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.

Chamarel Blend – 2010 and 2014 – bottled 2017 for 70 years of Velier

What is it? Not quite sure to be honest, the bottle says “Vatted Single Rum” which isn’t a rum type that was outlined by the Gargano classification, odd given that this bottling was done by Velier…..what it does say is that it’s from sugar cane juice, so it’s an Agricole. The rum is from the Chamarel distillery in Mauritius, now they have some different stills there; column stills and pot stills, and as there is no detail on the bottle to say what type of rum was in the casks used for this blend I can’t possibly comment; I have contacted Velier for some information as well as the distillery, but neither have been forthcoming, which is a shame. The rum is made up from 2 casks, cask 181 and 182, there are 2 ages on the bottle too, 2010 and 2014 – these are the vintages of the rum. We would assume that one cask is from 2010 and one cask is from 2014, but it may be that these are 2 sister casks (given the cask numbering) and were filled at the same time/same batch, in which case the rum in the casks is a blend of rum from those 2 different years….again we just don’t know. C’mon, data please!!!! It’s important! Either way, the rum in the blend, from these 2 casks and years, contains 80% from 2010 and 20% from 2014. The rum was bottled in 2017 for the 70th anniversary of Velier and I understand that the aging would have been done entirely in Mauritius. I also have no idea what cask types were used for this rum, Chamarel have a large catalogue of casks ranging from French oak casks, wine casks, ex-bourbon casks to new american oak (virgin casks). My gut feeling is that this was matured in French oak of some sort, but I could be totally wrong.

Not coloured, not chill filtered and bottled at 56.5% abv.

Sugar? No.

Nose: Not what I was expecting at all; big, bold and spicy with fresh nutmeg, mace and cinnamon sticks. There is some old leather, sandalwood, cedar and rolling tobacco here, green coffee beans, root liquorice and dried parsley. Some sharpness cuts through with a slightly sour white wine note and wet, fresh cut grass. Lots of dried fruit in this too with raisins, cranberry tartness and a mix of dried tropical fruit that you’d find in some muesli, like papaya, pineapple and banana. There is this almost grainy whisky note too right at the back. Very complex indeed.

Palate: Lovely mouth feel to this, medium, not too heavy with an oily texture. Hot at first and spicy with peppercorns, cinnamon and green chillies. Rolling tobacco again and that incense note of sandalwood comes out. Yellow flesh stone fruit (apricots, mango and nectarine) and the sharp wine. Some sour green wood appears just to remind you that this is made from cane juice. Things get dry from this point, very dry; nutmeg powder and a huge (and I mean huge) wave of fresh liquorice root takes over and you can feel the puckering in your mouth as it dries off your tongue. Some unsweetened black coffee and 90% cocoa dark chocolate appear but all it does it make it drier.

Finish: Long. Bone dry. It’s all 90% cocoa dark chocolate, unsweetened espresso, raisins – if you could remove any sweetness from them – tree sap, sucking cut grass and a tiny glimmer of dried banana chips. It’s really, really dry at the finish.

Thoughts? Wow, this is pretty intense stuff. Not like any Agricole I’ve had before; there are still some cane juice rum notes here but the casks are leading on this and the fruit is very concentrated. This is one of those rums that you open and go “wow, this is good”. The more you drink it the better it gets too, which is crazy – half way through the bottle and it was blowing me away. What an incredible rum, what a blend of casks.

Now, when I bought this at the start of 2019 it had been sitting on the shelf in the shop for ages and was about £75….for a Velier bottling, and I know why; it’s from Chamarel, and it was a maximum of 7 years old. If this was a Jamaican, a Demerara or a Foursquare it’d have sold out at that price, but Mauritian rum doesn’t seem to command the same interest in the market for some reason. Well, let me tell you, it’s very good indeed – between Chamarel, New Grove (Gray’s) and Labourdonnais I’ve not had a bad rum and this Chamarel is one of the best. For £75 it was an absolute steal – another one of those rums I should have bought multiple bottles of.

Foursquare Empery

It’s been out for a while now, and I’ve been spending a lot of time with this rum, so it’s really got to the point where I need to put out the Foursquare Empery review…..

What is it? Bajan Single Blended rum (molasses based, produced at one distillery and blended from both traditional twin-column still and pot still rums), from the Foursquare distillery in St Philip, Barbados. This rum is one of the Exceptional Cask Selection rums for 2019 and is ECS Mark 9. The rum contained within the blend, is as always, distilled and blended when new and prior to being matured in the casks, speaking of which, we’ve got a mixture of casks on offer here and it works the same way as some of the previous releases from the ECS series; whereby there are 2 batches of rum matured separately and then blended at the end: first there is the ex-bourbon cask rum which is where the rum has been filled into ex-bourbon casks and matured for 14 years. We then have the “finished” or “double matured” rum which was filled into ex-bourbon casks and matured for 10 years before being re-racked into ex-sherry casks for a period of 4 years. The 2 separate and mature rums are then blended together to produce the final rum, with a total age of 14 years old. So it’s a blend of a blend, if you will. All of the maturation, as you’d expect, is done tropically, so you’re easily looking at the equivalent of around 30 years worth of European ageing in terms of maturation impact on the spirit.

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

Sugar? Nope.

Nose: Oh yes, sherry matured rum, no doubt. Immediately lots of Corinth raisins, black plums, blackberry, dark cherry and roasted fig. Very fruity indeed. Then we get the oak, some dried coconut, dark chocolate and some black peppercorns. The more you nose this things get meaty with some baked big flat mushrooms, really old worn leather, dry leaves and dusty soil. Faint hint of liquorice and a touch of creosote to balance the sweet notes and the faintest hint of sulphur (spent matches) – normally that’d piss me off in a sherried spirit but it’s only very faint and, to be fair, I am quite sensitive to the smell (apparently it’s some genetic thing; some people smell it, some don’t)…….you may not even notice it. It is in there though, just not enough to throw things off.

Palate: Good heavy mouthfeel. Sweet at first, very fruity with the raisins and dried black forest fruits, then BAM! Gets spicy and dry; ginger in dark chocolate, lots of black pepper, gripping oak, over done French roast coffee beans, raw walnuts and raw liquorice root, even some red chillies in the heat. It’s still carrying fruit though as it goes on with some bitter oranges and a little black grape, but the palate is a lot less fruitier than the nose, certainly.

Finish: Very, very long. Oaky and dry. Lots of tobacco, black coffee, dark chocolate, roasted walnuts and strong black breakfast tea. A little raisin at the end, cherry and the meaty fig, but there isn’t really much in the way of sweetness here either, it’s bone dry and just nicely bitter. Reminds me a lot of the old Glendronach 15 year old Scotch, back before they re-branded it and it contained very old (and incredibly well sherried) whisky in the bottle – and believe me, that’s saying something. It totally feels like a love-child between old Glendronach 15 year old and Foursquare 2005 Cask Strength.

Thoughts? Stunner. One of my favourite Foursquare Exception Cask Selection rums, right up there with the Criterion. This is fruitier on the nose and I do like a little more of a savoury note in my rum, generally speaking, but it is very, very good indeed. Embarrassingly so for other distilleries out there. Richard Seale is taking the piss now, stunning rum after stunning rum. I’m pretty sure he could do a fish cask matured rum or something and it’d still be bloody amazing.

£64.

Sold.

This is worth every penny and then some. Simply one of the top rums of 2019.

Ron Canuto 7 year old

What is it? Ron Canuto Highland Rum is a molasses based, pot still rum from Ecuador, produced by the Zhumir distillery, making this Pure Single Rum. The molasses used is local stuff and they age in Ecuador too, but whilst this is hot it is aged at altitude which actually slows the maturation somewhat. The rum is aged for 7 years in ex-bourbon casks and I note that whilst it doesn’t say it’s single cask rum my bottle has a barrel number on it (barrel number 7) and bottle number 29 – so it does look like it’s come from a single cask.

Coloured, chill filtered and bottled at 40% abv.

Sugar? Yes. 35 g/l of the stuff….

Nose: Bananas. Immediately lots and lots of bananas. Banana sweeties, banana flavour Angel Delight (a powered, ready to make blancmange we have in the UK), Crème de banane and banana bread. Some oak spices pop up with light clove, a little ginger, cedar wood and some vanilla. A touch of caramel and then that’s it.

Palate: Full mouth, sweet, very much so. Clearly obvious that this has been fiddled with. Bananas again, bah! Bloody bananas! That’s all I can get, and fake banana stuff too, so a banana milkshake or banana chews (banana split toffees if you’re in the UK and old enough to remember going to a proper sweet shop). Not much else sadly, no pot still notes at all and not even any heat from the alcohol. I’ll be kind and say there is some vanilla in here too, if anything.

Finish: It does, and quickly too. Blink and you’ll miss it. Guess what is here – banana.

Thoughts? Pass. I’ve had worse rums, I’m struggling to remember when but I’m sure I have. Sweet and just tastes of bananas. I picked this up having not seen anything from Ecuador before and thought I’d give it a go, not one I’ll be getting a repeat of.

£32? Nah, no way. Poor show I’m afraid, don’t waste your money.