Okay, for the first full week of reviews in March let’s do a week of things that are not single malt whisky. I’ll start with a rum that has an unlikely whisky connection. As we all know, it’s not very unusual anymore to see whiskies that have been “finished” or double matured in rum casks. What I have for you today, however, is something that goes in the opposite direction: it’s rum that was finished in an Islay cask. The rum in question is from Panama, though I believe Grander is the brand name of an independent bottler rather than a distiller. This rum was matured for 10 years in an ex-bourbon cask—which is fairly par for the course for rum—but then finished for an additional year in an Islay cask (the rumour is that the cask in question was from Ardbeg). As to where the finishing happened—at the distillery in Panama or elsewhere, I’m not sure. It’s a bit embarrassing that I don’t know, considering I’m a member of the private group for which this was bottled. I will make it my life’s work to find this out sometime in the next 10 days to 10 years. In the meantime, here are my notes on this chimerical creature. (The bottle was opened a while ago; these notes are from my fourth or fifth pour.)
Grander Rum 11, Islay Peat Finish (62.4%; from my own bottle)
Nose: Comes in with big smoke off the top—charred and phenolic—with some chilli pepper in there too along with a fair bit of salt. The rum takes a backseat here, adding some sweetness but not a very obvious rum character. With time the sweeter notes pop out a little earlier and the rum character begins to assert itself; some orange peel too now. With a lot more time and then a squirt of water we’re now firmly in rum territory: the smoke has receded and the molasses and aniseed are out in force; some toffee too.
Palate: Big smoke here too to start—more char and ash here than phenols. Surprisingly approachable at full strength; oily texture. Sweeter as it turns to the finish. The rum character starts emerging earlier with every sip and the char begins to turn to cracked black pepper and plenty of it. With more time there’s a vegetal note, somewhere between herbal and bell peppery—it works well here. Okay, let’s add some water. It doesn’t push the smoke back completely here as on the nose but the rum character is far more pronounced here too now.
Finish: Medium-long. It’s here that the rum fully emerges as the smoke dies down, with molasses, aniseed and a light herbal note emerging as it heads towards the close. Quite a bit of salt here as well. With time there’s some pencil lead and then quite a bit of the cracked pepper. Quite a bit sweeter with water.
Comments: This is fun stuff. Right off the bat it’s like two drinks in one: coming in as smoky whisky on the nose and palate and then transitioning smoothly to a sweeter herbal rum on the finish. With time, air and water the rum becomes more pronounced. A good changeup and I look forward to seeing how it develops with more air in the bottle. And I’m kind of wishing I’d gotten two bottles instead of just the one.
Rating: 87 points.