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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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Everyday Rum – Review 4: Lamb’s Navy Rum – £14

Alfred Lamb was born in 1827. He was the son of wines and spirits entrepreneur William Lamb. Just 22 years later, he blended together ’18 superior rums’ from Barbados, Jamaica, Trinidad and Guyana and created the worlds first Lambs Navy Rum. The rum was blended and aged for 4 years in a warehouse in West India Docks in London by the Thames River. This warehouse was unfortunately a casualty of the London Blitz and had to be rebuilt. Their website is fun and informative and can be found here.

You can find Lamb’s Navy rum throughout the land here in the UK. Pretty much every bar/pub/supermarket will have this rum and as a result of this for many it is their go to choice of rum. There are a few other offerings from Lamb’s but this Navy is the staple release and the one which Lamb’s have built their brand on.

The Lambs bottle is quite unique as you can see from the picture. It is a hexagonal shape rather than the typical cylindrical bottle that we see over most bottles. I do think it is easier to hold when pouring than your standard bottle shape. The label lends itself to the branding towards being a rum for the British Navy. However I could not find any information to corroborate that it actually is linked to the British Navy. None the less it seems to be proud to be a British rum and the label displays this.

The rum is a deep red/brown colour when poured in the glass. On my first smell I find this to be quite sweet. Toffee and dried fruits such as raisins are at the forefront. There are notes of burnt sugar and vanilla and the distinctive molasses. On my first sip I taste molasses and toffee similar to the nose. This melts away into some spiciness of nutmeg and slight cinnamon. A very sweet sip, although there is a burn at the finish along with some oak notes. Whilst it is possible to have this neat, I really don’t recommend it. The taste on the palette just doesn’t work for me and the finish leaves a long lasting alcohol burn which I think needs to be mixed. Plus the Lamb’s advertising doesn’t lend itself for this to be a sipping rum.

I have almost always mixed this rum with diet coke when I have been out drinking socially. When mixed, it brings out more grass and earth flavours from the rum. This is a nice alternative to how sweet the other popular dark rums, such as Captain Morgan, become when mixed with diet coke. This is actually a surprising turn with Lambs due to how sweet it is neat. The drink is still definitely sweet, but now mixed; the coke takes the edge off making it a much better option.

Personally I would have this rum as a nice alternative to a simple dark rum  and coke when on a night out. It wouldn’t be my go to choice for a simple mixer but it’s a nice alternative. Other than with coke, I’m not sure where else I would place this rum. Potentially a sharp citrus based cocktail may help to cut through the sweetness, but I am yet to try one of these cocktails with this particular rum.

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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 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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Merchant House Bar

A couple of days ago we had the opportunity to visit Merchant House in London, who claim to have one of the largest collections of Rum (and Gin) in the World. As you can imagine, we were excited when a friend suggested it to us. It has been on the to-do list recently and we jumped at the opportunity.

The bar is downstairs with the entrance and small shop upstairs. The shop has a few bottles of spirits for sale including the St Nicholas Abbey 10 year which can be difficult to get hold of. The cocktail bar is downstairs and has a variety of bottles along the walls and in cabinets throughout to entice those who even have a passing care in them.

After speaking to the bartender we decided to start with a Botran 12 year (made in Guatemala) and have a look through their collection on the shelves and cabinets to see if they had anything we hadn’t seen before or anything they would recommend to an enthusiast like myself. A quick look round left us a tad disappointed with the selection. They had a large collection indeed, but nothing we didn’t own or hadn’t tried before. Nothing rare or unique jumped out at the team.

After a quick chat with the lovely and very knowledgeable Welsh waitress Daisy, she asked if we had seen their special cabinet at the back of the bar. It contained their rarest and most expensive spirit selection and had quite a few unique rums and she was sure there would be a few we hadn’t seen or tried. She was right.

The cabinet contained quite a few rare rums including Uitvlugt 1997 ULR (59.7%) from the Demerara distillers in Guyana (also home to El Dorado), a selection of Samaroli rum (This company is originally from Italy and the rum is matured in Scotland), Damoiseau Rhum Vieux Millesime 1991 from Guadalupe and Black Tot last Consignment. A proud selection indeed!

We decided to try the Uitvlugt 1997 ULR (review here), and then enjoyed a cocktail of the bartenders choosing which was his personal twist on a Dark ‘n’ Stormy (n.b. wasn’t called a dark ‘n’ stormy). We also decided to try the Empire Old Fashioned with different bases of rums and under guidance used Botran 12 and Diplomatico Reserva Exclusiva.

Overall it’s an excellent bar with a superb variety of rums available. If you are in London we highly recommend a visit. Great atmosphere, great location and great rum, what more do you need?