Abuelo Añejo 12 Años Gran Reserva (40%, Panama)

We have already tried the Reserva Especial (Añejo) and the Reserva Superior (7yo), and I have to say, they didn’t lie bout them. The 7yo is most definitely superior to the Añejo (which is a NASser). Both are clear examples of the Panamanian Rum style, the first young and light, the second a lot more aromatic and letting the wood shine through. Not bad. Let’s see if the 12yo, called Gran Reserva is even better than the 7yo…

Abuelo 12Color: Orange brown.

Nose: Spicy and deep. Even more dry and dusty than the Añejo. Hot, almost burning wood. Nice deep fruity acidity. Pineapple. Nice touch of orange and a tiny hint of solvent. Nice wood and sawdust. Winey and PX-Sherry. Caramel. Waxed dark chocolate sprinkles. Less vibrant and sweet than the Añejo.

Taste: Thick and syrupy. Ahorn syrup. A little bit sweeter than the 7yo, but still not much. There is some wood spice in here, which is left behind in the finish. Quite warming. Alas this 12yo also has a fault. It has this (rotting) fruity aroma and acidity and this syrupy sweetness, but those two don’t match! One is on top of the other, and they are never completely integrated. The acidity has more staying power than the sweetness, which is also a bit strange. This is where this Rum goes slightly wrong. Next up the wood. That is the third dimension that isn’t properly integrated. It’s like a succesful band of which the members can’s stand each other. Beatles White album maybe? However, for me Abuelo isn’t The Beatles, but more The Moody Blues. Beautiful music, maybe, but also a bit boring. In this case, the Moody Blues don’t like each other very much.

As the age rises, there is more of everything, more aroma, more consistency, more color (maybe E150?) and more wood, but is it also better? Not for me.

Now that we have tried the three Rums that make up the standard range we can conclude that the Añejo is the simple and light one, meant for mixing. The 7yo is also quite light, but is suitable for sipping. Also the 7yo is the best balanced of the three. The 12yo is the sipper, at least, its meant to be the sipper. The 12yo is alas a bit unbalanced, but shows a lot of promise. I hope for a better balanced blend in the near future.

Points: 81

Abuelo Añejo 7 Años Reserva Superior (40%, Panama)

After the affordable and very light young Añejo Reserva Especial, comes this 7yo Reserva Superior. And as luck would have it, I have the 7yo right here on my lectern, and I’ll review it shortly. First a short history lesson:

The history of the Ron Abuelo brand is actually the history of Varela Hermanos. It starts in 1908, when the Spanish immigrant Don José Varela Blanco established the first sugar mill in Pesé. Panama is then a fairly new country, since it just gained independence from Colombia in 1903. In 1936 Don José started distilling sugar cane juice. In 1976 Don José’s distillery was replaced by a new one that was surprisingly called the Don José distillery. Besides Ron Abuelo, also other spirits are made in the stainless steel column still.

Abuelo 7yoColor: Orange gold.

Nose: Floral and fruity, yet light. Dry and dusty. More dry wood in the mix, but still not a lot. Vanilla powder, toffee and a touch of honey. Luke warm sugar-water. Vanillin from oak. Slightly spicy, balanced and light. Latte Macciato with mocha sprinkles. Appetizing but not very complex.

Taste: Fruity and instantly very nice. Nice half-sweetness matches with the right amount of oak. Fruity and waxy. Toffee, but also a tiny bite. Toasted cask I would say. Much fuller and thicker than the Añejo, but still not very heavy. That’s the Panamanian style of Rum making. This time also an apply, fruity acidity, and sometimes a slight bitter note towards the finish. However, I don’t pick up on those, every time I try this. Nice and easy, no frills and certainly a decent Rum. A little bit of sour oak lingers on in the finish and somewhat later even some menthol.

As far as I know, this is not a lot more expensive than the entry-level Añejo. That one seems to be made for mixing, whereas this one is made to be drunk by itself, or maybe with an ice-cube. It has more going for it than the Añejo and is also nice for mixing, but why should you. Well made, a bit middle of the road and still pretty light. No faults and no off-notes. This may very well be the definition of Panamanian Rum.

Points: 82

Abuelo Añejo Reserva Especial (40%, Panama)

When looking around on the internet you can see that Ron Abuelo from Panama is a very hip and foremost sexy brand of Rum. When Rum is presented by women in underwear and swimwear, I have no problem with that at all, non, nice, I like that. Thus no complaints for me. But underneath I’m also a sort of distillation geek, and that side of me is a bit worried. If Ron Abuelo is actually a good Rum, why then is so much effort put into distracting the public from the Rum itself?

Abuelo has four Rums in its portfolio. We’re about to try this Añejo, but there is also a 7yo, a 12yo and finally there is also a Centuria. The first three are all reasonably priced and make up the standard range. Centuria is a bit more expensive and something of a speciality. I’m telling you upfront, prices for the Centuria will be rising soon.

Abuelo AnejoColor: Gold with a pinkish hue.

Nose: Light, sweet and young. Sugar water. A slight hint of wood, leather and cinnamon, but also a coastal note. Very smooth smelling. Whiffs of fresh air. Light scent of fresh-cut flowers, immediately followed by a more meaty component. Gravy. Also notes of candy powder and red fruit gums.

Taste: Very light and sugary. Not a lot of character yet. Add to that a wee bit of oak and that is what you get. Sweetish, but not sweet. Warming with hints of licorice and a slight woody bitterness, to give it some back bone. Quite light and in the distance it sometimes reminds me of cane juice (Rum). Toffee. The entry into the mouth is light, and the body is not any heavier. Funny enough, after swallowing, the Rum starts to work. Its warming and shows some heat from young Rum. Peppery note from the wood.

The entry-level offering is really an entry-level Rum. Very light, young and pretty simple. No off notes, so that’s a plus. Yes you can sip this, and keep doing this for a long time f.i. when playing cards with your friends. This is a Rum that probably is made for cocktails and similar uses. Its alright, but not as exciting as the girls selling it. I hope the rest of the range is better. Actually it’s not bad, but it is what it is. A very affordable, very light young Rum.

Points: 78

Springbank 18yo (46%, OB, 14/301)

Reviewing the utterly wonderful Glenfarclas 29yo I came across some notes and hints of coconut. Coconut is something I always found a lot of in old Springbanks, so Springbank stuck a bit in the back of mind, when I was tasting the Glenfarclas. Very conveniently, I have an open bottle of Springbank 18yo on my lectern, so lets see if this Sprinbank still has a hint of the old coconut up its sleeve. If I’m not mistaken, this Springbank is made from 80% Sherry casks and just 20% Bourbon. Lets hope the Springbank coconut is not (only) from the Bourbon casks.

Springbank 18yo (2014)Color: Gold.

Nose: Ferns and leafy. Garden bonfire (smoldering grass). Lots of forest floor aroma’s. Partly creamy. Sowing machine oil and slightly smoky. Sweet cold black tea. Give it some time and this actually is a beautiful nose. Red fruit juice and sweet red apples, but also some Golden Delicious, combined with hot metal. The smell of dead, old steam equipment. When given some more time to breathe some nice yellow fruits come through. Dried apricots combined with mint. Very fruity Sherry, almost a sweet white Sherry. It also reminds me a bit of Sauternes and sweet Moscato. Fabulous balance. Wonderful batch of Springbank 18yo. However, no coconut in the nose.

Taste: Sweet, oily and nutty. Fruity as well. Strange enough when the fruity part comes the sweetness hops into the back seat, so even though the fruity bit is highly aromatic, it isn’t sweet. So not a lot of fructose nor thick fruit, but a thin kind of yellow fruit. Slightly perfumy as well. Well balanced and everything stays in its place. Not a lot of development over time. Nice smoky note too and the sowing machine oil is present as well, but alas no coconut.

This is great stuff, but I still think this is not a Whisky for everybody. It’s not a lovely, fruity and soft Whisky. This is more a Whisky with muscles. A masculine dram with oil and smoke. Although almost three times distilled, it is miles apart from the typical triple distilled grassy and citrussy Lowlanders. Artisan Whisky from a lovely distillery.

Points: 88

Glenfarclas 29yo 1979/2008 (50.6%, OB, The Family Casks III, Plain Hogshead #2216, 171 bottles)

In 2006 Glenfarclas started with an ongoing series containing lots and lots of single cask bottlings called the Family Casks. From the beginning, almost every vintage thinkable was released in very nice looking wooden boxes including a nice booklet. After a while, some vintages were not available anymore in the warehouses, and the wooden boxes were replaced by something a lot simpler. For the time being 2014 was the last year any Family cask was released, since 2015 saw no release of a Family Cask bottling (yet). Although Glenfarclas has a name to uphold with heavily sherried malts, just like The Macallan once did, and Glendronach does today, what was nice about the Family Casks was that any type of cask was released. This 1979 expression from the third run of Family Casks is from a Plain Hogshead and was bottled on the 17th of July 2008. Plain Hogshead could mean a rebuilt cask from staves that once formed a Bourbon barrel.

Glenfarclas 29yo 1979/2008 Family Casks IIIColor: Copper

Nose: Lots of creamy vanilla and coconut, what immediately makes me think about American oak. Very creamy and firm. Extremely fruity. Apricots, pears and ripe green plums. Hints of not yet ripe banana-skin and sweet ripe apples. It does have notes of a high quality Calvados. Almonds with dry powdered coffee creamer. Amazing how strong the aroma’s are, this is in no way a closed Whisky, no, no, no! Spicy, the wood kicks in a bit. Hint of latex paint. Lurking in the depth is a strange note, which is hard to describe. Old dried out cucumber with a tiny speck of acetone. You know how a cucumber smells, tone that down a few notches, and that’s whats in here too, underneath all those heavy hitting aroma’s from the highly active cask. I wonder what Bourbon it came in contact with. Wonderful old Whisky, with a perfect and endless nose. A true gem to smell!

Taste: Again extremely creamy and full of aroma. The power. Wonderful. Perfect stuff. Quite sweet upon entry. Creamy sweet and following quickly is a much drier woody sensation with just the right amount of bitterness. More wood than the nose had, but when the wood takes a step aside, wonderful aroma’s of ginger with jam made with red and black forest fruits present themselves, but not a lot of the fruit I mentioned in the nose. Amazing! Small hints of cask toast, slightly burned bread and candied cinnamon. Cloves and Christmas cake. Of course not a perfect Whisky, that does not exist, but this does come close. Wow! Warming and luckily a super long finish.

Here we have another super fruity old Bourbon Hogshead Whisky from the seventies. Reminding us of the stellar Caperdonichs from 1972, to name but one. I can only hope I’ll find me one of these sometimes.

Points: 93

The Michael Jackson Special Blend (43%, Whisky Magazine & Berry Bros. & Rudd, 1.000 bottles, 2009)

The late Michael Jackson, born 27th of March, 1942, was a writer who was mainly known for writing about Beer and later in his career about Whisky. Like many Whisky aficionado’s or anoraks, his Malt Whisky Companion was my first book on the topic. Michael JacksonNot a lot of books like that existed back then, and it opened a world for me. I almost wore the book out. In hindsight I liked his book on Belgian Beers better, due to its thorough research and obvious love and passion for the subject. The Whisky Companion itself started to gather some dust since a lot of the scores in the book weren’t very realistic to say the least. Just look at the scores for the Macallan Traveller Series to name but four. In 2009, the Whisky Magazine and Berry Bros & Rudd blended the remains of his collection of open bottles together and other Whisky was added to “correct” the result. A proportion of the profits raised with this bottling was donated to The Parkinson’s Disease Society, an illness Michael suffered from, for more than a decade.

The Michael Jackson Special BlendColor: Dark Gold.

Nose: Funky Sherry, quite dark and brooding. Sweet tea, wax and lots of cask toast and (burnt) caramel. Slightly rotting apples and other creamy fruits. Hints of smoke and rubber tires. Quite special and waxy. Lots of wood, caramel and toffee, but also a fresher, more fruity side. Sweet grain. I have to say I quite like the way this smells. This must have some pretty high quality and old components. Vanilla with pencil shavings and slightly animalesk (probably a non-existent word). Meaty and flowery. It seems endless. Very nice nose.

Taste: Spicy and woody, licorice, but also quite sweet. Very aromatic. Right off the bat, a tad too low in ABV. This probably would have been better at 46% ABV if possible. I guess the sweetness comes from some younger (grain) whisky used to balance the whole out. Pretty fruity but also hints of paper and cardboard. Spicy and a bit dusty. Hints of mint from toothpaste. Very easily drinkable. Toffee and almonds. Very distinct nuttiness. Well balanced, but it is the kind of balance usually achieved with caramel coloring, it seems that way, but it doesn’t have to be true. Overall not very complex, medium (beer like) finish that is a bit bitter, but still quite nice and drinkable.

This is a piece of history. Especially the nose shows that some pretty awesome Whisky was put into this blend. I’m glad it is a decent dram, because Mr. Jackson deserves a farewell with a Whisky like this. Not for collecting but Whisky made for drinking. In a way Michael is sharing a dram with friends for the last time. Michael died of a heart attack on the 30th of August 2007.

points: 79

Caroni 1998/2008 (40%, Bristol Classic Rum, Trinidad & Tobago)

The Caroni distillery was founded in 1923 and after 80 years of operation, sadly was closed in 2003. In 2001 the Trinidad government sold its 49% share in Rum Distillers Limited to Angostura for $35 million who were forced to close the distillery two years later, because that same Trinidad Government closed their sugar refinery on the island. In the first half of the 20th century Trinidad had some 50 odd distilleries, but today only one survives, Angostura. The demise of the Trinidadian sugar cane industry means that molasses today are mainly imported from Guyana. Because of its heavy style, Caroni was a favourite with the British Navy and yours truly.

Bristol Spirits Caroni 1998-2008Color: Gold.

Nose: Dry, funky and slightly industrial. Like a crossing between Rhum Agricole and Jamaican Rum, with added motor oil and petrol. High ester heavy style Rum. Different kinds of wood and waxy. Lots and lots of aroma. Hints of oranges and mushrooms. Hot butter. Orange skins at first, but with good nosing a deeper (and sweeter) kind of sugared oranges appear. I’m a big fan of Rums like these. Later on, some oak and earwax. Burnt wood and smoke. Bonfire and a fishy note. Grilled fish (hanging over the bonfire). When my mind wanders off, I will associate the hint of smoke and burnt wood with Islay Whisky. Nice side effect. When all the extremities wear off on the nose, the whole becomes slightly sweeter and friendlier. More salty and smoky vanilla. What a nose!

Taste: Dry oranges with some hidden sweetness underneath. Still a bit industrial, not saying that is bad, on the contrary. Nice hints of oranges again, all of it, the skins, the freshly pressed juice and the candied oranges. All quite dry and smoky, never truly sweet. The wood is trying to get some bitterness across, but that hardy is the case. The Rum itself is highly aromatic, the bitterness is pushed back, there is simply not a lot of room for it. Bitter orange skin and again a burnt note. I can’t help but feel that the orange oil you get with the juice from the skins also gives off a slight acidic note that doesn’t completely integrate with the rest of the taste. Something that also happens in the Abuelo 12yo. Only here it’s not that bad.

This is great stuff from a sadly closed distillery. Not your run of the mill easy-going overly sweet Rum, but something more daring and industrial. Maybe this Rum isn’t for everyone, but if you like the profile this was one of the best.

The 1998 Caroni reviewed here was bottled in 2008. In 2013 exactly the same rum was released, just 5 years older. That one would be nice to review sometimes. The picture on the left is from the 2013 release, but looks exactly the same as the 2008 release.

Points: 86