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.

 

New Grove 8 year old

What is it? Molasses based rum, distilled via column still at the Grays distillery in Mauritius. The rum is distilled, rested in oak for an initial period and then transferred to Limousin casks for aging, both new/virgin casks and refill casks are used. This rum carries an age statement of “8 years” and I’ve it on good authority that this is a minimum age, so there may be some older stock in here too. In terms of aging, the Angels Share in Mauritius is somewhere between Europe and the Caribbean, so you don’t get the intensity of tropical aging with this but you do get the smoothness you’d expect from say, a 12 year old, European aged rum.

Filtered, likely coloured and bottled at 40% abv.

Sugar? No details, but I’ve heard from the coalface that it’s not tampered with and I’m certainly not getting any hint of sugar on tasting, so we’ll give them the benefit of doubt and say “no”.

Nose: Hello! Immediately a shopping trolley full of various yellow stone fruit; you’ve got a mass of peaches, apricots, nectarines – they jump straight out of the glass at you and some of it is a little sharp. Mixed in with this there is plenty of tropical fruit too with a fair amount of mango, some fresh papaya and some banana. This certainly is very, very fruity, aromatic and not what I was expecting. Just as you think things are getting one-dimensional along comes some faint tar, a whiff of smoke and some old leather. There is a little prickle of cask spice from the oak at the back with a little fresh ginger and black pepper – but it’s subtle.

Palate: Sharp delivery, and that slightly sour sweetness you get from over-ripe nectarines. Good weight to the mouth feel for 40% too, it’s not oily but you know it’s in your mouth. Follows the nose really; big whack of fresh fruits – mango, papaya, apricot, peach, nectarine and some pineapple too this time with a little zing. Again, just as things are going to start getting away from you it’s pulled back by that leathery smoke, a little brine and a nice savoury leafy note. It gets a bit hot after a while as things move on to the finish.

Finish: Nowhere near as fruity as the nose or palate, it’s quite spicy with ginger, clove and red chilli. There is still a little bit of a salty note from the brine on the palate to keep it in check. Dries towards the end with some pepper and cold tea. Finish isn’t all that long and the way it dies off leads you straight into another mouthful – which is always a promising sign.

Thoughts? I really, really like this rum. I mean, I like the big bruising savoury ones, but this just has something really loveable about it. The best way I could describe it would be “bright”; it really lifts you with the summery, fruity nature and when I drink it I get a feeling of happiness – sounds stupid I know, but the taste does make me feel uplifted. Sure, it’s lacking a bit of balance and depth, and the finish isn’t the longest in the world, but it’s a happy rum. I paid £40 for this in the UK, and I’d happily pay that again for this rum – in fact, I was so happy with it that I went out and bought one of their 2007 single cask bottlings as soon as I could, which was twice the price of this, without a second thought.

Want to try something different? Get one of these.