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

December 22, 2019


Big gun rums to drown
our sorrows positively

According to the latest news, it seems that rum’s about to go the cognac way as far as legal definitions go in the EU, rather than the Scotch whisky way, with 20g/litres obscuration allowed. Which includes sugar. That’s too bad in my opinion, and rather a missed opportunity.


More than ever, it’s going to become crucial to check trustworthy online resources to make sure that what anyone’s buying is authentic rum, and not any artificially-flavoured crookery. On the other hand, some heavily sugared rum-like drinks will now have to comply with those 20gr/l, by lowering their sugar content, or just accept to lose the ‘rum’ denomination. It’s going to be interesting to check which option this or that brand will choose. But does the average consumer really care? Do we still believe in education? How can anyone educate the public when millions of dollars are spent in lying – sadly not only by omission - to that very consumer? I’m afraid the single-origin rum category will never become ‘malternative’ as a whole, after all, and that our dreams have been shattered (erm, hold your horse, S.) Phew, I think we need a few drinks…

Saint Lucia 8 yo ‘Chairman’s Reserve’ (46%, OB for Salon du Rhum Belgium, bourbon, 317 bottles, 2019)

Saint Lucia 8 yo ‘Chairman’s Reserve’ (46%, OB for Salon du Rhum Belgium, bourbon, 317 bottles, 2019) Four stars and a half
An interesting blend of column and pot still rums from St Lucia Distillers, done for our friends in Belgium. Did you know that the Belgians knew their rum very well? Colour: pale gold. Nose: I don’t think the ex-column part has much to say here, as I’m finding this baby very ‘pot still’, and pretty much in the style of some medium Jamaicans, with quite a lot of brine and tar, plus the usual rotting bananas. That’s really lovely and beautifully fresh. There’s an agricole part too, with echoes of the best Guadeloupians. Bielle? It seems that this has been ‘single-blended’ with much skill. Mouth: there’s rather more oak than expected in the arrival, but I have the same feeling of 50% Bielle and 50% WP. Or something like that. What I particularly enjoy here is the absence of any dull vanillaness. Tends to go towards liquorice, with a faint petroly side and notes of cinnamon mints from the oak. Finish: long, on tar, oak, and with a salty tang in the aftertaste. Comments: perfect rum for someone who enjoys their agricoles, and who would like to start to explore higher esters from other islands.
SGP:462 - 88 points.

I had thought that St Lucian would have been lighter, so now have to change my plans… Unless, no, wait, this new one is way too intriguing, I cannot wait…

Dictador 39 yo 1980/2019 (59.9%, Cadenhead, Colombia, 282 bottles)

Dictador 39 yo 1980/2019 (59.9%, Cadenhead, Colombia, 282 bottles) Four stars
This one too is (supposed to be) a blend of ex-pot and column stills, from Destileria Colombiana. Imagine, 39 years old! As always, I find it extremely worth noticing that they wouldn’t have waited until this baby was 40. And that they kept that pretty mundane bottle, without any hoopla - or crystal. Now I suppose this came from the same batch as that of the recent – and controversial as far as its age was concerned - official 38yo. Are these years real years? Or just ‘ron years’? Colour: coffee. Nose: coffee liqueur, Cherry Heering, liquid liquorice, tar liqueur, heavy soy sauce, and Macallan Gran Reserva. Really, this is no joke. With water: a thick and heavy beef bouillon left on a stove for hours, blended with espresso and hot chocolate. I’m not totally against this kind of concoction. Mouth (neat): amusingly coffee-ish indeed, but also earthy, tobacco-y, and with a blend of ginger and tar liqueurs. Not to mention Kahlua and Tia Maria – and liquid chicory. Not too sure this has been sugared-up (at birth or somewhere along the path), but the addition of water should tell. With water: probably, and probably at birth, like quite a few South American distillers do. But it is not too cloying, and the coffee really saves it. Kind of balanced. Finish: very long, on coffee beans and, once again, liquid chicory. Some bitter oak in the aftertaste, molasses, Demerara sugar… Comments: most certainly the best Dictador I’ve ever tasted, and possibly one of the very best South and Central Americans, as long as you don’t consider Guyana as one of them. Very smart, Cadenhead!
SGP:651 - 86 points.

Angostura 16 yo 2003/2019 (55.4%, Single Cask Nation, Trinidad, sherry hogshead, cask #3, 309 bottles)

Angostura 16 yo 2003/2019 (55.4%, Single Cask Nation, Trinidad, sherry hogshead, cask #3, 309 bottles) Five stars
I’ve always found Angostura’s rums too light and unnoticeable, but it’s not impossible that once again, some smart indie bottlers would manage to bend my feelings, so to speak. Let’s see, those guys from SCN over there in America tend to know what they are doing… Colour: gold. Nose: oh wait, but this is superb! I think I’ve never come across any rum that was this floral. Dandelions and buttercups, woodruff, honeysuckle, ylang-ylang, vetiver… This is truly spectacular and going towards peaches after just thirty seconds. Once you’ve found peaches and flowers in this world, all you still need is peace. With water: please call the Anti-Rumoporn Brigade! Gosh this is superb… Mouth (neat): what a coup! How did they do that? Chamomile, verbena, genepy, bergamots, dill, a little liquorice wood, a drop of artisanal pastis… I mean, wow! This is extremely elegant, and impressive. With water: and there, peach skin. Finish: medium, perhaps just a wee tad weaker now – after all, this is not Hampden. But the freshness was preserved. Lemons and aniseed in the aftertaste. Comments: I was ready to go up to 92 before the finish, but it lost one point. Some Angostura of Best-Caroni quality, that’s really cool. Hope there will be more coming our way. Angostura, really? Excuse me? No that wasn’t just the sherry.
SGP:651 - 91 points.

Long Pond 14 yo 2005/2019 ‘TECA’ (62%, Habitation Velier, Jamaica)

Long Pond 14 yo 2005/2019 ‘TECA’ (62%, Habitation Velier, Jamaica) Four stars
Okay, please fasten your seatbelt, as this concoction contains 1,285.4 gr esters per hlpa (hectolitres pure alcohol). That’s very-high-esters, so probably not for folks who listen to Despacito (S., oh come on). Colour: dark amber. That’s tropical aging, there’s a lot of oak pigments. Nose: right, diesel oil, caper juice, crude chocolate, and a certain feeling of burnt chocolate cake. Not easy – and probably not meant to be easy either. With water: not any easier, but the brine is lovey, the black olives very black, and the molasses a bit… rotten. Pre-Brexit Marmite is not very far. Mouth (neat): extreme esters, we’re crunching limes and sucking pipe tobacco. Sour brine. With water: lime juice, olive oil, sour cherries aplenty, and a feeling of smoked water and oak juice. Finish: long, extremely green, acidic, and brine-y. Comments: this juice would make the most extreme olive juice greener with envy. Perhaps a tad ‘too much’.
SGP:372 - 85 points.

Perhaps a benchmark…

Hampden 8 yo 2011/2019 ‘LFCH’ (61.7%, Velier, Whisky Live Singapore, cask #295, 250 bottles)

Hampden 8 yo 2011/2019 ‘LFCH’ (61.7%, Velier, Whisky Live Singapore, cask #295, 250 bottles) Four stars and a half
As it says on the label, this baby is sugar free. That’s an all-important mention, I believe all distillers and bottlers should use it, even if this is not… chewing gum. This is lighter Hampden, with around five times less esters than in that Long Pond. Anyway, cheers Singapore! Colour: gold. Nose: welcome back to civilisation. There’s some cane juice, slightly overripe bananas, whiffs of liquorice, only drops of petrol, perhaps a little wormwood, and some mint tea as they pour it in North Africa. Not with pine nuts! I find this splendid – don’t pot stills rule everywhere? With water: you would believe this is cane juice and not molasses. Who’s doing cane juice in pot stills, by the way? Lovely notes of herbs, honeysuckle, hay, a little praline, orange blossom water, touches of spearmint, a little cedarwood… It’s a wonderful softer nose. Mouth (neat): a tad stronger and more briny, salty, liquoricy… There’s some sugar too, but that cannot be, that’s probably the high ethanol. With water: not many rums are honeyed, but this one is. Honeydew, cane juice, perhaps one tiny olive, a little sour wood… But careful with water, don’t drown this baby. A little caramel too, which complements the honey rather beautifully. Finish: medium, on soft spices, honey sauce, cane juice and a little salty brine. Peppery aftertaste. Comments: one of the softer no-tar Hampdens, one that shows that Hampden’s not only about high ester content. Extremely well selected.
SGP:561 - 89 points.

Have a safe and happy holiday season, rum world!

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