Sep 302019
 

People are paying very close attention to the new Renegade distillery being constructed in Grenada, largely because of the reputation of its founder, Mark Reynier, and the endorsement which his project of making pure rums has gotten from other luminaries on the rum scene. Josh Miller has written about the status of construction, Luca Gargano of Velier and Richard Seale of Foursquare have both remarked on his anticipation of what Grenadian rums will eventually emerge from it, and there are regular updates on the company’s FB page on how things are going over there on the Spice Island.

Not many now recall the line of Murray McDavid rums Mr. Reynier pioneered in the early 2000s while he was at Bruichladdich, though I imagine quite a few more know of the frosted glass bottles of the Renegade Rums that followed them. Excluding whisky makers who occasionally but irregularly released a cask strength rum (Cadenhead might have been the most consistent of these) Renegade did much to promote the concept of both higher-proofed rums (46%, when the standard was 40%), really spiffy bottle design, amazingly informative labelling, and that of finishes in other casks, which they called Additional Cask Evolution. In the six years starting in 2007, they released a scant 21 limited edition rums (in 53,650 bottles for my fellow retentives) and then, with a combination of imminent company sale and a dissatisfaction with available rums and casks, the whole show folded in 2012 and that was all we got.

In 2019, a “mere” seven years after the company dissolved, finding one of those distinctive bottles is something of a challenge. They very occasionally turn up on auction sites and sample exchanges, but my own feeling is that they’re almost all gone after so many years, and those that aren’t empty are being hoarded. Which is hardly surprising for bottles with such a pedigree, and a rarity conferred by not being available for so long. This one, for example, is a 1300-bottle outturn from the Port Mourant wooden double pot still when it was located at Uitvlugt (hence the name), aged 12 years in ex-bourbon barrels, and then finished in French oak Château d’Yquem casks.

As with all such finished Guyanese rums, the two questions one always asks are “Is it representative of the source still?” and “What kind of impact did the finishing have?” I can report that with respect to the first, the answer is an unequivocal “yes.” Even without knowing it was a PM distillate, the nose presented wooden pot still action right away, with a deeper, darker, muskier profile than the somewhat more elegant Enmore or Uitvlugt columnar stills might have provided. It smelled of fresh wet sawdust, a little glue, and both meat and fruit beginning to go off. There was a subtly sweet background aromas, which was likely the wine casks’ influence, but too faint to derail the more powerful influence of ripe peaches, mangoes, apricots, raisins. What I particularly liked was the occasional whiffs of brine, olives, saltfish, dill and avocados which was integrated really well with all the others.

Tastewise the rum did something of an about turn, and initially the sweeter elements took a back seat. Not too sharp, a bit salty, started off with brine, olives and herbs (dill and rosemary). It developed with fruity flavoursstoned yellow fruit for the most partgradually asserting their presence, to be joined by salt caramel ice cream, dates in honey and figs, and a touch of molasses and anise rounding things out. Finish was somewhat indeterminate, mostly caramel, licorice, brine, raisins, none too long, which one could expect from the strength.

Certainly the wooden still component was there; the wine finish was a little less noticeable, quite subtle, and it had the sense to stay back and let the major flavours “tek front” and carry the show, enhancing them but staying well out of the limelight. I liked the rum quite a bit, though overall it suggested the whisky-making ethos of its makers more than it did that of rum itself. I suggest that they were still experimenting at this stage, and the coherent quality of the rums issued in 2008 and 2009 was still to be locked in, but for all its whisky character, it succeeded well on its own terms

Renegade’s rums in the range were always a bit hit or miss to me: some were better than others and the finishes sometimes worked as enhancers, at others as distractions (in my opinion, anyway). Here it was all pretty good, and while I would have preferred something a bit stronger, deeper and more voluptuous as a wholethe sort of dark full-proof PM profile I enjoythere’s no denying that the Uitvlugt 1995, for those who manage to get one, is likely to please devotees of the malt world, as well as lovers of rum who like to see how things could be made when the gears and levers are tweaked a bit, and the rum takes a gander at the dark side without actually staying there.

(#660)(84/100)


Other notes

  • Velier was a greater pioneer of informative labelling and full proof rum strength, and did so much earlier in the 2000s than Renegade. But at the time (2007-2012) they were known mostly in Italy and relatively unknown in the larger rum world, while Renegade had somewhat better awareness in both Europe and North America.
  • I was and remain fortunate to know Cecil, a fellow QC squaddie from Guyana days, who had this bottle (from the first year of Renegade’s issuing anything) a hefty sample of which he was able to get to meso a big hat tip and many thanks to the man for sourcing and holding on to one for so very long.
  • I’ve looked at 11 of the company’s rums so far, for the historically curious.
Jan 102018
 

#477

You’re going to read more about rums from the Monymusk distillery out of Jamaica in the next few years, I’m thinking, given how the island’s lesser-known products are emerging from the shadows; and distilleries other than Appleton are coming back into their own as distinct producers in their own rightHampden, Longpond, Worthy Park, New Yarmouth, Clarendon/Monymusk are all ramping up and causing waves big time. But aside from the Royal Jamaican Gold I tried many years ago (and was, at the time, not entirely won over by) and the EKTE 12 YO from a few weeks back, plus a few indieswork I have yet to write about, there still isn’t that much out there in general releaseso it may be instructive to go back in history a while to the near-beginning of the rum renaissance in 2009, when Renegade Rum Company, one of the first of the modern independent bottlers not from Italy, issued 3960 bottles of this interesting 5 year old from a pot still at Monymusk.

Even in the Scottish company it kept (and many such outfits remained after Renegade folded), Renegade was not a normal UK indie. If one were to eliminate the dosing issue, they were actually more akin to Italy’s Rum Nation, because they married multiple barrels of a given distillate to provide several thousand bottles of a rum (not just a few hundred), and then finished them in various ex-wine barrels as part of their Additional Cask Evolution strategy. Alas, they seemed to have raced ahead of the market and consumer consciousness, because the rums sold well but not spectacularly, which is why I could still pick one up (albeit as a sample) so many years later. Moreover, as Mark Reynier remarked to me, finding the perfect set of aged casks which conformed to his personal standards was becoming more and more difficult, which was the main reason for eventually closing up the Renegade shopto the detriment of all us rum chums.

But I think he was on to something that was at the time unappreciated by all but the connoisseurs of the day, because while agricoles aged five years can be amazing, molasses based rums are not often hitting their stride until in their double digitsyet here, Renegade issued a five year old Jamaican pot still product that was a quietly superior rum which I honestly believe that were it made today, aficionados would be snapping up in no time flat and perhaps making Luca, Fabio, Tristan, Daniel and others cast some nervous glances over their shoulders.

Anyway, let me walk you through the tasting and I’ll explain why the rum worked as well as it did. It nosed well from the get-go, that’s for sure, with Jamaican funk and esters coming off in all directions. It felt thicker and more dour than the golden hue might have suggested, initially smelling of rubber, nail polish, tomato-stuffed olives in brine and salty cashew nuts with a sort of creamy undertone; but this receded over time and it morphed into a much lighter, crisper series of smellsbananas going off, overripe oranges, cumin, raisins and some winey hints probably deriving from the finish. Tempranillo is a full bodied red wine from Spain, so the aromas coming off of that were no real surprise.

What did surprise me was that when I tasted it, it did something of a 180 on meit got somewhat clearer, lighter, sweeter, more floral, than the nose had suggested it would. Traces of Kahlúa and coconut liqueur initially, bread and salt butter, some oakiness and sharper citrus notes; this was tamed better with water and the fruits were coaxed out of hiding, adding a touch of anise to the proceedings. Pears, cashews, guavas, with the citrus component quite laid back and becoming almost unnoticeable, lending a nice, delicately sharp counterpoint to the muskier flavours the fleshier fruits laid down. It all led to a pleasant, tightly minimal and slightly unbalanced finish that was long for that strength, but gave generously (some might say heedlessly) of the few flavours that remainedcherries, pears, red guavas, a little more anise, and some salt.

In a word? Yummy. It’s a tasty young rum of middling strength that hits all the high points and has the combination of complexity and assertiveness and good flavours well nailed down. It has elements that appeal to cask strength lovers without alienating the softer crowd, and the tempranillo finish adds an intriguing background wine and fruity note that moderates the Jamaican funk and dunder parts of the profile nicely. Though perhaps the weak point is the finishwhich did not come up to the high water mark set by both nose and taste and was a shade incoherentthat’s no reason not to like the rum as it stands, to me.

Anyway, in these days of the great movement towards exacting pure rums of distillery-specific,country-defining brands, it’s good to remember an unfinished experiment such as this Jamaican rum from Renegade, which pointed the way towards many of the developments we are living through now. That may be of no interest to you as a casual imbiber, of course, so let me close by saying that it’s a pretty damned good Jamaican rum on its own meritswhich, if you were ever to see it gathering dust somewhere on a back shelf, you could do worse than to snap it and its brothers up immediately.

(86/100)


Other notes

Compliments to Alex Van der Veer of Master Quill, an underrated resource of the rum-reviewers shortlist, who sent me the sample. His own review can be found on his website and I’m nudging him gently in the ribs here, hoping he reads this and writes more, more often 🙂

Aug 102017
 

#382

Renegade rums continue to hold a peculiar sort of fascination for me, because they were the first rums made by any outfit other than the big island producers or major corporations with which I came into contact. They made it into Canada just as I was starting my rum scribbles, and were the only ones I saw for many years. Given our current familiarity with unadulterated rums made by independents, and adding to that something of a nostalgia factor, perhaps this Port Mourant succeeds better than it should, but I guess by the end of this review you can decide for yourself.

The bio of the company that got posted earlier this week provides most of the details of Renegade itself, so I won’t rehash them here. This rum adheres to all the usual markers of the range: distilled in 2003, bottled in 2009 at the standard 46%, sourced from casks of juice from DDL’s Port Mourant wooden still (which raises certain expectations, naturally enough), and there’s that finish in Temperanillo casks for a few months (for the curious, Temperanillo is a rather full bodied red wine made from blue-black grapes in Spain). Also, and this is important, what we have here is not a single cask bottling, but many casks married together as part of Renegade’s production philosophy, and that’s is why the outturn is 6,650 bottles, and why, just maybe, you might still be able to get one with some judicious rumhounding.

And I think that would be a good thing, because this was a rum that channeled the spirit of the Port Mourant profile without entirely bowing to it, and provided an interesting twist on a well-known rum marque. That’s no idle fancy of mine either: when I nosed it for the first time I was looking for some of those deep woody, fruity and anise notesnone appeared. In fact the first aromas were of glue, rubber, brine, lemon-pepperand beef stock (no, really). Then came the olives, gherkins in vinegar and more brine, leather and smoke, coffee grounds, some vague caramels, pencil shavings, vanilla, oakbut where was the fruity stuff? I mean, it was good, it was intriguing, it had character, but it did depart from the norm, too, and not everyone will like that.

Photo (c) Master Quill

The taste of the pale-yellow rum was also quite engaging: it was clear and clean, quite dry, and seemed stronger than it actually was (perhaps because it was so relatively young, or because it presented as ‘light’again, not what one would normally associate with a PM). Initial tastes were of fruitwhite guavas, green apples, anjou pears and papaya, plus a tiny twist of lemonbefore other background flavours emerged, mostly leather, smoke, pencil shavings, musty hay, cardboard and vanilla. With water some more fruit crept out, nothing specific (maybe a grape or two), and the impression I was left with was more brandy than rum. Frankly, this did not resemble a Port Mourant at all. A note should also be made of a sort of minerally, ashy thing going on throughout, faint but noticeable and thankfully it was too feeble to derail the overall experience. The finish, though oddly short, was excellentwarm, easy, with citrus and raisins, some very weak molasses, and (finally!!) a flirt of licorice.

The profile as described above is exactly why I’ve always scratched my head about Renegade. I believed then (and now) that their finishing philosophy was hit-or-miss and sometimes detracted from what I felt would be an exceptional rum if left to its own devices. I imagine Mr. Reynier would disagree since this departure from the norm was exactly what he was after, and indeed, there were aspects of the overall experience here that proved his pointthis rum may have originated from a set of PM barrels as modified by Temperanillo finishing, but what went into the bottles at the other end was a fascinating synthesis that might be difficult to define or even identify as a PM rum. Which is both a rum geek’s attraction and a newbie’s despite.

On balance, I liked it a lot for its originality and daring, perhaps not so much for the final assembly and integrationa little more ageing might have done well, maybe a little less tinkering. Still, the wine finish, however polarizing, was worn with panache and verve, and if the rum ran headlong into the wall in its desire to show off new ways to present old workhorses, well, y’know, I can respect thatespecially since the rum as tasted wasn’t half bad to me. It may have lacked the dark brooding Port Mourant cask-strength menace to which Velier accustomed us, it may be a rum made by and for whisky makersbut I honestly believe that it was too well made to ignore entirely. Then and now.

(84.5/100)


Other notes

Alex over at Master Quill, who hails from somewhat more of a whisky background than I do, knowing my liking for the brand, very kindly sent me the sample, which in turn he did not like as much as I did. His review is definitely worth a look.

 

Aug 062017
 

Renegade isor was, in its previous incarnationthe inheritor of the rum work done by Murray McDavid, a bottler of scotch whisky established in 1996, and which acquired Bruichladdich in 2000 (Bruichladdich was itself formed in 1881, changed ownership many times until its acquisition by MM). Renegade was formed as a separate company under this umbrella in 2006 (with a single one-pound share) and their first edition of four vintages was released the following year, with a further six in 2008 and more thereafter. Only three years of releases formed the backbone of the company’s rums (if one discounts the single bottling issued in 2012) and then the operation just wrapped up the whole show.

The story I heard was that the success and positive word of mouth of the Murray McDavid limited edition rumsone of their rums was rated as among the world’s top 50 spirits in 2006 by the Malt Enthusiastsuggested that it might be possible to not only move up the ladder into stronger proofed drinks (46%, when the standard was 40%), but into higher price brackets altogether. Too, they spotted a niche in the rum market that would leverage their distribution systems and existing customer base into a new area (high end limited editions) while perhaps even giving whisky lovers a chance to move into another spirit that was quite similar. This tactic presaged much of what has gone on to become canon in the next decade, and while I would not say it was particularly originalVelier and Rum Nation were already on the scene, if only with minimal exposure, and the other whisky makers like A.D Rattray and Gordon & MacPhail also had such rum bottlings from time to timesuch things as finishings were new at the time, and overall it certainly upped the game considerably.

So, Renegade as a brand was a departure from the MM labelthey aimed upscale with beautifully etched frosted-glass bottles that were instantly recognizable, and for each of their rums there was a fancy wine finish. Alsoand again, somewhat ahead of the modern ethos, though perhaps they were simply channelling Velier (who at the time was a virtual unknown outside of Italy) their labels were masterpieces of concise informationdates of distillation and bottling, the wine casks used to finish them, the estate or plantation or company of origin of the distillate, and a note regarding its unfiltered, unadded-to status, which also was just beginning to get some attention in those years.

The man most closely identified with the rise of Renegade was Mark Reynier, one of the original founders of Murray McDavid back in 1996, who was also instrumental in acquiring Bruichladdich in 2000, by which time that distillery had been dormant for six years. After rebuilding the distillery he turned back to his ideas regarding rums, which had crystallized in the years since Murray McDavid had done their releases (also under his aegis). “We started the company as an independent bottler extension of Murray McDavid,” he wrote to me. “At the time it was relatively easy to get mature and interesting single estate rums, many from obsolete distilleries. It was an extension of our Scotch whisky ethos, providing more interesting bottling from casks married together to create more balance and harmony than the somewhat simplistic single cask bottling fad that did not, we felt, recognise the characteristics of individual barrels where every barrel was bottled regardless of its quality. For this reason we rarely bottled single casksas we found few that truly, from a professional tasters’ perspective, merited being on their own.”

What this meant was that right from the inception, the release of a few hundred bottles from a single cask was not on the agenda, and Renegade preferred to marry several casks at once, much as Rum Nation does. This gave the double benefit (to them) of being able to create the precise flavour profile they were after without the batch variation of single barrels coming into playweaknesses in one cask evened out by the mixing with othersas well as having a larger outturn, sometimes around 1500-2000 bottles, but occasionally as much as 4000 (or more). Note that as far as I was able to establish, the barrels were bought from the source distilleries and shipped to Bruichladdich’s premises for maturation, so none of these rums were tropically aged, which became its own trend in the age we’re currently living through.

Reception of the Renegade rum line was positive if not spectacular, which was why in 2009 the outturn increased to ten separate bottlings from nine different islands/countries. However there were already clouds on the horizon dating back to Murray McDavid days. According to Mr. Reynier, as existing stocks were utilized, the quality of casks available for purchase became somewhat repetitivemore of the same, so to speakand this was one reason why the finishing took on such a central role in the Renegade line (as it was not the under MM). They called it Additional Cask Evolution and sought, very much as Foursquare is doing right now, to enhance the work of the barrel by using other, non-bourbon casks. “We started … Additional Cask Evolution in different, more interesting [casks], to try and bring some much needed vibrancy to the spirit. Poor wood policy is as much a function of the industry’s attitude to economic efficiencyor lack of resources to buy good, fresh woodand therefore [such rum and whisky companies] excessively re-used old, tired wood.”

Finally, even after such a short period of time, obtaining interesting and good quality barrels which adhered to Renegade’s exacting philosophy became a problem, and the extra remedial work became too onerous (similar issues afflicted MMin short, “the hassle outweighed the benefits,” as Mr. Reynier opined), and this led to no releases at all for 2010 and 2011, with a single bottling being issued in 2012 – though by this time the writing was already on the wall and it was clear that Renegade was not going to continue along this path, whether for poor sales returns, too much money tied up in warehousing, or the imminent disposition of the company. In early 2013, Bruichladdich, Renegade and Murray McDavid were acquired by Rémy Cointreau, with MM subsequently resold to UK based company Aceo Limited. Mr. Reynier did not continue with any of these companies (see below), although he did retain the Renegade brand name.

Stripped of all the verbiage, this is a remarkably short history for any rum company, and twenty-one releases over seven years is hardly a spectacular outturn. But I believewith no disrespect to or lack of love for, the other names in the indie rum industry that have survived and thrived to this daythat Renegade was, in its own way, something of a pioneer, and demonstrated the way forward for the independent bottlers. Even though Samaroli, Veronelli, Fassbind, Moon Imports, Silver Seal, Velier and Rum Nation (among others) were already on the scene, and had been for many years, they stayed within a narrow geographical confine (mostly Italy) and issued single cask bottlings that attracted little attention outside the rabid cognoscenti. Renegade was among the first of the Scottish whisky makers to throw the weight of their whisky operations and associated brand awareness behind what was seen then as a niche marketand a small one at that. They were not the first to issue a series of rums at once, of course, but they sure elevated the profile, and certainly they were among the most consistent users of the finishing idea across the entire lineup. Plusand how could you deny this? – those bottles, manthey were so damned cool, y’now? “Rum Unplugged”, Mark Reynier remarked once, referring to the brand. He sure wasn’t kidding about that.

So, I cannot make the case for any kind of incredible reputation or groundbreaking rum philosophy which the company garnered for itself. They exited the business, and many of their bottles rested unsold in Alberta shops for many years, unknown and unappreciatedI picked up several just by driving around, and I’m sure that they can still be picked up to this day by the enterprising rumhound. And yet, and yet….the rums they made remain curiously alive in the memories of those who tried them (I’m one of those weird beings), and may even, I can hope, grow in reputation in the futureif they can still be found. They were larger than usual outturns of a now almost forgotten, largely unreviewed independent bottlers’ philosophy, and deserve a lookwhatever one’s final opinion might befor perhaps that reason alone.


Postscript:

Mr. Reynier’s conclusion in the nineties when he was working with Murray McDavid, was that for full control of the quality of distillation and wood meant one had to have a distilleryhe was referring to whisky, and has since extended his thinking on the subject, to encompass rums. He thought about the matter ever since, searching for a suitable rum distillery project or functioning distillery to buy, but never finding the proper one, and concluded he would have to start from scratch. That project came to fruition in Grenada, where for the last two years he has been involved in propagating seven different varieties of cane on Grenada, with a new, modern distillery on the cards, which is expected to go operational by 2019 – in July 2018 ground was broken, foundations are expected to be completed by October, steel frames by December and machinery installed by the first quarter of 2019. By July of that year, distillation operations are expected to commence, and then this post will have to be updated again, though what with laying down stocks to age, the earliest we can expect a rum from Renegade is perhaps 2021.

The new operation will be called the New Renegade Rum Distillery, and so (if you’ll forgive my little bon mot), the brand which was thought to have bought the farm has in fact been resurrected and established another one. The plan is, with Graham Williams of Westerhall, to release an interesting new range of independently bottled rums from this Grenadian base, under a revitalised Westerhall label.

Other notes

My source for much of this essay is Mr. Reynier and online web pages. But perhaps I should take the time to tip my hattwiceto all those employees of the company who were involved in making this brand but who are so rarely acknowledged.

Compliments to Marco Freyr , whose MM/Renegade biography and bottle list was my first stop. Just as Serge Valentin is the gold standard for tasting notes, Marco is the man for historical detail.

Bottlings

2007

2008

2009

2012

  • Guyana, Diamond Distillery, 11 YO (2001 – 2012), Tempranillo finish (1800 bottles)

Murray McDavid bottlings of which I’m aware


References

 

May 122013
 

D3S_5540

Schizoid, androgynous, curious rum. Too well made to ignore, but not appealing enough to collect.

Right during the tasting, before I had done a single bit of research or perused the label beyond the obvious, I looked at my glass, smacked my not quite toothless gums and opined loudly and dogmatically (if not quite coherently) to an empty house that this was a rum from the Foursquare distillery in Barbados.

You might well ask whether my snoot is that good (it’s not), my memory that clear (it’s not) or I knew it for sure (I didn’t). It was more a process of elimination from the Bajan rum canonit was too clear taste-wiseand not soft enoughto be a St Nicholas Abbey, lacked the discombobulated, raw nature of the Cockspur and sure wasn’t a Mount Gay. That didn’t leave much, no matter how or with what cask Renegade decided to finish it.

Take the opening: soft, flowery, dark sugars, bananas and unsweetened dark chocolate. A bit sharp (it was bottled at 46%, so, okay). Red grapes just starting to go off, bananas, orange peel (not anything sharper like grapefruit or lemon), and a final flirt of cherries, yet overall, the scents married uneasily, resulting in something vaguely androgynous, neither strong or puissant enough to be a bellowing buccaneer (it waved the cutlass to genteelly for that) nor weak enough to be an underproofit was an uneasy mix of delicacy and clarity without strength of real character (did someone say “Prince Myshkyn”?).

D3S_5543

No relief on the palate, however original it turned out to be. The medium bodied amber spirit was drier than I expected, and even a bit briny, and pulled an interesting rabbit out of the bottleit tasted good enough, full enough, to seem more robust than it actually was. Bananas and white chocolate, a certain creaminess (like unsalted butter, really), white guavas and pecans. I know this sounds odd, but it almost seemed a shadecrunchy. It’s the craziest thing, a sort of dichotomy between the taste and the nose that had heat and citrus-plus-grapes to sniff, yet more settled and softer to sip, finishing off with a sweet, dry exit, segueing into final notes of bananas, apricots and salt biscuits.

I have some mixed feelings on the Renegade here, admiring its professional make and the clarity of the various notes, without actually enjoying the overall experience due to a discordance in the overall marriage of constituent elements. It’s not a bad rum at all, just not one I really felt like raving about to any who would listen. Yet I cannot help but admire how Renegade doesn’t really carethey tried for something off the reservation, and they succeeded. It’s original, that’s for sure.

Unlike most of the Renegades I’ve tried thus far, the label gave me little to work with on the details (I like knowing as much about a rum as possible when doing the write-up). Nothing about the finishing which Bruichladdich usually likes to trumpet front and center, for exampleI don’t know why, so here’s what my research (and the bottle) did bring up. Pot still origin. Finished in Ribero del Duero casksthis is a fruity red wine from north central Spain, which explained something of the profile. Yes, the Foursquare distillery supplied the rum, so I called it on that onethough it wasn’t until I took a hard look at the label that I saw it self-evidently mentioned. I should get my glasses changed, or perhaps research before I drink, not after.

D3S_5538

But it’s not that any of this matters, really. I’ve said before that Renegades are something of an acquired taste, should never be one’s first try at a rum, and are all quite fascinatingly differentthis may be, as I’ve remarked elsewhere, because they are made by whisky makers for whisky drinkers with rummies perhaps as an afterthought. They fail to craft a consistent rum from one bottle to the next (the variations in the line are occasionally awe-inspiring) but they know that the best way to approach making any of them is with a bold and unapologetic take-that attitude that finds ‘em swinginghardfor the fences, every time, with a sort of giddy, joyous abandon one simply has to admire. So, the end product may not always be what we expectbut man, it’s like watching a Sobers, Worrell, Lloyd or Lara on a weird day. It’s never, ever boring.

(#161. 82/100)


Other Notes

 

Jan 252010
 

 

First posted 25 January 2010 on Liquorature.

(#009)(Unscored)

***

I’m not always and entirely a fan of Renegade Rum, but will unhesitatingly concede that they are among the most interesting ones currently available, and deserve to be sampled. Un-chill filtered at the Bruichladdich Distillery on the Isle of Islay in Scotland, these limited editions have the potential to popularize single-vintage rum if one can get past the whiskey-like finish that jars somewhat with what I expect a rum to be.

My research notes that Renegade Rums trawls the Caribbean estates for traditional single distilleries that are no longer in operation or have some stock to sell, and purchases supplies from places like Guyana, Panama, Jamaica, Barbados, Grenada, and Trinidadthen completes the maturation in oak bourbon barrels, or those which have held madeira, port or wine. This impacts the taste quite significantly, I’ve found, but more than that, it makes the release extraordinarily limited: this one from 1991 was only 1380 bottles.

I’m unclear how old the 1991 Trinidad rum actually is, since it is advertised as 17, but 16 is printed on the bottle. Whatever the true age, the palate on this 46% (92 proof rum) is uniformly excellent, with notes of port and oak and a very subtle taste of caramel. The finish is not as sweet as I would expect, and does not last as long or as smoothly as a 16 year old rum perhaps should, though hints of burnt sugar and apples can be discerned (this is probably from the French port barrels used for the final ageing). What stops this from being a stellar review is simply the way the somewhat harsh and short finish takes some getting used towhen I first tasted this, I grumblingly compared it to a whisky. See, I’ve been getting sotted on the grog for more than half my life, and us West Indian hicks don’t particularly care to have our national drink turned into a Scottish home brew.

Ok, so that is snooty. Don’t get me wrong, however: I liked it precisely because it’s different, had character, texture, body and a good strong flavour. I wouldn’t drink it neat, though, or with ice (though I did both to write this review). This one, for all its rich provenance and comparative rarity, will be drunk rarely.*

* My good friend Keenan, horrified at my cautiously tempering the good stuff with coke (I was just checking, honest), snatched it away, proceeded to drink it with bowed head and misty eyes on the rocks, complimented it most fulsomely on its character, and disdained the cheap Lambs spiced rum (3rd tier, really) I was happily getting smacked on. I may not compliment Renegade’s creation as much as he didhe had to be dragged off, screamingLeh we tek wan moh shot, baiwhen the evening was overbut at least one person really really appreciated it, and the bottle I have will be kept for his use when next he is let out to play.

Jan 252010
 

Photo (c) and used with kind permission of Chris Dion

First posted 25 January 2010 on Liquorature.

(#008)(Unscored)

***

The Renegade line of rums is as clear a statement as any, that packaging sells: their bottles are so curiously different that one is almost compelled to take a closer look when one sees them on the shelvesand having seen, the itch to go spend some cash becomes an incessant feeling that must be assuaged. Or so I felt when I first saw them: that frosted glass bottle with the rich copper-bronze liquid swirling heavily within just makes me burn to blow some bucks, honestly. And it wasn’t a poor purchase either.

As I’ve noted in my review of the Trinidad 1991, Renegade Rums takes stocks from Caribbean distilleries old or closed, and matures them in oak barrels, then finishes them off in French oak casks that may have held Madeira, port, or wine. Their bottling runs are very small, numbering fewer than 2000 bottles. Because of this process, their rums have a characteristic whiskey finish quite unlike anormalrum, and are not as sweetthough I imagine dedicated whiskey drinkers will disagree vehemently and shudder as they reach for their single malts.

This Jamaican edition from 2000, originating from the Hampden distillery, was a selection for the November 2009 book club. As before, it has been aged in an American Oak bourbon cask, then enhanced for a period of less than a year in French Oak infused by Barac sweet wine (the bottle says Chateau Climens casks). For an 8-year old, the nose is impressive, redolent of bourbon and then wine, and more complex ripe fruits the more I sniffed it. The taste is of bourbon, mixed with apples and perhaps, just perhaps, a whiff of licorice, and it’s not overly smoothstill, to my mind it’s giving the Renegade Trinidad 1991 some serious competition. However, the finish spoils it somewhat, since it tastes the faintest bit bitter.

Renegade suggests drinking it neat, but the truth is, it’s a little too harsh for that, and I didn’t care for the not-quite-mellow whiskey-sour-fruit aftertaste. There’s a reason I favour rums over whiskey (quite aside from my background and history). It’s not bad, just not top of the line, and while the first impression is positive, I can’t say the finish is worth it, though whiskey drinkers will likely castigate me most thoroughly for this bit of barbarism. (If memory serves, the club appreciated it, just not to the point of leaving it unmixed).

On balance then, I would recommend avoiding the Renegade rums that are less than ten years old and sticking with the older stuffbut if you can find a decently priced bottle at all, then, bearing in mind their comparative rarity, you would not be going too far wrong if you bought the younger ones as well