Jul 302020
 

Although the unrealized flashes of interest and originality defining the Mexican Ron Caribe Silver still make it worth a buy, overall I remain at best only mildly impressed with it. Still, given the opportunity, it’s a no-brainer to try the next step up the chain, the 40% ABV standard-strength five year old Añejo Superior. After all, young aged rums tend to be introductions to the higher-end offerings of the company and be the workhorses of the establishmentsolid mixing ingredients, occasionally interesting neat pours, and almost always a ladder to the premium segment (the El Dorado 5 and 8 year old rums are good examples of this).

Casa D’Aristi, about which not much can be found outside some marketing materials that can hardly be taken at face value, introduced three rums to the US market in 2017, all unlisted on its website: the silver, the 5YO and 8YO. The five year old is supposedly aged in ex bourbon barrels, and both DrunkenTiki and a helpful comment from Euros Jones-Evans on FB state that vanilla is used in its assembly (a fact unknown to me when I initially wrote my tasting notes).

This makes it a spiced or flavoured rum, and it’s at pains to demonstrate that: the extras added to the rum make themselves felt right from the beginning. The thin and vapid nose stinks of vanilla, so much so that the bit of mint, sugar water and light florals and fruits (the only things that can be picked out from underneath that nasal blanket), easily gets batted aside (and that’s saying something for a rum bottled at 40%). It’s a delicate, weak little sniff, without much going on. Except of course for vanilla.

This sense of the makers not trusting themselves to actually try for a decent five year old and just chucking something to jazz it up into their vats, continues when tasted. Unsurprisingly, it starts with a trumpet blast of vanilla bolted on to a thin, soft, unaggressive alcoholic water. You can, with some effort (though who would bother remains an unanswered question) detect nutmeg, watermelon, sugar water, lemon zest and a mint-chocolate, perhaps a dusting of cinnamon. And of course, more vanilla, leading to a finish that’s more of the same, whose best feature is its completely predictable and happily-quick exit.

It’s reasonably okay and a competent drink, but feels completely contrived and would be best, as Euros remarked in his note to me, for mixes and daquiris. Yes, but if that’s the case, I wish they had said what they had done and what it was made for, right there on the bottle, so I wouldn’t waste my time with such an uninspiring and insipid fake drink. What ended up happening was that I spent a whole long time while chatting with Robin Wynne (of Miss Things in Toronto) while puzzledly keeping the glass going and asking myself with every additional sip, where on earth did all the years of ageing disappear to, and why was the whole experience so much like a spiced rum? (Well yeah, I know now).

So, on balance, unhappy, unimpressed. The rum is in every way an inferior product even next to the white. I dislike it for the same reason I didn’t care for El Dorado’s 33 YO 50th Anniversarynot for its inherent lack of quality (because one meets all kinds in this world and it can be grudgingly accepted), but for the laziness with which it is made and presented, and the subterranean potential you sense that is never allowed to emerge. It’s a cop-out, and perhaps the most baffling thing about it was why they even bothered to age it for five years. They need not have wasted any time with barrels or blending or waiting, but just filtered it to within an inch of its life, stuffed it with vanilla and gottenwell, this. And I’m still not convinced they didn’t.

(#748)(72/100)


Other Notes

Since there is almost nothing on the background of the company I didn’t already mention in the review of the Silver, I won’t rehash any of it here.

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.

Apr 202017
 

“Dale paso al placer” reads the bottle label, which translates into “Give way to pleasure.” Obeying that would encourage me to give away the bottle.

#358

If the Panamanians (and other rums made in the light Spanish style), don’t up their act soon, I have a feeling they’ll be left behind in an era where tougher, more muscular, and more original rumsmany of which are pot still basedare being made both by independent bottlers and more farsighted big distillers in other parts of the Caribbean. There’ll always be a market for standard strength rums – low price and easy sort-of quality ensures that every hormonal teenager and up-and-coming rum junkie usually cuts their teeth on one of them – yet I believe that the emphasis is slowly shifting from buttercup to beefcake: they are the new premiums, and margins will shift to favour themand those who don’t get with the program may very well find their rums relegated to third tier supermarket tipple.

These were the thoughts running through my mind as I sampled the Canalero Añejo, which was a 40% Panamanian rum bearing Don Pancho Fernandez’s fingerprints. That’s no surprise, since he is the master blender for SER Alcoholes, the company that makes it. SER Alcoholes, whose name is nowhere noted on the label of the rum, is a group of companies now owned by the Grupo Pellas (SER stands for Sugar, Energy, Ethanol, Rum so an “E” is missing there someplace) and operates out of Las Cabras de Pese in Herrera Province in south central Panama where their plant is located. As far as my research goes, it’s a column-still rum based on molasses, and there’s little information online about it beyond that, not even age (I was told it was three years old).

In the smell and taste of this rum, there were aspects of many other Panamanians coiling beneath, somewhat dampening down any originality it may have possessed at the inception. Take the nose: simple and straightforward, spicy and clear, with little beyond some molasses, light citrus and a few fruity hints (mostly raisins and ripe cherries). The palate was also similar in this way, with more sweet molasses, again some fruitiness of cherries and raisins, perhaps a flirt of vanilla, and even less citrus than the nose. It was extremely light in texture, hardly worth remarking on, had no real complexity or distinctivenessit was tough to come to grips with because there was so little going on. Five minutes after I tasted it I would have been hard pressed to pick it out of a lineup. Even the finish was like that: short, easy, indistinct and very forgettable. In other words, a young pup, the runt of the litter, which enthused me not at all, not because it was bad, but because it just didn’t have much of anything.

To me, this is a commercial supermarket rum for those who just want to go on a bender without major effort or expenditure. It’s soft, it’s light, it’s a rum and beyond that, quite unremarkable. The Ron Maja, Ron de Jeremy, and the Malecon 1979, for all their similarity, were better, the Abuelos were a step up, and the independentswares are a class apart entirely.

There are a lot of Panamanians which I’ve enjoyed over the years, many of which are decent markers of the style, reasonably well made, soft and easy to drink. Don Pancho is more or less the poster boy for the entire country because of his extensive consulting work and advice provided to various makers from there. But perhaps no one person, no matter how esteemed, should have such an outsized influence on an entire region’s production because what it results in is a quiet weakening of true innovation (such as is exemplified by the various distilleries of Jamaica and the French islands, who seem to enjoy making whatever crazy hooch they feel like on any given day while squabbling for bragging rights amongst themselves); and that makes many Panama rums subtly like all the others, with variations being almost too minor to matter – you taste one, you’ve tasted most. Hardly a recipe for maximizing sales or energizing the tippling class to buy every one they can lay hands on. With respect to the Canalero Añejo, trying it once was quite enough for me since this is a rum where nothing much really happened. Twice.

(72/100)

Dec 272016
 

Rumaniacs Review 027 | 0427

Bacardi has had so many iterations of their rums over the decades, made in Mexico, Puerto Rico or Bermuda (or wherever else they squirrel away production these days), that it’s impossible to state with precision what the genuine article actually is any longer. This version clearly states on the label it was a Puerto Rican rum, six years old, imported into Italy, and I’ve been informed its was made and acquired in the 1980s. Perhaps it was a forerunner, an experiment, to see whether aged rum sales held promise, and afterwards morphed into the current 8 year old (which isn’t half bad)

ColourGold

Strength – 40%

NoseDry, almost dusty, very light, grassy and gradually fruity, something vaguely reminiscent of the Alfred Lamb Special Reserve 1949. The fruits are less sweet and more tartguavas, Thai mangoes yellowed but not soft, unripe pears, with a nearly imperceptible background of flowers and nail polish.

PalateLight and fresh, yes, perhaps too much sothere’s almost nothing to report, everything has been diluted and dulled down and dampened to the point of nonexistence. It’s got alcohol, so there’s that, I suppose. Oak, too much, because there’s too little to balance off against it. Adding water would do no good except to drown it and make what few flavours there were expire without a murmur. Even after half an hour, it evinced little more than the profile of sugar cane juice (without any syrupiness) in which someone mixed some caramel, grapes, vanilla and a lily or twomaybe that was for the funeral, which of course would be in an oak casket.

FinishGone so fast it would make The Flash weep with envy. Again, too faint and vague to appealoak dominant, held somewhat in check with clean final scents of half a vanilla stick , a half-hearted squeeze of citrus, one grape and a flower petal.

ThoughtsPerhaps it’s wrong to bring a modern sensibility to a rum made for drinkers from thirty years ago, where Scotch was The Man, vodka was ascendant, cocktails were king and the termsipping rumwas considered an oxymoron. Whatever. It showcases all the current strengths and weaknesses of the brandcolumn still light rum for easy drinking and mixing, probably at an easy price. The best thing I can say about it is that it’s clean and clear, and better than some modern (and more upscale) Bacardi products.

(77/100)

NBother Rumaniacsreviews of this rum (if any) can be found here.

May 162016
 

bacardi-oro-gold-1970s-rum-001Rumaniacs Review 022 | 0422

On the surface, rums like this one remind one how long Bacardi has been around (as if we could forget); the Superior has also had a long historyI found a photo dating back to the 1930s. This one is of more recent vintage, the 1970s, and made in the Bahamas (and that’s where I’ll tag it). Other versions of this rum were made in Trinidad and Cuba, some white, some not. The labelling ofCarta de OroandAñejoand the colour, however, makes this a lightly aged product, less than five years old I’d say, based on taste.

Colourhay blonde

Strength – 40%

NoseAs light as the morning sunshine on a winter day, so lacking in anything resembling strength I wonder if my sample was mislabelled and it was actually 37.5%. It’s right on the edge of vanishing in a stiff breeze: vanilla, citrus peel, some really weak watermelon and papayas, with the vaguest hint of something unidentifiably tart over the horizon.

PalateMild, thin, watery, weak, wussy, bland, feeble, insipid, lifeless. You can swallow this whole, no problem. The idea of adding water to the rum is an exercise in redundancy. After ten minutes or so one can sense sugar water, light lemon zest, brine, pears, cucumber, and if water had a smell, lots of that. It barely registers as a rum, though some faint rummy-ness manages to make it out if you search for it.

FinishShort, vague, here now, gone a second later. Couldn’t sense anything beyond some heat, a little brine and vanilla and (again) light lemon.

ThoughtsThis might have been a cocktail mixer back in the day, or a digestif of some kind. Chuck a lemon and some soda in there (or the perennial coke) and you’d be okay. As a rum to stand alone, it falls down stone dead without even a feeble twitch. Maybe I’m bringing a modern sensibility to a rum from Ago, and not taking into account the lighter Spanish style so in vogue in those days: but if Kinloch can produce a Guyanese rum around the same time that could tear all thirty volumes of Encyclopedia Brittanica in half at once, I don’t know what was stopping Bacardi.

(72/100)

Aug 132015
 

D3S_9085

Frankly, I get more excitement looking for the keys in my pocket.

Like most people, the stuff I’ve tried from Venezuela are the Pamperos, the AJ Vollmer rums of Santa Teresa, and the Diplomaticos from Destileridas Unidas, the latter of which have recently been getting some flak on social media for their over-sugary backbones. Let me add to the Veno lineup with the Veroes, which won medals in 2012 from both the Madrid World Congress of Rum (and again in 2013) and from the XPs at the Miami Rum Renaissance. I think the Cacique 500 is knocking about somewhere, I’ll probably look at that soon as well.

For the history buffs, Veroes is a part of a group of family businesses. With the 2009 acquisition of San Javier Distillery (itself founded in 1974, though 1975 and 1976 are also quoted in various online sources), the inclusion of commercial recreational spirits took off . San Javier Distillery is located in north-central Venezuela and the brand of Veroes seems to have been theirs. Their expansion into the export market gathered steam after a 2009 modernization and while not precisely unknown in North America, their current thrust is primarily into Europe (Spain for the most part).

In a 2015 interview with GotRum Magazine, it was stated that there were no inclusions and additions whatsoever in the Añejo, so we were certainly getting a pure rum here. I should mention, that there are some discrepancies in various online materials regarding its true ageing: Industries Bravo, a distributor in Venezuela, says it’s 4 years old; Mr. Leopoldo Ayala of CEO of Destilería San Javier (DSJ) and Destilería Veroes (DV), Venezuela, said it’s six years old, in 2015; The Madrid International Rum Conference gave it a silver in the “five years old or less” category, and the booth attendant at the Berlin Rum Fest was absolutely sure it was a blend of rums between 2-5 years of age. So go figure. A private message to Veroes themselves gave me the reply that it is a blend of five year old rumsthey may be having some trouble getting the word out.

The 40% rum was golden in colour; nosing provided an initially very sharp and spicy entrance, with opening scents of floor wax, herbal tea, incense and alcohol. In some cases such a melange works, in others not. Here, not so much. I endured the unappealing sharpness at the front end, and it mellowed out into more traditional molasses, vanilla and caramel as time passed. I literally hung around with the rum and talked to my glass for over ten minutes exchanging anecdotes (with the glass) about other rums we had known and met over the years, but complexity (or conversation) did not seem to be its ambition or its forte, and apart from some additional light floral and citrus notes, it had nothing further to offer me. So, not being overly inspired thus far (or by its ability to speak), but knowing that sometimes nose and palate diverge widely in quality, I moved on.

The palate: reasonably smooth, a shade spicy, medium to light bodied; clear and clean and much less heated than those nose. It provided pleasant, unremarkable flavours of vanilla and caramel; quite a bit of woodiness in there; the rum seemed to have no particular unique character of its own that would make it stand out, which can be read as both a compliment and a denunciation, I suppose. Adding water helped a little, just not enough to raise the bar. Certainly coconut, some cherries and a flirt of citrus made themselves known, yet I felt that it needed more, more of everything – heft, intensity, weight, complexity, flavours – to succeed better, even as a cocktail ingredient. The finish confirmed this – it was clean and short, nothing additional to report, without attitude or real complexity.

D3S_9088

 

Maybe I’m being somewhat curt with my rejection of what is a workmanlike rum, reasonably made, if unexciting to behold. Perhaps even unfair, given that it is a young rum still growing out of training wheels and likely not made to be a sipping rum. There are indeed older variants of the brand, six and twelve years old, which I have not tried, and it’s likely that satisfaction is to be gained there, as is usual with older expressions higher up the price and value chain. And after all, it did win those medals in Madrid, got a nod from the XPs, so others appreciate it. This one may be all about opinion, then.

But for me, the Veroes Añejo is a young rum, too light and untamed. A mixing agent, that’s all. This is not a rum I particularly disliked, or, conversely, particularly enjoyed. I was left feeling very little of anything. It absorbed enjoyment, anger, challenge, complexity, artistry, character, the way a black hole absorbswell, everything. Finishing my tasting and writing up my detailed notes, all that remained was a peculiar indifference, hanging around like the Cheshire cat’s grin. Normally I revel in the plunge to dissect a drink’s profile: here, I’d much rather remain on the event horizon and hang around, getting older while waiting for its more aged siblings.

(#226. 77/100)


Other notes:

The rum conforms to the Venezuelan CIVEADenominación de Origen Controlada” (DOC) which marks it as Venezuelan rum adhering to certain standards of aging, production and bottling. I have not yet done any research to see how closely this lines up with the French AOC.