Black Tot Master Blender’s Reserve 2021

wp-1634633785380What is it? As with the Black Tot 50th Anniversary Rum from 2020, this is again a molasses based blend of rums from various countries, still type and ages. I’m not going to go over old ground with the Black Tot line-up, you can read about that in the link to the 50th Anniversary, but the Black Tot Master Blender’s Reserve is the next rum along and continues where the 50th left off. This rum was to celebrate the 100th Anniversary of the ceasing of rum rations to the Australian Navy (the nod to the Aussies will become clear later) and uses the Black Tot 50th Anniversary Rum blend as the base, it was re-casked it into ex-sherry butts in 2020 and is blended with rums aged between 9 and 24 years, from Guyana, Barbados, Trinidad, Jamaica and Australia, as well as incorporating some of the original British Royal Navy rum blend itself – this is not just simply an further aged version of the 50th Anniversary rum but a different blend altogether, although there is going to be quite a lot of comparing to each other in this review as naturally many people will consider them as part of the same run and will want to know how they face off.

 

 

 

As with the 50th Anniversary there is a really good transparent back label on the bottle that lists the blend components, as you can see some Australian rum from Beenleigh has been added this time to provide the ode to Australia:

MBR-2021-Back-Label-2

 

Bottled at 54.5% abv, unchillfiltered and of an outrun of 6000 bottles.

Sugar? No.

Nose: Really quite fruity at first with lots of pineapple, mango, apricot and over ripe banana. Little touches of caramel or butterscotch here and there as well as some lovely sweet raisin…..and then things get dirty, really dirty; diesel, liquorice, black olives, brine, tar, treacle and some meaty note tucked away that’s not quite heavy enough to be Jerky, but something similar, maybe touching on very crispy/almost burnt smoked bacon. Really deep and heavy near the end, lovely.

Palate: Good weight and mouth feel. Fairly restrained at first but then it gets quite hot and peppery. We’re not as fruity here, pineapples, sure, but it’s mainly phenolic and herbal as if following straight on from the end of the nose. We’ve got loads of diesel, oil and tar. Lifts of aniseed, liquorice and then some solventy black boot polish (if you’ve ever accidentally inhaled the stuff you can taste it and you’ll know what I mean). There’s a really nice meaty mushroom note in here too, touches of raisin and some wet leaves or forest floor notes, all of which seem to be coming from the sherry casks.

Finish: Long. Less phenolic here, much more on the traditional sweeter sensed notes with banana, dark chocolate, black coffee, treacle toffee and some bitter nutty notes like raw walnut. It’s much richer at this point, coating and heavy but still carries some phenols with salty black olives sneaking in to keep it interesting and a zing of tropical fruit at the end which stops it getting bogged down.

Thoughts? Really good. The addition of the Aussie from Beenleigh definitely livens things up and gives it some real zip, it really does taste like a different rum to the 50th Anniversary but you can still pick out the lineage here. So is it as good as the 50th Anniversary? Well, yes, and that says a lot as I ranked the 50th Anniversary in my top 5 rums of 2020 (specifically my 4th best), so we’ve got no slouch here. I don’t score rums but if I were to do so I’d score both this Master Blender’s Reserve and the 50th Anniversary the same, however, my personal preference would be to the 50th Anniversary just because if I’m drinking a Naval style blend I like a rich a dirty rum and this is much more fruit driven.

So what’s the damage? £120. Ok, yes I guess so as it’s only increased a little year on year and we know what happens to the cost of things…..so I think that’s fine.

 

If you fancy this you can pick this up from The Whisky Exchange here:

Black Tot Master Blender’s Reserve

Savanna 5 year old

20190822_075507What is it? Traditional Rum (column still, from molasses) from the Savanna distillery on the Isle of Réunion in the Indian ocean. The distillery uses both molasses and cane juice to make their rums as well as producing rums of very high ester in the form on their Grand Arôme style with minimum esters of 500g/hlaa. This 5 year old rum is made in the Traditionnel (normal style) and aged for at least 5 years, tropically, in a combination of Limousin and Allier (both French oak) casks; this wood is tightly grained and produces quite a spicy note in spirits, so a short maturation time provides a lot of character.

I have no details on colouring or chill filtration for this so I have to assume that it is chill-filtered and coloured, although the colour does look pretty natural for the oak and aging type. Bottled at 43% abv.

Sugar? No.

Nose: Oh, this is phenolic. Camphor, parsley, brine, green olive and this strange savoury dried banana note. Warming spices of cinnamon, clove, ginger and nutmeg, green coffee beans and pistachios. There’s a chocolate note too, like those artisan blocks with cranberry, cherry and nut chunks stuck on them. Some distant tobacco and a little umami note of the “seaweed” you get in Chinese restaurants.

Palate: Medium. Nice and dry but a sweet flavour at first….but not sweet, so we get the idea of banana, milk chocolate, milky coffee, pralines, sugared and roasted almonds, but without any actual sweetness. Sitting with these flavours are the phenolic notes but dialled back a bit; the olive and brine are there and some sappy wood but it feels like it’s over to one side, hovering around, just making you aware of it’s presence. We’ve also got vanilla, a light honey and a sprinkle of nutmeg, then the camphor turns up. It’s really good at blending flavours without one type taking over.

Finish: Pretty long actually. Again it stays between sweet and phenolic, some green bananas, a little pineapple here, dried mango pieces, nuts, pralines and black coffee. Tannic notes of sap, raw walnuts, camphor again and some brine. It gets slightly sweeter towards the end with vanilla, honey and a touch of mint.

Thoughts? I really love this rum. It’s youthful but not fiery and hot. It’s complex but easy to drink. There’s easy sweeter, comfy notes if you want them but then challenging phenolic and savoury notes if you decide you want to go looking and have a play with it.

I’m pretty gutted that we don’t get much Savanna rum in the UK as it’s a brand I really want to dig deeper into and explore – getting hold of the stuff means shopping internationally and is also very expensive!

This cost me £37 when it was available which is a real no-brainer, and just goes to show that the age stated on the front of the bottle isn’t a sign of quality; you can get a younger rum with loads going on if you look for it.

Worthy Park Cask Selection Series 8 – Quatre Vins – 2013

20210128_161457What is it? Pure Single Rum (100% pot still, molasses based, single distillery) from the Worthy Park distillery in Jamaica. This bottling has been done as part of the “Cask Selection Series” and is number 8 in that line-up. It was distilled in 2013 and matured tropically in first fill ex-bourbon casks for 4 years before being moved over into a variety of casks for further maturation, in this case ex-Monbazillac, ex-Sauternes, ex-Moscatel and ex-Jurancon casks (all sweet or desert wines), for a further 2 years – I believe this was done in Europe – making it around 6 years old. I don’t know how the blending was done for this but most likely the rum was split into 4 and each one matured for the extra 2 years and then blended back together again. It’s possible that the entire batch was moved from 1 cask to another in turn but I find that unlikely.

This bottle is one of 1318 produced.

Bottled at 52% abv without any colouring added. I don’t believe this has been chill-filtered either.

Sugar? No.

Nose: You get the Worthy Park banana immediately, butterscotch, sultana and coconut. We’ve got cask spices in here too with ginger. nutmeg and mace, a few peppercorns and a sweet chilli/pimento note. Part way through there’s a bouillon or vegetable stock note and some Bovril (bear with me here, it’s quite nice) – there’s a definite meaty note sitting midway on the nose that reminds me of Mortlach Scotch Single Malt. Oh no, whiffs of spent matches are starting to appear and some heavy sulphur notes arrive at the end. Bollocks.

Palate: Full mouth. Quite sweet at first, I’m very much getting the desert wines and sweet dried raisins, they are quite overbearing initially. We then get our Worthy Park banana, some drier brewed black tea, candied pineapple, papaya and black grape. There’s some heat in here too with ginger root, clove, red chillies and peppercorns again, but it’s a sweet type of spice. A little sulphur again but not as bad as the nose and it gives a nice smoked ham, like Brunswick, note which is really nice.

Finish: Medium. Spicy and sweet again, milk chocolate covered chilli and ginger mix, salt & pepper roasted cashews and a pineapple glazed smoked ham. It finishes quite sweet with intense dried grapes.

Thoughts? This is an odd one this. I’ve gone back to it quite a bit as initially the sulphur was pretty bad; I’m very susceptible to sulphur, it’s a genetic thing, some people get it badly and some don’t. I must admit that I found it very strong and it took a good month to settle down and blow off. What’s left gives a savoury, meaty undertone to the fruity rum which is very interesting. It drinks a lot older than the 6 years it has seen, but the problem is the sweetness from some of those casks really dominates and over sweetens the rum. It sits on top of the rum blend and doesn’t every really integrate well at all with the Worthy Park style here.

This is £70ish and as interesting as this has been as an experiment it’s not one I’d buy again, go for one of the other Cask Selection bottles, probably the sherry ones, if I were you.

O Reizinho 3 Year Old – That Boutique’y Rum Company

20210327_111718What is it? This one doesn’t have a category in the Gargano Classification. It is sugar cane juice rum, rather than molasses, but is produced on a single pot still rather than a column. It was produced at the O Reizinho (which means “The Little King”) distillery in Madeira and was aged for 3 years in ex-Madeira wine casks until it was bottled by That Boutinque’y Rum Company for batch 1 of their release. From what I’ve been able to find O Reizinho cask their rum at a very low 50% abv and the rum increases in abv with aging due to the water loss over time – this is all to do with climate, where a lot of spirits loose water and alcohol as they mature but some locations cause water loss at a greater rate thereby increasing the abv of the spirit. Also, such a low abv will give an increase in the water soluble components in the cask such as sugars and any residual wine that’s imparted into the cask so a 3 year maturation may seem short but the result could be interesting.

My bottle is number 1340 of 1936.

Not coloured, not chill-filtered and bottled at 52.6% abv.

Sugar? No.

Nose: What the fresh hell is this?! Prune juice, liquorice, anise, juniper, pink peppercorns, lavender and parsley. Very odd, but very good. There’s some thick toffee or treacle like notes, nutmeg, mud, black olive and a load of burning leaves. It’s like someone has taken a bag of liquorice Allsorts, chucked a load of herbs in, smoked it, poured in a bottle of prune juice and chunks of treacle toffee to make some weird smoothie – “I fancy a smoothie, what’s in the cupboard, oh this lot will do”. This isn’t like anything I’ve tried before and it’s fascinating. Smells awesome.

Palate: Full mouthfeel. Woah, liquorice again at first, then the herbs, then some sour pickle water, capers, brine, black olives and a massive scoop of raisins. Surprisingly little oak influence given the colour but that’s likely to be down to the low cask fill abv (you get tannins and higher wood notes at high cask fill abv as the ethanol is better at dissolving this than the water is), we’ve got a little clove and nutmeg but not much more from the wood. On the back half of the palate we’ve some dark chocolate, some milky coffee and a dark orange note in there too, the ones you use to make marmalade out of.

Finish: Medium. Big on the raisins here, spice with peppercorns and ginger, the occasional dry dusty soil note blowing around, butterscotch, liquorice and dark chocolate again. It’s much less phenolic and much sweeter in style as it ends, which provides a nice cool-down from the palate before the next sip starts.

Thoughts? This is hilarious stuff, I’ve never had a rum with this profile before and it really took some getting used to indeed. Once you’re in the zone with it though then things are really enjoyable. Sure, I certainly wouldn’t give a glass of this to someone and be all “This is what rum is like”, but I’d give them a glass of it and be all “Hey, look what rum can be like”.

This set me back £43 for a 50cl bottle, which does seem a lot for a 3 year old rum but really in the scheme of things these days it’s pretty much getting on pocket change for something decent. It is a fantastic rum? Probably not. Is the experience of drinking this worth the money I paid? Most definitely. Would I buy another? Absolutely. In fact it’s made me turn my eye to what else is being produce in Madeira and has put the country on my watch list.

 

If you fancy this you can pick this up from The Whisky Exchange here:

O Reizinho 3 year old – That Boutique’y Rum Company

Saint James 12 year old

20200722_193732What is it? An Agricole rum (cane juice based, column still) from the Saint James distillery in Martinique. I wont go over old ground here as I covered off Saint James and the Martinique AOC regulations around their rum and how it’s made in my review of the Saint James XO here. This one has spent at least 12 long tropical years maturing in oak and given the seasonality of the sugar cane harvest and the requirement to only use cane juice, getting hold of some of these longer aged Agricoles can be a bit of a challenge in the UK.

Not coloured, but chill-filtered and bottled at 43% abv.

Sugar? No.

Nose: Really beautiful straight away. Cloves, nutmeg and cinnamon. Fragrant sandalwood, ginger root, ground coffee, figs and prunes. There’s quite a bit of fruit here too with pineapple, mango and apricot but it’s not lively fresh fruit, instead the fruits are mixed in with the rich cask notes so they have a deep and full smell to them. There’s some lightness and freshness of white flowers, some warm cut grass or hay, and a lovely pipe tobacco deep down. You could probably wear this as a perfume and get away with it.

Palate: Medium mouth. A little sour and sharp at first with capers and a pickle like note which carries straight into some very floral and grassy tastes, with a touch of musty sack cloth. As it goes on it gets fruity with the pineapple, mango and some under ripe pears. Then the richer notes arrive with the prune, cinnamon, coffee grounds, a little tobacco and some bitter honey. Not as rich as the nose but definitely fresher, lighter and more tangy in the mouth.

Finish: Long. Just as it was trailing off things pick up again with a burst of spice in the form of ginger, nutmeg and some black peppercorns, a little brine and black olives. Dark chocolate and espresso pop up here and there, some more fragrant pipe tobacco again and pops of the sourness from earlier in the palate.

Thoughts? Really very nice. We’re walking that fine line here between fresh/floral, sour and rich. It has all of these elements and shows you a little of each without being too much in any one way. A really solid and inviting rum with a nose I could sit and smell all day long. It shows you its cane juice roots but holds your hand when it does it, so if you’re like me and primarily a molasses based rum drinker (it’s what we get most of in the UK), it offers a sense of safety whilst letting you explore some of the more traditional Agricole side.

I picked this up for £70. A great stepping stone from molasses rum into cane juice rum and one that makes me really want to explore the category much more. A very good balance between the cost of the rum and the quality of the experience you get, one I’d certainly pick up again.