Diamond 20 year old Armagnac Finish (1998) – The Duchess

What is it? Traditional Rum from Guyana (molasses based, single distillery, column still). This was distilled at the Diamond distillery in 1998 using the Enmore wooden column still (cask marque EHP for those that want to know – so a “normal” Enmore). It was then matured in an ex-bourbon cask in Europe for 12 years after which the rum was transferred to an ex-Armagnac cask for a further 8 years for a total maturation period of 20 years; so it’s not really a “finish” here but more of a double maturation. It was bottled in 2019 by Nils Van Rijn from http://www.bestofwhiskies.com under the rum brand The Duchess.

This bottle is 1 of 243 bottles from cask 27.

Not chill filtered, not coloured and bottled at cask strength of 50.8% abv.

Sugar? No.

Nose: Very shy at first – I’ve left my bottle for 2 months before this review so it opens up – it needs air and time. Oak definitely, but the spirit is a lighter style with orange oil, almonds, a little sharp gooseberry, a tiny green olive and some vanilla pod. There is a grape-y note in here as you’d expect from such a long time in Armagnac wood, a few sultanas and I can easily pick out the Armagnac cask that’s for sure, but it’s not too intense or overpowering.

Palate: Medium mouth feel. Edging towards sweet on entry. Ah, big influence from the Armagnac here, almost overpowers the palate due to the lighter style of rum; oak, sultanas, vanilla, raisins, marmalade and then a touch of brine from the rum. Some sweet desert wine of some type and an almost almond’y cherry stone note that cools your tongue right at the end.

Finish: Medium. Doesn’t add much more to what has come before really. Nice, flavourful but brings nothing new to the party. Some peaches and a touch of plum jam if anything really and a small hint of white chocolate.

Thoughts? It’s a nice rum. Quite different to what I’ve had before as it’s very light and the Armagnac cask really does take over – but I guess that was the idea. It’s a solid and very pleasant rum, but not a showstopper. I’m glad I bought a bottle of this for nothing else other than to flip my palate a bit and try something a little different, but for £90 it’s a stretch too far. It doesn’t deliver any “wow” moments, which is a shame as I had high hopes for this, as such it’s not a rum I’d rush out and buy again.

Bonne Mère 3 year old (Guadeloupe) – Cane Island

What is it? Traditional Rum (molasses based, distilled in a column still) from Guadeloupe, produced at the little known distillery of Bonne Mère. The rum is distilled and matured for 3 years, tropically, in a mixture of ex-bourbon casks and French oak casks, then it was bottled by independent bottlers Cane Island for their Single Estate Rum series.

No details on chill-filtration or colouring, so can’t say with any certainly, but I don’t believe it’s been coloured, and judging by the taste any chill-filtration is light.

Bottled at 43% abv.

Sugar? No

Nose: Very floral at first, like walking into a flower shop. Dried herbs; marjoram, parsley, some thyme and rosemary. Smells of being outside on a warm day, cutting your lawn with warm grass and dusty soil. The fruit is of very bitter oranges, kumquat, sharp mango and dried banana chips. Things start to get quite oaky after a while, surprisingly so actually given it’s youth; cinnamon bark, liquorice, fresh nutmeg and milk chocolate all show up for the party.

Palate: Medium mouthfeel. Dry. Herbal cough lozenges (ones from English old school sweet shops, they’re like a small rectangular, hard, beige/light orange coloured things and you’ll know what I mean if you had them). Marjoram and rosemary again, Pontefract Cakes (more old fashioned English sweets; flat liquorice things), Earl Grey tea, orange flavoured Salmiak – if there is such a thing – a little tar and some fennel seeds. Not as much oak here as on the nose, so just a touch of clove and then a quite a bit of milk chocolate the longer it is in your mouth.

Finish: Medium. The chocolate comes through from the palate and the finish is slightly sweeter with more actual orange, maybe marmalade, white coffee with cream, vanilla and an almost corn/grain note. Some prunes and a little raisin are there too just as it ends.

Thoughts? Unexpected. This little bad boy is only 3 but punches well above it’s weight. Sure, it’s a little rough around the edges but for only 3 years in the cask it’s packing a lot of flavour indeed. It’s sitting somewhere between a Bellevue (which are getting stupidly expensive, and I why I bought this instead) and something from Martinique. Whilst this is from molasses it’s a really good French style rum and one I’d definitely recommend picking up if you want to branch out from the normal flavour paths.

This cost me £33, which may seem like a lot for a 3 year old rum, but lets remember it’s 3 tropical years so you’re running at around 8-9 years European equivalent, and I can assure you it’s got a lot to give – it blows away a lot of the “premium” crap that’s out there at the moment that’s for sure. I’d happily repeat purchase this one.

Mezan Belize 10 year old – 2008/2018

What is it? Rum from Molasses, distilled in a triple column still at a distillery in Belize. The bottle doesn’t state the distillery but says that it is in Belmopan, which makes this a Travellers Liqours rum. The rum was distilled in 2008 and bottled in 2018 by Independent bottler Mezan. Now Mezan have really upped their game. Gone as the low abv bottlings with screw caps and along have come a new(ish) bottle complete with wooden topped cork stoppers and a higher abv, but more importantly the back of the bottle is excellent in terms of information – just the sort of thing this rum geek loves! So it tells us that the rum is matured in ex-bourbon casks for a period of 6 years tropically and 4 years in Europe, giving a total age of 10 years. However, the 6 tropical years are worth 12-18 years of European ageing due to Angels Share, so it puts this on a maturation par with a European rum of 16-22 years old. The bottle also notes the raw material used and the still type (molasses and triple column in this case); excellent Mezan, exactly what we’re after!

No added colour, not chill filtered and bottled at 46% abv.

Sugar? No

Nose: I really like this style, sometimes. It’s some quasi rum/bourbon thing going on; loads of warm oak, incense, cedar, sweet pipe tobacco, warm leather that has been in the sun. Brown butter, some lovely violets and bitter orange. There’s a zippy sherbet fizz to this too and some tinned pineapple chunks in juice – as well as the metallic tang of the tin they are in. Right through there is an earthy note of cashew nuts and dry roasted peanuts.

Palate: Medium to full mouth. Quite floral at first actually, with parma violet sweets, some orange blossom and rose. Then we get the oak, bitter dark chocolate, stem ginger, cinnamon and a whoosh of nutmeg. There is some orange caramel in here mid-way, vanilla, a tiny bit of coconut and butterscotch. The peanuts from the nose are there too under it all, but it’s creamy like a peanut ice-cream.

Finish: Long. Sweeter finish here with the chocolate, a little black cherry jam, cherry stones (like a cooling nutty taste), overcooked fruit loaf, raisin & cinnamon bagels that have been toasted and covered in salted butter. Some coconut appears here and a surprising rubber note of new tyres, rubber bands or a balloon. It starts to tighten up and gets tannic as it goes on, but just in time for another sip.

Thoughts? Like, like, like. Travellers rum can be quite hot and spicy, but I like that sometimes. It’s a rich, flavourful and warming rum. Very whisky or bourbon like at times and has a lot of complexity. There is a nice balance between the sweeter notes and the spices from the cask, and it’s always nice to have the option of something a little different from your normal rummy flavours on the shelf.

I think Mezan have the ageing balance and abv spot on here – I’ve really enjoyed drinking this rum and would happily buy another at the £45 it cost me. This is quite a price increase on older Mezan bottlings but you’re getting a decent increase in abv, nicer bottle and a damn sight more information. I’m more than happy to pay that bit extra to get that from my rum.

Havana Club Anejo 7 Anos

What is it? Havana Club Anejo 7 Anos (aged 7 years), is a molasses based rum distilled in a single column still in Cuba, and comes off at around 75% abv – so “Traditional Rum” under the Gargano Classification. The rum is aged for at least 7 years, tropically, in ex-bourbon casks with the additional twist of what Havana Club call “continuous aging”; basically, when casks are ready and selected, some of the aged rum is added back in to casks along with new spirit. They don’t say how they do this but it’s going to be similar to the way a Solera works I imagine, or atleast the principle and intended result is the same. The rum is intended to sit at the top of the standard lineup of Havana Club rums as a basic sipping rum in the light Cuban style.

Please note that this is the European version of this rum. The version that is available in America, as far as I’m aware, is actually from Puerto Rico.

 

Coloured, chill filtered and bottled at 40% abv.

Sugar? No.

Nose: Spirity at first, once that blows off it’s really quite good. A lot more decadent than I expected; chocolate praline, lightly roasted coffee beans, fudge, vanilla and toasted coconut. There’s a lovely smoky cigar leaf to this, but it’s not intense. Some cedar, nutmeg and clove in there too. A definite note of cane juice and some warm hay.

Palate: Spirity again, medium mouth feel. Quite zesty and fruity here at the start with limes, grapefruit and a bit of tangerine. It moves on to vanilla, caramel and then thickens to melted milk chocolate, roasted cashews, pecans, coffee and a roll of smoky cigar on your tongue. A touch of tar or oil at the back of the palate too as it moves to the finish with is surprising and adds a nice savoury touch.

Finish: Medium, just about. Milk chocolate again, Cafe Latte, pralines, coconut, toasted oak and a fruit that I can’t quite put my finger on, like a custard apple or lychee. There is a little slightly tart stone fruit and green apple right at the end.

Thoughts? I’ll point out that this isn’t my preferred style of rum, I’m generally not really into the light Cuban style and I wasn’t really expecting a lot from this, but I’m very pleasantly surprised indeed. Sure, it’s a lighter style and it’s certainly got some of the more sweeter notes than I’d normally choose, but it’s balanced, clean, well made and reasonably complex for what it is. Ok, it’s not the best rum I’ve ever had in my life but I’ve got to judge it for what it is and it’s a really solid rum. It can 100% be drunk neat, it can be mixed, and it’ll reward you well if you take a bit of time with it – especially if you manage to pick it up on sale like I did for £19……yes, £19. Very good value for money, I must say and one I’d pick up again for the right price.