West Indies Rum and Cane Merchants – French Overseas XO

What is it? An Agricole rum (sugar cane juice based rum) produced by Rivere du Mat in Reunion and Galion in Martinique. This was distilled using column stills then aged in American and French oak casks for an undetermined amount of time and bottled for Crucial Drinks under their “West Indies Rum and Cane Merchants” brand. I’ve contacted Crucial Drinks for details on ageing but they have not responded. This is a limited release of 2,000 bottles worldwide.

My bottle is number 859 from Batch 3.

No colours or flavours added. The rum is non-chill filtered and bottled at 43% Abv.

Sugar? No. They state so on their website and on tasting it seems clean to me.

Nose: Quite floral with lavender, Lilly of the Valley and violets. There is a vegetal note that reminds me of very well made/home made leek and potato soup, yams, some caramel and a light roast coffee bean. A touch of olive oil appears, as well as a little clove and a tiny bit of vanilla. The longer it’s in the glass the more vegetal and rooty it gets.

Palate: Medium weight, slightly hot and spicy entry. Cane juice, as you’d expect, olives again (green ones), Seville oranges, a touch of raisin and a burst of spicy oak mid palate. There are tastes of herbal and floral notes that I can’t quite pin down to a specific thing, some menthol, liquorice root and sweet potato. There is a burst of soot and charcoal as it moves to the finish.

Finish: Quite long actually, given it’s probably young rum. The end of the charcoal from the palate carries through, salted liquorice and and then gets really quite rooty with that good vegetable bouillon/soup note from the nose. There are some lingering cask spices with clove, ginger and white pepper as it tails off.

Thoughts? I find this pretty good actually. It’s probably very young stuff but that doesn’t really seem to matter with agricoles – maybe a French oak maturation thing, there’s a fair bit of tight grained oak spice to it. There are some really good rooty agricole notes in here and they are laid right out in front of you so you don’t need to go hunting for them. I wouldn’t say it was an “easy” or mass approachable rum but it is an accessible agricole for a good price that isn’t too full-on, so it you fancy having a go at agricoles it’d be a good place to start.

I picked this up for £35 in July 2017 and I personally think that the price reflects well the rum in the bottle. So happy with that.

 

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Hampden 16 year old (1998) – Kill Devil

2017 finished with an absolute cracker of a rum, so it only seems fitting to start 2018 with another…..

What is it? Pure Single Rum (100% pot still, from molasses and a single distillery) from Jamaica. This rum was distilled at the Hampden distillery in Trelawney. Hampden rums are the most potent ones out there in terms of esters, they only use pot stills and the distillery boasts a record breaking 89 (!) fermenters. Dunder is used in the fermentation process, which ranges from a minimum of 2 weeks all the way up to a month – this allows Hampden to create 7 marques of rum based on ester levels, which start at LFCH and go all the way up to DOK at 1600 gr/laa; this is virtually undrinkable and only used in the food industry to create rum based flavours in things like ice-cream or chocolates.

This bottle of rum is from a single cask, which was distilled in December 1998, aged for 16 years and then bottled by independent bottler Hunter Laing for their Kill Devil rum range, producing 316 bottles. Going off the colour and taste I’d say most of the ageing on this was done in Europe.

There is no information on the marque of rum that was in this cask.

No colouring, no chill-filtration and bottled at 46% abv.

Sugar? No.

Normally I don’t comment on colour as it’s pretty irrelevant given that producers can just add colouring, however anyone who buys this may find it a bit odd and judge based on that as it’s a very light gold, almost white wine in colour. Don’t let this put you off.

Nose: Ok, yes, forget the colour of this indeed – it no way indicates the coming storm or prepares you for the impending assault on your nose and palate! Massive and pungent, huge funky hogo. If you’ve never experienced dunder and long fermentation before just smell this and it explains everything. Full of rotting citrus and tropical fruit (mangoes, papayas, lemons), fermenting pineapples, really, really, over-ripe bananas. You’ve got gloss paint, turpentine, nail polish and then a big hit of oak with warm wood, cinnamon, cloves and a hint of ginger root. Tucked away in there is a smell of new tyres that have been sat in the sun for days and rubbed with olive oil. Crushed sea shells, rock pools, fish food flakes and warm sand.

Palate: Powerful, even at 46%. Full mouth feel and oily texture. Wow. The taste profile is basically the same as the nose, which is a lazy thing to say I know, but to be honest I want it to taste like the nose, so happy days! A mix of all the rotting, fermenting and gone-off fruit, very juicy and big on banana with fresh pineapples. Then things explode. The initial palate delivery was big but after about 5 seconds in your mouth the whole things goes off like Nicolas Cage loosing his shit. Huge funk, varnish, marine fuel, seaweed, gallons of virgin olive oil, cinnamon and smoked lemons. As it settles down there is a creamy, buttery taste and an almond, almost marzipan note.

Finish: Very long. A little spice (clove and ginger), maybe some white pepper, but it’s that buttery, nutty taste. The fruits are creamed, so banana yogurt, pineapple posset and lemon cream rather than fresh juice. Some rubber gloves, balloons and bicycle inner tube in there to keep you on your toes and again a lovely extra-virgin olive oil note to compliment the savoury side.

Thoughts? Incredible rum. Definitely not a rum for people just starting out in the rum world; it’s so powerful and the flavours are so intense but it’s full, round and complex too. Staggering to think this is from a single cask and not blended, what a selection by Hunter Laing! I’ve had many cask strength bottles, this is more powerful than most of them and it’s only at 46%. I dread to think what this would be like ramped up.

I could go on and on about this rum, there is so much happening in the glass. The intensity makes it very hard to pull the individual flavours out and it’s hard to describe. Just one of those things you taste and think “wow”.

Ok, the grit; this was priced at £60 when I bought it (March 2017). No discussion to be had, it’s a bargain for the amount of flavour that’s crammed into it.

Foursquare 2 year old (2013) – Habitation Velier

What is it? Pure single rum from Barbados, distilled at the Foursquare distillery on a double retort pot still in 2013, aged for 2 years in ex-cognac casks, and bottled in 2015. This rum is 100% tropically aged and that 2 years has produced an Angel’s Share of over 15%, so a loss of around 7-8% a year! To put this in context, European aged spirits tend to loose around 2% a year to the Angels, so this is interacting and oxidising at around 4 times as quickly as something you’d get maturing in the UK. 2 years doesn’t sound a lot but with the rapid maturation taken into account this is equivalent to a European aged spirit of around 8 years old. Those 2 years have also been in ex-cognac casks which means it’s tight grained French oak, this is much more intense than ex-bourbon American oak and will add a lot of flavour to the rum.

Unchillfiltered, not coloured and bottled at 64% abv. Rock on.

Sugar? No. Zero additives to this.

I’ve dropped this down to around 57% or so, it’s way to hot and spirity at 64%, I need my nose and I like my throat.

Nose: Oh my, lovely. Certainly Foursquare at first, no doubt about that. As we begin it’s kinda what I’d expect with vanilla pod, spiced caramel sauce, those toffee pennies from a tin of Quality Street (mixed chocolates that you get in the UK at Christmas) and a little orange cake. Once my nasal hairs have got used to the heat (even at 57%!) there is more depth to this; it’s pretty fat, oily and phenolic with olives, raw licorice, raw coffee beans, raw walnuts, engine oil, grease…whatever, it smells dirty in a good way, like I’ve just come in from the garage. The phenolic and sweet smells blend to give an almost Umami effect which lights up your nostrils. This is a big rum and I could smell it all day long.

Palate: Perfect weight, oily but not viscous. Hot delivery, even diluted down – let’s be honest, it’s only 2 years old and has been in French Oak. Chilli infused caramel, pepper infused toffee, that vanilla pod again and then, as with the nose, BAM! Phenolic, meaty, oily, salty, brine, tapenade paste, candle wax, licorice, maybe a little tar or rubber – can’t quite put my finger on it. That salt-sweet Umami efftect again that just ignites your taste buds. Finally, just as things move towards the finish there is a little raisin and some dark chocolate creeping in.

Finish: Long, very long and hot. I was expecting a shorter finish given the age. The raisin and dark chocolate continue but it’s joined by licorice again, some cranberry, salty lime lift and a drizzle of thick honey over toast. The dark chocolate returns and it tails off with a coffee bean or 2.

Thoughts? A big, big rum. For a young rum it’s got massive flavour and incredible complexity right through from nose to the end of the finish. Ok, it isn’t very well balanced, which is something that Foursquare always is when it’s blended out, but geez come on, it’s a 2 year old French oak matured pot still rum at 64% – it was never designed to be balanced! What it was designed to do was show you what Foursquare pot still is like and celebrate that. With that considered it works perfectly.

£85….2 year old, that’s a lot. Would I buy this again? 100%. Age is a good marker of market value for spirits, generally, but there are other things to consider and this is about flavour in the bottle and it’s worth every penny.

*Buyer beware; this is not a rum for novices or the faint hearted*

 

Uitvlugt 17 year old – 1999 – (MPM Port Mourant still) – WhiskyBroker

What is it? A single cask rum from Guyana, distilled from molasses at the Uitvlugt Distillery on the double wooden pot still of Port Mourant – as I’ve already covered a few times, the various stills which are now resident at the Diamond Distillery have moved to various other distilleries over time and so is the case with the Port Mourant still; it was at Uitvlugt during the time this rum was distilled and moved on to Diamond in 2000. So, it’s an “Uitvlugt” but it’s actually a Port Mourant.

This rum was distilled and filled into barrel 18 in December 1999 where it aged for 17 years until it was bottled on 9th February 2017. From what I can tell from the tasting this was matured in Europe and not the tropics.

My bottle is number 29 of 149 – this seems like a low number of bottles from what appears to be an ex-bourbon cask, however there is a bottling of Rabbies Rum by TheWhiskyBarrel that is exactly the same barrel number, fill and bottle date as well as abv so it looks like the cask was split between TWB and WhiskyBroker.

Not coloured, not filtered and bottled at full proof of 60.8% abv.

Sugar? Nope.

I’ve been drinking this with water at about 55-57% abv so the review is based on that.

Nose: Aniseed, light liquorice, fennel, olive oil, white spirit – the expected start really. On to WD40, old tyres, plaster, concrete dust, soil and some candle wax; it’s a dirty old rum this one, lacking fruit and freshness but sometimes dirty is good….There is some thinned out toffee and maybe a hint of golden syrup, a spiced honey which is almost like a honey glazed ham. Very Islay whisky in style. Deeper down there are some smoky pipe notes/barrel char and some sourness or bitterness which reminds me of sour cherry stones.

Palate: Medium mouth feel. Tarry, rubbery, engine oil, the licked back of a stamp, sticking plasters (BandAids for our American friends) – very phenolic at first. Hello, some fruit! Sourness at the start with lemons but then it sweetens a little, olive oil again, limes maybe, a touch of dried apricot and a good handful if salt and pepper crumb you get on fish.

Finish: Long, Ah, there is almost a chilli kick and then cooling feeling with cherry stones and chalky tablets as it moves from the palate to the finish; very similar to a Talisker single malt whisky actually, uncannily so. As it leaves there are some green bananas, limes, a little aniseed and a touch of runny honey.

Thoughts? Off balance and totally clearly a single cask. This rum lacks any real fruit and freshness, and it’s not a typical Port Mourant, however it’s certainly not a “bad” rum. This is an MPM cask, so it was always going to be of a different style and should not be compared to a “bigger” Port Mourant; it’s very mineral, phenolic and spirit forward which is just the kind of spirit I like. It reminds me a lot of my whisky drinking past, but it’s not going to be right for every rum drinker out there, you’ve got to know what you like and know you like this type of rum to “get” this.

A nice change up and one I’m very glad I picked up for the £55 it cost me – damn good value for money if you ask me. Well done once more Whisky Broker.