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

April 29, 2018


Badass rums, looking for malternatives

Let’s see what we have on the tasting table today… And try to avoid the light and/or sweetened ones this time. This should make for a good start…

South Pacific 13 yo 2004/2018 (65.5%, Excellence Rhum, Fiji, 215 bottles)

South Pacific 13 yo 2004/2018 (65.5%, Excellence Rhum, Fiji, 215 bottles) Four stars and a half
This new bottler’s first series has been pretty impressive, so this Fijian should be good. And pretty extreme! Colour: gold. Nose: wood varnish and touches of coconut milk and an unexpected agricole side, but I don’t think the bottlers are expecting us to properly assess this baby without adding any water. So, with water: we’re going more towards bicycle inner tubes, some tarry liquorice, hay, then perhaps distant whiffs of carnation, ylang-ylang… Mouth (neat): I had feared this would be like crunching razor blades, but it’s actually rather approachable. I’m finding a lot of lime, a wee touch of raw rhubarb, a varnishy side indeed (but that’s probably the high strength), and green gooseberries. Sharp and yet, indeed, approachable. Also drops of gherkin juice. With water: a wee sweetness at first (butterscotch) but it’s soon to get very lemony and gherkiny again. Some brine and a feeling of proper margarita. Finish: long, with touches of mint and aniseed this time, although it would remain very lemony, for a very long time. A touch of salted apple vinegar in the aftertaste. Comments: brilliant zesty rum. I remember the first South Pacific I ever tried, what a surprise that was! It was a 2003 by Cadenhead, WF 88. Same high quality here, don’t miss these.
SGP:472 - 89 points.

Oh well…

South Pacific 15 yo 2001/2016 (58%, Cave Guildive, Fiji, bourbon)

South Pacific 15 yo 2001/2016 (58%, Cave Guildive, Fiji, bourbon) Five stars
Forgot to say, these are pot still rums (from molasses). Colour: gold. Nose: this one’s much tarrier, more rubbery (in a good way), much more mentholy, earthier… In truth I would have say Jamaica, while I may have added ‘Hampden’. With water: amazing. New scuba diving suit, new Pirellis, fresh almonds, new leatherette, lapsang souchong… Mouth (neat): insane and insanely good. Lemons smoked using dried mint leaves, camphor, cough syrup, balsamic/tarry liqueurs, old Pu-erh tea, green oranges… Phew! With water: a very wee perfumy touch (lavender water), all the rest being brilliantly brilliant. What a wonderful spirit! Finish: very long, with an ‘Islay’ side that’s hard to miss. Comments: I should have tried this right when it came out. Anyway, it seems that they’re making ‘gentler’ rums (such as the very lovely Excellence), and heavier ones (such as this very one). Indeed, just like Caroni used to do. Both styles are superb. Mind you, Fiji! Their rugby players are very good too…
SGP:363 - 91 points.

Good, since we’ve mentioned Jamaica…

Worthy Park 10 yo 2006/2016 (61.8%, Kintra)

Worthy Park 10 yo 2006/2016 (61.8%, Kintra) Four stars and a half
More easy, mellow and smooth rum, I suppose… Not. Colour: straw. Nose: this is a fatter style, it hasn’t got much of the citric/citrusy side that was to be found in the Fijians, and it’s rather got more straight cane juice, olive oil, gherkins in brine, engine oil, and carbon paper/ink. With water: funny notes of gentian, wormwood, genepy, herbal liqueurs… There’s a pine-y side that’s not usual. Mouth (neat): pretty amazing again, and rather different for I’m finding quite a lot of caraway, crystallised oranges, and cinnamon cake. It’s as if someone would have re-racked it in rather active small casks. Not that wouldn’t have worked, mind you, this is excellent. With water: super good. Fennel seeds, soft curry powder, lemon juice, olive brine, half-rotten pineapple (nothing bad mind you). Finish: very long, with a softer, almost vanilla-ed side. Comments: a rather civilised and excellent Worthy Park. One that your friends would actually drink ;-).
SGP:563 - 89 points.

Let’s change style if you don’t mind…

Travellers 2005/2017 (67%, L’Esprit, Belize, cask #BB27, 267 bottles)

Travellers 2005/2017 (67%, L’Esprit, Belize, cask #BB27, 267 bottles) Four stars
Colour: deep gold. Nose: a different style indeed, with more rounded oakiness, custard, cigar boxes, pine needles and cones, then stewed fruits, with strawberries and mangos. In other words, east meets west. With water: gets very earthy and pine-y. Lilies, pine needles, humus, garden peat, a touch of coconut from the oak… Mouth (neat): oh good! A tad aggressive and varnishy of course, but that’s only the ethan… I mean, the alcohol. Pineapple pie, pipe tobacco, honeydew, cinnamon rolls, grapefruits… But it’s really very strong. With water: gets more tropical, with more pineapples, sour apples, a touch of coconut liqueur... Finish: rather long, with some sandalwood, fruit peelings, mango peel… Comments: one of the very good rums in my humble opinion, with a softer style and yet a very good texture. Perfect for anyone who wouldn’t be too much into the high-ester ones.
SGP:551 - 86 points.

And now, please fasten your seatbelt…

Beenleigh 3 yo (78%, L’Esprit, Australia, 2018)

Beenleigh 3 yo (78%, L’Esprit, Australia, 2018) Four stars
That is right, almost Stroh-80 heights, but I’ve already heard good things about this little pot still bomb from Downunda. Now I’ve tried the official 5 yo last year and thought it was okay(ish) – although much better than Bundaberg – but this should be different, let’s see… Wondering of this is legal, though… Colour: deep gold. Nose: oh? It seems to be rather floral, I’m finding some nectar, apricot pies, hints of lovage and soy sauce, perhaps touches of old leather (old books), a fruitiness that’s not easy to pin down (pomegranates?)… But you really need to be careful at this insane strength. With water: gotta love water. Remarkable development on tomato leaves, praline and white chocolate, gianduja, cigars, earthy/gingery oak, turmeric, at a cabinetmaker’s… Mouth (neat – yes we’ll dare): oh gosh, a single drop will kill you! Now I’m finding something Pappy-ish… Not too sure… Quick quick quick… With water: what a good surprise! Young rye, vanilla, wholegrain bread, pastries, Jaffa cakes, speculoos… Finish: very long, perhaps just a tad oaky. Or perhaps not. Lovely notes of coffee-schnapps and pear cake. Comments: we’re somewhere between bourbon and rum here, and I have to say it was thrill to be able to try this fairly ‘obscure’ spirit. Really very good, well-done L’Esprit!
SGP:641 - 85 points.


Guess what, Angus has been tasting malternative rum too!...




Angus's Corner
From our casual Scottish correspondent
and guest taster Angus MacRaild
Five Caroni Plus Bonus
Let’s investigate a few Caroni today. We’ll try to keep things concise as usual, so maybe there’ll be space for a wee bonus...


Caroni 1998/2015 (40%, Bristol Classic Rum) Caroni 1998/2015 (40%, Bristol Classic Rum)
Colour: Gold. Nose: I was fearing the 40% would really let it down but this is rather lovely. A combination of honeyed bandages, quince, pear eau de vie and some mushroomy/earthy notes. There’s also an elegant raisiny sweetness underneath it all that comes across almost like a decent XO Cognac. Some bready and autolytic aspects as well. Mouth: Camphor, gingerbread and wood spices at first with some nectar and pineapple syrup as well. That breadiness is still there with the medicine arriving a little later on. Some green fruitiness as well. Finish: good length considering the strength, apple pie, tar, soot, creosote and mirabelle. Comments: A good surprise and a nice start to the session. Could almost be a Cognac alternative as well as a decent malternative (‘altgnac’...???)
SGP: 452 - 85 points.


Caroni 18 yo 1999/2017 (45%, Alambic Classique, cask #17807) Caroni 18 yo 1999/2017 (45%, Alambic Classique, cask #17807)
Colour: Amber. Nose: This one is straighter and much more tarry and full of old rope and creosote. Caramelised brown sugar, black tea, some brine and black olive paste. Not devastatingly complex but pure, rather perfect and textbook Caroni. With time some lanolin and even wee touches of dried herbs and sea salt. Mouth: this is far more boisterous. Fishing nets, orange pith, a fisherman’s wellies, ointments, orange cough sweets, cocktail bitters and lashings of tar liqueur. Black pepper and a few greengages and a dollop of lemon marmalade as well. Finish: Long, earthy and riddled with orange peel, citrus liqueurs and sweetened medicines. Also plenty of black pepper and drying wood spices. Excellent! Comments: The extra few degrees of strength really help this one to sing. Top notch Caroni and probably a smart idea to bottle at 45%. You could almost use this in place of some orange flavoured cocktail bitters in an Old Fashioned or something... but, then again, I’m no mixologist.
SGP: 463 - 88 points.


Caroni 18 yo 1998/2016 (55%, Rum Nation, 5836 bottles) Caroni 18 yo 1998/2016 (55%, Rum Nation, 5836 bottles)
Colour: Bronze. Nose: Deeper, bassier, leathery and more animalistic than the other two. Lots of black pepper, biltong, mashed overripe banana, stewed dark fruits, dried seaweed and touches of kerosine and mercurochrome. With water: lots of assorted citrus peels, preserved lemons in brine, bandages, crushed green peppercorns and a rather precise sootiness. Mouth: surprisingly silky, sweet and elegant at first. Notes of medicine, herbal liqueurs, wood char and Moroccan spiced bread. Tar, ointment, dried sage, anchovies and orange oils. With water: orange cake with spiced plums, hoisin duck sauce, bay leaf, limoncello and a gentian-like medical quality that fades in and out gently. Finish: long, herbal and earthy - on caraway spirits and touches of green Chartreuse. Comments: quite a different beast to the Alambic. Curiously it feels like a lighter style of Caroni, although I’d say the quality is pretty much the same.
SGP: 442 - 88 points.


Caroni 19 yo (55%, Berry Brothers for The Whisky Barrel 10th Anniversary, bottled 2017, cask #165) Caroni 19 yo (55%, Berry Brothers for The Whisky Barrel 10th Anniversary, bottled 2017, cask #165)
Colour: Amber. Nose: We’re really getting into that wonderfully fuzzy territory between rum and whisky here. It opens with lots of dates, brown sugar, hessian, orange oils, tar, a few crushed Brazil nuts and almost something like medicinal oatmeal. Rather fascinating and extremely good. Goes on with sugar syrup, some white pepper, gauze, ointment soaked bandages and a little lychee liqueur. With water: lemon jelly, earth, coal hearths and sardines in olive oil. The medicine is a little softer now leave a few more herbal notes up front. Mouth: big, fatty and full of tarry, thick medicinal aspects. Marmite on soda bread, clove oil, hardwood resins, Demerara sugar, banana bread, rum-soaked sultanas and a touch of lemon peel. With water: camphor, tea tree oil, vapour rub, soot and mint tea. A loose selection of citrus flavoured cough sweets all bob to the surface. Finish: Long and surprisingly bready and savoury. Some burnt brown sugar, wet leaves, black pepper, cod liver oil and old brandy. Comments: There are even better Caroni bottlings out there, but in some ways this one embodies a perfect ‘malternative’, that is, the kind of bottling you can pour for a whisky friend who’s not yet thought much about rum. A great balance of power, complexity and generosity of character and flavour.
SGP: 452 - 90 points.


Caroni 20 yo 1997/2018 (61.9%, Thompson Brothers, 237 bottles) Caroni 20 yo 1997/2018 (61.9%, Thompson Brothers, 237 bottles)
Colour: deep amber. Nose: If you poured a lot of bitumen and petrol onto some freshly dug earth, then seasoned with some truffle and black pepper you might be approaching this extremely dense and potent style of Caroni. This is full on tar, ointment, gravel, old rope, rubber boots, gentian and liquorice. Dried rosemary, salted flat bread, hessian and a touch of mint jelly. Then you have cured meats, a gamey aspect, salami, cod liver oil, orange Calpol, herbal toothpaste and horse sweat. A bit of a monster! With water: grilled asparagus, motor oil, floor cleaner and clay. Some lemon flavoured cough drops as well. Mouth: pure hardwood resin mixed with orange liqueur, green peppercorns in brine, coal dust, dry earth, blue cheese and then lighter notes of nutmeg, clove and date syrup. Rather spectacular! Goes on with notes of goats cheese rolled in ash, black pepper, strong chai tea and lamp oil. With water: now there’s brake fluid, mezcal, graphite, anchovies and green apple peelings. All manner of tarry, sooty and occasionally waxy characteristics. Magnificently complex! Finish: Extremely long and full of brown sugar on bread, linseed oil, bandages, walnuts and peppered mackerel. Comments: A sharp, potent and invigorating shot of medicine to the head! Probably on the most extreme end of Caroni scale so maybe not for everyone, but my God if it isn’t characterful!
SGP: 464 - 92 points.


As a wee bonus to finish, let’s see if we can find a different Rum that can stand up to those last two Caronis...



Hampden 17 yo 2000/2018 (55.4%, Berry Bros for The Whisky Barrel, cask #31)
Hampden 17 yo 2000/2018 (55.4%, Berry Bros for The Whisky Barrel, cask #31)
Colour: Gold. Nose: It’s a totally different style of rum (obviously Angus!). We’re really in Jamaica here with this pure, hyper-estery and dundery style. Bananas baked with brown sugar, hessian, lemon oils, a little touch of seawater and then chives, parsley and other freshly chopped herbs. Continues with various oils, lighter medical complexities and some lighter fluid. With water: superbly and pristinely medicinal now. Bandages, TCP, gauze and mercurochrome. Underneath: a slice of lemon cake. Mouth: pure sugar syrup with a wonderfully subtle mineral side that manifests as crushed aspirins, struck flint, beach pebbles and graphite oil. Wet earth, green tea, more bananas (ripe ones this time) and tropical fruit syrups. With water: brown bread, lemon curd, soot, Edam cheese, fermented honey and a few pencil shavings. Mesmerising stuff! Finish: endless and meandering through all manner of preserved fish, medicine, overripe tropical fruits and autolytic bready aspects. Peppery and punchy till the end! Comments: I love Caroni, and as we’ve discovered there are many great ones. However, I think I generally prefer Hampden with its kind of excessive dunder and plush estery style; it seems to be a more consistently great make. Good thing my friend Colin Hampden-White probably owns the distillery, I’ll have to ask him...
SGP: 653 - 92 points.


More tasting notesCheck the index of all rums we've tasted so far






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