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).

Plantation Pineapple Stiggins Fancy

1st of August, in the UK, so naturally it’s pissing it down with rain. Time to pick up my spirits with something very tropical.

What is it? A flavoured rum drink produced by Plantation. They take their 3 Stars rum and infuse the rinds of Victoria pineapples in it for 1 week, once flavoured they then distil this in pot stills. Separately, they take the fruit of the pineapples and infuse it in their Original Dark rum for 3 months. The resulting 2 rums are then married together and put into casks where they age for up to 3 months.

Coloured, chill filtered and bottled at 40% abv.

Sugar? Yep. 23 g/l as tested by Wes at thefatrumpirate.com

Nose: Pineapple, of course. Not in your face though – fresh and juicy, warm and sun-baked. Deep brown muscavado sugar, slightly caught and burnt I guess, faintest tobacco and some decent barrel char. A little leather, some distant tar and a banana thrown in for good measure. Not just about the pineapple, there are other lovely smells to be had underneath, and they’re not even that difficult to find.

Palate: Medium to heavy mouth feel – good heavy, not sticky heavy, despite the sugar. Not as sweet as expected, I mean it definitely tastes of pineapple but lovely and pan fried in butter, glazed with brown sugar. There is a creamy taste and feel about this, almost a pineapple cream, as well as a faint prickle of heat – but it’s generally pretty sedate.

Finish: Short. Pineapple cube sweeties, banana, brown sugar and then that tobacco and char from the nose. There is a tarry, even rubbery note right at the end and a gentle fade with the normal blend of baking spices. Nothing to write home about but generally a nice continuation and fade of the palate.

Thoughts: Look, I knew what I was getting when I bought this. I knew it’d be sweetened and it’d be flavoured and it’d be young, I made my purchase fully understanding this so I’m not going to complain. Actually, quite the contrary; I find this very good and much better than I was expecting. I fully expected to just get a nose and mouth of pineapple but there are plenty of other flavours in there – it’s being sold as mainly a mixer but you really can sip this quite happily neat (as I’ve done with my entire bottle), and it’s dangerously moreish.

I paid £36 for this at the time. I’d rather have paid £30 or less (it is young) but all in all I’m quite happy with it and would buy it again.

Santeria Rum

What is it? Well, this is the evolution to the Lost Spirits Navy style rum I reviewed back in April 2016 (clicky click). In short it’s “reactor aged” and not aged in a barrel – you can read the background in the Lost Spirits review. Santeria has taken the next step; the process has been refined and the machine has been leased out, essentially, for 3rd parties to produce rum for them – in this case it’s for Rational Spirits. A snapshot of the target rum is taken, as well as the distillate used and a few other components, fed into the computer and a rum is produced with the same signature (spectrographically speaking) as the target rum….so you want a 20 year rum? You scan it in and bang out the result. Where the technology has changed is that light is now used during the “maturation” period to break down the wood, oxygen is fed in to convert the chemicals and a temperature stage is used with bacteria to further convert acids into esters (yummies). There is more background here.

In terms of the actual distillate here, it’s molasses based and produced in a pot still. My bottle is from batch number 1 and bottle is number 768.

The rum is natural colour (which is pretty damn amazing), unfiltered and bottled at 46% abv.

Sugar? No

Nose: Coffee, black and over brewed, dark chocolate (80% stuff), toasted oak, chocolate covered banana sweeties and some black bananas too. Plenty of dusty old notes of clove, tobacco, forest floors, damp earth and mushrooms – stuff that smells really old. Something sour and green, maybe gooseberries, walnut shells or something. Some mild sweetened black liquorice and treacle toffee. There is that sour, bitterness throughout and it really does smell old.

Palate: Medium, slightly coating. Very similar to the nose in terms of delivery order and progress; coffee and dark chocolate first, smoky cask char, tobacco and wet soil which bitters to over roasted nuts. There is the “green” note again, sour wood or tart fruit I can’t pin down and this artificial taste I also can’t seem to put my finger on.

Finish: Medium. Liquorice, treacle, bitter molasses moving to semi-sweet with creamier dark chocolate this time (60% stuff), milky coffee, toffee’d bananas and dark cherries – think Black Forest cake.

Taste: Nice but odd. This is more mellow than the Lost Spirits Navy (yeah I know it’s only 46% abv…) and the flavours are better balanced and more integrated, but there is always this feeling of fakeness from somewhere. I mean, it definitely tastes old, around 20 years plus, maybe Guyanese, but its not totally fooling me, I can tell it’s “different”. Maybe I’m prejudiced by knowing what it is, but I still suspect if I tasted this blind I’d know something was up with it. It maybe show up the same as an old rum on a spectrograph, but there is more to the experience than just the chemical evidence – we’re humans.

It does benefit from being in the glass this rum, and with some time open and breathing. Would I buy again? No, I don’t think I would.

Price? £50.

 

Travellers (Belize) 11 year old (2005) – WhiskyBroker

What is it? Column still rum, from molasses, distilled at the Travellers distillery in Belize. This is a single cask rum (cask number 33) with the mark SFBT and filled in November 2005, it was then matured for 11 years and bottled by Whisky Broker on 9th February 2017. My bottle is number 12 of 262 produced.

There are no details on aging but going off the colour, abv, nose and taste I’d say this has spent a lot of it’s 11 years maturing in the tropics.

Not chill filtered, not coloured (at bottling) and bottled at full proof of 66.1% (!).

Sugar? No

For the purposes of tasting, and my nose hairs, I’ve watered this. I’ll be honest; it’s dangerously drinkable at full whack but I want to get a bit more out of it and 66% is really going to masacre my nose and palate. I’ve taken it down to about 57-60%, as through experimenting I’ve found that it totally falls apart once you get below 55% (ish). It’s a tough one to balance right, so be warned.

Nose: Heh, give this to someone and tell them that it was a 12 year old, full proof, bourbon and they’d not question you. We’re so deep in Kentucky it’s scary; massive oak, pencil shavings, fresh sawn planks and coconut. Gingerbread, ginger, clove, nutmeg and loads of dry roasted peanuts. Honey glazed meat being cooked in a smoker, BBQ sauce and some vanilla under it all. It’s pretty big and in your face, but there is some fresh complexity that under cuts it; fragrant flowers (lilac, lilly, that sort of thing), some warm hay and even a tiny bit of tar.

Palate: Medium to full mouth feel. Ok, it’s hot, lets not beat about the bush here, but there is loads of flavour too, it’s not just all about the booze. Sweetish delivery, low cocoa dark chocolate (60% stuff like Bourneville), freshly brewed Columbian coffee, honey cake, gingerbread – no, Lebkuchen actually (more honey, more spices), some sweet cane and some banana flavoured candy. Vanilla turns up and then leaves coconut as it moves to the finish.

Finish: Long. I mean, it’s a big abv and that really sits on your tongue. I am sure that this is not a barrel proof bourbon? I’d swear it was! Big coconut, vanilla, hot ginger root, raw oak and quite tannic – the sweetness from the palate goes and leaves your mouth dry and hot. There is a lingering taste of smoky BBQ brisket and walnuts as it tails off.

Thoughts? It’s a sledgehammer. There is very little subtlety to this, it’s a glass of massive flavours delivered with a cannon. Do I like it? Hell yeah. There is a time for fruity high ester rum, there is a time for subtle and flowery rum, there is even a time for sugar topped stuff….variety is the spice of life and sometimes you just want your mouth detonated. This was about £46, and a cracking purchase. Oh, and they still have this in stock at Whisky Broker if you fancy having your head taken off.