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.

Foursquare 2005 Cask Strength (12 year old)

I’ve only gone and done it again. The 2019 Foursquare Exceptional Cask bottles are out (the 2007 Cask Strength and the Empery) and I’ve only just got around to reviewing the last of the 2018 bottles – the 2005 Cask Strength. This is the problem you see, there has been so much rum coming out of Foursquare over the past couple of years I simply can’t keep up; I’ve got a limited budget and even more limited time. Despite the fact that I buy lots of rum, I moderate my alcohol intake so it takes me quite a while to get through my bottles, and unfortunately a some of my Autistic traits are obsession, order and very (very) strict routines – as such I only drink on certain days and certain times, I have no more than around 6 bottles open at once and have to finish one before opening anything new. I also have to have a balance of rums open, so for example I wont have 2 bottles of Foursquare open at the same time…..the result of all of this is that it sometimes takes me bloody ages to get to a newly released bottle. And here we are, in 2019, only just reviewing the Foursquare Exceptional Cask Selection 6 – 2005 Cask Strength.

Anyway, enough waffling, let’s crack on with the review.

What is it? The 6th bottling in the Foursquare Exception Cask Selection series. It’s molasses based rum produced on both Pot stills and twin column stills at the same distillery, Foursquare in St. Philip, Barbados – so a Bajan Single Blended Rum. The distillate from both still types is blended when it’s raw spirit and then put into ex-bourbon casks to age tropically, in this case for 12 years. The rum was distilled in 2005 (hence the name) and bottled in October 2017. This is a year older than the previous Cask Strength from 2004 as that was only 11 years old, so you’re getting an extra year for your money.

Not chill filtered, not coloured and bottled at cask strength of 59% abv. Wahoo!

Note: I’ve taken this down to around 55% abv for this review as that is the strength I’ve been drinking it at. It’s good and very drinkable at full strength but a little water and slightly less heat turn it into something incredible.

Sugar? Never. Ever.

Nose: Ah, Foursquare. For all the cask “finishes” they do there’s nothing quite like a bourbon cask matured, full proof Foursquare! Lots of oak, vanilla and coconut at first, burnt brown sugar, butterscotch, dark chocolate Hob-Knobs, tiffin (it’s a biscuity, chocolatey, nutty, fruity tray-bake we have in the UK, and it’s awesome) and some dried banana. As I’d expect there is a savoury side to this too and it’s easy to find some high quality olive oil, liquorice, tar, WD40 and some marine fuel that you smell when standing on a jetty in the sun.

Palate: Full mouth feel, oily. Easier and not as hot as you’d expect. Dry. Starts out savoury with the pot still rum at the fore, with chilli coated mixed olives in oil, salted butter, tar, horseradish and a salt & pepper dark chocolate. Things get nutty mid-palate with spiced cashews, peanuts and pecans. Gingersnaps, some more (very) dark chocolate and a salted caramel are here. A touch of fruit with baked lemons, candied orange and a little toffee’d red apple at the end.

Finish: Loooooooooooong. It’s not finished by the time you take another sip. Dark chocolate, toasty oak, nutmeg, very good Columbian coffee, orange fudge, caramel chews and some bitter raw walnuts. The sweeter side definitely shows here over the savoury. Maybe the faintest hint of liquorice candy, like Allsorts or something, but it’s distant and hard to focus on.

Thoughts? Wow, another absolute cracker. For me this edges the 2004, just. It’s got a bit more savoury in it, which I like. The balance again between the blended rums in this is just astonishing and what I love about this rum is that you can drink it at full proof, or add water to take it down to 40%, or anywhere in between, and you get no loss of flavour at all, just subtle changes. This is easily one of the best rums that came out of 2018 (yes, yes, I’m late I know).

This was around the £50 mark when it came out and has been available for a long time  – seriously, at that price it’s almost rude not to buy a bottle. 100% recommend rum, for anyone.

English Harbour 10 year old

What is it? Molasses based Rum (multi-column at over 95%), produced at The Antigua Distillery in St John’s, Antigua and bottled under the English Harbour brand. The Antigua Distillery use a copper 3-column still and distil the spirit to a whopping 95.5% abv – this is basically making a neutral spirit so wont be carrying much in the way of flavour at all, nearly all of the flavour is going to come from the cask maturation here. Once distilled the rum is matured, in the tropics, for at least 10 years. I seen in various places that the rums in the blend that make up this rum can be up to 25 years old, how much of that older rum is in here we can’t be sure, but it’s being labelled as a 10 year old as that is the youngest rum present, there is older stuff in here too.

The distillery take the spirit (95.5% abv) and dilute it down to 70% abv before it’s filled into casks. This is quite interesting as cask fill strength is something that is very often overlooked by consumers (mainly because we’re not told about it) and actually has quite an impact on the resulting product. Many distilleries cask fill at 65% abv, and there is a good reason for this; below 60% you get more water soluble compounds extracted from the cask, such as sugars in the form of hemicellulose – a spirit at 55% abv will extract twice the sugars from the cask than a spirit casked at 70% abv. Above 65% abv and you get more ethanol soluble compounds extracted from the cask, such as lignin (wood notes). So that fact that this is being casked at 70% explains how such a high abv distillation is able to get a more intense flavour into the rum at the end. It may only be a little difference in fill abv but the end result over those years maturing makes a big difference.

Chill filtered, coloured and bottled at 40% abv.

Sugar? No

Nose: Sweet at first, with caramel, toffee and vanilla fudge. Some cask spices, certainly, with cinnamon, nutmeg and clove, a touch of marmalade and bags of nuts – all kinds; almonds, cashews, pecans and hazelnuts. There is a touch of dried fruit in here too, maybe raisin, and some rolling tobacco. A little bit of engine oil appears later on with some nail varnish remover, just to add in a little savoury note.

Palate: Full mouth, oily. Slightly sweet at first, but not sticky, with fudge, caramel, butter toffee (Werthers Original candy), sweet breakfast tea and vanilla. The spices kick in and its warm with nutmeg, cinnamon, clove and white pepper – very much in line with the nose. There’s a really nice taste of smoked orange that comes out near the end and an ever so slight brine’y tang as it finishes.

Finish: Medium. As the nose and palate really, there isn’t that much more to add. What’s nice is that it seems very cask influenced (as you’d expect) but at no point does it get bitter, only a little tannic with the breakfast tea on the palate and again at the end of the finish.

Thoughts? It’s a nice and very easy drinking rum. It’s not the most complex, but it’s better than average. The problem for this rum is it’s price; it usually sits around the £75-£80 mark, which I find quite extortionate really. I managed to pick mine up for £50 delivered, which is much more like it – although I still think that is quite expensive for what you get. It’s not a rum I’ll be buying again at the price I paid, and at £80 it’s madness for “just above average”, sorry.