Oct 222019

This is a rum that has become a grail for many: it just does not seem to be easily available, the price keeps going up (it’s listed around €300 in some online shops and I’ve seen it auctioned for twice that amount), and of course (drum roll, please) it’s released by Richard Seale.  Put this all together and you can see why it is pursued with such slack-jawed drooling relentlessness by all those who worship at the shrine of Foursquare and know all the releases by their date of birth and first names.

But what is it? Well, to go by the label, it’s the result of a selection of some of the 1985 rum barrels belonging to the Alleyne Arthur reserves; and for the curious, Alleyne, Arthur & Hunte were also once merchant bottlers in Barbados (they made the original Old Brigand and the Special Barbados Rum); they acquired Doorly’s in the 1970s and were themselves taken over by Foursquare in 1993. Now, in 1995 the source rum – a pot and column still blend – which had been aged for ten years by that point, was vatted, and three barrels were left over from that exercise.  These three barrels were aged for a further six years (Richard said that “they sat for a bit – [three barrels were] small enough to forget about”) and finally decanted in 2001, into about 400 bottles – at the time the idea was to create a premium release, but they just stood there gathering dust “for no more reason than we never came up with the premium packaging.” Finally, after seeing Velier’s releases, Richard realized that premium labelling and dressing up was not really required, that simplicity was its own cachet, and the audience preferred a simple bottle and clear explanation…and in 2015, the 16 year old rum hit the market at last.

Strictly speaking, this is a rum that could easily be mistaken for an earlier Exceptional Casks release (say, the 1998, or the 2004). The nose, warm and firm, is well tamed and really well rounded.  It smells of molasses, nuts and ripe orange peel. There are also flambeed bananas, Irish coffee, apricots, some smoke and a trace of wet wood coiling around in the background, but at 43% it is well tamed and quite easy, a real sipping drink with no qualifications.  

The nose is fine, but this is one of those occasions when the palate does more.  It’s as dry and silky rough as a cat’s raspy tongue, not sweet, just firm, with just enough edge to make you think of a tux-sporting East-end hood. The acidic and tart notes are held way back with softer and muskier tastes up front: oatmeal chocolate-chip cookies, biscuits, cereal, and crushed walnuts.  Again the sweet is kept under control, and spices like cumin and massala are hinted at, together with candied oranges, rosemary and a trace of fennel. The finish is also quite good, surprisingly durable for a rum bottled at such a tame strength, and again I am reminded of the Mark 1 or Mark II as a comparator.

So definitely a rum to try if you can get a hold of it. It opens a window on to the profile of rums made in Barbados in the 1980s before the rum renaissance, by a company no longer in existence and continued by their successors and inheritors.  When we discussed it, Richard remarked that he could never quite recreate it, because he didn’t know what was in the blend – it was leftovers from the vatting, the “recipe” never written down, created by a now-retired blender. And while he undoubtedly regrets that, his eyes are set on the horizon, to all the new rums he is working on creating now and in the future, and all those who love Barbados rums will undoubtedly follow him there. But for those lucky enough to get a bottle, a sample, or a sip of the 1985, I’m sure a fond memory will be spared for this one-of-a kind bottling too. However recent, it is still a part of history trapped in a bottle, and should perhaps be tried for that reason alone, quite aside from its tasty, languid and easygoing charms.


May 242018


Two independent bottlers out of Europe which I have not done much with are Mezan and Duncan Taylor, though I have samples and a plethora of notes of rums from both. Let’s try to remedy that this week with a quick look at the current subject, which presses many of my buttons at once: it’s from Enmore estate but the single wooden Versailles pot still (which alongside Port Mourant is one of my favourite stills from Guyana), distilled in 1985 and bottled in 2012 so a hefty 27 years old, and it has a no-nonsense strength of 52.5%. Need I say continental ageing? No additives or messing around? Probably not. You could tell that as one of the first rums they issued, they probably figured that they’d release a 27 year old Hulk to the market and reap all the glory therefrom.

Did they succeed? Not quite.The nose was fine, mind – very light, thin and sharp, redolent of glue, acetones, pencil shavings, the rich aroma of a brand new leather jacket, oak, a little anise and a raft of light and indeterminate fruits (apples, orange peel and pears) that were difficult to pick apart.  It had a musty sort of smell too…like aged, dust-covered old books in a stuffy library. Odd, but by no means unpleasant.

Thinness of the nose aside, the palate took something of a ninety degree left turn. It felt thicker, richer, with the glue and furniture polish notes receding, yet what emerged was a rum that seemed over-oaked, and very dry, very crisp.  What fruits there were – and there were some, mostly raisins, pears, unripe apples and green mangoes – were of the mouth puckering kind, quite tart, accompanied by orange peel, nutmeg, cardboard or drywall, and something that reminded me of the dustiness of a drought-stricken backyard. The strength was fine for what it was – not low enough to make it a mild crowd-pleaser, not so strong as to make it an assault on the tongue, so on that level it succeeded just fine. The finish gave up more of those tart fruity sensations, oak notes, some pepper and cooking herbs (thyme and parsley)…yet overall, it somehow failed to cohere really well, and the whole experience was deflated by its relative lack of voluptuousness that either some more ageing or some time in tropical climes might have ameliorated.

Duncan Taylor started life in 1938, formed by Abe Rosenberg and his two brothers, who had a sales license for major states in the US which allowed for rapid growth in the post-war years (especially with the J&B brand). It was a company that dealt in whiskies, both as a merchant and as a broker in Glasgow, and over time they acquired what was one of the largest privately-held collections of rare malt whisky casks in the world. The partnership was sold in 1980, but the collection of whiskies owned by Duncan Taylor was not part of that sale. Euan Shand and his partner Alan Gordon bought it in 2002 and moved the company to Scotland. At that point they made a conscious decision to cease operating as a broker and tread down the road of being an indie bottler of their own branded whiskies.  In 2012 they expanded the portfolio into rums as well, although thus far it seems that those who have been fortunate enough to review some of their work (mostly Wes and Steve), feel that it’s a bit hit or miss.

Here, I’d have to say that the Enmore 27 YO is rather more miss than hit, and it copied the form of the Veliers without the underlying passion that served Luca so well in his own Enmores and Versailles rums. Which is surprising because even in continental climes, twenty seven years is twenty seven years and I somehow felt there should be more on display here.  But it just doesn’t gel for me – there’s a thin kind of hardness to the experience which I did not like, a sort of cold, austere, uncompromising lack of warmer flourishes and tastes which I see in tropically aged rums that slept many years less. Essentially, it tastes like it’s not quite ready to be decanted, and in summary, I conclude by noting that Duncan Taylor might have thought, when they issued this well-aged rum, that they were channelling the Hulk…but in reality, after all that time, only succeeded in growing a green fingernail.


Other notes

Thanks and a hat-tip to Maco Freyr of Barrel Aged Mind, who not only wrote the definitive biography of the company, but sent me the samplewhich he also reviewed, more positively than I did. He also wrote that the rum was not from the Enmore wooden coffey still, but the Versailles single wooden pot still which was housed at Enmore before being moved to Diamond.  The word “pot” on the bottle label makes that clear, hence the title of the post

Mar 282017

One of Velier’s initial expressions, and somewhat of an exception to their rule of excellence.


The amber-coloured Velier La Bonne Intention (LBI) Old Demerara Rum 1985 15 year old rum is not for everyone, and is rather more an artifact than a must-have. For aficionados who are used to the fullproof bruisers with which Luca made his bones, it is more a historical relic than truly representative of his ideas, very much as the Enmore 1987 was (perhaps that’s because both rums were bottled by Breitenstein* in Holland in 2000 and imported by Velier, so it’s possible that Luca had somewhat less input into the final product than he subsequently did once he took over his own bottlings). For the curious rum drinkers moving up the scale of rums and seeking an introduction to a softer Velier product (“what’s all the damned fuss about this company, anyway?” is the usual irritated question), it might be worth a try, though with its rarity these days it’s unlikely anyone will ever find it outside of eBay.  And for those who despise adulteration in any form, it’s definitely a pass, unless one likes to take down the Big Guy by gleefully pointing out a rare misstep.

I make these points not to diss Velier – they’ve more than moved past this kind of milquetoast — merely to provide the background for what the rum is – an earlier essay in the craft, before the pure fullproof philosophy had matured into its current form.  The stats tell the tale: for one, the rum is bottled at a mild 40%, and for another it has been graded at around 12g/L of additives (presumed to be sugar).  So in that sense it’s much more like a regular, pre-renaissance indie bottling from Ago than any of the comets that lit up the skies of the rumiverse in the years that followed.

Even tasting it blind (which I did, with other Veliers as controls), you could sort of sense there was something off about it, something less than what we have become accustomed to.  For example, it was so light and clear on the nose to make me wonder if my sample had gotten mislabeled and there was an agricole in the glass. That thought was dispelled when light fruits, grapes, caramel, nougat and not-very-tart yoghurt scents emerged, which slowly deepened into a crème brulee and white toblerone over time, with perhaps some coffee. Overall, nothing particularly over-the-top, and although the underlying quality was there, idling gently, it never engaged with any kind of force or impact.

Still, the taste wasn’t bad for a rum this dialed down – it simply took time (and effort) to nail down the specifics.  For the most part it was warm and light, with gentle, watery fruits – kiwi, papaya, ripe apples without any sharp, tart edges, some whipped cream, quite nice.  With water not much that was new came out – some vanilla and oak, coffee, and that was pretty much it, propelling the entire affair languidly towards a short, light finish with some weak cider, a latte, and an additional flirt or two of the fruitiness.  I didn’t feel the added sugar was particularly noticeable in its impact, unless it was to smoothen things out. Frankly, the only thing to get excited about here was that it was one of the first ones from the company, so anyone who gets a bottle certainly has some bragging rights on that score.

LBI – La Bonne Intention – is a sugar plantation on the East Coast of the Demerara river, a short drive from Georgetown, and I have many fond memories of Sunday mornings spent swimming in the GUYSUCO Sports Club pool there with my brother in the early 1980s.  The old coffey still at LBI was long gone by that time (Marco in his seminal essay on the plantations of British Guiana notes it as being decommissioned around 1960 as part of Booker’s rationalization strategy), and as far as we can speculate, this rum likely derived from a Savalle column still, possibly the one from Uitvlugt. However, the resemblances between various Uitvlugt expressions and this rum are almost nonexistent as far as I’m concerned, and it should be considered on its own.

Nearly two decades after this came to market, to malign Velier is deemed by some to be apostasy of near burn-at-the-stake proportions, but come on, even Luca had to start somewhere, muck around a little, fall over his own feet once or twice (which is why these days, it’s said – always with a smile — he uses only taxis). One long-ago-made, less-than-stellar rum in an oevre with so many masterpieces is hardly enough to either define the brand or sink those accomplishments that were achieved in subsequent years.  So, as I said, it’s merely a lesser effort, an earlier issue, probably not something to sell the left kidney for. And if the additives and relative mildness of the rum turn you off of Velier as a whole and make you sneer at the encomiums they got from all points of the compass since 2012, well, there’s tons of other releases by the company that show the lesson had been learnt.  Dip your toes in anywhere – I’m sure you’ll find one.


Other Notes

Big hat-tip to Cyril of DuRhum, who spotted me the sample of this oldie from the same source as his own review, as well as the 1998 version which I’ll probably look at soon.  Note that he really didn’t like this one much, and for many of the same reasons.

*Breitenstein is a Holland-based trading company 100% owned by DDL, not a separate third party as I had initially thought.

Jan 192016

Caroni 1985Rumaniacs Review 016 | 0416

Two more Veliers to go before we move onto other old rums, this is the “younger” one, bottled in 2006, from that Port Ellen of the rumworld, Caroni.  Here in 2004, legend has it, Luca was (as usual) talking rum, chewing sugar cane and taking pictures, when he literally tripped over (not into) a warehouse of stored casks, probably forgotten, all of  which he eventually bought.  Talk about a coup de maître – they should make a film about him: Indiana Gargano and the Lost Warehouse, know what I mean? No one in the rumworld, before or since, ever came close to uncovering this kind of treasure.  And to his credit, he didn’t blend the lot, but issued them in no less (and probably more) than 31 separate bottlings, which is good for us as buyers, even if we get threatened with divorce quite often when we fork over our pieces of eight.

Colour – Dark amber

Strength – 58.8% (6600 bottle outturn)

Nose – Damn, Caronis get better every time I try them, and this one gets better with every snooting (had enough for three passes at the thing). Beats out the Albion 1986, actually. Wooden tannins and vanilla, tarry and deep and hot, with some of that funkiness of the Jamaicans sneaking around in the background. Vague promises of fruits and licorice were being made, just enough to keep me enthused.

Palate – Dry, furiously oaky and sharp.  Some brine and olives, more vanillas, ripe red cherries, a flirt of caramel, and then a barrage of dark fruit, esters and licorice lands on you with the solidity of an Egyptian pyramid block. Gotta be honest though, even with all the fruity stuff, that oak is more dominant than usual here. Water helps, and mutes that oak knife, allowing more tars and some floor wax to take their usual central role.

Finish – Long, pungent, hot. Some coffee, licorice, sweeter fruits, more tannins (better controlled than on the tongue). Not entirely dry, but not lusciously damp either.

Thoughts – Kinda conflicted on this one.  Started out great then got hijacked in mid-palate by tenacious oaken flavours which, however tamed, still were too obvious. Not one of the worst Caronis, but not one of the best either. No matter, I still enjoyed what I got.


May 302013



Concentrated black cake. Uitvlugt East Field #30 takes its place as the source of one of the best rums I’ve had this year.

In my rather tiny world, sourcing a rum like the Uitvlugt 1985 27 year old 60.7% is quite an experience. A rum limited enough, rare enough and old enough that to use a single appellation like “aged” to describe it is akin to saying Tolstoy wrote rather long books. The series of rums imported to Europe by Velier (these are DDL products selected by them in Guyana, not Europe) answers every beef I ever had about rums not being strong enough, addresses every complaint about a lack of imagination. Thus far, each of the full proof series has been spectacular, powerful, brilliant, exceptional, original and charges out of the bottle like a bat out of hell to give me all it has. This is what rums were made to be. This is what more rums should be. Want to go up against the Scots, boys? Want to give whisky some hard card? You’d better start making more of these.

Having established its pedigree as a rum massive as an oak tree flung by a F5 hurricane, what of it? It’s aged a magnificent 27 years in the tropics, losing 90% of its volume if Velier is to be believed, and powerful enough to brain a rampaging ox, but is it any good?

Mmmm. Yeah. It’s good. Nosing this torqued up full proof is, like, I dunno, trying to lasso a drunken moose: I mean, the rum is hard charging to a fault, practically an inhalation of supercharged testosterone — a quick sniff and my abs were instantly firm enough to do my laundry on, and I was casting restive glances at my wife. Thick, spicy smorgasbord of fruit notes led off right away: prunes, currants, raisins, blackberries lead in, followed by faint flowery notes, licorice, cloves, black unsweetened chocolate. I felt I was at the dessert buffet of some high class hotel restaurant. Heated, yes; spicy, almost; but you know, for a beefed-up rum like this, once the alcohol fumes blow off, you can’t help but be impressed with a nose this rich, where so much is going on all at the same time.


Dark mahogany and ruby red tints coloured the spirit itself, which was a treacly, almost heavy liquid in the mouth. Here was a spirit that coated your tongue, your tonsils and your teeth and hung on with the tenacity of a junkie to a five dollar bill. Awesomely smooth for its strength, generously providing tastes of licorice, chopped dried fruit for Caribbean Christmas black cake, green grapes just starting to go, aromatic port-finished cigarillos…it’s deeply, darkly luscious to a fault. I tasted some of the oak tannins imparted by the long ageing, and in no way were they disconcertingly acidic or too sharp, but just right, leading to a long aromatic, finish as lasting as a diva holding a high C….like, forever. If this was a real opera, somewhere, Pavarotti would be feeling inadequate.

Even at 60.7%, which some might consider a bit much, the Uitvlught impressed with its mastery of blending art. Like its brothers (the Albion 1994 and the Diamond 1996), this rum is one of the tastiest, biggest, baddest, most fantabulistic spirits I’ve tried and that sound you heard was, quite simply, my mind being blown. Because this intensity is precisely why we should attempt to move past 40% in our rums – the strength of flavour and body, the commingled multitudinous tastes, simply invites sampling and more sampling, and then even more, just so you could check out what that last smidgen of flavour really was.


Velier out of Genoa bought three barrels from DDL (they are in fact DDL rums though the labelling seems ambiguous), aged them for twenty seven years and, in line with other European makers, simply bottled them as they came out. The Velier line is really kind of fantastic – marques from Blairmont, LBI, Port Mourant, Albion, Skeldon, Enmore (and that’s just the Guyanese) are all available, if rarer than a compliment from my boss. I can’t begin to express my admiration for the series – there’s an unapologetic narcissism to them that doesn’t so much flip the bird at standard strength rums as ignore them altogether. Their rums are awesome – terrific nose, aggressive profile, epic finish.

And, at end, it may be self-defeating – it may simply be too much to be contained in a mere bottle. To have this rum burbling in your glass is to know what Godzilla’s captor might have felt like. By the time all the tasting notes have been wrung out, it may actually be a shade too amazing for those who prefer something a little less strong (like 40%). But you know what? I don’t care. The full proof rums from Velier are what they are. Not everyone will like them — their starkness and somewhat elemental brutality will be off-putting to many — but then, they are not for everyone. Verlier echoed the European ethos of simplicity and minimalism in their products, wrestled the white lightning out of the cask and trapped it in a bottle for those of us who care.

If you can find Velier’s rums, any of ‘em, my advice would be to buy them, and quickly. Because if you’re ever into rum for the long term, there will come a time (if it has not arrived already) where you’ll be so damned glad you did. I know I am.

And now, after writing this review and taking a last sip, I think I’ll go see what the wife is up to….assuming she hasn’t already fled.

(#165. 91/100)


I’ve made no secret of my wistful disappointment of tame drinks that go exactly no place special and have a small sense of imagination. The question that arises, is why aren’t more iridescent gems like this one ever made? What’s keeping the rest of the world from following suit? Why aren’t Flor de Cana, DDL, Appleton, Mount Gay or others indulging some hi-test full proofs of their own, besides issuing the occasional 151? I suppose I can think of several reasons: they won’t sell; they’re seen as too exclusive; they’re tough to find; they don’t appeal to the young; they’re too strong; too expensive; too tough to make by labels content with what they are doing already; and market forces favour 40%.

There are special editions around, of course — lots of them, almost all made in Europe. The challenge is finding any. Perhaps nothing shows the potential of such a niche market as the speed with which such specialized bottlings by Bruichladdich, Gordon & McPhail, Fassbind, Bristol Spirits, Berry Bros., Velier, Silver Seal and Cadenhead fly off the shelves. They may languish in shops in North America, but I chose to believe it’s because they are not commonly available, not well known, and therefore remain a perceived nouveaux riche kind of pastime for crazies like myself.

So it’s not as if the full proof, limited-cask expressions don’t exist – they do. Here’s hoping the major bottlers in the West Indies and the Americas will follow suit and produce their own full-proof liquid machismo one day, the way Velier has done here, so magnificently.



Mar 172012

First published March 17th, 2012 on Liquorature

This rum fits on my collection like an expensive Italian suit. I don’t really need it, but bought it just the same. For how could I not? It’s actually better than the RN Jamaican 25 year old.

To let my humour and attitude slip just a bit: I gotta be honest, people, and admit that every now and then I get bored with rums. Another day, another dollar, another new rum to dissect. “The Cussmander Distillery’s new Rambunctious Rum has a standard proofing of 40% topped by a (yawn) rubber cap, and a wrapper made of Komodo dragons, blah blah blah”…. are we there yet? Burnt sugar, vanilla, some oak….yawn.

Today, I am reborn. Today I am again completely fascinated by the rums—as a drink, as an instrument of human ingenuity, as an expression of blending art and design to rival Strad violins and Dubai’s islands. Today I’m seriously considering drawing rums on my notebooks like an obsessed teenager seeing his first Lambo poster.

Cutting to the chase, Rum Nation’s second oldest product as of this writing, the Demerara 23 year old, is a rollicking reason to recall why we enjoy rums that take the concept in different directions. We don’t have to be satisfied with general purpose one-size-fits-all rums, but can stretch our minds and our imaginations to encompass the nutso Italian design ethic: this one in particular.

Made from rum sourced more than fifteen years ago and aged in bourbon casks and then finished in Pedro Jimenez  sherry casks, the Demerara 23 year old is, quite simply, as extraordinary a rum as I’ve never heard of, not least because it really is a shade on the crazy side. I almost hesitate to recommend it largely because of that quality. It shares a lot with its older sibling the Jamaican 25 – the sliding panel box with the old printing, the jute sacking, the bottle…but it goes one step further, by being just a shade better.  Not in spite of its testosterone inspired tonsil-baiting hydrophobia, but perhaps because of it.

At 43%, the nose was going to be a shade sharp, no surprises there: good in its way. But remember how I remarked on the sulphurous feinty notes of the RN Jamaica 25 year old? This one took it a step further, and must have decided that since it couldn’t be a pornstar’s parlour toy, it might as well be Batman’s rubber suit. The plastic and rubber notes were so much more in evidence, I almost put the damned thing down, yet a perverse masochism made me continue, and I’m glad I did – because once that mellowed out, rich, pure fumes of a really fantastic rum immediately enveloped my nose….better even than the RN Jamaica 25. Wood, perhaps cedar, some oak, dark brown sugar melting in a pan, pears and dates and apricots. And then, as if to flip me the bird, other notes of soggy biscuits, ageing leather, and a mustiness that was redolent of the patient, methodical, aged calmness of a well cared-for old wooden house in GT along the seawall (no, really).

And the taste, wow. Strong and intense, it was exactly sweet enough to counterbalance the influence of oak, had slow and powerful nuances of leather, savoury, spices, and softer tropical fruits…some citrus and banana, perhaps. Behind it all, yup, that slight prankish note of dissonance created by the rubber that wouldn’t go away. And yet the 43% made the flavours so intense it was almost conjugal bliss…the rum rolled down my throat as if it was a harpooned locomotive and announced its prescence like a load of stink – silently and with deadly force. It was kind of jarring to sense tastes this powerful married to notes both this lovely and this out-to-lunch.  The finish was on a level with everything that had gone before, long and lasting, intense and aromatic, with a vague orange peel note joining with dark sugar in a way I really liked. And yes, the sense that Batman had just bailed.

I said about the Jamaica 25 that it was a rude Italian gesture towards the concept of high volume and merely passable quality which sells just about three quarters of the rums in the world today. The Demerara 23 is made in exactly that iconoclastic vein and with exactly that mindset, and maybe a bit more – they are like Cadenhead, in their way, perhaps Bruichladdich, in their refusal to add anything to their products. Rum Nation’s markets are primarily in Europe, and say what you will about the economic situation there, they do have a somewhat more sophisticated tippling class over the pond. This is a rum aimed squarely at them: and at us over here who want to try something a shade loopy and have the courage to go there. For those who want to experience what a rum can taste like if taken out of its (and your) comfort zone, it’s a great way to get to know a variation most would be too timid to approach.

So try it. You may not necessarily like it as much as I did…but at least you’ll know something more about your tastes than when you started. Me, I think I’m gonna get me another shot. Or three. And try to find out from Fabio who the hell his master blender is.

(#104. 89.5/100)

Other Notes

  • A full biography of Rum Nation is available for those interested in the historical background of the company.
  • As far as I know it is distillate from the Port Mourant double wooden pot still.
Mar 172012

An Italian outfit takes on the big boys from Scotland in grand style with a 25 year old of stunning originality and quality.

The Rum Nation Specially Selected Jamaica 1985 25 year old (also known as the Supreme Lord V) is a limited bottling rum that is a big vaffanculo to the commercial establishment and hoi polloi of drinkers. No Model T of rums, not meant for the masses of drinkers and cocktail mixers, it’s a rapier, not a club. This rum was meant for people who really like ‘em, and especially appreciate rums that are rare, unique and as different from the standards as, oh, 2011’s “The Artist” is from 1927’s “Wings”. When Rum Nation said this is a single domain rum, they were serious, and they didn’t give a damn if the rest of the West didn’t get it (not surprisingly, they’re almost unknown here).

Everything about the presentation of this $165 (2012 price) rum from Long Pond distillery had that old fashioned genteel-ness about it. It was packed in a stenciled wooden box with a sliding panel; the box itself was lined with jute sacking. The bottle was cork tipped and unpretentious, and sported a Jamaican stamp from empire days on the label (the Demerara 23 has a similar motif). If you’re sniffing and asking “so what?” well, consider that the St Nicholas Abbey 12 year old is half the age, and a quarter again the price, and while absolutely excellent itself, is nowhere near as unique (though the etching is admittedly prettier).

You think I jest when I say “unique”? Consider the nose. Tire rubber as thick as a black strip laid down at the Boulevard in Georgetown by a rich kid’s Mercedes braking too fast assaulted me right away. Plasticine coiled right behind it. What the hell? And yet that faded, replaced by the damp smells of wet autumn leaves. Rich earth and a nip to it that recalled memories of my younger professional days when I rested up in Europe and went for long walks on cobbled, windswept streets in old cities. And then that was replaced by fleshy fruits and heavier floral hints (apples and green grapes), all mixed up with a hint of tobacco.

On the palate, things got a lot better…. caramel and lighter fruits (apples and green grapes), merging with rich, aromatic pipe tobacco and more leather than you’d find on a well-outfitted Bentley. Not overpoweringly sweet. No citrus notes of the sort Appleton has taught us to expect in Jamaican products, though perhaps a little oaky (not enough to dissuade me from having more, mind you). And smooth, very smooth – that inauspicious start merged into a really lovely sipping rum – top class all the way, no matter how odd it sometimes became. And the fade was smooth and long lasting, with a background of burnt sugar, nuts and cherries and even here, a bite of that crazy rubbery note that seemed to want to stay there just to piss me off a little. My personal take was that whisky drinkers are gonna love it.

A comprehensive take on Rum Nation will wait until I have both more details and all the reviews of their products up on the site. In brief, this Italian outfit has brought out a stable of current releases that I found so intriguing that not only did I buy the entire 2010 line in one go, but in my estimation they should be thought of in the same breath as the better known Cadenhead, Gordon & MacPhail, AD Rattray and Bruichladdich. They take stocks from various Caribbean island nations (this pot/column still rum was sourced fifteen years ago) and then mature them for however long they feel like in ex-bourbon casks, with a finishing in ex-sherry casks, and then they bottle it without adding anything further…well, no wonder they taste so distinctive.

Now, I’m not going to tell you flat out that you’ll like this rum. It certainly will have rubbery notes and feinty tastes to it which many will despise with all the hot-eyed zealotry (and lust) of a Roman eyeing a vestal virgin. I was hoping I’d never have to write these words, but for sure this is an acquired taste for you as an individual – I don’t think I myself could have given it a fair shake as recently as a year ago. All I can say as a reviewer is that I thought it as crazy and offbeat as a modern-day Jeff Spicoli; smooth and strong and well put together, and maybe a little stoned — and if Rum Nation has not, perhaps, made a Model T like the Bacardi Black, or a souped up Bentley like the English Harbour 25, then believe me when I tell you that they have made a beautifully jazzed-up Aston Martin DB9 with as much leather as Judas Priest and more rubber than Janet Jameson’s boudoir…and maybe just forgot to fumigate a little.

(#103. 88/100)

Other Notes