Monymusk 9 year old (2007) – Kill Devil

What is it? This is a pot still rum distilled at the “Monymusk Distillery” in Jamaica, so Pure Single Rum, distilled in March 2007 and then aged for 9 years (I assume in Europe) and bottled as a single cask by Hunter Laing for their Kill Devil rum range. One of 303 bottles from the cask.

Now I say “Monymusk Distillery” because that’s what it says on the bottle, however, there is no such distillery – hence the “quotes”. Monymusk as actually a rum brand not a distillery. The largest rum maker in Jamaica is Clarendon, producing around 40 million bottles (75cl) of rum every year, and is owned by 4 different interests: DDL of Guyana (those El Dorado peeps) Goddard Enterprises (who also own W.I.R.D in Barbados, amongst others), the Jamaican government and Diageo. The first 3 form a organisation known as NRJ (National Rums of Jamaica) and the 4th is the massive multi-national conglomerate.

Of all the rum produced by Clarendon, 90% of it goes to Diageo for their Captain Morgan blend sold in Europe (US Captain Morgan is mostly from St Croix in the Virgin Islands). Very little of the rum produced at Clarendon (less than 10%) is destined for the Monymusk brand.

Clarendon produce 2 types of pot still rum; light/low ester rum that undergoes a quick 24 hour fermentation in steel tanks and a heavy/high ester rum that is fermented for up to a month in wood tuns. The esterification is controlled by yeast strains and dunder is not used here. The lions share of rum from Clarendon comes via column still, but only pot still is used for Monymusk.

…..anyway, enough of that, on to the review:

Not coloured, not chill-filtered and bottled a 46% abv.

Sugar? Nope.

Nose: Delicious! A lower ester rum than I was expecting, well, compared to the likes of Hampden or Long Pond that is. Still a funky hogo with plenty of banana and some pineapple cubes, but just softer and less in your face. Some tarry ropes, brine’y sea spray, a little liquorice and maybe green olives in there too. Fresh fruit keeps it lively with ripe pears, lime zest and a little strawberry. There is quite a decadent, richness to the nose too with golden syrup, chewy toffee or maybe butterscotch and a light vanilla. Not one smell dominates, one minute you get fruits, the next you get sweet and go back again to savoury. Really lovely.

Palate: Full and oily, the legs running down the glass hardly move they are that thick. Great mouth feel and weight. Savoury start, olive brine, fennel, tar, and rubber bands. Some surprising wood spice with cloves, grated horseradish and black pepper – gets a little hot in the middle. There is some sweetness in here too with baked pears with a light toffee glaze, but it’s fleeting and hard to keep hold of. A little lift of lime juice as it moves to the finish.

Finish: Medium. Creamy here actually, I mean there is still some heat and pepper but it’s a weird creamy pepper, maybe like horseradish cream. More of the sweet notes come through with time than they do on the palate with golden syrup poured over porridge oats, honey on toast, pear compote and even the faintest hint of sweet pipe tobacco right at the end.

Thoughts? It’s quite a heavy rum but not huge in esters which produces a very noticeable Jamaican but is softer and richer. When I first opened this it was much sweeter tasting but after a third of a bottle it’s morphed and is starting to get more and more savoury.

This is a lovey rum for someone who wants to try a natural Jamaican pot still but may be put off by the massive ester stuff, it’s certainly not an easy rum by any means but would be a great stepping stone into the Jamaican style and it’s fairly approachable.

£45 this cost me, which is a fair bit for a European aged 9 year old rum, but I think it’s got a lot to give and a lot of flavour. One that I’d certainly buy again – if there were any left!

 

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Flor De Cana 12

What is it? Molasses based, multi-column distilled rum from Compania Locorera de Nicaragua (CLN), in Nicaragua, and bottled under the Flor De Cana (Cane Flower) rum brand. Molasses comes from local sugar and is produced at the Ingenio San Antonio sugar mill which is part of the same company as CLN and undergoes a 36 hour fermentation. The is the bottling of the “12”, this does not mean 12 years old; in recent years the packaging has changed and where it used to say “12 anos” on the bottle it now just states “12 slow aged”. They also produce a “7”, “18” and “25” – none of which are the age of the number on the bottle. I really don’t like this misleading labelling that is often used in rum, which allows the consumer to believe they are buying a product of a certain age but in fact that are not, they may was well call their line-up “Flor De Cana 1, 2, 3 and 4” for all the difference it makes.

Chill filtered, coloured and bottled at 40% abv.

Sugar? No.

Nose: Quite oaky at first, a good sign – maybe it has actually seen some aging after all! Pecans, walnuts and syrup; think Tracker Bars (nutty snack bar things in the UK). Vanilla, some cinnamon, light brown sugar and Werthers Original sweets. There isn’t much fruit on display here, a little red apple perhaps, that’s been caramelised as if to make a Tart Tatin and a little dried papaya, but other than that it’s really cask smells. With some time I can pick up the faintest floral note, almost of Peonies.

Palate: Medium mouth feel, quite coating actually. We’re in the same place as the nose really, it’s a bit more buttery, cinnamon certainly, vanilla and Allspice. Hints of warm oak, caramels, burnt sugar and pecans again. No floral notes here but a toffee apple sweetness, which again is the only real fruit. Tanic as it moves to the finish.

Finish: Short. Tanic, starting to bitter. Burnt toast with butter and honey on top, some toffee and that’s about it. Hmmm, not the best finish really.

Thoughts? Not bad, but not good either. It’s a very run-of-the-mill rum and all a little pointless. I’m not really sure who this rum is aimed at; your casual drinker will find it too dry and bitter whereas your seasoned rum drinker is unlikely to find it complex or interesting enough and all a bit dull. Maybe it’s aimed at whisky drinkers, who knows. I’ve started going to this bottle when my palate is having an off day, it still tastes ok but I don’t feel guilty about wasting a decent rum when I can’t taste too well.

So, £35……now that seems ok but there are a hell of a lot of better rums out there for that price…. not one I’ll be buying again.

Dark Overproof – Kill Devil

What is it? This is a blended rum put together by Hunter Laing for their Kill Devil range of rums. The blend, at least as far this particular bottling is concerned, is comprised of aged rums from Guyana and Jamaica; there are no details of specifically which distilleries these base rums come from or any details on ageing – I have spoken to Hunter Laing about it but naturally (for commercial reasons) they cannot divulge their blend recipe, which is fair enough. I must note at this point, that the rum is actually quite dark, I know that it’s not very old and Hunter Laing have not added any colouring – this is because some of the rum (I’ll take a guess at the Guyanese aspect) has been coloured at source when it was put into cask. DDL are quite known for doing this so it’s no surprise, please be re-assured that HL have not coloured it.

No details provided on chill-filtration, it has been coloured by DDL at source and it’s bottled at 57% abv.

Sugar? None will have been added by Hunter Laing, but I can’t confirm lack of sugar as it’s possible that DDL have had a little play with the source rum – they sometimes coat the inside of casks with molasses prior to filling and this would add sugar into the rum when it ages…..I really need to get one of those hydrometer thingies.

Nose: Very hot on the nose, don’t get too far into the glass with this! Immediately very funky; blackened bananas, pineapple cube sweets, tinned apricots and some lime zest. Probably young Hampden making up a large part of the Jamaican aspect of the blend I’d guess. Next to this funk sits in some deeper, murkier, dirtier notes from the Demerara rum with shoe polish, coffee beans, black eating liquorice and charcoal, maybe some smoky tobacco in there too. There is a little lift of mint the more I nose this which freshens it up.

Palate: Hot, as you’d expect. Good weighted mouthfeel and coats well. Feels a little sweet at first. Ah yes, here we go, almost certain we’re talking young Hampden in here, it blends better on the palate then the nose with a toffee’d banana, chocolate covered coffee bean and pineapple fudge. There is a salty lime note through it which cuts any sweetness, a touch of engine oil (well, what the smell tastes like, if you get me), a little pine sap and a beef brisket that is smoking on a BBQ 2 doors down.

Finish: Medium, just about. Pretty much a combination of the nose and the palate, little newness added here; black coffee, some dark chocolate maybe, tobacco smoke, a little liquorice, leather maybe and plenty of over ripe bananas at the end.

Thoughts? Quite intense, young, fruity and weighty – a good Navy overproof blend. It’s fruitier and lighter than many “Navy” blends out there but it does have those dirtier notes too. If I’m being honest I’m a bit disappointed in the finish, it’s not very long nor does it add anything more to what’s already going on. I imagine this would be very good in a cocktail or with cola, and frankly it’s also pretty good sipped.

I’m sure we’ve got Hampden and heavy variant of Enmore in here as the 2 main rums, at a young age, maybe some Port Mourant too for good measure. Given that, the abv and the price of around £35, I think it’s a good buy and value for money. If I was after a really good overproof navy blend this is exactly what I’d pick up again.

 

Foursquare 2004 Cask Strength (11 year old)

With the recent release of the new Foursquare Exceptional Casks, specifically the 2005 Cask Strength, I thought I’d check my notes on the 2004. Imagine my surprise when I released I’ve not actually posted a review for the 2004 Cask Strength yet! What the hell happened there then?! Too much rum, too many pieces of paper and a brain that has been turned to jelly by having kids, that’s what. So better late (2 years) than never as they say:

What is it? The Third bottling in the Foursquare Exception Cask series. It’s molasses based rum produced on both Pot stills and twin column stills at the same distillery, Foursquare in St. Philip, Barbados – so a Bajan Single Blended Rum. The distillate from both still types is blended when it’s raw spirit and then put into ex-bourbon casks to age tropically, in this case for 11 years. The rum was distilled in 2004 (hence the name) and bottled in September 2015.

As far as I’m aware the rum does have some colouring in it. There are no details about chill-filtration but the rum does go slightly cloudy with water so any filtering has been minimal. Bottled at full cask strength of 59% abv.

Sugar? Not a cat in Hell’s chance.

For the purpose of this review I’ve taken the rum down to around 55% abv.

Nose: Ok, this is pretty damn awesome……pretty oaky as you’d expect, a lot of bourbon influence with vanilla, warm wood, smoked coconut, gingerbread, light rolling tobacco and pecans. There’s a lovely biscuit’y note that reminds me a lot of Digestive biscuits and brown sugar that has been melted with butter in a pan as if you were making a cheesecake base or something. There are some fresh cane notes too, that I wasn’t expecting, hay, and the odd green banana. Under all this there are some meaty savoury notes of fresh liquorice root, tar, engine oil, sea water, dusty dry soil blowing about in the wind and very good olive oil.

Palate: Surprisingly not was hot as you’d expect, good full mouthfeel and very dry. Really quite savoury at the start with salty green olives, salted and smoked lemons, tar, creosote and wasabi. The savoury dies off a little leaving dark chocolate, roasted pecans in a salted caramel, donuts but without the sugar (just the batter) and ginger biscuits. There are some lovely lifting grassy cane notes again part way through that keep it fresh as the sweeter side starts to settle in.

Finish: Long, very long. Oaky and bitter dark chocolate, vanilla, coconut – we’re back to the nose again – a little touch of orange maybe or marmalade that creeps in and whilst it’s certainly not sweet the sweeter notes dominate over the savoury side here, but it’s dry and puckering at the same time.

Thoughts? Fabulous stuff. Really. What a beautiful rum; it’s got everything you could want in it and it takes water like a fish. I dropped it down to 40% abv for a trial and all the flavours were still great. What’s worrying about this is that even at 59% it’s dangerously drinkable, but I’ve found the sweet spot is at about 55% (which is why I’ve reviewed it at that), and there it really allows that perfect Foursquare balance to show off.

So I bought this so long ago I don’t even remember how much I paid for it, I think it was about £45!! Absolute no brainer, and what’s even better is that it’s still available to buy (at the time of publish). So if you’re thinking about picking up a 2005 Cask Strength I urge you to pick up this 2004 also and compare the two. You will not be disappointed.