The Olde Sea Dog Black Spiced

Let’s get this out of the way first, before we go any further. If you have stumbled upon this review from a search engine result you need to be aware that whilst this is a rum blog, it’s one focused towards actual rum (generally higher end stuff that is made to be drunk neat and appreciated) and not your Sailor Jerry or Kraken, but there times when I review other stuff and I’ve reviewed several other “spiced rums” before. Just bear that in mind when you are reading this review and if Kraken is your thing, that’s fine, you just need to know the direction I’m coming at this from.

I happened upon this in my local Aldi, and it “accidentally” fell into my trolley. Being autistic I am quite literally the least impulsive person you’ll meet, my purchases are planned well in advance and meet certain criteria (mainly not duplicating regions or styles in the same order and ensuring that mixes of prices match to the budget I allow myself each month, for example) – all very boring and anal. For some reason I saw this and thought I’d give it a go, and I have no idea why. Imagine my surprise when I searched online for it and discovered it’s won a Gold Medal at some awards thing (The Spirits Business Rum and Cachaca Masters 2019), result I thought! I’ve scored a beaut here. Well you have to remember that companies have to specifically enter these awards and that the panel can only score what has been put in front of them, so they are far, far, from definitive awards. They also give out medals like a primary school sports day; everyone gets one for taking part……so let’s ignore that shall we.

So, The Olde Sea Dog Black Spiced (rum?)…..

What is it? It’s an Aldi own brand drink and it’s not a rum. There. Done. Credit to Aldi where it’s due, they have not labelled this as a rum either; it’s been labelled as a Spirit Drink, “A premium black spiced rum based spirit drink” to be more specific, so at least they are not trying to pass it off as something it’s not, unlike some other more well known producers….it seems to be based on their Old Hopking Rum brand.

The bottle says “Limited Release” – no details on how limited, but it’s April 2019 and I’ve seen it in the shops since the start of December 2018. It says “Premium Quality”, which just means it’s either got better ingredients in it, or is just more expensive than their “Standard” offering – want some good views on the word “Premium” when it comes to rum, read this from Wes at The Fat Rum Pirate: Premium Rum The Impossible Task? Part 3.

So we’ll go with molasses based rum, from somewhere, from some type of still and most likely not aged. Added flavourings and sugar.

Coloured, chill filtered and bottled at a respectable 40% abv, for a spirit drink.

Sugar? Why did I even ask. Yes. I’ve dipped my hydrometer in this and it’s around 50g/l sugar showing, but as it’s got other stuff added this reading my not be very accurate. Let’s just go with, lots.

Nose: Vanilla, masses of the stuff, muscavado sugar, molasses, cloves and milky coffee. There is some lime in here too but it’s like a lime cream or lime butter, and some vanilla. Tinned pineapples, chocolate oranges, some vanilla and a touch of coconut. And some vanilla. Can’t smell any rum in this I’m afraid, just flavourings.

Palate: Very sweet, but actually not that sticky and cloying, more of a medium mouth feel, which is surprising – and quite welcome. Vanilla, limes, rum and raisin ice-cream, fudge, vanilla and some limes. There is some soft brown sugar again, sweet black coffee, some more vanilla and a little bit of coconutty lime. Almost no heat whatsoever (caveat: when you drink full proof spirits a lot, like I do, pretty much anything at 40% tastes like water anyway!), but this has literally, no heat from the alcohol at all.

Finish: Short. Sweet. Gone. Faintest bite from the booze just to remind you that it’s young spirit, and a little bit bitter.

Thoughts? To be fair I’ll do this in 2 parts, firstly as a spiced rum based spirit drink (or general beverage) and secondly as a rum (don’t laugh). If you’re looking at this as a casual drinker of spiced rums, read Part 1, and I apologise for Part 2. If you’re looking at this as a real rum enthusiast, then you’re reading the wrong thing! (Sorry about this!) – Part 2 is for you.

Part 1. As a “drink”: Yum. Lovely tasting, sweet, easy and good value for money. You can mix it with coke, lemonade, coffee, other spirits, fruit juice and it’ll give you a really nice long drink with lots of ice. Great for summer. You could put it in a punch, or mulled wine, or hot toddy and it’d be great for winter. You can sip it neat with ice (or not) and it’d make a nice tasty way to get alcohol into you. There is virtually no alcoholic taste and it’s not spiced too strongly, unlike some “spiced” rums, I’m looking at you Rumbullion. Is it a good spiced rum/spirit drink thing? Yes. Is it worth £16.99? Yes. Is it better than other spiced rums that are out there? On the whole, yes. In my opinion it’s better than Sailor Jerry Spiced, it’s better than Captain Morgan Spiced, it’s better than Kraken and it’s better than Rumbullion. If that’s the sort of thing you like then get a bottle of this, it’s cheaper and better than most out there.

Part 2. As a Rum: Utter shite. Rum based my arse. You’d get the exact same thing if you swapped rum for vodka. It’s basically a 40% abv alcopop. I literally don’t know what I was thinking when I bought this – what part of my brain read the labels and thought “What could possibly go wrong here, sounds good”, I bought it knowing what it was so I’ve only got myself to blame. These things happen to us all, I guess it helps us realise what else you’ve got on the shelf. I got a bottle of Havana Club 7 anos for £19 last year and that’s a proper rum, if you want a real spiced rum then up your budget and grab a bottle of Bristol Black Spiced. I want my £16.99 back.

…..still, I’m going to drink it, because I’ve bought it and I’m tight. I’ll just have it after a spicy meal, or if I have a cold or something.

 

 

South Pacific 10 year old (2003) – Duncan Taylor single cask number 18

What is it? A single cask rum, from molasses, produced at the South Pacific Distillery in Fiji on their Pot still – so a Pure Single Rum. This rum was distilled in April 2003 and bottled in September 2013, making it 10 years old. There are no details on where this was matured but judging from the colour and profile I’d guess it was entirely European ageing.

This is one of 284 bottles from cask number 18.

Not chill filtered, not coloured and bottled at cask strength of 54.8% abv.

Sugar? Nope.

Nose: Very Jamaican! Bananas (green ones), olives, brine, rock pools, crushed shells and warm sand. Then on to tar, solvent, varnish, petrol and some WD40. Maybe some lighter liquorice and a grapefruit or bitter orange zing – I can’t quite place it but whatever it is it’s zesty and sharp. Really intriguing and quite phenolic throughout – it reminds me of a young Worthy Park or young lighter ester Hampden, or should I say that it certainly has some of the characteristics of them.

Palate: Medium to full mouth feel, good weight and coats well. Oily. Hot and sharp on first entry, verging on sour actually, maybe the white pith from grapefruit that I found on the nose. Liquorice again, beeswax, a touch of caramel and honey, but not a lot. Still pretty phenolic and medicinal, even hints of TCP and smoke, but very distant. There are notes of lemon cough lozenges, tangerine and a handful of dried herbs that I can’t pick out.

Finish: Medium, no more, no less. Phenolic, herbal, lemony. Buzzing spice on the tongue due to the abv no doubt (there isn’t much cask influence here), but things show sweeter at this point with a little butterscotch, runny honey, raisin and some orange. There still lingers a petrolly/briney note and a bit of new car tyre throughout.

Thoughts? A very intriguing and interesting rum. A style of it’s own really, it’s not sure if it wants to be Jamaican, from Guyana or some Rockley Still wannabe; there are elements of all 3, which it shows equally but doesn’t blend them too well and looses it’s balance. It’s a really solid rum though and great to go for if you fancy trying something new and different. However, beginners beware; there is stuff in here you probably wont like too much if you’re expecting a sweet rum.

I picked this up for £40, and it’s a really good rum for that price, so long as you know and accept what you’re getting with it.

Providence Estate 1990/2012 – Bristol Spirits

20170928_140132.jpgWhat is it? Molasses based rum from Trinidad. This was distilled by way of a Patent Still (Coffey still or Column still by any other name) and the bottle states “The Providence Estate” and mentions use of the distilleries low mineral content water. It doesn’t say this was distilled at the Providence Estate distillery but implies it, and I’ve not been able to find any real tangible information around a Providence Estate distillery; basically, this is a column distilled Caroni rum. Now, the website does say that this rum is a heavier style rum, however I’m not 100% sure on tasting. The reason for this is that the rum is finished in Oloroso sherry casks for a period of time and it will become clear later on the impact this has had.

The rum was distilled in 1990 and bottled in 2012 after 22 years of aging in the UK.

Chill filtered, not coloured (as far as I’m aware) and bottled at 46% abv.

Sugar? Yes, unfortunately; 26 grams/litre as tested by Wes at TheFatRumPirate. Now I don’t believe this is added sugar, I believe this is sugars left over from a wet cask fill (where the previous sherry casks were emptied but some residual sherry was still in the cask) – but that’s just what I’m getting on tasting.

Nose: Ok, not what I was expecting at all; masses of raisin, those big fat plump and juicy Californian ones and also a mix of those tiny Corinth ones that a very concentrated. Lots of sherry cask going on. Sweet molasses, some treacle toffee and a little oak – not much for a 22 year old. Under this there is some lovely rolling tobacco, wet leaves, tree sap and a little mushroom’y rancio note. A touch of sulphur on the back end but it doesn’t stray the flow. Lots of sherry, may have mentioned that, not very “rummy”.

Palate: Medium, not as oily as I was expecting, certainly not cloying at all. A bit more rum here than on the nose and I can pick out a few Caroni notes with petrol, tobacco, a little liquorice, very light tar and a touch of clove. Big fat raisins again, maybe even some dates and prunes creeping in, chocolate coated raisins and that mushroom note from the nose. The palate is again dominated by the sherry but you do know you’re drinking a rum here.

Finish: Long, less sweet than the nose and palate. Treacle toffee and tobacco again (lots here), old warehouses, sacks, forest floors and some sour cherry that just lifts it. Sulphur from the nose makes an appearance but again does not derail the finish, but adds a nice meaty edge.

Thoughts? Where do I start? It’s a Caroni but it’s not. I love it, a really enjoyable drink but not something I’d recommend to a person who was after a rummy rum. This isn’t quite a rum, the sherry is too much and the spirit isn’t heavy enough to get through it. I’d imagine there was a lot of sherry left in the casks this was filled into (wet fill), which as I covered up top, and would explain the sugar content. It’s not “sweet” per-se but it does over dominate. I’d be inclined to think I was drinking a Mortlach or 15 year old Glendronach (Scotches) – that’s a big compliment, trust me!

It’s just not….well….rummy enough.

For the price? Well worth it at the £90 I paid for this back at the start of 2016, just for the chance to try something different and have a change or pace. God knows how much these are going for these days.

 

New Grove single cask – 2007

What is it? Molasses based rum, distilled via column still at the Grays distillery in Mauritius. This rum was distilled in 2007 and bottled in 2015, making it 8 years old or there abouts. The maturation of this rum was done solely in Limousin oak (French oak), cask number 174-15 and my bottle is number 410 of 526 bottles (Limousin casks are much bigger than bourbon casks). The casks are the same type of casks that Cognac is matured in and provides a tight grain and spicy resulting spirit.

Natural colour, no chill filtration has been done and it’s been bottled at cask strength of 49.9% abv.

The label is a generic label but it looks like the specifics to this vintage have been hand written, a nice touch.

I don’t normally mention colour of a rum, as a lot of rums have added colourant so it’s irrelevant, and even where a rum is naturally coloured it doesn’t give any indication of the coming profile, however I will note that this rum seems to have a distinct red/brown hue – I’m not sure what the previous content of the casks were but that may well be colouring it.

Sugar? I’ve had it from the horses mouth that there are no additives. This hasn’t been independently verified for this rum but I’m not finding anything suspicious on tasting.

Nose: Barbequed peaches, rolling tobacco, charred wood, barbequed pineapple. My local delicatessen does a hand made pineapple glazed smoked ham – it smells like that. A beautiful incense smell that is really quite prominent, sandalwood, cedar, old wooden boxes and hot leather that’s been sitting in the sun. There is a little marine fuel, oil and a touch of briney sea side. Under all this I can still find the fresh stone fruit that was all so present in the standard 8 year old bottling but it’s not as sharp – it’s more orange forward and smoky.

Palate: Medium to full. Sweet, tangy, zippy fruits at first – very much of the standard 8 year old with apricots, nectarines, mangoes and yellow plums. Heat from the abv but just enough. Spices from the cask as it goes on with white pepper and ginger root. Lovely smoky notes roll in your mouth like a good cigar or pipe. A slight hint of tar as it moves to the finish.

Finish: Medium, could be longer really. Tarry, brine, WD40, thick smoke and fruity again but this time the burnt and charred stuff from the nose comes back with caramilzed smoked pineapple that lingers in amongst that thick silky smoke, but it remains fresh and not overbearing.

Thoughts? I loved the 8 year old and I had high expectations of this – boy did it deliver! Everything I hoped it’d be over and above the 8 year old; just thicker, bigger, smokier and more intense in every way. This is so balanced, complex and deep that I really struggle to believe this is a single cask. One of my favourite rums so far, stunning.

Normal retail for this at the time I bought it was around £70, which is a lot for an 8 year old. I picked mine up during an offer at £55…..get me a case of the stuff!

West Indies Rum and Cane Merchants – Asia Pacific XO

What is it? West Indies Rum and Cane Merchants are a brand owned by Crucial Drinks and their single cask rum brand. The website says this about the Asia XO: “A limited release blend of rum produced in Indonesia & Fiji, crafted from molasses and distilled using column stills then aged in ex bourbon casks. A very limited release of 2,000 bottles worldwide.”

I couldn’t put it much better myself, so I haven’t.

I have emailed Crucial Drinks for some information about the rums included in the blend, sugaring and barrel numbers etc but I’ve not heard back from them. There is only 1 distillery on Fiji currently operating (South Pacific Distillery, under the name of Fiji Rum Co.), so we know where the Fijian bit comes from. They use both pot stills and a three column continuous still to produce their rums and as this is a column still blend we know it’s going to be on the lighter side using that 3-column. As for the Indonesia bit, I can’t say.

My bottle is from Batch number 2 and I have bottle number 698.

Not chill filtered, natural colour and bottled at 43%.

Sugar? No information on this at the moment. The bottle states “natural rum” and I’m not finding any evidence of tampering during tasting, so I don’t think there is any added sugar in here.

Nose: A very shy start, it really doesn’t want to give much up – I have to get my nose deep in the glass to start finding smells; it’s young, very raw and naked this rum.  After  some time in the glass we get to finally have some olfactory input, we find wet sacks, soil, a little brine, green olives, faint boot polish, coal smoke, Vaseline and maybe a touch of camphor. There is a little heat from white pepper and maybe even some horseradish – it’s all quite salty and phenolic.

Palate: A reasonably oily mouth, medium I’d say. Definitely phenolic again, less hard work than the nose though. Olive oil, green olives, olive brine, some tar and very light liquorice. The taste of the smell of quick light BBQ briquettes and seawater. The more it sits in the mouth and you get used to the savoury side there is a little hint of some fruit, but it’s the worlds smallest banana and a piece of papaya, with a token strawberry. This is quite the opposite of a fruity rum.

Finish: Short. Well, that was that. Falls apart all over the place, simply too young. Damn shame really as there’s some good stuff in here. You’re left with just the remains of something salty and a little bit of rubber.

Thoughts? Too young, too shy, too raw and too “naked”. The core spirit is really good stuff and fabulously characterful – something that is missing in a lot of generic rums these days – it just lacks the oomph and deeper complexity you get with aging. At 10 years old and upped in abv this would be great but as it stands it’s too much like hard work and certainly wont be everyone’s cup of tea (or glass of grog).