Feb 092024
 

We’ve met this distillery before, a mere hundred reviews or so ago. Founded by the husband and wife team of Brian and Helen Restall in 2016, they have slowly built quite a repertoire of spirits (he likes dark ones, she prefers light so maybe there’s some kind of Jack Sprat vibe going on here) – standard rums, white ones, spiced ones, the 2021 release of the 2-3 YO 55.5% Pure Single Rum I enjoyed and a brutal 63% “fire cane” I really want to try, plus gin, falernum, limoncello and vodka, which covers the bases nicely.

So here they are again, with a somewhat offbeat take on the Pure Single Rum, if not as strong. Because the background of the company is covered in that original review, I won’t rehash it here, except to note that the columnar still I mentioned then – 380L and six plateshas a name: Alba, which was the initial name of Lord Byron’s illegitimate daughter before he renamed her Allegra. I enjoy these little winks that distillers make to some interesting aspect of their past or something that interests them, in the naming of their still, truly.

Photo (c) Lord Byron Distillery website

Anyway, about the rum: molasses based, using distiller’s yeast on a wash left for seven days in closed stainless vessels, then run through the two copper alembics (it’s double distilled), then matured a minimum of three years in ex-bourbon barrels sourced from Woodford Reservewhich if shy they can call it rum, and not a cane spirit. Of course, bearing in mind the sustainable, ecologically-friendly, zero-waste nature of their operation and commitment to making pure rums, it’s not chill filtered and additive free.

This is a rum that channels one of the more peculiar olfactory profiles I’ve yet come across- it reminds me something of some Japanese rums, especially kokuto shochus. It opens with an odd sort of earthy, mouldy, damp cellar aroma, and of wet, much-worn leather boots. Brine, olives and a vegetable soup with “plenty obstacles” and a fiery pimento for kick. There’s a sense of wet paint slapped onto decaying drywall, the bitter tang of roasting chestnuts (which I never cared for myself), plastic sheeting, and only at the end when all seems over and done with, do the shy tangy notes of ripe fruit emerge, some green apples, grapes, pears, that kind of thing. It’s an unusual nose and I’m unsure how well it would work at a heftier proof point, though I would have liked to see that one a bit more, I thinka lot of subtlety gets missed out on that, say, 43% or 46% might have shown off better.

This observation is apropos for the palate as well, which is quite crisp: and while not exactly clear or clean, is close enough not to offend while still being rather too mild for everything it apparently stuffs in its jock. It channels a hot, almost sour and spicy Thai Tom Yum soup with no shortage of lemongrass, salted butter melting in a pan, with olive oil and toasted rye bread coming behind that. Again the fruits take something of a back seat and only start becoming noticeable after the rum opens up, and even then there’s not a whole lot that one can easily pick out: lemon peel, fresh peaches, pears, some watermelon, more or less. But it does meld nicely into the whole, some of the dirty notes from the nose are absent, and the finish concludes things well: short, sharp, reasonably flavourful, all of it fading fast and acting like it just wants to bail.

Strictly speaking this is not my dram of grog. I’m not won over by the loamy and earthy notes at the beginning (the official site entry refers to “bourbon corn” as a tasting note) and aspects of the nose in particular don’t work for me; plus, as always, I have my issues with standard strengthit makes everything too mild which even a few additional points of proof might have showcased more effectively. Yet I can’t fault it for that, only admire the courage it must have taken to release the rum as it is, knowing it is something at right angles to more established profiles. So to conclude, Lord Byron’s rum showcases rather more potential than the sort of intense quality sported by the 55% 2018 Pure Single Rum they did before, and would seem to be aimed at the more easy going supermarket crowd who prefer more demure fare. The furious taste profile attendant on something stronger is missing, and the tastes will not be in everyone’s comfort zone: yet underneath all that, we see a much better rum is waiting to be appreciated, and now, having written my opinion, I think I’ll go back and try my sample a few more times. Let’s see if, after a few more hours, it delivers more concretely on what it promises.

Have a good weekend!

(#1056)(78/100) ⭐⭐⭐


Other Notes

  • From the 2023 Australian Advent Calendar, Day 13
Feb 012024
 

Cabarita Spirits is the Australian equivalent of Nine Leaves, or so I like telling myself, and Keri Algar, the Spanish-born New Zealander who is the owner, may live in one of the prettiest places on earth, close to Cabarita Beach in the Tweed Shire of New South Wales (Husk Distillers are also in the neighbourhood). Like Yoshi-san in Japan before he did a runner on us, she is also chief cook and bottle washer, to say nothing of the entire procurement department, sales force, accounting section, maintenance manager, head distiller, bottling line and managing director all rolled into one. No, really.

Photo (c) Cabarita Spirits, from the webpage

All kidding aside, Cabarita is a small distillery, conceived in 2019 after Keri was feeling glumpish about doing soulless work for The Man in perpetuity. “I was wonderinghow to be able to live on a Pacific Island in the possession of a small beachside rum bar without spending the next twenty years behind a desk, when it occurred to me that I might make rum, and that could be a means to my tropical dreams.” Starting with a rinky dink 25-litre still and a 25-litre fermenter and a lot of ideas led to two years of relentless self-education, distillery visits, sourcing equipment, and incredibly hard work and experimentation. Finally she ended up with a 230-litre copper pot still (handmade in Western Australia by HHH Distill), which she named Felix after her Spanish grandfather, who had worked as chemist in a sugar factory back in the day, and started commercial production with the usual unaged cane spirit (but oddly, no gin“I never cared for it” she sniffs). While the official name of the distillery is Cabarita Spirits, she chose a different name“Soltera”for its associations with being carefree and unbound, though she does admit that these days she’s actually never been less carefree or unbound, what with all the effort of holding down all these jobs and only getting paid for one. But there are no regrets.

The “Oro” (“gold”) rum barrel aged cane spirit which formed part of the 2023 advent calendar is her second edition of a slightly aged product. Released in that year, it derives from molasses (sourced from Condong Sugar Mill in northern NSW for the curious), has a 3-4 week open fermentation time using commercial yeast, run through Felix and then aged for eight months in an ex-bourbon barrique that was re-coopered to ~120L and charred with a medium burn. What comes out the other end is an almost-but-not-quite colourless 40% rum that really isn’t half bad. All that hard work and playing around, methinks, sure paid off.

Let’s start with how it smells: sweet, light and citrusy, channelling the sunshine of a spring morning where the slight nip of departing winter still lingers and the grass is wet with dew. There are notes of key lime pie (including a warm pastry), light florals, pineapples, bananas and kiwi fruit, old paper, and a sort of potpourri air freshener. Also the faintest hint of vanilla and caramel, damp earth and cashews, but held way back. Air freshener, potpourri. I like the youthful freshness of it, the delicacy backed up by a solid backbone of aged and varied aromas, and call me a romantic, but I see the owner in this one in a way I rarely do with others.

What I want to remark on as well, is the way the palate opens up over time. Initially it doesn’t taste like there’s too much going on (“too faint” I grumbled in my initial notes before crossing it out…twice) – laundry drying on the line, ginger, yoghurt, olive oil, caramel, citrus and pineapples (again). It takes effort to tease these notes out. Yet after five minutes, then ten, then half an hour, it turns bright and sparkling, and what in a lesser rum might be faint and wispy anonymous notes of zero distinction is transmuted somehow to a taste that’s really quite lovely. By the time I’m done, I’m scribbling about citrus, mangoes, laundry detergent and pastries and pouring another glass for Mrs. Caner to try and admiring the finish, which is longer and more crisp and tart than any standard strength rum has a right to be,

Admittedly I’m fonder of higher proof rums, so freely concede that, sure, yes, there could be more strength here (and my score reflects that): yet somehow the whole thing works well and it deserves its plaudits. Consider also the difference between what this is and what the disappointing Bayou White from last week was. There we had a sort of indifferent lowest-common-denominator commercial product made to sell and not to taste: it had about as much character as a sheet of saran wrap. Keri has not made a world beater here, noI’d be lying if I said thatbut she’s made a tasty rum with passion and drive and her own character stamped all over it. It’s a lovely little number, and a win in all the ways that matter.

(#1054)(83/100) ⭐⭐⭐½


Other Notes

  • From the 2023 Australian Advent Calendar, Day 5
Jan 232024
 

Black Gate distillery is an outfit to keep an eye on. The husband and wife team of Genise and Brian Hollingsworth made waves (to me, at any rate) with their 52% Dark Overproof back in 2021 and in 2023 they have come close yet again with this lovely Shiraz-cask-aged numberwhich doesn’t reimagine the rumiverse so much as take lots of what’s good with it and re-engineer it into a taste that’s uniquely their own.

Let’s just refresh our memories: located in central New South Wales, Black Gate was founded in 2009 in the small rural town of Mendooran. The husband and wife team splits the duties: Genise Holingsworth does the good stuff and makes the Lord’s favoured spirit, while her husband Brian dutifully makes that other obscure drink and handles the maintenance aspects (he’s a fitter machinist and auto mechanic by trade). They sourced two pot stillsrelatively small at 630 litres and 300 litres capacityand work with food grade molasses, commercial yeast and water, to make their various rum expressions. All are small batch (the rum output of Black Gate is only about 2000 litres per annum, and that includes the other thing). The distillery makes various Dark Rums with different finishes or cask maturations, and aside from whiskies, no cash flow stalwarts such as gins or “cane spirit” seem to be on the menu.

Photo (c) Black Gate Distillery FB page

Rums are aged in Port or Sherry casks, or both, for a minimum of two yearsto be able to be classified as “rum” under Australian law, if you recall. With respect to this one, the source was from the aforementioned molasses, and fermented for around two weeks, then run through the direct-fire pot still, aged about 3-4 years in a 225-litre Huntington Estate Shiraz cask from Mudgee, then left to rest for two months before bottling. As with the overproof, labels are all the same for all these dark rums no matter when made: the specifications are, in a clever bit of economising, white printed stick-ons. The strength of the sample from the 2023 advent calendar was 45.6%, and I note there’s a newer version for sale on their website at 47.2%, so be aware of and on the lookout for some batch variation.

More is not needed so let’s get right into it. Nose firstthis starts off interesting right away: rubber, funk, rotten oranges, flowers, tart yoghurt, wet leather and the sour hotness of kimchi, ashlyan-foo and turkish peppers. Underneath this rather startling mash up lurks a musky odour of damp loam, a kind of freshly watered potter’s mix which doesn’t sound appetising, but which I assure you, kind of is. Coiling around all that are fainter notes of acetones, ginger, vegetable soup, and pickled russian cabbage (not sauerkraut). The nose as a whole is not unpleasant, just goes off at something of a tangent and it’s probably a good idea to to let this one stand for a bit and come back to it a few times to get the full impact.

What I like about the taste is that it provides the tangy fruit that are not as clearly evident on the nose. Slightly sweet, it presents chocolate oranges, some caramel, leather, smoke, with vanilla and darker fruit (prunes, ripe raspberries, plums) coming through off the shiraz cask and the ageing. Ginnips, fresh cashews, grapes and green apples with a touch of licorice and that damp earth, apricots and overripe Thai mangoes, accompanied by a solid spicy heat all the way down culminating in a really nice low key but long lasting finish redolent of honey, brandy, coffee and fruitiness.

That’s really quite a bit for any rum to be sporting, and is one of the reasons I kept it on the go for longer than usual (two days)…just to see how it would develop. What may surprise casual drinkers is that even with all those sometimes off-kilter tastes coming through (and I must be honestthe assembly is a bit off and some will not like everything they taste here), the rum feels really accessible, even to the less exacting drinker. It gives a lot and the strength is rightmore power and intensity might have shredded itand so it doesn’t so much so much rock the boat as gently move it around a few times.

Speaking for myself, tasting this thing was a pleasurebecause with their playful experimentation, careful distillation and shiraz ageing, Black Gate have produced a young rum that is a touch off the rails, sure, but also a decent and intriguing sipping experience. Perhaps it’s no accident that That Boutique-y Rum Company picked it as one of their ‘Return to Oz’ series recently. If I was their buyer, I would likely have given it a shot too.

(#1052)(84/100) ⭐⭐⭐½


Other notes

  • The exact age is unknown. 3-4 years goes the blurb
  • Outturn is also unclearbecause of the small scale of the distillery and the notation that it is one barrel (#BG-140), one must assume it’s less than 350 bottles.
  • From the 2023 Australian Advent Calendar, Day 17
Jan 192024
 

Although I tried all three standard expressions of the Romero Distilling Co. at the Rocky Mountain Food and Drink show in Calgary in 2023, I had already bought all of them before, and this came in useful when double checking my quickly scribbled notes on the “Amber.” That was the one which I had almost bypassed in favour of the “Dark” and the extraordinary full proof Sherry Cask editionwhich I still think is one of the best Canadian rums I’ve had to date.

A quick recap: the Calgary-based Romero Distilling Company was founded in 2018 by Diego Romero, an engineer who opened the distillery with his son Tomas (it was the latter who was running the booth that day), with a 2000-litre hybrid copper still and three 2000-litre fermenters; they use Crosby molasses from Guatemala (by way of New Brunswick) as its base, together with a commercial yeast. The company only makes rum, and remain very little known outside Albertawhich I’m hoping will change.

This rum derives from molasses, then, and is dialled in from a pot still configuration. We have no information on the duration of the distillation date, fermentation process, or the exact age of the resulting distillate. As far as I know, it’s a couple of years old (aged in ex bourbon Woodford Reserve barrels), with a relatively short time in the ex-Oloroso sherry barrels…a few months, perhapsneither data point is provided. I am at a loss why such information is not placed front and centre on the label or the web page, since it would seem to be an obvious selling point, but Romero has stated that they want to de-emphasize the number-counting people do when considering ageing as a factor, and focus on the blend as a whole. As before, I think this is not the right course of action in today’s more open world. But that’s Romero, so let’s move on to what it’s actually like.

The nose starts off by being rather thin and uninviting, which is not unusual for a 40% rum, and it does present as somewhat alcohol forward without much that’s redeeming…until it starts to build up a head of steam. Then we get some plastic, plasticine, iodine and licorice, which is nice, and toffee, caramel, vanilla and brown sugar, which is better. As it opens up there are additional hints of new leather shoes, some spicy notes (cinnamon, maybe, and cardamom), and a peculiar, faint combination of fresh sawdust and peaches in syrup, all very delicate.

Much of this comes back on the palate when tasted. There’s some slightly sweet alcohol, glue, fly paper (I swear!), cardboard, hay and a milk-soaked long-standing bowl of weetabix. With some effortthe rum remains faint throughout and one really has to pay attentionthere are also red olives and raspberries, but not a whole lot more. The finish, no surprise, is short and thin, but very clean and a little sweet. Not too bad.

Eschewing spicessupposedly it didn’t have anyand going for the sherry finish was probably a good idea, because really, the rum would be thin gruel without it. That finish saves it from being some kind of light 1970s throwback of the kind I’ve learned to endure (but not particularly like), and there’s enough going overall on for those with more sensitive snoots than mine to be able to sip it without undue issues.

For my money, however, the rum is too weak and it’s too faint, and that’s in spite of the sherry finish that provides such an intriguing but hard-to-sense counterpoint to the familiar vanilla and butterscotch notes coming from the ex-bourbon barrels. There’s potential here, and one can sense a better, stronger and more assertive rum waiting to emerge. It’s just not enough, and if we really wanted to see this thing cranked up, well, I guess then we’d call it the full proof edition, wouldn’t we, and it’s already established that that is the better rum. So for those who want to play it safe, save fifteen bucks and have a decent drink, this is the rum that will do the trick. For everyone else, it’ll be slim pickings.

(#1051)(75/100) ⭐⭐½

Jan 152024
 

Once again we start the new year off with a series of rums from the Australian Advent Calendar, 2023 Edition. First issued by the Australian rum-loving couple Mr. & Mrs. Rum in 2021, not in 2022 and now again for 2023, it answers what we out west have been wondering about for years (well…at least I have) – what’s going on with the rums being made in Australia over and beyond Bundaberg, which everyone cheerfully loathes and Beenleigh which everyone likes? Twenty four rums in the calendar, a whole raft of new and old distilleries strutting their stuff, and let me tell you, to get them to Canada was a ripping yarn in itself…not entirely unlike Butch’s father’s watch, you could say.


We begin the series out of order, with a rum from the island of Tasmania, made by a little outfit called Island Coast Spirits, located just south of Hobart, the state capital (Tasmania is an island state of Australia). It is, it should be noted, not a distillery itself since it has no equipment. The owner, Kirk Pinner, runs over to the Observatory Hill Winery (about half an hour to the NE on the other side of Hobart) which (a) is run by a friend (b) makes rum (and brandy, gin, schnapps and wine) and (c) has a still. He rents that still and makes his own rum, so not quite a contract operation like we saw with Mandakini a few weeks ago, yet not entirely a true producer or an indie either. The website is rather scanty on details, so Kirk very kindly answered an email of mine providing some of this info, and a brief company bio is provided below.

For the purposes of this review, what we need to know is the following: the rum is made on a pot still, using a combination of fermented raw cane juice and molasses…so a hybrid rum if there ever was one. Once off the still it is aged in ex-Bourbon barrels with a light char, for something just under three years and bottled at living room strength of 40%.

[My desire was…] to produce the spirits I wanted,” Kirk wrote to me, and clearly he had something easygoing in mind. Not some backyard snarling ester-sporting beefcake that stomped all over one’s glottis, just a rum that was easy and accessible. The nose confirmed that he did fairly okay with that: it smelled of delicate icing sugar, vanilla, pastries hot from the oven, as well as more standard caramel, swiss bon-bons and a light touch of molasses and brown sugar. Also some cinnamon, eggnog, ice cream, a relatively sweetish aroma, and all over soft and straightforward and simple.

The 40% ABV made for a clean and unaggressive entry; it tasted pleasantly warm and a little sweet and came completely without aggro. Vanilla and caramel and toffee carried over from the nose. A few sweetish fruitpeaches, pearsnothing too acidic or tart. Molasses, a hot caramel macchiato, flambeed bananas, icing sugar on a cake fresh out of the oven, leading serenely to a short, finish that summed up the preceding without adding much that was new.

Picture (c) Island Cost Spirits FB Page

It’s a nice little rumlet without undue pretensions, but that same easy going nature is something of a weak point for those who like their rums more assertive. There are amber Bacardis with more going on than we see here, and I had similar remarks (and reservations) about Killik’s Gold, where I noted that such low ABV hamstrings a rum that could be better a few points higher. But that said, it will work for some, because it’s simply not trying hard to be a game changer…just a soft breezy rum for easy sipping. On that level it succeeds, and the awards it’s racked up in its brief lifea silver medal at the 2022 Australian Rum Awards in Queensland, and another silver at the World Rum Awards in London in 2023 (pot still NAS category) – suggests that others certainly seem to like what the company is offering, my own reservations notwithstanding.

(#1050)(77/100) ⭐⭐⭐


Other notes

  • Fermentation time, barrel size, ratio of sugar cane juice to molasses, outturn, are all unknown
  • From the 2023 Australian Advent Calendar, Day 4

Brief Historical bio

Island Coast Spirits is, as noted, a Tasmanian spirits maker (not a distillery). It was founded in October 2021 and has adhered to the principle of making their spirits on a third party’s distillation apparatusa pot stillfrom the beginning. This was a conscious decision made at the inception: Kirk Pinner knew when he began planning, that he did not want the significant overheads and costs/debt associated with setting up his own distillery. He wanted the flexibility to not have all that headache but to be able to concentrate on his own desires and strengths: namely to have the ability to take on projects/new spirits on a whim without worrying about the infrastructure; and to focus more on the business relationships, ingredients, selection of barrels, blending and back end work. To that end he turned to those with some expertise (like Observatory Hill Winery) and used their skills to make his spirits.

In the three years since he began, the company now makes seven different products: Vodka, Rum, Gin and Whisky, and three flavoured vodkas. So far there is just one rum in the portfoliothis onewith another very interesting one in the pipeline waiting to be released sometime in 2024. In the meantime, the distribution within Tasmania and on the mainland is good, and Kirk is building on his success (and awards) to take his juice on the road to various F&B trade expos in Asia to promote the island, the brand and the rum.


 

Nov 252023
 

Rumaniacs Review R-160 | #1041

Few rum aficionados need me to elaborate either on Don Q, the “other” major distillery on the island of Puerto Rico which makes it, Puerto Rico itself and it’s peculiar status vis-a-vis the USA, or indeed, this rum. Any one of them is an essay in itself and can lead to any number of rabbit holes,

Let’s just stick to the basics, then. In brief: like Bacardi, Destilería Serrallés was founded by a Catalan emigre in the 1860s (the sugar plantation the Serrallés family first bought goes back three decades before that), though they lacked the global ambitions of the larger company’s operations and have stayed within Puerto Rico. Don Q, named after Sancho Panza’s elderly sidekick, is the flagship brand of Destilería Serrallés with several expressions dating back to 1932 when it was launched to compete with Bacardi: however, let’s be clearthe Cristal was first released in 1978, when it was specifically designed to compete with the rising popularity of vodka. Before that, I think white rums were just called “Don Q” and had a distinguishing white label (my assumption), since I can’t find any reference to a specific one predating the Cristal.

The Cristal itself is a white rum, adhering to the Latin style of light ‘n’ easy rum making, and is the result of distillation on a multi-column still, aged in ex-bourbon barrels for between one and five years, filtered to colourlessness, blended, and then bottled at standard strength (40%). The review of the modern equivalent gives you some more details of the version you’re likely to find on store shelves these daysthis one, as far as I can tell, is from the mid to late 1980s, perhaps the 1990s (the label has undergone several revisions over the years and for different countries, so dating is imprecise at best).

Colourwhite

Strength – 40%

NoseHas a sort of light and creamy aroma, like custard drizzled with vanilla syrup. Acetones and nail polish. Slightly sweet, somewhat warm. A few faint fruity notesnothing really identifiable leaps outwhich are just trembling on the edge of a flat cream soda.

PalateSharpish, mostly pineapple, vanilla and flavoured yoghurt, iodine. Not a whole lot going on here and while not really unpleasant, there are too many discernible medicinal and ethanol notes to make to a drink worth having.

FinishDecently long, sweet vanilla milkshake and an apricot slice or two. Unremarkable, but at least there’s something here, which is already better than most of these bland, anonymous filtered blancos from the era.

ThoughtsMy remarks about when it was issued and why, is the key to unlocking why the profile is what it is: inoffensive, bland, easy, vodka-like…and by today’s standards, rather uninteresting. It remains what it has always been, a cheap bar mixer, without much of an edge to wake up a mixed drink. Older versions like this one seem even blander than the modern ones, and so my recommendation is to get one if you like to drink some rums from Ago, but don’t expect too much, and keep mixing your mojito with what’s on the shelves today.

(73/100) ⭐⭐½

Oct 212023
 

In the last review we looked at a product from Romero Distilling, a small and relatively new-ish distillery in Calgary which has the distinction of focusing almost exclusively on making rums (of all kinds). At first blush it seems to conform to the standards of many occasionally unfocused local distillers who are still playing around trying to find the perfect groove: their “Dark” rum left me somewhat dissatisfied and mostly indifferent (spiced rums not being my thing for reasons I went into some detail in that review), and while I didn’t mention it, the “Amber”which I own, opened and tried at homehasn’t turned my crank much either.

The Sherry Finish Cask Strength Rum, on the other hand, is an entirely different animal, and an order of magnitude better than either of thoseit quite literally left me looking happily at my glass, wondering whence this thing had sprung, and completely unwilling to stop trying it. Now, it’s a pot-still 1200-bottle limited edition 57% ABV rum without any spices, colourants or additives, so right away it has a better starting point than the other two; it’s aged for two years or so in ex-Woodford Reserve barrels and then another two-plus in newly emptied ex-Oloroso sherry barrels brought over from Spainthat to my mind makes it a double aged (not a finished) rum, but whatever…the important thing is, what comes out the other end is to my mind, really impressive.

First of all there’s the way the nose opens. Compared to the low strength and rather thin aromas of its spiced sibling, this packs a solid punch: it presents some woody and tannic notes, with solid sweet caramel, chewing gum, toffee, molasses and a delicate hint of a cinnamon-flavoured unsweetened mocha. Not too much fruitiness heremore dates and coconut shavingsbut a fair amount of cereals, rye bread, cardboard and crushed almonds. Really great smells, and one that’s worth keeping around for more than just the time it takes to have a sip or three and move on.

When tasted, it continues well: hot fresh pastries like pine tarts or pecan pie start the show, and here some fruit start to make themselves noticeable: ripe and heavier ones like sapodilla, plums, prunes and some apricots, with flashes of molasses and honey (love that). There’s even the slight trace of a good brie, some olive oil, rotten lemons, and something savoury lurking in the background, as if it is trying to channel a raw clairin, or a tequila. The finish is also quite good, lasting a long time and wrapping things up with salt caramel, coffee, some brininess and those fresh baked pastries.

To say I wasmerely pleasedis understating matters. I was damned impressed. The rum seemed so good on the first try that not only did I keep the glass going for the next two hours, but as soon as I got home, went straight out and bought a bottle online (I’m told that the rum has just gone into general release in Alberta). What’s also really interesting is that for 57% ABV, double the ageing and no spicing it up, it only costs C$7 more than the C$75 Dark with which I had previously been relatively unenthused.

So, in the final analysis, although I have many more rums from north of 49 to try, so far this is one of the best Canadians I’ve yet come across, the highest scoring to date. It’s not a copy of some Caribbean profile, doesn’t seek to emulate noble sires from hotter climes, but is completely, calmly, resolutely, itself. It adheres to the profile of rum while providing just enough kinks and twists to show that the makers knew exactly what they were doing when they made it. It shows how something better than the dronish herd of mass produced tipple can be made here, and hopefully sell, and while I’m sure over time other rums will inevitably eclipse it…for now, it remains a high point of the Canadian rum scene and deserves serious attention.

(#1034)(86/100) ⭐⭐⭐⭐


Other Notes

  • The rum was awarded “Best in Class” at the 2023 Alberta Beverage awards (in a three way tie). Given the judges’ primary expertise, what it was rated against, and what else was on the list of candidates and winners, this is not an award to be taken completely seriously, and the scores were, shall we say, somewhat excessively enthusiastic. But it had to be mentioned.
  • Company details can be found in the review of the Romero Dark
  • The rum is a blend of several barrels and an outturn of 2000 bottles.
  • A hydrometer test comes out at 56.8% ABV, so it’s clean from that perspective (and tastes that way, but I checked anyway)
  • The company runs tour, tasting and blending sessions at its facility in Calgary, which I’ve heard from friends of mine who went, are quite good.
  • There’s a fair bit of marketing copy on the website and other promotional materials, about rum running in Canada during Alberta’s own Prohibition era, but this is local colour and has no bearing on Romero directly.
Oct 172023
 

So there I was walking around the impressively well organised Rocky Mountain Wine and Food Festival, which had boatloads of beers, wines and spirits and food (and precious few rums), all superbly arranged in terms of space and one’s ability to navigate. For a guy used to the tight confines and crowded booth frontage of European festivals, it was eye opening to be able to walk five abreast in any direction and join ten people in front of a display and not bump elbows. Every now and then I wandered back over to Karl Mudzamba and his compadre Ernie, who were manning the Bira! booth, to apprise him of any new finds, or just hang out and enjoy their company.

One of the few rums partaking this event was Romero Distilling Company, which is located in Calgary: it was founded in 2018 by Diego Romero, an engineer who came to the country from Spain in the 1960s and worked in the mining and mineral processing industries as an adult before moving on to what we can only imagine was a passion project. He opened the distillery with his son Tomas (it was he who was running the booth), bought a 2000-litre hybrid copper still, three 2000-litre fermenters and, if memory serves, uses Crosby molasses from Guatemala (by way of New Brunswick) to get things going. The company only makes rum, opting not to dilute its focus with other kinds of spirits, as so many others do, and remains very little known outside Alberta.

Now, I’ve actually already bought a bottle of the Dark and the Amber rums, and I’ve written a few quick tasting notes on both, but have not gotten around to trying either one seriously, or doing any real researchso it was good to see a bottle available for tasting at the booth, and Tomas patiently led me through the basic details, which I’ll not discuss until after I give you the tasting notes.

The standard strength (40%) rum is, as its name implies, dark. It’s also got a nose that’s peculiarly tannic in a sweetish kind of way, slightly oaky, and quite crisp. There’s quite a dollop of spices hitting you right awaycardamom and vanilla are the most obvious, with some cinnamon, light licorice, rosemary and black unsweetened tea backing that up. It’s too tame to do any damage and it looks to have been aged a few yearsmore than that is hard to tease out.

It remains easy and quite soft on the palate, and the crisp cleanliness of the nose is retained. It’s flavourful and the sense of the spices continues: the mouthfeel is really nice, and I suspect that even if the label doesn’t say so, there’s more than just some barrel ageing going on here. There are some red wine and bourbon notes in the background, a touch of ripe peaches in syrup, and overall it’s quite pleasant, even if additional vanilla and cardamom and cinnamon seem insistent on making themselves felt. Finish is quite short, but at least it’s clean, and repeats most of the spices, slight tannics, ginger and fruit reasonably well.

So, after all this, what is it? Based on the label, you’re not getting much: 40%, molasses based, batch number, aged in ex-bourbon barrels. The website is where you get more: ex-Woodford Reserve barrels, pot still distillation…and additional spices. Which spices? That’s not given. How long is it aged? Not provided either. Year of distillation? Nada.

Tomas on the other hand, was quite informative and outgoing. He confirmed the barrels, and said the Dark is made as a blend, consistently about two-plus years old (hence the lack of a year of make), with all natural ingredients, nothing artificial. And while he called his still a single-column still, the website entry for this rum mentions it’s a pot still, and an article in the Calgary Herald mentions a hybrid, which last makes more sense given its flexibility and the photographs I’ve seen.

Essentially then: the Dark is a spiced rum, even if it doesn’t say so explicitly. This is a puzzle since the company does make an amber coloured Spiced version, so it’s unclear why the title was left off. Tomas said that they don’t emphasise the ageing because that just leads to preconceptions that young rums can’t be good ones and they wanted it to speak for itself. Maybe so, but I suggest that in today’s climate of disclosure, nothing is really lost by providing consumers with what they need to make an informed choice when buying a C$75 rum, and if Renaissance proved anything, it’s that rums aged under five years can be pretty damned fine.

So. What did I think? For people like my vlogger friend Steve the Barman in the UK, who likes expounding on the joys of rums like this, it’s right in his wheelhouse. It’s decent enough. It’s tasty, sweetish and as an after dinner drink will work just fine. Those who like rums like the Kraken, Don Papa, AH Riise, Bumbu and Captain Morgan will find much to enjoy. As a rum on its own terms, I myself find it less successful, and the cardamom and vanilla in particular have a disconcertingly powerful impact on the overall profile, shouldering aside other and more delicate aspects. On the basis of these comments you can decide where your own preferences lie, I think.

(#1033)(Unscored)


Other notes

  • It would be remiss not to mention that the Dark has won several awards: a Gold Medal in the Frankfurt International Trophy 2022 as well as the competition’s Best Canadian Spirit that same year; and a gold and silver medal in the San Francisco World Spirits Competition 2021 and 2022 respectively (both in the Dark Rum category).
  • The company runs tour, tasting and blending sessions at its facility in Calgary, which I’ve heard from friends of mine who went, are quite good.
  • There’s a fair bit of marketing copy on the website and other promotional materials, about rum running in Canada during Alberta’s own Prohibition era, but this is local colour and has no bearing on Romero directly.
  • The crow on the logo reflects the Crowsnest Pass in the south of Alberta, through which moonshine was supposedly transported on its way to the US in the bad old days.

Opinion

It’s no secret that spiced rums hold no particular appeal for me. Though occasionally their taste is nice enough, there is no yardstick by which to judge themsome sort of baseline by which to assess their profile, the levels of what’s put in, how many different spices, where those come from, and to what spirit exactly such additions are made. In other words, it becomes impossible to judge value or effectively compare one with the other. Are you paying for what is touted as an all-natural product (always a plus in these organic-everything times)? The hard-to-get (and therefore expensive) spices and flavourings? The exclusivity or age or quality or source of the rum stock it’s put into? The length of time it all marries in casks, leading to additional price hikes?

Who knows these things? Nobody except the producer, that’s who. And therefore, I can’t tell whether a given spiced rum is neutral alcohol gotten on the cheap to which stuff has been added (perhaps to get around the costs of a years-long barrel-ageing program), or a youngish rum topped up with all-natural ingredients that make for a nicely flavoured drink. Both could conceivably be sold at a premium with all sorts of glib explanations.

Years of looking at spiced, flavoured or infused rums (yes, I do try them) have left me with a certain cynicism regarding what goes on a label, and at end, it comes down to thisin the absence of a common, agreed-to standard, no matter how informal, I just don’t trust them. I have no doubt that small and upcoming distilleries like Romero suffer from a lack of regional (let alone global) recognition, but they’re not helping themselves by the lack of proper disclosure here either (though it may be completely inadvertent). It’s not an inconsequential issue for a consumer being asked to pay that price, and hampers a more serious consideration of a distillery that really does make some interesting rums, another of which I’ll tell you about next time.


 

Sep 222023
 

Don Q is the other big brand from Puerto Rico that many believe has bragging rights over the Big Bad Bat when it comes to quality, yet somehow does not inhabit as a deep a mindspace as Bacardi does. The brand is very well known in the US and Canada (though I don’t see it for sale out west very often) but I get the impression it’s somewhat less of a thing in Europe or Asiaprobably because they have plenty of brands of their own and so don’t exist in the same spirituous desert.

Don Q is the flagship brand of the other huge distilling operation on the island of Puerto Rico, Destilería Serrallés: like Bacardi it was founded by a Catalan emigre in the 1860s, though they lacked the international ambitions of the larger company and have stayed within Puerto Rico the whole time. Destilería Serrallés produces three main tiers of this branded rum: the Traditional range of mixing agents (Cristal, Gold and 151); a series of flavoured rums, and the more upscale “Serrallés Collection”, which is where the aged, finished and stronger premiums live. Don Q as a brand is named after Don Quixote (one wonders where Sancho Panza is lurking), but the reason has little to do with the wannabe over-the-hill knight and more to do with the author and his masterwork (see below).

The Cristal is a white rum from the Traditional range: it is of course nothing like the robust white brawling full proof rums whose praises I have extolled in past lists of Great Whites, the ones that go out there sporting an attitude, showing off their glutes and spoiling for a fight. In point of fact it’s a light rum coming off multiple distillation runs on a five-column industrial still, aged in ex-bourbon barrels for between one and five years, filtered to colourlessness, blended, and then bottled at standard strength (40%). Therefore it adheres more to the ethos of relaxed and affordable backbar general mixers, a sort of workhorse of daiquiris and mojitos, hearkening back to the light rum period of the previous century, than something more primitive and elemental.

The tasting notes show why the above paragraph can be written. There’s vanilla, coconut shavings, some nail polish and brine. Also, after some time, one can pick out citrus, light cream soda, cherries, some ripe juicy pears. It just kind of fades away at this point and there’s little more to be gained by hanging around

The palate shows off a similarly light and easy island charm: sweet, light, creamy, with some watermelon, papaya, cream soda, ginger, and again, the pears, maybe a couple of bananas. A dusting of cinnamon can be discerned with care, and the finish is as expectedshort, prickly, a touch of honey and coconut shavings set off by that slight twist of lemon.

The Cristal, then, is a completely serviceable rum with just enough taste in there to lift it (slightly) above more anonymous fare that tries less, and I can see why some consider it a step above other whites, including Bacardi’s. There’s a bit of edge lurking behind the inoffensive first taste, a hint of undiscovered character. That said, the strength makes that difficult to come to grips with, and rums like this are never going to be my go-tos unless I just want to get econo-hammered. Overall they display too little of interest, being quite content to stay in the background, sink in the cocktail, and disappear. Thus, they play it safe and take no chancesthe alcohol is delivered, the drink is ok, it goes down easy, no fuss, no bother, mission accomplished.

That will work fine for people who don’t care, and I don’t cast any aspersions on either buyer or seller in this matterthe purpose of the review, then, is less to pass judgement than to simply tell you what you’re getting when you fork over your two bits. As with Bacardi Superior, Lamb’s and other lightly aged, filtered white rums, the answer is, “not a whole lot”. But then, that’s also why you don’t pay a whole lotit’s quite cheap, and you’re not getting a dated, decades-old rum of complexity and age which is old enough to vote and will take your an hour to come to grips with…just a relatively neutral, inoffensive rum that serves its limited purpose, and delivers exactly what you pay for, plus a few cents extra.

(#1027)(76/100) ⭐⭐⭐


Other notes

  • The rum is cheap, yes: this also comes not only from economies of (large) scale, but from the impact of the cover-over tax rebate the company receives, which keep prices down.
  • This is not a much-reviewed rum; the Fat Rum Pirate rated it two stars in 2017 and he commented on its neutralityhe wasn’t impressed. Spirits Review gave it 7 olives out of 10 in an undated review probably coming from around 2010 (the design of the bottle is an earlier variant). Honestboozereviews, writing in 2018, figured it rated around 6.5 points and mentioned it mixed well, was easy to find, and cheap. Lastly, Dave Russell of the dormant site Rum Gallery scored it 8.5 points in 2012 and said that he asked Robero Serralles about the name Don Q, and was told it linked the brandmade by the descendants of Spanish Catalansto Spain and its preeminent work of literature, and both were masterpieces.
Aug 252023
 

Killik distillery, located in the east of Melbourne, is one of the “New Australian” outfits I have an eye out for: like others located up and down the east coast of Australia (and elsewhere), they are seeking to bootstrap a homegrown rum industry into something greater by applying modern techniques to old-style rum-making and adding an occasional dash of crazy to set themselves apart. So far it’s mostly local sales that keep these small and often family-owned operations afloat, yet slowly their reputation is spreading beyond the Bundies and Beenleighs everyone knows. The Boutique-y Rum Company’s recent bottlings of Black Gate and Mt. Uncle distilleries speaks well for the future of antipodean rums, and Killik is sure to be a part of that movement.

Readers with pachyderm-level memories will likely recall that we’ve looked at a Killik Gold (rum) beforethat one was a year or so old and matured in Chardonnay casks, while this one is of somewhat more recent vintage, no finishing or fancy cask, and a different age. When I addressed this question to the Brothers Pratt (the owners), they remarked that although the overall production process remains the samethey continue to tinker with wild yeast fermentation and Jamaican high-ester-style rum making as a core ethosthe small size of their output means that until they expand it to larger sizes, batches are and will be strikingly varied, and those batches come out quite often. In that sense they are somewhat like the six-month ageing-and-output cycle Nine Leaves in Japan used to have.

One thing to look out for is the label. Now recall, Australia has that 2-year rule that states a cane based spirit cannot be called rum until it is aged for at least two years (producers are trying to address a potential revision to this outdated law through the courts)…so strictly speaking Killik should only be able to call itas beforea “gold” or a “cane spirit” or some variant thereof. However, in what I personally consider a stroke of marketing genius, they trademarked their name and the image of the anchor device together, as “Killik Handcrafted Rum,” and cheerfully added that to their labels, right above the word “Gold”. They therefore stayed within the law while simultaneously skirting it and unambiguously stating what they’re making.

This particular versionit’s hard to identify it precisely since there is no notation on the label or the websitewas confirmed to me to be at least twice as old as the version from 2022 that had come from the 2021 advent calendar. It is therefore a completely different rum, still made on a hybrid still, with dunder and wild yeast part of the recipe pushing the congener count up. It is also a blendof 75% original stock rum now aged to 3 years, plus 25% of one year old fresh make. As before, the barrels are from a local cooperage and I have an outstanding query as to whether it was used or new barrels and if used, what they previously held.

Bottled at the same 42%, the Gold takes a few more chances than the original didit noses as slightly richer, rounder, fuller. And while the funk and congeners remain as muted as before, there’s an overall sense of something slightly richer here: paint and furniture polish, a touch of wax, acetones and new plastic. This dissipates over time and is replaced by some middling-sharp fruity notesapples, green grapes, diluted lemon juice, apricots, pineapples and unripe peaches. There are also, after some minutes, hints of vanilla, cherries, lemon key pie, hot sweet pastries, cookies, and unsweetened yoghurtvery nice for something so relatively young.

The palate maintains that sense of something more complex and richer than its predecessor, even if the strength undercuts that somewhat. And yet overall still it tastes pretty goodgreen apples, light pineapple slices, bananas, pine tart and grapes, combine nicely with the sense of pastries steaming fresh from the oven, vanilla, light sugar water, lemon zest, and bitter chocolate and crushed walnuts. The finish wraps up the show as best it can, and sums up the tart and creamy fruits and pastries vibe quite wellit is quite easy drinking with a bit of a sour edge, occasionally sharp, not too hot. More cannot really be said here.

Overall, I think the low strength hamstrings a decent rum that could actually be even betterthat 42% is okay for casual drinking, but for more appreciation you do need more oomph. The relatively young age is something of a mixed blessing as well, since along with the slightly added complexity comes a bit of roughnessand so I can’t completely recommend it as a sipping rum. That said, the thing makes a really fine daiquiri, and on that front, with those sharp fruity notes leaning up against the warm pastries, the rum walks down strange and interesting yet hauntingly familiar paths inhabited by hot Jamaican patties and fierce white overproofs served in plastic tumblers at backcountry rumshopsand if nothing else, those are the qualities which define it as a rum too good to walk away from.

(#1019)(83/100) ⭐⭐⭐½


Other notes

Aug 222023
 

Rumaniacs Review #R-157 | #1019

Somehow, in all this time of reviewing rums from around the world, from around Barbados, and from within the Foursquare oeuvre, I never got around to looking at the Doorly’s “Macaw” white rum. Not the new 40% 3YO and its 47% ABV sibling which is in line with the redesigned and now-consistently labelled range as it currently exists (3YO, 5YO, 8YO, XO, 12YO and 14YO, and if this piques your curiosity just head over to Alex’s excellent vertical review of the lot) but the rather older and more venerable one at 40% and a sky blue label. Maybe it’s just in time, because it’s now been quietly discontinued.

Note the care with which I define the rum: in spite of several online references to it, it is not, as sometimes described, a three year old rum, but a blended NAS (no age statement) workhorse of the bar industry that goes back a fair bit. It is a mix of various pot-column distillates some of which (according to Richard Seale, who was as forthcoming as ever) are in the three-years-or-so age range, but often with a jot of something older for oomph.

In a reorganisation of the Doorly’s line a few years ago, the idea was to replace this with a true 3YO and beef up the proof a bit; what ended up happening was that the 40% proved so durable and popular that the 3YO was released in two strengths, the standard and the now main edition, the 47% (no other rum of the line has this double release as far as I know)…and each of those is slightly different from the other one in terms of its blend profile. That, however, left the older Macaw as the rum that got overtaken by the times, as the light, inoffensive white rum style pioneered by the Bat became less popular, and more muscular and distinctive whites began to climb in favour. It’s a rum that if you like it you need not necessarily fear of running out any time soon, as it still remains reasonably available (as of this writing in 2023)…but a stock-up might not be a bad idea.

ColourWhite

Strength – 40%

NoseQuite soft and easy, like a cream soda or rock-shandy soda and a whiff of vanilla. A little strawberry bubble gum. Quite clean, though somewhat alcoholically sharp at the inception. Some mild glue and acetones and white fruits.

PalateAgain, that cream soda like taste, light fruits, cucumbers, melons, papaya and maybe a ripe pear or two. Freshly grated and still damp coconut shavings, vanilla, bananas, an interesting melange of soft and sharp. Could be stronger.

FinishFaint and short and easy. Mostly vanilla, sugar water and some mild fruitiness.

ThoughtsThe Macaw remains what it always was: a mixing white rum from yesteryear that actually shows some character, and a profile more than just stuck in neutral. It shows what could have been done by all those bland and anonymous rum producers who slavishly aped Bacardi in the previous century, had they possessed some courage. I’m not a complete fan of the rum, but when compared against so many bland blends that characterised the periodsoulless, tasteless, flavourless, characterlessit bloody well shines in comparison.

(#1019)(76/100) ⭐⭐⭐


Other notes

  • Alex Sandu of the Rum Barrel blog met up with me in Berlin after this year’s rumfest, and we had a private tasting session where he very kindly brought this along.
Jul 252023
 

Sometimes I get the uneasy impression that slowly the 151s are fading from common collective rumconsciousness. These long-lived, much-used and oft-feared high proof rumsbottled at what was for years almost the standard for really strong rums (75.5%) and outdone only by a fewwere once the kings of the stronger drinks mixes (like the B-52 and the Zombie for example), and many cocktails called for them by number, not name or brand. Yet in my lifetime, we have seen more and more strong rums at high proof invading the market, and even some regular blends are inching closer toif not past – 70% (and if you doubt this, feel free to consult the list of Strongest Rums in the World), so it’s no surprise that it’s been occasionally bruited about that 151s have lost some shine and may be on their way out.

Yet the 151s cheerfully persist and continue to get made, and one of the reasons why is probably the amount of cocktails that call for them (as ingredients or floats), which traditionalists are loath to mess with. Many companies around the world continue to make them, and one of the brands that has stuck with it is Diamond Distillers out of Guyanathe source of many other brands’ stocks for their 151swhich has something of a love-hate relationship with the spirit: sometimes years it’s easy to find and sometimes you’ll search long and hard without success. Fortunately, it always comes back.

The Diamond range of rums from DDL is their entry level blended rum collection: rubbing shoulders with the standard white, gold and dark are three additional variations at 75.5% – the puncheon, the dark overproof and the white overproof. The puncheon and the white seem to be the same product (French savalle still, 6 months’ ageing and filtration to white) and possibly named for differing markets; while the dark is somewhat more interesting, sporting 1-2 years’ age on a blend of Enmore, PM and French savalle distillate.

My own preference for the dark’s intriguing makeup aside, it was the white that I was handed, and that’s what we’re looking at. And indeed, it’s not a bad rum, at first blush. Nosing it reveals a profile nowhere near as “throwaway cheap” as many other brands are wont to makeit starts off with hot notes of alcohol, quickly burning off, leaving clean aromas of nuts, almonds, flowers and strawberries, with vanilla and coconut shavings, and a weird faint background of earth and wet leaves. Nothing too complex, but nothing to throw down the sink either. Like with the Sunset Very Strong, there’s more here than initially seems to be the case.

This is also evident when (very carefully) tasting it. It has a sharp yet very solid series of simple and quite powerful tastes: cherries, unripe mangoes, light flowers, icing sugar, vanilla and not a whole lot else. Very strong on the attack, of course, but bearable, with a long and epic finish that unfortunately doesn’t present a whole lot but is content to just recap the preceding without adding any flourishes of its own. Like I saidnothing spectacular here, just solid workmanship.

Since there are several affordable rums we all have access to these days which are more emphatic, individualistic and close to this in strength (the Jamaicans come to mind, no surprise), the question arises whether a 151 with a profile so relatively straightforward serves any real purpose any longer, outside its core cocktail making base (and brainless college students who want to get loaded fast). They are not all that easy to make well at scale, lots of competition is out there, and getting them on board a flight (especially in the US) is a real pain. It’s no surprise they are not as common as they once were, and while they’re not impossible to find, it is becoming difficult to locate them on physical store shelves. Bacardi got out of the game in 2016 entirely (too many lawsuits), yet one can still find DDL, Lamb’s, Goslings, Don Q, Lemon Hart, Cruzan, Tilambic, Takamaka Bay and several others with a little searching (mostly from online shops), and even Habitation Velier paid tribute to the type by issuing one of its own. So not quite ready to be counted out just yet.

Where does this one land, then?

All in all, it’s very much like a full proof entry level rum with some rough edges and too little ageing, which I say from the perspective of one who tastes many cask strength rums on a regular basis and therefore has no particular issue nowadays with the proof point when trying it neat. There are more tastes than one initially expects, which is welcome, and if it is too simple and uncomplicated for serious appreciation, well, at least it leaves its heart out there on the table and doesn’t hold anything back. What you are getting is a very young, uncomplicated, filtered, high proof white rum which can’t class with an equivalent agricole (for how could it?) but which nevertheless gives a good account of itself and seeks only to do what it was made for: to spruce up some dynamite cocktails and to give you a seriously good drunk, seriously fast, and maybe both at the same time. Fine by me.

(#1012)(76/100)


Other notes

  • For those with a historical bent, there’s a small history of the 151s available to provide more backstory and detail than this review would allow for.
  • This rum intrigued me enough that I’m scouting out the Dark Overproof now.
  • My sincere appreciation to Indy Anand of Skylark and Ben Booth of Tamosi, in whose pleasant, ribald and laughter-filled company I sampled this one (it came from Indy’s stocks, which meant it was fair game for all of us).
  • It’s interesting how things change: back in 2010 when I wrote the humorous Bacardi 151 review, 75.5% was a breathtaking and titanic proof point, and a rum issued like that was regarded with near awe, sipped with trembling care. Nowadays a rum sporting such an ABV is regarded with caution, yes, but it would not be considered strange, or even particularly unusual.
Jun 262023
 

“Asia may be the next region to discover for rummies,” I wrote back in 2018 when introducing audiences to Chalong Bay for the first time, and nothing between then and now has caused me to significantly alter that off-the-cuff prognostication. Already, back then, we were seeing interesting (if not always world-beating) rums from Tanduay from the Philippines, Mekhong from Thailand, Amrut from India, Sampan from Vietnam, and Laotian from Laos. Australia was ticking along under everyone’s radar, the Pacific islands were just getting more well known, and of course there was always Nine Leaves out of Japan.

Not long after that new companies and new brands began to sprout up and become better known through exhibitions at rum festivals all over Europe: rums from artisanal companies like Renaissance (Taiwan), Mia (Vietnam), Naga (Indonesia), Samai (Cambodia), Issan (Thailand), Mana’o (Tahiti) rubbed shoulders with older and more establishedbut still barely knownbrands like Teeda and Cor Cor (Japan), Old Monk (India), Kukhri (Nepal), Laodi (Laos), and Sang Som (Thailand again). This is what I mean when I remark that poor distribution and a fixation with the Caribbean sometimes obscures the seriously cool work being done elsewhere, and if it weren’t for an occasional indie release, we’d never even hear about some of them.

But I digress: Chalong Bay is one of the relatively new companies out there, founded in 2014 by a pair of French entrepreneurs from named Marine Lucchini and Thibault Spithakis who saw Thailand as a good place to start a small artisanal distillery. They sourced a copper column still from France and went fully organic and all-natural: no chemicals or fertilisers for the cane crop, no burning prior to harvesting, hand harvesting, and a spirit made from freshly cut and crushed cane juice with no additives, sourced from local farmers from around the region they operatePhuket, a tourist town on a spit of land jutting into the Andaman sea (the distillery is just south of the town of Phuket itself).

When last I looked at their rums, there wasn’t a whole lot of variety in the lineup. Little or no aged juice, a white and some infusions and that was it. Nowadays Chalong Bay sports three distinct lines – #001, which is the original pure unaged white rum at 40%, #002 the “Tropical Notesseries which is vapour-infused flavoured white rum (lemongrass, Thai sweet basil, cinnamon, kaffir lime are examples), and #003, a spiced variation mixed up with some nine different Asian botanicals. What their website doesn’t tell you is all the other stuff they make and which was on display at 2022’s WhiskyLive in Paris: a 2YO aged version, two different unaged whites (one wild yeast version with longer fermentation time, and another one at 57%), and this one, which was released by LMDW for their “Antipodes” collection last yeara 20 month old 62.1% growler (which is also called the Lunar Series, and represented in 2022 by the tiger on the label). It came from two ex-bourbon barrels aged in France (not Thailand), so somewhat limited, though the exact outturn is unknown…I’d suggest around a thousand bottles, maybe a shade less.

That strength is off-putting for many, and with good reasonnorth of 60% is getting a little feral, and this cane juice rum is no exceptionit’s snarly, gnarly and ugly and it doesn’t much like you. Behind all that aggro, however, is a full service agricole taste smorgasbord, plus a swag bag of gleefully provided extras. It starts off with brine, olives and sugar water and that colourless sweet syrup they sometimes put into some concoction at Starbucks. There’s a a nice scent of hummus with unsweetened yoghurt and olive oil (and a pimento or two), but all that’s required here is a little patience: soon enough we get sweet deep fruitsstrawberries, apricots, pears, raspberries, ginnips, kiwi fruit, and peaches and cream. Stick around long enough and citrus-like sodas like Sprite or Fanta make their appearance…and, even a faint tinge of mints…or mothballs.

Well…okay. It’s interesting for sure, and it is deep and strong, if a little arid. The taste is like that as well: sharp, dry, clean and fierce. It tastes initially of sugar water, soda pop, coconut shavings, combined with a flirt of vanilla and as it opens up we get crisp fruits, some light toffee and more of those pale, easy going fruits like pears, papaya, melon and white guavas. Some water is good to have here, and I’m sure it would make a banging daiquiri. The palate is the sort of thing that gives a bit more if you stick with it, and the finish is equally tasty (as well as being long and quite dry), without actually introducing much that hasn’t passed by already.

Overall, this is a rum that’s got a lot going on, is very tasty and a joy to smell. It reminds me of the O Reizinho we looked at last week, with some of that same dichotomy between the youth and the age: the two sides coexist, but uneasily. Recently I’ve tried a few rums that first made their bones as unaged unapologetic white beefcakesclairins, the new Renegades, the Reizinho, etcand were then aged a smidgen and released as sub-five year old rums (Rum Nation also did that with their first Jamaican white, you may recall). And while most are goodas this isalmost none of them have vaulted to the next level and blown my socks off…at least not yet.

The new and the original is always worth trying, and Chalong Bay has been on my radar for quite a while: what they have managed to do here for LMDW is just a few shots shy of spectacular. White rhums are admittedly something of an acquired taste, and maybe this rum will not find favour with a global, mellower audience which doesn’t eagerly or willingly (let alone deliberately) walk into a face-melting exercise in spirituous braggadocio. Still: I think this is one hell of a rum, showing the heights to which a minimally aged white can aspire if not filtered to death or overly messed withand if on this occasion it doesn’t quite make the peak, well, it comes damned close.

(#1008)(85/100) ⭐⭐⭐½

Jun 192023
 

Some rum independents1 just have a certain…something. A kind of vibe, a sort of cool marketing pizzazz and reputational cred that sets them apart from the increasing number of such companies crowding the marketplace.

It’s a varied sort of thing: sometimes it’s a colourful and interesting owner or brand rep, like Mitch Wilson, Josh Singh, Karl Mudzamba, Eric Kaye, Luca, Fabio or Florent Beuchet. Other times it’s because of really good rums that fly under the radar, like Velier in the old days, or Tristan Prodhomme’s L’Esprit range, the one-off release of Stolen Overproof. And at other times it’s an unusual, even striking, bottle or label design, such as the original frosted glass bottles of the first Renegade rums, the Habitation Veliers with their informative label and delicate watercolours, the beautiful B&W photography of Rom Deluxe’s “Wild Series” or the superb minimalism of El Destilado’s Oaxacan rums.

Not many indies play in all three areas: those that do are assured of eyeballs and mindspace way beyond their actual market footprint, and here we are looking at a rum from one of them, That Boutique-y Rum Co. This offshoot of Atom Brands (which runs the Masters of Malt online shop in the UK) is almost like a masterclass in pressing all the marketing buttons at once. For one, they have a strikingly visual label ethos, having contracted with the artist Jim’ll Paint it, who includes factual information, easter eggs, sight gags and an irreverent sense of humour into all his brightly coloured designs. For another, they are repped around the place by the enormously likeable and knowledgeable Pete Holland (who also talks up Foursquare in his spare time when Richard can convince him to come in off the beach) — in a nice meta-twist, Pete is also on quite a few of the bottle labels himself. And thirdly their rums cover a wide gamut of the world’s most famous distillery selections (plus a few off the beaten track), many of which are really quite good.

Such an example is this rum, from the evocatively-named Madeiran distillery of O Reizinho (the name means “Little King”, “Kinglet” or “The Prince” depending on your translational tool), which some might recall fom when we met the rum before as Batch 1 which was released in 2018. Batch 2 was similar in that it was also an unaged white but with the proof jacked up to 57% and here, with Batch 3, the strength remains at 57% but it’s been aged for nine months in ex-Madeira casks, hence the bright gold colouring. Other details remain constant: cane juice, about a week’s fermentation, pot still. It can legally be called an agricole.

Even nine months’ ageing can produce some variations from the pure vegetal background of an unaged white going on all cylindersbut that does not appear to be the case with Batch 3 because if you close your eyes it could just as easily be one of those clear little monsters. Holy smokes, is this rum ever pungent. It exudes a sharp breath of vegetal, funky rumstink right from the startfruits going bad in hot weather, the chewing gum-flavoured bad breath of a furious fire-and-brimstone street preacher who doesn’t keep his distance (I wish I could tell you I made this up…), sharp strawberries and pineapples, green grapes, brine and pepper-stuffed olives. There’s some light citrus and watermelon cowering behind these, and some odd smells of what can only be described as potato starch in water, go figure, plus a hint of coconut shavings, ginger and lemon zest.

The palate is more balanced and dials down the aggro a fair bit, which is welcome. It’s warm and sweet (not too much), tastes of sugar cane sap, mint, olives, brine, olives with a background of pine sol, lemon, and hot cooking oil just at the smoke point. There are a few stray notes of green bananas, black peppers, vanilla and those coconut shavings. You can still sense the funkiness underlying all thispineapples and strawberries show up, as well as soft squishy overripe orangesbut it handles well, leading to a finish that’s medium long, no burn, quite warm, and brings each taste back to the front one last time for a final bow. Some brine, pine-y notes, olives and oranges, with softer vanilla and banana and coconut and nail polish. Nice.

So, what to say here? It’s different from the rums we usually try, enough to be interesting and pique our desire for a challenge. The strength is completely solidit might be off-putting to some so a few drops of water might calm things down to manageable levels. The combination of sweet and sour and salt is good; what makes this score slightly lower in my estimation is the ageing itself, because it transforms the rum into something subtly schizophrenic, that’s neither fish not fowl, neither quite presenting the crisp clarity of an unaged white brawler, nor a more modulated aged rum whose rough edges have been sanded off. Oh, and that Madeira cask in which it was aged? Anonymous at best.

That said, the rum is nicely balanced, smells great (after you get past the preacher) and tastes decent. It’s a well done product and overall, if I did prefer Batch 1, that’s entirely a personal preference and your mileage might vary. At the end of it all, what all these O Reizinho rums do is keep the flags of cheeky insouciance and reputation for interesting rumswhich have been a hallmark of TBRC since their establishmentfluttering nicely. And that’s good for all us rum drinkers who want to go off the reservation on occasion.

(#1007)(84/100) ⭐⭐⭐½


Other notes

  • It’s a little unclear which the rum actually refers to, since in 2018 TBRC released a 3YO aged batch #1 of 1936 bottles at 52.6% and with a label design pretty much the same as all the others. So there are clearly two streams of these O’Reiz releasesone aged, one notwhose labels might easily be confused: pay close attention to what you’re buying with them.
Jun 122023
 

Rumaniacs Review #152 | 1004

In this series of Rumaniacs reviews (R-149 to R-154) we’re looking at a set of Bacardis from the 1970s to the 1990s that were all part of a small collection I picked up, spanning three decades and made in Mexico and Puerto Ricothey display something of what rums from that bygone era was like, and the final review will have a series of notes summing up what few conclusions we may be able to draw.

The antecedents of the Bacardi Añejoa word simply meaning “aged” in Spanishare the same as the Carta Blanca we looked at in R-150. Made in the Mexican facility at Tultitlan, it likely predated the 1980s by which time all units of measure went fully metric for sale in the US market. However, the ubiquity and long history of production of any aged rums from the company (I looked at a 6 YO 1980s Anejo from Puerto Rico some years ago, for example) make that dating tricky at best. It is likely no longer in production, mind you: the Añejo moniker was applied to the four year old Cuatro in 2020, the strength was beefed up a mite, and you can’t find the old Añejo listed on Bacardi’s websitethat said, the volumes of this rum that were on the market were so great it’s not unlikely one can still find them to this day, from any era.

As with most Bacardi entry level ronswhich this undoubtedly wasit’s column still, molasses based and lightly aged. Back in 2019 when Wes reviewed one of thesealso at 38% but noted as being “original formula” which mine conspicuously lackshe remarked that his bottle surely predated a 2015 label switch based on what else he could see lon the shelves, and it was possibly around 3 years old, which I think is about right.

Strength – 38%

ColourGold

Label NotesTultitlan Edo. de Mexico. 38° G.L.

NoseThere’s a bit more going on here than the lower strength would suggest, a sort of low grade pungency quite unexpected for a 38% rum. Perhaps that’s because it’s actually 40% according to my hydrometer. Some light salted caramel, fruit, florals, raisins, vanilla, and some wet coconut shavings. Also black tea, salted butter and a touch oif citrus. Nothing really special here: the aroma simply suggest a well assembled product.

PalateA rather restrained, yet still reasonably pungent mix of linseed oil on wood, furniture polish, well-oiled leather, caramel, honey and citrus. If you pressed me I’d suggest some black pepper and ginger notes, but they’re so faint it may just be reaching.

FinishShort, peppery, caramel and unsweetened mauby, some honey and vanilla.

ThoughtsCompared to the rather poor showing of the three we’ve already seen dating back from around the same time period, this is a bit better. Still a mixer and still not a fancy upscale product, but I started warming up to Bacardi again after trying this and seeing they were not all milquetoast and moonbeams masquerading as something more muscular.

(78/100) ⭐⭐⭐

Jun 092023
 

Rumaniacs Review #151 | 1003

This series of Rumaniacs reviews (R-149 to R-154) is a set of Bacardis from the 1970s to the 1990s that were all part of a small collection I picked up, spanning three decades and made in Mexico and Puerto Ricothey display something of what rums from that bygone era was like, and the final review will have a series of notes summing up what few conclusions we may be able to draw.


Bacardi’s Gold rum (in all its iterations) is one of the oldest continuously made rums in existence, dating back to the 1890s or beforein fact it may have been one of the original rums made by Facundo Bacadi in the 1860s. By 1892 it was so well regarded that Spain’s King Alfonse XIII allowed the use of the royal coat of arms by Bacardi as a tribute to itand it’s adorned Bacardi labels ever since, even if the name of the rum has seen some evolution.

The age is indeterminateI’ll suggest 1-2 years, which is consistent with today’s Golds. A mixing agent, not anything even remotely premium. It’s meant for cocktails and is a column still blend.

A coarse dating of production starts at 1959-2000 based on the logo design; the use of both metric and imperial units narrows this down to the late 1970s or early 1980s (the USA made metric mandatory for spirits labels in the mid 1970s, and there was an extended period when both units were used). An Anejo version of the Reserve was released in 1981, which of course means this one existed already by that time.

Strength – 40%

ColourGold

Label NotesPuerto Rican Rum

NoseHoney, caramel, toffee, light citrus, the vaguest sense of saline. All the usual suspects are in the lineup, feeling washed up and past their prime. Light and easy, the rum actually smells weaker than its advertised strength: thin, watery and alcoholic.

PalateDry, warm, slightly spicy, lacks the courage to bite you. Most of what little was in the nose repeats here in a more watery form. Honey, nougat, toffee, vanilla, coconut shavings. Some leather and smoke, maybe, it’s gone too fast to tell.

FinishHere now, gone a second later. Dry, a bit woody, hardly any taste at all.

ThoughtsThis rum is about as expected. Light, sweetish Caribbean Spanish-style rum of little distinction, and could be the entry level low-aged candidate starter kit from just about anywhere in latin or South America (except maybe Brazil, Guyana or Suriname). Sorry, but it’s quite anonymous and forgettableeven today’s edition has somewhat more character. Nothing to report here, then.

(72/100)

Jun 072023
 

Rumaniacs Review #150 | 1002

This series of Rumaniacs reviews (R-149 to R-154) we’ll be looking at over the next week or so, is a set of Bacardis from the 1970s to the 1990s that were all part of a small collection I picked up, spanning three decades and made in Mexico and Puerto Ricothey display something of what rums from that bygone era was like, and the final review will have a series of notes summing up what few conclusions we may be able to draw.

Dating this one was interesting. The Legendario Carta Blanca brand (sometimes just called Carta Blanca) has been made since at least the 1920s, and it takes a detailed look at the label, place of make and the changes in the bat logo to establish a rough estimate of when it was made. Here we know that the bottom line has to be 1961 since that was when the Tultitlan factory in Mexico was completed and in 2006 the name Carta Blanca was globally discontinued. Too, the bat logo on this bottle was changed in 2002, so…

One collector suggested it was perhaps made in the 1990s but I tracked down a label precisely matching this one that seemed, with the notes I have from the seller, to place it more conclusively from the 1970s, and so unless someone has better information, I’ll leave it there (note that the labels changed almost not at all during those decades).

The Legendario Carta Blanca is a blend of light and heavy bodied rums, aged between one and two years then charcoal filtered to remove the colourit is therefore a direct descendant of the original rum Bacardi made in the 19th century, which established the brand. Nowadays, it’s been rebranded, and is called the Superior.

Strength – 40%

ColourWhite

Label Notes“Carta Blanca”, “Tultitlan Edo. De Mexico”

NoseAlmost nothing here, less than the 1970s Superior we looked at before (R-149), and that one, while decent, was no standout. Starts off with some brine and olives, to the point where we feel some mescal has sneaked its way in here (very much like the Limitada Oaxaca, just weaker). Noy sweet at alloily, slightly meaty, opens up into some nice cherries and flowers.

PalateBy the time we get to taste, the brine is starting to disappear and the rum transforms into something sweeter, lighter with a bit of light fruits (pears, red cashews), sugar water and very light melons and citrus, though you have to strain to get that much/

FinishA little sharp, briny, the slightest bite of some woodiness, coconuts shavings.

ThoughtsThis one might benefit from some time and patience, because it develops better once left to open for a while. That said, nailing it down is not easy because it’s faint enough that the flavours kind of run together into a miscellaneous mishmash. Disappointing.

(73/100)


Other Notes

  • The city of Tultitlan’s name shows it’s a very old part of Mexico (the name is Toltec). It is now a northern suburb of Mexico City and was built by a famous firm of architects Ludwig Mies van der Rohe and Felix Candela between 1958 and 1961 (van der Rohe designed the corporate Office Building, and Felix Candela designed bottling plant and distillery cellars). The fact that it was constructed so long ago suggests that the family was already expanding (and hedging its bets) way before they were exiled from Cuba after the Revolution.
Jun 052023
 

Rumaniacs Review #149 | 1001

This series of Rumaniacs reviews (R-149 to R-154) we’ll be looking at over the next week or two, is a set of Bacardis from the 1970s to the 1990s that were all part of a small collection I picked up, spanning three decades, and made in Mexico and Puerto Ricothey display something of what rums from that bygone era was like, and the final review will have a series of notes summing up what few conclusions we may be able to draw.

This Bacardi Superior noted as beingSilver Labelis the doddering uncle of the set. The label refers to an 80 proof 1/10 pint white rum, which suggests the pre-1980 dating after which ABV and a metric system common (in the USA) – the rum of that title continued to be made until the 1980s after which it just became Ron Bacardi Superior. Puerto Rico is where the facilities of the company are headquartered, of course, so there’s little to be gathered here. It’s entirely possible that it goes back even to the 1960ssomething about the label just suggests that dating and I’ve seen a similar one from 1963 – but for now let’s stick with a more conservative estimate.

It’s not a stretch to infer some fairly basic facts about the Silver Label Superior: it’s probably (but very likely) lightly aged, say a year or two; column still; and filtered. Beyond that we’re guessing. Still, even from those minimal data points, a pretty decent rum was constructed so let’s go and find out what it samples like.

Strength – 40%

ColourWhite

Label Notes“Silver Label”, Made in Puerto Rico

NoseWeak and thin, mostly just alcohol fumes, sweet light and reeking faintly of bananas, Some slight saltiness, acetones, bitter black tea and a few ripe cherries. There’s a clean sort of lightness to it, like laundry powder.

PalateInteresting: briny and with olives right at the start; also some very delicate and yet distinct aromas of flowers. Some fanta, 7-up and tart yoghurt, the vague sourness of gooseberries and unripe soursop, papaya and green mangoes.

FinishAgain, interesting, i that it lasts a fair bit. Nothing new reallysome light fruits, pears and watermelons, a dusting of acetones and brine. Overall, it’s thin gruel and slim pickings.

ThoughtsAlthough most of these early Bacardi’s (especially the blancas) don’t usually do much for me, I have to admit being surprised with the overall worth of this older one. There are some characterful notes which if left untamed could be unpleasant: here the easy sweetness carries it past any serious problems and it comes out as quite a decent rum in its own right. Original and groundbreaking it’s not, and certainly not a standoutbut it is nice.

(76/100)

May 152023
 

Rumaniacs Review R-148 | 0996

Pampero is a lesser known Venezuelan rum brand founded in 1938 by two friends, Alejandro Hernández and Luis Toro, who established their distillery in Caracas, and soon became one of the more popular brands in the country with their light, golden rums. In keeping with the times they eschewed really serious long term ageing, and stuck with the mid range, producing various youngish rons like the Añejo “Extra”, “Dorado”, “White”, “Especial”, “Premium Gold” and so on. These various brands have gone through several name changes over the years and nowadays the line is made up of the Añejo Especial (also known as “Oro” for the yellow label), the Aniversario (well known for its bottle in a leather pouchI actually have one in my mythical basement somewhere and have yet to open the thing), the Blanco and the Selección 1938 Ron Añejo.

The cowboy on the rearing horse logo is to some extent chanelling a misconception: Venezuelan prairies are referred to as llanos, not pampas, the latter and its gauchos being Argentinian terms, yet this is the image that gives the brand its name. In Venezuela I am led to understand the rum and its brandstill popular after all these yearsis called Caballito Frenao (“Rearing Horse”), and sells briskly…even though the brand is no longer in local hands.

In 1991 when the company was sold lock stock and barrels (95% of it all, to be precise) to United Distillers, then a subsidiary of Guinness and which eventually became Diageo, Pampero claimed to be the bestselling golden rum in the world, a claim hardly likely to be either proveable or refutable, even then (you’ll forgive me if I doubt it). United Distillers evidently had some differing opinions on how to market their acquisition, for in the next year some of their stock was shipped to Europe for the indies to play with, which is why we have two Secret Treasures 1992 editions of the Pampero, as well as others from Duval et Cie and Moon Import, also from that year. However, these days it’s all branded sales, most of which takes place in Europe (Spain and Italy) and inside Venezuela, with a smattering of sales to other countries like the US.

Modern production is molasses based, triple distillation on column stills to near absolute alcohol (96%) and subsequent ageing in white oak cask: they clearly adhere to the light Spanish style rons for that portion of their blend. However, it should be noted that according to their website, their triple distillation process “combines continuous column (light rum), kettle batch (semi-heavy rum) and pot still (heavy rum) to produce a high-quality alcohol,” so it would seem they have more than just a bunch of heavy duty industrial sized columnar stills churning out bland nothingness. However there are few if any references available to speak more to the subject, and even less that tells what the process was like pre-Diageo, to when this version was made.

The little bottle I found was made for the US market in the 1980s by a spirits importer called Laica, which disappeared from view by 1990; and since the US was still using ounces as a unit of measure on bottle labels until the late 1970s, I’m okay dating this to the decade of big hair, shoulder pads and breakdancing.

Strength – 40%

ColourGold

NoseNothing excessive or overly sharp. Subtle dusty and cereal-y aromas start the ball rolling. Pleasantthough rather restrainednotes of honey, chocolate, nuts, almonds and molasses, More piquant fruits enter the aromas after some minutes, mostly cherries, bananas and overripe soft apples.

PalateIt’s too thin to make any kind of statement, really, and a lot of what was nosed just up and vanishes. Molasses, some brown sugar, red wine, vanilla, and just enough of a rum profile to stop it from being a throwaway

FinishWeak, short, faint, is there and gone too quickly to make itself felt. Disappointing.

ThoughtsBy now I’ve had enough rums from South America, and from that era, to be unsurprised at how bland the experience istheir skillset is in light age and consummate blending, not fierce hogo or still-bestowed character. One can reasonably ask if back in the day they had added any of that heavier pot still juice to the blend, the way they do nowone suspects not, and unfortunately that leaves a rather anonymous rum behind, which starts decently enough but which ends with a whole lot of nothing to report.

(72/100) ⭐⭐½

May 072023
 

If I enjoyed the naming J. Gow’s growling salvo across the rum world’s bows, the “Revenge,” then as a lover of language and an avid amateur photographer, I must confess to liking and appreciating the quiet romanticism the “Fading Light” title even more.1 And since that wasn’t enough for VS Distillers (the company behind the brand), it was also a more distinctive, even better rum than the “Revenge”which as you may recall from last week’s review, was no slouch itself.

I won’t rehash the background of this new Scottish distillery ensconced on a tiny island in the Orkneys, so far up north that if they stepped a bit out of the shallows they’d be speaking Norwegian (see the “Revenge” review for a brief company backgrounder if you’re interested). Let’s just note that the rum has a fourteen day fermentation cycle from molasses, was double-distilled in a pot still, and released at just about a year old … after having been aged in a chestnut casks, not ex-Bourbon. And for all it its youth and northern continental ageing and “mere” 43% ABV strength, it channels a surprising amount of Jamaican in a way the would make a casual rum buying tourist from Cockpit County or London or Toronto blink and check both google maps and their ticket.

Consider. Right from the cracking of the bottle, the rum oozes funk, a nicely textured, crisp melange of liquid Jamaican: Fanta and 7-up, both sweet and citrus-y, with enough strawberries, gooseberries, pineapple and bubble gum to cure all that ails you, while not ignoring just a small whiff of a midden heap in hot weather: I gues this was added for a bit of kick or something. What’s great is that it doesn’t end there: there’s also olives, brine, mixing it up in the backyard with caramel, toffee, brown sugar, some nuts and molasses, and behind it all is some fresh baked sweet pastry egging the lot on.

Much of this repeats on a quietly rambunctious palate. It starts out light and effervescent, with unripe cherries, oranges and pineapples, and even some agricole-like bright vegetal notes, acetones and nail polish. Olives, brine, breakfast spices and a dab of strong black tea. But there is also a dark side here, loamy, musky, with more pastries, molasses, guiness and malt thrown insomething like a sweetly dark beerbalancing off the funk and lighter florals and fruits. The finish is a quieter conclusion than one might have been led to expect given the foregoing, which is a function of the low strength: mostly some light fruits, a bit of citrus, some oranges and apples just starting to go off, and a whiff of a vulcanising shop working overtime on a hot drowsy Sunday afternoon.

See what I mean? The amount of tastes coming out of this thing is all out of proportion to either antecedents or expectations. It’s like a low-proofed Appleton Overproof, a mini stuffed with an idling turbocharger, and while not on the screaming level of crazy as the TECA, say, or the Hampden and WP high ester marques everyone dares themselves to try, for it to have the chops it does given where it’s from, where and how little it’s aged and what it’s aged in, is eye-opening. After trying it a few times at TWE Rumshow booth, keeping it in my fourth glass and then going back to try it a third time, I concluded that the “Fading Light” is an intriguing, original rum that while perhaps a little peculiar, is by no means off-putting, and not at all a refutation of “ruminess.” The entire time I was sampling, I was acutely aware that it was a serious spirit, a real rum, and I have tell you: I was impressed.

(#994)(86/100) ⭐⭐⭐⭐


Other notes

  • The company also makes a “Wild Yeast” and “Hidden Depth” expressions which I have not tried (yet).
  • Both The Fat Rum Pirate and Rum Barrel have reviewed this one, both positively.