Jun 152020
 

Francisco Montero is, unusually enough, a Spanish rum making concern, and the website has the standard founding myth of one man wanting to make rum and going after his dream and establishing a company in Granada to do so in 1963. Initially the company used sugar from cane (!!) grown around southern Spain to make their rums, but over time this supply dried up and now in the 21st century they source molasses from a number of different locations around the world, which they distill and age into various rums in their portfolio. Francisco Montero continues operations to this day, and in 2013 celebrated their 50th Anniversary with a supposedly special bottling to mark the occasion.

I say “supposedly” because after tasting, I must confess to wondering what exactly was so special about it. The nose itself started off wellmostly caramel, molasses, raisins, a dollop of vanilla ice cream, with hints of coffee and citrus, flowers and some delicate sweet, and some odd funkiness lurking in the backgroundshoes, rotting vegetables, some wood (it reminds me somewhat of the Dos Maderas 5+3).

But afterwards, things didn’t capitalize on that strong open or proceed with any kind of further originality. It tasted wispy and commercially anonymous, that was the problem, and gave over little beyond what was already in the nose. Molasses, caramel, some fruitall that odd stuff vanished, and it became dry, unimpressive. Okay after ten minutes, it turned a tad creamy, and grudgingly gave up a green apple or two, toast, and some walnuts. But really? That was it? Big yawn. Finish was short, bland, faintly dry, a hint of dried fruits, caramel, brown sugar.

So what was this? Well, it’s a 40% ABV solera rum with differing accounts of whether the oldest component is five or ten yearsbut even if we’re generous and accept ten, there’s just not enough going on here to impress, to deserve the word “special” or even justify “anniversary”.

Reading around, you only get two different opinionsthe cautiously positive ones from any of those that sell it, and the harshly negative from those who tried it. That’s practically unheard of for a premium ron that marks an event (50th anniversary, remember) and is of limited provenance (7000 bottles, not particularly rare, but somewhat “limited”, so ok). Most of the time people whinge about price and availability, but nobody really seems to care enough to make it a cause. Even the the ones who disliked it just spoke to taste, not cost. “Turpentine” growled one observer. Quite disappointed,” wrote another, and the coup de grace was offered by a third “Who in their right mind has been buying this stuff for 50 years?!” Ouch.

I’m not that harsh, just indifferentand while I accept that the rum was made specifically for palates sharing a preference for sherries, soleras and lighter ron profiles (e.g. locals, tourists and cruise ships, not the more exacting rumistas who hang around FB rum clubs), I still believe Montero could have done better. It’s too weak, too young, too expensive, and not interesting enough. If this is what the descendants of the great Spanish ron makers who birthed Bacardi and the “Spanish style” have come to when they want to make a special edition to showcase their craft, they should stop trying. The nose is all that makes me score this thing above 75, and for me, that’s almost like damning it with faint praise.

(#736)(76/100)


Other notes

  • Master Quill, that sterling gent who was the source of the sample, scored it 78 and provided details of the production methodology.
  • Not much else for the company has been reviewed except by the FRP, who reviewed the Gran Reserva back in 2017
Aug 082018
 

You will rarely find two rums of the same age from the same island more unalike than the Samaroli 1992 25 YO and the Appleton “Joy” 25 year old Anniversary Blend. One is a fierce, cask strength rum, tightly focused, furiously tasty, with a complexity and balance that nearly broke my chart. The other is a blended rum brought into being utilizing every ounce of more than two decades of experience which Joy Spence, Appleton’s Master Blender, brings to the the table. And yet, under the bare statistics that ostensibly set them apart, in both there runs the blood and bones of a Jamaican rum. The “Joy” is as much from the island as the Song of the Banana Man, yardies, rice and peas and Three Finger Jack. And while the “Joy” is a blend and not so individualistic, not so strong, it is nevertheless a triumph of the discipline, a combination more art and alchemy than science, and a worthy cap to Ms. Spence’s careeruntil she makes the next one.

Photo pinched from Josh Miller, used with permission (c) Inu a Kena

Some brief background notes: the rum was issued in 2018 to mark Ms. Spence’s 37 years with Appleton, more than twenty of which were as the Master Blender. It is comprised of rums at least 25 years old, with onedating back from 1981, the year she joined the companyis in excess of 30, and it’s a blend of both pot and column still marques. With 9,000 liters made, we can estimate somewhere around 12,000 bottles floating around the world, all issued at 45% and costing a bruising $300 or more (which was the same price I paid for the Appleton 30 YO many years ago, by the way).

The “Joy” was, to me, a rum that seemed simply made initially, but developed into a really lovely and complex piece of workI got the sense of a blender working right at the edge of her abilities, with excitement and verve and panache, and this was evident as soon as I smelled it. The nose began with a beautifully rich molasses aroma mixed in with a sort of dialled down crazy of musky and sharp funkcitrus, honey, oak, rotting fruit. I left it and came back to it over a few hours, and it presented leather, caramel, coffee, ginger, lemon zest with the faint dustiness of cumin. Oh and also nougat, and white chocolate.

The palate was where it shone the brightest, I think, and I would never mix this elegant piece of work (that might actually be a offense punishable by the lash in some circles). It was nicely dry, with forward notes of honey, molasses, vanilla, caramel bon bons and dried coffee grounds, which were intercut with some lingering oak, just enough to provide some bite and tannins without disrupting the smooth flow. It was just a shade briny, not too sweet, and balanced off the deeper flavours with lighter oneslight citrus, ginger, cumin, and green apples and grapes did a funky little number off to the side, for exampleand none of it was overbearing or in your face. In fact, part of the rum’s appeal was its deceptively unassuming natureeverything seemed tamped down and rather relaxed, but wasn’t really, just solid and well constructed, and remarkably complex and well-balanced to a fault. Even the dry and medium-length finish, which at that strength tends toward the short, was very enjoyable and softly lingeringly aromatic, closing off the sip with brown sugar, honey, flowers, crushed almonds and a little orange peel.

Big hat tip to Josh Miller who allowed me to make off with this picture

Summing up, this was a wonderful sipping rum. It wasn’t one that took a single distinct note and ran with it. It wasn’t a fierce and singular Jamaican funk bomb or hogo monster that sought to impress with sharp and distinct tastes that could be precisely catalogued like a grocery list of all the things that enthrall us. It was, rather, a melange of softer tastes set off by, and blended well with, sharper ones, none of which ever seemed to strain or reach for an effect, but simply provided a slow parade of commingled flavours that somehow come together into something greater than the sum of its parts.

Ms. Spence is perhaps one of the few legends we have in this curious subculture we inhabit, where owners commonly get more publicity and adulation than blenders (unless both inhabit the same corpus). I have never met herour paths haven’t crossed, which is my loss, not hersand yet how could anyone call themselves a rum lover and not know who she is? In some way, her hands have touched, her personality has influenced and her skills are evidenced in every rum Appleton has made in the last quarter century and more. My own feeling is that if she never makes another rum in her life, she will still be known for this one. The original 30 YO was a little overoaked, the 50 YO remains too expensive, the 21 YO too indeterminate and the 12 YO too broad basedbut this one, this one is a quiet triumph of the blender’s art.

And if you want a more mundane proof of the rum’s quality, I direct you to the actions of Grandma Caner when I gave her some to try. She affects to a certain indifference my writing, expressing impatience with all these rums cluttering up her damned basement and I could see she wasn’t all that enthusiastic. But when she took an initially disinterested sip, her eyes widened: she just about swallowed her dentures in her haste to ask for moreyou never saw an arthritis ridden hand move so fast in your life. The woman finished the sample bottle, cleaned out her glass, then my glass, and I could see her eyeing the bottle, perhaps wondering if it would be considered uncouth to ask to lick it out. Then she got on her old East German rotary phone, and spent the next three hours frantically calling all her friends to go find this thing, and I swear to you, I am not making this up! Word of mouth and actions like that are an endorsement of theJoywhich no amount of money could ever buy, and the cool thing is, the rum really deserves it.

(#536)(89/100)

Apr 232018
 

#504

Two of my favourite metaphorical rum-terms are halo rums and unicorns, which are monikers coming to our awareness from opposing points on the spectrum.

A unicorn is a desperately sought-after personal wanna-have, usually characterized by rarity and only sometimes by a high price; Examples of unicorns would be the G&M 1941 58 year old, Velier Skeldon 1973 or Port Mourant 1972, first editions of the Rum Nation line issued in 1999 and 2000, Appleton’s 1960s decanters, or aged agricoles from the 1930s, 1940s and 1950s (or earlier). A halo rum on the other hand is a massively hyped special edition rum, often quite old, almost without fail quite expensive, and of a limited edition, meant to commemorate a special occasion or anniversary in the mind of the producer. They’re not personal and user-driven, but producer-defined, come with cool boxes, fancy designed bottles and and the best known of these is probably the Appleton 50 year old, still, after all these years, selling for a hefty five thousand dollars or so. The Havana Club Maximo is another, and you could make a case for The Black Tot and the Damoiseau 1953 among others. In some cases, of course, a rum can be both at the same time, though I argue a halo can be a unicorn but a unicorn is not always a halo.

Which brings us to the El Dorado 50th Anniversary offering, with 600 produced bottles selling for a muscular US$3500 or so (each), and bottled at a less beefy 43%, meant to celebrate Guyana’s 50th anniversary of independence in 2016, just as the Appleton 50 did a few years earlier. It is not, as some websites state, a fifty year old rum (the bottle itself notes “50 years” in bold writing which doesn’t help) — by strict definition it is a 33 year old. The Whisky Exchange, which I have no reason to doubt, notes it as being a blend of rums: 65% from 1966, 25% between 1966 and 1976 and another 10% from 1983….so the idea that each of these aged components is from a specific still is likely to be a reasonable assumption (I’ve cobbled together various sources on the parts of the blend in “other notes” below).

Trying the rum gives one the initial impression that most of the oversugared nonsense of the various 25 year old expressions (1980, 1986 and 1988) has been dispensed with, and subject to my comments below, this may even be one of the best regular-proofed El Dorado rums ever madeit’s certainly richer and better balanced than the 15 and 21 year old rums in the standard lineup. The nose gives great promise from the startdeep aromas of molasses, licorice, raisins, dark grapes, coffee grounds, cherries and a flirt of acetones, coming together nicely in such a way that they both commingle well, and are individually specific. Trying it on and off over a couple of days allows other smells of musty books, sawdust, pencil shavings, salted caramel, peaches and ripe apples to emerge over time, and that’s pretty cool too, right?

Indeed it is, and on the palate it starts wellsalty sweet caramel ice cream, sweet soy sauce, pencil shavings, tart apples, red guavas, ripe apples, bags of licorice (of course), dark chocolate, more coffee, a fine line of citrus and vanilla and smoke. All the hits are playing, all the right notes are being soundedbut underneath it all is a sort of disturbing sweetness, a thickness that dampens down the crispness the nose suggested would continue and deflates the overall experience, moving the taste profile closer to the ED 15 year old. It left meuneasy, and a little disappointed. The finish of course was reasonable without being exceptional in any way, primarily as a consequence of the living room strength, but that was to be expected, and in any case there’s orange peel, licorice, dark fruits, a little tartness and smoke, so not entirely bad.

But man, that sweetness bugged me, it was a splinter lodged in my mind, and I’m sorry but DDL is known for undeclared dosage, so since I was for once in a position to borrow a hydrometer, I tested itand the results are what’s shown below:

Well, perhaps I should have expected it. That measurement works out to about 20g/L of additives (whatever they are, let’s assume it’s caramel or sugar and if you convert, that’s about 5 sugar cubes per 750ml bottle). But seriously, what on earth was the addition for? This thing is a super premium, costs four figures, is more than three decades old, is a blend of famous marques everyone knows aboutso why? Tradition? Lack of confidence in the original blend? Appeal to the deep-pocketed non-knowledgeable rummies who’ll buy it with petty cash? I mean, wtf, right?

I think that the key to understanding the dosing decision is the target audience: this rum is not made for poor-ass rum-snorting bloggers, or newbies now starting out, or the masses of rum aficionados with corpulent tastes and slender purses (or purse-loving wives). It’s aimed at people who want to show off affluence and power, who know little about rum and a lot about expensive things. Politicians, banana-republic jefes, titans of industry, retired jillionaires, trust fund babies. For such people, this rum, like the Appleton 50, is 100 points easy. Jaded rumistas will see it going down in history as a great hundred-buck rum selling for thirty times that much. My own feeling is that DDL does its premium street cred no favours at all when messing around with their rums at this level and that makes the 50th anniversary a let-downtoo well made to leave behind, too old to ignore … and too messed-with to love.

When assessing the Foursquare Criterion in a somewhat differing context, I wrote “my work is to describe what I taste and offer an opinion on the product as it stands, not its underlying production philosophy.” Here, the same rule has to apply, so I must score it as I see it and give a grudging endorsement, because it really is quite decentbut only within its frustrating and unnecessary limitations. And while it may be a halo rum for DDL, for us rum lovers it’s unlikely to ever become a unicornwhich probably makes it a good thing it’s out of our financial reach, because at least that way we won’t be tempted to buy it and shed sweetened ethanol tears after the fact.

(84/100)


Other notes

  • Most sources agree that ⅔ of the blend is from the Port Mourant Still (from 1966 – that’s the true 50 year old). Remaining ⅓ is from (variously) the decommissioned John Dore still (laid to age in 1983), the VSG wooden pot still (age unknown) and the French Savalle still (marque ICBU, age unknown). Charred Barrel noted it was a blend of 5 rums so we can only assume the last component is the Enmore wooden coffey still.
  • The El Dorado website makes no mention of this rum, perhaps because it’s not part of their standard lineup.
Sep 102017
 

***

Rumaniacs Review #055 | 0455

About the only place this rhum falls down is that for all the information we have on it, it leaves us begging for more. It is a heritage (orhalo”) edition rhum, a bland of six millésimes, those years considered to be of exceptional qualitythe legendary 1885 (R-010, remember that?), 1934, 1952, 1976, 1998 and 2000, and yeah, what else could we possibly want? Well, how much of each was in the blend, for one, and how old each of those components was, and further, how much (if at all) the final blend was itself aged.

But I’m not whinging too loudly. This is an impressive dram, and only 800 bottles were issued for the 250th anniversary of the plantation (I think this was 2015). One wonders if it was a coincidence that each bottle supposedly retails for €800, and yes, it’s still available, the secondary market has thankfully not gotten into the action here as yet.

Colourbronze

Strength – 43%

NoseLuscious, voluptuous. Caramel and dark fruits, hinting at (get this) a column still Demerara, except that it’s much lighter. Florals and sweet ripe fruit are exhaled with joyous abandonmarula fruit, cashews, light pineapple, and the sweet and over-ripe scent of mangoes that fall under gargantuan tropical trees in such profusion they rot right there on the ground. Also oaky, somewhat sharp, some freshly sawn lumber, pineapple, tobacco and grated ginger. Whewquite a smorgasbord, and well assembled, I assure you.

PalateAfter the stronger Neissons, this seems almost tame. Much of the nose has been retainedripe fruits, cherries, the crispness of gooseberries, herbs and grass and cream (“krauterquarkas the Germans would say). Much of the heavier components of the blend lose some definition here, the younger ones take over and contribute a light, frisky, sparkling profile. Pleasant, just not earth shaking. Light strawberries, vanilla, oak (perhaps a bit much), breakfast spices, cumin, and a vein of citrus and salt caramel through the whole thing.

FinishA shade brief, with the aforementioned fruit, cumin, citrus, salt caramel and raisins, lots of raisins.

ThoughtsI’d hazard a guess that the more recent vintages, say from 1976 on, contribute some sprightliness and vigour, some of that sharpness and tart fruitiness to the blend, while the older ones give depth and solidity upon which these rest. For my money I’d prefer somewhat less of the former, more of the latter, or some better balance between the two, and perhaps a greater strengthall the elements of a great rum are in evidence, but it’s too light. That’s not to say it’s badnot at all! – but it does make for ease and comfort; I’d personally prefer something more aggressive and complex which would elevate such a great collection of vintages a few points more.

(86.5/100)ruma

Some of the boyos have taken a look at this rhum alsosee the Rumaniacs page

May 252017
 

#367

In my own limited experience, Neisson has been one of the most distinctive Martinique agricole makers I’ve come across. There’s something salty, oily, tequila-ish and musky in those of their rums I’ve tried, and while this might not always be to my liking, the quality of their work could never be denied. To date, I’ve stuck with their aged rums, but back in 2016 L’homme à la Poussette (I’m thinking his poussette should be retired soon as his kids grow up but I hope he never changes the name of his site) passed along this ferocious white rhino, perhaps to gleefully observe my glottis landing in Albania.

Now, this rum is something of a special edition, initially released in 2002 for the 70th Anniversary of the distillery, and annually without change thereafterit is rested for six months in steel tanks after being taken off their Savalle still, but it is not aged in any way. Although the resolutely family-owned distillery is now 85 years old, the rum retains the original title, perhaps because of its popularity among the rabid cognoscenti, who enjoy its 70⁰ ABV and the 70cl square bottle Maybe some enterprising mathematician could work out how the sums of the corners and angles on the thing added up to or produced 70 — for my money, I’m more interested in whether the company releases more than 70 bottles a year or not, because for anyone who likes white lightningwhether for a cocktail or to brave by itselfthis unaged rum is definitely up there with the best (or craziest).

You could tell that was the case just by smelling it: clearly Neisson felt that the subtle, light milquetoasts of the independent full proofs or the clairins (who bottle at a “mere” 60% or so) needed a kick in the pants to get them to up their game and join the Big Boys. The sheer intensity of the nose left me gaspingsalt, wax, paraffin and floor polish billowed out hotly without any warning, accompanied by the sly note of well-worn, well-polished leather shoes (oxfords, not brogues, of course). Nothing shy here at all, and the best thing about itonce I got past the heatwas what followed: coconut cream, almonds, olives, fruits (cherries, apricots, papaya, tart mangoes), all bedded down in a bath of sugar water and watermelon, and presenting themselves with attitude. If I was telling a story, I’d wax lyrical by saying the ground moved, trees shook, and an electric guitar solo was screaming in the backgroundbut you kinda get the point already, right?

Oh, and that’s not allthe tasting was still to come. And so, be warned – 70 degrees of badass carves a glittering blade of heat down your throat, as surgically precise and sharp as a Swiss army knife. A hot, spicy, and amazingly smooth sweet sugar waterspiked with stewed prunes, lemon zest, wet grass and gherkins in brineroared across the palate. With its brought-forward notes of polish and wax and grassiness, I felt like it was channelling the gleeful over-the-top machismo of a clairin, yet for all that enormous conflation of clear and crisp tastes, it still felt (and I know this is difficult to believe) smoother, creamier and more tamed than lesser-proofed whites like the Rum Nation 57%, Charley’s J.B. Jamaican white, the Clairin Sajous or the Klérin Nasyonal….which says a lot for how well the L’Esprit is actually made. And the finish was no slouch either, long and very warm, salt butter and cereals mixing it up with some citrus, red grapefruit, more grass and even a hint of the smooth salty oiliness of a well-made tequila.

How the hell did they stuff so much taste into the bottle?” I asked myself in wonder. Perhaps the unwritten, unspoken codicil is “and not muck it all up into an unfocussed mess?” Well, they did provide the profile, they didn’t muck it up, I enjoyed it thoroughly, and it was only later that I realized that in a world where Ringling Brothers can fit fifteen fat clowns into a Mini, I should not have been so surprised, when it’s obvious that in the rumiverse just about anything is possible. Certainly Neisson proved it here.

You know how we hear the old joke about “Rum is the coming thing….and always will be”? This kind of statement is regularly and tiresomely trumpeted by all the know-nothing online drinks magazines who have their lazy hacks attempt to pen a few words or make up a click-bait list about a subject on which they are woefully ill-equipped to speak. Stilltake that statement a bit further. I honestly believe that as the stocks of old and majestic 20+ or 30+ rums run out or are priced out of existence, it will soon become the turn of unaged, unfiltered white rums to take center stage and become De NexBig Ting. I accept that for the most part these will be cocktail basesbut for the enterprising, for the slightly addled, for the adventurous among us, for those who are willing to step off the path and enter Mirkwood directly, the real next undiscovered country lies with these white mastodons which showcase much of the amazing talent that remains in our world, needing only the bugling of an enthusiastic drinker or an enthusiastic writer, to bring them to a wider audience.

(86/100)


Other notes

I should mention that Josh Miller of Inu A Kena ran the Neisson 70 through a 12-rum agricole challenge a while back. If you’re not into neat drinks so much but love a cocktail, that article is worth a re-visit.

May 162017
 

Rumaniacs Review #041 | 0441

Note: The initial full length review can be found in the main reviews section.

Everyone knows about the 50 year old rum which Appleton pushed out the door a few years ago. Not only because of the age, which they touted asthe oldest rum evereven though that was patently untrue, but because of the stratospheric price, which even now hovers around the US$4500 mark (give or take). I’m not sure if they still make itit was specifically commissioned for Jamaica’s 50th anniversary of Independence in 1962, so I suspect it was an 800-bottle one-off halo-issuebut that price alone would make many take a really jaundiced view of the thing. To their detriment, I believe, because having tasted it five times now, I can say with some assurance that it is still one of the very best rums Appleton ever made.

ColourMahogany with red tints

Strength – 45%

NoseThe smell opens the vault of my memories, of Jamaica, of the stately progression of other Appletons rums over the years, of the times I tried it before. Initial notes of glue, fading fast; then honey (I always remember the honey), eucalyptus oil, toffee, caramel, rich milk chocolate with rye bread and cream cheese, developing slowly into luscious candied oranges, molasses and burnt sugar. Some of that vegetable soup I noted from the 20 year old ceramic jug is here as well, much subdued. What woodiness that exists is amazingly well controlled for something this old (a problem the 30 year old had).

PalateThe dark richness purrs down the throat in a sort of warm, pleasant heat. Burnt brown sugar and wek molasses, caramel, toffee, nougat and nutty toblerone chocolate, a flirt of coffee. More fruits emerge than the nose had hinted at, and provide a pleasing contrast to the more creamy, musky flavours: grapes, bananas, apricots, pineapples. Then cinnamon, more honey, some cheese. Oakiness again well handled, and a sort of leather and smoke brings up the rear. I sometimes wonder how this would taste at 55%, but even at 45%, the rum is so very very good.

FinishMedium long, a fitting close to the proceedings. Mostly bananas, molasses, a little pineapple, plus a last dollop of caramel. And honey.

ThoughtsStill a wonderful rum to sip and savour. Sadly, too expensive for most. Those who can afford a whole bottle are unlikely to be into the rum world as much as we are, but whoever has it, I hope they’re sharinggenerously.

(89/100)

The other Rumaniacs have also written about the rum, and their reviews are in the usual spot.

Mar 262017
 

#350

The Savanna Millésime 2006 High Ester Rum from Réunion (or HERR, as it is labelled) is a steroid-infused Guadeloupe rum mixing it up with a Caroni and a Bajan. It may the closest one will ever come to one of Worthy Park or Hampden’s Jamaican taste bombs without buying one, betters them in sheer olfactory badassery and is possibly one of the best of its kind currently in production, or the craziest. It’s very likely that once you try it you’ll wonder where it was hiding all this time. It emphatically puts Réunion on the map of must-have rum producing nations with not just flair, but with the resounding thump of a falling seacan.

Just to set the background. I had bought the Savanna Rhum Traditonnel Vieux 2000 “Intense” 7 year old back in April 2016 in Paris, and when I finally wrote about it, remarked on the way it was interesting and tasty and seemed to channel a good Guadeloupe rum in that it walked a fine line between molasses based product and an agricole. Purely on the strength of that positive experience, I sprung for the HERR, and made some notes to get some of the other “Intense” and “Grand Arôme” Lontan series from Savanna as well (see “other notes”, below). The molasses-based HERR was distilled in 2006, aged for ten years in ex-cognac casks, bottled at a hefty 63.8% in 2016, bottle #101 of 686, and released for the 60th Anniversary of the Parisian liquor emporium La Maison du Whisky.

Anyway, after that initial enjoyable dustup with the “Intense”, I was quite enthusiastic, and wasn’t disappointed. Immediately upon pouring the golden-amber liquid into my glass, the aromas billowed out, and what aromas they were, proceeding with heedless, almost hectic pungency – caramel, leather, some tar, smoke and molasses to start off with, followed with sharper notes of vanilla, dark dried fruit, raisins and prunes and dates. It had an abundance, a reckless, riotous profusion of flavours, so much so that one could be forgiven for thinking that not only did Savanna throw in the kitchen sink in making it, but for good measure they included the rest of the kitchen, half the pantry and some of the plumbing as well. Even the back end of the nose, with some overripe bananas and vegetables starting to go off, and a very surprising vein of sweet bubble-gum, did nothing to seriously detract from the experience; and if I were to say anything negative about it, it was that perhaps at 63.8% the rum may just have been a shade over-spicy.

Still, whatever reservations I may have had did not extend much further than that, and when I tasted it, I was nearly bowled over. My God but this thing was rich…fruity and tasty to a fault. Almost 64% of proof, and yet it was warm, not hot, easy and solid on the tongue, and once againlike its cousinweaving between agricole and molasses rums in fine style. There was molasses, a trace of anise, a little coffee, vanilla and some leather to open the party; and this was followed by green apples, grapes, hard yellow mangoes, olives, more raisins, prunes, peaches and yes, that strawberry bubble-gum as well. I mean, it was almost like a one-stop shop of all the hits that make rum my favourite drink; and it lasted for a long long time, closing with a suitably epic, somewhat dry finish of commendable duration which perhaps added little that was new, but which summed up all the preceding notes of nose and palate with warmth and heat and good memories. There was simply so much going on here that several subsequent tastings were almost mandated, and I regret none of them (and neither did Grandma Caner, who was persuaded to try some). It presented as enormously crisp and distinct and it’s unlikely to be confused with any other rum I’ve ever tasted.

Just as an (irrelevant) aside, I was so struck with the kaleidoscopic flavours bursting out of the thing that I let the sample remain in my glass for a full four days (which is likely four days more than anyone else ever will) and observed it ascending to the heights before plunging into a chaotic maelstrom I’m somewhat at odds to explain. But one thing is clear – if the sharp fruitiness of unrestrained rutting esters is your thing, then you may just agree with me that the rum is worth a try, not just once, but several times and may only be bettered by the Lontan 2004 12 year old 64.2% made by the same company.

I said in the opening remarks that it might be the best of its kind currently in production, or one of the craziest. I believe that anyone who tries it will marvel at the explosive panoply of flavours while perhaps recognizing those off-putting notes which jar somewhat with what one expects a rum to possess. Having read of my experience, I leave it to you to decide which side of the divide you fall on. The HERR is not so much polarizing as unique, and it demands that you accept it as it is, warts and everything, on its own terms or not at all. If you do, I somehow doubt you’ll be disappointed, and may just spend a few days playing around with it, wondering what that last smidgen of flavour actually was. Sort of like I did.

(88/100)


Other notes

  • Personal encomiums and opinions apart, I should inject a note of caution. When tried in conjunction to the muskier, deeper Demeraras, HERR’s relative thinness becomes more apparent. Too, after some hours, that vein of bubble-gum sweet also takes on a dominance that can be off-putting to those preferring darker tastes in their rums, though such a whinge would not disqualify it from any rum lover’s shelf. But the chaos I noted earlier comes after you let it sit for the aforementioned few days. By the fourth day the rum becomes sharp, biting, and almost vinegary, and while one can still get the smorgasbord of fruitiness which is the source of its exceptionalism, it is no longer feels like the same rum one started with. Pouring a fresh sample right next to it on that day showed me the metamorphosis, and I believe that oxidation is something to beware of for any opened but long-untouched bottle.
  • As it turned out, an amazingly generous aficionado by the name of Nico Rumlover (long may his glass remain full) sent me not one or two additional Savanna samples, but eight more, just so that I could give them a shot…so look for those write-ups in the months to come. Along with several other rums and rhums, I used all of them (and the Intense) as comparators for this review.
  • Historical distillery notes can be found in the Makers section for those whose interests run that way.
  • Rum Nation looks to be releasing a Savanna 12 YO at 59.5% sometime this year.

 

Aug 132016
 

JM 1845 Cuvee - 1

After a tough day at work, the Cuvée 1845 is a balm to the exhausted mind.

Even at 42% ABV, The Rhum J.M. Cuvée makes a statement for agricoles that is worth listening to. It finds a balance between body, mouthfeel, taste, spiciness and warmth in a way that reminds us that agricoles should not be taken as merely a small subset of the greater rumworld, but should hold a place in the pantheon second to none. While these days my preferences run mostly towards stronger, full proof rums, I must say that there’s nothing about this lovely product that makes me want to ask for it to be dialled up. It’s excellent as it is.

Issued as an anniversary edition for the 170th year of production on the plantation in 2015 (which was when I tried it), the Cuvée is a rhum aged at least ten years in oak barrels, gold in colour, and housed in a handsome gold etched flagon of admirable simplicity. J.M. is, of course, the old house on Martinique which issued the haunting 1995 15 year old, as well as the equally memorable 2002 Millesime 10 year old, but I think this one is just a shade better. J.M. as a plantation has been in existence for longer than 170 yearsPere Labat founded the sugar refinery as far back as the 1700s, and it is clear that the current owners have forgotten nothing about what it means to make a top notch rhum.

JM 1845 Cuvee - 2There was a certain tartness in the nose that started things off, something like ginnip and soursop, the crisp and firm ripeness of a green apple. It was not sharp or spicy, just heated and well controlled in a way that made smelling it a joy rather than an exercise in pain managementI didn’t have to set it aside to chill out and breathe, but could dive right in. Once it opened a bit, it softened up, providing additional easy-going scents of vanilla, gingerbread cookies, unsweetened yoghurt and just a dash of pepper and cumin (which is not as odd as it may sound).

It was the taste that elevated the rhum above its 1995 and 2002 compatriots. What sinks an agricole in the minds of many molasses rum lovers is both the clarity and sharpness, whatever the tastes might be. Nothing of the kind happened here. In fact, it displayed the sort of originality and balance of crispness and softness which many rums these days seem to shy away from in an effort not to piss anyone off. The feel body was medium, soft, and had the instantly recognizable herbaceous background which marked it as a cane juice product. Over a period of time, spices, black pepper, vanilla, light citrus and flowers emerged, surrounded by woody notes from the oak barrels where it has rested. These oaky notes were held in check, providing a background of tannins that did not overwhelm, but enhanced further notes of ginger snaps, orange zest, ripe apples, and created a lovely mix of clear, light softness redolent of these many flavours all at once. And the finish was equally high-gradesweet, smooth, warm, tasty (nothing new added here, alas); perhaps a bit too shortmore a summing up of the whole experience than any effort to go off the reservation by presenting anything new.

There’s was something almost sensuous about the whole experience. The 1845, and indeed the rest of the rhums from this company, lacked that peculiar sense of individualism that marked out the Neisson line, yet in their own way are as distinct as any other, and with a quality not to be sneezed at. This is a rhum so well made that sipping it neat is almost mandatorymixing it might be a punishable offense in some places, and I certainly wouldn’t. Admittedly, the only J.M. rhums I’ve tried have been fairly high end oneswhen you can carry only one and buy only one, you tend to chose from the better end of the spectrumbut even among those I’ve sampled, this one stands out. It’s a remarkable, tasty, solid accomplishment from one of the last single-domaine, family-owned houses still in existence on Martinique. And a feather in its cap by any definition.

(#294)(88/100)


Other notes

  • Blend of rhums aged a minimum of ten years in 200-liter oak barrels
  • A brief bio of J.M is provided in the 1995 review
Mar 292013
 

A liquid, light peanut butter and jelly sandwich, heightened with unsweetened chocolate and displaying enormous smoothness and quality. Great product.

Ron Abuelo Centuria is the top of the line Panamanian rum originating from Varela Hermanos, the outfit that brought the 7 year old and 12 year old to the table, issued in late 2010 to celebrate their Centennial.

It’s said in some places to be solera-system-aged for thirty years in used bourbon barrels and in others that the blend of rums (some aged thirty years) was run through a solera: but one must always keep in mind that in any solera rum, only a small fraction of the resultant is actually that old (the math suggests it can be as little as 5% after less than ten years, and the average age of the blend trends towards seven). I make these remarks not to denigrate the product, just to inject some caution (and reality) into pronouncements regarding its age.

Not that you need to know all that, because taken by itself, this is quite a product. Ensconced in a wooden and cardboard box, in a neat bottle with a decent cork, there’s very little about it that doesn’t work. Except maybe the €155 price tag: considering that only 3000 bottles were made, this may be deemed cheap to some lucky fellows who have more money than I do.

Nose first: cherries, dark chocolate, coffee, walnuts and vanilla came right out of the initial pour of the bronze mahogany liquid. Really quite nice, but I suspect there may be some alien DNA in the Centuria somewhere, because after moving on and settling into a creamy, deep burnt sugar and caramel bedrock, there were some discordant background notes that melded uneasily with the core scents so well begun: salt biscuits and a certain musty driness (without being particularly arid) that just seemed, I dunno, out of place. It wasn’t enough to sink the Bismarck, but it wasn’t expected either.

The rum raised the bar for premiums by being phenomenally smooth, mind you. Bitch and bite were long forgotten dreams on the palate, as on the nose: the Centuria may lack the furious, focussed accelerative aggro of a Porsche, but that isn’t its purpose (especially not at 40% ABV) — it’s more a fully tricked-out Audi sedan, as smooth and deceptive as proverbially still waters. Caramel, nougat and burnt sugar flavours led in, followed by a slow segue into a combined smoky, salt/sweet set of tastes reminding one of pecans and dried fruits like dates and figs, not fleshier ones like peaches. In fact, this became so pronounced as to almost dismember the sweeter notes altogether (but not quite,which is to its real creditgreat balance of the competing flavours was evident here).

The exit is more problematic: though quite long for a rum bottled at standard strength, there’s something of that buttery caramel salty-sweet tang that doesn’t quite click for me. Yes it was pleasantly heated and took its time saying adios, which is fineI just didn’t care for the musky, flavours so remniscent of a peanut-butter-and-chocolate energy bar. I should hasten to add this is a personal thing for me, so you may like this aspect much more than I do. And I can’t lieit’s a damned fine rum, a more-than-pleasant fireplace drink on a nippy night, leading to deep kisses and warm embraces from someone you’ve loved for a very long time.

I often make mention, with top end rums that cost three figures and up, about elements of character. What I mean by this is that the complexity of the parts should lead to a harmonious commingling of the whole in a way that doesn’t repeat old profiles, but intriguingly, fascinatingly, joyously seeks a new tier of its own, for better or worse. The Centuria has character for sure, and what that does is make it different, albeit in a manner that may polarize opinion, especially at the aforementioned back end.

Still, this rum would have, as many overpaid management types in my company would say, all the key performance indicators identified, the drivers nailed down and quantified, all the basic boxes ticked. But then there’s the fuzzier stuff, the weird stuff, the stuff that some guys would call “over and beyond” or “elevated performance”, boldly going where no executive has gone before. In this Anniversary edition rum made by a solid company with quite a pedigree, it’s clear that they’ve succeeded (all my bitching about the off-notes aside). This is an excellent sipping rum where components come together really well, are dead serious about their task of pleasing you, and have taken time out to address some real complex subtleties. This is not the best rum of its kind ever mademy own preference on the Panamanians edges more perhaps towards the Rum Nation Panama 21but if you’re buying what Varela Hermanos is selling, they sure won’t short change you.

(#151. 88/100)


Other notes

  • The business about the Centennial is somewhat confusing: Varela Hermanos traces its origins back to 1908 when Don José Varela Blanco founded the Ingenio San Isidro sugar mill, the first in Panama, with alcohol distillation beginning in 1936. So I’m unclear how this rum was first issued in late 2010 to commemorate a hundred years of operations.
  • According to online remarks made by others at the time, but not represented on the bottle or its box, the Centuria contains no additives for colouring or flavour. This is, however, contradicted by hydrometer tests here (27g/L) and by Drejer (20g/L) and PhilthyRum (20g/L).

 

Mar 232013
 

A Millonario by another name, and as lovely.

Soleras as a rule tend toward the smooth and sweet side, and have a rather full body redolent of all sorts of interesting fruity flavours. My maltster friends regard this type of drink the way they would a sherry bomb (or a disrobed virgin, if one desperate enough could be found), with a mixture of hidden liking and puritan disdain. Still, after having had two fairly dry products in as many weeks, perhaps it was time to relax in a perfumed boudoir instead of the sere desert air. And because the Ron Cartavio XO was from Peru and a solera, I tried it together with the Ron Millonario Solera 15 and the Millonario XO which also hail from there, to see how it stacked up.

The Cartavio XO is pretty much the top of the line made by the company and is priced to match . It arrived in a black tin can and had a wooden tipped cork fixed into place by the twisted wire one might look for in a champagnenice touch. Liked the bottle tootapering, blocky, rounded shoulders, absolutely minimal design esthetic, and etched in gold (the tin can had most of the info, which was as it should be.

Smelling this was an exercise in repressed romanticism. Luscious is not a word that would be out of place to describe it. Creamy, almost like a mild citrus ice-cream, quite smooth and gentle on the nose. Apricots, cherries, vanilla, with just enough background of oaken tannins to provide some character. These scents mellowed gently into flower blossomsin spite of its depth, the nose had a certain soft, clean brightness to it, like the skin of a sleepy baby after being freshly washed and powdered. It was without a doubt better than the Solera 15, but interestingly enough, it lacked some of the complex pungency that so elevated the Millonario XO.

The feel on the tongue was similarly rich and pleasant, though perhaps a shade more acerbic than the Millonario, but beyond that, quiet and heavy and quite aromatic. Here again is a rum that takes its time, being in no hustling rush to get the sipping experience over with. At 40%, there wasn’t going to be any aggro, no yobbish pummelling on the palate, and indeed, from that perspective, I wasn’t expecting any. The rum sang of vanilla and fruit (peaches and dried apricots), dark chocolate, sherry, nuts and a very faint vegetal note, all of which solidified into a rich and serene taste close to the fullness of honey (if not quite so thick).

The one thing it is not quite good at is the exit. Medium long, hints of nuts, caramel, a sweet-salt tang, with a closing flirt of nutmeg. Faintly dry, but not unpleasantly sothe fragrant, almost humid rush of closing scents married well with that profile, yet try it against the Millonario and see if it doesn’t quite come up to that standard. Sure it’s solid and has a pleasant finish (some would sigh beatifically and say “awesome”), yet perhaps it is a shade too quiet and polished and does not demonstrate any kind of singular, individualistic character all its own, that said it was a walk-on-water rumit reminded me more of a liqueur (a very good one, mind), and here I thought there were similarities to other well-made drinks of some age and real quality, like the St Nicholas Abbey 12 year old, or the El Dorado 25, which were so well put together (and, unfortunately, so sweet) that they lost that sense of individuality exemplified by their own younger siblings. An issue worth remarking on.

Another point I’d like to make is this: the taste profile of the two XOs is extraordinarily similar. In fact, the two are so close together that I wondered whether Fabio Rossi of Rum Nation didn’t source his rum from Cartavio (for the record, he hedged when asked). It would take real effort to taste them side by side and know right off which was which. I’d say that the Millonario has the upper hand based on a slightly better nose, but in all other respects, these two excellent soleras are on par.

The Cartavio brand of rums was originally made in the coastal town of that name, just north of Lima: sugar cane grows in the area and has been since 1891, though the company was founded in 1929 – this XO is an 80th anniversary edition, quite limited in production. The parent company is Distilerias Unidas SAC, and they use molasses as the raw ingredient combined with a continuous fermentation process, utilizing a John Dore pot still and a continuous still.

Let’s sum up, then. Soft, pungent, all-round lovely, and the taste and palate being the best thing about it. I imagine you can make a cocktail with this rum. What I can’t imagine is why. The Cartavio XO may be among the best examples of passive aggression ever seen in the rum world, because clearly the distillers don’t want you to mix it (and my own takeyou shouldn’t).. By the time you hit to the bottom of this baby, you’ll still be scratching your brow, wondering what the hell that last tiny hint of savour actually was. It really is that good.

In fine, this is a rum that is quiet, gentle, and flows without fuss or turmoil to a serene conclusion. It is a rural country stream, chuckling dreamily over rocks and burbling to its destination with no agendaall it wants is to please, and it succeeds. It lacks the testosterone fury of a full- or overproof rum, and avoids the blandness of more commercial rums that sell by the tanker load: drinking this rum and revelling in its unaggressive and unassuming sophistication is something like loving another repressed person like yourself, dearlyand waiting for the kiss that never quite comes when you want it, but is going to happen, eventually, neverthelessand be worth the wait when it does.

(#150. 88/100)


Other Notes

  • On the tin enclosure and on the website, Cartavio note that the rum is an 18 year old made in the solera method, aged in white oak barrels (some from Slovenia, how cool is that?) but caution must be exercised in what the age statement really means: is it a blend of rums originating from a solera whose average age is eighteen (unlikely, since the math wouldn’t support that); is it a blend of rums averaging eighteen years which then went into a solera process; is it a solera rum that has been in the process for 18 years (my choice for most likely); or is it a solera blend of rums that was then aged for another eighteen years? I simply can’t get resolution on the matter: and it illustrates the issue with pinpointing the true age of a solera rum. For my money, the oldest part of this blend is eighteen, not the youngest. However, note that Josh Miller in early 2016, remarked in his review of the lineup that there isno rum younger than 18 years in the blend.And Matt Pietrek, in a piece on Cartavio, wrote in December 2015 that it was also a true 18 year old.
  • According to wikipedia, Cartavio rums are now made in Aruba. I’m unclear whether “made” means “aged”, “bottled” or both. My bottle makes no such mention, by the way.
Jan 202013
 

Like an elderly doddering relative, it requires a little coaxing and care to be appreciated fully

Quite aside from my laughter (and that of everyone else at the KWM tasting where it was trotted out) at the box in which the RN Martinique Anniversary Edition Rhum Agricole 12 year old reposed, the single emotion gripping me as I tasted it was respect. Respect for its bottle, the box, the rum and above all, it’s primal excellence. Here’s a rum that takes the run of the mill low-end agricoles we are all so much more used to, and equals or tops them without tekkin’ any kinda strain or bustin’ a sweat.

The enclosure was really quite original: a hollowed out cardboard box shaped like a book in which to hide it, which tickled my son pink but was too cheaply made to do anything but annoy the wife, who, while grudgingly accepting my constant purchases of rum, would prefer that if I dropped just over a hundred bucks on one, that it at least looked like it cost it. Fortunately, as I drew the gold-tipped cork-hatted flagon out of the book, her annoyance disappeared and she was at least impressed with its elegant shape and deep red-brown colour. Well, it’s a small win, what can I say. I take what I can get.

Made from Martinique stockthe column-still product was aged and bottled to a run of 5000 bottles therethis rum was issued in 2010 to mark the 10th anniversary of the company, which began issuing its series back in 2000. I’d have to say that while I enjoyed the less expensive Hors d’Age quite a bit, the Anniversary edition took matters up a level. The warm and heated nose was simply awesome: nutty, sweet, dark chocolate notes were balanced out by caramel, creamy vanilla, and tempered by white flowers, an earthy tone of slight smoke and leathertawny is the best single word I can come up with to describe it. As it settled down and trusted me enough to open up, it mellowed into deep brown sugar, with toasted pecans, and some citrus hints. There was a cleanliness, a spareness to it, that took me back many years and recalled the piping-hot, fresh, teeth-blackening Red Rose tea sweetened with melting brown sugar, of the sort I used to drink at six in the morning in the misty Guyanese jungle with dim morning sunlight filtering through the forest.

Agricoles as a whole trend towards slightly sharper, lighter bodies with real complexity if one is prepared to be patient and not guzzle them down. Since I had the Guitar Yoda passing on Jedi secrets to my son the day I was trying it, I indulged myself in desultory conversation with his better half, of the sort one can only have with old friends, while sipping this lovely rum for over an hour. And it was easy, because the Anniversary really was a top-notch sipper. Smoothly spicy, medium-to-light bodied and surprisingly dark in temperament, tasting candy sweet and heated all at once, with musty tobacco and oatmeal freshly made. Tangerines, red wine, nuts and honey came to the fore and then gracefully retreated, to be replace with a sere and dry (but far from unpleasant) winey note. As for the finish, it was long and warm with a last sly spicy backhand, as if trying to remind me not to take it for granted. A really excellent all round product, believe me. Yeah it’s a bit pricey ($125 in my location)…I think it’s worth it if you’re in the market for a very good agricole and the Central Americans or Island nations don’t turn your crank, or you would like to try more than just another well-known commercial product.

After trying quite a few of the company’s rums (I still have another two or three to get through), I’ve come to the conclusion that the quality of what Fabio Rossi of Rum Nation achieves lies in his diamond-focussed professionalism, to the exclusion of all drama and flourish: the man has never made a rum that’s “merely average”. It’s as if he asked himself, with each rum that he has produced, ‘What is the essence of this product?’… and then, in answering that question, proceeded single mindedly to make a rum about absolutely nothing else.

(#141. 86/100)


Other Notes

  • This spirit carries the AOC mark of authenticity. Martinique is the only rum region designated as an Appellation d’Origine Contrôllée. This entails, as it does in France’s Cognac-making region, rigorous guidelines for harvesting, fermenting, and distillation.
  • The distillery / estate of origin remains an unknown at this time
Dec 282012
 

This lovely product will always be one of the top sipping rums of my 2012 experience. The awards it has garnered since 2007 state boldly that many others think so too.

Stirred by the Rum Howler’s listing of the Plantation Barbados XO in his intriguing top 30 rum list, and having brought back a bottle from the amazing Rum Depot store in Berlin back in August (yes, it was gathering dust for several months, them’s the breaks when you have a day job and a family and other interests), I resolved to check it out after finishing off the St Lucia series. It was run up against three enormously different rums which could not possibly be mistaken for each other: the Renegade Cuba 1998, Downslope Distillery’s wonky 6-month wine-barrel aged rum from Colorado about which I can’t say enough bad things, and the amazing 2012 Rum Nation Demerara 1989-2012 23 year old about which I can’t say enough good things.

The Plantation series of aged rums from Cognac-Ferrand are the major remaining hole in my review lineup (as of the beginning of 2013) of widely available commercial rums, if you don’t count other rather more exclusive European independent bottlers like Bruichladdich, Cadenhead, Berry & Rudd, Bristol Spirits or Fassbind (among others) which rarely touch the Great White North. Knowing what I know now regarding how to begin a review site of popular spirits, I really should start with the younger Plantation variations and move up the scale, but when you have twenty to chose from and can only pick one, you might also do as I did, and start at the topassuming your wallet holds out.

And I’m glad I did. Barbados rums tend to be on the soft side, but this one was like a feather pillow for the nose, trulyit handily eclipsed the Mount Gay 1703 with scents of white chocolate, buttery toffee, the nutmeg of a good eggnog, vanilla and caramel, and a lovely background of ground coconut shavings in a melange that was utterly terrific. It was a rich sensory love-in of a nose, solidly constructed, soft and breezy and if you ever wanted to have a Christmas rum to sip by a roaring fire, you would never have to go further than this one. I thought of it like a liquid, warm Hagen-Dasz, with all the sweetness that implies.

The palate was similarly excellent: sweet and a shade briny (not too much), soft as a mother’s hug before school on a cold day. It had hints of bananas and orange peel on the medium-heavy body, salty caramel, white chocolate vanilla. My lord this was good, rich and pungent and smooth as a cat’s tummy fur, with just a shade of heat to lend character, a touch of oaky spice and burnt coconutif this rum was equated to a painting, it would be a lush impressionist Monet or Degas, colourful, vibrant and above all, real. And for once the finish completed the overall picture without failing, warm, medium long and rich, with traces of almonds, citrus and oak on the slightly astringent close.

The XO is a rum that is a blend of Plantations’s “oldest reserves” (not sure how old these reserves were, since no further details are available). The blends are first aged in Barbados in ex-bourbon casks, then taken to France where they undergo secondary ageing in smaller French Oak casks for a further year to eighteen months. I must concede that this process of double ageing (somewhat akin to the Dos Maderas 5+3 or 5+5) is much to my tasteit provides the resultant spirit with a depth and creaminess that is quite becoming and is absolutely meant for leisurely exploration when time is not a factor and a buzz is not on the menu.

As I noted above, this is a solidly built, well presented, utterly traditional all-round excellent premium rum. At €45 I think it might be one of the better value for money rums available for a 40% product. That sentence should be parsed carefully, because what this means is that it is superlative at genuflecting to all the expected traditional rum expectationsbut without rising above or vaulting beyond (or violating) themit lacks the passive agressive adventurousness of Fabio Rossi’s Rum Nation Demerara 1989 23 year old (45%) or the stunning-if-somewhat-oversweet Millonario XO (40%). This is not to diss the Plantation product, mind you, just to give you a sense of both its quality and what else it could have been had someone taped a pair of balles to it.

I wish I could tell you which rums in the Plantation lineup this one compares well to, but I can’t (Plantation Rums are not widely available in Canada). Suffice to say, the Anniversary XO is phenomenal taken merely by itself. It has a complex softness and style recalling the St. Nicholas Abbey 10 or 12 year old, or most of the top Panamanian rums, and a finish that is close to conjugal harmonies. If it has a weakness at all, it’s in hewing too closely to the profile of rums, and not daring to step a little outside the demarcations: I think that had it done so, beefed itself up, perhaps aged it a little differently, they may have been one of the top premiums in the world which all others had to beat. As it is, it’s a great sipping rum that any aficionado should have on his shelf, and share generously with people who simply don’t get how good a premium rum can be when made by people who are fully investedand who care aboutthe resultant ambrosias they create.

(#138. 88.5/100)


Other Notes

  • This review was written in December 2012, and already there were cracks in the firmament: I had had the Panamonte XXV, various Panamanians, the Cartavio XO, Rum Nation’s Millonario, most of the DDL standard lineup, and was beginning to understand that dosed rums (an issue which would go on to explode two years later) could be bettered. By the end of 2014, my opinion on these smooth and sweetened rums had undergone a major shift, and if it hadn’t been my policy to keep rum reviews and scores intact, as they were when originally posted (I have to live with and defend the opinions and scores as they were then, not as I would like them to be later), I would have marked them a lot less generously than I had.

 

Oct 192012
 
The lush voluptuousnes of Raphael, captured in a bottle with a bit of Peruvian sunshine

Soft. This rum is so soft. It is breezes in the warm tropical twilight, the lap of waves at low tide on a deserted Caribbean island, the first unsure, hesitant and oh-so-sweetly remembered kiss of your timid adolescence. It is your mother’s kitchen on a rainy day, fresh bread baking in the oven. It is a 40% Peruvian piece of magic, and if it costs a shade over a hundred bucks, I can only say that I believe it to be worth every penny. Want a slightly pricey introduction to sipping quality rum that seduces, not assaults? Here it stands.

I asked the question of the Ron Millonario 15 Solera whether that was the best solera in current commercial production, and had to say no, largely on the strength of this onenot because the XO is better: it’s simply as good in a different way. Note that both rums are made in the solera system from a Scottish column still distillate; the 15 is made from a four barrel solera, but the added richness of the XO makes me suspect (like my Edmontonian friend does) that either this is a five barrel system, or they aged it longer somehow. Details remain sparse. The two are almost twins with obscurely opposing characters, and while the 15 is cheaper and therefore better value-to-quality overall, I must concede that on a complete aesthetic, the XO probably has it.

Consider the appearance, which would probably make my departed Maritime friend the Bear weep with happiness: cheap black cardboard cutout that won’t add to the price, embracing a flattened squarish bottle that has handsomely gold etched lettering and a faux-golden tipped cork. It looks just classy enough to not be considered a cheap knockoff aspiring beyond its pedigree.

I should remark right at the outset that the XO is a rum deserving to be savoured, not swilled, because while the nose began just swimminglyhoney, a slight minty zest, mango and papaya and flowersit only got better as it opened up, adding a delicate green and vegetal background, and subtle aromas of coriander and brown sugar. I tried this in tandem with the Millonario 15 solera and that one was excellent also, but it was eclipsed by the sheer complexity of this baby.

And the taste, nice. Again, gets more complex and interesting as time goes on: right off the bat I was enthused about its gentle, velvety smoothness (not altogether surprising for a 40% solera), and the arrival of white chocolate, buttery, creamy caramel. A shade heated without malice, spicy without bitchiness, which was a perfect offset for the sweet notes that coiled around it. That sounds straightforward enough but tek a chill and wait (as my brother back in Mudland would say). Just like with the nose, further flavours shyly emerge and when I tell you that I got a slight smokiness, old dusty leather, fresh fruit and white flowers all in tandem, you can understand why everyone I’ve ever shared this with sings its praises. I’ve already distributed a bottle or two in tasters over a mere few months (and that’s phenomenal given my hermitlike nature and how few friends I have who like rums). As for the exit, it is excellent, chocolate-like (of the milk kind), smooth, long and departing with a last mischievous fillip of those fruity notes.

In fine, unlike the 15 which began well but simply stayed at that level of excellence, the XO started slowly, built up a head of steam and then gently and powerfully released its character over time. For sure this is not a mixing agent, and it rewards the patientit gets better as it opens up. I’m not sure a higher proof would improve this marvellously made Peruvian product, and I’m not asking for it to be made so (though I might not object either). It’s great as isdon’t mess with it, except perhaps to dial down the sweet a shade.

If you are a raw, uncompromising Caledonian or his Liquorature acolyte (did someone say “Hippie”?) who likes harsh briny sea salt in your beard and the wind in your face and peat in your cask-strength drink, then the softness and relative sweetness of this rum, harking as it does of sunlight and warmth instead of rocks and northern waves, is definitely not for you. The cask strength whiskies are savagely executed Goyas compared to Ron Millonario’s voluptuous females painted by Raphael and Titian, so it comes down to taste and character and preference. My own take is merely that the makers of Ron Millonario XO Especial, with this lovely rum, have pressed all the right buttons and made all the right incantations in producing a rum that raises the bar of rums in general, and soleras in particular. Yet again.

(#127. 88/100)


Other Notes:

  • Like most solera rums, this one is sweeter than the average and that may be off-putting to drinkers who prefer a drier, sharper and more asceticrum-likeprofile. Personal preferences therefore have to be taken into consideration when deciding whether to buy it or not.
  • In 2019 the Millonario Cincuenta (“50”), a 10th Anniversary companion to this rum, was issued. It was also added to. I reviewed it in 2020 with a much more modest sub-80 point score.

Update August 2016

In the years since this review came outI tried it in 2012 — I’ve taken a lot of flak for my positive assessment of the two Millonarios. Fellow reviewers and members of the general public have excoriated the rum for being loadeddestroyedwith so much sugar as to make it acandied mess.I acknowledge their perspective and opinions, but cannot change the review as written, as it truly expressed my thoughts at that time. Moreover, the complexity I describe is there and cannot be wished away, and if the rum is too sweet for many purists, well, I’ve mentioned that. About the most I can do at such a removeshort of shelling out for another bottle and trying itis to suggest that if sweet isn’t your thing, deduct a few points and taste before you buy.

And a note for people now getting into rum: sweet is not a representative of all rums, least of all high end ones. The practice of adding sugar in any form to rums, to smoothen them out and dampen bite (some say it is to make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear), is a long-standing one, but gradually being decried by many who want and prefer a purer drinking experience (Plantation and Rum Nation are two companies which sometimes engage in the practice, which they termdosing”). It remains legal in many rum producing nations. As with most aspects of life, sampling a variety will direct you to where your preferences lie.

Sep 082012
 
Publicity Photo from RumAuctioneer

A truly wonderful rum which is simply too expensive for regular drinkers, in spite of its quality. It’s just too out of reach for us proles, alas.

“I have left instructions in my will,” growled Kanflyer on the Ministry of Rum, echoing the sentiments of many, “For my grieving (?) widow to take the insurance settlement, find a bottle of this and toast my memory with my friendsboth of them. There is no way I could spend $5k on a bottle of rum while I’m still kicking around.” In two humorously pithy sentences Kanflyer (may his glass never be empty) encapsulated the rank and file’s opinion on Appleton’s most heavily hyped and most expensive production rum ever, the Independence Reserve.

Appleton’s 50 year old Jamaican Independence Reserve rum is so audacious that when I call it a vanity project, all you can really do is admire a company crazy enough to make it. Even with its vanishingly small production run of eight hundred bottles, you have to concede that here’s a product that really has no reason to exist at the price point of US$5000, which puts the 58-year-old Longpond at one fifth the price to shame (note that as of 2020, the price remains stubbornly steady at around this level).

The cost of this one bottle is high enough to make me a small one-man special interest group with some hefty clout in the capital. For the price, I could fund the Whisky Pilgrim on ATW for a decade, buy enough Bacardi to keep me drunk until the Rapture, all the Renegades that will ever be made and just about all the El Dorado and Rum Nation rums currently in production (maybe twice). Quite frankly, there’s nothing that I know about to which I can seriously compare it unless it’s the 37 year old Courcelles from Guadeloupe, or the 58 year old Longpond from G&M (and frankly, I really wish people would stop saying that the 50 the oldest rum available in the world, because even if the Longpond isn’t the only other one, the fact that it’s there at all put a lie to Appleton’s press statement).

So it’s perhaps almost anticlimactic to discuss the characteristics of the rum (I was given a sample to try by Andrew of the KWM and had it againtwiceat a tasting event), but let’s forge on regardless. The nose of the dark copper fifty year old began with notes of hay and grasses, and dark brown sugar melting in the tropical heat. Freshly cut tobacco leaves, raisins, a hint of cherries. My seven year old, who wanted to know what Daddy was doing, sniffed, opined “vanilla” and walked away. But what coiled out and took over the balance was a kind of luxuriously heavy honey scent that really was quite heavenly. It blew away the thirty year old like yesterday’s news.

Distilled from molasses and aged in the standard used oak barrels, the rum is a blend of twenty rums whose minimum age is fifty years. Distilling it to 45% was the right decision, I thinkhad it not been a little overproofed, I doubt I would have enjoyed it as much (I was tasting it with the Appleton Reserve, the 21 year old and the 30 all together). It had a medium body, and arrived with a luscious taste of fresh honey and nuts (no, not Cheerios), and had a deep and dark mouthfeel like velvet, no sting or bite, just a warm, slow heat that gradually revealed notes of cinnamon and lemon zest. Yes there were oaky notes on this baby, just not as evident and unwelcome as the thirty turned out to have, and just the right amount of sugar in the rum gave it an excellent and harmonious balance. The fade was long and lasting, redolent of leather and smoke and a faint nuttiness. An excellentno, a phenomenalproduct all around, and while it may not be worth every penny of five grand, if you can get a taste, don’t pass it up.

Here’s the thing. It’s a good rum, a great rumperhaps even brilliant one. Appleton have somehow managed to weed out the overbearing oakiness that to some (I have gradually become one of them) marred the 30 year old. It may lack the stern, uncompromising beefiness of cask strength offerings I’ve been sampling recently, yet the 45% strength is good for what it attempts, which is to be intense, flavourful and a damned good drink. I liked it a lot. It handily shows any 46% Renegade Rum the door.

But I honestly don’t know who is supposed to drink this rum, because at close to $200 per shot, I know I couldn’t, and actually, I’m not even convinced it is meant to be anything other than a collector’s piece for oligarchs, politicians, ambassadors, industry CEOs and the rich and powerful (and crass). Even Joy Spence remarkedThis will emphasise the ‘premium-nessof Appleton. It’s a halo for the other brands of the estate to bring them up.So it’s an advertisement rather than something for wide distribution, the way the Nikon F6 film camera isgreat stuff, far too pricey and ultimately, kinda useless. This is a luxury rum on steroids, a sort of flagship marquee that bellows “Here I am!” to the world, like a pig-ignorant over-decorated geriatric driving a Lambo, ostentatiously tooting the horn at a traffic light. It’ll provide the company, marketers, bloggers, reviewers and its fortunate owners with exactly what they desire, yes: but whether it’s exactly what they deservewell, that’s quite another matter.

(#120 / 90.5/100)


Other notes:

  • Tasted together with Appleton Reserve, 21 yr old 43%, 30 yr old 43%, El Dorado 25 43%
  • This rum review was long enough that I didn’t bother describing the presentationI justified this breach of reviewing etiquette by telling myself that every press release and news article has already mentioned it, so I didn’t have to. I may change that in a while after my backlog is taken care of.
  • Wait a whileI read in a Jamaican paper that Appleton is going to produce a 100 year old rum in 2062. Pardon me if I don’t start saving for that.

 

Jun 022012
 

A good, and very pricey ultra-premium solera, the top of the food chain from Santa Teresa A.J. Vollmer in Venezuela. I’m going to go on record as thinking it’s too much price for too little premium.

The $315 Santa Teresa Bicentenario solera rum is made by the privately owned Venezuelan outfit A. J. Vollmer, who also produce the 1796 rum (also a solera, and about which I was unenthused at the timeit may be due for a revisit). It’s a rum I have avoided for over two years in spite of its premium cachet, and because of its price. Every time I’ve tried it (four times to date) it reminds me somewhat of a fellow I once met on my sojourns, who dressed sharply, was educated at an Ivy League university, and was, alas, a bit of a bore. Pricily dressed and well put togetherjust not that interesting.

The bottle I had was labelled #5820 and given that only about a thousand liters a year are made, and since the product (according to the Spanish edition of Wikipedia and other sources) was introduced in 1996 as part of the company’s bicentennial, you could be forgiven for assuming this one was issued around 2002but personally I find that doubtful. KWM only got this batch about two years ago, and I don’t think it’s been mouldering around for eight years prior somewhere else (it remains an unanswered question). Still, the bottle, however startling (some might say ugly), is distinctive, and while I didn’t have the box it should have come in, pictures I’ve seen suggest it is pretty cool.

Santa Teresa Bicentenario is a solera, and therefore has a whole range of column- and pot-still, aged rum components in it — 80 year old product was noted without any indication of the average age, and the whole blend is aged some fifteen years in oak barrels; as the premium product of its line, it had all the hallmarks of care and love given to it: for the price, could it be otherwise? It was, for all that ageing, still somewhat light in the glass, a darkish golden colour with thin legs running down the sides. On the nose it presented itself with a light aroma containing citrus, light and white woods, white flowers, pineapple and a slight hint of dark berries in cream, caressing as a baby’s breath on your cheek.


The overall quality on the palate led on from there: soft and gentle, without a hint of the astringency of a stepmother’s ire. It was put together well enough that separating out individual tastes was as tough as analyzing the Juan Santos 21: about the most I was able to discern was vanilla, faint breezes of brown sugar, and a certain overall creaminess. Perhaps blackberries, and that’s reaching. To me it was just a bit too light and delicate (while nowhere near the effeminate nature of the Doorly’s). And this continued on to the fade, which was long and billowy and lasting, yet so soft that one barely knew it was there at all.

Rating this baby is a bitch. I can tell the work that went into smoothening out the intermarried solera components, and the fifteen years of ageing that blend was well done, because the smoothness is there, as it should be for any premium product. Yet the Bicentenario failed somehow, perhaps in the flavours being so light and commingled that I had little idea what it was I was tasting beyond the obvious. In short, I felt the rum had too little character, balles, cojones, or whatever Venezuelans call badassery.

So the question arises, for what are you paying this kind of money? The storage costs of rums aged to eighty years? Its purported exclusivity and relative rarity? Bragging rights? Probably. But three big ones (I’ve seen it go for about €150 on European webstores) just strikes me as too much. No me gusta, amigo. I’d rather get three El Dorado 21s, or maybe a few bottles of the feisty Pusser’s 15.

Let me put it this way. I raged about the Pyrat’s Cask 23 and wrote a overlong, scathing indictment of the divergence between quality and price. Santa Teresa is not quite in that league, because overall, it has elements to it that many appreciate and froth over, even if I don’t. It’s a decent rum, no question. The Bicentenariopitted against premium choices like the Rum Nation’s Panama 21 (one third the price), St. Nicholas Abbey 10 year old and English Harbour 1981 25 year oldcarries on its founders’ traditions of taste, clarity and lightness, good blend quality and decent value. Everything more or less works, everything fits. What’s not to like?

Please take a left turn here, because the real issue is, what’s to love? The rums we care about display characteristics which say something about ourselves that we wish trumpeted to the masses. I’m fun and unconventional (Koloa Gold). I’m big on Bay Street (Appleton 50 year old or maybe the G&M Jamaican Longpond 1941). Ask me about my retirement (Pusser’s, El Dorado 15). I am staid and prefer to mix and just get hammeredand like meself just so (Screech). I’m a bit nutso (Rum Nation Jamaican 25)…and so on. What does the Bicentenario say? The trust fund is ticking over? I use a discount brokerage house? I have a summer abode, a nice catamaran and drive a Volvo? By that standard, I have to stick with my assessment: good rum, overly ambitious, lacking attitude, a shade boringand, alas, overpriced.

(#112. 84/100)


Other Notes

  • My thanks go to the Scotchguy from Kensington Wine Market, who gave me his last heel for nothing, so that I could write this review and take the photographs, without incurring the ire of my parsimonious better half.
  • Here is a good write up on the company’s history, too detailed for me to abridge.

 

Jan 182011
 

First posted 18 January 2011 on Liquorature.

A better than average presentation, for a rum that supercedes its age

The Flor de Caña 21 is a good example of ensuring you know what you’re buying before you fork out your hard earned pieces of eight. I’m being redundant here (most other online reviews make mention of this), but I note the matter because all other Caña products have their age statement clearly and unambiguously front and center: 4 yr old, 5 yr old, 7 yr old, 12 yr old, 18 yr old. You can hardly avoid that: it’s on the front of the bottle and if you miss it, you aren’t paying attention in your hurry to peruse the price information. But the veinte uno doesn’t habla in this manner. The 21 doesn’t refer to the age, but the century for which it was bottled, and it’s actually a fifteen year old, which is noted in small gold lettering on the back. And this may in fact be reflected in the price: I paid ~$70 for it, and one would expect a 21 year old to be closer to, if not exceeding, a hundred.

Presentation was first rate – while I would have preferred a box or a tin for something this aged, I could live with the blue bag and the matching opaque blue bottle, since I’m a sucker for originality (and recall, the brilliant 18 year old doesn’t even have the bag, let alone a box). The rum itself pours into the glass in a tawny amber colour; it presents slow fat legs, for which I’m beginning to run out of amusing metaphors to describe: let’s liken it on this occasion to a Bourda fishwife’s plump gams.

The nose in this thing is, quite frankly, outstanding. It’s deceptive as well, because it starts out as a caramel-molasses scent, very smooth and hardly stinging your schnozz at alland then morphs into a clear, clean floral and herbal scent that is delicate and assertive at the same time (I know no other way to express this lovely nosemost dark rums are either medicinal or overwhelm with burnt sugar and molasses, but not this one). In fact, I liked this so much that I spent an inordinate amount of time dipping my beak into it just to revel in its pleasures.

The body is medium (the bottle says full-bodied, but I’m not entirely convinced of that), just enough sweet mixed with just enough flavour and alcohol. The profile on the tongue is something else again: rich, caramel and sugar undertones, bound together by molasses andonce morethat unique hint of clean flowers, just faint enough to draw attention and balance out the muskier sugars, yet not so much as to overwhelm. The balance really is quite good. The 21 exits in a smooth and gentlemanly fashion, with barely a sting, and yet here’s a bit of a letdown: the finish is shorter than one might expect. An excellent nose and taste and coating on the tongue and throat, you understand: just short, as if the gentleman was visiting a house of ill repute, and now, having completed his business, wishes only to put on his hat and depart the premises with all due dispatch.

Flor de Caña (flower of the cane) rum is made in Nicaragua, and is one of the most consistently good dark rums I’ve ever had, at any age (I simply adored the 18 year old). The Compañía Licorera de Nicaragua was founded in 1937, though workers of the San Antonio sugar refinery had been distilling their own festive hooch for local celebrations for maybe half a century before that. The success of the distilling company led to expansion and to exporting rums to other countries in Central and South America by the late 1950s. Following on the heels of the trend established by DDL in 1992, they began to issue aged premium rums (though stocks were surely laid down before thatafter all, when was the 18 year old I had in 2009 put into a barrel?). And since 2000, these rums have been recipients of numerous awards for excellence. No argument from me on that score.

It’s an overworked and abused cliche that 20% of Americans can’t find their own country on a map, but this is surely not an issue with anyone who knows his rums. Within the subculture, the great spirits of the small nations in the Caribbean and South America stand out as beacons of light and pride for their makersand none of us who ever taste one of these great drinks is any doubt where Venezuela, Guatemala, Guyana or Nicaragua is. We know the nations, we know the geography and we know the history. We know of and care about, above all, the premium products of these small states, and what makes them special. In increasingly disconnected, fragmented world, rums like the Flor de Caña 21 are almost like national symbols in and of themselves: they have the power to bring us together and educate us beyond their fleeting, ephemeral tastes.

(#062. 85/100).

Oct 292010
 

First posted 29 October, 2010 on Liquorature.

A discovery you will think all your own and which you’ll be glad you made; smooth, flavourful and velvety as the best kiss of your life, with a finish that doesn’t disappoint.

***

The Antigua Distillery has embraced both developing trends in the rum market: it has aggressively worked to address the emergence of premium sipping rums by creating the masterful English Harbour series of rum (I think the 5 yr old is one of the great mixers around, and the 1981 25-yr old, is one of the top five commercial aged 40% rums in the world), and also trended towards the resurgence in cocktails by marketing a more flavourful series of rums dedicated for the mixing circuit. Both the younger English Harbours and the Cavalier brands genuflect to the latter trend.

While Rum has been distilled in Antigua since 1493, the Antigua Distillery itself was not incorporated until 1932 when, during the downturn of rum and sugar production, some enterprising local businessmen consolidated their production; in 1934 the company purchased nine estates and a small sugar factory. While individual estates were wont to to make their own hooch in crude and small pot stills, usually for internal consumption, the acquisition of the factory permitted the company to create its own molasses, and made both aged and un-aged rums under the Caballero brand name. From these small beginnings the distillery has grown in fame and popularity.

Doing the research for the rum I casually tasted in John’s house in Toronto stunned me at the quality of what he might have, all unknowing, managed to snag for himself on one of his trips down to The Islands. You have to understand that aside from the El Dorado 25 year old, the other rums on his table that evening were a mixed bag: overproofs, bush, five year olds and so on…and this one, which didn’t remark itself as special in any way (and none of them had price labels affixed). So while we all know enough about the English Harbour suite to know what we want, few of us in Cowtown have ever seen anything else from the Land of 365 Beaches. The Cavalier Rums are the Gold, the Light (a white rum), the white Puncheon, the 151 overproof, the 5 year old and the extra Old. And the 1981 Vintage I had that night…it was quite something.

The 1981 Vintage derived from copper stills is matured – the company website declines to say how long, but I hazard it is not less than ten years – in 22 litre oak casks which once held bourbon, and the resultant blended in 5000 litre oak vats dating back from the formation of the company, which suggests the vats may be quite a bit older than that. What comes out the other end as an aged premium rum put into a wax-sealed bottle stopped with a tight-fitting cork, and is well worth your consideration.

The striking thing about the Cavalier extra Old is its simplicity. It has a straightforward smooth nose of caramel, molasses and vanilla, with light floral hints. It has a medium brown colour and a kind of rich body in the glass. It’s the bite on the snoot that’s not there, or is so faint you barely notice it….just those rich waves of brown sugar and vanilla, and those very slight tannins that assert the prescence of some other flavour just outside your ability to nail down precisely. It’s just as velvety smooth in the mouth: like a caramel sweet, it stays and offers its taste to you and maybe the reason I didn’t expect that is because there was no reason for me to…I hadn’t, in point of fact, really expected much of anything, which may be reverse snobbery of the worst kind. Be that as it may, the taste stays in the mouth and the finish is long, smooth and sweet, like maybe one of the best kisses of your adolescence from the girl you loved to pieces and still remember fondly after all this time.

I have no idea how much it costs – John mentioned he had picked the bottle up at the VC Bird Airport in Antigua back in 2000 and barely tasted it since then (how do you even begin to talk to a man about such a wonderful undiscovered treasure when he treats the liquid gold with such insouciance, I ask myself helplessly, seething with envy). I only had the one taste and then a second one to confirm, and I have not seen the bottle here in Calgary, and so must rely on my tatty tasting notes that somehow survived the trip back here intact. Like that long ago girl, the taste of this rum now fades gradually from my mind while remaining in my memories and will be missed and even mourned a little for its unavailability.

All I can tell the reader of this review is that if you ever go to Antigua, then, aside from ensuring you buy the English Harbour 1981, pick up this Cavalier 1981 Vintage rum. I won’t say your tastes equate to mine or that you will have the same enjoyment I did…but I think you’ll agree that this rum is worth a little extra, and will retain an honoured spot on your shelf. The way, one day, it will hopefully have on mine.

(#044)(Unscored)

May 242010
 

 

First posted 24 May 2010 on Liquorature.

I always admire some level of originality, whether it is in food, drink, a book, movies or simply the way something looks. In an era of mass production and conformity, too much of what we buy or see is an exact copy of the same thing we bought or saw somewhere else. On that basis, I was quite happy to see Demerara Distillerssquare, tall bottle of the El Dorado Single Barrel ICBU when it was presented at the April 2010 session of the club, and since it was not only a rum, but from Guyana, I knew I was in for something interesting. Maybe the review would not be positive, but at least I would not have been bored during the sampling.

The El Dorado rum is made with the French Savalle Heritage Still from Plantation Uitvlugt (hence the ICBU marque), where a sugar factory has been functioning since 1753. It appears to be a blend as opposed to something specific and aged on its own, which is why once again there is no official age on the bottleregular readers of my rum commentary will know this to be a personal bugbear of mine, though admittedly DDL is better than most in identifying senior blends with the age of the youngest component. Still, as it is somewhat lighter than the Special Reserve 15 year oldthis may come from the fact that it does originate from a single barrelI venture a guess that the main component of the blend is a ten or twelve year old (see other notes below this review). It is a curious matter that the DDL site makes no mention of this rum at all, at this time (2010).

The rum is a deep bronze redolent of burnt Demerara sugar, with nice legs hinting at a full, dark body. A certain woodiness attends the nose along with the faint toffee and sugarit’s like a faint smell of new rain on sun-warmed wood chips, and nicely enhanced by the attendant caramel. In a way it reminded me of the aftersmell of burning cane fields at harvest time on the East Bank of the Demerara, where I once lived.

Neat it was a pleasant sipper; to my mind the smoothness of the taste was defeated by the somewhat harsher tannins and woodsy tastes the nose had hinted at. In recent years, the only DDL offering I have had was the stellar 21 year old (also reviewed on this site), and there the sharp tang of wood (I’m not yet so refined as to tell you what kind) was quite muted and blended well into the overall flavour profile. Here, less effort had been put in and the taste was therefore more pronounced. Not really in a bad way, but it did put off the sweetness of the rum quite a bit, and made it somewhat drier. Nutmeg and cinnamon came through clearly on the palate, along with coconut and vanilla, all somewhat overwhelmed by the pungency of the wood bite. I liked it better on ice, all things considered, and yes, as a mixer it’s excellent. The finish is long, and the burn lingers and that is not necessarily pleasant for all: it was not for me.

I hesitate to pronounce any kind of definitive judgement on this rum. As a reviewer who looks for certain things to describe, I must concede its taste and body. It’s intriguing, flavourful and while not as unique as the Bundy, quite forceful in its own way: and as I said at the beginning of this rum review, I am always appreciative of efforts at originalityit hints at a blender who is willing to go outside the box. As a man who has friends over, it would not be the first thing I trot out for my guests, however, since it goes a bit over the trench and off the plantation, so to speak. Oh, it’s a rum all right, and quite a good one: just a shade differentenough so that most people might take a glass or two out of curiosity, but then shrug and move on to more convivial and comfortingly familiar fare.

(#020)(Unscored)


Other Notes

  • The rum is a blend of French Savalle still barrels aged between 12-13 years, according to a clarification on El Dorado’s FB page. Cark Kanto, who worked with DDL as a Production Manager, told me that it was a blend of rums around 13-16 years old.
  • The rum was released in 2007 to commemorate the cricket World Cup, some matches of which were held in Guyanathe shape of the bottle to resemble a cricket bat is therefore not an accident.
  • In tandem with this Uitvlugt ICBU, two other rums from the wooden heritage stills were released: a Port Mourant PM, and an Enmore EHP. I wrote about the trio together in a single post in 2015.