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

What is it? Pure Single Rum (molasses based, pot still, single distillery) from Saint Lucia Distillers, made on the island of Saint Lucia. The distillery produce a range of rums and one of their brands is Chairman’s Reserve which many people may have seen in supermarkets as simply “Chairman’s Reserve”, a spiced version and also the “Lost Casks”. They have 4 stills at the distillery; a two column still (a Coffey still) and 3 pot stills (2 John Dore stills and a Vendome), this rum is distilled on the John Dore 1 and the Vendome stills and mixed together to form a blend at 50% from each still, at which point it was matured tropically for 13 years in an ex-bourbon cask before being bottled on 16/08/2019. They use sugar cane juice as well as molasses at St Lucia on both of the pot stills that were used for this rum, but the information I have states that this rum is molasses only. This was bottled exclusively for The Whisky Exchange and you don’t see many single cask bottles from St Lucia distillers, so when this popped up I jumped on it.

This single cask rum produced 286 bottles and mine is bottle number 129.

Natural colour, no chill filtration and bottled at 56.3% abv.

Sugar? No.

Nose: Crikey there’s a lot going on in here, it’s massive too; initially notes of thick molasses, raisins, red cherries, hazelnut, walnut and vanilla. Some cigar box notes, light tobacco and sandalwood. Very old balsamic and strong breakfast tea give it a sharp and tannic edge. Then things get phenolic, very phenolic. There’s boot polish, pine resin, eucalyptus, menthol, wood glue, bandages, sticky plasters, iodine, fennel and loads of brine. Right at the end is a floral note, cut flowers I guess, maybe lavender and a touch of herby marjoram.

Palate: Full mouth feel, very dry, tannic and oily. It’s massive in the mouth too, once you get used to it there is a sharp acidity to start with, almost like under ripe nectarine, very sharp. It doesn’t last too long though but it stays medicinal from the nose; licked stamps, TCP, menthol, throat lozenges, liquorice, ginger root, pine sap – like sucking on a damp pine branch – olives and balsamic again. Mid palate brings in the sweeter notes with some dark chocolate, mushy banana, a little papaya, vanilla, leather and sugared almonds. Almost marzipan like.

Finish: Long. Not as medicinal here but it’s still about. More of the sweeter notes and nutty depth with those roasted, caramalised mixed nuts you get a Christmas, raw walnut and candied stem ginger. There’s some sweetness of cherry jam and a cooling feeling of cherry stones which is something I often find in Talisker Scotch whisky. A hint of herbal toffee, iodine and olive brine pop up here and there too, every now and then.

Thoughts? Erm….not what I was expecting. The Vendome still produces a phenolic spirit but this is very intense, it’s almost like a blend of molasses and sugar cane rum and reminds me a lot of some Bellevue rum from Guadeloupe – I did initially question whether this was fully molasses based, but I’ve been told it is, so there we go! I love it. My sway in rum is towards the more savoury side of things anyway so this is right up my street. It’s really quite different to a lot of rum out there but I must say that I’d rather the sharp acidity be dialed down a bit as this is pretty polarizing and takes a while for your palate to adjust, but the flips and playoffs between the sweeter notes and the massive phenols is just ace.

I picked this up for £70 and would again if it were still on sale. As with single casks they come and they go. Recently TWE have had an 8 year old out and there are other single cask exclusives popping up at places like Royal Mile Whiskies so there’s clearly more of this stuff to come.

 

Foursquare Nobiliary

What is it? Single Blended Rum (molasses based, both pot and column still at a single distillery) from Foursquare in Barbados. This is Exceptional Cask Selection Mark 12 in the line-up of frankly ridiculously good rums from Foursquare and named Nobiliary, and I’m going to review the shit out of it – spoiler alert, it’s really, really good.

With non vintage ECS releases that have fancy names, you usually expect some type of cask play (Port, Madeira, Sherry, whatever) and the vintage releases tend to be ex-bourbon cask matured, so I was a little surprised when this was released to see that it has a fancy schmancy name and it’s ex-bourbon matured. My first reaction was that it was a little odd, given we had a 2008 vintage of the same type of cask, but I trust Richard Seale and any doubt lasted about a picosecond before I hit the “order” button. So what do we have in the bottle? As with the normal ECS run, we have a blend of rums that have come off a column still and a pot still, blended together and then casked up into ex-bourbon casks (I believe these are a mixture of 1st, 2nd and 3rd fill casks). The rum is then aged, tropicaly in Barbados, for a minimum of 14 years before being released in December 2019.

Released in limited numbers of 12,000 bottles worldwide; 6,000 in Europe and 6,000 in the US.

Not chill filtered, not coloured and bottled at full cask strength of 62% abv.

I’m reviewing the Foursquare Nobiliary at around 55% abv (ish) as that’s the strength I’ve been drinking it at. 62% isn’t any good for getting the depth out of the rum, it’s too tight there.

Sugar? Nope.

Nose: Wow, this thing is incredible. Initially there is a lot of oak, but that does blow off after a bit. It’s actually fairly sweet at first with lovely toasted oak, toasted coconut, really rich vanilla pod, clove, nutmeg, and an rum infused caramel or butterscotch. Then we’ve got deep woody smells of varnished old bookcases, those red or green leather chairs with buttons in that you see in stately homes, walking into a cobblers with leather clue, grease and old shoes. There’s this fantastic perfumed note that I can’t put my finger on, it’s a little like sandalwood but not as heavy mixed with some type of cut flowers and it’s gorgeous. Under the heavier smells, and once you get used to them, there’s plenty of fruit on offer too; red apples, red plums, figs, sultanas, dried banana and pineapple.

Palate: Full mouth, perfect weight at 55% abv. Not hot at all, which is really surprising. I mean, sure there’s a little heat of course but it’s so easy drinking at high abv is scary. A strange notion of sweetness, but not sweet. There’s the idea of sweetness here, with caramel, vanilla and coconut but it’s dry sweetness. Oak, varnish, buttered toasted bagels, peanuts, pecans, and some bitter walnut. There’s that perfumed note that I can almost taste on my palate again, slight violet note maybe, and liquorice root. Fruits come in later on with orange, red apple, red grape, plums, figs and date. There’s a little lift and zing some tropical or citrus with a lime, pineapple and banana but it’s fleeting – it’s just enough to stop the heavy oak from being too heavy. Unlike the vintage releases, there isn’t really any savoury in this rum, if anything there’s a touch of grease, stamp glue and a tiny bit of brine but it’s only faint and noticeable just as you swallow. Throughout the whole palate there’s a mild ginger root, black pepper and sweet red chilli that just sits there behind everything else, you feel the prickle and spice of it but it never comes to the front of the taste.

Finish: Very long. Things are sweeter here; rum and raisin fudge, dark chocolate, candied ginger root, candied pineapple and banana. There’s cinnamon, nutmeg and raisin, almost like a teacake or toasted cinnamon bagel with salted butter on. Lovely coconut, vanilla pod, roasted cashews and a sweet pipe tobacco that sits lightly on your tongue. I’m sure that this finish would go on for longer if I let it, but this rum is too damn good so I’ve usually dived back in for another swig!

Thoughts? One of my rums of the year, without doubt. This is utterly incredible rum. The rum itself it fantastic and the way it’s been matured in the cask mix has complimented it perfectly – if you’ve ever been lucky enough, as I have, to drink Eagle Rare 17yo there are flickers of the epic bourbon maturation that show in here and the mixing of old rum and those bourbon notes are seriously harmonious.

Whilst I usually like my Foursquare ex-bourbon casks with some savoury notes in them, and this has very little, there is just something else in here – it’s that perfumed note I’ve not been able to peg down. The way the oak works with it and then flashes of fruit and the overall softness is brilliant – if I were to describe this rum in one word it would be “beautiful”. A tip for you; make sure that as you drink this and swallow, and let the finish do it’s thing, that you constantly nose it at the same time. It’s quite an experience having both senses hit at the same time.

What’s the damage? £60.95. Would I buy this again? I bloody well can’t! It’s all sold out……yes, but yes. Oh yes, I would….

You can’t get this from the big boys anymore but The Whisky Exchange are still selling samples of this (at the time of writing) here, if you want one:

Foursquare Nobiliary Sample

Montanya Oro

What is it? Well I don’t think a category exists for this one so bear with me. First things first, it’s American rum, distilled, matured and bottled at the Montanya distillery in Colorado. Second things second, the interesting bit: The rum is a blend of sugar cane based rum and molasses base rum mixed together – not something I’ve come across before. Usually you have sugar cane based distillate or molasses based distillate, I guess you could go crazy and blend the 2 distillates together, but this is distilled from a mixture of sugar cane juice and molasses. Fermentation takes around 6 to 7 days, so reasonably long (sugar cane takes longer to complete its fermentation than molasses wash). Distillation is done in 2 Alembic pot stills which are direct fired and the rum is then filled into american white oak casks which have previously held Laws Whiskey where they are aged for 1 year in Colorado (so high altitude) – the casks are filled wet, which means they still have some remnants of whiskey sloshing around in them.

My bottle is from cask 552, in case you are interested.

Not coloured, not chill-filtered and bottled at 40% abv. The only addition is some local honey (less than 0.04% per bottle).

I’m not going to copy and paste details from their website so you can pop along and read all about it here; Montanya distillation and other stuff about them.

Now anyone who reads this blog and/or speaks to me on Social Media will know that I’m a huge flag flyer for disclosure and bit of a geek, so for me the Montanya website is gold dust. There’s not really much space on a bottle of rum after you’ve done all your nice labeling so you’re quite limited with how much disclosure you can do there, naturally a website is the next best thing. I like to know things like distillation periods, still capacities,  barrel size and stuff and the website is amazing – talk about disclosure, it even breaks things down to the volume of the raw ingredients used, abv levels of their wash, char levels of the casks, volume of rum produced per still run as well as explaining how distillation works, if that’s something you’re keen to learn about. Clearly there is a lot of love and pride going into their products, I’ve not seen a website with this level of content and commitment before and you don’t go to those lengths unless you care about what you do.

Sugar? OK, as with all my reviews I’ve dipped my hydrometer into this and it’s report a sugar level of 29 g/l. Now before we all jump up and down and start shouting about that disclosure you need to understand what a hydrometer measures – it’s not sugar. A hydrometer works by measuring the density of a liquid, and depending on the density it will sink or float at a certain level. The ones we use for measuring sugar in spirits are calibrated to measure alcoholic density – ethanol is less dense than water so the more water there is in a spirit (the lower the abv) the more dense it is, which means your hydrometer floats more. When sugar is added to rum the ethanol and water ratio doesn’t change but the sugar increases the density of the rum so the hydrometer floats more, we can then use conversion tables to map the stated bottle abv against the measurement on the hydrometer (it’ll show a lower abv as the sugar is causing it to float more) and work out how much sugar is added. It’s not an exact science as other things can impact the density. We know honey is added here, albeit a small amount, and I have no idea how honey will change the density of the rum. Honey is sugar but its a complex sugar so it may have skewed the results of this. There is some sweetness here, that’s for sure though as I spilt some on the bottle and it went sticky when it dried.

As I know other things are going on here, and Montanya have such a fantastic disclosure policy, if they say there is no added sugar then I’m pretty confident there wont be. I’m sure someone will chime in and put me to right on the whole thing.

Nose: Really fresh, lots of sugar cane, warm hay, cut flowers and wet grass. Thin caramel or honey, light vanilla, cherries, pastries, and a touch of ginger. There’s some spicy prickle here, like red chilies and white pepper. Fleeting hints of tart green apple, like a Granny Smith, pop up here and there, melon and a handful of spent coffee grounds deeper down.

Palate: Medium mouth feel. Quite forward on the whiskey at the start, it takes a few good sips to realise it’s a rum. Honey, vanilla, banana (green ones though), cherry, pineapple and green apple again but sweet this time not tart. A little butterscotch. It gets quite spicy mid-palate with the white pepper and red chili, root ginger and tannic oak. There’s a touch of milky coffee, a little brown sugar and this cooling taste of cherry stones, almost almond’y note as it finishes off.

Finish: Short to medium. Quite creamy here with milk chocolate, milky coffee, pastry, honey and banana. There’s the odd burst of spice here and there, mainly ginger, but the finish doesn’t linger too long.

Thoughts? Unusual. It’s fresh, then fruity, then spicy, then creamy, so I got a bit lost with it’s direction and balance. I also find it quite sweet in the mouth. I’m not sure how the honey impacts this but luckily the sweetness I’ve picked up doesn’t do what added sugar normally does; there isn’t any of that flattening or buzz on the finish. I think I’d prefer it without the sweetness in it personally as the flavours are really lovely, it’s dangerously easy to drink and is clearly very well made. I’ve been lucky in drinking this during some glorious weather we’ve had over our summer and the combination of the light freshness, flavours and hot weather we’re spot on. I’d imagine this would also mix very well, if that’s what you’re into. Bearing in mind this is only a 1 year old rum, it’s packing quite a lot of flavour.

The issue I have with this rum is the price. In the UK it’s retailing for £40 a bottle, which is expensive for a 1 year old rum, especially when other rums from Montanya that are older are only a small amount more. I know it’s a small batch jobbie and that does increase the cost-per-unit a lot but still, it’s expensive. If I’m being honest I’d look to be paying around £30 for a rum of this age, so I’m afraid I wouldn’t run out and grab another bottle at it’s current price. If I was going to spend that amount I’d be looking at the Montanya Exclusiva and Valencia instead – both of which I’ve picked up by the way, if that’s any indication on my views.

Note: I’ve been made aware that Montanya are a B Corp certified business. This means that they have been certified as meeting the highest standards of social and environmental performance, transparency, and legal accountability to balance profit and their purpose. In layman’s terms it means that you operate your business as though people and environment actually matter, and do no harm, essentially looking out for other humans and future generations. As a result of this, one of the things it impacts is operating costs, so this is one of the reasons why the price per bottle is higher than you would otherwise expect to see for something of a similar age.

You can pick this up from Master of Malt here:

Montanya Oro

Caroni 10 year old VSOC – Bristol Spirits

What is it? What is it indeed. We’ll start with the easier bit; Most likely Single Blended Rum (molasses based, pot and column still rum from a single distillery) from that there Caroni distillery in Trinidad, that is no longer. I say “most likely” because Caroni had both pot and column stills and this is a blend of casks from various years, without any detail of the still type, so chances are its blended rum from various different marques of rum. Now for the more complicated bit; Caroni closed in 2002 and this rum was produced as Caroni’s 10 year old blend prior to that – I don’t have the specific year. It spent 10 years aging in Trinidad, at which point it was shipped over to Bristol Spirits for them to bottle. The rum was taken down to bottling strength (most likely 40% or 43% abv) but never bottled. If we assume it was distilled as part of the last run from the distillery, then the we’re looking at 2002 – 2012 in terms of aging tropically, the rum wasn’t released by Bristol for some years later so it spent a few more years aging in Europe – that’s a minimum, it could well have come from an older distillation run making it even older.

With time, water and ethanol evaporate from a spirit. In places like the Tropics and the Americas water can evaporate quicker than the ethanol so you can actually have an increase in abv over time, or a more level rate of evaporation so a very slow reduction in abv (it’s why so many tropically matured, old rums, have eye-watering abv levels), in Europe it’s the other way round; ethanol evaporates quicker than water, so you get a reduction in the abv, and this can be quite dramatic. In the case here, as the rum was already reduced to bottling strength and then left, the abv dropped too low – in Europe rum cannot be bottled under 37.5% abv. To resolve this issue and to maintain the “10 year old” age statement Bristol added some cask strength Caroni 1993 to bring it back up to the levels for bottling.

So what we have is a 10 year old age stated rum, with a low abv, which put a lot of people off buying it. What we really have is a Caroni that has spent at least 10 years aging in the Tropics, another round of aging, maybe 4 or 5 years or so, in Europe and blended with an at least 20 year old Caroni. So ignore this “10 year old” stuff, it’s waaaaay older than that.

And no, I’ve still ot found out why it’s called Caroni VSOC.

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

Sugar? No.

Nose: Unmistakable, but softer Caroni (generally) we’ve got here. I say “generally” but there are fleeting heavier notes of tar, liquorice, marine fuel, shed paint or creosote and black olives. There’s a really good fruity backbone to it too with red apple compote or apple pie filling, sultana, raisin and bitter orange marmalade. Touches of toffee, warm pastry, vanilla and cooked banana too – maybe all together like a banana cream croissant or donut. There’s also pipe tobacco right at the end which gives a lovely warming smoky note.

Palate: Medium mouth feel, slightly oily. A little sweet at the start with maple syrup, orange and raisin, molasses and a white jelly bean note I’ve found in other Caroni, slightly like really good cream soda. It doesn’t stay sweet though, there’s a tang of sharpness soon that’s like gooseberry or tangerine and strong breakfast tea. Then we get the hot tyres, olive oil, brine, tar, tobacco, tree sap, resin, liquorice and motor oil.

Finish: Long. Everything just keeps going; you’re left with everything from the palate coming and going in waves – it’s lazy to write that but it’s exactly what it does so there’s no point writing out the same notes twice! It’s only really the “finish” and not the “palate” because I’ve swallowed it 🙂

Thoughts? In a world of cask strength Caroni all vying for attention and shouting with loud voices, there is this. A blend of heavy and soft tastes and smells at a strength you lets you taste and smell it all. It doesn’t scream at you and you need to take time to explore it well but it’s worth the effort. It’s really, really beautiful rum.

£80. A few years back that’d have been very expensive, and of course it wasn’t originally released at that, but just try to find a very well matured Caroni for under £100 anywhere these days, it’s a rare as rocking horse shit. Do I like it? Yes. Would I recommend it? Yes, I already have, several times. Would I buy another for that price? I did. Can’t say much more than that.

 

Foursquare Sagacity

What is it? Single Blended Rum (molasses based, both pot and column still at a single distillery) from Foursquare in Barbados. This is anther one of the Exceptional Cask Selection rums that Foursquare release, specifically the 11th bottling in the series. As we expect with Foursquare rums, this one is a blend of rums distilled on both pot stills and column stills with the blending done prior to maturation (as white rum). A proportion of the rum is aged in casks that previous held bourbon (ex-bourbon casks) and a proportion of the rum is aged in casks that previously held Madeira – both set of rums were aged for 12 years, tropically in Barbados, and the resulting rums were then blend together at a super secret ratio to produce the final rum for the bottling. The bottle says it was released in August 2019 but we got it in the UK in November of that year with around 9000 bottles making their way to Europe.

This is another one of the randomly named bottles that seem to make up the ECS series, not that the name has any relevance to the rum in the bottle in terms of my views on it, I just find the whole thing a bit daft now. Sagacity. If like me, you though this was a City called Saga then you were wrong and if you look at any of the other rum blogs it’s been pointed out many times, that this means “the quality of being sagacious” – that doesn’t really help, so I had to google “sagacious” too; apparently it means possessing sound judgement, I guess you could call “wisdom”. It’s getting to the point where it takes more blog space explaining what these names mean than the blurb about the actual makeup of the rum – don’t even get me started on Plenipotenziario!

Not coloured, not chill filtered and bottled at 48% abv.

Sugar? Nope.

Nose: Lots of lovely warm oak at first with soft vanilla, toasted coconut and furniture polish. Quite fruity but rich fruits, not your tropical variety, so we’re talking prunes, figs, blackberries, blackcurrants and black cherries. Then there’s a beautiful chocolate note that comes out, like a low cacao dark chocolate  such as Bournville which is quite rich but also creamy – this, mixed with all those dark fruits, gives an almost Black Forest gateau type smell. At the end there are some roasted walnuts and pecans coming from the Madeira too.

Palate: Full mouth feel, oily. Quite sweet at first with black cherry jam on toast, that chocolate from the nose and vanilla cream – yeah, we’re back to Black Forest gateau again, yum time! There’s a little heat here and a slight gingery biscuit note but it’s welcome after the initial sweet start. Once again, lovely warm oaky notes and dried coconut, some leather and a little earthy mushroom. Some spicy heat comes back towards the end with black pepper or more intense ginger as it finishes.

Finish: Medium. Still a bit spicy on the finish and a little tannic. Much drier here than on the palate and the chocolate is much darker too. Breakfast tea, a little damp wood or leafy note and raw walnuts. At one point a flash of orange pops up with some cinnamon but it doesn’t hang around to too long. Still the dark fruits, but not sweet, it’s hard to explain. If you could imagine the taste of something like black cherry and it’s flavour but without any of the sweetness with it. Not the longest finish in the world and it doesn’t add a massive amount extra to the whole, but it’s very moreish.

Thoughts? At the time of writing this review I’m really enjoying the rum but it’s taken a while to get here. I’ve done this review with the bottle open for about 3 months and at first I was struggling to really find anything different from other “cask type” Foursquare rums – it initially reminded me a lot of Doorly’s 12 year old which I’ve found a bit…….meh……..I was just getting lots of oak. Now though the Madeira is really coming out and bringing all its lovely rich flavours with it. The testament to this is that it took 3 months to get half way down the bottle and then 2 weeks to finish the rest of it off after that point!

It’s really easy to drink and a big step up from Doorly’s in terms of complexity levels. There’s good balance between the oak and the dark fruit but the burst of heat as you swallow does catch you out. I must admit, whilst very good rum indeed, it’s not my favourite ECS release – this is mainly because the others are so good and I judge each ECS release against the previous ones rather than other rums out there, I really shouldn’t do it but it’s human nature.

Ok, so we have to use the internet to find out what Foursquare rums now mean, so here’s one for you:

Exceptional” – unusual; not typical.

When you are frequently putting out “Exceptional” rums, what are they exceptional against? You’re own rums? If you’re putting out more exceptional rums than “standard” rums then they are no longer the exception, they are now typical and usual and this is what the ECS releases have become; the Foursquare norm. They are not normal rums, they are Foursquare rums, which by definition makes them exceptional in the wider rum world, that’s for sure – but as far as releases from Foursquare go, no, no longer exceptional. We’re on ECS 11 with this, let’s do away with the silly names and the whole “Exceptional Cask” thing now and just start calling these Foursquare rums.

This set me back £48. Would I buy another? Too damn right. Yeah, so it’s not my favourite ECS rum, but for under 50 notes it’s still a banger.

You can pick this up from The Whisky Exchange here:

Foursquare Sagacity