Montanya Valentia

20200528_084420What is it? American rum, distilled, matured and bottled at the Montanya distillery in Colorado. The rum is a blend of sugarcane and molasses mixed together for fermentation and distilled via direct fired Alembic pot stills – you can read more into this on my review of the Montanya Oro. In terms of maturation this one has had a different treatment; it’s at least a 4 year old rum with initial maturation in Laws Whiskey casks (white American oak) and then a finishing period in Rye casks from Catoctin Creek (like Montanya this is also female owned and distilled). Valentia means “courage, bravery, grit” in Spanish and was originally a limited release put out to celebrate the progress women have made in craft distilling but it was so successful that it’s now an ongoing release. Unlike the Oro and the Exclusiva there is no honey added to this rum.

This is a single barrel release and my bottle is from barrel 500.

Bottled at 40% abv, not chill-filtered and not coloured.

Sugar? No; 0g/l in this one.

Nose: A very dry nose and pretty spicy; loads of ginger, white pepper and clove, there’s certainly a real influence from the rye casks in here that’s for sure. Where the Exclusiva is fruity, this is spicy. Under the initial blast some more subtle smells appear in the form of honey, butterscotch, lemon sherbet sweets and coconut. There’s also this creamy note sitting next to the sweeter smells, it’s like almond butter and crème patisserie, a vanilla rich thick custard cream. Right at the back end is a touch of pineapple and a little peanut.

Palate: Good weight in the mouth, certainly for a 40%’er. Dry again. Yeah, a kick here too, it’s hot at the start with black peppercorns this time, ground ginger, cloves and pimento. We follow the same progression as the nose moving on to honey, a little caramel or butterscotch sauce and a spiced vanilla cream. That really nice creamy note is here too which really counters and cuts the spices well, and a candied chilli infused pineapple chunk mix arrives at the end. Still stays nice and dry right the way through.

Finish: Medium. There’s some lemon cream and apricot just as the finish starts and the whole thing reverses; honey, vanilla, coconut, almond and then the last thing to go is the spicy ginger and pepper.

Thoughts? This is yum. I’m a fan of what Montanya are doing and it’s great to see the breadth of style in their range, but for me this is hands down the best. It’s much more my preferred style of rum and has added complexity over and above their other core bottlings, all of which are very good. I’ve found quite a lot of spice in all of the Montanya rums and add in the rye casks, well, it’s great. You’d think that the rye and inherent spices would massively over-do things but really it doesn’t, I mean let’s be honest it is a spicy rum, but it’s certainly not overdone at all. The cask and the rum both let each other do their thing and show their best bits.

£45. Easily the top of the Montanya core range (as things stand) and certainly a rum I’d recommend picking up if you’re into a dry, spicy rum or if you were moving into rum from a whisky background. It reminds me very much of Balblair, which is a big compliment as it’s probably my favourite Scotch.

El Ron del Artesano 8 Year Old – Ruby Port Finish

What is it? Traditional rum, molasses based, from Panama and bottled by El Ron del Artesano. There is, however, more to this. El Ron del Artesano are a German company who source rum and mature it in their own casks, the USP here is the wood management; they are experts in cask selection and maturation and use this to drive the resulting rum. The rum they source is from the Varela Hermanos Distillery in Panama which operates a four-column still as well as a two-column still and don’t distil over 76% abv, which allows retention of flavour in the spirit. This distillery is used because of the consistent output but also because, whilst the quality is good, the rum doesn’t have a dominant or overbearing character. The desire here is to let the casks speak and have the right influence over the end result, working with the rum rather than adding a top layer to a powerful spirit – Artesano are not acting as in Independent Bottler here, the rum is the same all the time and this lets them build their own style. Here wood is key.

This particular bottling is matured tropically in Panama for approximately 6 years in ex-bourbon casks initially to allow the rum to settle and carry out the first stage of aging without too much extra influence, it’s then shipped off to Germany to be aged in an ex-Ruby Port cask for around 30 months.

This is a single cask, 178-16, and was bottled on 5th June 2020. My bottle is number 172 of 436.

Bottled at 40.6% abv, not coloured, not chill filtered.

Sugar? No.

Nose: Loads of red fruit, as you’d expect. Strawberries, red cherry, raspberries and some tart cranberry too. The nose is actually drier than I was expecting and also carries some spice with ginger, cinnamon and black peppercorns. Sitting next to the spice is a slightly chocolatey note and a lift of citrus, so chocolate orange maybe, and some pink grapefruit. Under it all is a distant smoke, like smouldering leaves a few gardens down.

Palate: Medium. Sweet at first and very juicy with all those red fruits. The cherries take centre stage along with blackberry and caramelised red apple. After the initial sweetness fades there’s spices again with clove, ginger and cinnamon, tannic breakfast tea, chewed pencil ends (graphite included) and a meaty mushroomy smoked note, almost like Brunswick ham. There’s a little milk chocolate again, lemon and orange rind and some caramels.

Finish: Medium, just. It doesn’t hang around for too long but does give us chocolate, milky coffee, caramel, cherries in liqueur and strawberry jam.

Thoughts? Very nice stuff. Rum from Panama can be a bit hit-and-miss, I’ve had some good ones and some very average ones, but nothing outstanding from the country. This is a good one. I have to say, I can see why they use this rum, it’s a very good candidate for cask play as it’s solid enough but it’s not going to fight too much with whatever cask you put it in, and that’s what we have here; the cask is clearly the main player, it’s giving most of the flavour and if this was another rum I’d say it totally overwhelmed it but here the rum just accepts and takes it. Don’t get me wrong, it’s very Port forward, I just think that it works really well with the base spirit.

Ok. Very, very easy to drink. It is quite a lot softer than I’d normally go for (personal preference for intensity), but all the same it’s got plenty of flavour, it’s enjoyable and tasty.

This was £47, which I think is fair. This isn’t a bottle I’d pick multiples up of but for a change of pace and a different twist on rum it’s well worth looking at. I do like what Artesano are doing with their model and they are now on my radar. I’ve already a few other bottles from them and will continue to look at the range they put out with interest.

Chairman’s Reserve Legacy

What is it? Single Blended Rum (pot and column still rum from a single distillery) produced by the Saint Lucia distillery, in Saint Lucia. SLD have a range of different stills to play with and use both molasses and sugar cane juice to make their rums, this gives them a vast array of profiles to use for their rum brands. One of the brands that SLD produce is Chairman’s Reserve and this bottling, Legacy, is the latest release (at the time of writing) to join the core range. I’m not going to go into the back story on this by just repeating what is available on the SLD website but in short it is named after former Chairman Laurie Barnard who pioneered SLDs current outlook of using multiple still types, barrel types and a proprietary yeast strain to allow the company to produce the wide range of rums for blending, at a time when many other distilleries were just using column stills for high yield output. You can read a bit more about it on the fact sheet here Chairman’s Legacy factsheet.

So what’s in the bottle then? Well:

Chairman’s Reserve Legacy is a blend of rums from the John Dore and Vendome Pot Stills and the Coffey Column Still. The rums vary in age from 5 years old to around 7.5 years old, tropically, and all aged in ex-bourbon casks. The breakdown is thus;

  • Pot Still John Dore 1. Rum aged 5 years. Sugar Cane Juice based (8%)
  • Pot Still John Dore 2. Rum aged 7.5 years. Molasses based (16%)
  • Pot Still Vendome. Rum aged 7 years. Molasses based (4%)
  • Coffey Column Still RR104 marque. Rum aged 5.5 years. Molasses based (72%)

The rum is bottled at 43% abv. There are no alterations but I believe that the rum is coloured and chill-filtered.

Sugar? No.

Nose: Very fragrant at first with lavender, white flowers, pine sap and hay. Things get deeper then with rich tobacco leaves, leather, hazelnuts, pecans, toffee and vanilla. There’s a little spice here too in the form of anise, cardamom, clove, then phenolic camphor and menthol. Flashes of fruit pop up throughout with orange zest, mango, passion fruit sharpness and banana.

Palate: Good weight to the mouth feel. Sweet entry but gets spicy. It starts out with a little toffee and dry cocoa then loads of wood with notes of ginger, clove, allspice, cut planks or a chewed pencil, black peppercorns and a little liquorice. Sweet tobacco smoke billows around, handfuls of roasted hazelnuts, dark chocolate sits with it and then mentholly, minty, camphory notes arrive; really quite herbal in parts. Not massively fruity here but where it is it’s orange, banana and tangy gooseberry.

Finish: Medium. Plenty of nutty toffee and more banana at the end, intermixed with smoke, a little ginger or pepper spice and bags of herbal notes in line with both the nose and the palate as it ends.

Thoughts? Very complex with loads going on to interest, but at the same time very easy to drink. We’ve sweet notes, cask input, herbal spices, it’s really very good indeed. Yet another notch in the post for Saint Lucia showing what they can do with their stills and base type when it’s blended together.

This was released at just under £40, for a real rum of this quality it’s got to be up there as bang-for-buck rum of the year. A cracking price for this and one I’d definitely recommend picking up, especially if you’ve not tried any Saint Lucian rum before.

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

Chairman’s Reserve Legacy

New Yarmouth 2005 (The River Mumma) – Vidya

What is it? Pure Single Rum (pot still, molasses based, single distillery) from the New Yarmouth distillery in Jamaica. Not a lot of people outside rum “enthusiast” groups will have heard of New Yarmouth; it is part of Appleton Estate and based in Clarendon, Jamaica. It produces rum mainly for Wray and Nephew and particularly white rum for the Overproof. They have both pot and column stills at the distillery and it has quite a large output, but most of this ends up in blended rums or other brands – there is very little out there labelled as New Yarmouth and where you do find it it’s almost exclusively in Independent bottles.

So that’s the distillery, what about this brand? Well Vidya is a new brand owned by Skylark Spirits who are a UK based distributor and importer of rum – they own Rumcask and do a lot of (nowadays) online tasting events. I’ve got to know them over the last year or so and they’re a really good bunch of lads, so I was very excited when they told me about this project, especially once I found out what it was. The word “Vidya” comes from ancient Sanskrit and means “clarity, knowledge and learning” – well chosen, if you ask me, to represent a (hopefully range of!) rum that is unaltered, fully transparent and about a pure as you can get it.

So where does the River Mumma fit in? Well this name was chosen because legends of the River Mumma goddess have been whispered throughout Jamaica for centuries. She is said to have guarded rivers such as the Rio Minho, which runs alongside the New Yarmouth distillery, acting as the protector of the fish and wildlife inhabitants.

So that’s the background covered off, now the nitty gritty, what’s in the bottle:

This rum, as mentioned, comes from a pot still and has been matured entirely in ex-bourbon casks. It was distilled in 2005 and the first 7 years of maturation were spent in Jamaica. On 16th May 2012 it was filled into a once used bourbon cask and shipped to the UK. In 2017 it was then sent off to Denmark until it was bottled in 2020. This gives us a tropical age of 7 years, a European age of 8 years with a total age of 15 years. Obviously the 7 years in Jamaica will amount for more, usually 3:1 so those initial 7 years will be around 21 years equivalent of European aging.

The cask marque is SFJW, but this is not a New Yarmouth marque, it’s likely to be one used by a shipper. The actual marque is NYE/WM which comes in a whopping 1300-1400 gr/hlaa of esters – which makes this an absolute monster.

Bottled at cask strength of 61.5% abv and one of 255 bottles released.

So just to summarise; well aged, insane ester, cask strength pot still Jamaican rum. Drink this sat down.

Note: For the purpose of my own survival and that of both my nose hairs and taste buds, I’ve taken this down to about 57% abv for the review. This is the strength I’ve been drinking it at for pleasure too.

Sugar? No way

Nose: Holy shit, this thing is mental. The smell from the bottle hits you right in the face as soon as you pull the cork. The nose is a total onslaught with huge amounts of fermenting pineapple, black bananas, banana foam sweets, pineapple cube candy, overripe mango and pears. Describing funk in a rum is quite a hard thing to do but one sniff of this explains it all, this is seriously, seriously funky rum. Then things get all savoury, and very interesting; beeswax, nail varnish remover, grease, petrol, Kalamata olives by the bucket, tar and a combination of Nam Pla (fish sauce) and wasabi. There’s a musty note of cardboard, hessian sacks and coconut husks. Sitting under all this is a little vanilla, coconut, almond, light caramel and some nutmeg. What. A. Nose.

Palate: Good body, full mouth feel but not oily, just nicely coating. We’re a step or two back from the nose here, not as big or brash, which is a good thing as I stand a chance of actually being able to pick out some flavours. Still big funk with lots of banana, pineapple, mango, passion fruit and cantaloupe melon but it’s easier to find the more subtle notes; vanilla, clove, honey and coconut. We’ve got a tobacco smoke, leather and old wooden furniture. There’s that Umami note of Nam Pla and wasabi again, white pepper and stamp glue. Plenty of salty olives and grease then back to bananas, some brown sugar and pineapple cube sweets as it goes to the finish.

Finish: Very long. Fruity here still with Fruit Salad chews, concentrated banana essence or oil and a little bit of strawberry of all things. There’s a flash of savoury with Black Jack sweets (liquorice candy), brine, Pear Drops and tarry ropes, but on the whole it’s the remnants of the massive tropical fruits that stays here.

Thoughts? Wow. This is a big, big rum. The nose is one of the best I’ve ever smelt and you get it as soon as you pour a glass. It drops a few points on the palate but that’s not really the palates fault, it’s pretty hard to come after that nose and be able to stand up for yourself, the smell is so good.

What I love here though is that it’s not just all about the funk, there’s loads of layers and huge complexity; you really do go down a rabbit hole with this rum.

So this is one of my top rums of 2020 and one of the best I’ve ever had; I ranked it 2nd and it was only piped to the post by Foursquare Nobiliary, so not a bad showing at all given what it was up against. Now, this is not cheap at £130 but let me tell you how good this is: I pre-ordered a bottle after a sample without even asking what the price was, I really didn’t care. Yes, it’s worth every penny.

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

New Yarmouth 2005 (The River Mumma) – Vidya

Rumtastic rum of the year 2020

Well 2020 is nearly over (thank God), although 2021 doesn’t look like it’s about to start the right way – thanks COVID –  so it’s time for any bloggers obligatory “top rums blah blah blah”. As I don’t score my rums this process is actually fairly easy for me as I don’t have to go through my scoring and try to pick out rums with a slither of a mark between them, all I have to do is engage my memory. Basically my selection is pretty straight forward here, I chose my favourite rums; do I remember the rum blowing my mind? Ultimately, if a rum sticks in my mind then it’s a contender and there have been quite a few of these this year. Now I must caveat that I’ve not tried every rum that has been released 2020, let’s face it I’ve got a limited budget and a limited amount of time, naturally I can only rank what I’ve actually tried – so in the scheme of things this list is pretty much meaningless, but it’s getting done anyway. The other thing to note is that I may well have drunk and reviewed rums in 2020 that were released earlier, again because I don’t have an unlimited amount of time and money, and due to the volume of releases it’s quite easy to get behind with stuff.

Right, bullshit out of the way, what are Rumtastic’s 5 most rumtastic rums of 2020?

Coming in at number 5:

Chairman’s Reserve Master’s Selection 13 year old (2006) – The Whisky Exchange Exclusive

This was a bottle of Chairman’s Reserve that was done for The Whisky Exchange and a 50/50 mix of Vendome and John Dore pot still rum. It was the first time I’d really ventured into rums from Saint Lucia Distillers and made me have to sit down. It was incredibly complex, hugely phenolic and carried a very divisive profile so not everyone will get on with this. The result of drinking this rum was that I went out and bought a load of other stuff from Saint Lucia Distillers without even thinking about it.

 

 

 

Next at number 4:

The Black Tot 50th Anniversary

This rum was released to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Black Tot Day and is an incredible blend. A “Navy” blend rum that hits all the right notes but also tips it’s hat to a modern, fresher style of rum. No sugary sweet bollocks or cloying stickiness going on here, just really good rum blended together. Some of the original Naval rum in here too! Big props for full disclosure of the blend, right down to the percentages and the aging split of everything that went in to the bottle.

 

 

 

Rocking in at number 3:

Foursquare Detente

A list of top 5 rums of the year wouldn’t be complete without something from Foursquare and 2020 is no exception. Detente was probably the rum I was most looking forward to in 2020 because of the nostalgia attatched to the very first Port Cask in the Exceptional Cask line-up and it really didn’t disappoint. Beautiful rum, dangerously easy to drink and a showcase in the journey Foursquare have made with their rums and presentation over the last 5 years.

 

 

 

 

Runner up this year at number 2:

New Yarmouth 2005 (The River Mumma) – Vidya

This bottle was released right at the end of the year and has managed to sneak into second spot at the very last minute. This was my Christmas present to myself so it’s only just been opened and at the time of writing there I’ve not reviewed it. This is the inaugural bottling by the lads at Skylark Spirits and is a 15 year old single cask New Yarmouth rum, bottled at full strength and from the NYE/EM marque which comes in at a whopping 1300-1400 gr/hlaa on the ester level. I was kindly sent a sample of this ahead of release and immediately pre-ordered a bottle…..I don’t even think I asked them the price, it was that good. I recall spending literally an hour just nosing this.

 

 

Top spot and my number 1 rum of the year goes to:

Foursquare Nobiliary

What is there to say about this one? Not only my favourite rums of 2020 but one of my favourite rums so far since I’ve been blogging. When I first saw the label I did a little eye-roll thinking it was going to be yet another 100% ex-bourbon cask Foursquare rum, which we get every year under the vintage releases, then I opened it. Boy how wrong I was. Utterly fabulous rum and a no-brainer to make my top spot.

 

 

 

 

So there we have it. My favourite rums of 2020. The takeaways from there are 2 things; firstly there’s a good range that’s fallen into my top 5 – that’s not deliberate, if my favourite rums were all Jamaican then that’s what my list would be – but we’ve got a scatter across Jamaica, a blend, a couple of Barbadians and rum from a country I’d never tried before. This is a good thing and shows that incredible stuff is coming from many different taste profiles and not limited to 1 style, country or region. The second is that these are all limited releases. I’m sorry about that, and if you’ve not been able to get your hands on any of them then that is a shame. This isn’t as good as the first takeaway. The rum is there, clearly, but no continuous release has made it. I’d really like to see 2021 lifting up bottles from core ranges and continuous releases and at least one getting into my top 5 next year – this would help everyone from the distilleries right down to the consumers. Let’s drink the best rum we can.