Havana Club Seleccion de Maestros review

20160421_093854What is it? Molasses based rum from Cuba. It’s “triple aged” which I understand means that it’s the base juice that makes up the 7 year old (1), casks are then selected by hand from this stock, vatted and put into other casks to marry (2), at the point of maturity certain casks are selected and transferred to white oak casks for an undisclosed finishing period (3). There isn’t much detail on the cask types but from the way this rum behaves it seems like they were either new oak/virgin or 1st fill ex-bourbon casks (my guess only!).

As the casks are selected, married and selected again on merit there is no set aging period, as such there is no age statement for this rum. Sticking point: it says on the carton that it’s bottled “straight from the cask”, well that’s balls – there isn’t any way that the casks selected for the final bottling all match up to produce a rum at 45%, consistently, from batch to batch. It’s clearly diluted to a bottling strength of 45% abv. There also appears to be some colouring and a level of chill filtration, so it’s not “bottled straight from the cask” is it……

Coloured, filtered and bottled at 45% abv.

Sugar? From what I’ve found online, no, there isn’t any added. There is some sweetness to this, but it feels like it’s coming from the natural sugars in the casks used in the finishing process.

Nose: Very “rummy” and slightly grassy to start, then comes plenty (a shovel load) of caramel and some vanilla, fresh oak and some stone fruits (apricot/nectarine/peach). This reminds me of some younger high rye bourbons like Old Granddad. There are some cigar leaves, wooden boxes, cedar, and a touch of freshly brewed Colombian coffee. Woody spices such as nutmeg, cinnamon and clove appear but in quite a mellow manner.

Palate: Medium mouth-feel, spirity, semi-sweet (cask sugars). Quite a spicy delivery (that high rye bourbon again), caramel, toffee, vanillas, touch of leather, mixed nuts and some smoke/char. As with the nose there are some mild baking spices and a big squeeze of lime juice mid-palate – get’s really quite zesty and lively.

Finish: Medium. Quite drying, tart with green apples, apricots, limes and buzzing spicy oaks. There are some musty, dusty sacks (that’s good by the way), cigar smoke and plenty of caramel as it trails off with more spices prickling.

Thoughts? Good. It’s a good solid rum. There is plenty on offer, maybe a tad too much oak but it plays if off nicely with tart and zippy citrus and creamy fruit. I’m enjoying this rum and it’s very easy to sit and sip but also gives you a bit more if you want to go looking for some interest. The problem for me is the price; it’s £50 a bottle (as this is written), which is far too expensive for just “good”, and is competing with some other really outstanding rums at this price. As much as I like this I won’t be buying again at this price, not because it’s shit rum but because it’s over priced and there are others I’d rather have if I were spending the money. If this was £35-£40 a bottle I’d be going back time and again, but it’s not.

Pumpkin Face 23 review

Wha20150619_104701t is it? Dominican rum distilled in 1980, aged for 23 years in oak and put into stainless steel tasks for 10 more years; makes it 23 years old as the tanking doesn’t count towards maturation. No details of distillery. Molasses based.

Doesn’t say it’s natural colour but for 23 years old it looks about right. Filtered and 40% abv.

Sugar? No on-line data, but I can’t detect any.

Nose: Hmmmm. Erm……hmmmmmm. There must be a nose here somewhere……nope.

Palate: Oh dear. Tastes like generic spirit.

Finish: Yes, it does, very quickly.

Thoughts? Right. I’m not having this. I’ve spent £60 on this bottle and I will taste something dammit! Lets give it 15mins and come back to it.

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(15-20 mins later)

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Ok, let’s have you!

Nose: Ah, it has a smell now. It’s not jumping out of the glass at me, gotta get my nose right in there, but I can smell rum! Nose prickle, oak, some general baking spices. Mixed nuts, oak, maybe even a faintest whiff of smoke.

Palate: Yeah this is better. Medium body, very dry. Oak. Oak, some more oak and lots of nuts (Walnuts), like I’ve just run my tongue over a wooden plank. A little woody spice; cinnamon, nutmeg and a tiny touch of clove. A distant nod to brown sugar, way off over there somewhere.

Finish: Still quick. Short finish, like it can’t wait to get out of the door. For the brief moment that it’s about there are some mixed nuts, salted and roasted, some tobacco leaf, vanilla (light) and some baking cupboards again.

Thoughts? Hard work that. I think I know why this was tanked after 23 years; someone forgot about these casks, realised they were past it and tried to rescue them by putting the contents into steel tanks to stop any further maturation. Too late guys, this has died of old age. The casks have totally murdered the rum, way too over oaked and there is little to no vibrancy left in the spirit.
I am being a little harsh on this, but I spent quite a bit on a bottle and I’m left disappointed, so harsh it is I’m affraid. Note: as the bottle has gone down, by about half way (and a few months), it’s started to open up quite a lot more; it gave less oak and more spices. I actually started to enjoy it. This is still a very dry rum and it’s not going to blow your mind and doesn’t have much complexity, but it’s passable.

Santa Teresa 1796 review

20150619_104635What is it? Molasses based rum from Venezuela. Mixture of column still rum (heavy and light) and pot still rum. Solera matured with rums from 4 years old up to around 35 years old, blended and married in Limousin oak for a further year – so no age statement.

Coloured, filtered and 40% abv.

Sugar: Minimal. On-line tests show between 0 and 7 grams per litre. I can’t detect any when reviewing it.

Nose: Honey, cinnamon, brown sugar. Bananas, vanilla and a little smoke/incense. Some oak prickle and a little bit of pepper, maybe from the French oak?

Palate: Rounded and soft mouth feel. Dry but with taste of maple. Pineapple, dried tropical fruit (papaya, guava, mango) and banana again. Oak (some age showing), caramels and cinnamon again.

Finish: Dry, medium and fresh. Spicier than the palate with some candied stem ginger, cracked black pepper and a faint hint of something from the spice cabinet, maybe some cumin, cayenne or paprika.

Thoughts: Really lovely. It took about a third of a bottle before it started to open up and at that point started to show it’s complexity. Nice to see a Solera rum that hasn’t been topped up with sugar and shows the benefits you can get some maturing in this way. I’d definitely buy again and it’s bang on for price/quality ratio.