Caroni 10 year old VSOC – Bristol Spirits

What is it? What is it indeed. We’ll start with the easier bit; Most likely Single Blended Rum (molasses based, pot and column still rum from a single distillery) from that there Caroni distillery in Trinidad, that is no longer. I say “most likely” because Caroni had both pot and column stills and this is a blend of casks from various years, without any detail of the still type, so chances are its blended rum from various different marques of rum. Now for the more complicated bit; Caroni closed in 2002 and this rum was produced as Caroni’s 10 year old blend prior to that – I don’t have the specific year. It spent 10 years aging in Trinidad, at which point it was shipped over to Bristol Spirits for them to bottle. The rum was taken down to bottling strength (most likely 40% or 43% abv) but never bottled. If we assume it was distilled as part of the last run from the distillery, then the we’re looking at 2002 – 2012 in terms of aging tropically, the rum wasn’t released by Bristol for some years later so it spent a few more years aging in Europe – that’s a minimum, it could well have come from an older distillation run making it even older.

With time, water and ethanol evaporate from a spirit. In places like the Tropics and the Americas water can evaporate quicker than the ethanol so you can actually have an increase in abv over time, or a more level rate of evaporation so a very slow reduction in abv (it’s why so many tropically matured, old rums, have eye-watering abv levels), in Europe it’s the other way round; ethanol evaporates quicker than water, so you get a reduction in the abv, and this can be quite dramatic. In the case here, as the rum was already reduced to bottling strength and then left, the abv dropped too low – in Europe rum cannot be bottled under 37.5% abv. To resolve this issue and to maintain the “10 year old” age statement Bristol added some cask strength Caroni 1993 to bring it back up to the levels for bottling.

So what we have is a 10 year old age stated rum, with a low abv, which put a lot of people off buying it. What we really have is a Caroni that has spent at least 10 years aging in the Tropics, another round of aging, maybe 4 or 5 years or so, in Europe and blended with an at least 20 year old Caroni. So ignore this “10 year old” stuff, it’s waaaaay older than that.

And no, I’ve still ot found out why it’s called Caroni VSOC.

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

Sugar? No.

Nose: Unmistakable, but softer Caroni (generally) we’ve got here. I say “generally” but there are fleeting heavier notes of tar, liquorice, marine fuel, shed paint or creosote and black olives. There’s a really good fruity backbone to it too with red apple compote or apple pie filling, sultana, raisin and bitter orange marmalade. Touches of toffee, warm pastry, vanilla and cooked banana too – maybe all together like a banana cream croissant or donut. There’s also pipe tobacco right at the end which gives a lovely warming smoky note.

Palate: Medium mouth feel, slightly oily. A little sweet at the start with maple syrup, orange and raisin, molasses and a white jelly bean note I’ve found in other Caroni, slightly like really good cream soda. It doesn’t stay sweet though, there’s a tang of sharpness soon that’s like gooseberry or tangerine and strong breakfast tea. Then we get the hot tyres, olive oil, brine, tar, tobacco, tree sap, resin, liquorice and motor oil.

Finish: Long. Everything just keeps going; you’re left with everything from the palate coming and going in waves – it’s lazy to write that but it’s exactly what it does so there’s no point writing out the same notes twice! It’s only really the “finish” and not the “palate” because I’ve swallowed it 🙂

Thoughts? In a world of cask strength Caroni all vying for attention and shouting with loud voices, there is this. A blend of heavy and soft tastes and smells at a strength you lets you taste and smell it all. It doesn’t scream at you and you need to take time to explore it well but it’s worth the effort. It’s really, really beautiful rum.

£80. A few years back that’d have been very expensive, and of course it wasn’t originally released at that, but just try to find a very well matured Caroni for under £100 anywhere these days, it’s a rare as rocking horse shit. Do I like it? Yes. Would I recommend it? Yes, I already have, several times. Would I buy another for that price? I did. Can’t say much more than that.

 

Foursquare Sagacity

What is it? Single Blended Rum (molasses based, both pot and column still at a single distillery) from Foursquare in Barbados. This is anther one of the Exceptional Cask Selection rums that Foursquare release, specifically the 11th bottling in the series. As we expect with Foursquare rums, this one is a blend of rums distilled on both pot stills and column stills with the blending done prior to maturation (as white rum). A proportion of the rum is aged in casks that previous held bourbon (ex-bourbon casks) and a proportion of the rum is aged in casks that previously held Madeira – both set of rums were aged for 12 years, tropically in Barbados, and the resulting rums were then blend together at a super secret ratio to produce the final rum for the bottling. The bottle says it was released in August 2019 but we got it in the UK in November of that year with around 9000 bottles making their way to Europe.

This is another one of the randomly named bottles that seem to make up the ECS series, not that the name has any relevance to the rum in the bottle in terms of my views on it, I just find the whole thing a bit daft now. Sagacity. If like me, you though this was a City called Saga then you were wrong and if you look at any of the other rum blogs it’s been pointed out many times, that this means “the quality of being sagacious” – that doesn’t really help, so I had to google “sagacious” too; apparently it means possessing sound judgement, I guess you could call “wisdom”. It’s getting to the point where it takes more blog space explaining what these names mean than the blurb about the actual makeup of the rum – don’t even get me started on Plenipotenziario!

Not coloured, not chill filtered and bottled at 48% abv.

Sugar? Nope.

Nose: Lots of lovely warm oak at first with soft vanilla, toasted coconut and furniture polish. Quite fruity but rich fruits, not your tropical variety, so we’re talking prunes, figs, blackberries, blackcurrants and black cherries. Then there’s a beautiful chocolate note that comes out, like a low cacao dark chocolate  such as Bournville which is quite rich but also creamy – this, mixed with all those dark fruits, gives an almost Black Forest gateau type smell. At the end there are some roasted walnuts and pecans coming from the Madeira too.

Palate: Full mouth feel, oily. Quite sweet at first with black cherry jam on toast, that chocolate from the nose and vanilla cream – yeah, we’re back to Black Forest gateau again, yum time! There’s a little heat here and a slight gingery biscuit note but it’s welcome after the initial sweet start. Once again, lovely warm oaky notes and dried coconut, some leather and a little earthy mushroom. Some spicy heat comes back towards the end with black pepper or more intense ginger as it finishes.

Finish: Medium. Still a bit spicy on the finish and a little tannic. Much drier here than on the palate and the chocolate is much darker too. Breakfast tea, a little damp wood or leafy note and raw walnuts. At one point a flash of orange pops up with some cinnamon but it doesn’t hang around to too long. Still the dark fruits, but not sweet, it’s hard to explain. If you could imagine the taste of something like black cherry and it’s flavour but without any of the sweetness with it. Not the longest finish in the world and it doesn’t add a massive amount extra to the whole, but it’s very moreish.

Thoughts? At the time of writing this review I’m really enjoying the rum but it’s taken a while to get here. I’ve done this review with the bottle open for about 3 months and at first I was struggling to really find anything different from other “cask type” Foursquare rums – it initially reminded me a lot of Doorly’s 12 year old which I’ve found a bit…….meh……..I was just getting lots of oak. Now though the Madeira is really coming out and bringing all its lovely rich flavours with it. The testament to this is that it took 3 months to get half way down the bottle and then 2 weeks to finish the rest of it off after that point!

It’s really easy to drink and a big step up from Doorly’s in terms of complexity levels. There’s good balance between the oak and the dark fruit but the burst of heat as you swallow does catch you out. I must admit, whilst very good rum indeed, it’s not my favourite ECS release – this is mainly because the others are so good and I judge each ECS release against the previous ones rather than other rums out there, I really shouldn’t do it but it’s human nature.

Ok, so we have to use the internet to find out what Foursquare rums now mean, so here’s one for you:

Exceptional” – unusual; not typical.

When you are frequently putting out “Exceptional” rums, what are they exceptional against? You’re own rums? If you’re putting out more exceptional rums than “standard” rums then they are no longer the exception, they are now typical and usual and this is what the ECS releases have become; the Foursquare norm. They are not normal rums, they are Foursquare rums, which by definition makes them exceptional in the wider rum world, that’s for sure – but as far as releases from Foursquare go, no, no longer exceptional. We’re on ECS 11 with this, let’s do away with the silly names and the whole “Exceptional Cask” thing now and just start calling these Foursquare rums.

This set me back £48. Would I buy another? Too damn right. Yeah, so it’s not my favourite ECS rum, but for under 50 notes it’s still a banger.

You can pick this up from The Whisky Exchange here:

Foursquare Sagacity

Foursquare 2007 Cask Strength (12 year old)

What is it? The 10th bottling in the Foursquare Exceptional Cask Selection series. It’s molasses based rum produced on both pot stills and column stills at the Foursquare distillery in Barbados – so Single Blended Rum. The rum makeup here is the same as with the previous iterations (2004 and 2005) where it’s distillate from both column stills and pot stills that are blended together as new make without any aging and then put into ex-bourbon casks for the full maturation period, which in this case is for 12 years and all of that tropically. The rum was distilled in 2007 and bottled in March 2019.

Not chill filtered, not coloured, and bottled at cask strength of 59% abv.

I’ve taken it down to around 55% abv for this review as that is how I’ve been drinking it and I think it works best. It is very drinkable at 59% though, be warned.

Sugar? Nope.

Nose: Yep, that familiar 100% ex-bourbon, cask strength, Foursquare – although this one seems a touch more savoury that previous; my guess would be higher pot still component in the blend this time round. We’ve got black olives, brine, WD40, tar and soft liquorice. Herbal notes of parsley, dried plantain, Tiger Balm and sticky plasters. Of course, it’s not all savoury, as expected you’ll also get polished oak, pipe tobacco, milk chocolate, coconut, almonds, light butterscotch, a little orange and a touch of vanilla.

Palate: Full mouth feel, hot. Dry start and savoury again, like the nose. Salt and pepper cashews, dark chocolate covered chillies, horseradish root, liquorice, black olives, brine infused with black pepper and some tar. We go nutty next with roasted walnuts, peanuts, pecans and some more cashews. Then come the sweeter notes of bitter orange caramel, really good home-made fudge, chocolate stem gingers and tarte tatin with toffee sauce right at the end. It’s not “sweet” sweet though, but more of the notion of sweetness.

Finish: Very long. Oak, toasted. Fruit loaf, very dark chocolate, black coffee from Brazil, leather, nutmeg and butterscotch. A little of the savoury comes out with black olives and a touch of WD40 but it’s more on the sweeter side here.

Thoughts? Belter. Not as sweet as the 2004 I think, or the 2005. Definitely more savoury notes to find but all pretty equal in terms of quality – this is, after-all, Foursquare we’re talking about here, it’s like a load of Ferrari enthusiasts discussing which is the best Ferrari when you know that as a normal human you’d be happy to just take any of them! I don’t think I could really pick between the 2004, 2005 and this, I’d probably go with the 2005 if anything, then this one as my preference is more for savoury rum, but it’s all pretty much irrelevant when push comes to shove.

This retailed at around £55 and at the time of writing (May 2020) there are still bottles around for the same price, which I find quite amazing for such a brilliant rum. Look at the price bracket for this and then look at the list of rums you see; would I rather have this for £55 or a Ron Zacapa 23, Zaya, Dictador 20, or Flor De Cana 18? What the actual fuck, where is my eye-roll smiley thing? How have people not already bought all of this yet.

You can pick this up from The Whisky Exchange here:

Foursquare 2007 Cask Strength ECS

Foursquare Hereditas

I’ve been waiting for December to turn up before doing my review of Foursquare Hereditas rum, because I like a big sherried whisky for the Christmas period and what better way to compliment that (or even replace it) than with a massive sherry bomb of a rum from an epic distillery.

What is it? Single Blend rum (molasses based pot and column still rum, from a single distillery) from the Foursquare distillery in Barbados. This rum was bottled exclusively for The Whisky Exchange as part of a “Private Cask Selection” – the rum was distilled, matured and bottled in Barbados. The rum blend is the usual Foursquare blend-of-a-blend job, where they mature some rum in a cask type and then move it to another cask type, the final rum is blended with another rum matured in different casks. In this case, part of the blend is matured in ex-bourbon casks for 14 years, the other part of the blend is matured in ex-bourbon casks for 10 years and then switched to ex-sherry casks for a further 4 years, both rums are then blended at the end making it 14 years old. All ageing is done tropically, so those years have a big impact, you’re talking about well over 30 years of European equivalent ageing.

Not chill-filtered, not coloured and bottled at 56% abv.

Sugar? No.

Nose: Oh, good, God. We’ve definitively got Foursquare that much is clear – the beautiful integration of oak, vanilla and spice, but this is a sherry bomb rum. We have loads of big fat juicy raisins, little tiny Corinth raisins or currants, clove, cinnamon, roasted walnuts, chestnuts and marzipan – yeah, Christmas cake rum. Some lighter fruit with black plums, fig and burnt orange zest, honey and pralines. With some time there is some cigar smoke, damp leaves, old leather bound books, varnished wood and menthol.

Palate: Full mouth. Big on the sherry at entry, the Foursquare profile is totally lost at first and dominated by roasted nuts, dates, figs, leather, raisins and Christmas cake again. Once the first sherry blast passes, Foursquare appears under it with soft vanilla, toasted coconut, clove, cinnamon, light caramel and some savoury notes of liquorice, black olives, brine and grilled mushroom.

Finish: Very long. Ginger root, liquorice, the salty tang of brine, a little tar, camphor and menthol. Dark chocolate lebkuchens, caramel, vintage thick cut marmalade, rolling tobacco, black coffee and walnuts. There is an interplay of savoury, bitter and sweet here that works really well.

Thoughts? Stonkingly good rum. The sherry casks are as clean as a whistle but I do think they dominate a little over the rum. The nose and finish work really well but the palate is bullied around by the sherry for the most part, still, it’s bloody good.

If you want a Christmas’y winter warmer of a sherry bomb this year then get one of these. It’s sitting with the old style Glendronach 15 year old (which was really 21 years old) and Glenfarclas 25 year old whiskies, if that’s your thing, and trust me that is very high praise for a sherried spirit.

5p under £80. Yeah, ok it’s not cheap, but I’d pay it over and over again. Cracking.

Chamarel Blend – 2010 and 2014 – bottled 2017 for 70 years of Velier

What is it? Not quite sure to be honest, the bottle says “Vatted Single Rum” which isn’t a rum type that was outlined by the Gargano classification, odd given that this bottling was done by Velier…..what it does say is that it’s from sugar cane juice, so it’s an Agricole. The rum is from the Chamarel distillery in Mauritius, now they have some different stills there; column stills and pot stills, and as there is no detail on the bottle to say what type of rum was in the casks used for this blend I can’t possibly comment; I have contacted Velier for some information as well as the distillery, but neither have been forthcoming, which is a shame. The rum is made up from 2 casks, cask 181 and 182, there are 2 ages on the bottle too, 2010 and 2014 – these are the vintages of the rum. We would assume that one cask is from 2010 and one cask is from 2014, but it may be that these are 2 sister casks (given the cask numbering) and were filled at the same time/same batch, in which case the rum in the casks is a blend of rum from those 2 different years….again we just don’t know. C’mon, data please!!!! It’s important! Either way, the rum in the blend, from these 2 casks and years, contains 80% from 2010 and 20% from 2014. The rum was bottled in 2017 for the 70th anniversary of Velier and I understand that the aging would have been done entirely in Mauritius. I also have no idea what cask types were used for this rum, Chamarel have a large catalogue of casks ranging from French oak casks, wine casks, ex-bourbon casks to new american oak (virgin casks). My gut feeling is that this was matured in French oak of some sort, but I could be totally wrong.

Not coloured, not chill filtered and bottled at 56.5% abv.

Sugar? No.

Nose: Not what I was expecting at all; big, bold and spicy with fresh nutmeg, mace and cinnamon sticks. There is some old leather, sandalwood, cedar and rolling tobacco here, green coffee beans, root liquorice and dried parsley. Some sharpness cuts through with a slightly sour white wine note and wet, fresh cut grass. Lots of dried fruit in this too with raisins, cranberry tartness and a mix of dried tropical fruit that you’d find in some muesli, like papaya, pineapple and banana. There is this almost grainy whisky note too right at the back. Very complex indeed.

Palate: Lovely mouth feel to this, medium, not too heavy with an oily texture. Hot at first and spicy with peppercorns, cinnamon and green chillies. Rolling tobacco again and that incense note of sandalwood comes out. Yellow flesh stone fruit (apricots, mango and nectarine) and the sharp wine. Some sour green wood appears just to remind you that this is made from cane juice. Things get dry from this point, very dry; nutmeg powder and a huge (and I mean huge) wave of fresh liquorice root takes over and you can feel the puckering in your mouth as it dries off your tongue. Some unsweetened black coffee and 90% cocoa dark chocolate appear but all it does it make it drier.

Finish: Long. Bone dry. It’s all 90% cocoa dark chocolate, unsweetened espresso, raisins – if you could remove any sweetness from them – tree sap, sucking cut grass and a tiny glimmer of dried banana chips. It’s really, really dry at the finish.

Thoughts? Wow, this is pretty intense stuff. Not like any Agricole I’ve had before; there are still some cane juice rum notes here but the casks are leading on this and the fruit is very concentrated. This is one of those rums that you open and go “wow, this is good”. The more you drink it the better it gets too, which is crazy – half way through the bottle and it was blowing me away. What an incredible rum, what a blend of casks.

Now, when I bought this at the start of 2019 it had been sitting on the shelf in the shop for ages and was about £75….for a Velier bottling, and I know why; it’s from Chamarel, and it was a maximum of 7 years old. If this was a Jamaican, a Demerara or a Foursquare it’d have sold out at that price, but Mauritian rum doesn’t seem to command the same interest in the market for some reason. Well, let me tell you, it’s very good indeed – between Chamarel, New Grove (Gray’s) and Labourdonnais I’ve not had a bad rum and this Chamarel is one of the best. For £75 it was an absolute steal – another one of those rums I should have bought multiple bottles of.