Cadenhead’s Classic Rum – 6 year old 2019 release

What is it? A blend of rums done by Cadenhead, and Independent bottler of spirits. This blend is a mixture of molasses based pot and column still rums from Barbados, Jamaica, Guyana, Trinidad and Panama and was aged in oak casks for 6 years in the UK before it’s release in 2019. For a long time Cadenhead have produced their “Classic Rum” blend and it generally changes year to year, but the type of rum they are aiming to produce remains the same, so if you pick up a bottle from another year chances are it wont be too far from this profile.

Not coloured by Cadenhead, not chill filtered and bottled at 50% abv.

Sugar? No.

Nose: Ah, proper dark rummy rum, in the “Navy” style if you will. Molasses, roasted nuts, soot, boot polish, ink and tar. Certainly some estery notes from the Jamaican element with squishy banana and citrus fruit. There’s some dark chocolate cake here too along with some cinnamon and handful of cloves.

Palate: Full, rich mouth feel. Some black olives, tar and brine at first then richness; coffee beans, cocoa beans, toffee covered banana, liqourice, cinnamon, fudge and a little flamed orange rind. The roasted nuts are still here and a little zing of lime part way keeps it from getting too heavy.

Finish: Long. A little salty brine here but it’s really on the sweeter side as it finishes off with molasses, toffee, strong black and sweet coffee, maybe a really good espresso with a thick crema, dark chocolate and loads of black banana, a little slightly burnt Christmas cake and a touch of charred pineapple right at the end.

Thoughts? Good. A little sweet at times, maybe that’s the Panama or Demerara if it’s been “treated” at the distillery, but I didn’t find any sugar in my hydrometer reading. There are plenty of good flavours going on here and it’s got a lovely body to it so it’s pretty versatile if you wanted to mix it or drink it neat. A proper dark rum without any of the over-the-top colouring nonsense and at 50% it’s good value too for £35. It’s not as good as the 1842 Cask in my view, but it’s cheaper and it is what is it – a consistent, good tasting dark rum.

 

Foursquare 2007 Cask Strength (12 year old)

What is it? The 10th bottling in the Foursquare Exceptional Cask Selection series. It’s molasses based rum produced on both pot stills and column stills at the Foursquare distillery in Barbados – so Single Blended Rum. The rum makeup here is the same as with the previous iterations (2004 and 2005) where it’s distillate from both column stills and pot stills that are blended together as new make without any aging and then put into ex-bourbon casks for the full maturation period, which in this case is for 12 years and all of that tropically. The rum was distilled in 2007 and bottled in March 2019.

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

I’ve taken it down to around 55% abv for this review as that is how I’ve been drinking it and I think it works best. It is very drinkable at 59% though, be warned.

Sugar? Nope.

Nose: Yep, that familiar 100% ex-bourbon, cask strength, Foursquare – although this one seems a touch more savoury that previous; my guess would be higher pot still component in the blend this time round. We’ve got black olives, brine, WD40, tar and soft liquorice. Herbal notes of parsley, dried plantain, Tiger Balm and sticky plasters. Of course, it’s not all savoury, as expected you’ll also get polished oak, pipe tobacco, milk chocolate, coconut, almonds, light butterscotch, a little orange and a touch of vanilla.

Palate: Full mouth feel, hot. Dry start and savoury again, like the nose. Salt and pepper cashews, dark chocolate covered chillies, horseradish root, liquorice, black olives, brine infused with black pepper and some tar. We go nutty next with roasted walnuts, peanuts, pecans and some more cashews. Then come the sweeter notes of bitter orange caramel, really good home-made fudge, chocolate stem gingers and tarte tatin with toffee sauce right at the end. It’s not “sweet” sweet though, but more of the notion of sweetness.

Finish: Very long. Oak, toasted. Fruit loaf, very dark chocolate, black coffee from Brazil, leather, nutmeg and butterscotch. A little of the savoury comes out with black olives and a touch of WD40 but it’s more on the sweeter side here.

Thoughts? Belter. Not as sweet as the 2004 I think, or the 2005. Definitely more savoury notes to find but all pretty equal in terms of quality – this is, after-all, Foursquare we’re talking about here, it’s like a load of Ferrari enthusiasts discussing which is the best Ferrari when you know that as a normal human you’d be happy to just take any of them! I don’t think I could really pick between the 2004, 2005 and this, I’d probably go with the 2005 if anything, then this one as my preference is more for savoury rum, but it’s all pretty much irrelevant when push comes to shove.

This retailed at around £55 and at the time of writing (May 2020) there are still bottles around for the same price, which I find quite amazing for such a brilliant rum. Look at the price bracket for this and then look at the list of rums you see; would I rather have this for £55 or a Ron Zacapa 23, Zaya, Dictador 20, or Flor De Cana 18? What the actual fuck, where is my eye-roll smiley thing? How have people not already bought all of this yet.

You can pick this up from The Whisky Exchange here:

Foursquare 2007 Cask Strength ECS

Hampden 18 year old (1998) – Kill Devil

Don’t get too excited, this isn’t some hidden little rum, this is simply me doing a face palm. I get through a lot of rum and I don’t have time in my life to write a review and post on the blog every time I open a bottle, as such I’ve taken to writing notes over the years and posting reviews as and when I’m able to. Usually I’m quite good with it and my reviews are reasonably current to what I’m drinking but sometimes it’s from a bottle that I have finished many months prior. This one is quite embarrassing. I was looking through my historic notes for my next review and found a piece of paper tucked down the back of my bookcase – I did wonder where this one got to! So it’s old. You can’t buy it anymore. I bought it, I drank it and wrote notes, so I’m going to review it.

What is it? It’s a Hampden, so Jamaican Pure Single Rum (100% pot still, from molasses, distilled at a single distillery). This one was distilled in December 1998 and matured for 18 years after which it was bottled by Hunter Laing for their Kill Devil rum range. There isn’t any information on where this was matured but I’m certain it was aged in Europe, judging by the taste profile. Again, we have no marque detail on the rum, but Hampden bulk exported at one marque a year and in 1998 it was marque HLCF which stands at an ester count of 500-700 g/hlaa. Back in the day, when this was put out, Kill Devil only had a small portfolio of rums – there wasn’t much Hampden about (or much else from Kill Devil) at the time and certainly nothing at Cask Strength – so it’s quite interesting to re-read and remember the noting and drinking in the more recent rum climate.

One of 381 bottles.

No colouring, no chill-filtration and bottled at 46% abv

Sugar? No.

Nose: Yep, Hampden has entered the building. Pineapple cube sweets, old black bananas, pineapple slices, banana bread, pineapple juice and so it goes on. Some lime zest, actually more Key Lime Pie, so creamier and some earthy biscuit. Paint thinner, diesel, creosote and the smell you get on your hands when oiling a door latch – that metallic oily smell. A little brine, sand, rock pools and the faintest distant oak.

Palate: Medium to full mouth feel, just starting to get oily. Big initial entry of banana and fermenting pineapple, it just explodes straight away. Some white pepper, limes, mangoes and more pineapple and banana. Pear Drops, nail varnish, furniture glue – or what it would taste of, I imagine. Olive oil and a little salted butter which is a nice touch. Very little cask influence indeed, the teeniest bit of vanilla and oaky cinnamon, and I mean tiny. Things settle mid-palate and it gets nice and calm.

Finish: Medium, which is surprising, I thought it’d be longer. Left over fruits, but fuller so more on the banana bread, pineapple cake and lime cream than actual banana, pineapple and lime. Big fat green olives (those massive Greek ones) and some rubber balloons, a touch of stamp glue and a prickly buzz of pepper and green chilies right at the end.

Thoughts? Solid. A very good solid Jamaican pot still rum. By anyone’s standard this is very good rum but I can’t help but compare it to another 1998 which was the 16 year old Kill Devil; that one just exploded with flavour – it was just such a massive rum – this certainly has aspects of that but where the 16 year old took off mid-palate this drops away. It just goes to show you how single casks can be.

I picked this up back in 2017 for £70 and it was retailing for a touch over £80 at the time. When I bought it I thought that was fine enough for an 18 year old Hampden, but looking at modern prices it seems like a bit of a steal. Personally though if I had the choice of this or the 16 year old for the same money I’d take the 16 year old every day of the week.

Still, very good rum, just lacking in a few areas.

 

Saint James XO

Dipping into an agricole today, I must admit that this is not my forte and my palate is still getting used to agricole rums, so make of this what you will. For what it’s worth I’ve gone for something with a touch more age and a more “classic” rum profile in the way of Saint James XO for this review.

What is it? Agricole rum (column still from cane juice) from the Saint James distillery in Martinique. Given where this is from they have a nice little AOC (appellation d’origine controlee) which governs exactly what the rum must be restricted to for production and aging. The AOC Martinique regulations are very (very) extensive and you can read about them directly online here if you fancy geeking out, so I wont go over this too much, but to cover some of the more interesting points it indicates a rum made from sugar cane cultivated in strictly authorised areas on the island, with limited yields and agricultural practices that protect the land and the quality of the crops. 100 per cent sugar cane juice must be used in production, distillation is made through columns or continuous stills, alcohol levels must not be lower than 40% ABV and colouring must be natural from ageing only in oak casks. There are only seven AOC accredited distilleries on Martinique. Just 3 per cent of the world’s rum holds the AOC Agricole Rum mark. It goes on and on to include the brix level (sugar content) of the juice, fermentation times allowed, level of organic volatiles for each grade, minimum maturation periods etc. This rum is also marked as an XO, which means that under the AOC regulations it has to be aged for a minimum of 6 years in oak barrels not exceeding 650 liters – obviously it can be made up of older rums too, but we don’t know the blend details in this other than it is at least 6 years old, aged tropically. I’ve seen reports that is contains rums up to 10 years old, but it may well change from time to time depending on yields and flavour profile consistency.

Not coloured (as detailed above), chill filtered and bottled at 43% abv.

Sugar? No.

Nose: Quite a full and rich nose with hazelnut, milk chocolate, fudge, pralines actually or whole nut chocolate bars, marmalade, chocolate covered gingers, raisins and vanilla. Under this are more typical agricole notes of hay, some sweeter white wine, fennel, tarragon and parsley. Some fresh root licorice and a touch of black olive as well as brine right at the end.

Palate: Medium mouth feel, sharp and dry. Ah, totally opposite to the nose; starts with cane juice, which wine, aniseed, tarragon sauce, sharp and tangy oranges and some sour woody notes – almost green sappy wood. Then come the nutty toasted oaks, white pepper, vanilla and cinnamon notes at the back of the palate. Still a slight sour note running through to the end.

Finish: Medium. Nutty still from the palate, hazelnuts, milk chocolate and nutmeg. As the Finish lingers you’re left with quite a bit of raw licourice, fennel, soil and brine. It’s more like the progression of the nose here.

Thoughts? Good but not great. I love the nose but the palate is just a bit too sharp and sour for my liking – it is an agricole, and as I say I’ve still got a way to go with my palate as it stands. This rum set me back only around £40 which is pretty cheap for an XO agricole, usually you’d be into to £60 plus range, as such I think it’s fair value for money and one worth seeking out to dip your toe into the matured agricole world. Personally though it’s not for me at the moment and not something I’d look at buying again.

If you fancy a bottle of this then you can pick it up at The Whisky Exchange here:

Saint James XO

Diamond 11 year old Port Ellen Cask (2008) – Kill Devil

What is it? Pure Single Rum (molasses based, 100% pot still, single distillery) from the Diamond Distillery in Guyana. This rum was distilled on the Port Mourant wooden pot still back in April 2008 and matured in the UK for around 10 years in an ex-bourbon cask, at which point it was transferred over to an ex-oloroso sherry butt for finishing for just under 2 years, after which it was bottled by Hunter Laing for their Kill Devil rum brand. Now this wasn’t any old ex-oloroso butt that Hunter Laing had knocking about, oh no, this was a sherry butt that had been holding Port Ellen single malt Scotch whisky. For those of you that don’t follow whisky, Port Ellen is a bit of a unicorn; it was an Islay distillery that produced a peated single malt (they had their own maltings, which are still used today for malting the barley on Islay for the distilleries there) and closed back in 1983 during an industry wide culling of distilleries. It’s very rare whisky and is now a collectors item, with bottles going for £1000’s. This cask was used to mature Port Ellen whisky for over 34 years, so there is plenty of the spirit soaked into the wood, and this rum is likely to be the closest I’ll ever come to Port Ellen!

One of 690 bottles produced.

Not chill filtered, not coloured and bottled at cask strength of 60.9% abv.

I’ve been waiting to review this Diamond 11 year old Port Ellen Cask Kill Devil for ages, but there’s some type of pandemic going on, my kids are off school, the wife is at home and knocking reviews out…..well…..it’s been on the back burner.

So Port Mourant, in a very old Port Ellen sherry cask, at full blast. Hold on to your hats.

Sugar? No

Nose: Quite rich and full actually, given the very light colour to this whisky. Typical Port Mourant notes of aniseed, fennel and salted liquorice, green olives and brine, crushed sea shells and marine fuel. Then we get the cask. What a cask! Sweet vanilla, a little cinnamon and soft billowing smoke, iodine, tarry ropes on a jetty, smoked lemons and a touch of icing sugar. We’ve also got meaty figs, flame raisins, sultanas and blanched walnuts in there too – that peat from the Port Ellen cask really shows up.

Palate: Full mouth, not as big and rich as the nose though. Holy shit, peat. Immediately the aniseed and liquorice of the rum are joined with thick, salty, medicinal peat smoke. Surgical bandages, sticking plasters, stamp glue, smoked ham, pine sap, menthol and smoke lemons again. The medicinal peat amplifies the fennel and liquorice of the Port Mourant and binds with it – it’s a savoury party in your mouth, hugely phenolic. The notes of new leather, fig and milk chocolate from the sherry butt show up part way just to keep it real, but that tell-tale peaty smoke sits there all the way.

Finish: Long. The smoke billows on and is joined by sweeter notes of milk chocolate, lemons covered with icing sugar, roasted walnuts, smoked fennel, pan-fried green banana and even a little butterscotch. There’s the odd tang of olive and bitter liquorice root that pops up during the course but it tends to stay sweeter and less phenolic here.

Thoughts? Rumsky! Give it to a whisky drinker and they’d tell you it was the latest Ardbeg release (whatever thing they were doing that year). That Port Ellen cask is magnificent, what I’d have given to actually have tried the whisky. There is so much character with peat, smoke and sherry that comes through to the rum even with such a short finishing period. The cask really compliments the savoury side of the Port Mourant, sure it’s dominant but it doesn’t over shadow the rum, it binds and amplifies it into one harmonious thing.

Ardbeg released a young whisky finished in rum casks some time back (Ardbeg Drum), it was the same price as this and it was shit. 1-nil to the rum world I’d say.

Right, £90. Yes, an expensive 11 year old European aged rum, but you’re paying for the cask it’s been sat in for that 2 years so that’s just how it goes I’m affraid. As I say, the closest I’ll ever get to Port Ellen. I think it’s wonderful, but it’s not going to be for everyone this, I happen to really like peated Scotch, and if you don’t then probably give it a miss. I feel lucky to have been able to get hold of a bottle and I’d buy it again.