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Hi, this is one of our (almost) daily tastings. Santé!

September 6, 2013


Malternatives or not?
Great and poor young rums

We're having some mildly bad nose days (nose is tired but not distorted according to my benchmark/reference malts), so we're going on with our quest for worthy malternatives today, with quite a bunch of young rums from various countries that shouldn't need much nosing. We'll select them more or less at random, so that some surprises can happen, and we'll remain quick as far as nosing is concerned. Let's see if we can find some gems...

Angostura 5 yo (40%, OB, Trinidad, +/-2013)

Angostura 5 yo (40%, OB, Trinidad, +/-2013) Colour: pale gold. Nose: not much happening, it's light and relatively grassy, easy, with some sugarcane coming through. Mouth: very sweet, too sweet for my taste. Liqueurs, orange peel, corn syrup and touches of bananas. Not a lot happening, I don't think this should be sipped neat. Finish: rather short, molassy, sweet. Cane sugar. Comments: not bad but bland. I think younger ones or plain white ones can be more interesting and certainly less 'lumpy'. Absolutely no true 'malternative'. SGP:530 - around 50 points.

Angostura 7 yo (40%, OB, Trinidad, +/-2013)

Angostura 7 yo (40%, OB, Trinidad, +/-2013) Colour: gold. Nose: a rather toned down version, less 'joyful' than the 5 yo. It's also rather more molassy. It remains light rum, with more and more honey, though. Mouth: acceptable, mainly thanks to these notes of oranges (marmalade and liqueur) and to a moderately grassy feeling that keep it 'straight' and not quite cloying. Finish: quite long, with more bitterness. Old walnut skin? Comments: I did not quite find anything that would allow me to claim that this 7 is 'better' than the 5. For mixing as well, most probably. SGP:630 - around 50 points.

Arehucas '7' (40%, OB, Canarias, +/-2013)

Arehucas '7' (40%, OB, Canary islands, +/-2013) This is from Gran Canaria, so Spain. Colour: gold. Nose: we're close to the Angostura 7, this Arehucas is just a notch less expressive. The styles are identical as far as I can nose. Very molassy. Mouth: yeah, not bad, this is even a little spicier in the arrival (cumin? cloves?) but sadly, it tends to become rather dusty and sugary at the same time. Burnt sugar. Finish: shortish, very sugary. Caramel (burnt). Comments: should we call this acceptable rum only for mixing? What's nice is that you do not need a lot of time to 'understand' this very simple baby. Pass... SGP:720 - around 40 points.

Hampden Estate 'Gold' (40%, OB, Jamaica, +/-2013)

Hampden Estate 'Gold' (40%, OB, Jamaica, +/-2013) Four stars This should ne nicer, we've had several great Hampdens by whisky bottlers (cheers guys). Now, this official version says it's a 'blend' on the label, which is strange considering it's an estate. In France you'd be in jail and presto! Colour: white wine (and yet it contains caramel, says the label). Nose: oh yeah, it's another league, another planet, or even another galaxy. Superb notes of asphalt, liquorice, olives and coal smoke. Exactly the kind of rum I like and a very worthy malternative - so far. Mouth: maybe not quite as thrilling as on the nose but it's still great grassy, smoky and tarry rum. Natural rubber, brine, salmiak and all that jazz. Lovely. Finish: not very long because of the light strength but it remains great. Salty aftertaste. Comments: very Caroni-style, quite phenolic and extremely tarry. Great stuff, try to find a bottle, I think it's cheap. Hey, didn't we just find a worthy malternative - yes, already? SGP:573 - around 87 points.

Havana Club 7 yo 'Añejo' (40%, OB, Cuba, +/-2013)

Havana Club 7 yo 'Añejo' (40%, OB, Cuba, +/-2013) Three stars Colour: gold. Nose: hey hey, it's a nice nose! Quite the opposite of the Hampden but this light and lively fruitiness is quite engaging. It's a kind of blend of fresh pineapples with some vanilla, some white chocolate and then more ripe kiwis and maybe tangerines. Mouth: it's a good surprise again, we're moving toward bourbon territories in my opinion, with a caramelised oak and a pleasant range of fruits such as bananas and, again, pineapples. Oh, and tinned litchis, big time! Finish: not very long but it remains pleasantly fruity. The litchis are still there. Comments: it's light rum but it's very pleasantly fresh and fruity. A very good surprise, I had thought this would be junk. SGP:631 - around 80 points.

Oh well, while we're having 7yos, let's go on... With rums, 7 seems to be some kind of 12. I'm sorry, Einstein.

Matusalem 7 yo 'Solera' (40%, OB, Dominican Republic, +/-2013)

Matusalem 7 yo 'Solera' (40%, OB, Dominican Republic, +/-2013) Two stars I well-known brand, I think. Colour: straw. Nose: it's a sweeter, more molassy style again, but we're well above the Angosturas as far as aromas and 'focus' are concerned. What's really striking is the incredible amount of bananas in this, and the vanilla as well. Maple syrup too. Fine sweet, rounded, aromatic and yet un-heady (?) rum. Mouth: nah, now it's too sweet for me, but I won't deny it's pleasant rum. Banana liqueur, barley sugar (yup) and sugarcane syrup. So sweet but not too stuffin', I'd say. Finish: same, very sweet but not totally shmalzy. So to speak. Comments: you have to enjoy the sweet side of things better than me to like this, but yeah, it's probably very well made, I'm sure. SGP:730 - around 70 points.

More 7s? Let's see what we can do...

Banks '7 Island' (43%, OB, blended rum, +/-2013)

Banks '7 Island' (43%, OB, blended rum, +/-2013) Three starsWe're cheating now, this isn't 7 years old, it's a vatting of rums from 7 different islands. And why not? According to purveyors of fine rums Master of Malts, 'Banks are aiming to bring the art of blending from Whisky and Cognac to Rum'. Scary, isn't it! Colour: deep gold. Nose: no, it's very nice, there's some Hampden/Caroni style rum providing a pretty perfect backbone to this. The rest is more or less supererogatory (that was smart, S.!) It's more or less like a Scotch blend with a lot of Laphroaig and Clynelish inside, it can be superb but it's not the blend, it's the malts inside. Oh well... So yeah, tar, smoke, oils, petrol, brine, black olives... Mouth: indeed. Some sweeter, lighter, blander rums are there too but the core is the same as in the nose. Tar, cough lozenges, smoke, burnt sugar and such. Finish: quite long, a little more candied. Some kind of peat smoke and salt in the aftertaste, not kindding. Comments: we're kind of midway between the heavy tarry ones and the sweetish cloying ones. Thank god the former has much more, let's say resonance. This is a worthy malternative. SGP:562 - around 80 points.

But let's have a genuine '7'...

Grenada 7 yo (46%, Berry Bros. & Rudd, +/-2013)

Grenada 7 yo (46%, Berry Bros. & Rudd, +/-2013) Two stars and a half So an indie this time, I've already tried some superb rums by BB&R. Excuse me? Yes, and whiskies too, of course. Grenada? That could well be Westerhall Estate... Colour: straw. Nose: it's a style of rum that's not very far from malt whisky, with a combination of apples, wax, muesli and walnuts that works well. So rather little sugar cane or bananas (or pineapple, or oranges) this time, it's a rather clean and austere young rum. I like this. Mouth: sweeter, but it remains decently elegant, with more burnt sugar though. Apples, maybe strawberries, more sugar cane... Good body. Maybe it's a tad simple, although I also enjoy the touches of mint and aniseed in the background. Finish: quite long, even sweeter for a while, before it becomes grassier and a little sharper. A salty touch. Comments: very solid, honest, young rum but maybe it's lacking wow. SGP:541 - around 78 points.

All very nice but I now feel like we should have some heavy hitters to conclude this little session. Young hitters, of course...

Guyana 2003/2013 (60.9%, Rum Swedes, bourbon barrel, cask #19, 230 bottles)

Guyana 2003/2013 (60.9%, Rum Swedes, bourbon barrel, cask #19, 230 bottles) Three stars This one by Svenska Eldvatten, who have already bottled quite some fine whiskies and a great tequila (that's no oxymoron!) Crazy Swedes! Young Guyana suggests Diamond Distillery in Georgetown. Colour: dark reddish amber. Nose: sweet Jesus. At this strength, it's rather the sugar and the liqueurs that come out, and I wouldn't say it's all a bed of flowers. This is aggressive stuff, let's resort to H2O right away. With water: smoother and rounder, it's not quite as 'Demerara' as older bottlings, we're more on peaches and melons than on tar and liquorice. But it remains beautifully compact and coherent. Great nose. Even roses, it seems. Mouth (neat): cedar wood and litres of Grand-Marnier or Cointreau. Strong stuff, it seems to be rather extractive. With water: pears come out, and bags of them. Also Turkish delights and simply plain sugar. Finish: long, sweet and quite sugary. Comments: very, very good, but it's not quite my preferred style of Guyana rum, it's a little too sweet and sugary. I should be able to try some 'new old' Demeraras by Italy's Velier soon. I can't wait. SGP:730 - around 82 points.

And a sister bottling while we're at it... (sister because it's bottled at the same time, roughly)...

Jamaica 2000/2013 (58.4%, Rum Swedes, bourbon barrel, cask #4, 185 bottles)

Jamaica 2000/2013 (58.4%, Rum Swedes, bourbon barrel, cask #4, 185 bottles) Four stars and a half Jamaica? Could this be Hampden again? Colour: straw. Nose: you bet it's Hampden! Used engine oil and old tyres from an Harley 'shovelhead', born-to-be-wild style. Or were they riding knuckles? Who cares... Having said that, the very high strength also brings difficult notes of nail polish remover... But I love the olives. Let's move on. With water: whaaaaaaaaam! Fabulous. A box of Havana cigars, a bag of mid-ripened black olives and the brand new Conolly leather in a 2013 Bentley. I may have made one of those up. Mouth (neat): liquorice, agaves (yup), sugar cane and sesame oil at very, and I mean very high strength. One of the fattest spirits man can produce. With water: more sweetness, loses one or two points here. But it's still pretty perfect. Hey, and it's rum, after all. Finish: great, because the briny/olivy side is back. And all that is very long. Rum with a mezcal side, what's not to like? Comments: I always found that funny that some guys would claim that the Jamaican rums bear a 'light' style. Imagine this at 25 years of age, it's 92 points, guaranteed. But for now that'll be only... SGP:573 - around 89 points.

Isn't that reassuring that some of the 'best' rums out there are bottled by whisky people? Now, nothing can climb over that big phat Swedish Jamaican, so session over I'm afraid. Dismiss.

More tasting notes Check the index of all Rums I've tasted so far







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