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.

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.

Rumtastic rum of the year 2020

Well 2020 is nearly over (thank God), although 2021 doesn’t look like it’s about to start the right way – thanks COVID –  so it’s time for any bloggers obligatory “top rums blah blah blah”. As I don’t score my rums this process is actually fairly easy for me as I don’t have to go through my scoring and try to pick out rums with a slither of a mark between them, all I have to do is engage my memory. Basically my selection is pretty straight forward here, I chose my favourite rums; do I remember the rum blowing my mind? Ultimately, if a rum sticks in my mind then it’s a contender and there have been quite a few of these this year. Now I must caveat that I’ve not tried every rum that has been released 2020, let’s face it I’ve got a limited budget and a limited amount of time, naturally I can only rank what I’ve actually tried – so in the scheme of things this list is pretty much meaningless, but it’s getting done anyway. The other thing to note is that I may well have drunk and reviewed rums in 2020 that were released earlier, again because I don’t have an unlimited amount of time and money, and due to the volume of releases it’s quite easy to get behind with stuff.

Right, bullshit out of the way, what are Rumtastic’s 5 most rumtastic rums of 2020?

Coming in at number 5:

Chairman’s Reserve Master’s Selection 13 year old (2006) – The Whisky Exchange Exclusive

This was a bottle of Chairman’s Reserve that was done for The Whisky Exchange and a 50/50 mix of Vendome and John Dore pot still rum. It was the first time I’d really ventured into rums from Saint Lucia Distillers and made me have to sit down. It was incredibly complex, hugely phenolic and carried a very divisive profile so not everyone will get on with this. The result of drinking this rum was that I went out and bought a load of other stuff from Saint Lucia Distillers without even thinking about it.

 

 

 

Next at number 4:

The Black Tot 50th Anniversary

This rum was released to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Black Tot Day and is an incredible blend. A “Navy” blend rum that hits all the right notes but also tips it’s hat to a modern, fresher style of rum. No sugary sweet bollocks or cloying stickiness going on here, just really good rum blended together. Some of the original Naval rum in here too! Big props for full disclosure of the blend, right down to the percentages and the aging split of everything that went in to the bottle.

 

 

 

Rocking in at number 3:

Foursquare Detente

A list of top 5 rums of the year wouldn’t be complete without something from Foursquare and 2020 is no exception. Detente was probably the rum I was most looking forward to in 2020 because of the nostalgia attatched to the very first Port Cask in the Exceptional Cask line-up and it really didn’t disappoint. Beautiful rum, dangerously easy to drink and a showcase in the journey Foursquare have made with their rums and presentation over the last 5 years.

 

 

 

 

Runner up this year at number 2:

New Yarmouth 2005 (The River Mumma) – Vidya

This bottle was released right at the end of the year and has managed to sneak into second spot at the very last minute. This was my Christmas present to myself so it’s only just been opened and at the time of writing there I’ve not reviewed it. This is the inaugural bottling by the lads at Skylark Spirits and is a 15 year old single cask New Yarmouth rum, bottled at full strength and from the NYE/EM marque which comes in at a whopping 1300-1400 gr/hlaa on the ester level. I was kindly sent a sample of this ahead of release and immediately pre-ordered a bottle…..I don’t even think I asked them the price, it was that good. I recall spending literally an hour just nosing this.

 

 

Top spot and my number 1 rum of the year goes to:

Foursquare Nobiliary

What is there to say about this one? Not only my favourite rums of 2020 but one of my favourite rums so far since I’ve been blogging. When I first saw the label I did a little eye-roll thinking it was going to be yet another 100% ex-bourbon cask Foursquare rum, which we get every year under the vintage releases, then I opened it. Boy how wrong I was. Utterly fabulous rum and a no-brainer to make my top spot.

 

 

 

 

So there we have it. My favourite rums of 2020. The takeaways from there are 2 things; firstly there’s a good range that’s fallen into my top 5 – that’s not deliberate, if my favourite rums were all Jamaican then that’s what my list would be – but we’ve got a scatter across Jamaica, a blend, a couple of Barbadians and rum from a country I’d never tried before. This is a good thing and shows that incredible stuff is coming from many different taste profiles and not limited to 1 style, country or region. The second is that these are all limited releases. I’m sorry about that, and if you’ve not been able to get your hands on any of them then that is a shame. This isn’t as good as the first takeaway. The rum is there, clearly, but no continuous release has made it. I’d really like to see 2021 lifting up bottles from core ranges and continuous releases and at least one getting into my top 5 next year – this would help everyone from the distilleries right down to the consumers. Let’s drink the best rum we can.

 

 

 

Black Tot 50th Anniversary

What is it? Well this is a molasses based blended rum from various stills, from various countries, aged both tropically and continentally, and various ages. Let me elaborate a bit; the Black Tot rum brand was created by The Whisky Exchange (specifically the co-founder, Sukhinder Singh) who blended together some of the final British naval rum to create Black Tot: The Last Consignment – this was old rum and bloody expensive stuff, and was put out in 2010 to celebrate the 40th anniversary of Black Tot Day (the day that the British Navy ceased issuing the Rum Ration to it’s sailors). Since then a we’ve had Black Tot 40 Year Old which was distilled in 1975 and a continuous release called Black Tot Finest Caribbean. The line-up has now expended, with a limited release of the Black Tot 50th Anniversary rum to celebrate – you’ve guessed it – the 50th anniversary of Black Tot Day. So what’s in this one then? The full recipe has been published and is below, but to summarise it’s a got rum in it from Guyana, Trinidad, Jamaica and Barbados as well as a little splash of original Royal Navy Blend.

You can read more about the creation of the rum over at The Whisky Exchange blog, I’m not going to lift and drop all the blurb because I’m lazy and there’s loads of stuff on there.

It’s worth noting that they had about a third of the blend left over after bottling, so it’s gone back into some sherry casks where it’ll be topped up with other rums and released in 2021 for another limited bottling. I believe that some of that blend will be held back and re-casked too for 2022 where it will repeat so we get a continual release each year of a different blend based on the original. Cool idea.

Bottled at navy strength of 54.5% ABV, no chillfiltering and with a limited run of 5000 bottles.

Sugar? Nope.

Nose: Exactly what I was expecting and hoping for, which is good. Black bananas, big dollops of toffee, molasses, boot polish, camphor, pine sap, liquorice, a big handful of black olives, tar and engine oil. Further in we’ve got fruity raisins, candied pineapple and baked apples with cinnamon and nutmeg (apple crumble I guess). As you’d expect there’s an old musty smell here too with leather, aged coffee beans in hessian sacks and grilled mushrooms. It’s really rich, dark and deep but still carries some light fruitiness.

Palate: Full, rich mouth feel. Oh yes. Rum and raisin dark chocolate, caramel, molasses, treacle toffee, strong black coffee, figs and loads and loads of soft black liquorice. Fruity mid-palate with banana, pineapple and oranges but quickly turns phenolic with brine, tar, diesel, olives, menthol, hot rubber and a touch of stamp glue.

Finish: Long. Smoky. Rolling tobacco, smoked toffees, maple syrup, cinnamon, Demerara sugar, nutmeg and raisins. Seems sweeter here and less phenolic but throws in a little heat with cloves, ginger, chillies and salt & pepper nuts. There’s still plenty of liquorice going on and a little brine note but it mixes sweeter creamier notes and prickling spices on the whole. I’ve found myself nosing the rum as the palate is finishing and the combination adds a really nice burst of fruit into the idea of the finish too – it’s one of those rums that you want to smell and taste at the same time to get the whole image.

Thoughts? A really very good blend. The problem you have with a lot of “Navy” blends is that they often get bogged down or become flabby and fall apart with too much molasses’y liquorice. This one does not. It’s got those real deep, dark and dirty notes you expect but there’s a constant burst of fruit and phenols flickering throughout that pulls you up when it’s getting too heavy.

If you read the link the to The Whisky Exchange blog they were looking to create a balance between a modern rum and traditional old British style rum, and I think they’ve got it spot on with this. I’m not sure I’d change anything in the blend so it’s going to be interesting to see how it goes with the release in 2021, but one thing is for sure; I really look forward to trying it.

So the damage? £110. Yeah, not cheap I know, but really this is fabulous and it does have some very old and rare rum in it. I would, and I have been, recommending this to people. I’d happily buy it again and will be getting the 2021 release when that comes out for the 51th anniversary.

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

Black Tot 50th Anniversary