What is it? What is it indeed. We’ll start with the easier bit; Most likely Single Blended Rum (molasses based, pot and column still rum from a single distillery) from that there Caroni distillery in Trinidad, that is no longer. I say “most likely” because Caroni had both pot and column stills and this is a blend of casks from various years, without any detail of the still type, so chances are its blended rum from various different marques of rum. Now for the more complicated bit; Caroni closed in 2002 and this rum was produced as Caroni’s 10 year old blend prior to that – I don’t have the specific year. It spent 10 years aging in Trinidad, at which point it was shipped over to Bristol Spirits for them to bottle. The rum was taken down to bottling strength (most likely 40% or 43% abv) but never bottled. If we assume it was distilled as part of the last run from the distillery, then the we’re looking at 2002 – 2012 in terms of aging tropically, the rum wasn’t released by Bristol for some years later so it spent a few more years aging in Europe – that’s a minimum, it could well have come from an older distillation run making it even older.
With time, water and ethanol evaporate from a spirit. In places like the Tropics and the Americas water can evaporate quicker than the ethanol so you can actually have an increase in abv over time, or a more level rate of evaporation so a very slow reduction in abv (it’s why so many tropically matured, old rums, have eye-watering abv levels), in Europe it’s the other way round; ethanol evaporates quicker than water, so you get a reduction in the abv, and this can be quite dramatic. In the case here, as the rum was already reduced to bottling strength and then left, the abv dropped too low – in Europe rum cannot be bottled under 37.5% abv. To resolve this issue and to maintain the “10 year old” age statement Bristol added some cask strength Caroni 1993 to bring it back up to the levels for bottling.
So what we have is a 10 year old age stated rum, with a low abv, which put a lot of people off buying it. What we really have is a Caroni that has spent at least 10 years aging in the Tropics, another round of aging, maybe 4 or 5 years or so, in Europe and blended with an at least 20 year old Caroni. So ignore this “10 year old” stuff, it’s waaaaay older than that.
And no, I’ve still ot found out why it’s called Caroni VSOC.
Not coloured, not chill-filtered and bottled at 40% abv.
Nose: Unmistakable, but softer Caroni (generally) we’ve got here. I say “generally” but there are fleeting heavier notes of tar, liquorice, marine fuel, shed paint or creosote and black olives. There’s a really good fruity backbone to it too with red apple compote or apple pie filling, sultana, raisin and bitter orange marmalade. Touches of toffee, warm pastry, vanilla and cooked banana too – maybe all together like a banana cream croissant or donut. There’s also pipe tobacco right at the end which gives a lovely warming smoky note.
Palate: Medium mouth feel, slightly oily. A little sweet at the start with maple syrup, orange and raisin, molasses and a white jelly bean note I’ve found in other Caroni, slightly like really good cream soda. It doesn’t stay sweet though, there’s a tang of sharpness soon that’s like gooseberry or tangerine and strong breakfast tea. Then we get the hot tyres, olive oil, brine, tar, tobacco, tree sap, resin, liquorice and motor oil.
Finish: Long. Everything just keeps going; you’re left with everything from the palate coming and going in waves – it’s lazy to write that but it’s exactly what it does so there’s no point writing out the same notes twice! It’s only really the “finish” and not the “palate” because I’ve swallowed it 🙂
Thoughts? In a world of cask strength Caroni all vying for attention and shouting with loud voices, there is this. A blend of heavy and soft tastes and smells at a strength you lets you taste and smell it all. It doesn’t scream at you and you need to take time to explore it well but it’s worth the effort. It’s really, really beautiful rum.
£80. A few years back that’d have been very expensive, and of course it wasn’t originally released at that, but just try to find a very well matured Caroni for under £100 anywhere these days, it’s a rare as rocking horse shit. Do I like it? Yes. Would I recommend it? Yes, I already have, several times. Would I buy another for that price? I did. Can’t say much more than that.