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

November 6, 2013


Malternatives, another large bag of rums

When it comes to malternatives, rum's an obvious choice but in my opinion, and as I may have written before, only the characterful ones are interesting, while many 'commercial' ones are too sweet and ridden with, well, sugar, caramel or other additives (too shameful to mention!) But let's pursue our quest...

Havana Club 15 yo (40%, OB, Cuba, +/-2013)

Havana Club 15 yo (40%, OB, Cuba, +/-2013) Two stars and a halfI found Havana Club's 'Seleccion de Maestros' quite impressive (WF 85). Colour: amber. Nose: there are whiffs of oak at first sniffs, the rest remaining relatively light and slightly caramely. Quite complex, though. Praline, touches of dried bananas, candy sugar, 'real' maple syrup and touches of aromatic herbs. A little parsley? It's all rather elegant, no big fat rum. Mouth: it's easy rum, there's a lot of caramel and chocolate, plum pie, then figs, liquorice and dried bananas again. The caramel and the maple syrup remain a little dominant. Decent mouth feel at just 40% vol. Finish: relatively short, rather on oranges and even more caramel. Candy sugar. More burnt sugar than caramel in the aftertaste, as well as just a little bubblegum. Comments: easy and caramely. The nose was complex. SGP:640 - around 79 points.

Brugal 'Extra Viejo' (38%, OB, Dominican Republic, +/-2013)

Brugal 'Extra Viejo' (38%, OB, Dominican Republic, +/-2013)Two stars This baby is said to be 8 years of age. Colour: dark gold. Nose: smells like a blend of honey, vanilla and corn syrup, with a small earthy side and then more dried figs. Maybe a little pipe tobacco? Mouth: sweet, sugary, rather light. Some honey again, orange liqueur, vanilla crème, drops of coffee liqueur and that's more or less all. Maybe eucalyptus drops? Decent, not too sweet and cloying, but relatively weak. Finish: short and sweet. Not very noticeable. Comments: a sweet rum, rich and light at the same time, all pretty harmless and, from a whisky drinker's POV, rather good yet uninteresting. SGP:730 - around 72 points.

Panama 18 yo (40%, Rum Nation, 2012)

Panama 18 yo (40%, Rum Nation, 2012) Three stars This is single domaine rum. Colour: deep amber. Nose: this one's more aromatic than the previous ones, there are more dried fruits, bananas, honeys, molasses and various cakes, I'd say. Chocolate cake, walnut cake, some muscovado sugar, maybe a little tar... And some welcome whiffs of overripe fruits, especially apples and pears. Most pleasant. Mouth: very sweet, with an oily mouth feel. That's not my preferred style but I have to say it's well made and matured. A lot of honey, Tia Maria, corn syrup, very sweet raisins, Grand-Marnier... So, it's all very molassy. Finish: of medium length, rather less sugary this time. Unexpected notes of agave syrup in the aftertaste, Grand-Marnier again. Comments: probably among the best you can find within this very sweet molassy style. SGP:720 - around 80 points.

Fair. 5 yo 'Jamaique' (40%, Fair. Spirits, Jamaica, 2013)

Fair. 5 yo 'Jamaique' (40%, Fair. Spirits, Jamaica, 2013) Three stars and a half This rum was distilled at Worthy Park Estates and then aged in bourbon barrel. It's fairtrade rum! Colour: gold. Nose: much more my style, with this earthy and tarry grassiness that can also be found, for example, at Hampden. Hay, leather, tobacco, liquorice and pitch. A little clay or mud as well, which is pleasant in this context. Mouth: good body, pleasant grassy and tarry entry. Some olive oil, sugar cane, a little eucalyptus, definitely a medicinal side (camphor, cough medicine), touches of bitter oranges... All good, only a little light because of the 40% vol. Finish: a decent length. Tarry olive oil and cane juice? Comments: typically Jamaican. Quality's high, only the strength is a little too low. A good malternative. SGP:562 - around 84 points.

Père Labat 1995 (42%, OB, Guadeloupe, rhum agricole, +/-2010)

Père Labat 1995 (42%, OB, Guadeloupe, rhum agricole, +/-2010) Four stars and a half Père Labat is made by Distillerie Poisson on the small island of Marie-Galante. The 'regular' 8yo is much to my liking (WF 86) so this should be really great. Colour: gold. Nose: very agricole! More complex than the 'traditional' rhums or rums, with some soot, hay, tobacco, earth, then aniseed, wormwood, liquorice, humus, dead leaves, a slight smokiness, burnt grass... A lot happening! Pretty perfect... After ten minutes, more herbs such as rosemary, thyme... Also more pine sap and needles, a little fresh oak... Mouth: same feeling, typically agricole, herbal, oily, tarry, with more liquorice, eucalyptus, camphor, cough mixture, olive oil and just one or two slices of dried bananas. This is very good! Finish: quite long, on the same flavours and a faint saltiness. Comments: simply very high quality agricole. SGP:562 - around 88 points.

While we're at it we could as well try another vintage of Father Labat...

Père Labat 1985 (42%, OB, Guadeloupe, rhum agricole, +/-2010)

Père Labat 1985 (42%, OB, Guadeloupe, rhum agricole, +/-2010) Four stars Colour: gold. Nose: it's 'evident' agricole. Very complex, a notch rounder than the 1995, maybe even earthier and smokier. I find roasted chestnuts, the same touches of pine needles and humus as in the 1995, liquorice, tar, coal smoke, various oils (olives, sunflower, grape pips), Corinth raisins, hay... The whole remains softer than the 1995. Oakier too (whiffs of pencil shavings). Mouth: we're closer to the 1995, this has just more oak and a faint sourness (apples) that even hints at calvados. A little more muscovado sugar, caramel, liquorice wood... Finish: same kind of long and slightly salty finish. Maybe a tad acrid. Comments: excellent again but I think I liked the 1995 a notch better on the palate. The oak show a bit. SGP:562 - around 87 points.

Brasil 1999/2013 (45%, Samaroli, cask #14)

Brasil 1999/2013 (45%, Samaroli, cask #14) Three stars Colour: white wine. Nose: it's a very unusual rum, rather light and much fresher than most, in a sense it could even be Scotch whisky (quite). I find some cider apples, honeysuckle, obvious notes of absinth, cut grass, some menthol, quite some hay... A very interesting one for sure. After ten minutes, notes of plain sugar. Mouth: young calvados! I'm not joking, there are apples and cider everywhere, this is very unusual. Then a little liquorice yet again, brown sugar, custard, absinth again, apple pie... Again, we're sometimes not extremely far from some Scotch malts. Finish: medium length, a little sugary. Candy sugar, a little fruit liqueur. Comments: unusual light style rum, worth trying. SGP:431 - around 81 points.

Savanna 7 yo (43%, OB, La Réunion, +/-2013)

Savanna 7 yo (43%, OB, La Réunion, +/-2013) Four stars This is rhum traditionnel - not agricole. When we think 'French rhum' we usually think Martinique and Guadeloupe/Marie-Galante and forget La Réunion, the wonderful island in the Indian Ocean that's near Mauritius and not too far from Madagascar. I always liked the regular 7yo, better than most other expressions of Savanna. Colour: gold. Nose: starts amazingly sooty, with many overripe apples behind that smoke screen ;-), then more earth, black olives, tobacco and raisins. We're closer to a good agricole or to some heavy Jamaican than to some sweet and rounded South-American. Great! Mouth: somewhere midway between both styles. Some sweetness (raisins, sugar cane, liquorice allsorts) and some grassy earthiness. Add a few olives again, a wee smokiness, some tar and a little smoke. A rather dry style, in fact, much to my liking. Finish: pretty long, on olive oil and raisins, then tar and liquorice in the aftertaste. Comments: lovely style - a confirmation. This, at cask strength, ahhh... SGP:452 - around 86 points.

Papalin (42.9%, Velier, blended rum, 2013)

Papalin (42.9%, Velier, blended rum, 2013) Three stars Just bottled, should we expect a heavy style - Velier-style? Colour: gold. Nose: yes sir. I don't know at all what's inside, but the base is probably around Trinidad/Jamaica/Demerara. In other words, the golden triangle. Very nice leathery, tobacco-like, liquoricy and earthy profile, a little rooty too. The earthy side never stops growing, although the whole remains relatively light despite this style. A light heavy style rum, so to speak. Mouth: wee touches of cardboard and oak in the arrival (were some very old barrels included?) and even a little plasticine, then more brine, olives, sugar cane and many spices. Becomes quite peppery. Finish: quite long, with even more pepper. Comments: actually no big phat rum, it's all pretty dry and spicy. Very good but 'of course', Velier's single rums can be more thrilling. SGP:362 - around 80 points.

Caroni 15 yo 2000/2013 (?) (52%, OB, Velier)

Caroni 15 yo 2000/2013 (?) (52%, OB, Velier) Four stars The label states that this baby was distilled in 2000, so it cannot be 15 years old. Or it's 15 and it was distilled in 1997 or 1998. But do we actually care? Colour: dark gold. Nose: it's a light Caroni! We're more used - so to speak - to the heavy, tar-like Caronis but this is significantly more Cuban, I'd say. Sugarcane, praline, tarte tatin, walnuts, clay... It's actually quite elegant and complex. With water: a little more tar, pitch and soot come out. A little more molasses too. Mouth (neat): indeed, it's rather Cuban (as far as I can tell), grassy, herbal and spicy, quite oaky too, with some fruits (bananas) but little tarry/petroly notes, although there are some. With water: very balanced, both fruitier (more oranges and raisins) and more petroly indeed. Woks well. Finish: of medium length, closer to the cane. Comments: a non-explosive Caroni for once. Still high quality but less 'love it or hate it' than others. I think I liked the 12 in the same 'retro' series even better (WF 88). SGP:462 - around 85 points.

Nicaragua 18 yo 1995/2013 (52.9%, Sansibar, 180 barrels)

Nicaragua 18 yo 1995/2013 (52.9%, Sansibar, 180 barrels) Four stars The only other Nicaraguan I could taste was a Mombacho 8 yo that was rather ridden with burnt sugar (WF 65). Aargggh... Colour: gold. Nose: not aargggh! This is rather pleasantly metallic at first nosing, sooty, maybe a little hot but there are also very nice whiffs of warm praline, polished wood, cellulose varnish and milk chocolate. Interesting! With water: a walnut pie and some caramelised peanuts. A box of chocolates too. Mouth (neat): sweet and sugary but not in a bad way at all. Bonbons, caramel pie, banana drops, pear jam... Funnily enough, a little tar, liquorice and eucalyptus manage to come through as well after a few seconds, adding complexity and a welcome counter-sweetness (hey?). So not one of these cloying sweet monsters at all. With water: same style but better balanced. Some maple syrup, chocolate, always a lot of praline and just touches of tobacco to make it straighter. Finish: long, clean, maybe a tad narrower but the praline's still there. Comments: probably not a very complicated rum but I enjoyed the fact that it's so straightforward, not too sweet, and that it has so much praline ;-). SGP:541 - around 85 points.

Barbados 2000/2013 (58.8%, The Rum Swedes, 215 bottles)

Barbados 2000/2013 (58.8%, The Rum Swedes, 215 bottles) Five stars Colour: straw. Nose: oh no, these Swedes are boring, they know too well how to select a cask. This is perfect, high-impact petroly, sooty, tarry and almondy rum. Love the notes of putty, pasticine or even new plastic. Brand new Renault from the early 1980s ;-). Make that a Saab if you wish. Behind that, a little banana but barely... With water: perfect. Leaves, pine needles, tar, engine oil, more plasticine, salmiak, bitter cocoa, leather... Aaahhh... Mouth (neat): excuse me, but LOL! A whole bag of smoked sardines and kippers, marinated in a mix of diesel oil and... wait, mezcal? It's definitely a little agave-y. Love this. Very oily mouth feel. A little nutmeg. With water: ah yes, forgot the anchovies. Finish: very long, very briny, very salmiaky. Tabasco sauce in the aftertaste. Comments: a very modal rum - as opposed to classical. Stunning. SGP:373 - around 91 points.

Yeah, like, go climb over that one... Bah, let's try...

Guyana 2002/2013 (61%, The Rum Swedes, 245 bottles)

Guyana 2002/2013 (61%, The Rum Swedes, 245 bottles) Four stars I've read that this baby was distilled at Diamond (makes sense) in the old Port Mourant double wooden pot still (PM mark) that's now used a lot to make El Dorado rum. Nutshell, this is Demerara rum. Colour: straw. Nose: hell, damnation and putrefaction. This is totally spirit-forward and it's bl**dy perfect again. Clean, crisp, oily, chiselled, less petroly than the Barbados but more mineral, with less plastic and more chalk, perhaps. It's actually a little shier but that may just be the very high strength. With water: hold on, maybe there's a little soap now. More grass too, not too sure it's a perfect swimmer. Mouth (neat): stunning arrival. We're between small berry eaux-de-vie (sorb, sloe and such) and full-strength mezcal once again. And yet it's a little lighter than the Barbados once again. With water: it's not soap, it's rather gin, juniper, genever, whatever. A little more salt too. Finish: long, salty, grassy. Bitter oranges? Comments: the enthusiast's worst dilemma, very strong spirits that are seriously better without water. Anyway, very great naked rum. SGP:462 - around 87 points.

Game for a very last one? Good, so since we were at Diamond's...

Diamond 31 yo 1981/2012 (60.1%, Velier, casks #10536-37-39, 810 bottles)

Diamond 31 yo 1981/2012 (60.1%, Velier, casks #10536-37-39, 810 bottles) Three stars and a half Marks on the barrels, S<W>, which is quite cryptic, but <> definitely means 'diamond'. Originally there were 37 barrels but after ullage there were only three of them remaining. Under Guyana's weather, the angels' share reaches 8% per year so imagine the losses! Colour: deep amber. Nose: it's not fat and oily rum, it's rather a kind of caramelised, relatively light rum, not unlike the Caroni 15 that we had before. So no big tar, olives, rubber, putty or whatnot, rather some sugar cane, green bananas, milk chocolate, raisins and touches of cloves, cardamom, cinnamon and nutmeg. In the background, maybe some mango chutney? An elegant surprise. With water: it's got rather rounder, sweet, easy... Say maple syrup, cane syrup, maybe a few floral touches, honey... Not spectacular but very nicely balanced. Mouth (neat): definitely old and 'movie-esque', in the sense that it never stops changing, starting sweet and fruity and becoming a little oaky and acrid via many sweet and less sweet spices. It's also quite hot, mind you, at more than 60% vol. With water: indeed, it's rather estery, light, sweet... Candy sugar, raisins, caramelised nuts, honey... But don't get me wrong, it's not one of these fattish, vulgar dark rums at all. Finish: rather long, with tangerines. Cinnamon in the aftertaste. Comments: very good but it won't change the (rum) world in my opinion. It's actually rather light and easy rum, maybe a little too uncontroversial. Ha! SGP:541 - around 84 points.

We're done. That Swedo-Barbadian was a frightening killer! Oh, and if you read German or if you think google translate works pretty well (not too sure) you may have a look at these great barrel-aged works. Ditto with French, there's a great new interview of Luca Gargano on

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







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