Aldi Crossbones Premium Rum Mashup

I shop in Aldi. I shop there for a number of reasons, but one of the main reasons is that the general price to quality ratio of the stuff you get is excellent. Sure, there are a few duds on their shelves, but on the whole the stuff I buy is better in quality than other supermarkets at the same price point, if we’re comparing like for like. The extends right into their alcoholic drinks range with their wines blowing away stuff 3 times the price. Long have Aldi done a range of whiskies and about a billion gins, but rum has always lagged behind. They put out the Sea Dog spiced rum this year which really wasn’t very good, but I have been hoping for more offerings. So there I was, minding my own business in the Aisle of Wonder when I see some new rum. I’ll have some of that!

A while ago Aldi released 2 new “Premium” rums as part of their Special Buys (they come, they go, then they’re gone), one was a golden rum and one was a dark rum, both called “Crossbones”. As I have a lot of time for Aldi I thought I’d give them chance to make amends for the Sea Dog. I’m going to review both rums here to give you a fair account of them against each other as I imagine most people will see them on the shelf and be wondering which one to go for.

First, lets start with the review of Aldi Crossbones Premium Golden Rum:

What is it? Dunno. Rum. It’s a blend of young and older rums from around the Caribbean, aged in oak casks. We don’t know the still type, or the countries, or how long they have been aged in oak for. So we’ve looking at a generic rum blend here. Without a doubt this will be entirely from molasses.

Coloured, chill filtered and bottled at 40% abv.

Sugar? My hydrometer says 4g/l, that is perfectly fine and generally considered to be “none” as anything under 5g/l can be attributed by cask sugars. So well done Aldi, they’ve not smoothed it over with sugar.

Nose: Pretty pleasant actually,  smells like rum. Some spirity varnish notes and it’s on the lighter Cuban or Central American side, high in column still, but none the less it’s a fair nose; banana, coconut, caramels and baking spices with cinnamon and clove. A touch of runny honey, vanilla and a little menthol.

Palate: Medium mouth feel. Light and grassy, slightly astringent but not too bad, easy to drink neat. It’s a rinse and repeat of the nose really, a little more savoury note here though with some brine and a touch of tar but nothing too much as to sway it from the oak caramels and spices.

Finish: Short. More astringent here and a little bitter, still some cinnamon, caramel and vanilla though. It gets some lime part way through which lifts it.

Thoughts? A standard “golden rum” I guess. Generally though it’s decent enough. I’ve had worse rums for more money and in respect to Aldi it probably wasn’t ever designed to be drunk neat from a Copita glass and judged by some dude on the internet. Based on that, its general flavour and price of a mere £15 I think it’s a solid buy.

 

Ok, let’s move on to the Aldi Crossbones Premium Dark Rum review:

What is it? A bit more detail here; this one is solely a blend of Jamaican column and pot still rums, so we know we’re likely to be getting a bit more in terms of quality, it’ll be solely from molasses. No mention of ageing here, but then I don’t know what defines “older” rum in the Golden one anyway, the lack of any age indication isn’t a deal breaker, it’s a dark rum blend.

Coloured (oh yes, heavily), chill filtered and bottled at 40% abv.

Sugar? As with the Golden Rum, this has come in at 4g/l so totally fine. No issue here.

Nose: Yikes. Big, rich and decadent that’s for sure, definitely got some Jamaican pot still in here. It’s going for the “Navy” style of rum, if that’s your thing. Black bananas, boot polish, treacle toffee, molasses, roasted coffee beans and black olives. Notes of camphor, soil, wet leaves and brine. There is a slight meaty note too, mushroom’y, maybe ham and a little grilled pineapple.

Palate: Yeah, same here. Full mouth though, quite oily and rich but not cloying. Chocolate, fudge, cinnamon, treacle toffee again and a massive waft of banana bread, black bananas, ginger and coffee. It still has some savoury notes though with that boot polish, some leather, camphor and mushroom. A little black olive and brine too at the end.

Finish: Medium this time. Stays on the treacle, coffee, chocolate and wood spices here with ginger, clove and nutmeg. A little vanilla and coconut towards the end and a lighter banana note.

Thoughts? Heh. Really pretty good. Lots of rich flavours, not much heat or astringency and easy to drink neat. It’d mix very well but honestly it’s easy peasy to drink it neat. I imagine this is what most people expect when they order a “dark rum” and it delivers on that expectation.

Just reading the bottle tag I knew that this one would be better than the Golden rum, it was the one I originally went for before I decided to get both; knowing it’s fully Jamaican rum is the kicker here as even industrial Clarendon column still rum is better than the vast majority of shite from Central America, chuck in some heavy pot still and it’s game on.

£15, again. No thought needed, it’s an absolute bargain. I’d recommend going out and getting this one if you are a fan of dark rums, it blows away stuff twice it’s price. The only issue is that it’s on the Special Buy so you may find your local Aldi like mine; sold out of this. I guess that’s a fair indication of which one was better!

 

Cadenhead’s 1842 Cask Rum

October in the UK. The weather is shit and it’s getting dark early, time for something a little more…….robust.

What is it? Who knows! Basically, Cask 1842 Rum is a rum from Independent bottlers Cadenhead, who do a whole range of whiskies, rums and other goodies. They own Springbank whisky in Campbeltown and are very active in sourcing and bottling their own range of spirits in various guises, from single casks to various small batches. As part of their range of spirits they offer “Cask 1842”, now this is not just a rum, they do the range for whiskies also, so don’t get confused. They have a “live” cask in the shop in Campbeltown for each of their offerings, in the case of this review it’s for their rum. A “live” cask is basically a quarter cask that is filled with a mixture of rums and left, once it gets about half empty they top it up with more rum, from whatever they have that they think with go well in the mix. They mix it around, leave it for a bit and then start to bottle again, once it gets half empty they top it up with some more rum. The result of this is that there’s some rum sloshing around in the cask from way back when, and quarter casks are smaller than your standard barrel so there is quicker wood interaction.

Naturally, there is no age statement on the bottle as it changes all the time depending what has been put in and given the nature of what’s being done with it, age statements are largely irrelevant. I’ve been told that all the rums in the cask are all “dark” rums from Guyana, Trinidad and Jamaica and that over the years some very old and rare rum has gone into the cask; 30 year old stuff and some Caroni for example, back when old Demerara rums were easy and cheap to come by!

This is a review of an 1842 Cask Rum that was bottled on 5/11/2018.

Natural colour, not chill filtered and bottled at 56.6% abv.

Sugar? Nope.

Nose: Smells like a big, rich Demerara at first; dark roasted coffee beans (something like the heavy roast Monsooned Malabar that I’m currently drinking), soft eating liquorice, boot polish, black olives and thick molasses or treacle. Vanilla, coconut and bourbon cask caramels pop up along with a nice little lift of lime juice and fresh pineapple. There is a little banana here and there, tar and a salty note that I can’t quite put my finger on.

Palate: Full, oily mouth feel, chewy. Yeah, heavy on the Demerera that’s for sure, very “British Navy” style I guess you could say. Chewing new leather, some rolling tobacco, treacle toffee, big black raisins, deep brown muscavado sugar, liquorice and blackberries. There’s a touch of fig, black cherry, dark chocolate (like an unsweet Black Forest cake, if it was possible), some banana and salty black olives again. The lime lift shows up here too just to freshen the palate and stop it getting bogged down.

Finish: Long. Liquorice again, bitters a little with walnuts, black coffee (more of a Sumatran this time), very dark chocolate, smoky sweet cigars and a bit of a savoury note I can’t pinpoint – it’s almost like a ham I had once that was covered in treacle, porter ale and smoked – it’s bitter, sweet and meaty all at the same time, really hard to explain.

Thoughts? I love this. It doesn’t have much balance, why would it, it’s bits of casks that have been chucked into another cask over years and years, but it’s got big and bold flavours, and a huge richness. I really like the idea of a live cask, and you can see how it changes over the years with each release, plus I know some very good rums have gone into this; it’s not a load of leftovers. A great winter rum by all accounts.

So I paid £48 for this, that’s a lot of money for a NAS rum, but given I know Cadenhead and the provenance of some of the rums that have gone into this over the years I’m happy to pay it. The only thing to watch, as always with Cadenhead, is their bloody delivery charges! If you’re going to order something from them then it’s worth batching up several bottles to justify the charges. I’ll be getting the next batch when it’s bottled, that’s for sure.

 

Diamond 20 year old Armagnac Finish (1998) – The Duchess

What is it? Traditional Rum from Guyana (molasses based, single distillery, column still). This was distilled at the Diamond distillery in 1998 using the Enmore wooden column still (cask marque EHP for those that want to know – so a “normal” Enmore). It was then matured in an ex-bourbon cask in Europe for 12 years after which the rum was transferred to an ex-Armagnac cask for a further 8 years for a total maturation period of 20 years; so it’s not really a “finish” here but more of a double maturation. It was bottled in 2019 by Nils Van Rijn from http://www.bestofwhiskies.com under the rum brand The Duchess.

This bottle is 1 of 243 bottles from cask 27.

Not chill filtered, not coloured and bottled at cask strength of 50.8% abv.

Sugar? No.

Nose: Very shy at first – I’ve left my bottle for 2 months before this review so it opens up – it needs air and time. Oak definitely, but the spirit is a lighter style with orange oil, almonds, a little sharp gooseberry, a tiny green olive and some vanilla pod. There is a grape-y note in here as you’d expect from such a long time in Armagnac wood, a few sultanas and I can easily pick out the Armagnac cask that’s for sure, but it’s not too intense or overpowering.

Palate: Medium mouth feel. Edging towards sweet on entry. Ah, big influence from the Armagnac here, almost overpowers the palate due to the lighter style of rum; oak, sultanas, vanilla, raisins, marmalade and then a touch of brine from the rum. Some sweet desert wine of some type and an almost almond’y cherry stone note that cools your tongue right at the end.

Finish: Medium. Doesn’t add much more to what has come before really. Nice, flavourful but brings nothing new to the party. Some peaches and a touch of plum jam if anything really and a small hint of white chocolate.

Thoughts? It’s a nice rum. Quite different to what I’ve had before as it’s very light and the Armagnac cask really does take over – but I guess that was the idea. It’s a solid and very pleasant rum, but not a showstopper. I’m glad I bought a bottle of this for nothing else other than to flip my palate a bit and try something a little different, but for £90 it’s a stretch too far. It doesn’t deliver any “wow” moments, which is a shame as I had high hopes for this, as such it’s not a rum I’d rush out and buy again.

Long Pond 16 year old (2000) – Duncan Taylor

What is it? Pure Single Rum from Jamaica (100% pot still, from molasses, at one distillery). This rum was distilled at the Long Pond distillery in June 2000 and bottled in February 2017 by Independent Bottler Duncan Taylor after spending 16 years ageing. It is one of 237 bottles from cask number 17. There are no details of where this has been aged, but given the taste profile, abv and the colour of the rum I’m confident this was aged in Europe.

Lond Pond are known, like Hampden, for producing rums with a wide range of ester levels and are very famous for their Wedderburn style which sits at 200-300 gr/hlaa – unfortunately there are no details of the rum marque or ester levels on the bottle so we can’t say with any certainty what’s in here, guess I’ll have to drink it and find out!

Not chill-filtered, not coloured and bottled at 54.1% abv.

Sugar? Nope.

Nose: Ah, I’m guessing we’ve got a mid to lower ester rum here. Softer and more subtle than I was expecting. Plenty of warm oak at first which, given the very light colour, is surprising. Vanilla, thinned golden syrup and brown butter. Then we get the fruit; mango, papaya, black bananas, banana bread, kiwi and a blast of lime. Nail polish, salty olive brine and some rubber balloons add a savoury touch. There is a slight herbal note in here too, maybe some pine sap and tomato leaf. It all blends well and is not in your face like some other Long Ponds I’ve had from 2000.

Palate: Full mouth, oily, the legs just sit on the side of the glass and hardly move. Immediately it’s savoury; tar, brine, olive oil, olives, rubber gloves and sea shells. Slight sweetness of runny toffee sauce, melted butter and then some salted liquorice. A touch of vanilla, and I mean a touch. What fruit there is are overripe, rotting and fizzy with bananas, guava, pineapple and their juice. Some more liquorice and a bit of fennel and pine arrive at the end.

Finish: Medium. A little hot actually, still savoury though with bags of olives, tar, liquorice candy (Pontefract cakes) and the rubber balloons. The fruit here is even less than on the palate and consists of banana and lime bread or cake and the smallest of kiwis. There is some vanilla and honey popping up here and there but it’s not a sweet rum. Very savoury on the finish.

Thoughts? It’s really, really good. I love Jamaican pot still rums, but I’m slightly disappointed. It’s not as “big” as I was hoping for, which is fine, things don’t have to be maximum ester all the time, but the Mezan 2000 blows it away for flavour and that was only 40% abv, at half the price. There is something missing here, some mid/lower ester rums from the likes of Monymusk are just “rounder” and more complete, so I don’t quite get where this sits.

Don’t get me wrong, I could drink this all day, it’s excellent in the scheme of things, I just don’t feel that I’m getting £75 out of it, which is what it cost me.

Bonne Mère 3 year old (Guadeloupe) – Cane Island

What is it? Traditional Rum (molasses based, distilled in a column still) from Guadeloupe, produced at the little known distillery of Bonne Mère. The rum is distilled and matured for 3 years, tropically, in a mixture of ex-bourbon casks and French oak casks, then it was bottled by independent bottlers Cane Island for their Single Estate Rum series.

No details on chill-filtration or colouring, so can’t say with any certainly, but I don’t believe it’s been coloured, and judging by the taste any chill-filtration is light.

Bottled at 43% abv.

Sugar? No

Nose: Very floral at first, like walking into a flower shop. Dried herbs; marjoram, parsley, some thyme and rosemary. Smells of being outside on a warm day, cutting your lawn with warm grass and dusty soil. The fruit is of very bitter oranges, kumquat, sharp mango and dried banana chips. Things start to get quite oaky after a while, surprisingly so actually given it’s youth; cinnamon bark, liquorice, fresh nutmeg and milk chocolate all show up for the party.

Palate: Medium mouthfeel. Dry. Herbal cough lozenges (ones from English old school sweet shops, they’re like a small rectangular, hard, beige/light orange coloured things and you’ll know what I mean if you had them). Marjoram and rosemary again, Pontefract Cakes (more old fashioned English sweets; flat liquorice things), Earl Grey tea, orange flavoured Salmiak – if there is such a thing – a little tar and some fennel seeds. Not as much oak here as on the nose, so just a touch of clove and then a quite a bit of milk chocolate the longer it is in your mouth.

Finish: Medium. The chocolate comes through from the palate and the finish is slightly sweeter with more actual orange, maybe marmalade, white coffee with cream, vanilla and an almost corn/grain note. Some prunes and a little raisin are there too just as it ends.

Thoughts? Unexpected. This little bad boy is only 3 but punches well above it’s weight. Sure, it’s a little rough around the edges but for only 3 years in the cask it’s packing a lot of flavour indeed. It’s sitting somewhere between a Bellevue (which are getting stupidly expensive, and I why I bought this instead) and something from Martinique. Whilst this is from molasses it’s a really good French style rum and one I’d definitely recommend picking up if you want to branch out from the normal flavour paths.

This cost me £33, which may seem like a lot for a 3 year old rum, but lets remember it’s 3 tropical years so you’re running at around 8-9 years European equivalent, and I can assure you it’s got a lot to give – it blows away a lot of the “premium” crap that’s out there at the moment that’s for sure. I’d happily repeat purchase this one.