English Harbour 10 year old

What is it? Molasses based Rum (multi-column at over 95%), produced at The Antigua Distillery in St John’s, Antigua and bottled under the English Harbour brand. The Antigua Distillery use a copper 3-column still and distil the spirit to a whopping 95.5% abv – this is basically making a neutral spirit so wont be carrying much in the way of flavour at all, nearly all of the flavour is going to come from the cask maturation here. Once distilled the rum is matured, in the tropics, for at least 10 years. I seen in various places that the rums in the blend that make up this rum can be up to 25 years old, how much of that older rum is in here we can’t be sure, but it’s being labelled as a 10 year old as that is the youngest rum present, there is older stuff in here too.

The distillery take the spirit (95.5% abv) and dilute it down to 70% abv before it’s filled into casks. This is quite interesting as cask fill strength is something that is very often overlooked by consumers (mainly because we’re not told about it) and actually has quite an impact on the resulting product. Many distilleries cask fill at 65% abv, and there is a good reason for this; below 60% you get more water soluble compounds extracted from the cask, such as sugars in the form of hemicellulose – a spirit at 55% abv will extract twice the sugars from the cask than a spirit casked at 70% abv. Above 65% abv and you get more ethanol soluble compounds extracted from the cask, such as lignin (wood notes). So that fact that this is being casked at 70% explains how such a high abv distillation is able to get a more intense flavour into the rum at the end. It may only be a little difference in fill abv but the end result over those years maturing makes a big difference.

Chill filtered, coloured and bottled at 40% abv.

Sugar? No

Nose: Sweet at first, with caramel, toffee and vanilla fudge. Some cask spices, certainly, with cinnamon, nutmeg and clove, a touch of marmalade and bags of nuts – all kinds; almonds, cashews, pecans and hazelnuts. There is a touch of dried fruit in here too, maybe raisin, and some rolling tobacco. A little bit of engine oil appears later on with some nail varnish remover, just to add in a little savoury note.

Palate: Full mouth, oily. Slightly sweet at first, but not sticky, with fudge, caramel, butter toffee (Werthers Original candy), sweet breakfast tea and vanilla. The spices kick in and its warm with nutmeg, cinnamon, clove and white pepper – very much in line with the nose. There’s a really nice taste of smoked orange that comes out near the end and an ever so slight brine’y tang as it finishes.

Finish: Medium. As the nose and palate really, there isn’t that much more to add. What’s nice is that it seems very cask influenced (as you’d expect) but at no point does it get bitter, only a little tannic with the breakfast tea on the palate and again at the end of the finish.

Thoughts? It’s a nice and very easy drinking rum. It’s not the most complex, but it’s better than average. The problem for this rum is it’s price; it usually sits around the £75-£80 mark, which I find quite extortionate really. I managed to pick mine up for £50 delivered, which is much more like it – although I still think that is quite expensive for what you get. It’s not a rum I’ll be buying again at the price I paid, and at £80 it’s madness for “just above average”, sorry.

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.

 

 

Depaz Port Cask Finish

What is it? Rum, distilled in a column still where the raw material is pressed sugar cane juice – so a R(h)um Agricole. This rum was produced at the Depaz distillery on the island of Martinique in the French West Indies and has been aged for around 8 years in oak casks followed by a finishing period of 11 months in Port casks, all ageing is done tropically. You can read more about the rum and distillery in my previous posts here and here, which cover off the AOC classification and background.

Chill filtered, not coloured and bottled at 45% abv.

Sugar? No.

Nose: A shy nose at first, there is some rich chocolate – the 60% dark stuff, like Bournville – liquorice, cinnamon, some slight cane but not much. Chocolate covered cranberries, plums (those deep black ones) and ground black pepper. There is a little vanilla in there right at the back but the richer flavours keep it down.

Palate: Medium. More cane here but it’s quickly take over by milk chocolate, liquorice, coffee beans, stewed plums with vanilla cream topping, raspberry jam, damsons and Turkish Delight. There is some sweet nutty oak, marzipan and handful of hazelnuts, almonds and cashews pop up towards the finish.

Finish: Long. Spicy at first with black pepper, nutmeg and cinnamon but it gets chocolatey, then soft cooked stone fruits and a little butterscotch as it progresses. Vanilla and some dried banana chips, dusted with coconut appear right at the end.

Thoughts? This is my 2nd favourite of the new Depaz rums. There isn’t all that much sugar cane juice on offer but there are really lovely rich, nutty flavours and the Port cask adds a deep dark fruit that really compliments the rum rather than cover up the character, which often happens with “finishing”. Ok, this one is quite pricey and it’ll set you back around £80 or more for a bottle, and whilst it’s really very good I’m not sure I’d get a bottle of this over the VSOP as that really is the sweet spot for me.

Depaz XO Grand Reserve

What is it? Rum, distilled in a column still where the raw material is pressed sugar cane juice – so a R(h)um Agricole. This rum was produced at the Depaz distillery on the island of Martinique in the French West Indies and has been aged for around 8-10 years in oak casks, tropically. You can read more about the rum and distillery in my previous posts here and here, which cover off the AOC classification and background.

Chill filtered, not coloured and bottled at 45% abv.

Sugar? Nope.

Nose: Plenty of lovely French oak here with vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg and black peppercorns. Fragrant notes of rose water, fresh root liquorice, hazelnuts and more vanilla. There is a little milk chocolate, some distant old leather and a meaty mushroom’y note too; almost sherry like or grape’y Cognac notes. All very “smooth” and constructed – words I dislike in spirits. Smooth for me is shy, “easy” and lacking vibrant character. It’s a very nice nose indeed but not a conversation starter.

Palate: Medium. First off there is some sour green wood, but that dies away. The flavours are quite muted; some fresh cane and tight oak spice, apple and white grape, but picking out individual flavours here is hard – maybe my lack of experience with Agricoles. I get a feeling of soft, well matured spirit more than anything individual – the types of smells I find in a good aged Cognac.

Finish: Long. Lingering spices of nutmeg, cinnamon, allspice and white pepper. This fades off and leaves room for plenty of milk chocolate, figs, stewed stone-fruit, coconut and vanilla. There is more to find here than on the actual palate, which is good as the finish does last a long time.

Thoughts? Hmmm. It’s normal to expect things to get better as you move up a range, age and price, but this isn’t what’s happened here. The vibrant cane notes and floral aspects that are present in the Plantation and the VSOP are lost in this and it becomes a different rum altogether. It takes quite a lot of time in the glass and some getting used to to find the notes. I suspect that Depaz are aiming firmly at the XO Cognac type drinkers with this rum, it’s so similar and constructed in the same way it would easily be interchangeable for a normal XO Cognac, like a Courvoisier. It’s clearly well made and matured, but I find the whole thing just a bit too muted and “smooth” for my liking, I want some more character to jump out of the glass at me.

Good, but not my style and I wouldn’t part with £75 for it I’m afraid.

Depaz VSOP Reserve Speciale

What is it? Rum, distilled in a column still where the raw material is pressed sugar cane juice – so a R(h)um Agricole. This rum was produced at the Depaz distillery on the island of Martinique in the French West Indies and has been aged for at least 7 years in oak casks, tropically. You can read more about the rum and distillery in my previous posts here and here, which cover off the AOC classification and background – I wont labour old ground. This rum is also labelled as a Très Vieux which means it is “very old” and meets the additional classification of Vieux rhum under the AOC that was outlined in the review of the Depaz “Plantation” Rhum on the link above.

Chill filtered, not coloured and bottled at 45% abv.

Sugar? No

Nose: Toasty oak, pipe tobacco, dried coconut flakes from muesli and mixed nuts. Lovely candied papaya and dried pineapple too. A little fig jam, milk chocolate, vanilla and a hint of nutmeg. There is, naturally, cane juice, green olives, hay and a touch of lavender.

Palate: Medium. Cane’y at first, with cut grass, white wine, dried herbs (parsley and marjoram). Some notes of banana, coconut, papaya and vanilla pop up and then it gets spicier with cinnamon, allspice and pink peppercorns. There’s a salty white chocolate note, some soured yogurt, hazelnuts and prune. At the end, the faintest hint of tobacco in the distance and the tang of black liquorice.

Finish: Medium to long. Milk chocolate mouse, chocolate coated nuts, salt and pepper cashews, a little olive’y note and a meaty fig in here too. Right at the end there is a lovely creamy banana, soft vanilla and desiccated coconut.

Thoughts? My favourite of the 4 new Depaz rums. This one is a lot more balanced than the Plantation, it’s less oaked than the XO and sits in the right place for age, price and overall flavour. I’ll be get getting a full bottle of this, for sure. A lovely complex and enjoyable rum and a great buy at the £50-55 is costs.