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

September 10, 2013


The Quest for Malternatives,
more rum at random

Once again, five young rums picked at random from the rum shelves at WF Towers. Today that'll be Abuelo 12, Père Labat 8, Malecon 12 Reserva Superior, Sixty Six 12 and Plantation Barbados 5. We'll sort them like this:

Plantation Barbados 5 yo 'Grande Reserve' (40%, Ferrand, +/-2012)

Plantation Barbados 5 yo 'Grande Reserve' (40%, Ferrand, +/-2012) All the Plantation rums I could try have been more than decent. Cognac Ferrand are behind the brand. Colour: gold. Nose: well, this is rum. I mean, there's no particular aromas, rather the very usual coffee, bananas, sugar cane, caramel and, well, burnt sugar. It's decent, it's just not very interesting in my opinion. Mouth: sweet, caramelly, slightly roasted and toasted, with a little brioche, more caramel sauce, sweets and a very faint tar. Very sweet. Finish: not much. Quite sweet. Coffee liqueur. Comments: decent but I'm not too sure this was meant for sipping. Very average. SGP:720 - around 60 points.

Malecon 12 yo 'Reserva Superior' (40%, OB, Panama, +/-2013)

Malecon 12 yo 'Reserva Superior' (40%, OB, Panama, +/-2013) I wasn't too fond of the 21yo, so... Colour: gold. Nose: the Plantation was nicer. This is flat and watery, although there is a little raw alcohol and maybe burnt wood. A feeling of sugar as well. Pass. Mouth: a little better, but I don't find much superiority in this reserva superior. Orange liqueur, cane sugar, caramel, then notes of cold stale tea. It's weak stuff, not for sipping either. Finish: short, with something like overcooked orange sauce. Not pleasant, disty-ish. Comments: well I liked the 21 better. This is not for whisky lovers, if you allow me. SGP:630 - around 40 points.

Abuelo 12 yo (40%, OB, Panama, +/-2013)

Abuelo 12 yo (40%, OB, Panama, +/-2013) Two stars This baby was aged in whisky barrels. Will that be enough?... Colour: amber. Nose: not exactly more aromatic or complex than Malecon but it's cleaner, straighter, and these whiffs of blood oranges are very nice. What I especially like is the fact that there isn't any notes of burnt caramel this time, so... erm, hurray! Mouth: sure it's a very sweet one yet again but the oranges play first fiddle, which works well. Not crappy liqueurs, plain and pure oranges. Not bad. The body's also less thin and the whole isn't as flabby as other South-American rums. Finish: short again, maybe a little too sugary this time, but it's clean. Read not burnt. Comments: honest and loyal sweet rum. I could drink half a glass of this. SGP:640 - around 70 points.

Sixty Six 12 yo (40%, OB, Foursquare, Barbados, +/-2013)

Sixty Six 12 yo (40%, OB, Foursquare, Barbados, +/-2013) Three stars Foursquare is a family-owned distillery. There aren't many left in the Caribbean... Colour: gold. Nose: immediately more complex than the others, with more herbs and even flowers. A little oak as well, chamomile, kumquats, almonds, marzipan... And then, something that I cherish, a combination of shoe polish and camphor. Well, touches of that, this no real old Ardbeg either. Mouth: there's a little sweet ginger and coconut in the arrival, which is very 'bourbon'. The vanilla is soon to arrive as well, together with some maple syrup and honey. Very nice spiciness. Another world after the Panameans. As for the Plantation, maybe it was made at Foursquare as well, but it didn't have this complexity. Finish: good length, always quite bourbony. Comments: maybe more a bourbonative (wot???) than a malternative, but I like this one even if we're still far from the 'great greasy ones' that I enjoy. SGP:751 - around 82 points.

Père Labat 8 yo (42%, OB, rhum agricole, Guadeloupe, +/-2013)

Père Labat 8 yo (42%, OB, rhum agricole, Guadeloupe, +/-2013) Four stars The little Poisson (not poison, eh) distillery is actually on Marie-Galante, a tiny island next to Guadeloupe. Could be good... Colour: gold. Nose: pure agricole. Not all agricoles are to my liking but this one is full of the style, with herbs, a lot of sugar cane, overripe bananas, engine oil and then more overripe fruits. Pineapples, for example. Caution, many agricoles have stunning noses and, well, less stunning palates (like burnt) so let's hold our horses... Mouth: starts pleasantly dirty-ish and, above all, immensely liquoricy. This, I like. Hay, cough lozenges, a little salt and then even more liquorice. Finish: quite long, between ripe bananas and liquorice. Comments: I believe Père labat have also high strength aged agricoles, I really have to put my hands on some. Classy distillate and a worthy malternative. SGP:651 - around 86 points.

That Labat was great, if you still have time, maybe we could try five more rums at random? Perhaps luck will give us more great agricole or some excellent Demerara? Let's see... Eenie meenie miney mo... (I'm not making this up!) This is what we found: Cartavio XO, Plantation Westerhall, Kraken Black (crikey, it's spiced!), Havana Club and Zafra 21. Ahem, not sure we had too much luck, let's see...

Kraken Black (40%, OB, Spiced Rum, +/-2013)

Kraken Black (40%, OB, Spiced Rum, +/-2013) Two stars Ardbeg could have used the name, couldn't they. Another mistake by yours truly, I shouldn't have sourced this - because it's spiced. Let's see... Colour: coffee. Nose: coffee with a lot of sugar. There's something pleasant in there, maybe the 'good' caramel that reminds me of Werther's Originals, as well as the whiffs of rosewater. In a way, it's a little gewurztraminery (you'll get fired one day, S.) There's also more chocolate than at Lindt's. Mouth: the tropical equivalent to a better Bailey's Irish cream. This isn't bad, it's very easy, very sweet, caramelly and, again, extremely chocolaty. Finish: medium length, with more coffee this time. Kalhua. Comments: it's a pleasant liqueur. I wouldn't classify this as an 'aged distillate' but yeah, it's well made. A good surprise. SGP:820 - around 70 points.

Cartavio 18 yo 'XO' (40%, OB, Peru, +/-2013)

Cartavio 18 yo 'XO' (40%, OB, Peru, +/-2013) Two stars and a half I quite liked the 12yo back in 2009 (WF 75). Colour: amber. Nose: once again, a true South-American rum, smooth, sweet and honeyed, but it's actually quite complex, with additional notes of herbs, spices and nuts. A little pepper, for example, cardamom, chamomile tea, chestnut honey, then more sappy tones, pine needles, even a little eucalyptus. Very fine. Mouth: balanced sweetness. It's too sweet for my taste but there are also pretty elegant fruity notes, oranges, ripe bananas, drops of ultra-sweetened coffee (that would be coffee liqueur once again)... Nice grassy touches too (green tea). Sadly, it lacks body and oomph, like so many rums at 40% vol. (not all of them). Finish: shortish, with more oranges. Comments: not my style but as an ultra-sweet rum, it's rather on the top shelf. SGP:730 - around 78 points.

Westerhall 'Plantation' (43%, OB, Grenada, +/-2013)

Westerhall 'Plantation' (43%, OB, Grenada, +/-2013) Two stars This one is made from cane juice, not molasses. It's an agricole, if you will. It's aged for 6 years in ex-bourbon wood. Sansibar had a nice cask of Westerhall this year (WF 82). Colour: light gold. Nose: not quite 'agricole' in style, it's more molassy, in a way. More 'classic rum', with candy sugar, orange peel, bananas and then a little grass. I think it's a rather light style of rum. Mouth: same feeling, it's fine, rather liquoricy this time, with also a little aniseed. Towards raki or pastis, if you will. It's not big. Finish: surprisingly long, on... some sweeter pastis? Does this belong to Pernod-Ricard? ;-). Comments: one that I quite like. Funny aniseed. SGP:640 - around 75 points.

Havana Club 'Seleccion de Maestros' (45%, OB, Cuba, +/-2013)

Havana Club 'Seleccion de Maestros' (45%, OB, Cuba, +/-2013) Four stars Havana Club 7 yo was an excellent surprise, so this should be nice as well. It's said to be around 10 years old. Colour: amber. Nose: starts unexpectedly metallic and grassy, much less 'commercial' than I had thought, just like the 7. Having said that, there's less fruits than in the 7, and more oak, which gives it a dry side that's maybe a little austere. Mouth: good! Great grassy profile, with some candy sugar of course but not too much, then this mix of spices that we use to make mulled wine. Star anise, liquorice, cinnamon, cloves... Also unexpected notes of grapefruits, that really lifts the whole. Finish: quite long, zestier, fresher, with even more grapefruits. Excellent. Comments: yes, excellent and more so on the palate. A genuine malternative, well done, maestros! SGP:641 - around 85 points.

Zafra 21 yo 'Master Reserve' (40%, OB, Panama, +/-2013)

Zafra 21 yo 'Master Reserve' (40%, OB, Panama, +/-2013) Four stars This baby was blended by one of rum's Richard Patersons, Francisco 'Don Pancho' Fernandez. Colour: amber. Nose: yes. Very aromatic, rich yet elegant, with more smoke than in the others (garden bonfire), touches of pencil shavings from the casks, then more and more grass and green tea plus various berries. Also quite a lot of tobacco, always a good sign. Cedar and sandal woods. A 'tertiary' rum of high quality, let's only hope the low strength won't be too much of a handicap on our palates. Mouth: no, that's fine because the spirit is rich. This time again we're a little on bourbon, with vanilla fudge and grated coconut, but there's also some lovely grenadine, oranges and even mangos. Good good good. Finish: not the longest and maybe there's a little too much oak now (too much tea) but otherwise it remains great rum. A little mint in the aftertaste. Also tamarind, perhaps? Comments: probably one of my favourite South-Americans at this point, but we've got a lot more to taste. The quest for malternatives isn't over! SGP:640 - around 85 points.

Bonus, two 3yo aged white rums

These rums are virtually white, but they’re aged, not too sure about the containers they’ve been using. Worn out wood? Stainless steel? Glass?

Angostura 3 yo 'Reserva' (37,5%, OB, Trinidad and Tobago, white rum, +/-2013)

Angostura 3 yo 'Reserva' (37,5%, OB, Trinidad and Tobago, white rum, +/-2013) According to some quality literature, this was aged in bourbon barrels indeed. Really? Did they discolour this baby? Colour: white. Nose: strange. Not much sugar cane, rather some tutti frutti spirit, a little pineapple, maybe ‘ideas’ of mei kwei lu and then more pineapple. Tinned pineapples and litchis. I must say this isn’t unpleasant at all, but the devil usually hides on the palate, doesn’t he. Let’s see… Mouth: it’s a clean, extremely simple spirit. Tastes exactly like cane sugar syrup, only with alcohol. Finish: a little wishy-washy, but acceptably fruity. Comments: I’m not sure this ought to be drunk neat. It’s probably more for making mojitos, but it’s not undrinkable, just very narrow… And too sweet. I have no idea about what the three years did to this baby rum. SGP:620 - around 60 points.

El Dorado 3 yo (40%, OB, Demerara, +/-2013)

El Dorado 3 yo (40%, OB, Demerara, +/-2013) Two stars Colour: white. Nose: completely different from the Angostura. It’s a much bigger, smokier spirit, the smoke is actually huge! The opposite of the Angostura as far as, erm, sexiness is concerned. A lot of grass, soot, brine, then some bacon, garden bonfire, bitter chocolate and then, hidden behind the smoke, small touches of bananas. Maybe a little plastic too (brand new car). So a much fatter spirit than the Angostura! Mouth: oh yes, it’s another world. This is punchy, grassy, certainly quite rough but the sugar cane is talking, it’s got an ‘agricole’ side that’s very nice. The bananas are also louder on the palate, more obvious, and there’s a little coconut too. From the wood? Finish: a little less nice now, lacks a little precision and cleanliness. Maybe a tad watery too. Comments: not sure this one’s meant to be sipped naked either, but you certainly can. Good spirit considering its youth. Nice smoky nose. SGP:452 - around 70 points.

Aye, we've had enough rum for now (but we'll have more from time to time), tomorrow we're going back to good old whisky!

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







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