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.

 

 

 

Black Tot 50th Anniversary

What is it? Well this is a molasses based blended rum from various stills, from various countries, aged both tropically and continentally, and various ages. Let me elaborate a bit; the Black Tot rum brand was created by The Whisky Exchange (specifically the co-founder, Sukhinder Singh) who blended together some of the final British naval rum to create Black Tot: The Last Consignment – this was old rum and bloody expensive stuff, and was put out in 2010 to celebrate the 40th anniversary of Black Tot Day (the day that the British Navy ceased issuing the Rum Ration to it’s sailors). Since then a we’ve had Black Tot 40 Year Old which was distilled in 1975 and a continuous release called Black Tot Finest Caribbean. The line-up has now expended, with a limited release of the Black Tot 50th Anniversary rum to celebrate – you’ve guessed it – the 50th anniversary of Black Tot Day. So what’s in this one then? The full recipe has been published and is below, but to summarise it’s a got rum in it from Guyana, Trinidad, Jamaica and Barbados as well as a little splash of original Royal Navy Blend.

You can read more about the creation of the rum over at The Whisky Exchange blog, I’m not going to lift and drop all the blurb because I’m lazy and there’s loads of stuff on there.

It’s worth noting that they had about a third of the blend left over after bottling, so it’s gone back into some sherry casks where it’ll be topped up with other rums and released in 2021 for another limited bottling. I believe that some of that blend will be held back and re-casked too for 2022 where it will repeat so we get a continual release each year of a different blend based on the original. Cool idea.

Bottled at navy strength of 54.5% ABV, no chillfiltering and with a limited run of 5000 bottles.

Sugar? Nope.

Nose: Exactly what I was expecting and hoping for, which is good. Black bananas, big dollops of toffee, molasses, boot polish, camphor, pine sap, liquorice, a big handful of black olives, tar and engine oil. Further in we’ve got fruity raisins, candied pineapple and baked apples with cinnamon and nutmeg (apple crumble I guess). As you’d expect there’s an old musty smell here too with leather, aged coffee beans in hessian sacks and grilled mushrooms. It’s really rich, dark and deep but still carries some light fruitiness.

Palate: Full, rich mouth feel. Oh yes. Rum and raisin dark chocolate, caramel, molasses, treacle toffee, strong black coffee, figs and loads and loads of soft black liquorice. Fruity mid-palate with banana, pineapple and oranges but quickly turns phenolic with brine, tar, diesel, olives, menthol, hot rubber and a touch of stamp glue.

Finish: Long. Smoky. Rolling tobacco, smoked toffees, maple syrup, cinnamon, Demerara sugar, nutmeg and raisins. Seems sweeter here and less phenolic but throws in a little heat with cloves, ginger, chillies and salt & pepper nuts. There’s still plenty of liquorice going on and a little brine note but it mixes sweeter creamier notes and prickling spices on the whole. I’ve found myself nosing the rum as the palate is finishing and the combination adds a really nice burst of fruit into the idea of the finish too – it’s one of those rums that you want to smell and taste at the same time to get the whole image.

Thoughts? A really very good blend. The problem you have with a lot of “Navy” blends is that they often get bogged down or become flabby and fall apart with too much molasses’y liquorice. This one does not. It’s got those real deep, dark and dirty notes you expect but there’s a constant burst of fruit and phenols flickering throughout that pulls you up when it’s getting too heavy.

If you read the link the to The Whisky Exchange blog they were looking to create a balance between a modern rum and traditional old British style rum, and I think they’ve got it spot on with this. I’m not sure I’d change anything in the blend so it’s going to be interesting to see how it goes with the release in 2021, but one thing is for sure; I really look forward to trying it.

So the damage? £110. Yeah, not cheap I know, but really this is fabulous and it does have some very old and rare rum in it. I would, and I have been, recommending this to people. I’d happily buy it again and will be getting the 2021 release when that comes out for the 51th anniversary.

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

Black Tot 50th Anniversary

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.

 

Pusser’s 50th Anniversary Rum

What is it? Pusser’s is a brand of rum synonymous with the British Royal Navy and they play heavily on the navy theme and certainly produce what most people would call a “Navy” style rum – all very interesting given that the company was formed in the late 70’s and the Navy rum ration was stopped in 1970……but there you go. Pusser’s claim to follow the recipe for British Navy rum and historically this has contained a mixture of rums mainly from Guyana and Trinidad. Over the years the blend has changed somewhat with more recent versions of their Gunpowder Proof sourcing entirely from Guyana – I understand there used to be Caroni in the blend and for obvious reasons (they’re closed and the rum costs a shit ton of money) they don’t use it anymore. This rum, however, is a different story; what we have here is a rum released by Pusser’s to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of Black Tot Day – ceasing of the rum ration – which was 31st July 1970. For this rum Pusser’s claim to have made a blend to the exact specifications of the Admiralty at the time the rum ration was stopped and does state that it is a blend of rums from Guyana AND Trinidad (is it going to have any Caroni in here? Probably not). The blend consists of 5 stills, 3 from Guyana (Port Mourant, Versailles and probably the Enmore still given it’s ability to produce a very heavy modified Navy component) and 2 from Trinidad. The rum is then aged for an unspecified time, which after some time researching looks to be around 7 or 8 years, which I would assume to be tropically.

This is a limited edition rum released in 2020 and consists of 5000 bottles with mine being bottle number 1776.

We don’t know if this is chill-filtered (I hope not), it is coloured and bottled at 54.5% abv.

Sugar? Yes, there is around 10g/l in here. Now the jury is out on whether this was done by Pusser’s or not as their website states they do not add sugar, but there is definitely some in here. As the blend relies heavily on rum from DDL (Demerara Distillers Limited) this could be the kicker; they are widely known to pre-colour and pre-sugar their rums in the cask before it’s sold on. They also coat some casks inside with molasses prior to cask fill, so it’s entirely possible that Pusser’s are being truthful and did not add anything – it may have been done at source by the distillers.

Nose: Yep, Pusser’s. At first glance it’s your usual Pusser’s nose, but quite quickly it becomes evident that it’s something more; it’s all grown up and very serious. Black boot polish, liquorice, aniseed balls, Bournville dark chocolate, nutmeg, flamed orange rind, wet leaves, mushrooms and a touch of brine. There’s walnut cake, banana bread, rich molasses and black coffee in here too and a lovely distant note of old diesel engines firing up. There’s a slight touch of spent matches at the end, but it doesn’t spoil anything.

Palate: Thick, rich and coating. Exactly what I was expecting, although it is a little sweet and a touch too much viscosity which is more than I’d hoped given the low sugar reading….hmmmm….treacle toffee, molasses, Java coffee but with milk this time, dark chocolate, prunes, tobacco smoke, caramalised banana on burnt toast with maple syrup. Those soft chew black liquorice sweets, salted plums, soaked porcini mushrooms, brine, rosemary and sage jelly. Things get a little bitter as it tails off, it’s touching on too much bitterness but just about manages to stay on the right side of ok.

Finish: Medium, not the best bit. Still molasses, but bitter, treacle, fig, dark chocolate, yeasty Marmite or Bovril, strong breakfast tea, aniseed, some salted banana and liquorice – less than the palate but it’s still there, more of a root here than a sweet.

Thoughts? Really good. The finish lets things down a little but on the whole it’s a very good rum. It’s almost a mix of the old 15 year old and the Gunpowder Proof, it feels like Pusser’s come of age. If this were a permanent bottle in the line-up I’d have one on my shelf at all times, it’s really what Pusser’s should be and a must for anyone who is into their Navy style rums – it is exactly what you’d expect a Navy rum to be like. The problem is that this will never be a permanent member of the range as it’d simply make both the 15 year old and the Gunpower Proof obsolete! I’d like to see this with zero added sugar and hopefully that’d sort out the lackadaisical finish.

This was £50, which I think is spot on for what you get.

Aldi Crossbones Premium Rum Mashup

I shop in Aldi. I shop there for a number of reasons, but one of the main reasons is that the general price to quality ratio of the stuff you get is excellent. Sure, there are a few duds on their shelves, but on the whole the stuff I buy is better in quality than other supermarkets at the same price point, if we’re comparing like for like. This extends right into their alcoholic drinks range with their wines blowing away stuff 3 times the price. Long have Aldi done a range of whiskies and about a billion gins, but rum has always lagged behind. They put out the Sea Dog spiced rum this year which really wasn’t very good, but I have been hoping for more offerings. So there I was, minding my own business in the Aisle of Wonder when I see some new rum. I’ll have some of that!

A while ago Aldi released 2 new “Premium” rums as part of their Special Buys (they come, they go, then they’re gone), one was a golden rum and one was a dark rum, both called “Crossbones”. As I have a lot of time for Aldi I thought I’d give them chance to make amends for the Sea Dog. I’m going to review both rums here to give you a fair account of them against each other as I imagine most people will see them on the shelf and be wondering which one to go for.

Update: It looks like these rums may have been incorporated into the wider range rather than Special Buy as they are now sitting with the rest of the booze on the main shelf. Hopefully the dark rum will be part of the core range.

First, lets start with the review of Aldi Crossbones Premium Golden Rum:

What is it? Dunno. Rum. It’s a blend of young and older rums from around the Caribbean, aged in oak casks. We don’t know the still type, or the countries, or how long they have been aged in oak for. So we’ve looking at a generic rum blend here. Without a doubt this will be entirely from molasses.

Coloured, chill filtered and bottled at 40% abv.

Sugar? My hydrometer says 4g/l, that is perfectly fine and generally considered to be “none” as anything under 5g/l can be attributed by cask sugars. So well done Aldi, they’ve not smoothed it over with sugar.

Nose: Pretty pleasant actually, smells like rum. Some spirity varnish notes and it’s on the lighter Cuban or Central American side, high in column still, but none the less it’s a fair nose; banana, coconut, caramels and baking spices with cinnamon and clove. A touch of runny honey, vanilla and a little menthol.

Palate: Medium mouth feel. Light and grassy, slightly astringent but not too bad, easy to drink neat. It’s a rinse and repeat of the nose really, a little more savoury note here though with some brine and a touch of tar but nothing too much as to sway it from the oak caramels and spices.

Finish: Short. More astringent here and a little bitter, still some cinnamon, caramel and vanilla though. It gets some lime part way through which lifts it.

Thoughts? A standard “golden rum” I guess. Generally though it’s decent enough. I’ve had worse rums for more money and in respect to Aldi it probably wasn’t ever designed to be drunk neat from a Copita glass and judged by some dude on the internet. Based on that, its general flavour and price of a mere £15 I think it’s a solid buy.

 

Ok, let’s move on to the Aldi Crossbones Premium Dark Rum review:

What is it? A bit more detail here; this one is solely a blend of Jamaican column and pot still rums, so we know we’re likely to be getting a bit more in terms of quality, it’ll be solely from molasses. No mention of ageing here, but then I don’t know what defines “older” rum in the Golden one anyway, the lack of any age indication isn’t a deal breaker, it’s a dark rum blend.

Coloured (oh yes, heavily), chill filtered and bottled at 40% abv.

Sugar? As with the Golden Rum, this has come in at 4g/l so totally fine. No issue here.

Nose: Yikes. Big, rich and decadent that’s for sure, definitely got some Jamaican pot still in here. It’s going for the “Navy” style of rum, if that’s your thing. Black bananas, boot polish, treacle toffee, molasses, roasted coffee beans and black olives. Notes of camphor, soil, wet leaves and brine. There is a slight meaty note too, mushroom’y, maybe ham and a little grilled pineapple.

Palate: Yeah, same here. Full mouth though, quite oily and rich but not cloying. Chocolate, fudge, cinnamon, treacle toffee again and a massive waft of banana bread, black bananas, ginger and coffee. It still has some savoury notes though with that boot polish, some leather, camphor and mushroom. A little black olive and brine too at the end.

Finish: Medium this time. Stays on the treacle, coffee, chocolate and wood spices here with ginger, clove and nutmeg. A little vanilla and coconut towards the end and a lighter banana note.

Thoughts? Heh. Really pretty good. Lots of rich flavours, not much heat or astringency and easy to drink neat. It’d mix very well but honestly it’s easy peasy to drink it neat. I imagine this is what most people expect when they order a “dark rum” and it delivers on that expectation.

Just reading the bottle tag I knew that this one would be better than the Golden rum, it was the one I originally went for before I decided to get both; knowing it’s fully Jamaican rum is the kicker here as even industrial Clarendon column still rum is better than the vast majority of shite from Central America, chuck in some heavy pot still and it’s game on.

£15, again. No thought needed, it’s an absolute bargain. I’d recommend going out and getting this one if you are a fan of dark rums, it blows away stuff twice it’s price. The only issue is that it’s on the Special Buy so you may find your local Aldi like mine; sold out of this. I guess that’s a fair indication of which one was better!