I have been slow to board the rum boat. I’ve only reviewed three rums till now. In the meantime, Serge V.—who all but singlehandedly got whisky geeks around the world to start drinking rum—has already reviewed more rums than I have whiskies in the entire time that I’ve been reviewing whiskies. This is not an exaggeration.
One of the problems with being late to the party is that most of what first got people excited is already gone and prices have begun to rise. Still, they’ve got a long way to go to catch up with whisky. Hampden is a cult distillery, for instance, and this 18 yo, released last year, is still around and costs far less than the Highland Park 18. Of course, the bigger problem for those of us in the US is how little interesting rum is available here. K&L in California were the only ones committed to a rum program but the new limitations on inter-state shipping may have put paid to that: large numbers of bottles of a Hampden they brought in early in the year and expected to sell out in a day or two are still sitting on their shelves (well, it’s possible that asking $70 for a 9 yo rum may also have something to do with that). Anyway, there’s an opportunity here for independent bottlers who already have distribution channels across the US: if you make good rum available to us widely, we will buy it. Continue reading
I interrupt the highly untimely reviews of bourbon cask whisky (Aberlour, Aberlour, Bladnoch) to bring you a review of a relatively recently released Jamaican rum. Well, I guess it might be from a bourbon cask too—I confess I’m not very informed as to rum production methods. I can tell you though that this rum is from the Hampden distillery and that Hampden rums are all the rage these days among whisky geeks who are getting or have recently gotten into rum. I’m not sneering at this phenomenon, mind: here I am myself with a review of a Hampden rum despite not knowing very much about rum. I’ve reviewed another Hampden previously: a highly aromatic bruiser of a 6 yo. That one was bottled at 68.5% (!); this one is at a more staid 50%. A more important difference (possibly) may be that these come from different points in the distillery’s ownership history. As to whether this one is as off the charts with the esters as the Habitation Velier bottle, I don’t know, but I guess I’ll find out in a minute. Continue reading
As I made clear in my review of the Hampden 6 yo, I know nothing about Jamaican rum. I know even less about Demerara rum. And so I have nothing to say by way of introduction to this 25 yo rum from the Enmore distillery in Guyana except that it was bottled by K&L in California for their Faultline label and is long sold out. If you know more, please write in below.
Enmore 25, 1989, Demerara Rum (51.3%; Faultline; from a sample from a friend)
Nose: Overripe bananas with brown sugar and caramel. Spicier on the second sniff with cinnamon and clove. Gets a little varnishy as it sits and there’s some dried paint in there too. Caramel is the top note with time and there’s a mildly smoky/leafy note too now. A little sweeter with water. Continue reading
Rum was my drink of choice in my college and post-college years in India. That’s largely because rum was the only decent spirit available in India in those days. Indian whisky was not worth talking about, unless you managed to get your hands on a bottle of Solan No. 1 (which was hard to get even in the late 1980s)—even as a callow teenager I knew that all those whiskies were largely good for was getting drunk, and even then you’d have to mix them with a lot of soda. There were some decent rums though—Old Monk, for example. Truth be told, we drank Old Monk largely with coke as well but it did not punish you if you drank it neat or with water. (Old Monk is still around and even available in the US as of a few years ago.) And not that I could afford very good taste when I came to the US as a graduate student in the early 1990s, but rums that were widely available then (or even now for that matter) weren’t very much better (either bland white rums or spiced monstrosities). Of late though the situation has begun to change as more esoteric rums from the Caribbean have begun to become available and rum is slowly making the transition from a cocktail ingredient to a sipper in its own right. It’s behind tequila and even mezcal in this regard but it’s getting there. Continue reading
Last week I had a review of a 20 yo Chateau de la Grangerie distilled in 1994 and bottled for K&L in California. I was not a fan. This 50 yo from 1964 was bottled at the same time, also for K&L. Is it much better? It’s certainly the oldest Armagnac I’ve yet had
Chateau de la Grangerie 50, 1964 (43%; bottled for K&L; from a bottle split)
Nose: Rich fruit (plum, orange peel, a bit of apricot) and oak and spice (cinnamon mostly, some clove too). Gets more leathery as it sits and the orange peel expands and there’s some black tea as well. Gets thinner with a lot of time and there’s a slight note of talcum powder as well.
Here is my fourth Armagnac review and the third review of a K&L exclusive Armagnac. I thought their Domaine de Baraillon 30 was quite good and that the Chateau de Pellehaut 17 was excellent and so my hopes are up for this one as well. Like Pellehaut, Chateau de la Grangerie is located in the Ténarèze appellation; unlike it, this is made entirely from the Ugni Blanc grape. K&L has brought in a number of other Armagnacs as well from this producer—indeed next week I will have a review of a much older one. And that more or less exhausts my opening patter…and so let’s get right to it.
Chateau de la Grangerie 20, 1994 (45.5%; bottled for K&L; from a sample from a friend)
Charles Neal, author of the only book on Calvados you need purchase, says of Huard that it is to AOC Calvados sub-region/appellation what Camut is to the Pays d’Auge and Lemorton to the Domfrontais: the most admired of its producers. Then again, Charles Neal is the US importer of Huard so he might be a little biased. I purchased this from Astor Wines in New York (I’m not sure if it’s an exclusive). It is a blending of Calvados from three vintages: 1990, 1992 and 1999. That is to say, the youngest Calvados in this blend is 16 years old and the oldest is 25. Astor is currently selling it for about $60. I mention the age and the price because they’ve particularly been on my mind since my friend Sku posted reviews on Monday of two teenaged Calvados imported by Nicolas Palazzi, a 16 yo and a 18 yo that are selling for $200 and $225 respectively (also at Astor): more than three times the price of this Huard. Sku raves about those Calvados but didn’t have much to say about the price in his review. Continue reading
Chateau de Pellehaut is in the Armagnac-Ténarèze appellation/region (Bas-Armagnac is the dominant one of the three; Haut-Armagnac is the third). Not knowing very much about the regions or their characteristic styles, I can only parrot what I have gleaned from other sources: brandies produced in Armagnac-Ténarèze are said to be more rustic and robust than those produced in Bas-Armagnac. This was made entirely from the Folle Blanche grape, which is historically the most important grape in Cognac and Armagnac production. I’m afraid I don’t know enough to be able to tell you how Folle Blanche Armagnac might differ from that made from other grapes—perhaps someone with more experience can fill us in on this in the comments.
This was bottled by K&L in California a few years ago. They’ve really done a remarkable job of promoting Armagnac in recent years. Continue reading
After two weeks of Armagnac let’s go back to Calvados Wednesdays for a bit. You may recall that my first Calvados review was of the new release of Domaine Hubert from K&L. You may also recall that I expressed some skepticism about the claim that this was essentially the same as their original release of Domaine Hubert, which had a vintage stated and was 6-7 years old. It certainly didn’t taste like it was very much more than four years old. Well, Florin, winner of the second season of Celebrity Apprentice, is a big fan of that 2006 Hubert and insisted that I try that one as well. (By the way, I’d sent him a sample of the new Hubert and he shared my reservations about it, though he did like it more.) He gave me a sample and here I am now with a review. I tasted it alongside a pour of the recent version. It couldn’t be done blind because the difference is obvious before you even taste them: the 2006 vintage is much darker—make of that what you will…
Last week I posted my first Armagnac review, of the 30 yo Domaine de Baraillon bottled for K&L in California. That one is long gone. I remarked that at $80 a bottle it had seemed like an unthinkable value for someone like me who is reeling from the sharp increase in single malt whisky prices over the last few years. (Truth be told, it has been a very, very long time since any officially bottled 30 yo single malt whisky has been available for less than $100, leave alone any that were actually of high quality.) Well, today’s Armagnac is slightly younger, but only slightly at 25 years old, but it is an even better value on the face of it: it is available for close to $60 in a number of markets. Unlike the de Baraillon, it’s also widely and seemingly continuously available. As such I am hoping that I will like it a lot too.
Given the fact that they have a very snazzy website Delord is obviously not a small-scale farm producer. I have to admit I have a knee-jerk inclination to favour the idea of farm producers when it comes to Calvados and Armagnac—I have to constantly remind myself that almost no Scottish distillery fits that bill. Anyway, let’s see what this is like. Continue reading
Okay, let’s stay in the brandy family for Wednesday reviews but let’s mix in some Armagnac with the Calvados. I know even less about Armagnac than about Calvados, if such a thing is possible. I blame Charles Neal for this: unlike his great book on Calvados, his book on Armagnac is out of print (and the reviews for it are not as strong). I know it is a grape brandy like Cognac: I know that unlike Cognac, and like a lot of Calvados, it is single-distilled; I know that it hails from Gascony; and I know that it has three sub-appellations, of which bas-Armagnac has the status that Pays d’Auge has in Calvados. That is more or less where my knowledge ends. I know very little about the producers and about which have stronger reputations than others. This is a bit of a shame as the variety of Armagnac available in the US is greater than that of Calvados and the prices are much better. If you know of a good guide to Armagnac producers please point me in its direction. Continue reading
Camut is perhaps the most famous and renowned of all the Calvados houses. As per Charles Neal, the family has been making Calvados for seven generations now and Adrien Camut was instrumental after the 1960s in the promotion of Calvados as a spirit to be taken seriously. He also apparently made a number of technical innovations in the production process that led to other producers asking him to make stills for them. (He passed away in 1989—the domaine is now run by his grandsons.) But Camut is not just important historically; their Calvados has a very high reputation. In fact, when I began to express an interest in Calvados, more than one person—Sku among them—urged me to try Camut as one that I would be sure to like. I’m now finally getting around to it. I’ll be curious to see if the pride of the Pays d’Auge challenges my current preference for the pear-heavy Calvados of the Domfrontais. My understanding is that most producers in the Pays d’Auge use far less than the 30% poire content that is the maximum allowed for the Pays d’Auge appelation—and given the fact that pears are mentioned not at all in Neal’s entry on Camut in his otherwise comprehensive book, I suspect that Camut might be one of the producers who use no pear at all. If you can confirm or dispute this please write in below. Continue reading
I really enjoyed the Lemorton Réserve and so I am really looking forward to this much older iteration. Especially as in his wonderful book on Calvados (which, yet again, I recommend highly) Charles Neal has high praise for older Lemortons. Granted he is speaking of vintage releases from the 1970s but still. I am curious to see if this will be closer to its much younger sibling or to the 18 yo Bordelet-Beudin I reviewed last week. I quite liked that one but noted that it seemed in many ways to be closer to bourbon and wine cask-matured malt whisky than to younger Calvados (as always, note the caveat of my very limited Calvados exposure); it was also quite oak-driven. Will all that be even more true of this even older Calvados? Let’s see.
This was bottled for Astor Wines in New York and at $125 is about half the price of the 18 yo Bordelet-Beudin. Continue reading
If this Calvados has a bit of a mouthful of a name it’s because it has a complicated origin. It was bottled by Eric Bordelet, who makes Calvados but it wasn’t distilled by him. Henri Beudin is apparently his neighbour. Beudin does not, however, make an appearance in Charles Neal’s great book on and guide to Calvados (which is rather comprehensive and which, again, everyone should buy). This suggests that Beudin is not a regular Calvados producer. Bordelet, however, is in the book, but at time of publishing (in 2011) he was not yet bottling his own Calvados, “as he feels many of his spirits are still too young” (Neal, 562). He is a renowned maker of cider, however, and I’ve heard very good things about his cider, some of which is available in the US. Bordelet, and presumably his neighbour, Beudin, are in the Domfrontais region but Neal reports that Bordelet double-distills his Calvados—I’m not sure if this is true of Beudin as well. If someone who has a bottle could clarify if this is mentioned on the label (or if the Domfrontais appellation is used, which would require single distillation) that would be great. All I have is this sample, which Sku kindly shared with me—he really liked it and I’m interested to see what I make of it. At 18 years of age, it’s the oldest Calvados I’ve yet had. Continue reading