What is it? Molasses base rum from Guyana. This was distilled at the Enmore distillery in 1988 and bottled by Bristol Spirits in 2008, making it around 20 years old, with the vast majority of the aging done in the UK and in ex-bourbon casks. Demerera distilleries are a bit hard to fathom out; the Enmore still (EHP) is a wooden Coffey still (column still) but the Bristol Spirits website says that this was produced on a pot still. Now there was a pot still at the Enmore distillery in 1988; the Versaille wooden pot still was moved from Versaille to Enmore in 1977 and then on to Uitvlugt in 1993, so in 1988 (when this was distilled) the Versaille still was at Enmore and in operation. As Bristol has said that this rum comes from a pot still then it has to have come from the Versaille still.
Chill filtered (I’d guess), bottled at 43% abv and no details on colouring. Whilst colouring is sometimes added to Bristol bottlings this has a very light colour and quite light for 20 years in oak, so I don’t think it’s been coloured.
Nose: Raw, grassy, cane juice – very little oak at all. Seaside notes of brine, seaweed and dried, salted fish. Limes and some green olives. The more it’s sat in the glass the dustier it gets; Garam Masala, paprika and turmeric, but like they’ve been open too long and smell musty rather than pungent. A bit of paint thinner, petrol and a tiny hint of toffee sauce in the distance.
Palate: Light touching medium. Dry entry, slightly sour and acidic, not all that pleasant on delivery really. 20 years old? I can’t find many years in this rum, palate or nose wise. Those spices from the nose but dusty and powdery again, like if you cook a curry and don’t fry off the spices first, they taste raw at the end. A little oak appears here, eventually, with some light vanilla tucked away, but it’s a brief passing.
Finish: Pretty short. Lingering spices, hot, alcoholic vapour. Still fusty and dusty, sour again as it ends – luckily it doesn’t last long as the finish isn’t really the best bit. 20 years old? Really?
Thoughts? I’ll set my stall out right away; it’s too expensive. Don’t get me wrong, a 20 year old “Versaille” for £95 seems quite reasonable when you look at the price of the official DDL bottle from the same still, but you have to bear in mind that the DDL bottling is full proof and 100% tropically aged. This is a very different rum. So, price aside, is it a rum worth buying? Well it all depends on your taste preference and what you want to get from the experience – for me, no, it’s not. As interesting as this is to drink it’s a bit too “out there”, the flavours aren’t right, it’s out of balance and far to raw for my liking. I’m not sure if something went wrong in the distillation or if there were cask issues during maturation, but something just isn’t right with this rum – given the lack of aging evidence when tasting I’d wager that the casks were well past it (probably 4th or 5th fill); if put bad spirit into good casks and you get average results, however if you put good spirit into bad cask you get a bad result. Now this isn’t a “bad” rum, it’s just not benefited from the effects of maturation, which has left a bit of a FrankenRum. It’s probably all sold out now, but that aside it’s not something I’d consider spending £95 on again.