Black Tot Master Blender’s Reserve 2021

wp-1634633785380What is it? As with the Black Tot 50th Anniversary Rum from 2020, this is again a molasses based blend of rums from various countries, still type and ages. I’m not going to go over old ground with the Black Tot line-up, you can read about that in the link to the 50th Anniversary, but the Black Tot Master Blender’s Reserve is the next rum along and continues where the 50th left off. This rum was to celebrate the 100th Anniversary of the ceasing of rum rations to the Australian Navy (the nod to the Aussies will become clear later) and uses the Black Tot 50th Anniversary Rum blend as the base, it was re-casked it into ex-sherry butts in 2020 and is blended with rums aged between 9 and 24 years, from Guyana, Barbados, Trinidad, Jamaica and Australia, as well as incorporating some of the original British Royal Navy rum blend itself – this is not just simply an further aged version of the 50th Anniversary rum but a different blend altogether, although there is going to be quite a lot of comparing to each other in this review as naturally many people will consider them as part of the same run and will want to know how they face off.




As with the 50th Anniversary there is a really good transparent back label on the bottle that lists the blend components, as you can see some Australian rum from Beenleigh has been added this time to provide the ode to Australia:



Bottled at 54.5% abv, unchillfiltered and of an outrun of 6000 bottles.

Sugar? No.

Nose: Really quite fruity at first with lots of pineapple, mango, apricot and over ripe banana. Little touches of caramel or butterscotch here and there as well as some lovely sweet raisin…..and then things get dirty, really dirty; diesel, liquorice, black olives, brine, tar, treacle and some meaty note tucked away that’s not quite heavy enough to be Jerky, but something similar, maybe touching on very crispy/almost burnt smoked bacon. Really deep and heavy near the end, lovely.

Palate: Good weight and mouth feel. Fairly restrained at first but then it gets quite hot and peppery. We’re not as fruity here, pineapples, sure, but it’s mainly phenolic and herbal as if following straight on from the end of the nose. We’ve got loads of diesel, oil and tar. Lifts of aniseed, liquorice and then some solventy black boot polish (if you’ve ever accidentally inhaled the stuff you can taste it and you’ll know what I mean). There’s a really nice meaty mushroom note in here too, touches of raisin and some wet leaves or forest floor notes, all of which seem to be coming from the sherry casks.

Finish: Long. Less phenolic here, much more on the traditional sweeter sensed notes with banana, dark chocolate, black coffee, treacle toffee and some bitter nutty notes like raw walnut. It’s much richer at this point, coating and heavy but still carries some phenols with salty black olives sneaking in to keep it interesting and a zing of tropical fruit at the end which stops it getting bogged down.

Thoughts? Really good. The addition of the Aussie from Beenleigh definitely livens things up and gives it some real zip, it really does taste like a different rum to the 50th Anniversary but you can still pick out the lineage here. So is it as good as the 50th Anniversary? Well, yes, and that says a lot as I ranked the 50th Anniversary in my top 5 rums of 2020 (specifically my 4th best), so we’ve got no slouch here. I don’t score rums but if I were to do so I’d score both this Master Blender’s Reserve and the 50th Anniversary the same, however, my personal preference would be to the 50th Anniversary just because if I’m drinking a Naval style blend I like a rich a dirty rum and this is much more fruit driven.

So what’s the damage? £120. Ok, yes I guess so as it’s only increased a little year on year and we know what happens to the cost of things… I think that’s fine.


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

Black Tot Master Blender’s Reserve

Savanna 5 year old

20190822_075507What is it? Traditional Rum (column still, from molasses) from the Savanna distillery on the Isle of Réunion in the Indian ocean. The distillery uses both molasses and cane juice to make their rums as well as producing rums of very high ester in the form on their Grand Arôme style with minimum esters of 500g/hlaa. This 5 year old rum is made in the Traditionnel (normal style) and aged for at least 5 years, tropically, in a combination of Limousin and Allier (both French oak) casks; this wood is tightly grained and produces quite a spicy note in spirits, so a short maturation time provides a lot of character.

I have no details on colouring or chill filtration for this so I have to assume that it is chill-filtered and coloured, although the colour does look pretty natural for the oak and aging type. Bottled at 43% abv.

Sugar? No.

Nose: Oh, this is phenolic. Camphor, parsley, brine, green olive and this strange savoury dried banana note. Warming spices of cinnamon, clove, ginger and nutmeg, green coffee beans and pistachios. There’s a chocolate note too, like those artisan blocks with cranberry, cherry and nut chunks stuck on them. Some distant tobacco and a little umami note of the “seaweed” you get in Chinese restaurants.

Palate: Medium. Nice and dry but a sweet flavour at first….but not sweet, so we get the idea of banana, milk chocolate, milky coffee, pralines, sugared and roasted almonds, but without any actual sweetness. Sitting with these flavours are the phenolic notes but dialled back a bit; the olive and brine are there and some sappy wood but it feels like it’s over to one side, hovering around, just making you aware of it’s presence. We’ve also got vanilla, a light honey and a sprinkle of nutmeg, then the camphor turns up. It’s really good at blending flavours without one type taking over.

Finish: Pretty long actually. Again it stays between sweet and phenolic, some green bananas, a little pineapple here, dried mango pieces, nuts, pralines and black coffee. Tannic notes of sap, raw walnuts, camphor again and some brine. It gets slightly sweeter towards the end with vanilla, honey and a touch of mint.

Thoughts? I really love this rum. It’s youthful but not fiery and hot. It’s complex but easy to drink. There’s easy sweeter, comfy notes if you want them but then challenging phenolic and savoury notes if you decide you want to go looking and have a play with it.

I’m pretty gutted that we don’t get much Savanna rum in the UK as it’s a brand I really want to dig deeper into and explore – getting hold of the stuff means shopping internationally and is also very expensive!

This cost me £37 when it was available which is a real no-brainer, and just goes to show that the age stated on the front of the bottle isn’t a sign of quality; you can get a younger rum with loads going on if you look for it.

Panama 2008 (10 year old)- Mezan

20180821_193005What is it? Molasses based multi-column rum from Panama. This rum was distilled in 2008 and bottled in 2018 by Mezan, making it 10 years old. The aging breakdown of this rum has been covered off nicely by Mezan on the back of the bottle; 3 years tropical aging, 7 years European aging, all of which was done in ex-Bourbon casks.

Not coloured, not chillfiltered and bottled at 46% abv.

Sugar? No.

Nose: Lots of oak influence straight off the bat with cloves, ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg and real vanilla. Toasty warm oak and sun baked leather. Caramel, a little set honey, pralines and peanut. There is very little in the way of fruit, maybe a touch of charred pineapple in here and some orange rind, but it’s pretty much cask city on the nose.

Palate: Medium mouth feel. Dead easy to drink. Nothing more to add from the nose…..There’s a touch of oil, and a green olive type salty note but it’s pretty much nutmeg, clove, ginger, cinnamon and vanilla sitting over the top of caramels.

20180821_193014Finish: Short to medium. Some heat as you swallow and notes of tobacco, but once again we’re doing a rinse and repeat of everything that’s already come before. There’s nothing wrong with it, but it’s very one dimensional.

Thoughts? The nose is really nice but there’s not really much excitement to be had here, it’s all perfectly fine but a bit dull. This certainly isn’t the best Mezan rum I’ve ever had I’m afraid, and if I’m being totally honest it’s that boring I forgot I even had it open. I can’t even remember how much I paid for this, I think it was just under £50 and for that you really can do better, not a rum I’d buy again or recommend.


Montanya Valentia

20200528_084420What is it? American rum, distilled, matured and bottled at the Montanya distillery in Colorado. The rum is a blend of sugarcane and molasses mixed together for fermentation and distilled via direct fired Alembic pot stills – you can read more into this on my review of the Montanya Oro. In terms of maturation this one has had a different treatment; it’s at least a 4 year old rum with initial maturation in Laws Whiskey casks (white American oak) and then a finishing period in Rye casks from Catoctin Creek (like Montanya this is also female owned and distilled). Valentia means “courage, bravery, grit” in Spanish and was originally a limited release put out to celebrate the progress women have made in craft distilling but it was so successful that it’s now an ongoing release. Unlike the Oro and the Exclusiva there is no honey added to this rum.

This is a single barrel release and my bottle is from barrel 500.

Bottled at 40% abv, not chill-filtered and not coloured.

Sugar? No; 0g/l in this one.

Nose: A very dry nose and pretty spicy; loads of ginger, white pepper and clove, there’s certainly a real influence from the rye casks in here that’s for sure. Where the Exclusiva is fruity, this is spicy. Under the initial blast some more subtle smells appear in the form of honey, butterscotch, lemon sherbet sweets and coconut. There’s also this creamy note sitting next to the sweeter smells, it’s like almond butter and crème patisserie, a vanilla rich thick custard cream. Right at the back end is a touch of pineapple and a little peanut.

Palate: Good weight in the mouth, certainly for a 40%’er. Dry again. Yeah, a kick here too, it’s hot at the start with black peppercorns this time, ground ginger, cloves and pimento. We follow the same progression as the nose moving on to honey, a little caramel or butterscotch sauce and a spiced vanilla cream. That really nice creamy note is here too which really counters and cuts the spices well, and a candied chilli infused pineapple chunk mix arrives at the end. Still stays nice and dry right the way through.

Finish: Medium. There’s some lemon cream and apricot just as the finish starts and the whole thing reverses; honey, vanilla, coconut, almond and then the last thing to go is the spicy ginger and pepper.

Thoughts? This is yum. I’m a fan of what Montanya are doing and it’s great to see the breadth of style in their range, but for me this is hands down the best. It’s much more my preferred style of rum and has added complexity over and above their other core bottlings, all of which are very good. I’ve found quite a lot of spice in all of the Montanya rums and add in the rye casks, well, it’s great. You’d think that the rye and inherent spices would massively over-do things but really it doesn’t, I mean let’s be honest it is a spicy rum, but it’s certainly not overdone at all. The cask and the rum both let each other do their thing and show their best bits.

£45. Easily the top of the Montanya core range (as things stand) and certainly a rum I’d recommend picking up if you’re into a dry, spicy rum or if you were moving into rum from a whisky background. It reminds me very much of Balblair, which is a big compliment as it’s probably my favourite Scotch.

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

Montanya Valentia

El Ron del Artesano 8 Year Old – Ruby Port Finish

What is it? Traditional rum, molasses based, from Panama and bottled by El Ron del Artesano. There is, however, more to this. El Ron del Artesano are a German company who source rum and mature it in their own casks, the USP here is the wood management; they are experts in cask selection and maturation and use this to drive the resulting rum. The rum they source is from the Varela Hermanos Distillery in Panama which operates a four-column still as well as a two-column still and don’t distil over 76% abv, which allows retention of flavour in the spirit. This distillery is used because of the consistent output but also because, whilst the quality is good, the rum doesn’t have a dominant or overbearing character. The desire here is to let the casks speak and have the right influence over the end result, working with the rum rather than adding a top layer to a powerful spirit – Artesano are not acting as in Independent Bottler here, the rum is the same all the time and this lets them build their own style. Here wood is key.

This particular bottling is matured tropically in Panama for approximately 6 years in ex-bourbon casks initially to allow the rum to settle and carry out the first stage of aging without too much extra influence, it’s then shipped off to Germany to be aged in an ex-Ruby Port cask for around 30 months.

This is a single cask, 178-16, and was bottled on 5th June 2020. My bottle is number 172 of 436.

Bottled at 40.6% abv, not coloured, not chill filtered.

Sugar? No.

Nose: Loads of red fruit, as you’d expect. Strawberries, red cherry, raspberries and some tart cranberry too. The nose is actually drier than I was expecting and also carries some spice with ginger, cinnamon and black peppercorns. Sitting next to the spice is a slightly chocolatey note and a lift of citrus, so chocolate orange maybe, and some pink grapefruit. Under it all is a distant smoke, like smouldering leaves a few gardens down.

Palate: Medium. Sweet at first and very juicy with all those red fruits. The cherries take centre stage along with blackberry and caramelised red apple. After the initial sweetness fades there’s spices again with clove, ginger and cinnamon, tannic breakfast tea, chewed pencil ends (graphite included) and a meaty mushroomy smoked note, almost like Brunswick ham. There’s a little milk chocolate again, lemon and orange rind and some caramels.

Finish: Medium, just. It doesn’t hang around for too long but does give us chocolate, milky coffee, caramel, cherries in liqueur and strawberry jam.

Thoughts? Very nice stuff. Rum from Panama can be a bit hit-and-miss, I’ve had some good ones and some very average ones, but nothing outstanding from the country. This is a good one. I have to say, I can see why they use this rum, it’s a very good candidate for cask play as it’s solid enough but it’s not going to fight too much with whatever cask you put it in, and that’s what we have here; the cask is clearly the main player, it’s giving most of the flavour and if this was another rum I’d say it totally overwhelmed it but here the rum just accepts and takes it. Don’t get me wrong, it’s very Port forward, I just think that it works really well with the base spirit.

Ok. Very, very easy to drink. It is quite a lot softer than I’d normally go for (personal preference for intensity), but all the same it’s got plenty of flavour, it’s enjoyable and tasty.

This was £47, which I think is fair. This isn’t a bottle I’d pick multiples up of but for a change of pace and a different twist on rum it’s well worth looking at. I do like what Artesano are doing with their model and they are now on my radar. I’ve already a few other bottles from them and will continue to look at the range they put out with interest.