Dec 162018
 

When we think of independent bottlers, all the usual suspects out of Europe usually come to mindVelier, Rum Nation, L’Esprit, the Compagnie, the whisky boys up north who indulge themselves in the odd single cask expression from time to time, SMWS, Bristol Spirits, and the list goes on.

These well-known names obscure the fact that smaller operationsstores and even individualscan and do in fact issue single barrel offerings as well. For example, Kensington Wine Market in Calgary does it with whiskies quite often; a bunch of redditors recently got together and bought a cask of a 2005 Foursquare rum; and in the case of the rum under review today, K&L Wines out of California bought a single cask of Uitvlugt Savalle-still juice from an independent warehouse in Scotland, and issued it in the States.

It excites equal parts curiosity and admiration, and not just because of the retro-cool labelalthough that’s quite attractive. I mean, it’s not as if the US is known for independent bottlingsthey’re much more into going the whole hog and creating entire new distilleries (however small). The rum is twenty years old (1994-2014), a robust 52.8% and for once seems not to have been sourced from Scheer. The name “Faultline” is what K&L uses for its own bottlings, and I gather that The Two Davids of K&L happened to be in Scotland in early 2014 and found two Demeraras (Enmore, Uitvlugt) and a Jamaican Hampden mouldering away, and manned up and bought the lot to issue as wasnot a trivial exercise for them, since (as they put it), these casks were “much more expensive than single malt whiskies despite the fact that they’re half as desirable.”

Half as desirable? Oh please. To American audiences maybe, but I submit that were they to try this thing and go further afield in their polling, the scales would be rather more evenly adjusted. The nose of an Uitvlugt rum, deriving as it does from a Savalle column still, is a great counterpoint to the woodsy Enmore and PM and Versailles rums (the UF30E remains one of the best Guyanese rums ever made, in my own estimation) — here it delivered quite well. It began with a nose of old leather shoes, well polished and long broken in. It provided smoke, a faint rubber background, and after opening up, the light florals of a fabric softener and freshly sun-dried laundry. There were more traditional aromas of caramel, vanilla, molasses, cumin, tea leaves and aromatic tobacco, with rich deep fruits (peaches, apples, apricots) dancing around these smells, but never overwhelming them.

The palate was also very approachable and tasty. Soft and warm, tasting of brine and red Moroccan olives (they’re slightly sweeter than the green ones); leather and wooden floors, old and well worn and well polished, so to speak. Fruitiness is again generally lightgreen grapes, peaches, some lemon zest, raisinsresting well on a bed of salty caramel, butter and cinnamon. Overall, not too concentrated or overwhelming, and the strength is just about perfect for what it does. It teases and doles out delicate, clear notes in a sort of delicate assembly that invites further sipping, and the finish goes in yet other directions: dry and somewhat tannic, hinting at strong black unsweetened tea, oakiness, some raisins and stewed apples, toffee, toblerone and coffee grounds. Plus a last whiff of those fruity hints to round things out.

There’s not really a true periodic stable of such rum releases by K&L who are more into an “as and when” approach, and therefore such bottlings are, I submit, more like personalized number plates lending street cred to the issuersomething like vanity rums. Fun to get, fun to drink, interesting to have, great to taste, cool to point tobut not really meant to build a brand or a rum-issuing company: K&L is after all a liquor emporium, not an outfit specializing in indie bottlings. So a rum like this serves to draw attention to the store that sells them, providing a sort of exclusive cachet that you can only get if you shop there. Well, that’s fair, I don’t rain on capitalismbut it does make that kind of release something of a one-off. It doesn’t support a wider array of brands or draw attention to other rums released by the same company, since there aren’t that many to be going on with.

That doesn’t invalidate the Uitvlugt 1994 though. It’s lovely. It exists, smells the way it smells, tastes as it does, and is a real nice piece of work. I think what it points to is something often ignored by the larger American rum tippling public and the pressthat they have the same potential to issue good single-barrel, limited-edition, cask-strength rums as anyone elseand come up with something pretty nifty at the back-end when they try. This rum, limited as it is and even with its price tag, is really quite goodand single barrel or not, I’m sure the Davids weren’t disappointed with what they got. I know that I wasn’t.

(#579)(85/100)


  • Big thank you to Quazi4Moto for the sample. It’s taken a while, but I got to it at last.
Jan 242018
 

Rumaniacs Review #070 | 0482

The deeper one dives into the series of aged agricoles from Neisson, the more the similarities and differences become apparent. They all have points of commonality which speak to the philosophy of the bottler as a whole, yet also aspects of uniqueness in the smaller, more detailed ways, which individual tastings done over long periods might not make clear. Even the variations in strength create detours from the main road which only a comparison with a large sample set bring out. What this particular series emphasizes, then, is that Neisson’s aged range is quite a notable achievement, because like exactingly chose independent bottlerssingle cask expressions, there’s hardly a dog to be found in the entire lineup, and one can pretty much buy any one of them and be assured of a damned fine rum. As long as, of course, one’s tastes bend towards agricoles. Mine do, so on we go

ColourAmber

Strength – 43.6%

NoseFor an agricole, this is remarkably deep and flavourful, if initially somewhat round and indeterminate, because the aromas merge gently before separating again after some resting time. It reminds me of the fruitiness of a cognac mixed up with notes of a good and robust red wine….plus (not unnaturally), the tequila and briny-olive-y profile for which Neisson is renowned. Further smells of sweet soya, rye bread and in the background lurk barely noticeable hints of vanilla ice cream and caramel. Some oak in there, not enough to detract from anything, accompanied by bland fruits (bananas) and hazelnut chocolate. Plus some aromatic tobacco.

PalateIt always seems to be on the tasting that Neisson comes into its ownnosing is fun and informative, but sipping a rum is what it’s there for, right? Starts watery and a bit sharp (odd, considering its low proof point), then settles down rapidly into a bright and crisp rum of uncommon quality. First, blackcurrants, black berries, blueberries, vanilla and caramel . Then nuts, coffee, bitter chocolate and oak, tied up in a bow with licorice, Wrigley’s spearmint (very faint) and lemon zest. The successful balancing of all these seeming disparate components is really quite something.

FinishLingering, light and somehow quite distinct. Some citrus here, caramel, a few dark fruits, and also some tart notessour cream and unripe mangoes in salt. Unusualyet it works. A good ending to a fine rhum.

Thoughtsit’s all a bit faint as a result of the low ABV, but assertive enough, complex enough, complete enough to make its own point. This thing is almost the full package. Aged rhum, well-known maison, complex tastes, terrific nose. Hard to imagine it being beat easily, even by its brothers from the same maker. It is, but not easily, and I’ll save that for another quick review that’s coming up soon.

(86/100)


Other notes

  • 1000- bottle outturn These days this rhum costs upwards of €600ouch.
  • Different label from the others we;ve looked at beforeno idea why.
  • WhiskyFun took a gander at a bunch of Neissons a few months back in a multi-rum session, here….he scored this one at 90. All the Rumaniacs reviews of the Neissons will be posted here. Also, my good friend Laurent from one of my favourite (and most imaginatively named) of all rum sitesThe Rhums of the Man with a Stroller”, gave it a French language, unscored review (part one of a two-parter) which is well worth a read.
Feb 262016
 


Samaroli Dem 1994 1A very well blended, original melange of traditional Demerara flavours that comes up to the bar without effort, but doesn’t jump over.

It is a curious matter that although Samaroli may well be the first independent bottler to dabble in the issuing of year-specific, country-specific craft rums (they began with whiskies back in 1968), somehow they never seem to quite get the respect or street cred that its inheritors like Velier, RN, CDI and others do. Few of their rums grace the review pages of the blogosphere, and yet, those that show up have all gotten pretty positive words said about them. So why the lack of recognition and raves of the sort that others receive so often?

Part of it is the expense of course; another may be inconsistency in the range (I’ve tried too few to make that claim with assuranceI liked their Nicaragua 1995 and am intrigued by this one, but that’s hardly a huge sample set); still another is perhaps that the company is simply relegated to the status of “another one of the boys” because of their limited outturn. Not for them the thousands of Caronis or Demeraras like Velier, or the more widely disseminated people-pleasers from Rum Nation and Plantation. Samaroli inhabits the undefined space between Luca’s pure cask strength bruisers and the occasionally dosed but usually very pleasant lower-proofed offerings from Rossi and Gabriel. In fact, if you think about it, of all the independent bottlers currently in vogue, it is CDI which more closely adheres to Samaroli’s limited edition geographical spread.Samaroli Dem 1994 2

Be that as it may, that makes them neither more, or less than any of the others, simply themselves. So let’s look at one or two and see how they stack up: in this review, I tried a twelve year old from Guyana, the 1994 edition “dark” rum. It was distilled in 1994, matured in Scotland (why there, I wonder?) and bottled in 2006 at a modest 45% with an outturn of 346 bottles. No information is provided as to the still or blend of stills which comprise the rum (but we can guess right away).

Now, based on the above, it’s not completely certain, but I think the Port Mourant still comprises the dominant portion thereofjust nosing it made that clear. It started off dark, with instant fumes of licorice, molasses and burnt sugar, and the spicy and musky background which denotes that particular still. Almost all sharper and more acidic citrus scents were notable by their absence here, but paying some more attention teased out additional notes of tamarind, brine, clean vegetals and anisea really nicely done traditional opening.Samaroli Dem 1994 3

I enjoyed the taste of the mahogany coloured twelve year old as well. It presented as warm and soft to the first taste, with well controlled bite: prunes, licorice (of course), and a musky dry taste like dark earth freshly ploughed, after a hard rain. The spicier fruity notes came into their own after a few minutes, with lemon zest leading the charge, together with other vanilla and oaky elements that had missed their turn when I had smelled it the first timeit was a well put together assembly of tastes, occasionally sharp, nothing to complain about, and perhaps could have been somewhat stronger to really make those flavours sing. Closing things off, I liked the finish quite a bit as well: medium long, very solid, adroitly weaving between driness and softness, providing last hints of anise, burnt sugar, vanilla, cherries and some cinnamon.

The Samaroli 12 year old Demerara was very solid, professionally made, competently executed rum, if perhaps lacking that last filip of complexity and power to make it score higher. No matterwhat there was, emerged well and was assembled without major blemish. If I score it the way I have, well, it was because I had a surfeit of PMs to use as comparators, and I assure you that the ones in contention were just as excellent.

So: Samaroli’s Demerara dark rum is a good-if-perhaps-not-great rum. It adhered to all the main pointers of the style, was not adulterated in any way, and for its strength provided an excellent sipping rum that took on El Dorado’s own twelve year old and ran it into the ground. DDL has gotten some bad press recently from around the fora of the cognoscenti, for the core El Dorado line which hydrometer tests suggested had been dosed with sugar. Samaroli, as others have done, showed the potential which such Demerara rums have, at any strength, and demonstrated that you don’t need to mess with a winning formula if you don’t want to, can issue as much or as little as you like, and still end up making a damned classy product that the public would enjoy.

(#257. 86.5/100)

Apr 172015
 
rum-caroni-1994-18-anni

Photo courtesy of Velier

 

This Caroni isn’t the strongest one in the rumosphere but it conforms to most of the expectations taste-wisea shade more dark and it could probably be used to surface a road somewhere. A good to great exemplar from the closed distillery.

This is one of five or six rums I bought in an effort to raise the profile of the now-defunct Caroni Distillery from Trinidad. That it was made by Velier didn’t hurt either, of course, because almost alone among the rums makers out there, Luca Gargano has the distinction of making just about all of his rums at cask strength, and everything he’s made thus far I’ve liked. And at 55% ABV, it may just be accessible to a wider audience, assuming it can ever be found in the jungle of Caronis Velier makes (I bought mine from Italy for a lire or two under €80).

Because Caroni has now been closed for over a decade, its products are getting harder to find as stocks run downwhen we start seeing expressions dated from the year 2000 and greater, the end is near, and purely on that basis they may be good investment choices for those inclined that way. Bristol Spirits and Rum Nation and some other craft makers have issued rums from here before, but Velier probably has the largest selection of this type in existence (sometimes varying strengths from the same year), and I know I’ll never get them allso let’s stick with this one, and waste no further time.

D3S_8897

Presentation is slightly different than the stark zen minimalism of the Guyanese rums; here it came with a black and white box, nice graphics, and all the usual useful information: distilled in 1994, aged 18 years (fourteen in Trinidad, thereafter in Guyana), bottled 2012, 6943 bottles from 23 barrels. Plastic tipped cork (these are coming into their own these days, and are hardly worthy of comment any longer except by their absence), black bottle, decent label, and, I have to mention, when I poured it out, it was quite the darkest Caroni I’d tried thus far, which had me rubbing my hands together in glee.

I appreciate higher proofed spirits topping 60%, yet I couldn’t fault what had been accomplished in this instance with something a few points lower: the rich aromas of this dark blonde rum led off immediately with licorice and candied apples, strong and full fruity scents mixing with sharper tannins of oak; there was some burnt rubber and plastic hiding in there someplace, like a well insulated rubber truncheon to the face. It was pleasant and full and rich, pervaded by a both deep and heated lusciousness. The longer I let it stand, the more I got out of it, and recall with pleasure additional notes of burnt sugar, rosy, floral scents, cedar and pineand, as if to tip me a roué’s leering wink, a last laugh of mint flavoured bubble gum (no, reallyI went back to the glass four times over two days to make sure I wasn’t being messed with).

As if to make up for its mischievousness, the Caroni 1994, aged for eighteen years in oak barrels in Trinidad and Guyana, turned serious with a hint of mean on the palate. Sharp, salty, briny tastes led right off. It was a spirituous assault on the tongue, so bright and fierce that initially it made me feel like I’d just swallowed an angry blender. Fortunately, that smoothened out over time, and became gentler (if a term like that could be applied to such a concussive drink) – a buttery, creamy profile emerged from the maelstrom, merging seamlessly with oaken tannins, licorice, vanillas, aromatic pipe tobacco, some fresh tar; and more caramel and burnt sugar tastes, that were stopped just shy of bitterness by some magic of the maker’s art. And the long and lasting finish was similarly bold and complex, bringing last memories of nuts, tannins and hot black tea to leaven the caramel and anise I detected.

D3S_8896

As we drink this powerful shot, we come to grips with a certain essential toughness of the maker, an unsubtle reminder of a man who makes no small rums, but feral, mean, blasting caps that glance with indifference at the more soothing exemplars which pepper all the festivals and tasting events. It’s big, blunt, intimidating and seemingly impervious to dilution (I can only imagine what the stronger version is like). This Caroni is not subtle but then, Velier doesn’t really do milquetoast, preferring bold in-your-face statements to understated points of please-don’t-hurt-me diffidence. So I’d suggest that it’s not a rum for everyonebut in its elemental power of proof lies its appeal: to those who are willing to brave it, and to those who enjoy an occasional walk on the wild side with a rum as fascinating and excellent as this one.

(#211. 87/100)


Other notes

Look again at the outturn for that year and that strength: just shy of 7,000 bottles from 23 casks. And that’s only 1994. When you consider the sheer range of the Caronis Velier has already put out the door, and the sadly slim pickings (thus far) from other craft makers, you begin to get an inkling of exactly how much stock Velier has managed to pick up.

D3S_8898

Addendum (August 2015)

This included, I’ve looked at eight Caronis, most sourced in 2014. They are: