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

January 21, 2024


There are more and more rums

Today we'll visit Mauritius, Paraguay, South Africa, Guadeloupe, Trinidad, Cuba, and Jamaica. Let's start with two high-quality apéritifs...

(A truly bizarre American poster for Caribair, 1960. Who would want to fly to Guadeloupe only to find themselves... right in the middle of the Beaujolais Country? And drink Morgon instead of rhum?)



New Grove 10 yo 'Old Tradition' (40%, OB, Mauritius, +/-2022)

New Grove 10 yo 'Old Tradition' (40%, OB, Mauritius, +/-2022) Three stars
We had tasted the 5-year-old last year, and it was quite good (WF 81). In general, the rums from Mauritius are improving, in my opinion. I remember, ten years ago, there were still some that were monstrously sweeter than pure sugar. Colour: reddish amber. Nose: nice, round, soft, with hints of cane honey and candied oranges, plus a pretty floral side (ylang-ylang). Not much to add, but it's quite nice indeed. Mouth: no sugar on our path, rather sweet liquorice, sugar cane, 100% natural vanilla... alas, it then dips, probably due to a light texture and an alcohol content cut to the strict minimum. The vanilla remains... Finish: short and slightly caramelised. A bit of roasted pineapple and a bit of tar in the finale, that's good. Comments: same score as the 5 for me. The 5 was fresher and, above all, fruitier, I believe. Pity about the 40% ABV, it feels a bit light.

SGP:641 - 81 points.

Fortin 'Epopeya' (40%, OB, Paraguay, +/-2022)

Fortin 'Epopeya' (40%, OB, Paraguay, +/-2022)
There really aren't many rums from Paraguay. It must be said that Fortin 'Heroica' left us somewhat cold in 2022 (WF 75). And are they looking for their cuvée names in the Deutsche Grammophon catalogue? That said, it's interesting, in Europe this baby is a 'Premium Spirit of Paraguay' and not a rum per se. Colour: gold. Nose: it's in the style of the dreadful Don Papa, stuffed with aromas of vanilla, orange, and pineapple that you would never find in nature. In short, it's a liqueur. Shame, I would love to discover a really good rum from Paraguay. Mouth: it's not unlike a slightly stale Cointreau, or like cocktails for tourists made with loads of blue curaçao. It's nothing like rum. That said, it's kind of drinkable. Finish: average, with an amaretto side and a lot of not-too-expensive orange liqueur. Comments: I can't quite see the saga (epopeya, right) that might be in this drink, let's say it's certainly not a complete scam and on ice, it's okay.
SGP:830 - 65 points.

Okay, let's stop fooling around…

Mhoba 'Indlovu' (58.5%, OB, South Africa, LMDW New Vibration, bourbon and brandy casks, 2023)

Mhoba 'Indlovu' (58.5%, OB, South Africa, LMDW New Vibration, bourbon and brandy casks, 2023) Four stars
Finished in brandy, but let's see, rumdy - or brandum -  can still be good. And let's admit it, we have already tasted great Mhobas; it's one of the recent distilleries that has truly managed to attract attention. To be honest, LMDW does a superb job with these kinds of somewhat exclusive, trendy, somewhat 'world' distilleries… Colour: amber/deep gold. Nose: forget about the 'brandy', this is a blend of diesel oil, tar liqueur, balsamic vinegar, black tapenade (crushed olives) and windshield cleaning liquid. Yep. With water: new magazines, ink, carbon dust, brake pad, acetone… Mouth (neat): huge, Jamaican, with tons of olives, hectolitres of cellulosic varnish and kilos of liquorice. Brandy, they say, ha-ha-ha. Wait, then there's honey. With water: citrus coming out? Spearmint and grapefruit, coated with heather honey. Finish: long, salty, varnishy. Still no actual 'brandy' in sight. Comments: we've only tried a handful of Mhobas but they've all been superb, brandy or not. Stupid joke, I know, brandies have the right to exist.
SGP:463 - 87 points.

Bielle 20 yo 2002/2022 (49.4%, Rasta Morris, Marie-Galante, cask #RM029, 57 bottles)

Bielle 20 yo 2002/2022 (49.4%, Rasta Morris, Marie-Galante, cask #RM029, 57 bottles) Five stars
There's a saying that goes like 'low outturn, greater burn'. Of course not, but Bielle is really getting precious. Colour: deep gold. Nose: new sneakers, new stereo, new iPhone, sauna oils, Barbour grease, stewed white asparagus, linoleum and car batteries. Then kumquats. Mouth: top five, evidently. Sublime liquorice, in fact this is almost liquorice eau-de-vie. I'm sure you could do that and as a matter of fact, I shall try to make some later in the year, when we distill with friends, in November. Watch these pages…  Finish: long, salty, sublimely liquoricy. Ideas of glue and plastics in the aftertaste. Comments: holy Suzy, what a juice. We're probably far from your usual 'great agricole', and indeed you have to appreciate liquorice. But then…  What a crazy Bielle. Touch of toffee too in the aftertaste. Where are we?
SGP:373 - 92 points.

Angostura Distillery (43%, The Firkin Whisky Company, Trinidad & Tobago, cask #SCR1, 346 bottles, 2023)

Angostura Distillery (43%, The Firkin Whisky Company, Trinidad & Tobago, cask #SCR1, 346 bottles, 2023) Four stars
Wait wait wait, let's see if I'm getting this right. This is some TDL, aged or finished in some Speyside Malt Whisky cask. What's more, as an adman, I just adore these lines such as 'Rare & Downright Drinkable' or 'Every Drop – A Drop of Comfort'. We're back in 1930, pure genius. Colour: deep gold. Nose: boy this works, after a Mhoba at 58% and a Bielle at almost 50%. Some smoky tones, old stump, mushrooms, damson tarte, roasted peanuts and pecans, blackest turron, burnt muffins, ashes in the fireplace, a little thyme tea… Love it. All that at 43% and without any age statement, aren't we going soft? Mouth: and it would continue. Great TDL, but wondering about that Speyside impact. These apples, perhaps?  Finish: medium, saltier, tarry, with a little carbon, juniper, oranges, elderberry syrup. Add Champagne and Perrier, and presto, a proper spritz. Only the signature part is a little weaker, and reminds us that this was bottled at, wait, is this possible, 43% vol.? Comments: much fun. I had thought we were going for some 77-point-rum.

SGP:462 - 87 points.

Caribbean Rum 1993/2023 'Siglo 1' (60.5%, DH Global Spirits, Cuba, solera system, cask #5, 295 bottles)

Caribbean Rum 1993/2023 'Siglo 1' (60.5%, DH Global Spirits, Cuba, solera system, cask #5, 295 bottles) Four stars
I'm not quite sure what 'solera system' means in the context of a rum with a specific vintage and cask number. Theoretically, this should mean that it's a solera started in 1993, with a single cask here, from which old rum would have been gradually removed and replaced with new spirit, to result thirty years later in a 'perpetual' blend in which the oldest of the vintages used would be 1993. But all this is quite mysterious; in any case, it should not be a Jerez-type system with several criaderas, sometimes well over ten, where 'solera' is actually just the name of the last cask level, the one closest to the ground, so the one that contains the oldest blend 'on average'. Yes, it's complicated but in any case, all 'solera' systems involve 'fractional blending', and both age statements and vintages should be taken with a pinch of salt. So to speak. Colour: dark amber. Nose: it's pretty, caramelised and toasted, with roasted hazelnuts, praline, vanilla, cappuccino, liquorice, and a bit of tobacco. Cuban, naturally. The very high degree of alcohol is not really felt. With water: more tension, fresh cane, hay, bagasse... Mouth (without water): it's a rather deep Cuban and one that's a bit phenolic, which reminds me a little bit of the famous Santiagos that I'm rather fond of. But this one burns a bit, due to the high alcohol. With water: ah, very nice now, with anise, fennel, a bit of parsley, green apple, even a bit of chartreuse. It reminds me a bit of certain old bottles of Havana Club this time, which were said, perhaps wrongly, to contain a good proportion of young aguardiente (ex-pot still and not column). Finish: medium length, with liquorice and even a light 'high ester' side. The aftertaste is more herbaceous. Comments: quite an intriguing Cuban, firmer than most of its compatriots. I really like it a lot.
SGP:451 - 86 points.

Jamaica 2008/2023 (58.9%, The Colours of Rum, premium blend, No.1, 233 bottles)

Jamaica 2008/2023 (58.9%, The Colours of Rum, premium blend, No.1, 233 bottles) Four stars and a half
I note that a small number of quality independents seem to be tempted to create premium blends rather than just buying and reselling ready-made casks. I find this more interesting than doing express finishings in improbable casks, if you want my opinion. In any case, this Jamaican blend contains Long Pond, Monymusk, New Yarmouth, and Worthy Park, so we should be in the realm of esters... Colour: gold. Nose: I'm not expert enough to immediately detect the different distilleries, especially since they all have their own diverse marques, so let's just say it's totally Jamaican and should contain, very roughly, around 300 grams of esters per litre of pure alcohol. I think I'm taking risks by saying so, hum hum. There are olives, carbon, concrete dust, seawater, pickle juice, nail polish, wood glue, lime... Well, you see. With water: Ikea plywood, formica and much more wood glue. Also bursts of new inner tube. Mouth (without water): glue, varnish, overripe banana, overripe mango too, and brine. And quite a bit of ethanol. With water: softer, fruitier, but salted liquorice takes over. Finish: long, with a return of the glue, varnish, brine, and new rubber. Like chewing on rubber bands at school, for lack of gum (streng forbidden!). The aftertaste is really salty. Comments: one could attempt to make a Jamaican caipirinha out of this one; apparently, with rum it's called a caipirissima. Good Lord, I don't know anything about all this!
SGP:563 - 89 points.

Last one, a Hampden. When it's Hampden, it ought to be the last one anyway.

Hampden 3 yo 2020/2023 'HLCF' (63.5%, Whisky Live Paris 2023, ex-Lustau, cask #330)

Hampden 3 yo 2020/2023 'HLCF' (63.5%, Whisky Live Paris 2023, ex-Lustau, cask #330) Five stars
It was about time we tasted this baby. Between 400 and 600 grams esters per LPA and a full (yet short) maturation in some oloroso sherry cask from Lustau. Let's see whether this is Ali vs. Foreman (a.k.a. The Rumble in the Jungle) or a gentle tango. We have our little idea… Colour: gold with bronze highlights. The sherry? Nose: we adore Lustau (including their three unfiltered Finos, El Puerto, Jerez, and Sanlucar!) but sorry, Hampden keeps full control for now. Carbon dust, ink, old papers, olives, capers, varnishes, and glues, half-burnt pine wood in the fireplace, seawater... With water: if we really sensed the sherry, it would then be fino, indeed, with its touches of mustard, seawater, and green walnut. But it is oloroso. Mouth (neat): an uppercut to the chin. UHU glue, concentrated liquorice, ashes, tar, lime juice... As they say, it pulses. With water: a slightly sweeter brine, the same for the liquorice, bananas gone dark brown, some organic materials almost gone ammoniacal but not excessively so... Finish: long, salty, very Hampden. Comments: age has never been of much importance with Hampden, in my humble opinion, it's always primarily a matter of distillate. By the way, I forgot to tell you, moreover, the 'HLCF' marque is my favourite at Hampden, followed by 'LROK'. And yes, we also adore Lustau, I think we're even going to open a little Papirusa tonight.

SGP:563 - 90 points.

Well, there is still something that goes well after a Hampden, it's of course another Hampden. And what if it had also been up close with an oloroso sherry cask?

Hampden Estate 'Pagos' (52%, OB for LMDW and Velier, Jamaica, sherry, 2023)

Hampden Estate 'Pagos' (52%, OB for LMDW and Velier, Jamaica, sherry, 2023) Four stars and a half
We had loved 2022's edition, this is the newest version, fully aged at the distillery in proper oloroso butts from Bodegas Fundador. Now for how long, we don't quite know, but they would no doubt have indicated the age if it had been for a long period. Colour: deep gold. Nose: I'm not saying that this time there wasn't a real exchange between the rum and the sherry, but nothing would suggest any sort of dissonance was generated. Chestnuts roasted over a diesel fire, I'd say, coal tar, amaro (Montenegro), Barbour grease, new tyres, slightly rancid old walnuts (which I love), cigars, and orange too, lots of roasted almonds... With water: a few rusted nails in an old tin box, engine oil, jute bags of walnuts, and a little bit of 'old wine'. Mouth (neat): actually it's quite extreme, I don't know which Hampden marks they used but the whole thing is extremely powerful in taste. A lot of shoe polish, a bit of plastic material, old metal objects (silverware), pipe tobacco, more walnuts, grape seed oil, very strong honey, mead... In fact, it's not very classic. With water: not many changes. Liquorice, old nuts, a bit of rubber, a touch of mustard, anchovies. Finish: long and salty. Perhaps the oloroso itself was salty. Maybe two or three very, very dry raisins as a signature. Comments: it's perhaps a little more sensible than the 2022 edition, but in any case it is excellent, as expected.
SGP:563 - 88 points.

See you next week, unless we rather have cognac or armagnac. Or gin. Not gin.

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







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