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RumCask Presents: Top 3 Rum Releases 2017

A very happy 2018 to all of our RumCask family out there.

To kick off the year we have decided to collaborate with some of the most respected rum voices in the industry to find out their favourite releases of 2017. You will find links to their social media accounts and websites with their opinions. If you want to widen your horizon here is a fantastic group of people who between them have an incredibly diverse knowledge of rum.

Please click on the picture or logo below to find out their selection of the top 3 rum releases in 2017.

 

TheFatRumPirate – Wes Burgin

Wes runs a great website on rum. As he puts it ‘it is an unsophisticated review on the world of Rum’  We especially enjoyed his recent article on Top Ten Rums…So Far. Go and have a read for yourself.

https://www.thefatrumpirate.com
https://twitter.com/thefatrumpirate
https://www.facebook.com/thefatrumpirate
https://www.instagram.com/thefatrumpirate/

 

The Cocktail Wonk – Matt Pietrek

Matt runs a fantastic website that is more than just rum and as he puts it ‘a unique take on spirits and craft cocktails.’ With a passion for most things drinks related and a massive list of professional highlights (which can be seen here) you’d be mad not to take a look at the great work he does.

https://cocktailwonk.com/
https://www.facebook.com/cocktailwonk/
https://www.instagram.com/cocktailwonk/
https://twitter.com/cocktailwonk

 

Rum Shop Boy – Simon Johnson

Simon doesn’t work in the spirit’s industry and is not endorsed by anybody. He writes to help to elevate the category and in particular the pure rums. Simon has a large list of reviews on some independent bottlers which haven’t been tried elsewhere. We especially enjoyed his Paddington Bear’s First Sip review.

https://rumshopboy.com/
https://www.facebook.com/rumshopboy/
https://www.instagram.com/rumshopboy/
https://twitter.com/rumshopboy

 

The Lone Caner  – Lance Surujbally

In his own words Lance is not a judge, bartender, promoter, evangelist, cocktail guru, distiller, producer or in any way commercially involved with the industry. He is a man who is fortunate enough to have travelled the world and loves reading and writing, especially about rum. Being amongst the first people to write about some of the most sought after rums such as Velier, Rum Nation and Compagnie des Indes, he is definitely somebody you need in your rum life!

http://thelonecaner.com/
https://www.facebook.com/thelonecaner/
https://twitter.com/TheLoneCaner

 

Rum Ambassador – Ian Burrell

Ian Burrell – The Global Rum Ambassador, Edu-Tainer, TV Presenter, Speaker, Rum Consultant and Jamaican Blooded Man. Also the owner of the UK Rumfest. But what does he do? Well in his own words “I travel around the world spreading the gospel according to rum through seminars, mixology, bar training, tastings, judging competitions and drinking rum, so smile & enjoy, life’s too short”. If that isn’t a mantra you can get behind, I don’t know what is!

http://rumfest.co.uk/
https://www.facebook.com/IanRumAmbassador
https://twitter.com/Rum_Ambassador
https://www.instagram.com/ukrumfest/

 

Rum Diaries Blog – Steven James

Steven’s blog on rum pulls no punches! As he puts it, ‘My aim, is to hopefully look at the Rums that I’ve tried in the past, am still trying and hope to try in the future.’ We especially enjoyed his informative Interview with Nikos Arvanitis. Make sure you check it out.

https://rumdiariesblog.wordpress.com
https://twitter.com/rumdiariesblog/
https://www.facebook.com/rumdiariesblog
https://www.instagram.com/rum_diaries/

 

The Floating Rum Shack – Peter Holland

Peter is best described as a rum presenter, writer and consultant. Take a look at his Rum CV here to see the myriad of key rum events of which Peter has been part of. Make sure you check him out for all your rum needs be it information on the rum world, to maybe getting lucky enough to partake in one of his twitter tastings!

https://thefloatingrumshack.com
https://twitter.com/floatingrumshac
https://www.facebook.com/FloatingRumShack/
https://www.instagram.com/thefloatingrumshack/

 

Ivar De Laat

Not being content with having a passion of his being seen as average by most people, Ivar wants to promote honest producers and their products to help to make any difference he can. He has a desire to gain rum knowledge from the true experts and then share that knowledge as far as he can. Ivar is really trying to push the rum category forward in Canada. Join his Facebook group to try to help him spread the good word!

Facebook – Rum Club Canada

 

Steve Leukanech

I believe a great way to describe Steve would be as a leading rum activist who is pushing for the rum category to have more transparency. Also Steve is organising a “Rum Geek Barbados Takeover 2018” trip. This is going to be in April and he has already arranged a huge amount of rum based activities. Current timeline includes a an informal chat with Richard Seale and Luca Gargano, Lunch tours at the Foursquare distillery, an event at St. Nicholas Abbey and plenty of meet-ups with some other rum enthusiasts who are making the journey as well. We believe this trip to Barbados is one not to be missed!

Facebook – Rum Geek Barbados Takeover 2018

 

Stefan Kerner

Stefan had his first rum involuntarily in 2006 during a visit to River Antoine Rum Distillery in Grenada. But it wasn’t until his trip to Jamaica in 2013 to Appleton Estate when he really forged a growing interest in the noble spirit. His rum journey has taken him to many rum festivals and distilleries throughout the world. Along the way rum became more than a spirit to Stefan and each of the bottles in his vast collection hide an emotional story and links to the great friends all created from rum.

 

 

 

RumCask Family

To round off, I guess it is only right to finish on our favourites of 2017. We tried to pick unique rums from the year but struggled to diversify from the lists chosen. We did our best!

https://www.rumcask.com
https://www.facebook.com/RumCask
https://twitter.com/RumCask
https://www.instagram.com/RumCask

 

Conclusion

As you can see overall, there is a huge variety of rum here. We think this goes to show that the rum world we are truly blessed with some stunning releases last year, and leaves us all excited for 2018!

A massive thank you to all of the rum voices who contributed. Please go and check out their respective websites and follow them as well over social media to be kept up on the rum world. They all have unique takes on the great spirit that is rum.

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Review 17 – Foursquare Rum Distillery 2004

Foursquare Rum is renowned in the rum community. Ever since 1926 when Reginald Leon Seale founded the company in Barbados, rum has run through the veins of the Seale family. Today the master distiller and blender is his great grandson Richard Seale. Foursquare’s philosophy around the rum industry are to remain purists. They focus on the authenticity, complexity and balance of rum.

Recently, Foursquare have released a range of Rums known as their “Exceptional Cask Selection” and this 2004 is the third release from that range. It is labelled as the Mark III. Also it is worth noting that this release is the first that has been bottled at cask strength (59% ABV), much higher than the previous two.

The labelling on the bottle is very unique and ground-breaking. Rather than focus on a big brand logo, instead we are given all information about this rum on the labels. We are provided with the name of the distillery, country of origin, wood in which it was aged, time spent aging, the distillation process and the release date. We are also shown the ABV level as well. This represents a refreshing change from the norm and puts all the information in the hands of the customer for them to make a decision on whether this is a rum they would like to purchase.

Alongside that information we are told this rum is “Single Blend.” Richard Seale has been working closely alongside Luca Gargano and they are trying to push for a new labelling system in the rum industry so that the consumer understands what they are drinking. In this case “Single Blend” means rum which has been blended together from a single distillery. In this case we have a blend of pot still rum and column distilled rums. Look out for our article on that classification coming soon!

But let’s get into the review.

In the glass the rum is a golden mahogany colour. This has come purely from the production process and not from any added caramel colouring. The nose brings a hit of ethanol due to the high ABV, but past this I get notes of vanilla, smokey oak and some fruits. I also get some green apple and sugar cane juice. Quite classically Bajan.

Enough of the smelling, it’s time to taste. The first thing we would recommend here is care! This rum is 59% ABV and deserves respect. For those who like their rum strong by all means go ahead, but feel free to add a few drops of water to bring it down to a level that is more palatable for you.

After a couple of small sips to get accustomed to the powerful nature of the spirit, the flavours start to appear from behind the alcohol burn that is present. There is spiciness on the front of the tongue which doesn’t travel through the tongue but seems to appear again at the back of the throat. Now we get some of the notes which were on the nose earlier. The oak comes through alongside the spicy notes and some vanilla. The time spent in this bourbon oak is really shining through. Delving deeper we find hints of raisin and dried apricots. Very well balanced and the ending doesn’t burn anywhere near as much as expected with the ABV that is present. Amazingly well balance with a myriad of flavours for you to discover. Adding a few drops of water helps bring these flavours out further and unearth a couple of others including dark chocolate, hints of leather and something slightly akin to walnuts but a tad sweeter.

It is easy to see why this rum is part of Richard Seale’s exceptional cask selection range. It is also easy to see why this rum has received so many different awards by the IWSC and the ISC. The ISC also voted Foursquare the 2017 Rum Producer of the Year.

A final point to mention on this rum is the price. At just £50 the value of this rum is extraordinary. Aged for 11 years, nothing added except the master blender’s years of experience, this rum is a must have in your collection.

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Review 16 – HSE – Élevé Sous Bois

A little while ago RumCask put on a Rum Masterclass at Charlotte’s W5, Ealing for those who wanted to discover or even learn more about the wonderful spirit! Rums made from molasses and sugar cane honey were of course present but we also wanted to challenge our audience with a true Rhum Agricole. Agricoles are distilled from sugar cane juice and are typical of the French Islands of the Caribbean such as Martinique and Guadeloupe. Our rhum of choice for the group that evening was the HSE Élevé Sous Bois (big thanks to Roger Barnes, Sergio Murath and Timmy Falzon for their support).

Habitation Saint-Etienne’s own website provides the best insight into the history of the distillery and paraphrasing would do it an injustice:

“Saint Etienne was modelled after “La Maugée”, a sugar refinery covering over 400 hectares from Gros Morne to Saint Joseph in the early 19th century. The architectural structure, including the master’s house, overlooking the distillery and the old workers’ huts, reflect a typical farm in Martinique.

In 1882, Saint Etienne was purchased by Amédée Aubéry, a young captain of industry who became one of the most famous figures in the economy of Martinique. He transformed the sugar refinery into a farm distillery and began to modernise infrastructures. He expanded the factory and built a beautiful façade with 28 curved windows, providing the building with optimal ventilation. Railways were set up near the distillery: draft animals pulled trolleys carrying sugar cane. Hydraulic power was provided by the River Lézarde through a stony canal that ran through the Creole garden. 

In 1909, the property came into the possession of the Simonnet family who developed the distillery activity until its decline at the end of the 1980s. The estate was taken over in 1994 by Yves and José Hayot, who relaunched the Saint-Etienne brand and began restoring and enhancing the sugar estate’s architectural heritage. The distillery, henceforth registered in the Additional Inventory of French Historic Monuments, is one of the only-remaining and most precious references of the craftsmanship and aesthetic appeal of industrial architecture of the end of the 19th century in Martinique. Its renovation is nearing completion.”

Today HSE has 18 different varieties of rhum ranging from their Rhum Blanc 50o through to a range of world cask finishes aged in barrels from Olorosso and Pedro Ximenez.  HSE even has a rhum that is aged in a heavily charred Kentucky Bourbon barrel known as the Black Sheriff!

Our chosen HSE offering for the evening was the Élevé Sous Bois (ESB). To wine drinkers ESB is a term that refers to a “forest floor or undergrowth note”; something seasoned Agricole drinkers will be able to relate to. Now just as the EU (ooo errr) has its Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) to ensure things like Feta Cheese, Champagne and Melton Mowbray Pork Pies all come from where they say they do (and thus avoiding frauds) the French created the Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée (AOC). A rhum that is labelled “Martinique Rhum Agricole AOC” must meet strict guidelines as to how it is produced pertaining to its terroir, distillation process and ageing. The three categories are Rhum Blanc Martinique, Rhum Martinique Élevé Sous Bois (cask aged) and Rhum Martinique Vieux (extra aged). For more information click here.

HSE’s ESB has been aged from between 12 and 18 months in French Oak barrels on the island and is bottled at 42% ABV (all Martinique rhums must be a minimum of 40%). On the nose we get vanilla, under-ripe fruits and some dried herbs.  The nose is subtle and welcoming and does not suggest caution is necessary! On the tongue, the sensation is quite different. That “undergrowth” in its etymology comes to the fore and we taste grassy notes alongside the herbs.  The rhum is pleasant and light on the tongue and quickly slides to the back of the throat but the flavour is all at the front and does not linger. Here we get the white grape juice mentioned in the official tasting notes alongside pear, raisins and vanilla. The rhum is young and full of character but wildly different to an equivalent aged rum from molasses.

The looks around the room are inquisitive and quite honestly, dubious! The masterclass was purposely designed to throw some curveballs at people and the HSE ESB followed quick on the heels of a (genuine) 12 year from Trinidad. Predictably a crowd pleaser (and rightly so) the HSE ESB was sent up next as an abrasive affront to everything our class had just learned to love! However, as people took their second and third sips (our classes had pretty generous pours) you could sense a shift in the tide and as eyebrows raised, the rhum went down. The HSE ESB had opened the eyes to a new room of r(h)um drinkers as to the wonders of Agricole and its steep history and culture.

As you know, we don’t rate rums on our platform but we would like to tell you how to drink them if you’d let us kindly! If you were to get yourself a bottle of HSE ESB (and we highly suggest you do) then perhaps the way to best cultivate it to your drinking repertoire is by creating a Ti’ Punch cocktail. Check out our write up here on that particular favourite of ours.

A votre santé!

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Review 15 – Alnwick Rum

Much has been written over the past few years about Alnwick Rum and the “Spirit of Northumberland” but no review of the drinks on offer would be complete without discussing the origins of this fine producer from the North East of England.

Alnwick Rum was founded in 1914 and the original recipe was a closely guarded secret blend of funky Jamaican and Guyanese rums (loving the sound of this already right?). Associated with the Alnwick Brewery Company, both entities ceased trading in the 1980s and the recipe was lost for more than 20 years.

After the death of his father, John Bernard Linsley in 2001, Ian Linsley discovered the secrets of the Alnwick Rum in his paperwork. Ian’s father was the managing director and chairman of Alnwick Brewery when it closed in 1986. In 2003 he re-registered Alnwick Rum Ltd and relaunched the long enjoyed dark spirit.

The Spirt of Northumberland was setup as a new operating company incorporating Alnwick Rum Company Ltd and the Alnwick Brewery Company Ltd (Ian also produces meads and ale). Harry Hotspur Holdings was established as the new holding company to “manage the traditional recipes, trademarks and intellectual property of the business”. For more business drill-down please check out The Journal.

Harry Hotspur (real name Henry Percy) was the 1st Earl of Northumberland’s son and the most famous knight of Alnwick Castle. He was immortalised in Shakespeare’s Henry IV and is the reason a certain North London football club have their name! (one of the founders of Tottenham played near Percy House and made the suggestion). However perhaps his greatest achievement to date is that he now proudly adorns the Alnwick Rum bottles.

So, what do we know about the rum? Very little to be honest. There is no age statement (which makes a lot of sense given the various blends) and one can only hazard a guess at additives such as sugar and colourant. The recipe and the distillers are all a secret too. Our best reading and research suggests powerful, pungent, pot-still rums from Guyana and Jamaica (Alnwick are upfront about the origin of their rums) combined with continuous-still rums as suggested by the official literature: “the introduction of other selectively aged rums during the marrying process…” Given the pricing point of Alnwick Rum it would make perfect sense for the entire blend not to be completely from a pot-still.

Our friends at Alnwick, kindly sent us three different samples to get accustomed with and here is what we found:

Description – Guyanese rum reduced from Cask Strength with water from Northumberland (37.5% ABV).

Sight – Crystal clear, no sediment (suggests chill filtration).

Nose – Initially we get vanilla, raisins and a buttery sweetness. Very light and inoffensive.

Taste – At first, we get a warm, smooth, light and buttery flavour. All the flavour is focused at the front and middle of the tongue. The White Knight is subtle and has floral notes.

Thoughts – A young rum but pleasant. The lack of oak gives clear indication to its youthfulness and most likely from a column still. We think it would work wonderfully in a daiquiri or an espresso martini!

Description – The very rum from the original WWI era recipe (43% ABV). Guyana and Jamaica rums, blended in Holland, bottled in Scotland (for now).

Sight – Very treacly with big caramel colouring.

Nose – Over-ripe bananas and mango, some classic pot stilled funk!

Taste – The rum runs over the back of your mouth but doesn’t linger. It is quite dry yet not overpowering. There is almost a burnt, bitter finish with some deep spice. It is bold yet balanced.

Thoughts – The Legendary has the look and notes of dark rums of years gone by. There is more aging and power here than the White Knight and we’d guess an average age of 4 years. We think it would work well in a rum punch or a MaiTai to cut through those fruity flavours.

Description – All we are told is Caribbean rums (fingers crossed still Guyanese and Jamaican for consistency alone!) mixed with spices and exotic fruits (40% ABV).

Sight – Golden/Amber and less treacly than The Legendary

Nose – Cinnamon, star anise, all spice and small citrus hint. Very pleasant!

Taste – Not overpowering and buttery. Medium-dry and all the flavour is in the spice.

Thoughts – A lovely spiced rum that reminds us of a good rum cake! We tried it with ice and ginger beer and it worked perfectly!

Overall, we feel that these three releases from Alnwick are meant to make great additions to some classic rum based cocktails to help you distinguish from the pack!

 

 

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Review 14 – Mezan Rum

Social media is a wonderful thing and truly connects people everywhere. Thanks to our (relentless) posting of cocktails and rums on Instagram we were contacted by Mr. Warren Bobrow, the USA brand ambassador for Mezan rum who kindly introduced us to his wonderful partners in London.

Fast forward two months and the RumCask Family found itself stood outside Edison House on Old Marylebone Road excited about the evening ahead! Let’s sample some rums we thought. Take a dozen photos, write up the tasting notes and complete the social media circle-of-life by clicking post!

Wrong. Very wrong.

What was to ensue over the next two hours would be nothing short of a history lesson in spirits and yes, rum would take centre stage but by no means would it steal the show in this all-star cast. You see Mezan rum is but one of many brands owned and distributed by Marussia Beverages (formerly Eaux de Vie).  Established in 1984, Marussia Beverages import and distribute a fantastic array of spirits. Starting over 30 years ago with Cognac, Armagnac and Calvados they now boast a range that includes many gins, bourbons, sake, vodka, sherry and rum!

Our host for the evening was Mr. Philip Wilson, brand manager for Marussia. “Head down there and his office is on the left” said a helpful gentleman when we first stepped on to the Marussia floor. Our collective jaws hit the floor when we walked in because this truly is an office like no other. Desk to one side, a few boxes on the other, a large conference style table in the middle and a bar at the back! Actually, most bars would only hold a fraction of the bottles that Philip’s shelves held. Here stood a true library of spirits.

The ethos of Marussia we were told has always been about “the story”.  Who is the producer, why is he or she distilling this spirit and how are they doing it? Philip explained that “Once we find a good distiller we know we can work with them. We know that they will be consistent and continue to make a good product”. The mantra is organic and true and the company has grown from roughly half a dozen people 10 years ago to more than 40 today.

img_3375So to rum and specifically, Mezan. Many years ago having purchased some casks from Jamaica and Guyana the team left them to the side to mature and almost forgot about them! Perhaps they were being kept for a future staff party but when they revisited them they realised they’d bought something pretty special. This set off a chain of events that sent their Cellar Master travelling throughout the Caribbean searching for rums that were “artfully crafted from a single year’s distillation by a single distillery (some of which no longer exist). Unsweetened, uncoloured and only lightly filtered, these rums represent the truest expression of their producer and their country of origin”.

The rum is all purchased in cask and then set aside for maturation. Using only ex-bourbon casks (but sometimes re-casking) the rum slowly ages “until it has reached the height of its potential”. It is then bottled one cask at a time and ready for pouring. Mezan’s slogan is “The Untouched Rum” and that is the driving principle here. No blending (save for the XO), no sweetening, no colouring and only a light gauze filtration such that the final product is an authentic, regional rum delivered to the distiller’s demands.

Here-in lies the key to Mezan. These are genuinely unique rums. Produced from “distilleries old and new, some founded centuries ago, others no longer in operation”, these rums are one-offs and never to be repeated. In essence these bottles are time capsules from an age gone by with each drop embodying particular methods and cultures from different parts of the Caribbean all in homage to the Noble Spirit.

X.O. Jamaica

wp-1477032089889.jpgMezan’s only blended rum is a carefully composed concoction showcasing rums from 3 different Jamaican distilleries. Only 5000 bottles were ever produced and the end result is classic Jamaica.  Light straw coloured with a touch of pale gold, the Mezan X.O. has a narrow nose with tropical fruits and particularly bananas being very apparent. The flavour hits the front of the tongue and here we taste guava. Moving to the back of the mouth and throat the spices really come through. Not overly dry and the taste does not linger long in the mouth. Well balanced and flavourful, Philip even likened it to a classic Fruit Salad sweet!

Guyana 2005

wp-1477032169482.jpgDistilled in the double wooden pot still from the original Port Mourant Estate founded in 1732. After the estate closed the still was initially moved to Uitvlugt Distillery and then eventually to Diamond Distillery who produced this Guyana 2005. Diamond typically produce medium-to-heavy Demerara style rum and this offering from Mezan is no exception. A wide nose that couldn’t be more different from the X.O. and complex with a sense of big, over-ripe fruits. A lot of flavour on the palette that moves from oak and ripe bananas to leafy vegetables.

 

Panama 1999

wp-1477032122403.jpgProduced by the famous Don Jose Distillery in 1999 the rums in this batch go through a double maturation process whereby they are aged twice in separate sets of white oak.  Using modern multi-column stills the distillery grows its own cane for the production of aguardiente and rum. They also cultivate historical yeast cultures which add character to their rums. A beautiful honey coloured rum with a narrow nose. Baking spices and a pleasant sweetness (all natural!) are a joy to behold. The flavour profile is elegant and spreads evenly across the tongue. Vanilla and oak combine well to give a quite exquisite finish.

Our tasting journey ended here with Philip and we didn’t quite manage to get on to the Trinidad 1999 from the now closed Caroni Distillery nor Monymusk Distillery’s Jamaica 2003. However, he assures us we are welcome back any time to continue our education!

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Review 13 – The Duppy Share Caribbean Rum

The Duppy Share Caribbean Rum has been around for just over a couple of years and was founded by Jessica Swinfen and George Frost. George fell in love with rum during his many family holidays to the Caribbean. He teamed up with Jessica and between them they embarked on the journey which lead to the creation of The Duppy Share.

After doing their research by tasting a wide variety of rums from different islands in the Caribbean (sounds a tough job) the co-founders decided on a blend of a 3 year rum from Worthy Park in Jamaica and a 5 year rum from the Foursquare distillery in Barbados. They decided on this mix to get the punch and fruitiness of Jamaica and then balance it out with the sweeter and more rounded elements found in Barbados. These rums are then sent to be blended in Amsterdam in the Netherlands, before bringing it to the UK to be bottled to become the final product.

The name comes from Caribbean folklore and has an enjoyable story behind it. According to their website:

“Caribbean legend has it that the dark Duppy spirits swoop
between the islands stealing the best share of the rum. Spirit masters, skilled
in the fine art of blending, the dupes take only the best.

This is the Duppy Share.”

This is also known as the Angel’s Share which I have written about previously here.

The Duppy Share have decided to celebrate a Summer of Rum by running a rum blending masterclass which is led by Jessica Swinfen. I was very kindly invited to this event in a Young’s pub to sample their rum and be transported away from a cloudy Wednesday evening in London to a beautiful Caribbean beach, if only for a couple of hours

I was greeted with a delicious Rum Punch made from The Duppy Share which they then shaved fresh nutmeg and added bitters to, to add that little extra touch which I definitely appreciated (Thanks Rosie Little). I was then introduced to the co-founders that were in attendance. They were both very friendly and very personable, exactly the right recipe for this type of event I feel.

After a second (or was that third?) helping of the Rum Punch we were ushered to the masterclass area to begin. Without ruining the experience for anybody who will go to this event in the future, you are given a short history of rum and then taken on a journey throughout some very important areas in the rum world. You are then given the opportunity to take what you have learnt and blend your own rum to take home. The whole masterclass is delivered exceptionally well and is very informative yet interactive and most importantly, fun. I think it’s an event diverse enough to be it a learning experience into rum, a wacky date, or a fun evening with a couple of friends.

I managed to get a few words with George Frost as well on the night with his plans and how he prefers to drink The Duppy Share. He’s very passionate about his rum and both he and Jessica agreed they didn’t like some of the sweetened offerings that are available today and much prefer the rums with a kick which is what they have tried to maintain. As for cocktail of choice, George said he prefers it in an old fashioned whereas Jessica says she loves it in a simple daiquiri, two very different cocktails which goes to show the diversity of their creation. A few more examples can be found here.

But let’s move onto the review of The Duppy Share. The bottle is a unique shape with a long thin neck which makes it easier to pour out. It is topped with a cork which helps keep an authentic feel to the rum. This is affirmed with the beautifully designed label which reminds me of a post card or a poster from the first half of the 20th century. All of their marketing lends itself to transporting you away from wherever you maybe to a Caribbean Island, to warmth, summer, and a beach. Not a bad thing at all.

In the glass the rum is a light golden colour. Slightly lighter than in the bottle. On the nose the first notes that are noticeable are oak and vanilla. Then we get some fruits mainly banana and a hint of pineapple. There are traces of sweetness which seem to be brown sugar. An interesting mix here on the nose. On my first sip the rum tastes a lot older than it smells. There is a fair depth to this rum. I can taste the oak and fruits I smelt on the nose but the Jamaican side of the rum does pack a punch and you get this when you swallow. However, the end of the rum leaves a spicy finish which helps to take the edge off the rum. Further investigation and I can taste vanilla and nuts as well. A nice mix, but one which needs to be taken with caution, too big of a sip and this rum would burn. But give it the attention it needs and you are treated with a solid rum which is decent value for money.

Unfortunately, other than the delicious rum punch I was handed at the start of the masterclass, I haven’t had a chance to mix this rum into a cocktail, which is where it seems the target audience is. That will be a step I take in the future but if the rum punch was anything to go by, I am in for a treat.

Overall although primarily a high end mixing rum which is diverse enough to be used in a variety of cocktails I think it has been aged and blended well enough to be drunk neat as well, or maybe with a touch of water. Their marketing approach has been to step towards rum as a drink when sat on a beach in paradise which is how I view my rum, be it neat or in a cocktail. Well played Duppy Share and I look forward to what the future holds.

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Review 12: Matugga Rum – Spiced & Original

Rum can be created anywhere that sugar cane grows. As I mentioned in an earlier post about Rum from Asia although the bulk comes from the Caribbean and Latin America, there are other countries which produce a lot of the world’s supply of rum. We know that the climate in parts of the continent of Africa must be suitable for sugarcane and yet we can’t think of any premium rum brands hailing from there. Until now; introducing Matugga Rum, a British Rum with an African Soul.

Matugga (the name of a town in Uganda) source their sugar cane from the rich, red soils of East Africa. Other ingredients added are also sourced from the Easterly region of Africa and then together they are shipped to be distilled and aged in Cambridgeshire in the UK. Matugga is triple distilled before finishing off the maturation phase in English Oak casks.

Matugga Rum is owned and run by Paul and Jacine Rutasikwa and their Master Distiller is Dr John Walters. The story of the ingredients of the rum are just as important to Paul and Jacine as the creation of the rum itself. They source only the best molasses they can from their high quality sugar cane harvest in Uganda. For more insight into Matugga please visit the following article here.

Last month I went to an “Indulgence Session” put on by the team behind Matugga Rum. A very polished and professional presentation that kept the fun and excitement that goes hand-in-hand with rum. After a brief foray into the history of the brand and the team behind it, we moved swiftly into the tasting of the two offerings from Matugga followed by the participants creating a couple of cocktails. All four were also paired with different munchies (grapes, cheese, crackers, chocolate, home made rum cake etc) to help to illustrate the versatility not only of Matugga, but of the spirit in general. The two cocktails they showcased were the Golden Apple which used their Golden Rum and the Spiced Pineapple which used their Spiced Rum. I personally preferred the Golden Apple cocktail which used cloudy red apple juice to great affect to enhance the flavour of the rum. I was in the minority however as the bulk of people who attended found the Spiced Pineapple to be the better of the two. The team came across very friendly and personable and their session was a resounding success by the opinions I heard from other attendees, most of whom knew next to nothing about rum in general beforehand and left the session with the remaining bottles they had for sale. If you get a chance to experience one of these sessions yourself I would definitely recommend it.

After the session the lovely couple behind Matugga sent me a sample of both the Golden and the Spiced Rum as I mentioned I would like to review them properly. I will start with their Golden offering before moving to the spiced variety.

As mentioned earlier, both of Matugga’s Rum’s are 100% pot still distilled. This is quite rare these days as column stills are used more and more. Pot stills are where the distillation process began with rum and this takes us back to the essence. In the glass the rum is a light golden colour. It pours lighter than it looks in the bottle. I think this shows a sign of its age and length of time in the barrel. I do know there is some caramel colouring added to the rum which has helped to give the rum a more appealing look so I cant really judge anything by the colour of the rum. The rum is more viscous than expected in the glass. It has some legs on it when swirled.

On my first sniff I get an immediate sweet hit of treacle. This gives way to some dry raisins and a small hint of allspice. An interesting mix that once allowed to rest brings out a hint of vanilla and oak. On my first sip I get a fresh clean taste which is reminiscent of a young rum. There are notes of vanilla at the start and a sweet treacle taste. This makes way to a spicy finish which leaves a pepper note which seems to add to the slight burn that you feel in the finish.

I am surprised with how smooth this rum is because it hasn’t been aged for very long so the casks haven’t had a chance to help to take some of the edge off the rum. However, having spoken to the team behind Matugga, I was informed that their aging process is at a small enough scale that they can actually keep the rum moving throughout its maturation phase. To try to explain this think of the difference a tea bag makes in your tea. If you move the tea bag around and keep stirring and moving, the flavour of the tea is stronger and fuller compared to just leaving the tea bag static in the mug. Accordingly, the flavours enhance and its  interaction with the casks occurs at what seems like a much faster rate. As a result, the rum tastes like it is much older than it is.

Moving onto the Spiced, in the glass this rum is darker than the golden offering from Matugga and remains similar in thickness. On the nose I get notes of orange peel, grass, a slight appearance of treacle and raisins. I was expecting a spicier nose, but that’s not a bad thing. On my first taste I get vanilla and liquorish at the start. It is very warming and again very smooth. It is smoother than the golden rum variety of Matugga. The end of the rum leaves a spicy feeling around the tongue and the throat which could be mistaken for a burn, but on closer inspection and multiple tastes, I can confirm it’s a peppery and cinnamon finish rather than a burn in my opinion. The orange peel smelt on the nose comes in once the rum has sat for a short period, as does the treacle. The liquorish taste also dulls having sat for a few minutes and yet the spicy and sweet flavours remain at the finish.

From the indulgence session I know that these rums make excellent bases for cocktails. Matugga’s website gives a list of different cocktails they recommend which can be found here. Fruity concoctions definitely work well in bringing out the flavours of this rum. I haven’t yet but I would like to try this rum in a more citrus type cocktail to see how the flavours interact with those more citrus elements. I think the spiced rum may thrive here.

Overall these rums are surprising for what they are. Both are relatively young and yet seem to be smooth enough to sip. I personally wouldn’t sip the golden as it’s a bit too harsh for my taste but I can see how many people would. The spiced on the other hand I feel has less of a punch to it, making it easier to sip. But I am very excited to see what a few more years of aging leads to with Matugga but this must be done ‘slowly slowly’ which in Swahili is ‘Pole Pole Ndio Mwendo.’ As always, good things come to those who wait!

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Review 11: Brugal – Siglo De Oro

Brugal is a rum that is native to the Dominican Republic and has been since 1888. It is owned by Edrington which also owns other famous spirit brands including The Macallan, The Famous Grouse and Highland Park whisky amongst others. Edrington is a large Scottish distilling company which purchased Brugal & Co on February 6th 2008.

Brugal was founded in Puerto Plata in the second half of the 19th century when Andres Brugal Montaner moved from Spain to Cuba, and then later on to the Dominican Republic. He picked up his rum expertise from his time in Cuba and transferred that to Puerto Plata. Even today, Brugal continues to be run by direct descendents of Andres, the current chairman, George Arzeno Brugal, being fourth generation.

Brugal is a huge spirit and is currently the number one rum brand in both the Caribbean and Spain, quite an achievement given its competition. One part of Brugal which helps them stand out from the rest is the netting which covers the Anejo and Extra Anejo bottles. This was started after a member of the Brugal family visited India and noticed that premium products were distinguished from the rest by being represented in net bags. He returned with this idea and created the unusual process.

This Siglo De Oro was created to commemorate the 100 year anniversary of Brugal in 1988. They age the rum in American white oak barrels for up to eight years. The rum is then blended and then returned to the barrels for eight more years. This is very unique in the rum world to double age rum. The sugar cane used in the rum for Brugal is locally sourced in the Dominican Republic and the rum is double distilled to remove heavy alcohols and enhance the sweet flavour that comes from molasses.

The packaging for the bottle is definitely aimed for the premium end of the spectrum. The bottle is a beautiful decanter style design with a long neck and solid cork to close off. Brugal have gone the extra step however by providing a regal blue display case for the rum. The ‘Brugal’ blue colour that is present on their range of rum, with a gold stamp like feature in the middle where the case opens (the same stamp appears in the middle of the bottle as well as the top of the cork). Inside the case there is a small blurb written in Spanish which roughly translates to:

‘Golden Age Rum Special Selection:

More than a century of time and painstaking efforts are concentrated in this bottle containing the Special Selection Brugal rums chosen by the house to reach the threshold of the new millennium.

Founded in 1888 by Don Andres Brugal Montaner, he has allocated the generations of his family to achieve the perfection of Dominican rum, and to put in the work time and dedication enjoyed by those who truly know of high quality beverages’

A nice tough from Brugal to give a little bit of background on the company and this bottle on the inside cover. This really helps to add to the premium feel and look of this product. But let’s move onto the review.

In the glass this rum has a lovely colour which is slightly lighter than copper and heading towards amber. For a rum aged this long it is definitely a lighter hue than I expected. The liquid itself is slightly more viscous and leaves fairly prominent legs in the glass when swirled. On the nose I immediately get a nice hit of butterscotch and vanilla. This makes way for oak and slight hints of fresh grass at the end. This is an interesting nose which isn’t as sweet as I expected from the previous offerings from Brugal.

On my first sip I notice how thick this Rum is. Any further along and this texture would be heading towards oil. There is the butterscotch which I smelt in the first sip mixed with some caramel. Similar to the nose this sweetness makes way to oak and then into a small taste of aniseed which was very surprising alongside orange. In the throat there is a slight burn which I feel is more than expected for a rum of this age. However the finish leaves an oak and spicy taste in the mouth, but seems to dry out quite quickly, which has you reaching for another sip which is not a bad thing!

After having let this rum sit for about 10 minutes there is quite a change. The rum seems to have thinned out and isn’t anywhere near as viscous as earlier. The sweetness has dulled slightly and the oak has come to the forefront now. The aniseed has disappeared from earlier and the throat burn from earlier also seems to have dulled.

Overall this rum has a slightly bitter side to it rather than being overly sweet. I think this could be due to the length of time it is aged and the oak flavour from the barrels potentially overpowering the flavours in the rum. The end result is a rum which starts off sweet but seems to dry too quickly for my liking, leaving the final taste of the bitter oak in the mouth. This is a real shame as the start is so promising and it falls just short of being something really, really special. The fact remains however that this is a very drinkable rum but for the exclusivity and price point of around £125 (if you can find it) it seems to not quite reach the extremely high standards the story, brand and packaging seem to have set for themselves.

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Review 10: Old Monk – The Legend

India – Food, Spices, Bollywood, the IPL and Rum. RUM?!

Welcome to the world’s biggest consumer of rum. Figures from 2012 according to this article state that the thirsty Asian subcontinent bought up 404.2 million litres of the good stuff (the US some way behind with 241.9 million litres). Indian rums in general tend to be molasses distilled, dark and viscous.

The number one selling rum brand in the entire world is India’s very own McDowell’s No.1 Celebration. However McDowell’s rum offering didn’t appear until 1990. Long, long before that, a different dark rum from India ruled the rum roost! Old Monk Rum (OMR) from Ghaziabad, Uttar Pradesh was launched on the 19th December 1954 and was the world’s largest selling dark rum until McDowell took over in 2013.

OMR has a number of varieties including Supreme and Gold Reserve (both 12 Year) but the most popular is the 7 Year XXX vatted rum. In 2013 they launched Old Monk “The Legend”, a limited edition 1 litre bottle crafted in the shape of the Monk’s head itself (or some say it is the likeness of H.G. Meakin, the company’s founder). This review will focus on “The Legend”, OMR’s most recent creation. Although no indication is given as to the aging of this “Very Old Vatted” Indian Rum, we are told this blended rum has been created for connoisseurs.

Aged in Silver Oak Wood Cask and drawn from spirits from various raw materials (sugar cane we hope!) The Legend as with other OMR rums delivers 42.8% ABV. The bottle is completely clear, revealing the classic, rich, dark-brown Indian rum inside. We often see premium offerings from manufacturers these days, pair their bottles with cute corks from Portugal however The Legend, perhaps staying true to OMR’s no advertising, word-of-mouth brand loyalty pragmatism, seal their Monk Head bottle with a black metal screw cap with gold lettering. It’s almost a little endearing!

On first approach we smell soft spices, wood, cloves and with a small follow through of vanilla but nothing overpowering. Observing the rum in the tumbler, there is a beautiful dark orange, rustiness to the liquid that reminds me of certain dessert wines (check out the Hungarian Royal Tokaji). The rum leaves a high line post swirling that holds for a long time, with minimal streaking.

The first sip is stronger than the smell gives away, a greater warmth to the roof of the mouth and the back of the throat than anticipated. The vanilla and caramel give way quickly to a blend of complex spices and oak tones. Cinnamon, clove, wood dominate the palate. The flavour profile is intense, varied but brief. After a small wait, further tastes confirm the presence of dried fruits and zest but once again, the overriding flavour is wood and Indian spices.

Our bottle is from Goa and as such purchased at the local sticker price of 500 Rupees (just over £5 GBP). Pretty good for a limited edition premium rum! However, to buy it outside of India will set you back north of £50. Therein lies the problem as sadly, The Legend, does not warrant to be in that price bracket. A good rum, short but complex, not overly sweet but lacking a certain je ne sais quoi. We would say it’s a must for collectors and enthusiasts, but overall its short flavour profile in our opinion means it could be better suited to premium cocktails rather than a high end sipping rum. We will happily experiment with it in cocktails and report back with our findings. If you do happen to find yourself or a good friend heading to India, ask them to pick up the bottle, for at £5, this bottle is a must purchase!

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Review 9: Don Papa 10 Year

“Welcome to the Don, that is Don Papa small batch rum, a premium rum, distilled in the foothills of Mount Kanlaon, Negros, Philippines.” Welcome indeed but don’t let the rather provincial nature of Don Papa’s homepage fool you. The Philippines is the world’s third largest market for rum (after the US and India) and according to this Forbes article, this brand is “Changing the Face of Philippine Rum”. Today, we’re going to sip and sample on Papa 10 Year. Inspired from the story of ‘Papa’ Isio, a hero of the Philippine revolution, Don Papa Rum is produced by the Bleeding Heart Rum Company (BHRC) founded by Stephen Carroll, a former Remy Cointreau executive.

The rum is distilled on a single island, Negros Occidental (also referred to as  Sugarlandia”) using the finest Negros sugar cane and aged for 10 years in re-charred American Oak barrels. This particular offering from Don Papa is a limited edition and was introduced in October 2015. Unlike its younger sibling it packs a slightly weightier punch at 43% ABV (compared to the small batch’s 40%).

The bottle has been designed by Stranger & Stranger who in the 2016 World Rum Awards won Best Limited Edition Design, Best Ultra Design and Best New Launch Design all for the Don Papa 10 Year bottle! They are no stranger to awards and have an impressive list which can be found here.

Don Papa himself is older on the 10 Year label, depicting his own aging and maturing process since the initial small batch offering. His gecko-monocle eyepiece is now accompanied by a thick, flowing beard on the Don’s face. The world’s smallest primate, the Tarsier, beetles, slugs and snails are joined by tropical birds in this Jumanji-esque design.  The bottle itself is very similar to the small batch; heavy glass bottom, curved shoulders and squat in nature. The elegant dark rum itself is visible to all as the glass is clear and uncoloured.

On my first sniff it is very light, much lighter than expected despite the higher alcohol content. I am met by warm oak notes and followed by some hints of sweet caramel, vanilla and candied fruits. My first sip of the rum sends it easily over my tongue where it warms the roof of my mouth with toffee and a gentle oak. Not overly sweet but very smooth and well balanced. A very tasty introduction which invites further investigation! As the rum sits for a few minutes it seems to have lost some viscosity and as a result the streaks seem thinner on my tumbler. On this sip the flavours have become deeper and stay with you much longer. The warmth found in the roof of your mouth initially has now travelled to the throat. The oak flavour steps up and there seems to be a sweeter influence of caramel complemented by an earthier, deeper cacao. Perhaps the re-charred American Oak barrels are lending an almost charcoal like edge to this dark rum.  The finish is long lasting and warming but not overpowering. This is where the dried raisin seems to have come through that was smelt on the nose earlier.

Don Papa 10 year retails at £40-£50, which is at the higher end for a relatively up and coming brand but we believe that Don Papa have produced something quite special here. Limited edition and a true 10 Year, this could become quite the collector’s item especially with the variety of talking points on the design of the bottle alone. RumCask recommends this for the left-field selection for special occasions.

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Review 8: Revolver Rum

Revolver Rum is a relatively new brand produced by Rathlee Distilling Company (established in 2012) who are based in Cornwall, UK. Two rum lovers have come together to produce this rum, one is from Cornwall and the other from Bogota, Colombia. I would recommend a visit to their website here for some information on the brand, company and limited number of stockists which have this rum for sale.

The name Revolver is based on the Spanish verb meaning ‘to stir’ which has two main connotations. The first is that Revolver is all about mixing together and enjoying great cocktails. It also represents the mixing of the two cultures of Colombia and Cornwall, in two different countries but with one passion.

The recipe of Revolver was perfected in a pot still in the UK by the owners of Rathlee using a variety of different raw materials including a type of sugar, called panela, from Colombia. They went through a number of different recipes before deciding on the formula that has been used. This was then handed to some expert rum producers in Central America.Although being tested and created in a copper pot still, Revolver is distilled in a triple column still for its wider production. This method helps to separate the stages of distillation thereby making them more efficient. More information can be found on my earlier article on distillation which can be found here.

Revolver is aged for up to 18 months at source before being moved to the UK and is stored in white oak barrels and left to mature for another six months (possibly more). They also add some pure Cornish water to the rum to help bring down the ABV to 40% and add the touch of Cornwall to the spirit. The aging here in the climate of the UK will bring a different and unique flavour to the young rum as opposed to the warm and humid climate found in Central America.

The kind team at Rathlee Distilling sent me a bottle to review. The design of the bottle is similar to the Don Papa and Pussers 15 year style which is a heavy glass bottom with rounded shoulders and a long neck. There is a wooden cork top to the bottle which suits its design well. The label front displays the brand name and the term ‘Cask Aged Golden Rum’ alongside a few smaller details. The back label has a nice blurb which also has a few words highlighted within. These words together make up the phrase ‘Evolve beyond expectation with Revolver Rum.’

The rum is a very light yellow/golden colour. This indicates there has been no caramel added which is usually used to create the illusion of an older rum and adds a level of sweetness. On my first sniff I don’t get as much ethanol as I would have expected for a rum of this age. It is there without a doubt, but some of the other notes including oak help to tame it. I also smell a few spice notes of mainly clove and hints of cinnamon. The rum finally smells grassy and fresh which is consistent with a rum that is as young as this.

On my first sip I am met with a soft entry and then a rush of spices. These leave a small tingle on the lips. The spicy notes from the nose are evident with the addition of pepper. Following this initial spice, the oak from the barrels comes through. The rum seems very light and glides over the tongue without too much remaining in the mouth to the finish. The ethanol taste is present as expected from the nose and the age of this rum, but it isn’t overpowering.

The finish is strong and peppery with a medium burn but this burn fades fairly quickly. Having sat for a few minutes I can now taste a touch of vanilla in the rum, but the rest of the notes become a tad more prominent alongside.

Having tried Revolver neat, I decided to see how it would fair in the cocktail world seeing as this is the market which Revolver has targeted. This is especially evident with not only the name of Revolver but also how they have teamed up with The Cocktail Trading Company to create three new cocktails which they feel complement the flavours of the rum; a list of which can be found here. From their recommendations I managed to try to create the Brewbalee.

The Brewbalee is made with ginger beer and an equal amount of Revolver rum and red wine. I’ll be honest here, it proved harder than expected to get the red wine to ‘float.’ I gave up after 3 attempts. I think the red wine I chose may have been too full bodied and heavy for the cocktail. As a result my findings may not be as accurate as if the cocktail was made by an expert. I found the transition of smooth red wine to a bubbly ginger beer didn’t work for me. It contrasted too much. The burn from the Revolver that I found when tasting neat however has definitely gone in this cocktail and the finish is very much the ginger beer with a touch of the rum which is quite nice. I do feel the red wine overpowers this cocktail at the start and the rum is hard to place at all except for a touch at the finish. Overall it’s a decent cocktail but not one for my taste.

I also tried Revolver with lemonade. This is one of my staples I enjoy when mixing a rum as a nice alternative to coke. Here I find Revolver shines through. The lemonade brings forth a more fruity side to Revolver but doesn’t dull down its spicy notes. Instead it tempers the oak flavour slightly and adds a citrus side which seems to complement the rum very well. A lovely change to some of the more common mixing spirits which have a lot of sugar and caramel added and can become sweet.

Overall I would recommend trying this rum neat before mixing it. At around £25-£30 a bottle it is priced as a high end mixing rum. If you don’t like the sweeter side of rum and much prefer the more oak, spicy and summery/fresh side of rum then go and grab yourself a bottle. I look forward to experimenting in more cocktails (Mulata will be next) with Revolver in the future and definitely look forward to future releases from the Rathlee Distillers.

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Review 7: Ron Barcelo – Imperial Premium Blend (30 Anniversario)

Ron Barcelo is a producer based on the Caribbean island of the Dominican Republic. In 1929 when Julian Barcelo travelled from Spain to Santo Domingo he founded Barcelo & Co and began to produce rum. The Ron Barcelo brand was launched in 1950 with Barcelo Blanco and Barcelo Dorado. The rum that made Ron Barcelo famous was born in 1980 and the Ron Barcelo Imperial remains the most internationally awarded Dominican rum. Today Ron Barcelo is sold in over 50 countries globally and is the 4th largest exporter of rum in the world. For a more in depth look into their history please visit there website here.

This particular offering from Ron Barcelo was created to celebrate 30 years of rum production of their signature rum in 2001. Miguel Barcelo kept some private reserves of his rum which he further aged in American white oak and French oak barrels from Chateau d’Yquem in Bordeaux France for a couple of years and then blended to create this premium blend for Ron Barcelo’s production line and is limited to just 9000 bottles annually.

The bottle and packaging are quite exquisitely done. There is a golden tin to keep the bottle safe and the bottle itself comes on a wooden display pedestal. The bottle is a very unique round shape with a short neck that leads to the cork. A huge symbol showing off that this rum is a 30th Anniversary edition is on both the case and bottle. It would be a welcome addition to any shelf and would definitely stand out. The cork is sizeable and gives a satisfying pop when removed from the bottle. Everything shouts out that this is a premium bottle of rum.

After the satisfying uncorking and pouring of the rum, the colour is a deep dark brown in my glass. On my first sniff I get notes of vanilla and to a lesser extent caramel and toffee. Then the nose transitions to raisins and dried fruit. There are also hints of oaks and wood which is to be expected for the length of aging of this production. A complex and well defined nose which increases my expectations.

On the first sip I am met with a wonderfully sweet caramel and toffee flavour which is balanced with an undertone of coffee. Having let the rum sit for a while other flavours of dark chocolate and cherry appear with a small spice hit at the end of nutmeg and pepper. The rum coats your tongue and mouth and leaves a lovely warm finish where the spiciness gives way to a sweetness that leaves you wanting another sip. There are notes of oak and wood throughout the rum, but they remain the background and do not overpower any of the other flavours but rather take the edge off them in a delightful way.

Overall, this is a lovely step up from the Imperial offering from Ron Barcelo. I understand the price point of the rum at almost £80 due to the exclusivity and limited nature of the production of the rum. This offering from Ron Barcelo is a must have for any rum collector/enthusiast. If you can get a bottle, I would say do it. It has the expected lighter style consistent with the Dominican Republic’s Spanish heritage, with some depth and an abundance of flavours which meld together in a lovely concoction of rum-goodness.

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Review 6 – Kill Devil – Uitvlugt (Guyana) 18 Year Single Cask Rum

The Kill Devil brand is owned by Hunter Laing who are well versed in the blending of whiskey and this brand is their foray into the rum industry. According to Andrew Laing they follow the same philosophy with this range as they do with their Whiskey which is to bottle single casks of rum only when they believe they are perfect for drinking and are not chill filtered or have anything added to them. There is an interview with Andrew Laing about their new rum series that you can read here. The brand, logo, illustration and packaging were developed by Sevenfive in late 2015.

This particular rum was matured for 18 years in Oak Barrels and was distilled in Guyana in the original Uitvlugt Distillery before it closed down in 2000 which means this rum was one of the final distillates produced there. As a result, this is a real piece of history and an extremely limited release I was happy to get my hands on. This was distilled in November 1997 according to the bottle and this single cask also produced just 357 bottles and is bottled at the higher than usual ABV of 46%.

The bottle is elegant looking with the kill devil logo on the front alongside the information on the distillery of where this rum originates from, the date it was distilled and other bottle information. The label on the back of the bottle refers to the name of Kill Devil being a local colloquialism back in the 17th and 18th centuries. It also mentions the casks that are selected are then shipped to Scotland to be carefully and traditionally bottled by hand. The bottle is finished with a nice cork top which definitely adds to the overall feel of a premium rum offering.

In the glass this rum is a lot lighter than I expected for a rum aged as long as this. I would have expected a much darker appearance, but I believe this is explained due to the fact nothing is added to it before bottling.

On the nose the initial hit is very oak and wood like. It’s quite overpowering to begin with. Past those notes I can smell hints of grass. The freshness of this rum reminds me of the tasting palette of a rhum agricole, very light and fresh rum. Having let this rum sit for a few minutes the oak and wood features take a real backseat and fruitier notes appear. I smell green apples and apricots. An unexpected but definitely not unwelcome change!

On my first sip I was expecting to be met with a lot of oak and wood which is the usual with a rum aged for this amount of time, especially with the nose having those notes at the forefront. However, that is not the case here. The immediate notes I taste are raw sugar cane, bringing back the theme of the rhum agricole again. There is a strange sensation when this rum first glides over your tongue. I can only liken it to a very gentle flicker or shimmer similar to the old child’s sweet of pop rocks on a much lower scale. The rum is thin enough to briskly cover your tongue efficiently without losing its flavour profile. The mid flavour profile now follows the nose and some fruit come in here. I can taste banana alongside the green apples and apricots.

The finish is where the oak and wood flavour return. I also get some spices here mainly cinnamon and nutmeg. The finish is long and also has hints of grass and remains light and fresh throughout.

This rum is a bit strange. It has a profile which reminds me of a top shelf rhum agricole and not a lot of molasses which I would’ve expected. Summery and refreshing which improves once left for a few minutes to sit in the glass. Overall this rum grows on me the more I have drunk it. It isn’t what I expected by any means, but that isn’t a bad thing. The light and fresh notes make it a summery selection rather than a winter warmer. If you enjoy the rhum agricole flavour profiles then this is a great selection for you. It is more expensive than I would personally like to pay for a rum of this style, but the exclusivity of it more than explains its price point. An interesting development in the Kill Devil line and I look forward to trying others.

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Review 5 – Ron Centenario 30

The Ron Centenario brand is from the Central America’s Costa Rica and is one of the last few remaining independent rum producers. The sugar cane used comes from very fertile land which is created due to the volcanic eruptions that have occurred over the years. That mixture of sub tropical climate and volcanic soil has created the ideal conditions for sugar cane and the best of which is harvested for use in Ron Centenario. The sugar cane is harvested by hand every 15 months. Ron Centenario uses American white oak bourbon barrels when aging its rum.

As we already know, the quality of the resources in Costa Rica have provided some of the best coffee in the world, so it would make sense that the sugar cane produced would also be amongst some of the worlds best.

Ron Centenario has a large selection of rum throughout its ranks, but the 30 year solera sits atop and is their limited edition jewel in the crown. They do not have a massive marketing team and as a result this rum is still relatively unheard of. This 30 year is a blend of softer column distilled rums and the heavier pot still rums.

The 30 year solera is presented in a beautiful heavy glass bottom decanter style bottle. It is a vast change to the 20 and 25 year bottle designs and I think it really highlights the fact that this is premium rum.

On the nose this rum radiates of caramel, honey and vanilla. It comes across sweet yet the hints of oak and spices seem to balance it out from the sweet smell becoming overpowering. The rum has a deep and complex nose that only draws more of my attention to it.

On my first sip I am greeted by sweetness. The molasses, honey and caramel float through coating my tongue and the oak and vanilla balance out the sweetness in a way that is just exquisite. The 20 and 25 year variations from Ron Centenario are definitely sweeter than their older counterpart, yet this aging further on the 30 year only helps to remove a slightly syrup like feel to those into a blend of rum that is extremely drinkable now. The extra time spent in the oak barrels has shone through here. The finish is also amongst the smoothest I have come across, ending with a sweet spiciness that is very moreish.

Having let this sit for a few minutes, the flavours in the rum blend together more harmoniously and the finish is a tad longer and richer. Definitely very smooth and this is a rum that you would return to again and again.

Overall if you can get a hold a bottle (and that is a big if), I would recommend you doing so without hesitation! The only drawback I have with this rum is that the 25 year is quite similar and almost half the price. Trying to remain impartial, I would say that this price differential maybe too much. Personally I think this is a rum that will remain in my collection and won’t be finished until another bottle is ready to be opened!

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Review 4 – Ron Abuelo Centuria

Last year in 2015 while at the London Rumfest, I met the Ron Abuelo Brand Ambassador Cristobal Srokowski. After enjoying the 12 year Ron Abuelo much more than I remembered previously, I was very intrigued with the Centuria. Amazingly, a friend of mine decided to give me a birthday present of the Centuria after hearing my conversation with Cris and I think being a bit too drunk a few hours later didn’t help with the decision!

Ron Abuelo is Panama’s premium rum manufacturer that is produced by Varela Hermanos. Rum was first distilled from the Panamanian estate owned by Don Jose Varela Blanco in 1936 with his 3 sons. This particular rum is a limited edition bottling which is used to mark 100 years of production of Ron Abuelo due to the estate being founded in 1908 in Panama.

This Centuria is made up of the family’s private reserve which includes rum that has been aged for thirty years. As a result it is no surprise that it has a price tag of over £100. It is a limited release as there were only ever a small number of cases exported from Panama. From my research I believe that the release contained only 3000 bottles.

The bottle is presented in a beautiful wooden case. The bottle itself is similar to the other offerings from Ron Abuelo except that it has a raised Varela logo on the bottle. It is quite thick and heavy I think due to the thicker than average glass base.

On the nose I can smell walnuts and vanilla with hints of coffee and chocolate alongside the sweet hints of caramel, toffee and burnt sugar. An interesting and great smell to start off! On my first sip I am greeted by butterscotch and vanilla. The length of time this rum has spent aging has lead to an oak and earth flavour, but it doesn’t delve further into tobacco notes and remains sweet tasting throughout, but not syrup like. It is exceedingly smooth and elegant during the tasting from first entering the mouth, till the finish in the throat.

The finish is where the spices kick in and I can taste cinnamon and nutmeg amongst others. It’s a nice warm finish that hangs about longer than expected. There is little to no burn at the end, although the spices may come across that way. This has been delightful!

A few (painstaking) minutes after the initial pour, the rum changes ever so slightly and now the spices appear slightly earlier and meld better with the oak and earth flavour beautifully. A real delight to drink, and incredibly hard to put down!

Overall this is a well balance rum which has complexity and depth. It is the kind of rum I would enjoy on a cold night to help stay warm and my high hopes of the limited edition have been met. I would recommend this to most rum aficionados, but the pricing and limited nature of the product would lead me to advise the more casual drinker to look elsewhere.

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Review 3: Velier Uitvlugt ULR 1997 (59.7%)

As you may have read in a previous post we got to try this rum at Merchant house a few days ago. We were excited as it’s a very rare rum. In fact from what we have been told there were less than 1500 bottles ever of this particular rum. This was due to the Angels Share being over 75%! That’s a huge loss and understandable as to why there were only a small number of bottles.

This was bottled at the Uitvlugt (pronounced “eye-flat”) French Savalle four-column still in Guyana, in 1997 when it was still functioning (it was shut down in 2000). To find out more about demerara distillers in Guyana please read this article Demerara Distillers: Guyanese Rum.

The final thing we noticed was that this rum is bottles at a strength of 59.7%. Very strong and yet from what I had read on this rum was intrigued to find out how this strength would translate through the rum.

The black bottle as you can see if very simple and clean. There is a lot of detail on the label of the bottle explaining some of the finer details of the complex rum. A lovely cork sits in the lid and gives in a lovely feel when opening.

On the pour of the rum we notice it’s a red gold colour, like a light mahogany. In the glass it is not very thick or viscous, which is as expected. On first sniff, we were careful not to inhale too deeply due to the strength of the rum. We get a fruity hit, pineapples and apricots, but not too intensely. Next we find an introduction to tobacco followed by something earthy and wooden. Very complex and intense nose to start with.

The first sip and the level of alcohol is immediately apparent. The rum is ordering you to pay attention! Too big a sip, or dragging in too much air with the sip and you will know about it! We get the fruit I smelt on the nose next. Very clear and maybe with added peaches. However, we don’t taste any tobacco like on the nose, but that earthy taste comes back from the nose. The viscosity of the rum covers your mouth well and now we get a delicious spicy finish with dried raisins. What a taste with genuine surprise at how well these flavours combine.

Then we decide to cautiously swallow the rum the fruits follow a very warming feeling. To finish on pineapple and apricots is definitely a good thing. Taste buds active and demanding more, next we give the rum a couple of minutes to sit before going for the second taste.

After sitting for a period the fruits are still very clear on the taste buds. Very light and refreshing. The earthy tones have dulled slightly now. The finish again very warming and fruity, this time we can taste a hint of tobacco but nothing that dulls the fruits.

Overall this is a rum for true enthusiasts. Probably too harsh for the newer drinker who we feel would find the taste of the overproof too intense. However, by showing this rum some respect you are rewarded with a rum that is not only delicious, but very refreshing and highly drinkable.

Fans of other Demerara rums such as El Dorado will definitely enjoy this if they can get hold of it. Not too full bodied like the Jamaican rums for example and not quite as light as the Cuban side, but sat in-between with a fruity taste that will leave you reaching for another glass straight away. Just be careful not to get carried away, not many of these bottles remain!

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Review 2 – Santa Teresa Bicentenario

I was given this bottle by a friend who knows how much I love rum as a thank you present (Thanks Steve!). Imagine my surprise when I opened it. It’s taken quite a while for me to find the right occasion to open it and that happened today thankfully!

Santa Teresa is the 4th biggest producer of rum in the world and is still a family owned business. It was opened in 1796 in Venezuela in Aragua Valley by Martin de Tovar. Rum production however began in 1896. The master distiller there is a man called Nestor Ortega who I was lucky enough to meet last October at a master class he gave on Santa Teresa and got a brief word with him before a picture and birthday present!

When I showed him a picture of the rum I had been given, his face lit up with a great smile. He told me that most rum should be shared with your friends and spent having a good time and to bring people closer. However, he gave me the advice that the bicentenario is a rum not to be shared. It’s to be enjoyed maybe with a Cigar and savoured alone or at the most with a few special people. Not for general consumption! A pleasure and an honour to meet the great man himself!

This rum was introduced as part of the company’s bicentennial in 1996. They only produce 1000 bottles a year. This bottle I have is number 7743. The rum is a solera which means it is a mixture of different ages of rum. From what I have found the oldest batch of rum that is part of this is over 80 years old. As we know the angels share at 80 years must have been a huge number, which goes a long way to understanding the price point of this rum.

The bottle itself is very unique as you can see. The bottom is shaped like a grenade or a pineapple. Extremely distinctive and noticeable even from a distance. I can see people being divided on it. I personally like the shape and feel of the bottle. It definitely lives up to its premium price point. The downside on the packaging is the cork. Or rather the lack of it. I like the authenticity and the feel of a cork. This is a quite basic screw top. Really detracts from the style of the bottle in my opinion. The rest of the packaging and bottle however is excellent.

On first pour the rum doesn’t seem very viscous which is what I was expecting. It is also a light shade than I was expecting, but still a beautiful golden brown as you can see in the glass next to the bottle. On my first sniff, I smell light citrus and pineapple notes. But something is strange. This rum is very complex yet unlike most rums also very soft and subtle. I can take a deep inhalation of the rum and it doesn’t burn or become overwhelming, like every other rum I have done that with. This really is something special that Mr Ortega has done to keep it subtle yet still have the oaky notes to finish the smell.

On my initial taste I get soft vanilla,hint of oak and something akin to blueberries. The back of throat is left with no burn as the rum seems to evaporate yet still leave a warming sensation. The only other rum I can say which has anything remotely similar is El Dorado 21. As the rum sits and warms the citrus side picks up a little bit more and now I can taste slight spice as well, potentially small hints of liquorice. The feel is creamy and delicate, warming and very smooth.

Overall I had very high hopes for this rum as the 1796 that Santa Teresa produce is one of my favourites. I have not been disappointed. It is obvious a lot of work has gone into this rum. It’s a rum which is soft and delicate, yet complex and deep at the same time. A real sipper to enjoy. I would recommend this to rum fans and non-rum fans alike as it’s not incredibly oaky to those who aren’t used to rums and shows the real versatility that rum can have with unique fruity flavours and an amazingly light finish. However, at this price point I fear it will be out of the grasp of most people. And no, you can’t have any of mine!

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Review 1: 1931 – St Lucia Distillers (1st Edition)

We picked up this bottle in St Maarten at the hotel we were staying at whilst at the Rum and Beer Festival in Nov 2015. It came highly recommended to us by a fellow rum fan that had travelled from Pennsylvania (Hi Don!).

This brand was created to celebrate the inauguration of a new distillery built in St Lucia in February 1931. Each year the packaging changes and celebrates a year further along and the next edition of this rum. This, as the label suggests, celebrates 80 years of St Lucian Rum, making it a first edition. Each bottle is individually numbered and this one is: Batch 1, bottle 3762, bottled on the 17th May 2011.

The bottle as you can see looks very premium. It’s a beautiful shape, thick based and feels solid in your hands. The rum itself has a lovely golden colour to it. Similar to honey. The cork also has a metal top and is substantial and solid. When eventually popped you can feel the quality of the cork and the smell of the rum comes straight through.

The first smell once in the glass is orange like and slightly zesty. Then immediately it turns earthy and oak like. Slightly sweet notes are also  resent. Possibly raisin. It seems quite rich and has complex notes on the nose increasing my excitement on the imminent tasting.

On the initial taste, we get a fruity start with strong notes of oak and whiskey/bourbon to follow. This makes sense as the rum is aged in bourbon casks before being blended together to maturation. The rums used are from 1999 till 2005. After that initial strong taste of the whiskey/bourbon notes we end with a toffee and spicy finish which lingers long after the rum has been swallowed. The finish is smooth in the throat and has little to no burn.

After letting the rum sit for a few minutes and warm up slightly it seems to change to becoming slightly sweeter. The strong whiskey and bourbon notes are now replaced with notably sweeter notes especially vanilla. The spicy finish is also less evident and as a result feels smoother on the finish.

Overall we do like this rum. Its well balanced and quite drinkable after sitting for a few minutes. However, it maybe difficult for the non rum enthusiasts to enjoy. It’s a rum which tells you immediately it’s a rum. A strong smoke/oak flavour and a sweet spicy finish are exactly what the rum community seem to enjoy. But from our experiences with those who don’t  have much familiarity with the rum world, we feel it maybe too much too soon for them.