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

Top Beverages – Double Distilled, Mocha and Spiced rums

Long one here.

I get quite a lot of emails about Press Releases and samples and most of the time it’s not something I progress as that’s not really what this blog is about. I review what I buy (generally speaking) and it’s a hobby, not a job. Every now and then though something comes up that piques my interest, in this case it was a new batch of rums from a “craft” company; a white rum (double distilled), a Mocha rum and a Spiced rum – not rums I’d normally entertain. So why did I accept the samples and why am I reviewing them? Well, they are CBD spirits, that is, spirits that are combined with CBD (Cannabidiol) and it’s a trend that is taking the food and drink industry by storm, people are combining it with bloody everything, I’m sure at some point the government will start putting it in bread like they do with folic acid! CBD is being touted as somewhat of a wonderdrug. Now I’m not a doctor, or a pharmacist, or a scientist, so I can’t really go into it too much or with any form of authority, but in short it’s a non-psychotropic active ingredient in Canabis (you don’t get high from it) and it has a huge number of benefits in what it treats; anxiety, depression, cognitive issues, movement problems, chronic pain, just to name a few, and the side effects (in normal dose levels) are virtually nil – if you want to understand more about CBD then please read up on it and please don’t rely on me, it is a drug and should be looked into carefully.

So does CBD have a place in distilled beverages? Well Top Beverages are a craft company that think so, they combine it with gin, vodka and rum. You can read more about them at their website: https://top-beverages.com

Recently, they have launched the 3 rums already mentioned above, which are all combined with premium, full spectrum CBD and I’ve kindly been given some (rather large) samples to try out. I’ve tried them, so I’ll review them.

In terms of the rums, all 3 are based on the same distilled spirit and as you’d expect from a craft distillery they were very open and complete when I asked them about their method, so geek hats on:

The rum is distilled in Arbroath, Scotland, from molasses. Distillation takes place by combining 650 litres of molasses with water where it is fermented for 3 weeks, creating a Wash of around 10% abv. The Wash is then distilled in a 500 litre and 200 litre hybrid still which uses 3 copper plates to produce around 150 litres of rum at 50% abv, the first run off is then distilled a 2nd time (double distilled) in the 200 litre still, using 1 copper plate. Cuts are made which produces around 65 litres of rum at 78% abv. The rum is then left for 3-5 days to mellow out, at which point it’s reduced to 60% abv. Here is when the spices are added to the Mocha and Spiced rums, for 24 hours to infused, before filtering. It’s reduced again to a bottling strength of 54.4% abv.

Cool.

These rums are all natural colour, not chill filtered, bottled at 54.5% abv and do not contain any sugar or other nasties other than the natural spices where stated. They are in 500ml bottles with 50mg of CBD.

Top Beverages Double Distilled white rum:

Nose: Very grassy at first, some white stone fruit, green grape maybe and white pepper. Starts to get phenolic with brine, green olive and sea shell. Some floral notes appear part way through, a touch of brioche and a little vanilla.

Palate: Sharp and quite astringent. Some fruity mango, white pepper and brine. There’s a cardboard note part way that’s not too great but it does soon go. A little vanilla, pears and some nail polish.

Finish: Short. Clean, green apples, white pepper heat, the sweetness of thinned honey and sugar dusted lemons.

 

Top Beverages Mocha rum:

Double Distlled white rum infused with organic cacao husks and South American cold brewed coffee.

Nose: Woah, coffee. Chocolate. You need to like coffee and chocolate to like this, luckily I like both. Yeah, lots of chocolate, real stuff though, actual cocoa beans and fresh roasted coffee, There is a touch of salinity under it that gives it a fudge note, some fried banana, a little light toffee and hot buttered crumpets.

Palate: Hot and sharp again at first. Not like the nose……which is a shame. Fizzy cola bottle sweets, nail polish, white pepper and sharp mango again, or nectarine.

Finish: Short. Ah, back to the nose we go with fudge, chocolate, salted caramel and a really good milky coffee.

 

Top Beverages Spiced rum:

Double Distilled white rum infused with cassia bark, orange peel, ginger and Indian vanilla pods.

Nose: Well, this is pungent. Loads of ginger, cinnamon, almost a Chinese 5 spice note, a touch of vanilla, some dark chocolate and a brine/salty tang. Some light liquorice and spiced vanilla pop up as the ginger dies down.

Palate: Hot, but ginger hot. Cloves, ginger root, chillies, cinnamon powder and dry – yes, a dry spiced rum, thank god! No sugary sweet stuff here. A little anise, hint of chocolate, mango, apple and pear.

Finish: Medium. Lots of ginger again, cinnamon and anise. Vanilla shows up here, guess it could finally get out from behind the heat and spices from the palate, and some orange zest.

 

Thoughts in general? I find the white rum too rough. I buy my rum to sip and I don’t think it’s really a sipping rum, none of them really area. There is a nice sharp fruit that runs through it and a salty note that balances things out, and what I do like is that these notes filter through to all 3 of the rums, so you can see that they are all based on the same thing. I think the white would be very good in any fruity cocktail, it’s a strong enough flavour that you’d pick it out and it’d compliment the mixing ingredients well, but as a sipper…..no. Pass.

The Mocha rum smells amazing and finishes well, but the smells are not translated into the drinking really, I think it needs longer with it’s infusions. Again would go very well in a more robust cocktail, something where the rum needs to have more strength to it. As a sipper, I’d drink it, but I’d probably just end up with my nose in the glass most of the time.

The Spiced rum is very good. It’s too heavy on the ginger and too hot there, needs to be toned down, but I could happily drink it neat. To be fair I like ginger a lot…..outside of that it’d be a great winter warmer in a punch or hot toddy, or even in a hot chocolate.

Would I buy any of these rums with my own money? In honesty, no. They’re not what I’m after in my journey and they are bloody expensive (500ml bottle for £39.95), and whilst I understand that craft distilling is very small batch and has higher costs, and the ingredients are absolutely top quality, the target for these are going to be people with deep pockets who are looking for ultra-premium mixing rums.

What I’d be very interested in seeing, is if they age some of the rum. Bang it into some small quarter casks and give it time with oak. There are some good notes in the base rum that’d age well and transform with that ageing.

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.