Barbancourt 5 star (8 year old)

What is it? Haitian rum, from cane juice, so an agricole. Produced at the Barbancourt distillery and aged tropically in Limousin oak casks (French oak) for 8 years. There is some more background on Barbancourt and the distillation method in my review of the 15 year old here, so I wont go over this again; linky link.

Chill filtered, coloured and bottled at 43% abv.

Sugar? 6 grams/litre – pretty much residual cask sugars, this isn’t added sugar content.

Nose: Quite hot and spicy, as expected from the French oak and youth. Some cloves, cinnamon iced buns, ginger root and black pepper. Once the nose gets used to the heat there are some really lovely toffee apple (red apple) notes, vanilla buttercream frosting, golden syrup and Seville orange rind, maybe even coarse cut marmalade. There is a caramel, crème brulè, toffee type background to it and an ever so slight smell that does remind me of Cognac. The faintest rolling of tobacco smoke flutters about.

Palate: Not as hot as the nose would suggest, medium mouth feel with a weighty but fresh presence. Quite an indulgent set of flavours here with egg custard tarts, more crème brulè, salted caramel, runny honey, those toffee apples from the nose as well as the vanilla buttercream. Behind the sweeter notes is a light grassy cane and a handful of mixed herbs (marjoram and parsley). It’s not very “agricole”, more as if cane syrup was used or even a very light molasses – there are the grassy and herbal notes in there but not as much as you’d expect from a normal French Caribbean style agricole. There is an oaky buzz throughout the whole palate and a prickle of heat on your tongue to let you know it’s been in French oak casks.

Finish: Quite long on the spices, like one of these modern chefs who has infused chilli into a caramel or black pepper into toffee sauce, or something. It’s got the residual sweeter notes there but the real heat of spices from the casks – gotta love that French oak influence on spirits.

Thoughts? Great rum. Lots of gorgeous flavours but it’s tempered with the spice. There is a lot less oak on this than the 15 year old, and I prefer it – personally I think it’s a better all round rum for it and you can see the spirit more. It’s basically got all the flavours I expected to get in the 15 year old but that got lost under the oaky onslaught.

Price wise, this cost me £32 in the UK, which I think is stunning value for money. One I’d definitely get again.

 

 

 

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Plantation Pineapple Stiggins Fancy

1st of August, in the UK, so naturally it’s pissing it down with rain. Time to pick up my spirits with something very tropical.

What is it? A flavoured rum drink produced by Plantation. They take their 3 Stars rum and infuse the rinds of Victoria pineapples in it for 1 week, once flavoured they then distil this in pot stills. Separately, they take the fruit of the pineapples and infuse it in their Original Dark rum for 3 months. The resulting 2 rums are then married together and put into casks where they age for up to 3 months.

Coloured, chill filtered and bottled at 40% abv.

Sugar? Yep. 23 g/l as tested by Wes at thefatrumpirate.com

Nose: Pineapple, of course. Not in your face though – fresh and juicy, warm and sun-baked. Deep brown muscavado sugar, slightly caught and burnt I guess, faintest tobacco and some decent barrel char. A little leather, some distant tar and a banana thrown in for good measure. Not just about the pineapple, there are other lovely smells to be had underneath, and they’re not even that difficult to find.

Palate: Medium to heavy mouth feel – good heavy, not sticky heavy, despite the sugar. Not as sweet as expected, I mean it definitely tastes of pineapple but lovely and pan fried in butter, glazed with brown sugar. There is a creamy taste and feel about this, almost a pineapple cream, as well as a faint prickle of heat – but it’s generally pretty sedate.

Finish: Short. Pineapple cube sweeties, banana, brown sugar and then that tobacco and char from the nose. There is a tarry, even rubbery note right at the end and a gentle fade with the normal blend of baking spices. Nothing to write home about but generally a nice continuation and fade of the palate.

Thoughts: Look, I knew what I was getting when I bought this. I knew it’d be sweetened and it’d be flavoured and it’d be young, I made my purchase fully understanding this so I’m not going to complain. Actually, quite the contrary; I find this very good and much better than I was expecting. I fully expected to just get a nose and mouth of pineapple but there are plenty of other flavours in there – it’s being sold as mainly a mixer but you really can sip this quite happily neat (as I’ve done with my entire bottle), and it’s dangerously moreish.

I paid £36 for this at the time. I’d rather have paid £30 or less (it is young) but all in all I’m quite happy with it and would buy it again.

Uitvlugt 18 year old (1997) – Duncan Taylor single cask number 13

What is it? Single cask rum, from molasses. distilled at the Uitvlugt distillery in Guyana. It was distilled in November 1997, aged for 18 years (looks to be European aged) and bottled in February 2016 by independent bottlers Duncan Taylor. This is from Cask number 13 and 304 bottles were produced.

No chill filtration, no added colouring and bottled at full proof of 53.5% abv.

Facts of out the way, now here’s where it starts to get a little confusing. As anyone who has more than a passing interest in rum will know, Demerara rum (especially single cask stuff) is a mine field; stills from various distilleries have been moved around various other distilleries during the years and most of them have ended up at Diamond, on their journey there have been periods where certain stills have been at certain distilleries and produced rum. Rather than the distillery that this rum has come from, what we really want to know as rum enthusiasts is the still that this was produced on – well we just don’t know. I’ve contacted Duncan Taylor for some more information, maybe a cask marque or anything, about which still this was produced on, but I’ve not had a reply – I guess they just don’t know. All that this bottle says is “pot” still.

Now, the original stills at Uitvlugt were four-column Savalle stills, there has also been a Blair continuous still and the single wooden pot still (Versailles still) passed through, however the back of the bottle states there was also a copper pot still…..I’ve been searching long and hard through quite a bit of documentation on this and the only mention I can find of a copper pot still is that a John Dore high ester copper pot was in circulation through various distilleries. There is no definitive information that this John Dore pot still was ever at Uitvulgt but I know for certain that the Versailles wooden pot still was there; it was moved from Enmore to Uitvulgt in 1993 and didn’t get moved on to Diamond until Uitvlugt closed later on. So was this distilled on some hardly mentioned John Dore high ester still or was it in fact distilled on the Versailles still? Dunno. Lets see how the tasting goes…..

Sugar? Nope.

Nose: Bananas, pineapple, soft brown sugar, marzipan, some smoky lemon and a little bit of funk (!) – it’s actually pretty fruity at the start, estery and quite Jamaican. Interesting. There is some lovely soft oak, white pepper, very light liquorice and some salty, pickled note like capers. This is not a heavy Demerara, it’s got an almost whisky like nose with the oak coming out more with time.

Palate: Medium mouth feel, more towards thin if anything. Fruity at first, lots of that banana and mango even, some light honey. Heat of oak with the white pepper again and some pencil shavings. Things then go south quite soon after and it starts to get sour with gurkins, capers, green raw oak – it totally looses steam and becomes fairly astringent.

Finish: Medium. Oaky, still sour and then some light smoke/char, fresh liquorice, brine and maybe a little honey just holding out. Not really the best bit.

Thoughts: Weird rum. It can’t decide what it is; fruity? Savoury? It doesn’t know. Honestly not the best cask of rum I’ve had, but a fine example of a single cask non the less – 100% singular and divisive, not blended out.

 

Ok, that was disappointing. However, I’ve been playing with this one for quite some time and adding water to see what it does. Usually I don’t add water for tasting notes and certainly not to something that’s a measly 53.5%, but benefit of the doubt and all that – here is with some water:

Nose: Quite like before, but the pickle notes are gone and everything is smoky; charred oak, smoked pineapple, burnt banana, honey on burnt toast. Much more depth and “thicker”, “rounder” nose.

Palate: Waaaaaayy better. Thicker mouth feel, less astringent and really quite fruity now. The sourness is almost gone, more honey, sugar cane, sweet grasses and some lavender. Oaky a bit still and a prickle of heat as you swallow.

Finish: Longer, softer oak but still with the spices. Some more wet wood and green oak here but much more restrained and less intrusive. Sweeter liquorice and some trailing banana.

Thoughts now? Wow. What a difference a few drops of water makes. I’ve literally added about half a teaspoon to a good double measure of rum and it’s totally transformed. From a flop to an interesting and complex sipper. Look, I’m not sure I’d blow £80 on this again, it’s just not good enough, but I don’t regret the purchase. Certainly not an easy rum.

Oh, and still? It does have some estery notes but it’s not a high ester rum, it shares far more in common with the Bristol Spirits 20yo Enmore – so I think it’s probably from the Versailles still and destined for some blending.

Foursquare Criterion

One that many people out there are no doubt waiting for reviews on. I’ve had this bottle since it snook up on TheWhiskyExchange a few weeks ago and I’ve been working my way through it slowly. I didn’t want to bang a review out straight away due to the nature of the rum; as it’s partly matured in ex-Madeira casks it needs time to open up. Pretty much every spirit I’ve drunk over the years that has spent a reasonable time in fortified wine casks has taken time to fully show it’s colours and the opening and drinking of the spirit allows the oxygen to mix with the juice and let the flavours settle and show. A quick fire review from the first glass was never going to do this bottle the justice that it deserves, so here it is….a little later than I wanted. Foursquare Criterion:

What is it? Round 5 of the Exceptional Cask Selection rums from the Foursquare distillery in Barbados. So far we’ve had the 1998 vintage (which I missed and is looong gone), the Port cask finish, the Zinfandel blend and the 2004 full proof. Here we have something which is a sort of mixture of the previous versions – full proof and a cask dip. So, molasses based rum produced on both column and pot stills (the blend has not been divulged). The resulting blend of the rums was first matured in ex-bourbon casks for 3 years and then re-racked into ex-Madeira casks for a further 7 years, giving a total of 10 years worth of tropical maturation. As with the Port cask rum, this is not a wine cask finish, it’s spent a lot of time sitting in those ex-Madeira casks – 7 years is a long time in Madeira casks, especially in tropical conditions. This is a limited bottling, with only 2000 bottles being produced to market and this time is also finding it’s way over to America, so pickings will be thin. It appears that there is exclusive distribution rights in the UK of this through The Whisky Exchange.

I’ve been informed that this is natural colour (although it doesn’t say it on the bottle…..Richard!), not chill filtered (although it doesn’t say it on the bottle…..Richard!) and bottled at full proof of 56% abv. Game on.

Sugar? Get out of town.

Nose: Absolutely Foursquare, no doubt about that! We get honeycomb, some golden syrup, vanilla, gripping oak with cut planks, black peppercorns and green chillies. There are the usual and expected wood spice notes of cinnamon, nutmeg and some allspice ginger biscuits. Once the initial oaky onslaught has passed there are warm and deep notes of dry roasted peanuts, honey glazed smoked almonds, muscavado sugar, flame grilled pineapple and some salted butter. There is a touch of high quality, freshly brewed black coffee and the smell of a distant car garage with a little tiny bit of grease and motor oil. It’s mouth-watering , intense and almost pulls you into the glass.

Palate: Nose was pretty stunning, the palate is even better. Heavy, thick mouth feel, even at 56% abv – it’s beautifully oily and coating without being cloying. Big honeycomb again straight away, pretty sweet delivery and almost bourbon like at the start with caramels, corn syrup, charred casks and spicy oak taking hold – the abv really punches the flavour and the initial hit. A bit of time getting used to the heat of this we have some beautiful maple pecans, toffee sauce, fresher red apple – maybe even some tarte tatin. Salted butter again, some juicy sultanas, a little burnt banana, smoked custard (doesn’t exist but should!) and then the phenolic notes I found on the nose with motor oil, distant tar and old car engine that’s running the fuel mix too rich – or what I imagine that would actually taste like…

Finish: Long, very long indeed. Dry as hell, very dark chocolate (90% stuff), nuts that were burnt when being roasted, the ones that were at the bottom of the tray, salty caramel that has stuck to the pan. Some smoked nuts with a little sharp apple as it fades, maybe even toffee apples. It’s a very dry and quite bitter finish at it tails off, but not bad bitter more of the interesting oak laden bitterness you get with well aged spirits. Right at the end of the finish (right, right, right at the end) there is a musty cloth note and a little bubblegum, which could indicate that the Madeira casks this has been sitting in were pretty old and have held wine for a long time, just getting to the end of their life, if not slightly past it. I’ve found this note in old Armagnac before and whisky that was in very old Oloroso sherry casks, just a slight flaw with the cask condition. Usually you wont notice this as normal drinking wise you’d already be back in for another sip, but as I’m reviewing I’m deliberately looking for flavours…..so I guess you sometimes find things you wouldn’t normally.

Thoughts? What a beautiful rum this is. I’ll tell you right now that this is may favourite of the Exceptional Cask Selection rums so far, the abv is near on perfect (it’ll happily take water if you want to put some in though), the mouth feel is exceptional and the layers of flavours built up by the cask selection and the rum blend are deep as hell. Once again, as with the previous Exceptional Casks, the balance is the real player here, the way the flavours work together to give a whole greater than the sum of it’s parts is what takes this rum to the top of the pile. I’m all for single cask, single still, rums but this is a lesson from the master in the wonders of skilful blending and the results it can produce.

Price? £57 in the UK. Some would say it’s steep for a 10 year old rum, but forget age…that’s just a number on a label, it’s about quality of what you get in the bottle – £57 well spent in my view, and if I wasn’t such a tight git I’d have bought a case of it.