Depaz Plantation Rhum Vieux Agricole

Back in October 2018 Rhum Depaz launched in the UK with 4 new rums. The PR company behind the release contacted me asking if I would like some samples and if I would post the Press Release for the launch. I don’t go seeking samples and don’t usually accept offers as I’m self funded (I buy my own rum with my own hard earned money) and totally impartial, but this time I thought it was a worthy promotion. I won’t labour details in my previous post, that can be read here, but my view is that rum labelling and classification generally is a farce and the UK is appalling at this too. Now, Martinique AOC (appellation d’origine controlee) is a classification and labelling set of rules that must be followed for the AOC to apply and we get very little of the rum over here in the UK so consumers are not exposed to it. I think the classification is fabulous and we really need to get more exposure to that sort of thing in the UK. So I accepted the samples. Now, I was sent a load of tasting notes with the samples, but there’s no way I’m going to publish someone else’s notes – so I’ve done my own. They are a little late coming, lots of rum to get through and a busy Christmas!

What is it? Rum, distilled in a column still where the raw material is pressed sugar cane juice – so a R(h)um Agricole. This rum was produced at the Depaz distillery on the island of Martinique in the French West Indies and has been aged for at least 3 years in oak casks tropically. To adhere to the AOC regulations the rum must be 100% pressed sugar cane juice, that juice has a very tightly controlled brix (sugar content), it must be distilled in a column still to between 65% and 75% abv with no further rectification (second, abv boosting distillation) and the setup of the still must meet certain standards – such as the number and size of stripping plates used. Further more, no sugar or colouring can be added to AOC Martinique rums.

This rum is labelled as “vieux”; this additionally part of the classification and the rules for the AOC are very strict. It means that it has been aged in oak casks within the production area and for at least 3 uninterrupted years. The capacity of barrels must be under 650 litres and the rum must also contain at least 325 grams per 100 litre of pure alcohol of volatile elements other than ethanols and methyl at the end of the three years (these are your esters).

Chill filtered, not coloured and bottled at 45% abv.

Sugar? No

Nose: Fresh cane juice, as I’d expect. Hay, white flowers (sweet peas and lilly) and marjoram. A little vanilla, white chocolate, blanched almonds, a touch of cocoa powder and some faint allspice. There is some white wine here too and a faint hint of green olives. It smells very fresh and vibrant, and different from a mass produced molasses based rum indeed.

Palate: Very grassy, those herbal cough lozenges you can get from a traditional English sweet shop, white wine again and a little sour note. There are some fuller notes of milk chocolate and white chocolate, cinnamon, a little prune juice, vanilla, almonds and gentle coconut.

Finish: Short. Sweeter here than the nose or palate with more milk chocolate, yogurt coated cranberry or other dried and tart fruits as well as those dried, toasted coconut flakes you get in muesli.

Thoughts? As an Agricole novice, the taste does take some getting used to. With time the sharpness and sourness seems to go and more sweeter cask notes come through. As an entry level young Agricole I like it but I’m not sure I’d pick a bottle up for £35. It’s not that it’s not a good rum, I just find it very different to what I’m used to and there are a lot more complex rums out there at that price. However, if you want to give Agricole a punt then it’s certainly nice and worth looking at more closely – unfortunately Agricoles are more expensive than most other rums due to the production methods and limited time of the year they can make it. In terms of the range (the other 3 rums Depaz do) this clearly sits at the bottom. No spoilers here, but there are a couple of crackers as the rum gets older, albeit more expensive!

Mezan Belize 10 year old – 2008/2018

What is it? Rum from Molasses, distilled in a triple column still at a distillery in Belize. The bottle doesn’t state the distillery but says that it is in Belmopan, which makes this a Travellers Liqours rum. The rum was distilled in 2008 and bottled in 2018 by Independent bottler Mezan. Now Mezan have really upped their game. Gone as the low abv bottlings with screw caps and along have come a new(ish) bottle complete with wooden topped cork stoppers and a higher abv, but more importantly the back of the bottle is excellent in terms of information – just the sort of thing this rum geek loves! So it tells us that the rum is matured in ex-bourbon casks for a period of 6 years tropically and 4 years in Europe, giving a total age of 10 years. However, the 6 tropical years are worth 12-18 years of European ageing due to Angels Share, so it puts this on a maturation par with a European rum of 16-22 years old. The bottle also notes the raw material used and the still type (molasses and triple column in this case); excellent Mezan, exactly what we’re after!

No added colour, not chill filtered and bottled at 46% abv.

Sugar? No

Nose: I really like this style, sometimes. It’s some quasi rum/bourbon thing going on; loads of warm oak, incense, cedar, sweet pipe tobacco, warm leather that has been in the sun. Brown butter, some lovely violets and bitter orange. There’s a zippy sherbet fizz to this too and some tinned pineapple chunks in juice – as well as the metallic tang of the tin they are in. Right through there is an earthy note of cashew nuts and dry roasted peanuts.

Palate: Medium to full mouth. Quite floral at first actually, with parma violet sweets, some orange blossom and rose. Then we get the oak, bitter dark chocolate, stem ginger, cinnamon and a whoosh of nutmeg. There is some orange caramel in here mid-way, vanilla, a tiny bit of coconut and butterscotch. The peanuts from the nose are there too under it all, but it’s creamy like a peanut ice-cream.

Finish: Long. Sweeter finish here with the chocolate, a little black cherry jam, cherry stones (like a cooling nutty taste), overcooked fruit loaf, raisin & cinnamon bagels that have been toasted and covered in salted butter. Some coconut appears here and a surprising rubber note of new tyres, rubber bands or a balloon. It starts to tighten up and gets tannic as it goes on, but just in time for another sip.

Thoughts? Like, like, like. Travellers rum can be quite hot and spicy, but I like that sometimes. It’s a rich, flavourful and warming rum. Very whisky or bourbon like at times and has a lot of complexity. There is a nice balance between the sweeter notes and the spices from the cask, and it’s always nice to have the option of something a little different from your normal rummy flavours on the shelf.

I think Mezan have the ageing balance and abv spot on here – I’ve really enjoyed drinking this rum and would happily buy another at the £45 it cost me. This is quite a price increase on older Mezan bottlings but you’re getting a decent increase in abv, nicer bottle and a damn sight more information. I’m more than happy to pay that bit extra to get that from my rum.

Foursquare 14 year old (2001) – Kill Devil

What is it? Molasses based rum blended from rum produced on a twin column still and a pot still, at the Foursquare distillery in Barbados, making this a Single Blended Rum. As with (pretty much) all Foursquare rums, this rum was blended after distillation but before ageing and therefore the marrying and full maturation has been done in-cask. This rum is a single cask rum that was distilled in August 2001, aged for 14 years (I can’t say if this was tropically or not, as there are no details) and then bottled by Hunter Laing for their Kill Devil range of rums as one of 353 bottles produced.

Natural colour, not chill filtered and bottled at 46% abv.

Sugar? No way.

Nose: Oh, now, hang on. Very interesting indeed! Not what I was expecting at all; quite a savoury and phenolic Foursquare we have here with boot polish, smoked almonds, printer toner, warm paper straight of out said laser printer, beeswax and black olives. Under this there is that lovely Foursquare oaky toffee, smoked coconut, figs and vanilla custard. A tiny green banana and a touch of clementine (of all things) show up. Hmmm, am I sure that this is blended? There is a lot of pot still in this bad boy that’s for sure.

Palate: Perfect mouth feel, oily and juicy. Mirrors the nose and starts off with extra virgin olive oil, a licked stamp, marzipan and candle wax. Then comes the spicy oak, but the sweet notes are dirty sweet, if that makes sense; tobacco toffee, salted vanilla cream, spiced coconut oil, it’s almost got this Umami taste to it. The back of the palate has that little green banana, but it’s ripened a little more and there is that lovely lift of clementine zing and orange caramel at the end.

Finish: Long, glorious, salty, sweet, phenolic, chewy – all things that don’t go together but put them together and they sing – like sweet and salted popcorn or a smoked citrus fruit. There are drying tannins and a bizarre Earl Grey/Lapsang Souchong love-child of a tea. Again right at the end there is this lemon’y, orange’y caramel fudge note that is beautiful. I’ve struggled to cover off all the flavours of the palate and finish here, there is simply too much going on for my brain to comprehend. It’s exactly like Umami, you can’t explain to someone what it is or what it tastes like, but you taste it and you know.

Thoughts? Crickey, now this shows how damn good Foursquare rums really are. Take a single cask from anywhere else, get a mix of cask, oily savoury and sweet flavours, and have it all blend harmoniously – go on, I dare you, find me one. This is a single cask. How the hell are all these flavours in here and blending so well. Most distilleries would struggle to produce something like this from a massive blend of casks and here we are with 1 single cask of Foursquare. The ability of Richard Seale to produce rums like this, blend the rums before they go into the wood, and get a result like this is astonishing. The guy is a wizard.

I’m putting my head above the parapet here, but this is one of my favourite Foursquare rums, it beats a lot of the official bottlings for me, and that says something. Now, it’s not going to be to everyone’s tastes and it’s not the “classic” Foursquare you’d expect, but as a rum is brilliant.

£55?!? That’s all that this cost me? Take all my money, please, just take it.

Bank’s Connoisseur’s Cut Guyana – Malt Whisky Cask

What is it? Guyanese rum from the Port Mourant Estate, distilled from molasses in the double wooden pot still – so Pure Single Rum. The cask marque is MPMM, which I don’t have too much information on, other than there are many Indie bottlings of Port Mourant marked “MPM” and I believe this means “Main Port Mourant”. This rum was distilled in 1997 where it was matured in ex-bourbon casks for 2 years before being moved over to ex-Malt Whisky casks in 2000. The bottling was done in July 2013 – which makes this rum 15 or 16 years old (depending on the exact distillation and bottling dates). It was part of an outrun of 205 bottles released and going off the taste profile and colour, aged in Europe somewhere (purely speculation on my part).

Natural colour, no chill filtering and bottled at cask strength of 59.58% abv.

Sugar? No.

For the record, I’ve taken this down to about 55% abv as that is the strength I’ve been drinking it at consistently. Nearly 60% abv makes it too narrow and tight, so the flavours just aren’t giving themselves up enough.

Nose: Aniseed, fennel seeds, black olives in brine, capers, shells and rock pools. A handful of dried anchovies and some distant tar. Very savoury and herbal that’s for sure! There is some dried banana and pineapple but drizzled in some type of liquorice sauce, a little sharp gooseberry and mango that has gone off and is fizzy sour. At the back there is a little warm oak, but faint and distant, runny honey and a malty flat beer like note. A scattering of almonds finish it off.

Palate: Full, intense mouth, oily. We’re right back with the nose here; anchovies, capers, seawater. salty olive, olive oil and fresh liquorice root. There is that tarry, oily, WD40 note in here, some faint sweet tobacco smoke and a burst of citrus fruit, but savoury like a smoked and salted box of lemons and limes. Slightly sour too with those gooseberries. There is some cask sweetness here towards the end with thin caramel, honey and a touch of cinnamon.

Finish: Long indeed. Again tar, liquorice and brine. It’s sweeter here though, allowing those honeys, caramels and roasted malty/sweet beer notes to show – I’m definitely picking up some Speyside whisky flavours in the finish. Some nice fresh banana notes pop up, slices of pineapple and green apple too.

Thoughts? Excellent. It’s got some powerful fresh and raw Port Mourant notes to it but you can tell it’s a lot more complex, it’s see time in oak even though the cask isn’t very evident, it tames the spirit. It’s a very intense rum and for £100 it was very pricey at the time I bought this, however, looking at what Independent full proof aged Port Mourants go for now, it seems about right….

I can’t decide if i like this better than the Cognac cask. It’s sweeter. My first thoughts were “it’s better” but with time I’m not sure. The oak/cask on the Cognac cask seemed to have more effect on the rum, which I think is what it needs.

Would I buy this again? Probably. Is it a rum for everyone? No. It’s very focused in what is presents and isn’t for your casual drinker.

Foursquare Dominus

What is it? Single Blended rum from the Foursquare distillery in Barbados, so pot and column still rum that has been produced from molasses and distilled at one distillery, then blended. This bottle is release number 7 from the Exception Cask Selection, and as with the previous Foursquare Exception Cask Selection bottles, this rum is blended after distillation and before ageing so that the entire blend is aged together – the pot and column still rums are not aged separately and blended at the end. In terms of maturation, this rum spent 3 years maturing in ex-bourbon casks before being moved over to ex-Cognac casks for a further 7 years, giving a total of 10 years maturation; all of which was done tropically, so around 20 or so years European equivalent, and was bottled in January 2018 as part of a limited run of 6000 bottles in Europe.

Not chill filtered, but coloured, and bottled at 56% abv.

Nose: Lots of oak at the start, cinnamon, clove and ginger. The usual Bajan honeycomb, vanilla and thin golden syrup come along, a touch of orange oil, spiced caramel and some red chillies. There are some deeper phenolic notes under this with WD40, engine oil, olives and a little brine, but the oak dominates over all.

Palate: Perfect weight, oily full mouth but not cloying. Hot and spicy at first with peppercorns, chillies and clove. Some spiced toffee, caramel sauce, vanilla pod and chilli infused milk chocolate mid-palate. The oily, briney note carries through here, a little tar, some candle wax and rubber gloves. Still spicy, right to the finish.

Finish: Very long. Hot and spicy. More chocolate here as the spices die off, a little liquorice candy (Pontefract cakes), black unsweetened coffee, honey on burnt toast and a little raisin note at the end. The spices never really leave though, the buzz stays on your tongue right to the very end and gets slightly bitter.

Thoughts? Another cracking rum form Foursquare. This is better, in my opinion, than the Premise but not as good as the Criterion. The thing with Cognac casks is that they are made from Limousin oak, and the thing with Limousin oak is that it’s bloody spicy, tight grained and can really dominate spirits. It gets blended out in Cognac as they use Eau De Vie from lots of different years and massive batches, but here it has a full 7 tropical years to muscle the rum about and it’s frankly too much really. The Habitation Velier 2013 was maturated in ex-Cognac but that was only for 2 tropical years and that was perfect, whereas this has seen too much time. It’s too spicy and as a result the rum looses the usually perfect balance that Foursquare brings……

….still, it’s a really, really good rum by anyone’s standards and it was a bargain for the £55 it cost. Yes. I certainly would buy it again.