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.

Diamond 2003/2015 – Bristol Spirits

What is it? Single Traditional Rum (column still, molasses based, single distillery) from the Diamond distillery in Guyana. It was distilled in 2003 and bottled in 2015 by Bristol Spirits for the Bristol Classic Rum range, making it 12 years old. Almost all of the aging for this rum would have been in Europe as DDL (Diamond) are no longer supplying tropically aged rum, but as this was distilled back in 2003 there may be some tropical aging that has taken place prior to their change of policy – unfortunately no-one has the details of the aging split on this bottle. So which still is it from? Well unfortunately no-one seems to have any information on that either! We know it’s column still rum and it’s unlikely to be from the four-column Savalle still, so that leaves the Enmore wooden column or the Diamond metal column. It’s lighter in style than I’d expect from the Enmore, but given how many different marques that can produce it’s hard to say.

Coloured (most likely at source by DDL), chill-filtered and bottled at 43% abv.

Sugar? No.

Nose: Woody at first, plenty of toasty oak and burnt fruit loaf. Roasted coffee beans, raisins, brown sugar and oranges. There’s a little liquorice, a touch of tar and some smoky rolling tobacco. With a bit of time I’m getting some banana, lemon and pineapple at the end, but it’s quite a rich, soft nose rather than light and fruity.

Palate: Medium mouth feel, I was expecting it to be a bit fuller and thicker to be honest. Fruity entry with plenty of raisin, sultana and pineapple. Some orange and banana as it progresses and then some heavier notes of fruit cake, coffee and caramel. A little vanilla note and oak come out and then a slight bitterness of liquorice and caught molasses.

Finish: Short. Ouch. It ends pretty quickly which is disappointing. It’s quite fruit cake’y again here still with loads of raisins, cherries, sultana and orange. There’s a slight tar note and a touch of rubber glove towards the end.

Thoughts? The bottle says “soft fruit and easy style”, yeah, it’s easy drinking alright, but I find it heavier than it’s being portrayed by Bristol. It’s certainly not a heavy rum by any means but I wouldn’t describe it as light and fruity. It’s a good classic Demerara style rum. It balances soft fruitiness well with the richer, darker, heavier, more brooding notes. Ok, it’s not going to blow your mind but if you’re after a sugar/additive free classic style Demerara at a “normal” drinking strength then this could be one for you to go for. The thing is, there aren’t that many rums around like this; most of the rums that people think of as a typical Demerara style rum (like El Dorado) are sugared, or  blends, or both – so actually finding an unaltered one is a pretty tough task.

You’re looking at between £60 and £70 for a bottle of this depending on where you go, which I do think it quite a lot of money, but it’s climbed in price quite a bit these days. Why? Well it’s from “back then”, that’s why. Bristol Classic don’t seem to put much stuff out these days, I’ve certainly not seen anything new from them for a few years, but they were quite prolific some years ago and when I started out on rum they were really one of the only Independent bottlers about, as such their “old” rums are in quite high demand.

Would I get another of this? No, not for £70, but certainly one I’m glad I picked up whilst I could, just for nostalgia sake if nothing else.

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

Diamond 2003/2015 – Bristol Spirits

 

Or Master Of Malt here:

Diamond 2003/2015 – Bristol Spirits

New Grove 5 year old

What is it? New Grove “Old Tradition” 5 year old rum is a molasses based, column still rum, distilled at the Gray’s distillery in Mauritius – so Traditional Rum, under the Gargano classification. Once the rum is distilled, it is matured in Limousin casks (French oak) for at least 5 years in Mauritius. The Angel’s Share in Mauritius is higher than Europe but not as high as the Tropics, so with a 5 year age statement on here you’re looking at around 8 or so years of equivalent European ageing. What you have to remember though is that those 5 years have been spent in French oak, which is tight grained and has an intensity to it for spirit maturation.

Not chill-filtered, natural colour and bottled at 40% abv.

Sugar? No.

Nose: Very interesting indeed! Immediate massive hit of tropical fruit with bags of passion fruit, guava, mango and papaya. Quite quickly some more savoury elements appear in the form of eucalyptus, diesel, green olives, camphor and hot tyres. There is a little touch of smoke here too, like distant burning leaves.

Palate: Full mouth, quite oily; ah the joys of non chill-filtered rum, even at 40% abv. Savoury first here with olive again, celery, pear drops, diesel and a touch of rubber. Fruits then appear but more muted than on the nose; pineapple, nectarine, peach and a tiny bit of green banana skin. Some light oak spices with vanilla and cinnamon come out and a little brine at the end. There is something that keeps popping up throughout the palate that I can’t quite put my finger on and reminds me, oddly, of column still Caroni.

Finish: Medium. Not the biggest finish in the rum world, lets not beat about the bush here, it is only 5 years old and 40% abv. Sweeter here, some brine for sure and engine oil but more vanillas, nutmeg, cinnamon again and a little firm set honey. There is a faint smoke that lingers on your tongue and the tang of a flame grilled pineapple.

Thoughts? Very good. Different from most other rums out there. I don’t know what Gray’s do at their distillery but the fruit levels are intense on all the rums I’ve tried from them. If you gave this to someone who wasn’t widely familiar with rum styles for a blind tasting, they’d never say it was rum. This style of Mauritian rum is one I really love and it’s perfect for a hot day, very refreshing. I can’t quite decide if I prefer the 8 year old or this 5 year old to be honest, there isn’t really much in it in terms of quality and flavour but I guess this is less fruity and more savoury for some reason. I’d have thought it’d be the other way round.

I picked this up for £30. A lot of people would shy away given the age statement on the bottle, but forget it. For £30 it’s a cracker and you’re getting a real, transparent, aged rum – they could have quite easily put some”XO” or fancy name on the bottle instead of an honest “5 years old”, but no, they’ve told you what it is. They’ve not coloured it and they’ve not chill-filtered it. Hats off to them and it’s one I’ll be picking up again.

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.