings and woody notes remain, perhaps too much sothe promise of the nose is lost, and the disparity between nose and palate is glaring. There is some salt, caramel, brown sugar and anise here, but it’s all quite faint.

FinishShort, sweet, aromatic, thick, molasses, brown sugar, anise, caramel and vanilla ice cream. Nice, just too short and wispy.

ThoughtsI could smell this thing all day, because that part is outstandingbut the way is tasted and finished, not so much. I would not have pegged it as a blend, because the Guyanese part of it is so dominant. Overall, the 40% really makes the Mainbrace fall down for mehad it been dialled up ten proof points higher, it would have been outright exceptional.

(#681 | R0106)(82/100)


Historical Note

Anyone who’s got even a smattering of nautical lore has heard of the word “mainbrace”probably from some swearing, toothless, one-legged, one-eyed, parrot-wearing old salt (often a pirate) in some movie somewhere. It is a term from the days of sail, and refers to the rope used to steadyor bracethe (main)mast, stretching from the bow to the top of the mast and back to the deck. Theoretically, then, “splicing the mainbrace” would mean joining two pieces of mainbrace ropeexcept that it doesn’t. Although originally an order for one of the most difficult emergency repair jobs aboard a sailing ship, it became a euphemism for authorized celebratory drinking afterward, and then developed into the name of an order to grant the crew an extra ration of rum or grog.

Other

Hydrometer rates it 36.24% ABV, which works out to about 15 g/L additives of some kind.

May 052019
 

Rumaniacs Review #097 | 0621

As far as I can tell, Dr. Sangster arrived in Jamaica to lecture at UWI in 1967, got sidetracked into the rum business, and died in 2001. During his time on the island, Dr. Sangster did more to popularize rum cream and spiced / infused rums (pineapple, coconut, orange, etcthere were some 20+ varieties) than promote pure rums themselves, but he was also known for his blends, like Conquering Lion Overproof and this one, the Old Jamaica DeLuxe Gold which is definitely off the grid and, in a curious way, also quite modern.

It is unknown from where he sourced his base stock. Given that this DeLuxe Gold rum was noted as comprising pot still distillate and being a blend, it could possibly be Hampden, Worthy Park or maybe even Appleton themselves or, from the profile, Longpondor some combination, who knows? I think that it was likely between 2-5 years old, but that’s just a guess. References are slim at best, historical background almost nonexistent. The usual problem with these old rums. Note that after Dr. Sangster relocated to the Great Distillery in the Sky, his brand was acquired post-2001 by J. Wray & Nephew who do not use the name for anything except the rum liqueurs. The various blends have been discontinued.

ColourGold-amber

Strength – 57%

NoseOpens with the scents of a midden heap and rotting bananas (which is not as bad as it sounds, believe me). Bad watermelons, the over-cloying reek of genteel corruption, like an unwashed rum strumpet covering it over with expensive perfume. Acetones, paint thinner, nail polish remover. That is definitely some pot still action. Apples, grapefruits, pineapples, very sharp and crisp. Overripe peaches in tinned syrup, yellow soft squishy mangoes. The amalgam of aromas doesn’t entirely work, and it’s not completely to my tastebut intriguing nevertheless It has a curious indeterminate nature to it, that makes it difficult to say whether it’s WP or Hampden or New Yarmouth or what have you.

PalateSalty black olives, a shade sharp and tannic, with cinnamon caramel, vanilla. Develops into something fruity and flowery. Sharp and rough flavours in need of better balance and sanding down, very like the JB Charley, if that had ever been aged and boosted up with some additional esterification. Dirthy, earthy, loamy, musky, sweaty, meaty. Really quite an original, and if that was what Sangster was afterto amp up the ester count and then twist it to make it screamhe sure succeeded.

FinishShortish, dark off-fruits, vaguely sweet, briny, a few spices and musky earth tones.

ThoughtsI could not help but think of the Velier Longponds, especially the last two, because the Sangster’s is not a rum most people would like unless they were wading hip-deep into the Jamaican dunder pits and loved the resultant hogo bombs. It falls into the same category as the TECC (but not quite the TECA which is reliably reported to hail from a parallel rumiverse) – a regular high ester funky hogo-centric bastard that’s been tilted ever-so-slightly into near madness without completely losing its charm. It’s not my thing and I won’t score it to the raftersbut major points for the sheer defiant courage it took to bottle rotting garbage badassery without apology.

(78/100)

Aug 292018
 

Rumaniacs Review #083 | 0544

Here’s a Doorly’s five year old rum that predates their acquisition by Foursquare in 1992. Note the Alleyne, Arthur & Hunte script at the bottomthey were also a merchant bottler in Barbados (they made the original Old Brigand and the Special Barbados Rum), who acquired Doorly’s in the 1970s and were themselves taken over by Foursquare in 1993. So the best we can date this specific Doorly’s rum is within that period (I’ll place it in the 1980s). The fascination is, of course, in how the product from back then compares against the Doorly’s 5YO made by Foursquare now, though unfortunately I’ve not tried the current iteration, so I’ll have to wait until I pick one up.

ColourGold

Strength – 43%

NoseWarm and fruity, fairly similar in general terms to other Doorlys’ from modern times, or even the Real McCoy, though I think it may be a smidgen betterperhaps because its more straightforward, more simple, and doesn’t try for serious complexity. Notes of peaches meld nicely with cherries, dates, molasses and flambeed bananas.

PalateIntensity and clarity gets dialled down a notch, though it’s still quite flavourful, and dry. Sugar water and white fruits, pears, watermelon. Cherries and peaches become evident after a while, with some saltiness (not much). There’s a nice hint of strawberries and unsweetened yoghurt in the background.

FinishShort, dry, lightly fruity and creamy, with a dusting of crushed almonds thrown in.

ThoughtsI tried it alongside the Doorly’s XO and 12 Year Old, and it held up really well against those two. Maybe it was made in simpler times, with less experimentation of the plates on the stills, less blending of pot and column distillate, I don’t know. It just presented as a straightforward rum in whose simplicity lay its strength. I liked it a lot.

(82/100)


Opinion

The more of these short-form rum retrospectives I write and the further back in history I go the more my sense of frustration grows. While it is certainly easier to do one’s research on current rums and companies than it must have been for the earlier book writers like David Broom or Ed Hamilton, what makes me despair is how much has already been lost. To name two off the top of my head, just try researching Dethleffson or Sangster-Baird in depth and see how far that gets you.

If nobody is on record as documenting (for example) when the Banks DIH 10 year old first appeared, or when this Doorly’s came out, or background notes on the Three Daggers Jamaican rums, then all we are left with is the labels on Peter’s site in the Czech Republic, the bottles in private collectors’ warehouses, these few write-ups….and nothing else. My friends and colleagues in the rum world take a lot of time and care documenting distillery visits, estate histories, the development of rums in whole countriesbut not many ever get into the granularity of the history of an individual rum or its brand.

As a lover of both rum and history, all I can say is that leaves us all poorer, and perhaps it’s time for producers, distillers, amateur and professional writers, to start taking this undervalued niche of the rumiverse more seriously and making it available outside of company archives (assuming those exist). Knowing who Foursquare and Doorly’s and Alleyne, Arthur & Hunte are and how they came together is one thing. Knowing which rums they made and when they were issued, is quite another. And my personal opinion is that we need such details to be available publiclybecause let’s face it, we can’t always be running to Richard every time we have a question on a Bajan rum.

Aug 142018
 

Rumaniacs Review #081 | 0538

In Barbados, back in the early 1900s, distillers and bottlers were by a 1906 law, separate, and since the distilleries couldn’t bottle rum, many spirits shops and merchants didMartin Doorly, E.S.A. Field and R.L. Seale were examples of this in action. On the other side, in the early 1900s a pair of immigrant German brothers, the Stades, set up the West Indies Rum Refinery (now known as WIRD) and all distillate from there carried the mark of their name.

In 1909 Mr Edward Samuel Allison Field established E.S.A. Field as a trading company in Bridgetown and over time, using WIRD distillate, released what came to be referred to assee through rum”, also calledStade’swhich sold very well for decades.

In 1962 Seale’s acquired E.S.A. Field and continued to bottle a dark and a white rum under that brand (which is why you see both their names on the label) – the white was humourously referred to as a drink with which toEat, Sleep And Forget.In 1977 the bottling of ESAF was moved to Hopefield (in St. Phillip), so that places this specific rum between 1977 and 1996, in which year the distillate was switched to Foursquare and the mark ofStadeswas discontinued. These days the brand is not made for export, and only sold in Barbados, in a very handsome new bottle. Richard Seale modestly points out it’s the most popular rum in Barbados.

ColourWhite

Strength – 43%

NoseDusty, plastic and minerally, like dead wet campfire ashes. Lots of off-ripe fruits and toffee, but also sugar water, watermelons and pears, iodine and medicine-y notes, all of which exist uneasily together and don’t really gel for me.

PalateSort of like a vegetable soup with too much sweet soya, which may read more bizarre than it actually tastes. Bananas and so the queer taste of wood sap. Kiwi fruit and pears, some brine and again those off-ripe sweet fleshy fruits and a sharp clear taste of flint.

FinishMedium long, something of a surprise. Dry, and after the fruits and toffee make themselves known and bail, also some flint and the sense of having licked a stone.

ThoughtsOdd rum, very odd. Given the preference of the drinking audience back then for morestandardEnglish rum profilesslightly sweet, medium bodied, molasses, caramel and fruitsthe tastes come off as a little jarring and one wonders how this came to be as reputedly popular as it was Still, it’s quite interesting for all that.

(79/100)


Other notes

Thanks to Richard Seale, who provided most of the historical background and (lots of) corrections. Ed Hamilton’s Rums of the Eastern Caribbean contributed some additional details, though as was pointed out to me rather tartly, there are occasional inconsistencies in his work.

 

May 092017
 

Rumaniacs Review #037 | 0437

Tasting all these Appletons together and side by side is an instructive exercise. The profile remains remarkably stable at its core, while presenting some interesting diversions from the main theme, like a James Bond movie or a Sherlock Holmes short story. We smile at and are comfortable with the similarities, know the form, and sniff around for variations.

This 12 year old is from the 1980s, still retains the tinfoil screw-on cap, and its provenance can be gauged from the barroom style bottle and black label, instead of the current consistent presentation and callypigian shape (I told you this was a word worth knowing already). Beyond that, it’s now simply a piece of rum history.

ColourAmber-orange

Strength – 43%

NoseDarker, brooding, more intense and more expressive than the old V/X. Starts off with dark chocolate and orange peel, ripe bananas, also a touch of cereal, of creaminess. Later burnt sugar and bitter caramel start to emerge, melding with black tea, and maybe some anise. The nose is weak, not very robustit’s even a bit thin, surprising for 43%.

PalateOh well, much better, quite crisp, almost sprightly. Unsweetened chocolate, coffee, bananas, cereal, burnt sugar, candied orange, all the hits which the nose promised. With water the anise creeps out, some herbal notes, some vanillas, but it’s all just a bit too bitter; the slight saltiness helps control this somewhat.

FinishDry, herbal, and with caramel, black tea, some ashy (“minerally,” quite faint) and leather notes. A good finish by any standard, wraps up everything in a bow.

ThoughtsBetter than the V/X. It’s assembled better, the balance is better, and the edges I whinged about have been sanded off some. There’s still something not quite there though, some subtle filip of the blender’s art, but perhaps it’s just because there was better in the lineup I tried that day. In 2010 I wrote about a newer version of the 12 year oldA very good mid-tier rumand that still expresses my opinion here.

(81/100)

The boys over in ‘ManiacLand have taken a gander at this also, and their reviews can be found on the website.

Apr 302017
 

Rumaniacs Review #034 | 0434

By now we are all aware of the two different kinds of Havana Club. This rum is the one from Cuba, not the Bacardi version made innot Cubaand hails from the 1980s which, coincidentally, is when I started drinking DDL’s King of Diamonds (a useless factoid, I know). No point rehashing well-known details of the brand, so off we go.

ColourAmber

Strength – 40%

NoseOh well, very nice indeed, quite a few steps ahead of the Facundo Paraiso. Dare I saythe real deal”? Better not. Initially it smells very crisp and floral, with lightwateryfruits (pears, guavas, even watermelon), and then segues gently into something more creamy. Actually the aroma moves into heavier syrup-from-tinned-peaches territory after a while, but is redeemed from cloying heaviness by remaining reasonably light, adding some brine and genteel gone-to-seed flower gardens with too much earth. Some traces of toffee, tobacco, maybe a flirt of cinnamon. Gone too fast, alas.

PalateWhat just happened here? Was that licorice, medicinals and plasticene I tasted? Indeed it was. Just as suddenly, it went limp again, but after standing for a while, with some effort, I could make out additional flavours of green peas (!!), apple juice, vanilla, nutmeg, caramel, cardamonand some bitterness of over-zealous application of the barrel. Good potential, but ultimately unsatisfying and again, this being the era of 40%, really not intense enough, while interesting in its own way.

FinishWell done, reasonably long for the strength. Cigar smoke, brine, some last herbal notes and a couple of olives. Dry and dirty and quite pleasant.

ThoughtsNose and finish are the best part of the experience, with some nice points on the palate. Not as anonymous and boring as the Bacardis, yet lacks punch in its own way; and even though it may be churlish to grumble about the way rums were made back then, a few extra points of proof would have gone a long way to raising the labial volume to something higher.

(80/100)

Other Rumaniacs reviews of this rum can be found on the website.

Oct 302016
 

blackjoeRumaniacs Review 025 | 0425

In spite of the recent (2015-2016) resurgent charge of Jamaicans on the world rum scene, an older rum like this reminds us that for a long time they were actually rather quiescent, and exported a lot for rebottling overseasto Italy in this case, where a small outfit named Illva Saronno produced the Black Joe in the 1980s. The company, founded in 1922, primarily produces Amaretto, bitters and Sicilian wines (“Illvais an acronym which stands for Industria Lombarda Liquori Vini e Affinithey are located just north of Genoa). I imagine that they were intofantasy rumssuch as were popular in Italy before rum exploded as a spirit in its own right, and bottles dating from the 1950s through to the 1980s are available online, after which the trail ceasesI could not begin to tell you which estate the rum hails from.

ColourLight Gold

Strength – 40%

NoseYep, very Jamaican, redolent of musty earth, funk, rotting bananas, pineapples in syrup, brine and olives, morphing into cardboard and cereal notes. Plus plastic and turpentine, just a bit.

PalateDid I just pass a roadworking crew with bubbling tar in it? Fortunately, I pass it quick. It’s a bit soft (at 40%, no surprise), briny, grape-y, with phenols and more sweetbut waterysyrup, and star anise. It’s all very quiet, in spite of the clarity of the tastes

FinishSharp and short, with light honey and cereals, some vague fruits. Modern stuff is better, fiercer.

ThoughtsIt’s recognizably Jamaican, but unspectacular in any fashion. The 1957 edition sells for nearly a thousand euros online, this one for substantially less. Not much point to getting it, as it appeals more to collectors and hunters of rarities than someone who actually might want to drink it. If nothing else, it shows us something of the evolution of Jamaican style rums, though. And I still wish I knew which estate produced it.

(80/100)

NBOther Rumaniacs reviews of this rum can be found here.

Apr 282016
 

D3S_3879

A rum from Ago. Perhaps only a Guyanese or a retired British Navy man could truly love it.

For the most part, over the last months I’ve concentrated on fairly well known rums, made by bottlers with whom we’re all reasonably familiar. Today, I’m going to reach into the past a bit, to the Guyana Distillers El Dorado Bonded Reserve. Sorry, what? I can hear you say, You mean DDL don’t you, Mr. Caner? Yeahand no. This rum was made in the early 1980s before DDL changed its name, and in it was one of those hooches like the King of Diamonds, now long gone and out of productionin it, we can see what local rum was like before El Dorado was launched to the overseas market in 1992.

Sampling this rum pulled back a curtain of the mind. As a young man, I had had it years ago, before DDL became what it now is, before craft rums and independent bottlers were up to their current stature, and way before the El Dorado line had established itself as one of the baselines of the rum world. You’re not going into the extreme past like with the G&M Long Pond 1941, St Andrea 1939 or even the St James 1885, nobut the Bonded Reserve does demonstrate how fast the rum world has in fact evolved since those daysbecause I cannot remember trying anything quite like it in recent memory.

It was an old bottle. The label was faded and old fashioned, the tinfoil cap spoke to different days. Even the bottle glass looked worn and tired. Within it was a 40% rum that decanted a golden rum into the glass. It smelled thin and dusty, with not much going on at the inceptionsome smoke and leather and vanilla, a touch of caramel and grapes, raisins, with some cumin and molasses to round things out, all quite subdued and tepid.

D3S_3880Tasting the Bonded Reserve raised all sorts of questions, and for anyone into Mudland rums, the first one had to be the one you’re all thinking of: from which still did it come? I didn’t think it was any of the wooden onesthere was none of that licorice or fruity intensity here that so distinguishes them. It was medium to light bodied in texture, very feebly sweet, and presented initially as dryI’d suggest it was a column still product. Prunes, coffee, some burnt sugar, nougat and caramel, more of that faint leather and smoke background, all rounded out with the distant, almost imperceptible murmuring of citrus and crushed walnuts, nothing special. The finish just continued on these muted notes of light raisins and molasses and toffee, but too little of everything or anything to excite interest beyond the historical.

To be honest, the rum was so divergent from the firm, crisp, well-known profiles of todays’ Demeraras that it suggested an almost entirely different product altogether. It could just as easily have been a Trini or Bajan rum, or even (with some imagination) a softer Spanish-style product. Given that it won a double gold medal in Leipzig in 1982, one can only hazard that the competition that year was feeble, and the rum renaissance through which we fortunate beings are currently living through had yet to gather a head of steam.

In fine, then, it’s almost, but not quite, an historical artifact. It’s no longer for sale, isn’t being made, and it was by mere happenstance that I saw this on the Whisky Exchange in 2014 and had some spare cash left over . Rating it might do it an injustice, because you’ll look long and hard to ever find its twinI might have bought the last one.

So, how do I put this? Well, let’s seeit’s a rum, contains alcohol, and that’s nice; it’s not entirely bad, or undrinkable. It will do good things to your cocktail, and there’s my recommendation for it, I guess, because at the end, assuming you ever see a bottle, you probably won’t ever enjoy it any other way.

(#269. 77/100)


Other notes

  • Peter’s Rum Labels in Czech Republic have this exact label on file, but noted as being made by DDL. DDL was formed in 1983 when Diamond Liquors (Sandbach-Parker’s company) and Guyana Distillers (Booker McConnell’s) were merged. So this rum had to be made between the time of the medal it won in 1982 and the creation of DDL in 1983. That would explain how I was able to still find it to drink in 1985 in many shops in Georgetown and the countryside.
  • Guyana Distillers was based out of Uitvlugt, which goes a long way to clarifying the lack of a characteristic or familiar profile, since their still was a four column French Savalle still, producing several different kinds of rum. Based on my tasting, I’d suggest the rum is less than five years oldmaybe three or so
Jun 062015
 

IMG_6970_2Rumaniacs Review 004 | 0404

First rum I drank back in the day. Was working in the interior of Guyana for gold exploration companies at the time; every Saturday evening, a couple of bottles of this stuff were trotted out for us to get hammered on. We drank it swiftly, continuously, copiously and without a care for quality. This one is supposedly fruit curednot that I noticed much of that.

Nose: Thin, sharp. Coconut shavings, swiftly disappearing. Faint caramel and vanilla. Nuts. Anise, but not much. Raisins, red guavas and grapes waved at me, but kept way back.

Palate: Light bodied, hay coloured 40%, almost not a Demerara at all. Thin and sharp. White flowers, more coconut, a few fruity notes, peaches and cream with a dusting of cinnamon. Some mangos, raisins and black currants at the backend. A bit sweet, hardly noticeable. There’s not enough going on here to care, really. It’s all very underwhelming

Finish: Short, sharp and dismissive. Almost nothing to discern here at all beyond scraping heat and dark sugar and licorice.

Thoughts: A throwaway rum, for mixing, I suppose. I remember it being a lot more raw and pestilential. No notes on ageing provided, but methinks it’s a really young ‘unat best a five year old. In between grumbling that nobody ever thought to keep any of these rums for heritage purposes (people were to busy drinking the stuff) Carl Kanto remarked to me that there were aged variations of the King of Diamonds, and they evolved into the El Dorado line in the 1990s. For my money (speaking metaphorically), this wasn’t one of themif one could ever be found, I suppose you could buy it for historical value.

(75/100)

  • 90 + : exceptional
  • 85-89: excellent, special rums
  • 80-84: quite good
  • 75-79: better than average
  • 70-74: below average
  • < 70 : Avoid