Saint James 12 year old

20200722_193732What is it? An Agricole rum (cane juice based, column still) from the Saint James distillery in Martinique. I wont go over old ground here as I covered off Saint James and the Martinique AOC regulations around their rum and how it’s made in my review of the Saint James XO here. This one has spent at least 12 long tropical years maturing in oak and given the seasonality of the sugar cane harvest and the requirement to only use cane juice, getting hold of some of these longer aged Agricoles can be a bit of a challenge in the UK.

Not coloured, but chill-filtered and bottled at 43% abv.

Sugar? No.

Nose: Really beautiful straight away. Cloves, nutmeg and cinnamon. Fragrant sandalwood, ginger root, ground coffee, figs and prunes. There’s quite a bit of fruit here too with pineapple, mango and apricot but it’s not lively fresh fruit, instead the fruits are mixed in with the rich cask notes so they have a deep and full smell to them. There’s some lightness and freshness of white flowers, some warm cut grass or hay, and a lovely pipe tobacco deep down. You could probably wear this as a perfume and get away with it.

Palate: Medium mouth. A little sour and sharp at first with capers and a pickle like note which carries straight into some very floral and grassy tastes, with a touch of musty sack cloth. As it goes on it gets fruity with the pineapple, mango and some under ripe pears. Then the richer notes arrive with the prune, cinnamon, coffee grounds, a little tobacco and some bitter honey. Not as rich as the nose but definitely fresher, lighter and more tangy in the mouth.

Finish: Long. Just as it was trailing off things pick up again with a burst of spice in the form of ginger, nutmeg and some black peppercorns, a little brine and black olives. Dark chocolate and espresso pop up here and there, some more fragrant pipe tobacco again and pops of the sourness from earlier in the palate.

Thoughts? Really very nice. We’re walking that fine line here between fresh/floral, sour and rich. It has all of these elements and shows you a little of each without being too much in any one way. A really solid and inviting rum with a nose I could sit and smell all day long. It shows you its cane juice roots but holds your hand when it does it, so if you’re like me and primarily a molasses based rum drinker (it’s what we get most of in the UK), it offers a sense of safety whilst letting you explore some of the more traditional Agricole side.

I picked this up for £70. A great stepping stone from molasses rum into cane juice rum and one that makes me really want to explore the category much more. A very good balance between the cost of the rum and the quality of the experience you get, one I’d certainly pick up again.

Chairman’s Reserve Master’s Selection 9 year old (2011) – The UK Rum Club

What is it? Pure Single Rum (molasses based, pot still, single distillery) from Saint Lucia Distillers in Saint Lucia and this rum is bottled under their Chairman’s Reserve brand. SDL have a range of stills and produce rum from both molasses and cane juice which gives them an incredible blending range to chose from when making rums, this particular rum was produced on their Vendome pot still. It was a single cask that was selected by the founders of the UK Rum Club (Steve James; RumDiaries and Wes Burgin; TheFatRumPirate) and made available initially to their members (of which I am one), I think that it was later made available to the public via Royal Mile Whiskies.

The rum is from cask 173(1109). The ex-bourbon cask was filled in 2011 and it was aged tropically for 9 years before being bottled in 2020. 

My bottle is number 46 of 248.

Not coloured, not chillfiltered and bottled at 59.5% abv.

Note: I’ve taken this down to around 55% abv for my day-to-day drinking and the review as I find that is where it works best.

Sugar? No.

Nose: Woah, this is pungent. Lots of herbal, floral notes straight away with lavender, parsley, star anise and raw liquorice. Things settle down then to some beautiful banana bread, toffee, custard, sweet pipe tobacco, roasted mushroom then damp leaves and mud (that’s a good thing by the way). We’ve plenty of wood in the form of cinnamon and clove, little lifts of lemon, grapefruit and apple, then more banana. There’s a sharpness here too but it’s a sweet sharpness so we’re looking at some very well aged Balsamic and a little caper – there is an awful lot going on in here. 

Palate: Full mouth feel. Sharp and tangy at first, pickles, capers, Balsamic, horseradish. Then we’re on to the fruit with that gorgeous banana bread, grilled pineapple, candied papaya and a touch of mango. Things swing back around to the phenols shortly after with petrol, creosote, Tiger Balm, eucalyptus, stamp glue and pine sap. There’s wood here too but more in the form of some spiced warmth, a touch of leather and black pepper.

Finish: Very long. Hints of the medicinal and herbal notes linger but it’s more settled and “easier” here. There’s tobacco, leather, roasted nuts, very dark chocolate, banana again and some slightly sour fruit notes of green strawberry or something, I can’t quite put my finger on it.

Thoughts? Very intense, very deep and complex. There’s so much going on here it’s crazy. Even as an experienced rum drinker this is pushing the envelope; it’s a real Marmite rum, you’ll either love this or hate it. I LOVE it, I’ve literally laughed all the way through the tasting notes I’ve written. Ok look, it’s not very balanced and some of the notes are extreme, but this was selected to show the Vendome still off in all it’s glory and boy has it done just that. Bottles like this push a distillery right up my list of rums to chose in future.

This cost £90. A 9 year old rum. Now before anyone loses their shit this is one of those rums that you just ignore the number when it comes to age – this could have been a 4 year old or a 24 year old rum, I really don’t care, it’s all about the flavour.

So, if you’re new to rum, it’s probably best to leave this one alone. If you’re after expanding your rum horizons and want a bit of a challenge then this is definitely one for you. It’s mind blowing.

Panama 2008 (10 year old)- Mezan

20180821_193005What is it? Molasses based multi-column rum from Panama. This rum was distilled in 2008 and bottled in 2018 by Mezan, making it 10 years old. The aging breakdown of this rum has been covered off nicely by Mezan on the back of the bottle; 3 years tropical aging, 7 years European aging, all of which was done in ex-Bourbon casks.

Not coloured, not chillfiltered and bottled at 46% abv.

Sugar? No.

Nose: Lots of oak influence straight off the bat with cloves, ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg and real vanilla. Toasty warm oak and sun baked leather. Caramel, a little set honey, pralines and peanut. There is very little in the way of fruit, maybe a touch of charred pineapple in here and some orange rind, but it’s pretty much cask city on the nose.

Palate: Medium mouth feel. Dead easy to drink. Nothing more to add from the nose…..There’s a touch of oil, and a green olive type salty note but it’s pretty much nutmeg, clove, ginger, cinnamon and vanilla sitting over the top of caramels.

20180821_193014Finish: Short to medium. Some heat as you swallow and notes of tobacco, but once again we’re doing a rinse and repeat of everything that’s already come before. There’s nothing wrong with it, but it’s very one dimensional.

Thoughts? The nose is really nice but there’s not really much excitement to be had here, it’s all perfectly fine but a bit dull. This certainly isn’t the best Mezan rum I’ve ever had I’m afraid, and if I’m being totally honest it’s that boring I forgot I even had it open. I can’t even remember how much I paid for this, I think it was just under £50 and for that you really can do better, not a rum I’d buy again or recommend.


Foursquare Redoutable

20210309_133923What is it? Single Blended Rum (molasses based, column and pot still, single distillery) from the Foursquare distillery in Barbados. This is an Exceptional Cask rum from the distillery, specifically Exceptional Cask Selection Mark 15 – Redoutable, and follows on from Détente (ECS14) and the 2008 Vintage (ECS13) – we’ve been a little late in getting this in the UK unfortunately. So what’s in the bottle this time? Well we’ve got a Madeira rum to play with here. As in usual Foursquare ECS fashion this is rum that was distilled in pot stills and column stills, blended together and then put into a variety of casks, after maturation the various rums are blended together again to get the end result. The casks used in this rum are both ex-bourbon casks and ex-Madeira casks but I don’t have details on the maturation makeup here; it may be that some of the rum was fully matured in ex-Madeira or may be that they were part matured in ex-Madeira and recasked to ex-bourbon. The total maturation time for the rums is at least 14 years, all done tropically in Barbardos – that’s a long time in the tropics, accounting for around 30-40 years worth of European aging in terms of interaction impact.

Released in limited numbers of 12,000 bottles worldwide; 6,000 in Europe and 6,000 in the US.

No coloured, not chill-filtered and bottled at cask strength of 61% abv.

Note: I’ve been drinking this rum at around 57% abv so that’s the strength I’m reviewing it at.

Sugar? Nope.

Nose: Black Forest cake soaked in cask strength Foursquare (something like a Vintage Release, 2007 or some such). Loads of dark cherries, blackberry, blackcurrant and a big dollop of dark chocolate. We’ve some black or red plums, meaty figgy notes, mushrooms and the smell of an Autumn forest floor – dropped leaves and damp soil. There are fainter smells of roasted pecans, almonds and cashews, some coconut and vanilla. Near the end there is old waxed leather, boot polish and a sharp lift with some zingy redcurrants or cranberry. Gorgeous stuff.

Palate: Full mouth, weighty stuff right here folks. Pretty easy on first contact, not really that hot at all. Big oaky notes initially with toasted oak, coconut, nutmeg, cinnamon and cloves. Pretty drying and tannic. Then we’re on to the cherries and chocolate but with a kick, so we’re looking at some type of cherry, chocolate chunk and red chilli jam, pimentos, dark chocolate coated stem gingers, blackberry and black pepper compote. It’s a real mix of dark fruit, dry dark chocolate and just enough fragrant spice to prickle your mouth. Roasted nuts again but a bit more earthy here with walnuts this time and a little phenolic flurry at the end with grease, black olives and stamp glue.

Finish: Waaaaaaaay long. We’re right back to the nose with boozy rum soaked Black Forest cake and dirty muddy boots. Not much heat here either, save for a sweet red chilli or 2, then things sweeten to caramelised pineapple and plums. That tiny undertone of oil or grease lingers if you look for it which gives some nice savoury depth.

Thoughts? Another belter no doubt about that, as expected. This is the 4th Madeira matured rum so far, after Criterion, Sagacity and Diadem (although not an ECS releases but an exclusive to TheWhiskyExchange), it doesn’t live up to the Criterion for me but easily better than the other 2. It has the wallop over Sagacity and the balance over Diadem. It’s all the best bits of both added together and none of the flaws. For me this is a super winter warmer of a rum, a real heavy warmer and comforter of a tot. Is it my favourite ECS bottle from Foursquare? No it’s not. Don’t get me wrong, it’s cracking stuff but such is the quality of the rum coming along here all we can really compare Foursquare ECS releases to these days are other Foursquare ECS releases – I prefer this to some but not to others, that’s all I can say.

Retailed at £70ish, would I get another? Hell yeah! Can I? Shit no – this stuff sold out from the main shops within the hour it was released and various satellite shops sold their stock shortly after when everyone went hunting. Luckily I was able to get hold of one for my own personal consumption before all the “Investors” snapped them up.

Ninefold Edition 1 cask strength – 1 year old

What is it? Scottish Pure Single Rum (molasses based, pot still, single distillery) from the Ninefold distillery in Dumfries & Galloway. Ninefold is a tiny distillery on the Dormont estate near Dalton and is situated in a converted stone farm building. It’s pretty much a 1-man-band with Dr Kit Carruthers making the rum on a hybrid copper pot still, you can see a bit more about the distillery and the online shop on the website Ninefold Distillery

Ninefold is very small batch craft distillation and therefore there isn’t volume of product being pumped out, as such the range is still relatively small consisting of an unaged (white) rum and a spiced rum, although I know that will change with some time once aged stock starts to become ready. So far there’s been a couple of aged rums that Kit has produced, Edition 0 which was very limited in numbers and the rum which is being reviewed here; Edition 1. This edition of the rum was aged for 12 months in a new/virgin oak cask (specifically cask number 3!) after which it was released on 28th September 2020 and is a run of only 246 bottles, all of which are well past sold out now.

Aging the rum in virgin oak was a very clever thing, if you ask me. It’s pretty cold in Scotland and the Angels Share is only around 2-3% a year (albeit quite a bit higher in year 1) so there isn’t a massive amount of speedy maturation going on here. Unlike other cask types which are reused vessels (they’ve previously held Bourbon, or brandy, or whisky, or whatever), virgin oak is brand new. It’s charred up (in this case to a medium char) and filled with rum, this means that the first wood impact is directly into this rum and has not been taken away by any previous contents; it allows for a spirit that drinks at a higher maturity level than it otherwise would in refill casks. They do the same thing with Boubon, that has to be new oak, which is why there’s a lot of wood impact after just a few years. The problem is you can overdo things, so a 12 month period seems like a good middle ground.

Bit of a geeky bit now. The cask was filled at 60.9% abv and this is actually quite interesting. A lot of distilleries (especially Scotch Single Malt ones) fill to cask at 65% as it’s believed to be the most efficient abv for cask interaction – 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 of 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 a fill down near 60% is letting the natural wood sugars come out into the spirit to mellow the youth whilst still allowing high oak interaction with the virgin oak. Filling this higher up, nearer to 70% would likely have left it harsher and a lot more tannic.

Not coloured, not chillfiltered and bottled at cask strength of 59.6% abv.

Sugar? No.

Nose: Big and thick with huge amounts of butterscotch. It’s really forward on the caramels; toffee pennies from Quality Street, Caramac bars, real butter fudge, Banana Skids (that’s a sweet) and white chocolate. Under this caramel onslaught there is some fruit with vintage marmalade, green banana, grapefruit and mango jam. A little prickle of cinnamon, nutmeg and black peppercorns at the end.

Palate: Full mouth. Some heat at first, hey look it’s a young rum at cask strength so this wasn’t unexpected. Caramels again, golden syrup, maple syrup, tiffin and a big hit of chilli. After there’s a herbal aspect I can’t quite pin down, lemon barley sweets and menthol perhaps. Some really nice ginger biscuit notes as you swallow.

Finish: Medium. Quite hot as you’ve swallowed with red chillies, black pepper and tannic oak. Moves on to cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger root then sweetens again to Stroopwafles, toffee chews and milk chocolate. There’s a slight char/smoky note right at the end.

Thoughts? I don’t know what I was expecting here, but it blindsided me a bit. It’s very much on the sweeter note side (not actually sweet, no sugar here) but there’s enough spice and cask to stop it running away with itself. For a cask strength young rum it’s dangerously easy to drink. It’s not hugely complex at this point but it’s certainly very enjoyable. It’s clearly very well made rum and I can’t wait to see how Kit progresses Ninefold forward with future releases – exciting times.

This cost me £45 straight from the distillery online shop, now that is quite expensive for a 1 year old rum but you’ve got to take into account that this is being made by a bloke in a shed (ok, a big, very nice and very clean shed) and at the output volumes being done here there’s a unit price that things need to be sold at to even be viable to make. This is pretty much as craft as you can get with a spirit, and for the price I feel like I’ve definitely got value out of my bottle, so there’s no problem there – in fact, if there were any bottles still around I’d buy another.

This is the first rum I’ve had from Ninefold and based on this I’ll be picking up whatever the next release may be, no doubt about that.