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

May 25, 2014


The Sunday quest for malternatives,
more rums at random

Today we’re pursuing our quest for malternatives within the rums and rhums and rons. What I’ve learnt so far is that the very sweets rums that often contain the added equivalent of 10 to 20 sugar cubes per litre of spirit are absolutely not to my liking. Let’s hope we won’t find too many of them today…

XM 12 yo 'Special' (40%, OB, Guyana, +/-2013)

XM 12 yo 'Special' (40%, OB, Guyana, +/-2013) Two stars This is a brand by Demerara Distillers, so probably akin to El Dorado. Let's hope it's not too sweet... Colour: amber. Nose: light and relatively floral and vegetal, which, I find, is good news. Orange blossom, banana skin, then a little liquorice and more and more toffee and coffee. Gets bigger, rounder, more aromatic. Not unpleasant, rather easy but not dull. Mouth: no, I find this too sweet and liqueury, on coffee liqueur and molasses, but there are touches of olive-y and tarry Demerara in the background, as well as a little pepper and cloves. More chocolate sauce after a few seconds. Finish: pretty long but rather too much on coffee liqueur. Tia Maria. Comments: I find this rather okay of you like sweet rum, because there isn’t only a massive sweetness. Not really my kind, though. Malternative? I say no. SGP:741 - around 76 points.

Puntacana 'XOX 50 Anniversario' (40%, OB, Dominican Republic, +/-2013)

Puntacana 'XOX 50 Anniversario' (40%, OB, Dominican Republic, +/-2013) Two stars This rather expensive one (around 70 €) was partly matured in Port wood from the house Graham's. Colour: full amber. Nose: smells sweet and syrupy, but it’s kind of fresh at the same time. Rather richer than the XM, with bananas flambéed, Cointreau and bags of raisins as well as some caramel and molasses. In short, ultra-classic sweetish rum. Mouth: rather thick, very liqueury, very syrupy, almost sticky. And yet, I find it relatively good, despite the fact that it’s very molassy. Some maple syrup, more Cointreau, a little burnt caramel and liquorice… But it calls for ice because of all this sugar that sticks to your tongue. Finish: rather short, sugary, caramely. Comments: I find it okay but once again, it’s not my style. Malternative? Nope. SGP:720 - around 75 points.

Gosling's Family Reserve (40%, OB, Bermuda, +/-2013)

Gosling's Family Reserve (40%, OB, Bermuda, +/-2013) Three stars A pretty premium version of Gosling’s (+/-55 €). I did find Gosling’s Gold rather okay (WF 75) and the very strong Black Seal at 75.5% vol. very… excessive (WF 65). Colour: reddish coffee. Nose: starts pleasantly dry, with a lot of roasted coffee beans and then touches of earth and even a little hessian, clay, wood smoke... And mint. Even whiffs of camphor. All that is good news, it seems that this is complex rum, probably rather old. Mouth: interesting. A little weak, perhaps, but there really is a lot of coffee, dark chocolate, some black tea, and then a herbal side that’s really pleasant. Mint, eucalyptus syrup, resins… There’s also more and more tar, and it reminds me of the tar liqueurs we tried a few weeks ago. Finish: long, a little oaky, dry despite the syrupy/herbal side (Bénédictine). Comments: it’s not quite my style again but it’s complex and intriguing. Malternative? Almost. SGP:551 - 80 points.

Centenario 20 yo 'Fundacion XX' (40%, OB, Costa Rica, +/-2013)

Centenario 20 yo 'Fundacion XX' (40%, OB, Costa Rica, +/-2013) Two stars The 12 yo 'Gran Legado' was really too sweet for me (WF 70). This older one is relatively expensive (+/-70 €). Colour: amber. Nose: suffers a lot after the Gosling, smells like pure corn syrup at first nosing, sugar syrup, molasses, hints of rose and litchi liqueurs… The notes of pure sugar never go away, that’s embarrassing. Mouth: oh my! It’s extremely sugary indeed, thick, syrupy… Some burnt caramel, a little chocolate, nicer notes of heavy honey, raisins… In the background, more dry tannins (ground coffee beans). Finish: rather short, but drier, which is nicer in my book. Comments: very sweet, not my thing at all, but I guess lovers of sweet rum will enjoy it. Same score as the 12. Malternative? No no no. SGP:830 - 70 points.

Coruba 25 yo (40%, OB, Jamaica, +/-2013)

Coruba 25 yo (40%, OB, Jamaica, +/-2013) Four stars It seems that his baby is bottled by a Swiss company and although prices vary a lot, you ca easily find it for around 80 €. I really enjoyed many Jamaicans, so we’re expecting ‘something’ now. Colour: gold (hurray!) Nose: oh yes this is something else. Grassier, much more complex than all the others, with olives, capers, even green peppercorns, then molasses and tar, tapenade (olive purée), a very pleasant mustiness, and even notes of hops. I like it quite a lot. Mouth: ah yes, I had feared this would be more ‘commercial’, it’s not. Very ‘Jamaica’, very ‘dunder’, with this superb dirtiness, olives, tar, stout, coffee, prunes, liquorice… All is superb, only the low strength makes it a notch flat after twenty seconds in your mouth. Finish: not too long but now we find brine and even plain salt. Lovely. Comments: this, at cask strength! My! It’s very ‘Hampden’. Malternative? Sure! SGP:462 - around 86 points.

While we were speaking of Hampden Distillery…

Hampden 20 yo 1993/2013 (50%, Silver Seal, Jamaica, 295 bottles)

Hampden 20 yo 1993/2013 (50%, Silver Seal, Jamaica, 295 bottles) Five stars Colour: dark straw (hurray again!) Nose: e.x.c.e.p.t.i.o.n.a.l. An amazing blend of Demerara sugar (I know we’re in Jamaica) with black and green olives, their brine, tar, pitch, seawater and leather. Also a little damp earth, gravel, plain mud… When muddiness is an asset! Mouth: amazing, maybe a notch less earthy/grassy than other Hampdens, hence a little more sugary/syrupy, but everything is absolutely perfect, with a mixture of salty/tarry elements with overripe fruits of all kinds, bananas, mangos, even pears… Plus, the strength is perfect. Love this. Finish: very long, salty, with more liquorice, and even smoked fish. Jamaican kippers and anchovies? Comments: a glorious Jamaican, exactly my preferred kind of rum. Malternative? You bet! SGP:562 - 90 points.

Which rum could ‘climb over’ such a Hampden? Caroni, the best grassy Demerara and maybe some Bellevue and Bielle in Guadeloupe. Well, that’s my opinion. Let’s try Bellevue…

Bellevue 1998/2013 (45%, Samaroli, Guadeloupe, cask #28.1, 198 bottles)

Bellevue 1998/2013 (45%, Samaroli, Guadeloupe, cask #28.1, 198 bottles) Four stars We’ve already seen quite a few fine Bellevues since two or three years. Colour: deep gold. Nose: we’re actually half-way between a heavy Jamaican and a typical rhum agricole from the French isles. In truth there’s a bit of both worlds, with some brine, olives, tarmac and smoke, and on the other side, cane juice, tiaré flowers (monoï), and very ripe pineapples and bananas. It’s very complex and surprisingly delicate. Mouth: no, Bellevue is big stuff and this one’s no exception. Perfect ‘agricole’ style, tarry, slightly perfumy (touches of lavender – but no soap), grassy and, above all, not sugary. Quite some menthol too. Finish: rather long, with more liquorice, as often. Salmiak. Comments: a gentler, more civilised, less wham-bam version of the Hampden. I like it almost as much. Malternative? Yes! SGP:651 - 87 points.

And Caroni, he said…

Caroni 20 yo 1992/2012 (55%, Velier, Trinidad, 14 barrels, 3977 bottles)

Caroni 20 yo 1992/2012 (55%, Velier, Trinidad, 14 barrels, 3977 bottles) Four stars I’ve tried a few other 1992s by Velier, loved them all. Colour: dark amber. Nose: a rather civilised Caroni, less phenolic than others, relatively rounder, with touches of oak, ylang-ylang, vanilla, gingerbread, speculoos and oriental pastries. With water: oh lovely! Not that it got any more phenolic or tarry, but I find verbena and wormwood, spearmint, roses, a little mango juice… Mouth (neat): ah yes, the phenolic side is back. Bags of strong liquorice, bee’s propolis, ultra-strong chocolate (90%), espresso and wood tannins. With water: the tannins grow, but that’s surprisingly pleasant… Finish: very long, all on salted liquorice. Comments: this one was funnily dichotomical when unreduced. Great stuff anyway – as expected. Malternative? Yes! SGP:572 - 87 points.

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



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