May 232022
 

Aside from their premium “Wild Series” line of rums with their striking black and white labels and dizzying proof points, the relatively new Danish indie Rom Deluxe also has various downmarket rum offerings. One step down from “Wild” is the Collector’s Series, originally meant to capture rums that were not quite as strong as the former but retaining much of the quality. On the face of it and perusing the listings, I don’t honestly see much difference, however, aside perhaps in a lower price.

The subject of today’s review is the first batch of Release 3 which hails from Bellevue, which can lead to some confusion since there are three places (maybe more) with that rather common namesuffice to say it’s from Le Moule on Guadeloupe, and made by Damoiseau (seeother notes”, below). Unusually for the French islands, it’s a molasses based rum, column still, distilled in 1998 and bottled in 2021 — and so aged a whopping 23 years in a combination of both tropical and continentalat a solid 55.5% (another batch has a slightly higher proof point of 56.1%). Stats like that have the nerd brigade crossing their eyes and drooling, and not just in Denmark; with good reason, since we see such ageing from French island rums only rarely.

The rum, fortunately, did not disappoint. The nose was middle-of-the-road complex, a Goldilocks-level symphony of just about enough, never too much and rarely too little. The nose was slightly briny, but not a Sajous level-salt wax explosion. It had fruits, but was not an ester-bombpeaches, apples, melons, apricots, flambeed bananas. A little smoke, a little wood, noting overbearing, and all these notes were balanced off with a pleasant melange of breakfast spices, cinnamon, vanilla, caramel and a touch of licorice.

The palate settled down a bit and continued to channel an approach that eschewed the screeching sharp vulgarity of a fishwife’s flensing knife and went with something more moderate. There was salt caramel ice cream in Irish coffee, topped with whipped cream. Vanilla and brine, stewed apples, green peas, light pineapples, peaches in syrup. Things got a little odd somewhere in the middle of all this when distinct notes of wet ashes, rubber and iodine came out. These however, didn’t stick around long and gave way to a dry, short, crisp finish redolent of strong hot black tea (sweetened with condensed milk), acetones, nail polish, brine and a last filip of toffee.

The whole rum, the entire sipping and drinking experience, really was very good. I like to think it channelled that school of thought propounded by Hesiod and Plautus (among many others) who promoted moderation in all things (including moderation,” quipped Oscar Wilde centuries later). It’s tasty without overdoing it, it’s firm without bombast, assertive where needed, one of the better rums coming off the island, and honestly, one can only wonder what made Rom Deluxe relegate a rum like this to the Collector’s Series and not to the more upmarket Wilds.

No matter. Whatever category it’s placed in, it’s really worth checking out of it ever turns up in your vicinity. I doubt you’d be disappointed.

(#910)(86/100) ⭐⭐⭐⭐


Other notes

  • Outturn 258 bottles
  • Marque GMBV
  • The label and the stats are the same on both the 55.5% R3.1 and the 56.1% R3.2, except for the strength.
  • The rum is not an agricole, given it was made from molasses; this twigged a lot of people into believing it was not from MG BEllevuebut from Damoiseau (see next comment)
  • Note on origins: Originally this review mentioned Bellevue as being “…on the small island of Marie Galante just south of Guadeloupe (other distilleries there are Pere Labat and Velier/Capovilla at Poisson, and Bielle).” However, several people alerted me to overlooked inconsistencies here, because there is Bellevue on Marie Galante, another Bellevue at Le Moule in Guadeloupe (that’s Damoiseau’s place) and a third in Sainte Rose, also in Guadeloupe (which is Reimonenq). Because such confusions had arisen before (e.g. the TBRC 1999 Bellevue) most commentators felt it was a Damoiseau rum. I got onto Kim Pedersen at Rom Deluxe and he wrote back “…you are right about the misprint on our website. It is a Bellevue from Damoiseau 🙂 […] there has been a lot of confusion about these rums, and I can see that my text on the webpage is more misleading than informative. So I think I have to change that despite the bottles is sold out. So that means the review’ssourcesparagraph, and my title has been changed.
Nov 152021
 

Rumaniacs Review #130 | 0864

Today we’ll look at the propenultimate rum which the Danish company Rom Deluxe released in their initial forays into their local rum scene. Six of the seven rums (the seventh being a special release for a client in 2020) were bottled in 2016-2017 after which the “line” ceased. They were all unlabelled and not sold to commercial establishments on a consistent basis, but taken around to tastings, friends, retailers and served as something of an introduction to the tiny company back before they got “serious”. I wonder if they made any money off them.

This is a Worthy Park rum, cask strength, distilled in 2010 and bottled in 2017 (it’s the only one that was done that year).

ColourGold

Age – 6 YO

Strength 64.9%

NoseThe funk is strong with this one. There’s gooseberries, pineapples, unripe Thai mangoes, unmistakably Jamaican, a serious, fierce nose. Bags of fruitgreen apples, pears, blood oranges, red grapefruit, coming to a nice sweet-sour combo after a few minutes. I’d say there was some light vanilla and baking spices at the back end, but not enough to do more than lend an accent to the main dish.

PalateSalt, sour and sweet, really strong, but the sharpness is kept at bay with a firmness of taste elements that is impressive. Funk of course, “tek front”, this thing is Jamaican beyond doubt. Brine and olives in lemon juice, green grapes and apples, grapefruits again, plus grated ginger and a touch of (get this!) wasabi. So softer notes of dates and figs, cumin, nutmeg. I could sip this for hours, and in fact, I pretty much did.

FinishLong, dry, fruity, with apples, grapes, citrus, pineapples, kiwi fruits and strawberries. Plus vanilla. And bubble gum.

ThoughtsReally good, really solid rum, lots of notes from around the wheel, but always, at end, a Jamaican pot still rum, and a very impressive one. I doubt I’d be able to say WP or Hampden in a pinch (and it’s a WP, of course)…just that it’s not a bottle I’d give away if I had one. The bad news is that this one is long gone. The good news is theyWorthy Park and the independents like Rom Deluxeare making more.

(85/100)


Other notes

  • Thanks as always go to Nicolai Wachmann, for the sample, and Kim Pedersen of Rom Deluxe for his help with the background details.
  • Outturn unknown
Nov 112021
 

Photo Courtesy Rom Deluxe

Rumaniacs Review #129 | 0863

Rom Deluxe, the Danish company whose very first release and company biography was profiled last week, ended up making a total of seven initial bottlings, all of which were more or less non-commercial, and served primarily to establish the small company’s bona fides around the country. They are long since only to be found either in some collector’s back shelf, unlabelled and perhaps even unremembered, or in Rom Deluxe’s own shelves. As a comment on the many years that Rom Deluxe was only a small hobby outfit, observe that six of these seven bottlings were made in 2016 (the year the company was founded) to 2019 (the year of the “Wild series” first release) after which the ethos of changed to a more commercial mindset; the 7th edition, in 2020, was a special edition for a client, not the market.

In the founding year four bottlings were done, with the second and fourth from BarbadosFoursquare to be exact. This fourth edition was 11 years old (from 2005), and released in early 2017 at cask strength, though the exact outturn is unknownI’d suggest between two to three hundred bottles.

ColourGold

Age – 11 YO

Strength – 58.8%

NoseSweet light fruit, raspberries, papayas and the tartness of red currants. Cherries and unripe green pears. Vanilla and the slight lemony tang of cumin (I like that), as well as some hint of licorice. Delicate but emphatic at the same time, yet the heavier notes of a pot still element seem curiously absent.

PalateCompletely solid rum to drink neat; dry and a touch briny and then blends gently into salt caramel ice cream, black bread and herbal cottage cheese (kräuter quark to the Germans). After opening and a few minutes it develops a more fruity characterplums, ripe black cherriesand mixes it up with cinnamon, light molasses and anise. It goes down completely easy.

FinishNice and longish, no complaints. The main flavours reprise themselves here: anise, molasses, dark fruits, a bot of salt and some citrus.

ThoughtsOkay it’s a Foursquare, and so a pot-column blend, but perhaps we have all been spoiled by the Exceptionals, because even with the 58.8% strength, it seems more column still than a pot-column mashup, and somehow rather more easy going than it should be. Not too complex, and not too badsimply decent, just not outstanding or memorable in any serious way.

(82/100)


Other notes

  • Thanks as always go to Nicolai Wachmann, for the sample, and Kim Pedersen of Rom Deluxe for his help with the background details.
Nov 072021
 

 

For such a newly established company (in rum years, anyway), Rom Deluxe as created a rather enviable visibility quotient for itself. Their near iconicWild Seriesof rums in particular are not only strikingly eye-catching but boast several entries on the list of strongest rums ever issued, and this goes right back to the issuance of the first one in the series, the Wild Tiger (a Jamaican DOK from Hampden), which I reviewed with equal parts fear and exhileration. They have branched out and expanded into other aspects of the rum business and while they are not quite on a level of, say, 1423 for breadth or global consumer awareness, or Rum Nation for wealth of rums on offer (yes, RN is now a Danish company), they are coming on strong and bear watching.

RDL 5 (WP) (c) Rom Deluxe

Rom Deluxe is was founded in mid-2016 by three friends and rum loversClaus Andersen, Thomas Nielsen and Lasse Bjørklundwho created this little hobby-based indie outfit with no greater aim in mind than to maybe bottle a few interesting casks, share them around with the rest of their rum-mad nation, and hopefully cover costs (parallels with 1423 abound). After a year or so Thomas left the company, and for the next two years after that Claus and Lasse ran the show, releasing small amounts of bottlings to the local rum community and getting decent returns and a growing reputation by doing demos at various spirits events around the country.

The modest success of these small and informal releases encouraged them to expand a bit into more bespoke offerings: they sourced more popular vintages, engaged a talented graphic designer, and prepared to horn in on the burgeoning indie scene in Denmark, with one eye and both ears cocked for opportunities across Europe.

If any year allowed the company to explode into the sightline of the greater rumiverse, it was surely May 2019, when the stunningly designed Wild Series made the rounds of the European rum festivals (starting with the Nordic and moving on from there) and hit the shelves and online stores. The starkly beautiful black and white labels of wild animals (mostly but not always big cats) were highlighted by the enormous beefcake of the Wild Tiger Release 1 (a Hampden), accompanied by the Wild Jaguar Release 2 (from Enmore)which were subsequently followed up by three more bottlings in the next six months, and another fourteen releases after those in the years that followed (to 2021they’re up to R.19 now, the Wild Panda Uitvlugt (which may be someone’s love for Po the Dragon Warrior speaking, but who knows?).

These successful and wildly popular releases allowed the company to imagine, create and expand into other rum series, each with its own design and bottling philosophy.

  • The Wild Series with its now-near-iconic black and white design, rightly seen as the most visible icon of the company, is the flagship: they are never supposed to go below 60% and should be really oldgreater than a quarter century. The rule was haphazardly applied in the beginning but they are now trying to align themselves more completely.
  • Next up is the Collector’s series: same high quality rum (or as close as dammit to it) which misses the cut for one specification or the other, like the Diamond (R.2) and Bellevue (R.3), which were both really good but missed the strength cutoff. They have less abstract, less striking but always beautiful paintings of wildlife on themgiraffes, orang-utans, alligators, that kind of thing.
  • For the sandbox variations where the bad boys of Rom Deluxe go around picking fights, there’s the Limited Batch series, used for a single cask or half a cask which is special in some way all its own but can’t make the grade for either of the other two top-enders: here the outturn is smaller and price is lower. A good example of this is a Caroni they once issued, where they only had enough juice to fill about fifty bottles of 50cl, or the very lightly aged Ghana pot still cane juice rum with an outturn of 188.
  • And lastly, there’s the Toyota Corollas of the company, the “Selected” series decorated with well-executed pictures of sailing ships, specifically designed to be the budget rums: they are made in the Spanish-heritage style, sometimes with added (and disclosed) sugar. Here, rums from Nicaragua, Venezuela, Panama or the Dominican Republic (there may be others) are blended and worked on to provide a commercial low-end, low-priced product of decent quality. Unsurprisingly these sell like hot cakes and provide the cash flow that allows lower-margin (or even loss-making) high-end halo rums to be made. In that sense the Selected Series follows 1423’s Esclavo and Companero lines, and for exactly the same reasons.

New premises in Horsens (c) Rom Deluxe

2019, then, was a watershed for the company and it began growing, which required other staff to be brought on board: in March of that year Michael Ginnerup and Kim Pedersen, both of whom had helped out for free here and there in the various rum events Rom Deluxe had staged or participated in, joined the company. When, in 2020 Lasse Bjørklund left, these two gentlemen stepped into management and have remained with Rom Deluxe ever since.

Manual bottling line (c) Rom Deluxe

The company itself has not stopped with bottling their own rums, but have diversifiedagain, as 1423 did, and likely for many of the same reasonsinto distribution and sales of their own and other spirits as well. Partly as a result of needing a place to store and age their own stock and combine that with a sales place and a tasting room, they opened a shop (in Horsense in north west Denmark) where they combined all these activities. There they have their barrel warehouse, and there they also hand-bottle each line among themselvesno industrial sized bottling plant to be found here.

COVID restrictions from 2020 onwards have not dented their activities in the slightest, as they diversified into the aforementioned additional rum ranges, hosted online tastings and added other companies’ spirits to their distribution portfolio, and as if that wasn’t enough, offered their services as bespoke Private Label creators for companies, clubs and organizations who wanted something for themselves. When the world opens, you can expect them to come out swinging for the fences, but for now there’s no shortages of their rums out there for people to chose from.


Sources:


Bottlings (as of December 2021)

Wild Series

  • R.1 “Wild Tiger” Jamaica (Hampden-DOK) 85.2% Rested 2009-2019, 170 bottles
  • R.2 “Jaguar” Guyana (Enmore EHP) 2002-Jun 2019 17 YO 61.5%
  • R.3 “Puma” Panama (secret, blended, +9.2 g/L sugar) 1999-Oct 2019 20 YO 65.2%
  • R.4 “Black Panther” Belize (Traveller’s, pot-column blend) 2009-2020 10 YO 71.8% 252 bottles
  • R.5 “Lion I” Guadeloupe (Bellevue) 1995-2020 25 YO 55.8% 125 bottles
  • R.6 “Leopard I” Trinidad (Caroni) Jan 1998-Apr 2020 22 YO 57.8% 146 bottles
  • R.7 “Lynx” Guyana (Diamond) May 2010-Jun 2020 10 YO 67.9% 231 bottles
  • R.8 “Cheetah” Jamaica (New Yarmouth) Nov 1994-Aug 2020 25 YO 68.1% 224 bottles
  • R.9 “Ocelot” Jamaica (Long Pond LPS) Mar 2001-Aug 2020 59% 19 magnums
  • R.10 “Caracal” El Salvador (Unnamed) Dec 2007-Oct 2020 12 YO 65.9% 265 bottles
  • R.11 “Leopard II” Trinidad (Ten Cane BTXCA May 2008-Jan 2021 12YO 61.5% 207 bottles
  • R.12 “Bengal Tiger” Trinidad (Caroni) Jan 1998-Jan 2021 23 YO 63.1% 234 bottles
  • R.13 “Lioness” Barbados (Foursquare) 2005-Feb 2021 16 YO 63%
  • R.14 “Water Buffalo” Trinidad (Angostura) 2009-2021 12 YO 64.7%
  • R.15 “Elephant” Guyana (Versailles MEC) 1988-2021 33 YO 50.1% B1
  • R.15 “Elephant” Guyana (Enmore MEC) 1988-2021 33YO 48.2% B2
  • R.16 “Zebra” Martinique (Le Simon MSRA) 2008-Jun 2021 60.7% B1 239 bottles
  • R.16 “Zebra” Martinique (Le Simon MSRA) 2008-Jun 2021 59% B2 213 bottles
  • R.17RhinoJamaica (Hampden DOK) 2019-2021 15mos ex-Caroni 86.2%
  • R.18 “Hippopotamus” Jamaica (Hampden JMC ) Apr 1993-Sep 2021 28 YO 57.7% 145 bottles for Rombo.dk (B1)
  • R.18 “Hippopotamus” Jamaica (Hampden JMC ) Apr 1993-Sep 2021 28 YO 56% 121 bottles (B2)
  • R.19 “Panda” Guyana (Uitvlugt PM Still MPM) 1990-2020 30 YO 51.1% 208 bottles B1
  • R.19 “Panda” Guyana (Uitvlugt PM Still MPM) 1990-2020 30 YO 55.2% 231 bottles B2
  • R.20SpringbokJamaica (Hampden C<>H) xxxx-2022 xx YO 86% 268 bottles
  • R.21.1SaigaSt. Lucia (SLRP) 2000-2021 19 YO 47.7% 19x150cl bottles
  • R.21.2SaigaSt. Lucia (SLRP) 2000-2021 19 YO 49.1% 21x150cl bottles
  • R.22.1GnuBarbados (BMMG Mount Gay) 2001-2021 21 YO 54.8% 49x150cl bottles
  • R.22.2GnuBarbados (BMMG Mount Gay) 2001-2021 21 YO 56.0% 46x150cl bottles
  • R.23PronghornJamaica (Hampden C<>H) 2020-2021 18mos 86% 268 bottles
  • R.24.1ElandPanama
  • R.24.2ElandPanama
  • R.25.1ImpalaBarbados 62.6%
  • R.25.2ImpalaBarbados 61.1%
  • R.26.1KuduJamaica 68.4%
  • R.26.2KuduJamaica 68.5%
  • R.27.B1GiraffeGuyana (VSG still at Enmore, MEV) 1990-2022 54.4% 170x70cl / 25x150cl bottles
  • R.27.B2GiraffeGuyana (VSG still at Enmore, MEV) 1990-2022 53.9% 185x70cl / 25x150cl bottles
  • R.28BearTrinidad (Caroni) 1998-2022 24YO 63.1% 251 bottles
  • R.29TurtleGuyana (Uitvlugt) 1990-2022 32YO 45.2% for Excellence Rhum
  • Coffret Vol 1 “Tiger Cub” Jamaica (New Yarmouth) 2020 6 months Malaga 73.6%
  • Coffret Vol 1 “Leopard Cub” Jamaica (New Yarmouth) 2020 6 months PX 72.9%
  • Coffret Vol 1 “Lion Cub” Jamaica (New Yarmouth) 2020 6 months Madeira 73.9%
  • Coffret Vol 2 “Bull” Jamaica (Monymusk MMW) 2020 7 months Malaga 69.8%
  • Coffret Vol 2 “Zebra” Jamaica (Monymusk MMW) 2020 7 months PX 68.4%
  • Coffret Vol 2 “Young Elephant” Jamaica (Monymusk MMW) 2020 7 months Madeira 67.4%
  • Coffret Vol 3 Unicorn SeriesPronghornGuyana (Skeldon SWR) 2002 19 YO 64.2%
  • Coffret Vol 3 Unicorn SeriesSaigaSt. Lucia (SLD SLRP) 2000 21 YO 47.7.2%
  • Coffret Vol 3 Unicorn SeriesSaigaSt. Lucia (SLD SLRP) 2000 20 YO 49.1.2%
  • Coffret Vol 3 Unicorn SeriesGnuBarbados (Mount Gay BMMG) 2001 20 YO 54.8%
  • Coffret Vol 3 Unicorn SeriesGnuBarbados (Mount Gay BMMG) 2001 20 YO 56.0%

Collector’s Series

  • No. 1 Imperial Navy Blend 57.18% 989 bottles
  • No. 2.1 Guyana Diamond MDS 49.2% 1996-2021 195 bottles added caramel for colour
  • No. 2.2 Guyana Diamond MDS 50.8% 1996-2021 193 bottles added caramel for colour
  • No. 3.1 Guadeloupe Bellevue GMBV 55.5% 1998-2021 258 bottles (Denmark)
  • No. 3.2 Guadeloupe Bellevue GMBV 56.1% 1998-2021 254 bottles (ex-Denmark)
  • No. 4.1 Odmar Edition 3 YO (Richland Distillery) 43%
  • No. 5.1 Haiti Barbancourt 60%
  • No. 5.2 Haiti Barbancourt 60.7%
  • No. 6.1 Trinidad Ten Cane 60.8%
  • No. 6.2 Trinidad Ten Cane 62.3%
  • No. 7.1 Savanna Grand Arome 55.6% 2013-2021 304 bottles
  • No. 7.2 Savanna Grand Arome 55.4% 2013-2021 301 bottles
  • No. 8 Dominican Republic 65% Blended Rum 2022 592 bottles
  • No. 9 Belize Travellers
  • No. 10.1 Barbados Foursquare 50.7% 2002-2022 19YO 190 bottles
  • No. 10.2 Barbados Foursquare 53.6% 2002-2022 19YO 214 bottles

Limited Batch Series

  • No. 01 Ghana ARC 66.5% Cane juice, pot still, unaged
  • No. 02 Ghana 60.3% Cane juice, pot still, 7 months, 188 bottles
  • No. 03 Panama (undisclosed) 57.18% 1999-2020 21 YO (+9.2g/L sugar)
  • No. 04 Barbados (Foursquare) 61% 2005-2020 15 YO (+0 sugar)
  • No. 05 Guyana (Diamond, PM) 58.3% 2005-2020 15 YO (+0 sugar) 110 bottles
  • No. 06 Cuba (secret distillery) 65.1% (+0 sugar) 191 bottles
  • No. 07 Nicaragua (Licorera de Nicaragua) 61% 2000-2021 21 YO (+0 sugar) 187 bottles
  • No. 08 Jamaica (Secret distillery) 63.9% 2015-2022 7 YO 242 bottles
  • No. 09 Barbados, Guatemala, Jamaica BlendConsummatus” (+12g/L) 42%
  • No. 10 Trinidad Ten Cane 64% 2008-2022 13 YO 259 bottles

Selected Series (Blends, Ship labels)

  • Captain’s Dream” 40% (NIC, VEN, PAN) up to 12 Years
  • No. 2 Dominican Republic 40% 5YO (+20g/L)
  • No. 3 “Dark Navy” 40.6% (TRI, JAM, BAR, GUY)
  • No. 4 “Caribbean Blend” 42% (GUY, DR) Solera 12 Years
  • No. 5 “Strong Navy” 57.5% (TRI, JAM, BAR, GUY)
  • Sailor’s 2nd Choice” 42% (GUY, DR) up to 12 years
  • Seven Seas” 40% (PAN, DR) up to 12 years
  • Deep Water” 40% (NIC, DR) up to 12 years
  • Treasure Island” 40% (NIC, DR, VEN, PAN) up to 12 years

Original Series

Individual Miscellany

  • White DOK Jamaica Trelawny Batch 1 TBA% Unaged
  • White DOK Jamaica Trelawny Batch 2 85.6% Unaged
  • Le Galion Rhum Grand Arome, 2022 Martinique 59.1% 80 bottles (molasses based)
  • Dominican Republic New Make 2022 93% Unaged

 

Nov 042021
 

Photo courtesy of Rom Deluxe

Rumaniacs Review #128 | 0862

Few outside Denmark will know or even remember what Rom Deluxe issued back at the beginning of their existence. The Danish company made its international (or at least European) debut in 2019 with the stunningly designed and smartly chosen “Wild Series” (now into R.19 which I call “Po”), and for most people, its history begins there. However, it has been in existence since 2016 when three friendsClaus Andersen, Thomas Nielsen and Lasse Bjørklundcame together to establish the small hobby-company and their very first release was the anonymously titled rum of RDL #1.

This was a cask strength rum from the Dominican Republic (Oliver & Oliver), issued at 65%, dating from 2004 and bottled in 2016, so a 12 Year Old. Unsurprisingly it’s molasses based, column still, and it was sold not with any fancy printed label glued on to the logo-etched bottle, but a tie-on (!!) which for sheer originality is tough to beat. It’s unlikely to be found in stores these days, and I’m not even completely sure it ever got a full commercial distribution.

ColourGold

Age – 12 Years

Strength 65%

NoseQuite sweet, redolent of ripe dark fruits with a touch of both tannins and vanilla. There is a trace of molasses, brown sugar and cherries in syrup, plus attar of roses and some other winey notes. Nosing it blind leads to some initial confusion because it has elements of both a finished Barbados rum and a savalle-still Guyanese in there, but no, it really is a DR rum.

Photo courtesy of Rom Deluxe

PalateSoft and easy even at that strength: caramel, vanilla, almonds, nougat, tinned cherries and syrup. It’s relatively uncomplex, with some additional brininess and dryness on the backend. Nutmeg and ginger lend some snap, and herbs provide a little extra, but not enough to get past the basic tastes.

FinishCompletely straightforward now, with vanilla, unsweetened chocolate, some caramel and molasses. Very ho hum by this point and once you get here you no longer think it’s either Bajan or Mudland. You know it’s Spanish heritage juice.

ThoughtsStarts out decently with intriguing aromas, then falters as each subsequent step is taken until it remains as just a touch above ordinary. The strength saves it from being a fail, and the sweetnesswhether inherent or addedmitigates the strength enough to make it a tolerable sip. For that alone you’ve got to admire the construction, yet it’s a rum you sense is a work in progress, selected for ease of use rather than brutality of experience. Three years later, that would change.

(79/100)


Other notes

  • Thanks to Nicolai Wachmann for the sample, and Kim Perdersen of Rom Deluxe for the bottle photographs
  • The background on the company was too long to include, so I wrote it as a separate “Makers” series article, and tucked it over there. It includes as exhaustive a list of their bottlings as possible.
Sep 222020
 

Let’s start at the beginning. Skotlander rum is not made in Scotland, but in Denmark, for the very good reason that the founder, Anders Skotlander, is a Dane with the name. Denmark has long been known (to me, at any rate) as home of some of the most rum-crazy people in Europe, and Anders decided to walk the walk by actually creating some of his own, in 2013. He purchased a Müller copper pot still, sourced sugar cane molasses and in 2014 released 1000 bottles of RUM I, a white, at 40%. It promptly won a gold medal at the Miami rum festival that year; and in 2015, where both RUM I and an infused RUM III were entered, the former won Best in Class White Rum, and the latter a gold for Premium White (alongside Plantation 3 and Nine Leaves Clear, which says something about the categorization of whites in those more loosely defined times).

In the year since then, Anders Skotlander has pushed to stay not only relevant but original. He has sourced molasses and cane juice from around South America, experimented with different barrels, has used unusual storage places (like a bunker, or a century old schooner) to chuck those barrels, and has expanded the range to include spiced and botanical rums, whites, aged rums, agricole rums and even high ester rums. He’s up to Skotlander 10 right now (a 59.5% blend) and the website provides an enormous amount of information for each. And the labels, informative as they are, are masterpieces of Scandinavian minimalism which make some Velier labels seem like over-decorated roccoco indulgences in comparison.

Rums made from scratch by some small new micro-distillery in a country other than the norm are often harbingers of future trends and can bringalongside the founders’ enthusiasmsome interesting tastes to the table, even different spirits (<<cough>> ‘Murrica!!). But Skotlander, to their credit, didn’t mess around with ten different brandies, gins, vodkas, whiskies and what have you, and then pretended they were always into rum and we are now getting the ultimate pinnacle of their artsy voyage of discovery. Nah. These boys started with rum, bam! from eight o’clock, day one.

Which, after this long preamble, brings us to the very interesting Skotlander RUM V Batch #1 (1400 sømil), a rum made from molasses sourced in Brazil which are fermented for thirty days (in Denmark), pot still distilled (also in Denmark), aged in four PX barrels onboard the schooner “Mira” for about a year during which it sailed 1400 nautical miles (get it?) and then 704 bottles were unleashed on an unsuspecting public in 2016 a muscular 61.6% ABV.

At that proof point you can expect, and you get, serious intensity. The nose is really hot and spicyclearly it spend the entire voyage happily sharpening its fangs. It is clean and snarly, presenting a profile nothing like a Cuban, Bajan, Mudland, or Jamaican rum. It has fruits, yes, deep, dark orange and red-purple ones: black and red grapes, apples, unripe prunes and apricots, red grapefruits, though sorting them out is a near-impossibility. It also smells of smoke, dusty hay, a touch of vanilla and brown sugar, molasses, salted caramelif I had to guess blind I’d say it resembles a pot-still, jacked-up St. Lucian or Saint James more than anything else.

After the near-hysterical clawing of the aromas, the palate calms down somewhat. It remains sharpat that strength, how could it not? – and drips with the winey, sherry-influenced flavours. Red grapes, grapefruit again, tart apples. There is also some caramel, candied oranges and truffles (!!), with crisp cider and citrus notes dominatingbut not entirely successfully. Really, I wrote with some amused bewilderment, this is like a barely aged seriously overproofed agricole mixing it up with a Guyanese High Wine. It does have a lot going onsubsequent sips at the glass, with and without water, evidences stewed apples, fruit salad, watermelons, pineapples, strawberries, so a fair bit of esters in here. This is also evident on the close, which, while long and fragrant with candied oranges, salt caramel, smoke, vanilla and pineapples, lacks neat balance between the salt, sweeet, musky, crisp and tart elements.

I write a lot about “distinctiveness” and “uniqueness” in assessing both familiar and unfamiliar rum houses’ offerings. This has itto an extent. You can sense an really cool and original product coming into focus, even as it takes care not to skate too far to the edges of what is known and understood. But it does kind of mash untidily together, and the complexity it could be showcasing more successfully gets lost, even muddled as it careens heedlessly from one profile to the next. You could taste it several times and each time your interpretation would be slightly different, which in this case is both a recommendation and a cautionary heads-up. It’s a bold and interesting rum by my standards, however, and on that basis, even if I’m late to the party, I think I’ll keep my eye on the company, and go find me some more to try.

(#764)(82/100)


Other notes:

  • The Rum Renaissance gold medal awarded in 2014 was second prize (platinum is first), and was won for being “Best In Class” for white rum. At the time white rums were not stratified between aged or unaged, filtered or not, pot or column, and there are no records how many other rums were judged in that category. Still, for a rum not even in existence a year before, that’s not a bad showing given it was up against all other white rums, and not a subclass.
  • Skotlander V Batch #2 is slightly older, about two years, released around 2018, aged on the same schooner while it sailed for 2200 nautical miles. The same emptied ex-sherry ex-Batch 1 barrels were reused.
  • Here’s a chocolate-voiced promo video about Skotlander
  • Thanks to Gregers and Henrik, the Danes who twigged me on to this company and their rums.
Aug 032020
 

The three wooden stills now all gathered at DDL’s Diamond facility are called Heritage stills, their wooden greenheart components regularly serviced and replaced, and the questions they pose about the matter of Theseus’s ship are usually ignored. That’s not really important, though, because they may be the three most famous stills in existence, and the taste profiles of the rums they create are known by all dedicated rumistas, who enjoy nothing more than relentlessly analyzing them for the minutest variations and then bickering about it in a never-ending cheerful squabble.

My own preference has always been for the stern elegance of the Port Mourant, and the Enmore coffey still produces rums that are complex, graceful and sophisticated when done right. But the Versailles still is something of an ugly stepchildyou’ll go far and look long to find an unqualified positive review of any rum it spits out. I’ve always felt that it takes rare skill to bring the rough and raw VSG pot still profile to its full potentialnone of the familiar indies has had more than occasional success with it, and even Velier never really bothered to produce much Versailles rum at the height of the Age.

This brings us to the Danish company 1423: it makes many mass-market rums for the broader supermarket shelves in Europe, but is perhaps better known worldwide for its boutique rum arm the Single Barrel Selection, which specializes in single cask, limited bottlings. These aim squarely at the connoisseurs’ palates and wallets, and have gained a quiet reputation (and a following) for their quality rums and geographical range. The Diamond 2003 is a case in pointit’s 12 years old (bottled in 2015), has a finish in marsala casks, comes off the Versailles single wooden pot still and is bottled at a completely solid 62.8% with an outturn of 264 bottles. And it’s quite a hoot to drink, let me tell you

“Something is rotten in the State of Diamond,” I wrote cheerfully after a good deep sniff, and just enough to make it interesting.” Which was quite trueit smelled of fruits and vegetables starting to go off, and added some deep oak tannins which thankfully did not get overbearing but receded rapidly. To this was added almonds, peaches, prunes, anise, strawberries, some light vanilla and raisins, all tied together in a neat bow by a briny note and some zesty citrus.

The palate was also quite good, irrespective of how much (or how little) additional taste the finish provided. It had the creaminess of salted caramel ice cream, the dark fruitiness of raisins and prunes and black cake and overall struck me as a deceptively simple, very solidly-constructed rum. The good stuff came from around the edgesyou could sense some fennel and licorice and vanilla, and perhaps some nuttiness, red wine, indian spices and cloves, all dancing around that central pillar without taking center stage themselves. The finish didn’t try for anything new or exotic, but was content to sum up all that had gone before, and gave last notes of toffee, cumin, masala spice, caramel, dark fruits and brine, a nice sweet-salt amalgam, without any sharpness or bite on the exit at all. Nice.

There has been occasional confusion among the stills in the past: e.g. the SBS Enmore 1988 which I am still convinced is a Versailles; but this is (in my opinion) neither a PM nor an Enmore and if there’s any further confusion it may derive from the marsala cask whose influence is faint, but enough to skew one’s mind away from a pure VSG kind of aroma.

And it’s good, very good indeed. Even Duncan Taylor with their 27 YO 1985 couldn’t better it, DDL’s own Rare Release wasn’t significantly better (I’ve heard the Mezan and Samaroli variations are excellent but have not tried them). But it seems to me that the VSG marque is really not meant to be a standalone except for purists and deep diversit works much better as part of a blend, which is indeed what DDL uses it for in its aged releases, rarely issuing it on its own.

Summing up then, with all those difficulties in trapping the best profile out of a notoriously temperamental still, it’s completely to its credit that 1423 managed to wring as much flavour and class out of a relatively young Versailles distillate aged in Europe as they did. Perhaps their 1988 Enmore was in fact from that still also, but this one is no slouch on its own terms, has less ambiguities about its origins to boot and is an all ’round fine drink to have on the shelf.

(#749)(85/100)


Other Notes

  • The length of finish in marsala casks is unknown, if SBS responds to the query I sent, I’ll update.
  • Thanks to Nicolai Wachmann for the sample.
Jun 282020
 

On the first day and at the opening hour of the 2019 Berlin Rumfest, a motley collection of scruffy rum folks met at the back of the hall. Alex Sandu (the young Oxford-based Romanian barman who’s now making a name for himself on the Rum Barrel site) was talking with me about what it takes to manage and maintain a rum site. Indy and Jazz Singh of Rumcask and Skylark Spirits drifted by and sat down, and we all sighed rapturously with the memory of a rum session we had had at Lebensstern rum bar the evening before. Nicolai Wachmann, anonymous rum ninja from Denmark, having left us earlier to go look for junk food outside, rejoined us while still furiously chomping at the semi-masticated remains of his fifth burger, and we all amused ourselves shouting cheerful and childish insults at Gregers Nielsen, who was running the 1423 stand a few feet away. This is the way we soberly conscientious rum chums keep the flag of Rumdom flying high. People must know we take our duties seriously.

Things calmed down when Johnny Drejer approached, though, because in his fist he carried a bottle a lot of us hadn’t seen yetthe second in Romdeluxe’s “Wild Series” of rums, the Guyanese Enmore, with a black and white photo of a Jaguar glaring fiercely out. This was a 61.5% rum, 17 years old (2002 vintage, I believe), from one of the wooden stills (guess which?) — it had not formally gone on sale yet, and he had been presented with it for his 65th birthday a few days before (yeah, he looks awesome for his age). Since we already knew of the elephantine proportions of the Wild Tiger Release 1, we all immediately tried to elbow each other out of the way in our hurry to thrust our glasses at him, and demanded our rightful shares. And to his credit, Johnny, gentleman to the last, shared generously without hesitation or charge before hastily retreating to more civilized areas of the ‘Fest where rabid aficionados would not assault his immaculate person or pinch his birthday prize, and might remember he was actually only 50.

Now, 61.5% might seem like a lot, and indeedif you’re not ready for itit will try its best to take your face off. But nosing it with no more than the usual care suggests that it really is quite civilizedcreamy, even. Certainly one can inhale rich aromas of pencil shavings, butterscotch, sawdust and licorice, all standard for Enmore distillate. I can’t say I sensed much in the way of florals or citrus except as a brief background hint; most of the secondary wave consists of black bread, dark fruits, brie, cereals, almonds, anise and crushed walnuts. Maybe a whiff of mocha if you strain.

All this is fairly common, even boilerplate. It’s on the palate that it rises to the occasion and shows some more chops. Now the label notes it was primarily continentally aged so some tropical ageing can be inferred; it’s just shy of hot on the tongue, extremely robust, and very tasty indeedyet also not rough or sharp. You can taste unsweetened chocolate, anise, blancmange, salted caramel and coffee grounds to start with, and as it relaxes and opens up and you get used to its bold profile, musky, dark fruits like raisins, prunes, not very sweet but with a lot of body. I like the damp sawdust and licorice, the way I always do in an Enmore-still rum, and the long, fragrant finish was pleasant to a fault. Johnny, who had measured the strength of the rum and was mentioned on the label, had gotten himself a pretty nice dram.

Romdeluxe in Denmark isor started out asmore a commercial rum club that makes private label bottlings and runs promotions, than a true independent bottlerbut since they have issued several releases, I’ll call them an indie and move right on from there. Their “Wild Series” of rums has evinced a lot of attention, not just because of its variety but because of the beauty of the stark black and white photography of the large cats with which they adorn their products.

So far there is a tiger (R1 Hampden, Jamaica), jaguar (R2 Enmore, Guyana), puma (R3 Panama), black panther (R4 Belize), lion (R5, Bellevue, Guadeloupe) and leopard (R6 Caroni, Trinidad). I don’t know whether the photos are commissioned or from a stock librarywhat I do know is they are very striking, and you won’t be passing these on a shelf any time you see one. The stats on some of these rums are also quite impressivetake, for example, the strength of the Wild Tiger (85.2% ABV), or the age of the Wild Lion (25 years). These guys clearly aren’t messing around and understand you have to stand out from an ever more crowd gathering of indies these days, if you want to make a sale.

Still, perhaps because I’ve had so many of rums from the Enmore still, my impression is that this one doesn’t ascend to the heights. It’s a completely decent rum and at that strength you’re getting flavour and a reasonably complex profile. However, it isn’t really unique, and won’t wow your socks offoriginality is not its forte, and it seems, rather, to be a restatement of much that has gone before. So it’s easy to like and appreciate, but conversely, leaves no lasting imprint on the mind. A month from now, like just about everyone who was there that afternoon sampling this thing, you won’t recall many memorable characteristics of the rum itself, or much that made it stand outexcept perhaps for the fact that it was nice. Oh yeah, and that boss design. If that’s what makes you buy it, then I guess its work is done. Me, I’m saving for some of the others.

(#740)(83/100)

Jul 112019
 

Photo (c) 1423.dk

There’s another S.B.S rum from Trinidad I should really be writing about, tried on that magical evening in Paris when I ran heedless and headfirst into the Mauritius 2008 and the Jamaican DOK 2018, but naahthere’s this other one they made back in 2016, probably long sold out and gone, which I remember equally well. And that’s the S.B.S. Enmore, distilled in 1988, bottled twenty seven years later, with the sort of solid 51.8% ABV strength that would make the near legendary Bristol Spirits PM 1980 nod approvingly and dab a single ethanol tear from its metaphorical eye.

1423, the parent company making the Single Barrel Selection series laboured in obscurity in Denmark for years, it seems to me, before coming to the attention of the larger world with startling suddenness. All this timeever since 2009 when they released their first rum from barrel #1423 – this small concern founded by four friends (now five) expanded. And although they were primarily into distribution, they never ceased sourcing and bottling their own rums on the sidethis culminated around 2016 with the formation of the more exclusive SBS brand, which, as the name implies, does rums from single barrels. The first year they bottled juice from Panama, Barbados, Trinidad, Jamaica, Fiji and Guyana, and haven’t stopped running since.

You’ll forgive me for having a soft spot for Guyanese rums. The profile of the wooden stills’ output appeals to me more than most, when it isn’t dumbed down and tarted up with the sweet stuff (I move off fast when that happens because if I wanted a Tiger Bay strumpet I’d go there to get rolled, thank you very much). Anyway SBS follows the indie maxim of not messing with what’s in the barrel, so we have something clean here, as I’d expect.

It smells perfectly fine. It reeks of well polished leather, aromatic tobacco smoke, prunes and unsweetened dark chocolate, and that’s just for openers. There’s also raisins, salted caramel, brine, an olive or two, some mild coffee and some moist brown sugar that still has the whiff of molasses in it. And behind all that is damp black earth, rotting bananas and a darkness that makes you think perhaps it’s trying to channel a HP Lovecraft or something.

I enjoyed the nose for sure, but it’s the taste that makes or breaks a wooden still rum. Here, it was excellentthick, dark, and almost creamy, like Irish coffee. Some licorice and mint chocolate led off, a bit of raisins, toffee, nougat, a twitch of ripe apples. And then it opened up and out came the coffee, the leather, salt caramel, prunes, plums, blackberries, molasses … and was that ripe avocados with salt I was getting in the background? Quite possiblythe richness of the rum, both in taste and in texture, could hardly be faulted. And the finish was excellent, solid and breathy, not giving anything new, but sort of summing things upso, some leather, tobacco, stale coffee grounds, caramel and those fruits again, fainter this time.

Now, there’s no doubt in my mind that this was as Guyanese as pepperpot and DDLthe real question is, which still made the rum? The label says it’s an Enmore from a pot still, all of SBS’s records (here and here) say “Enmore” andpotbut the Enmore still itself is a wooden coffey, so that only leaves two optionseither the label is wrong, or it’s one of the two other stills, the Port Mourant wooden double pot, or the Versailles wooden single pot. And since Marco makes no mention of the PM still ever going near Enmore (it was moved to Albion, then to Uitvlugt and then to Diamond), and since the Versailles still was in Enmore in 1995 (the last year that estate’s distillery made rum) then the balance of probability says it’s a Versailles, as Marius of Single Cask Rum stated without attribution in his own rundown of the SBS rums.

Assuming my line of reasoning is correct, then it’s a Versailles-still rum (SBS are digging to clear this mystery up on my behalf after I contacted them about the discrepancy), but maybe this is all just pedantry and anal-retentive detail mongering. After all, it tastes a lot like the Moon Import Enmore 1988-2011 which supposedly was a coffey still rum from there, and even if it was (or wasn’t), who that drinks this thing really deep-down cares? I thought that the rum was more solid and “thicker” than a trueand usually more elegantEnmore, yet more civilized than the Versailles rums tend to be. It was deep, dark, and delicious, a very good rum indeed for those who like that profile, and if we can’t identify its origins with precision, at least we can drink it, enjoy it, love itand thank SBS for bringing it to our attention. We just don’t see enough of such rums any more and that’s reason enough to appreciate what they did, even without the business about which still it came off of.

(#640)(86/100)


Other notes

  • Distilled November 1988, bottled October 2016. For my money that’s a 28 year old
  • Many thanks to Nicolai Wachmann, who sourced me the sample quite a while back. I seem to have lost my glass-and-sample-bottle picture, hence my using stock photos
  • The rum is red brown in colour, very pretty in a glass.
Dec 102015
 

AH Riise 1My mission, should I chose to accept it, is to get hammered on this crap. I drank it so you don’t have to.

I can’t imagine what was going through AH Riise’s corporate minds when they made this ersatz faux-Navy-Rum wannabe, but I should point out that the few rum guys I know from Denmark think it’s something of an insult to the spirit. It’s a sweet sugary Nicolas Sparks-level saccharine mess, with a grudging nod given to navy standards by beefing it up some. Unless you’re masochistically into multiple insulin shots, my advice is to smell it and immediately put it back in its boxand then hand it over to all those guys to whom you already presented the Coruba, Whaler’s, the Pyrat and the Kraken. It’s in good company there.

The Royal Danish Navy rum, bottled at 55% is supposedly made according to the same recipe as old AH (see below) developed over a hundred years ago, and then sold to Naval vessels who passed by. It is not a really aged rumrums “up to” 20 years old comprise the blend, always a warning signand which in turn derive from molasses, and distilled in a pot still. According to the product notes on the website, it is neither chill-filtered or coloured (but still we wonders, precious, we wonders….). And that’s about all I can find online and in my scanty library, aside from the company bio, which is below.

Royal Danish Navy 2

The nose started out badly for me, and went downhill from there. The rum presented well, mind younice and dark, looked cool in the glassbut that nose. Ugh. Darkly sweet, redolent of peaches, dark sugar, prunes, more dark sugar, some chopped fruits, even more dark sugar. It was, in a nutshell, cloying. Even a few background notes of soggy, rotting wood and cooking sherry, black berries and jam couldn’t elevate the smell of this thing. To be fair, I note that some soy sauce and green olives made an appearance after a bit (a long bit), with perhaps a flowery note coming throughbut what good did that do? And, 55%? Where was the power and intensity this should have brought to the table?

Redemption was not to be found when tasting it, alas, even though I often found in the past that nose and palate can be strikingly differentbut not here. The rum was hot, thick, creamy, full bodied, syrupy, oversweet, cloying, bubble-gum-like, sticky, vanilla-laden. It was a dentist’s wet dream, a full out cavity attack, with all the strength and all potential flavours beaten into dull defeat and abject submission. What other flavours? Vanilla, more peaches, some molasses, a shade of carameland some grudging citrus that comes out when water is added. A short, lackluster finish, warm, tasting of treacle and blackberry jam, paradoxically thick and weak at the same time.

Perhaps it was made for innocent tourists hopping off a cruise ship rather than to attain a high standard in its own right, but there’s all sorts of things wrong with the rum. It is almost drowned in excess sugar, from which the 55% can’t save it, it displays little evidence of the complexity that ageing should have imparted, and I am convinced that some guy in the blending department kinda-sorta accidentally-on-purpose dropped his Mama’s fruit basket into the vat. Therum bioon the site is shoddy, and the reality of what it is versus how it’s hawked throws the entire rum into question. I am not going to say outright that the marketing plug on their website is out and out falsebut it is misleading to say the least, especially given that Johnny Drejer has already estimated 96 g/L of sugar in it (additives? what additives?).

So, in fine, the AH Riise Navy 55% is not a rum to buy. It wastes your money and your time, unless you are into liqueurs or want to cook with it, and I can’t even imagine what kind of cocktail you could use it in. I’m a lover of Navy rums and vibrant Jamaican/Guyanese profileshell, I enjoy strong inexpensive mixers like Pusser’s, the 151s, Young’s Old Sam, Woods 100, Cabot Tower 100 and many others. So I’ve had and enjoyed cheap and not-so-cheap navy rums that had size, staying power, massiveness and strengthbut this iteration? It has a nose of no attraction, and struggles with a flaccid palate reminiscent of a coked out John Holmes in his last days. It is, to be brutally frank, a limp dick.

(#244. 68/100) ⭐⭐

AH Riise 2


Background

We haven’t seen this company before, so let me delve into the usual history..

First of all, it should be noted that Denmark did indeed have Caribbean colonies back in the daySt. John, St. Croix and St. Thomas, which are now the US Virgin Islands. The good ole US of A bought them for $25 million in gold back in 1917. Part of the reason for the sale was the high cost of sugar production after slavery was abolished following the 1848 Danish Revolutioncertainly mismanagement of the local economy didn’t help. The Skeoch family over in St. Croix and their Diamond Rum Company was doing okay (they would go on to create the Cruzan brand after the repeal of the Volstead Act), but St. Thomas and St. John were in dire straits.

Albert Heinrich Riise, a Danish pharmacist who got a Royal Decree allowing him to open a pharmacy on Charlotte Amallie on St. Thomas in 1838, had a thing for botany and pharmaceuticals (not the recreational kind), and early on created the Riise’s Bay Rum, which was not a rum at all, but a cologne, or after-shave or hair oil, with enough alcohol content to be used as a substitute by those so inclined. This proved to be so popular that by the 1880s (when Riise’s son-in-law had taken over) rums were part of the stable of the companyone even won a medal in 1893. In 1913, the Riise holdings were sold to Olaf Poulsen, a Copenhagen pharmacist, and in 1928 to the Paiewonsky-Cassinelli family, who own the company today. They are retailers and distributors more than rum makers and their website makes no mention of this sideline of their company at all (it’s on a separate website dedicated to just the rums). That alone might explain something.

Several other A.H. Riise rums exist. Maybe one day I’ll try them all to see how much they differ from this one. Hopefully a lot.