Don José 12yo 2003/2015 (53.6%, Isla del Ron, IdR 012, 252 bottles, Panama)

Don José you might ask? “I know only of Panamanian Rums called Abuelo”. Well, Don José is the distillery owned by Varela Hermanos. Abuelo is a Panamanian Rum brand owned by…Varela Hermanos. You do the math. Earlier I reviewed a very nice Rhum from Guadeloupe bottled by Isla del Ron, The Rum outlet of Thomas Euers, Whisky people know better from his independently bottled Whiskies under his Malts of Scotland label. Both the Rums from Abuelo, and the Isla del Ron label, need no further introduction, so why waste any more words on this introduction when both need no introduction? In case you’re wondering, the introduction is now over.

Don José 12yo 2003/2015 (53.6%, Isla del Ron, IdR 012, 252 bottles, Panama)Color: Gold.

Nose: Thick and cloying. Extremely creamy. Cream, vanilla pudding. Vanilla ic-cream and butterscotch. Yes this is an Abuelo all right, but it’s also different. Next come some hints of old, dried out leather and even Whisky. Dust and a pronounced woody backbone, add some balance to the overly creamy nose. I also get an edge of paper, right next to the wood. Oak, paper and powdered aspirin. Had I nosed this blind, and after some breathing, I might not have guessed this was an Abuelo though, because it reminds me now even more of Foursquare. Doorly’s 12yo for example. (…so I pulled up the Doorly’s 12yo and had a sniff. Yep quite similar at first, although the Doorly’s has an additional winey note, and is less creamy. The similarities are becoming less obvious, when the Doorly’s gets some time to breathe and develops in the glass. It develops even more of the acidity mentioned earlier than the “Abuelo”, go figure).

Taste: Yeah now we’re talking. Always wanted to know how an Abuelo would taste at a higher strength, well, here is your chance. Definitely less creamy than the official outings. And guess what, and you might want to read my other reviews of Abuelo, this one doesn’t have the discrepant fruity acidity on top. Again notes of paper, cardboard and quite some wood and burned wood. Those notes add some bitterness to the whole. Almonds. By the way, it is slightly soapy as well, and has a slightly (bitter) Beer-like finish. Now you don’t get that in a regular Abuelo now, don’t you. The bitterness does however dominate the aftertaste. Surprising.

Again, like with many Abuelo’s, something seems to be not quite right, and I mean it suffers a bit in the “balance” department. Usually it is the fruity acidity that doesn’t reach the synergy needed, but this time it is a less fruity and a more waxy note that seems to be a bit off and unwilling to cooperate. Nevertheless this is a minor fault compared to the acidity-problem in other Abuelo’s. This particular expression is all about the wood. You can say it its wood driven and has this quite unusual bitterness. Is that bad? Well, it’s not overpowering, so it doesn’t ruin the Rum, it is quite upfront, so if you like your woods, you are going prefer this one over the regular Abuelo’s, that’s for sure. It has a higher ABV, and you do notice that, but not as much as expected. I don’t find it hot or too high in alcohol. Nope, it’s still quite easily drinkable.

Points: 83

De nuevo muchas gracias señor Rik!

Bellevue 15yo 1998/2014 (52.6%, Isla del Ron, IdR 011, 169 bottles, Guadeloupe)

The market for good Rum is on the rise, especially in markets where Single Malt Whisky is king. In the last couple of years the run on good Whisky was bigger than life, depleting the stocks considerably. Today we face not a shortage as such, but a shortage in older matured Whiskies. In part because there isn’t any, in part because it is simply not bottled because one can fetch a better price later on down the road. Hence we see an ever-growing number of Whiskies without an age statement and with a funky little name. Nothing bad here, but putting two and two together, the Whiskies must be younger and younger to be able to keep the new bottlings coming for a hungry (read: thirsty) public.

Whisky people in general are not happy with the youth of their Whiskies, nor are they happy with the development of prices of their beloved aged Whiskies. Just look at Highland Park 18yo, Talisker 18yo and Laphroaig 18yo, producers simply don’t have the time anymore to wait that long and subsequently sell it for a not so super-premium price. It’s not all romance you know, it still is a business. Happy times for Whisky producers in warm climate countries such as Taiwan and India, where very good Whisky is made today in much less time than in Scotland and the other traditional Whisky countries.

In comes Rum. Whisky people are open to trying other distillates that are nice and/or aged, and/or affordable. One of those alternatives for Whisky is Rum. Guadeloupe Sainte Anne Grande-TerreThe old Rum community is enriched with Whisky people fishing in the pond of Rum and getting to know the product and a different kind of romanticism. Where Scotland is beautiful, but also cold and wet, Rum predominantly comes for the Caribbean and especially the image of paradise islands comes to mind. Older Rums are becoming scarce very quickly and just like Whisky, will become almost extinct, Prices are on the rise as well. Where have we seen this before?

Lots of independent bottlers of fine Single Malt Whisky are turning to Rum. Some did that many, many years ago, Like Cadenhead and Berry Brothers & Rudd, and some more recently like Wilson & Morgan (Rum Nation), Kintra and David Stirks outfit Exclusive Malts, but there are many more. Today we’ll have a look at another one. Isla del Ron is the Rum brand of Thomas Ewers’ outfit, Malts of Scotland.

Thomas EwersThomas bottled a Rum from Guadeloupe from a distillery nobody has heard of, South Pacific (as stated on the label), not to be confused with the South Pacific distillery of Fiji, which is entirely different place altogether. Thomas explained to me he was offered a cask of South Pacific, which turned out to be Bellevue instead, so in this case the label is wrong. Casks like this are sold to bottlers through brokers, so it’s not a surprise there are a lot more Bellevue casks from 1998 bottled by different parties. And with brokers there lies a problem. Brokers only want to sell on casks, not really caring informing the buying party what really is in the cask if they have the information at all.

Thomas believes this to be from the Bellevue distillery on Marie Galante Island, but looking at information of many other “Bellevue’s” from 1998, it can also be Damoiseau’s Bellevue Distillery (Le Moule, Grande-Terre), which would be even more probable, since it is a larger producer. So we’re not sure about the exact distillery, nor can we be about the ingredients. It can be either distilled from molasses or from sugar cane juice. It can even be a blend of both, since some distilleries produce both. Sugar cane when it is harvested, and molasses the rest of the year. Questions, questions.

Isla del Ron GuadeloupeColor: Orange brown.

Nose: Big aroma, lots of different spices. It’s like a spice mix from Indian Whisky. Vanilla, chewy. Dry, spicy and fatty but not sweet. Hint of sweet peppermint. Butter and coffee with milk. Mocha and hot butter as well. Cinnamon, cocoa powder, leather and hints of soft wood. Damp earth and after that rather dusty. Hints of licorice mixed with a nice dry and clean woody note and slightly burned sugar, molten plastic (don’t worry) and creamy banana. Very well-balanced and a nose of great complexity. Especially when the heavier elements are snorted out of the glass, the fun starts. Wow!

Taste: Starts out with a short, sweet and aromatic burst, but quickly becomes dry and very aromatic, with again the Indian spice-mix so predominant in the nose. Nutmeg and lavas, but there is a whole lot more. When it goes down the hatch it becomes even drier. The lighter elements start to evaporate in my mouth and engulfs it with lots of beautiful aroma’s. Milk chocolate, dry leather and a slight bitter edge of wood. Hints of licorice, tar and charred oak. Hot chocolate. After getting used to the spicy dryness, it becomes creamy hot chocolate style. Lovely development as well, especially since the aftertaste is stronger than the finish. Wow, what an amazing Rum!

I like the bottle used for Isla del Ron, it’s the same bottle used for Pusser’s 15yo, HSE from Martinique and last but not least, for Bruichladdich and Port Charlotte. I only have a beef with the label, its dark, dull and depressing. Rum comes from places where life is colorful. I hope Thomas will continue to bottle a lot more Rum’s, but I hope he’ll spice up the looks a bit!

In the end, after I tasted this in the shop, I needed a whole 10 seconds to snatch one up. This stuff makes me happy!

Points: 88

Thanks go out to Rik for the sample.

Bruichladdich 10yo 2003/2013 (56.3%, Malts of Scotland, First Fill Sherry Hogshead, MoS 13051, 285 bottles)

Almost two years ago I reviewed a Glen Keith bottled by Paderborner outfit Malts of Scotland. Being an indie with quite a reputation it took me quite a while to review another bottling of theirs. A sample of this very Bruichladdich was bestowed upon me by the former owner of this very cask. MoS renames the cask numbers so we do not know the original cask number. I hate it when Thomas does that, just like Bert does with his Asta Morris bottlings. Something to hide guys? Well nothing more to say really, (I’m a bit distracted by some nice live music by Primus), so let get on with it…

Bruichladdich 10yo 2003/2013 (56.3%, Malts of Scotland, Sherry Hogshead, MoS 13051, 285 bottles)Color: Orange brown.

Nose: Mellow Sherry of the Oloroso kind. Soft wood, dry forest plants like fern and slightly sulphury. Freshly baked bread. Chocolate, brown sugar, honey and fruity acidity from red fruits and berries. Vanillin and a distant bonfire in the woods. Wet earth and mocha. Raisins. Nice and pretty laid back. Mint in the finish (when warm).

Taste: The fruity acidity from the nose. Waxed chocolate sprinkles, cola and some wood. Again some sulphur, but not a lot. Extremely warming. The acidity stays on well into the finish and deep into the finish the sulphur gets more room to play, but still it is not a lot and never overpowering. It’s in the background carrying the aroma along with black tea leaves and a hint of woody bitterness. Not a very long finish though. Reminds me a (more than a) bit of the Bunnahabhain and to a lesser extent of a Bruichladdich I reviewed earlier. A quieter version of both I guess.

I have to say this one needed warming up. Even at room temperature I found it pretty closed, but when I held it in my hand for a while it showed a lot more of itself. Honey in the body and mint in the finish for instance. When I finished it, I poured myself a fresh dram, and again, very closed. This is an example of a closed and dry heavily Sherried expression as opposed to a fruity one. Bottled at the right time. Ready for another strange remark? The empty glass smells better than the full glass…

Points: 85

Thanx Andy!

Glen Keith 19yo 1990/2010 (52.1%, Malts of Scotland, Bourbon Barrel #13678, 232 bottles)

Last time around we had a stellar but also antique 1967 Glen Keith bottled by Gordon & MacPhail. This time around we have a more modern expression distilled in 1990 bottled in 2010 by german outfit Malts of Scotland, in a more modern type bottle. Let’s see if a more modern Glen Keith is up to par. We’re now in April 2013 and this should be the month the distillery would be reopened. I have looked around in the media but haven’t found a word about it, so I guess the distillery hasn’t opened yet. I hope I can inform you on the reopening in the next Glen Keith review.

Color: Straw

Nose: Clean wood, overall clean, spicy naked wood or virgin oak as they like to call it. Not a lot of character for something that was 19 years in a barrel. Definitely a refill. a slight hint of vanilla, which can’t be a surprise. Cloves, not very ripe pears and a little bit creamy. Well considering all, clean is the word here, you could almost call this sterile, but I won’t because it isn’t. No faults too. I guess the spirit’s great, but the barrel didn’t do a lot for this Whisky. When warmed up a little, some grassy or hay-like notes appear and it gets slightly perfumy (like soap), mind you it’s not soapy! Maybe we should call this profile ‘honest’.

Taste: Sweet and creamy and actually very drinkable, Small hints of wood which gives the whole some character. Overall creamy, with vanilla and mocha and some ice-cream and clotted cream as well. It has a very confectionery feel to it. The sweetness is sugary, but again there is absolutely nothing wrong with it. It’s quite nice, it’s very simple because there isn’t much to it, but easy drinkable likeable. An easy sipper, and I can imagine people having a lot of fun with this.

Let it breathe to open up. Well its incomparable to the oldies from the sixties and seventies. Those were mostly sherry bottlings to boot. Still this is from a cheap Bourbon Barrel, but it shows us that the spirit is rather good. For a simple refill cask. still it did nothing wrong and makes this a nice sippin’ Whisky. Nice.

Points: 84