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.) Continue reading
I haven’t reviewed very many rums on the blog; rarely going over 1 review per year. And all the rums I have reviewed have been from single distilleries. This one’s the exception. It is a blend of Jamaican pot still and Guyanese column still rums. The age and identities of the constituent rums are unknown to me. This was bottled for K&L in California a few years ago and went for the low, low price of $20. I have a horrible feeling that I am going to deeply regret having waited more than three years since receiving this sample from Sku to review it.
Golden Devil Dark Overproof Rum (57%; from a sample from a friend)
Nose: Molasses and (over-ripe) plantains and a slight rubbery note off the top and then the funk begins to come through bringing some diesel with it. Burnt caramel as it sits and a slight mossy note emerges as well. The funk recedes as it sits and it’s the plantains and caramel that dominate. A few drops of water push the funk back further and pull out some vanilla and aniseed. Continue reading
To close out Rum Week here is another Foursquare (see here for the previous). I have to admit I am not really on top of Foursquare’s special releases. I know that in addition to the vintage releases they put out some others with names that probably make the marketing braintrust at Dalmore gnash their teeth in envy. This one here is one of those non-vintage releases from 2020. It’s made from a blend of pot still and column still distilled rum. All of it is 14 years old, apparently, but some was aged entirely in ex-madeira casks and some in ex-bourbon casks. Was it half and half? I’m not sure. Anyway, this might be my first wine-bothered rum. I hope I enjoy it more than I do most wine-bothered whiskies.
Foursquare Redoubtable (61%; ex-bourbon and madeira casks; from a bottle split)
Nose: Rich with a mix of rummy and winey notes. As it sits the wine seems to trump the rum and there’s more leather and spicy wood. Begins to soften as it sits and there’s toffee and caramel and the whole gets sweeter. Rummier with water; the caramel darkens a bit, the toffee expands and there’s a bit of maple syrup too. A bit more water and it gets a bit dusty but also develops some orange peel. Continue reading
At some point in the last few years Hampden, the great, idiosyncratic Jamaican rum distillery, got into the business of special annual releases. I believe this one, which came out in 2020, was the second. I’m not sure if one has yet been released in 2021. I believe this is a somewhat unusual Hampden in that it is a blend that contains mostly low-ester spirit. So less wild than usual? Let’s see.
Hampden Great House, Distillery Edition, 2020 (59%; from a bottle split)
Nose: Ah yes, this is a Hampden: assertive, leading with bright notes of over-ripe banana, pineapple and lemon; herbal notes bring up the rear. What’s missing here is the usual heap of garbage rotting in the sun; well, it’s not completely missing but it’s not very loud. As it sits it picks up some light caramel and some toffee and quite a bit of diesel. The caramel expands with time and the diesel retreats. Okay, let’s add water: richer now as the caramel and toffee expand and are joined by brown sugar and the bananas get baked into banana bread. More conventional rum notes now but it’s quite lovely. Continue reading
It’s been a while since my last review of a rum; a year in fact (this Worthy Park). And it’s been even longer since my last review of a rum from Foursquare, the Barbados distillery. That was of the 11 yo release of the 2004 vintage, a bottle I liked a lot—enough in fact to buy several more of after that first encounter. Today I have for you a review of the release of the 2005 vintage. It’ll be the first of three rum reviews this week. Like the 2004 it was bottled at 59% abv and made without any addition of sugar or other additives. And it’s also a blend of pot still and column distilled rums and matured in ex-bourbon casks. It is, however, a year older. Will that make for a big difference in the profile? Let’s see.
Foursquare 12, 2005 (59%; from a bottle split)
Nose: Comes in sweet with caramel and molasses; just a hint of aniseed in the back. Some toffee too on the second sniff and the aniseed expands and picks up some herbal backing (sage). Gets sweeter as it sits (ripe plantain). Brighter with a few drops of water and there’s a bit of milk chocolate now along with an almost smoky note. Continue reading
And now a break from bourbon cask whisky and indeed from all whisky. This is a rum—though as I think about it, it’s quite likely it too was matured in a bourbon cask. The distillery in question is Caroni, a very big name in the rum renaissance of the last decade. Caroni has been referred to by whisky geeks as the “Port Ellen of rum”, not least because it too has closed (in 2002). Now you might think that calling something “the Port Ellen of x” would mean that it was being sold at a king’s ransom but that was not true of this cask when it was bottled by A.D. Rattray in 2012. I believe it went for about $50. I’m sure it would be a very different story these days.
Caroni was located in Trinidad. I know nothing about the usual profile of Trinidadian rums—I don’t even know if there is a usual profile in Trinidadian rum—and so I will not be able to tell you if this cask of Caroni is representative or not of Trinidad rum. And as it may well be the first Caroni I’ve had I can’t even tell you how representative it is of Caroni’s own rum. Now that you know just how uninformative this review will be, let’s get to it! Continue reading
More rum but not from a distillery I’ve reviewed before. This is from Worthy Park, like Hampden, a Jamaican distillery. The distillery has a long history but not a continuous one. It stopped distilling in 1960 and only started up again in 2005 with brand new facilities (see here for more on the distillery). This means this particular rum was produced in the first year of the distillery’s revival. It was bottled 11 years later by Cadenhead in Scotland. I’m not sure when Scottish and other European bottlers began to carry rum in a big way but I can only imagine that this has been a boon for the revitalized distilleries of the Caribbean. Now if only more of these rums would be available in the US. I purchased a 200 ml bottle from Cadenhead’s Edinburgh store last June and have been looking forward to tasting it. My only other exposure to Jamaican rum has been through a few wild releases of Hampden and I am curious to see how much of that character is shared by Worthy Park.
Speaking of things I have been buying but not reviewing, here is a rum. I’ve not reviewed very many rums and most of those that I have have been insane Hampdens from Jamaica. This is a rum from Barbados. Foursquare—like Hampden–is a working distillery but unlike it, has an official presence in the US. A number of rums from the distillery have been released here and they’ve been fairly priced. This 11 yo from 2004 is still available and can be found in the $60 range. That may seem like a very high price to those who’re accustomed to thinking of rum as a rough spirit to be mixed with Coke but this is a good sipping rum, and the price is very good compared to a lot of single malt whisky. The Springbank 12 CS, for example, goes for $80. This rum is, I believe, a blend of pot and column still distilled rums and like all of Foursquare’s rums is made without the addition of sugar or any other sweeteners prior to bottling. It’s one I really enjoy and it’s about time I posted a review. Continue reading
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
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