Spirited Union – Spice & Sea Salt Botanical Rum (41%, A55001, Barbados/The Netherlands)

More than with any other type of distilled spirit, Rum aficionados (have to/feel the need to) protect their tipple. Whisky, for example, is highly regulated, so there is no need for the Whisky aficionado to protect their spirit, and there isn’t a lot of adulteration going on, to boot. Quite the contrary actually, regulation prevents too much openness about the Whisky in the bottle, preventing distillers like Bruichladdich and blenders like John Glaser (Compass Box) to print all the available information on the label. Aficionados like it (we want to know as much as possible), regulations prevent it. For instance, only the last cask is mentioned in detail on the label, but if the whisky was previously matured in a different casks, details of that cask aren’t allowed on the label. Blenders aren’t allowed to print on the label how exactly their blend came to be. Blenders like Compass Box, do publish that information on their website as do distillers, like Bruichladdich, to name but a few.

Rum aficionado’s are very clear about how they prefer their Rum. Pure and unadulterated. No additions of any kind and certainly not of the sugary kind. If possible non or not much reduction. Preferably aged on location, although continental ageing is accepted. So when word comes out, somebody is releasing a popcorn infused/flavoured Rum, well, you’d better hide in your bomb proof cellar for a while, until that travesty blows over and Barry has killed the culprit who had this infamous idea. Sure, pure Rum is the best Rum, and I like them dry and untouched as well.

I myself do draw the line when people essentially produce a sweet liqueur and call it a Rum, examples like Don Papa (you don’t want to know what was added to that and in which quantities!) and The “Rums” of A.H. Riise, again to name but a few. I reviewed this Christmas Edition of A.H. Riise a while back and I did like the taste of Christmas it gave off, hence the score, but in hindsight I don’t feel it is a Rum at all. Its a tasty Liqueur, with Rum used as a base spirit. So as a Rum the score, if reviewed today, should be much, much lower, but I’ll let it stand as a testament to the ignorance of the consumer, me, myself and I, in this case. Since we don’t have a class of Sugared Rums or Rum Liqueur, it may be considered a Spiced Rum, a class of Rum reserved for Rums where anything has been added to it. Un-pure. Yes, Rum is lacking regulation, and some producers obviously will do anything to sell as much Rum as possible. The market for Rum as a mixer is much, much larger, than the market for Rum as a sipper, although the latter is on the rise, as are the prices for sipable Rums. So consumer beware!

So the Rum police doesn’t like people messing with their Rum and here is me reviewing a Rum that has been altered, messed with, and I’ll leave it up to you, the Rum detective from the Rum Homicide department, to decide if this particular case is acceptable or not. As is the type of Botanical Rum. In the Netherlands, I imagine, Ruben Madero got an idea when sipping his traditional Gin & Tonic. Hmmm, he must have thought, Botanicals, interesting, what if I made a Gin, that uses Rum in stead of a clear grain spirit as a base. No, even better, what if I would make a Rum with botanicals! Yes! The industrious guy he is, he started a distillery and started experimenting (Ruben hates sweetened Rums as well). Probably not in that order. Fast forward a bit, since this introduction is already a wee bit too long. Here is Ruben’s first baby available to the public. The Spice and Sea Salt Botanical Rum. I don’t know if it is a secret, but when walking around the distillery, I saw some industrial size containers on site with 5yo Rum from Foursquare (Column and Pot Still). And I have to say, fans of Foursquare are amongst the most fanatical Rum police there is. Foursquare is a wonderful Bajan Rum, so of course there is this hands-off-our-Rum movement. But please read on, not all changes to Rum are done with the wrong idea? Ruben started to make various infusions and distillates of herbs and spices and fruits and so on, I saw many of those in his distillery. Which botanicals did eventually end up in this Botanical Rum? (lets just call it that, since there is this lack of regulation and this type of Rum doesn’t exist officially). First of all:

* Organic Añana Sea Salt (Spain)
* Madagascan Vanilla
* Cloves
* Guatemalan Cardamom
* Peruvian Cacao

No time to waste than to taste this Botanical Rum now. Ruben isn’t really presenting this Rum as a sipper, but to assess this Rum, I will be sipping it to review it. I also had a chance to try this Rum, at the distillery, in their proposed mix with ice and ginger beer, and…well I do have to admit I was shameless enough to ask for another one.

Color: Light Gold, almost White Wine

Nose: Light Rum, sweetish and leafy. A green smell. I already know this has sea salt added, so I don’t know if I’m truly objective, but I do notice an aroma associated with salt. Ginger, nutty, foremost almonds and citrussy notes (it’s the cardamom speaking), young Rum, not really full of vanilla, toffee or caramel notes. If you smell hard, some spicy green notes come forward. Based on the nose alone, and considering this has salt added, which you can’t smell, the other botanicals are present, blended in with taste. They add to the taste of the young Rum, but neither of those botanicals overpower the nose. Actually still recognizable as a Foursquare Rum. A wee bit of parrafin, diluted cola and sea spray are present as well. Give it more time in the glass the appetizing cola note stays and mixes in with a new floral note. Even longer and some ripe and sugared red fruits come forward. The Foursquare base is now even more recognizable. The cloves, by the way, are foremost noticeable in the empty glass afterwards…

Taste: The entry is salty and unique to the world of Rum. The somewhat slower sweet taste follows right after that. In a way also a bit thin, 41% ABV is very close to 40% ABV. Sugared black tea. Salty lips and a mouth full of pretty nice nutty Foursquare notes, with a tiny acidic citrussy top note. Medium sweetness, sugar water and a black tea note. A light bitter note (from spices, not wood), cloves and vanilla, yet, apart from the salt, nothing of the botanicals or additions overpower. I have to admit, the tweaks are done sparsely and with taste, leaving enough room for Foursquare to leave it’s mark as well. Sure the salt is prominent, and a key player, but for me it works well. Cacao in the rather short finish (with light botanicals and young Rum, this was to be expected). The cacao stays around for the (short) aftertaste. The base-Rum is young and still hasn’t got a lot (if any) wood notes impaired to it. The aftertaste may be shortish, but the salty lips are here to stay for a while. Well balanced.

Interesting Botanical Rum. Works for me as a sipper, especially as a starter in a flight of Rums. Equally good with (smoked) ginger beer. Quite by accident after tasting this Spice and Sea Salt Rum I poured a high ABV Pour Mourant into the unrinsed glass, and the salt from this Rum that stayed behind on the inside of the glass, tasted very nice with the Demerara as well, even with only this trace amount of salt.

Points: 77

Worthy Park Single Estate Reserve (45%, OB, Jamaica)

A few years back I had a Worthy Park from Rum Nation on my lectern, which was definitely not bad. Nope, not bad at all. Here is another one, but this time it’s not bottled by an independent bottler, but by the owners themselves! Hurray! Finally some more worthy OB’s! I’m already sort-of happy this was bottled at 45% ABV and not a lackluster 40%, which often hurts the Rum, just look at both offerings from Foursquare: Both Doorly’s 12yo and the 9yo Port Cask Finish were bottled at 40% ABV, and suffered a bit from reduction if you ask me. Especially Rum, and this is my personal view, fares well at higher strengths. Sure I like it better, but I also feel it presents itself and all the flavors and aroma’s better. Sure, when starting out with Rum I had no beef with lower strength Rums and found lots of Rums were quite good (even the one’s that aren’t all that good in hindsight). As time and experience progresses, I find that the higher strength really does matter considerably. However, as said before, this may not be true for you, so please don’t take my word for it and make up your own mind. The owner of the bottle I’m about to review found this quite alcoholic in comparison to The Rum Nation Guadeloupe I reviewed not too long ago. Let’s see in a few years time what his thoughts are about this Rum.

Color: Gold.

Nose: Yes Worthy Park alright, I recognize it immediately from the Rum Nation bottling I reviewed a few years back. Funky banana, sweet wax and nutty. Lots of fruity banana. Very fragrant. Very fruity. Runny toffee, with an edge of fresh oak and almonds. The big fatty note subsides a bit to show more dry and slightly woody notes. Dried vegetable powder. Sweet Grain Whisky reminding me of Girvan. Vitamin C dust, sawdust and Pisang Goreng (baked banana), complete with the dough and powdered sugar. Milk Chocolate. I have to say I really like the play between the sweet banana toffee notes and the dryer grainy, tea-like and woody notes. More sugared yellow fruits and even some warm licorice. After more breathing, a more alcoholic and green note appears. Showing some apparent youth, which in this case is certainly not bad. More warm licorice and cooked vegetables. Cold gravy. Easily recognizable as a Worthy Park though, but also some surprises are here to be had. I like this one, it smells good.

Taste: Wow, definitely less sweet than the nose promised. I may have used that line before. In fact, this is also thinner than I thought. Less fatty and less sweet. The big nutty and banana note almost seem absent. Starts with (slightly bitter and slightly nutty) wood, Greek green olives and tea. Warming. Quite dry, which is a nice surprise after the banana smell, unless you are expecting a banana nose as well. Already the body seems to un-balance itself, which is a pity. The balance was never this Rums biggest fortay since the difference between the nose and the palate is easily noticeable. Somewhat short in the finish-department as well, lacking warmth, with the bitter wood note having the longest breath. Salty on the lips, like the brine from the Greek green olives.

This is a nice Worthy Park, but for me this doesn’t eclipse a lot of independently bottled Worthy Parks. This in fact surprised me a bit being dryer than most Worthy Parks I tried from the independents, thus showing a somewhat new side to me. Is it the best? Certainly not, it is a bit thin on the palate, but it certainly isn’t pointless at all, I really like the dry profile. This is definitely worth knowing, and I do like it. It is an education, and I’m happy I have been given the opportunity to try it. I don’t think you need the whole bottle for the experience. On par with the Monymusk I just reviewed, but I have to admit this one is growing on me. If I would have an open bottle of this, this might grow on me as well. So in time I will get back to this for sure.

Points: 82

Thanks to Auke for the sample.

Rhum J.M Cuvée 1845 (42%, Vieux, Hors d’Age, Martinique)

After the XO and the Millésime 2002 this is the third J.M Rhum on these pages. This Cuvée 1845 is a blend of Rhum’s aged for 10 years in refill Bourbon barrels. Released in 2015 for the 170th anniversary of production. 170 years, since 1845! I feel that the time has come with this third J.M review, to dive into a little bit of history. If you’re bored easily, please read on, I’ll keep it brief.

Lets begin our journey in 1663 when Jean-Baptiste Labat was born in Paris, France. At the age of 20 he entered the order of the Dominicans, thus becoming better known as Pere (father) Labat. In 1693 Jean-Baptiste travelled to Martinique (amongst others) to do missionary work. There he became proprietor of the Fonds-Saint-Jacques estate where he started to modernize the sugar industry, quickly followed suit by others. In 1706 he returned to Europe, in 1716 returned to Paris and died there in 1738. The Fonds-Saint-Jacques estate changed hands (and names) several times until we finally arrive in 1845, when Jean-Marie Martin bought the estate. Due to other sources for sugar, especially in Europe, production was reduced, however, since distilled spirits were on the rise. Jean-Marie (J.M) thought it would be a good idea to build a distillery on his estate to produce Rhum, thus creating J.M Rhum (Agricole). The distillery (and the estate) changed hands several times since, but the J.M brand stuck.

Color: Orange golden brown

Nose: Vegetable, spicy and dusty. Much more typical Agricole than the Rum Nation Guadeloupe I reviewed recently. Very aromatic. Again this bad breath note combined with (slightly burnt) cola, dates and figs. Some nice polished (oily) oak with old leather. Dusty, green and earthy. Earthy like a sack of soil you buy for your garden (that has been laying in the sun for a while). Sweetish notes like toffee, caramel and vanilla with red fruits, candied cherries and hints of mango and passion fruit. Soft and elegant. Quite floral as well and slightly sugared. I’m sure its not added to this Rhum, but this does have the smell of white sugar diluted in warm water. Powdered sugar dust. Sugared almonds, some honey coated, some fresh. A very quiet and distinguished expression. One that sits back in the corner of the room, but in the best leather chair. After some breathing more oak emerges and lukewarm black tea (yes, with a little bit of sugar in it). Fresh oak and white latex wall paint, very creamy and clean smell. Almonds, warm apple sauce and fresh air. Sniff hard and give it lots of time and this turns out to be way more complex than it showed upon pouring. The well balanced aroma’s seem to emerge endlessly…

Taste: After the complex nose, the taste sometimes starts out a bit thin (not when freshly poured). Less sweet than expected. Rich toffee and typical Agricole notes. An edge of toasted cask complete with a light bitter edge. Vegetal, clean sugar taste. Green spices (celery) and aromatic. Little sting of pepper(oni) and a nice half sweet licorice and sometimes cinnamon note. Definitely less sweet than expected, yet very well balanced. Mocha and hopjes (Dutch coffee candy), milk chocolate and caramel. Milky Way bar. Sometimes even some citrussy notes emerge. At 42% ABV I do feel I have to work at it quite a bit to get all the riches out, which doesn’t mean it should have been bottled at a higher ABV. For me maybe yes, but I guess the ABV suits this Rhum and the market is was bottled for. Just look at the looks of this bottle, it’s just not looking very cask strengthy now does it? I don’t think Daddy Warbucks would appreciate this being high ABV when he picked this at the bar. Warming going down, and very well made. This is a Rhum for a hot day, this needs a little bit of ambient warmth to present its riches, on a cold day, and at this ABV, it is too light and stays too closed.

Quite light in style, careless sipping of this particular Rhum will most certainly mean you will miss a lot and would probably think it isn’t as great than it really is. This is definitely from the same family as both J.M’s I reviewed before, the XO (simpler) and the 2002 (more raw and bigger), but in a different softer and more elegant or luxury style. I guess it depends on my mood if I would prefer the aforementioned 2002 or this 1845. It could be that this 1845 is better than the 2002. I sure would understand if you say so. Personally, when I grab this bottle carelessly and don’t give it full (almost analytical) attention, its almost like mishandling the Rhum. I’m missing most of it, find it thin and un-complex, and that’s where the 2002 shines. Even when you don’t give it enough attention, it still is able to show its true self. Thus lets say the 2002 is always good, the 1845 has some highs and lows. The low being that it just demands your attention, if not, it will chew on your remote, or piss against the couch…bugger.

Points: 87

Rivière Du Mât Extra Old XO (42%, Ile de la Réunion, Circa 2014)

I found my first Rivière du Mât bottle (The Brut de Fût), sitting rather sad, covered in dust, with its blue box missing, shoved behind another bottle on the shelf in a shop. It looked like it didn’t get a lot of love from the people selling it, not even having it’s own place on the shelf. Nobody seemed to be interested in it as well. However, I am a sensitive guy and I liked the bulky bottle. I had no idea what was inside, but being an adventurous guy, and having read good things about Rum distilled on Ile de la Réunion, I bought it and gave it a lot of love by storing it in a dust-free, dark cardboard box, surrounded by many Rum-friends, some of which speak French as well! That bottle still sits waiting patiently for me to uncork it, chatting away to its friends about the wonderful ile it comes from. I hope they have a good time over there. Once in a while I open those boxes greeting them. A joke here, a pat there, sometimes wiping away the dust on a shoulder. Anoraky isn’t it? What? Creepy? What do you mean with “go heal yourself”, or “turn yourself in”?

Much later I had a meeting with my Dutch Whisky club, in Hamburg, Germany. Remember the time this was considered normal? Obviously we went to a nice well-known, friendly and well stocked shop in Hamburg that alas must remain anonymous here, (Weinquelle, on the Lübecker Straße 145). In stead of buying Whisky, I ended up with a couple of Rivière du Mât bottlings. I bought the XO and the 2004 Vintage, and not the heaps of Whisky the other guys bought. By the way, if you plan to go to this shop you don’t know about, look at their site you can’t find. They don’t have enough space to have everything they sell in the shop, luckily they have the rest in the back, so come prepared (I did).

Ile de la Réunion, “wez dat”? You can find the island when sailing east from Madagascar. Surely you know where Madagascar is? You misplaced the DVD? Jeez, not the film! Another island close by is Mauritius, which lies further east.

Color: Orange gold.

Nose: Different from other Rums I have nosed before, maybe some resemblance to the imagined combination of St. Lucia and Caroni. In part it’s industrial and dusty, hints of bad breath, short-lived licorice, vanilla, latex paint and hot motor oil, but also very warming and special. Bonfire. Almonds and fruity. It has a warm sugary water aroma reminding me of the Epris I had before. This is so different, that I have to dissect this in my mind. What is it, the nose is made up from? Dates, yes, but with a sort of motor oil quality to it. Nutty as well. Ginger and very soft wood. Very well balanced. Its wonderful. Especially from a not-full bottle. This does need air. After a while a nice mixture of almonds, ethanol and oak emerge. In a way it smells a bit reduced, you feel it could have been so much bigger. This probably would be truly stellar at cask strength. I must have a look for something like that, if it exists.

Taste: Sweet on entry, honey and spicy ginger. Classic molasses Rhum with a (sweet) twist. Alas also a bit thin. Hints of tobacco, and a waxy quality. Tea biscuits (and butter). The bad breath note in its liquid form, resembles almost burning molten plastic (and more almonds). I know it sounds so horrible but it is just a part of the balance, and it works well in this. Quite aromatic and warming. Licorice and more soft wood. Some ashes and a tiny bitter oak edge. Well balanced. Even though this is quite aromatic, for a Rhum Traditionnel (molasses), you can call this a light R(h)um, and proves that a light R(h)um can be very exiting. This one reminds me of many aroma’s encountered for the first time when getting into Single Malt Whisky, so this Rhum fits me perfectly.

I only wish this was bottled at a higher strength than the 42% ABV they did. This is sooo good, and I’m sure it would have benefited immensely from the higher strength. Nevertheless an excellent Rhum, very tasty. I also noticed that the lower the level of the Rhum in the bottle, the better it got, the smell got deeper, the taste more balanced. This needs lots of air, people, I can’t stress this enough. When this is empty I will replace it with another Rhum from Ile de la Réunion for sure, because this one was a cracker. I understand there is plenty more good stuff made on the island…

Points: 88

Guadeloupe Vieux (40%, Rum Nation, Guadeloupe, 2016)

This is a bottle I found in my collection and I really can’t remember why I bought it. I do remember tasting some Guadeloupe Rums that were truly wonderful, but these were all bottled at cask strength, like this Gardel and this Bellevue. So why did this 40% ABV version came floating to the surface of my stash? OK, no problem for sure, since, as I said, I still have to stumble upon a bad or even a mediocre Rhum from Guadeloupe. No complaints with Rum Nation so far. I like these “new” dumpy Rum Nation bottles, sometimes called entry-level when in fact it is a little bit more than that. Even the label looks excellent, with its beautiful color combinations of black, medium brown, ivory and gold. I raise these questions of doubt, because of the back-label. This label has statements like: “designed with a lighter aroma in mind” and “an introduction to the world of French-style Rhums”. 40% ABV. Well, excuse me prrrrincess, but by now I don’t need an introduction, not even a refresher course, and I’m not your guy for very light Rums (sometimes boring, yet sometimes the beauty lies in the details). Nevertheless, it is here, and this nice looking bottle will be “plopped” just the same.

Color: Full gold.

Nose: Fresh, fresh air, floral and slightly alcoholic. Quite perfumy. Warm light wax and Sinaspril (artificial orange flavoured headache pill for children). Dusty with soft wood and cinnamon. Hints of crushed beetle (acidic). Soft overall. Sweetish toffee and runny caramel. Its almost closer to a Single Malt Whisky than your typical Rhum Agricole. This might be interesting in a blind tasting, depending on the taste. Cookie dough and cinnamon again. Appetizing and light. Tiniest hint of gravy and more (virgin-like) oak. Good balance. Hints of sweet apricot and sweet super-ripe oranges in sweet yoghurt. Very light though and in this case it means you have to work at it a bit. Keep it moving around in your glass to get aroma’s out. Snorting it as if your life depends upon it. The more this stands the more fresh and floral it gets. More vanilla as well and a little bit of toasted oak. Given a lot of time this is a wonderful smelling Rhum. Just an hour more and I would be talking to you about several flowers. Jasmin for instance, but there are more. Just where is the Agricole? Quite nice and out of the ordinary (for an Agricole). A breakfast Rhum.

Taste: Sugar water. Red fruit lemonade, Cola without the sparkle and without the heaps of sugar. Nothing floral in the taste. Extremely simple and definitely lacking in the (Rhum) Agricole-department. Dusty and soft wood. Some wax again (the more it breathes the more waxy it gets) and sometimes a bitter woody note, mostly masked. Hardly a finish let alone an aftertaste, a little waxy again. Still warming. Some wood and something resembling licorice, but it might be me imagining this. And that more or less is it.

As a quick-fix quite underwhelming. This needs too much time to show itself. When given time, the nose gets very, very nice and balanced, Taste-wise this will never get there, it’s just too simple. Has it been drowned in water? As mentioned above, we were already warned by the label on the back of the bottle. This was designed (taking away from the art of making Rhum, or maybe this is actually the art of being able to design it) as a light Rhum. The label also claims that due to its lightness this is an introduction to French style Rhums. Since for me this is lacking most of the typical Agricole style, this is in no way an introduction to French style Rhums. yes, this may be an introduction to light style R(h)ums, but aren’t all light style R(h)ums an introduction to light style R(h)ums to begin with? For me this resembles Abuelo Añejo, so that might also work very well as an introduction to French style R(h)ums. Only, isn’t Abuelo a Spanish style Ron? Yes it is! Nope, this Guadeloupe Vieux is definitely not an introduction to French style Rhums just like the Abuelo isn’t. Nope. Not at all. Get it only when you’re a novice of mixologist, or get the Abuelo Añejo, which should be cheaper.

Points: 78

P.S. The only clue given by Rum Nation about the distillery responsible for this is that the distillery is that its 100 years old, and that the Blanc they bottled in 2015, comes from the same distillery. This still leaves us with several options like Poisson (of Père Labat fame) and Reimonenq (less known). Bellevue is almost 100, so for now I’ll leave it alone and won’t hazard a guess as to which one it is. (Sure I do, I assume (the mother of all fuckups) that its Poisson). If you have more info, please drop me a line…

Monymusk 12yo 2003/2015 (46%, Kill Devil, 309 bottles, L15 008 PB, Jamaica)

After the Moka Intense, why not try another Rum while we’re at it. Lance was nudging me in the ribs for quite some time and I started to feel a bit sore and guilty actually for letting him down for so long! Yesureebob! This time I’m going to have a look at a bottle of Rum I bought when visiting the U.K. a few years back. When visiting one of my favorite retailers, I found three different Kill Devil Jamaican Rums. Kill Devil is the Rum brand of Hunter Laing, best known as an Independent Whisky bottler. Maybe Old Malt Cask rings a bell? For reasons I really can’t remember now, I chose this one to be the first of the three to open.

Monymusk, for Whisky-people at least, maybe known as a Scottish village. It isn’t even a Jamaican distillery. Monymusk in fact, is the sugar factory next to the big and modern Clarendon Distillery and name giver to this “brand” of Rum. So Monymusk is made at the Clarendon distillery, which is owned by NRJ (National Rums of Jamaica) and Diageo (for Captain Morgan). NRJ itself, is owned by the National Sugar Company (Jamaican Government), Maison Ferrand (of Plantation Rum fame) and Demerara Distillers Limited (we know for El Dorado Rums). What a partnership! Imagine being invited to a party thrown by these people! I imagine a very sweaty Caribbean night indeed. By the way, NRJ also owns the Long Pond distillery and the now defunct Innswood distillery, which is now used for aging casks. After WWII (in 1949 to be exact), Clarendon was built with Pot Stills and much later (somewhere around 2009) the modern addition was made, housing Column Stills. Since our Monymusk was distilled in 2003, we know which stills “did it”…

Color: Straw.

Nose: Ahhh, Jamaican Funk, with dust and vanilla powder, yet also extremely fresh. Big and grassy. Mocha and milk chocolate. Old leather. Almonds and a lemon and lime peel note in the back, maybe even some orange peel, but to a lesser extent. Whiffs of gun-powder occasionally fly past, as well as a different burnt note, more like well roasted meat, roasted (not burnt) to a crisp. More almonds and ear wax. What I quite like is the citrus combined with the thick Jamaican funk, well maybe not that thick, not very thick at all actually. This is more like funk light. Jamaican funkette. Its there but balanced out by a fresh beach/sea note and obviously the citrussy aromas which combine very nicely. Some nice soft wood washes ashore (along with some paper). A light Monymusk, but quite balanced and appealing. Easy going and all is well integrated. Don’t confuse lightness with reduction to 46% ABV. Even cask strength Rums can be light, and this Monymusk surely was probably light in its cask strength form as well.

Taste: Waxy and funky. Short sweetish and nutty burst that washes down quickly. Paper and cardboard followed by a sweet honeyed note and some licorice, finishing the first sip off with a medium pepper attack. Warming. Second time around, more wood is showing and the paper/cardboard note returns as well. More bitter this time, bitterness from wood and again this ear wax aroma. Green and spicy and also a bit minty. Laurel licorice, that’s it! Given more time, some sweeter notes do appear. Sweetish cold black tea with more almonds and dried out yellow fruits. Dry pineapple comes to mind. Since there isn’t actually that much wood (apart from the bitter notes), I’m guessing this wasn’t a very active cask otherwise. Light color and the weak finish also tell some tales. After a while some medium bitter, waxy and sometimes even industrial notes appear, which takes away from the balance a bit. After some breathing, it’s also dryer than expected. The Jamaican funkette seems to have taken a back seat, or maybe found it’s way all back into the boot/trunk (or the trailer for that matter). Not a long finish actually, similar in lightness, to the Cadenhead Epris I reviewed earlier (only in lightness mind you, the similarity ends there). Light aftertaste, but not much at all. Although the laurel licorice seems to have some staying power.

Although not the world’s most powerful Monymusk, it has good drinkability. Definitely a better nose than taste. The body falls down a bit, and it is also a bit weak in the finish and aftertaste. The nose was better balanced as well, but hey, no real off-notes. It is a decent Jamaican Rum, but also nothing more than that. There are many better offerings of Monymusk to be found, and if you already bought this, you’ll have no problem finishing it. I haven’t. Yes, quite light in style, which is OK and reduced in ABV as well, which maybe somewhat less OK to be honest. I wonder how this was at cask strength although you really can’t make up for quality that way, but I’m sure in this case it would surely have helped a bit.

Clarendon can make a lot of different marks, from light to very, very, very heavy (lots and lots of esters), so from such an uninformative label as Kill Devil has, you never know what you’re gonna get. You don’t say, Forest! Its Jamaican and its Monymusk, but that’s about it. Excellent introduction to the Jamaican Rum-style if you’re a novice, although I do wonder if a novice would go for a Kill Devil bottle to boot or any other independent bottler? I don’t know. Entry-level it is not, but definitely second tier. Maybe Hunter Laing (and the others) should not reduce Rums at all, we well experienced (Rum) drinkers and anoraks are willing to pay more for a cask strength Rum. Yes we do, don’t we Lance?

Points: 82

Clément 5yo 2010/2015 Très Vieux Rhum Agricole (42.2%, Bourbon Cask #20100409, Moka Intense, 412 bottles, 50 cl, Martinique)

Earlier, I reviewed both the 100% Canne Bleue (the original single cask bottling) and the first variation upon the single cask theme, called Vanille Intense. Where the first version was marketed with the emphasis on the sugar cane variety (Canne Bleue), the second, or so it seemed to me, more marketed towards the wood, since vanilla is an obvious marker of American oak, but sure, it can emerge from the Rhum as well. Here we have the next variant called Moka Intense, boasting mocha and coffee notes. I’m a big fan of coffee, so this variety is most welcome. However in the back of my mind the Vanilla Intense variety wasn’t quite as good as the original 100% Canne Bleue was, so I’m really expecting something along the lines of Vanilla Intense. Still these are single cask bottlings so it isn’t said that all 100% Canne Bleue are better than every Vanille Intense bottling. This Moka Intense is half the age of the other two. Maybe the coffee notes are more obvious in younger Rhum?

Color: Copper orange gold.

Nose: Soft, vanilla, slightly nutty. Lozenges and soft wood. Nice Agricole notes. Sometimes it’s too soft really. Hint of sugared orange skins and cherry liqueur with some dark chocolate. Black tea, infused for a short while, with lots of sugar in it. Mocha? maybe, not now at least. Coffee, nope, sorry. Very soft and un-complex. Its really simple really. Sugared. Wait a minute, I do get a sweet coffee note somewhere in the back, but actually it is a note that can be found in many other R(h)ums. So not a coffee that stands out. Mocha is softer and definitely present. I have to admit this Rhum does need some breathing. It opens up nicely and starts to show more of the above but now with better balance. Nose-wise this is now better than the Vanille Intense was. It has a very appealing quality to it, but it does need a lot of time to get there. Nice stuff nevertheless.

Taste: Not cloying, but definitely sweet. Warm going down, with bitter notes from the wood, maybe that’s why it was bottled earlier than the other two examples. Canne Bleue underneath but cloaked. Some notes of diluted sugar in warm water, without the taste being overly sweet. Just like some Whiskies go soft and smooth by caramel colouring. Personally I steer clear from distillates that are called soft and smooth. Never a good thing. On the palate this is definitely a wood driven Rhum. Even after extensive breathing that helped the nose forward, it doesn’t bring complexity to the palate. Alas. The body of the Rhum is black tea, typical Agricole notes, somewhat nutty, with a slight acidic edge. Lacking a bit in balance to be honest. Finish is not very long, and even less balanced. Is this the age? Sure it is. Aftertaste, some more typical Agricole notes and some sugar, that’s more or less it.

Since this is younger than the other two expressions I expected something more raw and bold, but au contraire, it turns out to be quite austere. I was afraid this next variant would be somehow less good than the original and it is. Although this still is not a bad Rhum, not at all, but both the Vanilla and especially this Moka Intense, seem to be out of their depths compared to the original single cask 100% Canne Bleue. This is a softer version, but with that, also more boring than the 100% Canne Bleue and even less interesting than the Vanille Intense. Now that I have reviewed all three, I’m now very interested how another batch of 100% Canne Bleue would perform. Anyone? For now, I would recommend you get the 100% Canne Bleue and forget both variants which add nothing more to the world of Clément single casks to warrant you, buying all three.

Points: 83

This one is for Lance who had to wait a long time for me to review a R(h)um again!

El Dorado 25yo 1980 (40%, Guyana)

Here is El Dorado Number four. After the more affordable and pretty sweet 12yo, the proper 15yo and the poor mans mid range premium 21yo, here is the true official Premium version. Just look at the decanter and the big knob on top. This is a 25yo distilled in 1980, so released somewhere around 2005. The previous, and first 25yo, was the millennium edition, released in 1999. El Dorado is the go-to-Rum when looking at Demerara Rums. However, the owners do get some slack for adding sugar. Many very good or even stellar Demerara Rums are released by independent bottlers offering expressions without added sugar, or less added sugar. Velier, Bristol and Rum Nation come to mind, but there are a lot more. Lately DDL themselves are now in the business releasing Demerara Rums as if they were an independent bottler with the release in 2015 of an 1993 Enmore, 1999 Port Mourant and a 2002 Versailles (with some added sugar). In 2017 another Port Mourant (1997) and Enmore (1996) were released. For me, Demerara is one of my favourite styles of Rum, together with the funk of Jamaica and St. Lucia and lets not forget about Rhum Agriciole, fantastic stuff in its own right. There are many wonderful Rums to be found. (Just opened my first bottle from Reunion, actually). Nice, and again different from the rest.

Color: Copper brown.

Nose: Sweet hints, with nice woody notes. Woody acidity and spicy. Slightly tarry, wood polish and plain old dust. Notes of clear glue as well. Compared to the 21yo, this does smell more distinguished, like entering an old mansion. Priceless antiques, beeswax furniture polish and so on. Definitely, some industrial notes with petrol, unlit tobacco and licorice (Enmore), but also (again) the whiff of fresh air, burnt caramel and brown sugar. How is that even possible with all these heavy aroma’s? It tells me the nose isn’t very clogged up, and roomy. It lets its treasures out in layers. Honey, cough syrup and more beautiful wood (and more licorice as well). Very, very nice. Amazing how well aged Demerara’s can smell. In fact this does smell a bit like an old Agricole (but less so than the 21yo). Next, another layer opens up, caramel, burnt caramel and vanilla, but not in a (sweet) way, gluing the aroma’s together, similar to the 21yo. This is the better smelling of the two. It’s there but not as much. Slightly more influence from the wood.

Taste: Good lord almighty! (no offence intended). Fruit syrup, definitely raspberry. Very dissonant and unbalanced. It sits on top of, and maskes, the rather brittle Rum, overpowering it massively. This seems like Jekyll and Hyde appearing at the same time, quite a feat. Underneath an overly dry Demerara. (I have a bone-dry 1964 Port Mourant locked away, so I know). This has that underneath, but quite another and strange fresh and fruity layer on top. Doctored! Messed with!! Ruined!!! Fruit syrup. Raspberry syrup for sure. Liquid sugar. Candied oranges. Where did that fruit fly come from? The second time around, trying this on another day, it didn’t take the fruit flies long to find me and my Rum. Amazing. This came from the bottle depicted to the left? Yes it did. Guyana Rum. No way they did this! Yes the reports are true, the consumer has been saved from old, heavy, over-the top, over aged, dry and potentially aggressive Rum by sugar of the added kind. This fruity sweetness should be very interesting for mixologists I guess, as Don Papapapapapapa can be called interesting as well and which will vanillin you long time. Both shouldn’t be sold as Rums, but rather as liqueurs, as which compared to “other” liqueurs, they aren’t bad at all. As Rums: stop! ban! forbid! just don’t! Short finish but and an aftertaste very similar to that of PX-Sherry. Get PX in stead, much cheaper than this El Dorado. Some amazing decisions were made in Guyana a long time ago…

Burnt sugar and burnt wood in the aftertaste. Very fruity. PX. Actually a very strange aftertaste: the insides of my cheeks are full of cloying sugar that won’t let go by itself, and the aftertaste is more sugary as well. Not nice. Only the wood seems to maintain itself well into the finish. Sugary aftertaste, which is also quite short. Although there is a lot of the greatness still around, I can imagine it was originally bone-dry, but to shoot it in the back like this, is a bit cruel don’t you think? I will savour the nice bits this displays, but the whole is quite well ruined (as a Rum). Not really a sipping Rum for the discerning consumer, but if you make a lot of money and are not a discerning Rum-drinker, this has nice packaging, nice bottle, oozing “success” and “because you can” and is rather excellent in cola! Go for it! Us poor people will buy the occasional cherry-coke and a bottle of PX instead. ’nuff said.

Points: 74 (hard to tell really, since it doesn’t seem to be a Rum)

P.S. Just to wash away the sugary aftertaste, I picked the El Dorado 21yo. That one now seems bone dry in comparison… (it isn’t, in case you’re wondering).

P.S.II. The second time around in stead of following it up with the 21yo I mixed the two together. 60% of the 25yo with 40% of the 21yo. The 21yo still managed to take over the end result, but, and you might have guessed it, this new concoction was way better than the 25yo by itself. Quite dry in the nose, but sweet on the palate, with less of the raspberry syrup. Not bad with a way longer and dryer finish. I actually like this mix very much, seems very balanced and somewhat “bigger” than the 21yo by itself.

El Dorado 21yo “Special Reserve” (43%, Guyana, 2006)

After reviewing the 12yo (in 2013) and the 15yo (in 2015) from the El Dorado premium range, now the time has come to move up one step of the ladder again and have a look at the 21yo. Just like it’s two younger brothers it has been blended together from Rums made with several of the many stills that have survived. I call the three, “brothers”, since the three aren’t simply older versions of the same kid, but the DNA between the three has some variation. Related but different, like brothers. This 21yo has been blended together from the Albion (AN), a French Savalle still, the Versailles (VSG), a single wooden pot still and the Enmore (EHP), a wooden Coffey still. Where in the 21yo, the Albion is the dominant one.

I have read somewhere that, 35yo Rum was used, but by now, because the 21yo is around for some while, that might not be the case anymore. I’m sure the Rums used, have different vintages where the youngest Rum has to be 21yo. A rule adopted, from Single Malt Whisky, by the English-speaking Rum world. This is completely different from the practices of Solera type Rums. The Rum has aged exclusively in the carribean and since the climate is hot and dry, Rums this age can get very easily over-oaked, since water, instead of alcohol, is the first to evaporate. Speeding up the ageing process, as compared to the more mild European climate. Cadenheads and Bristol come to mind, when thinking about Demerara Rums that have (partly) aged in Europe, but there are many others.

Color: Copper gold.

Nose: Thick Demerara style. But with a breath of fresh air. Sharp wood, spicy wood. Tar and oak. Lovely. This is how a Rum should smell, one that has been in cask for a long time. Are you paying attention Don Papa? Oh, wait a minute. Caramel and toffee comes next. Somehow the nose seems glued together with sweetness now. Hints of petrol and melting plastic to balance things out. Yes again an aroma that sounds hideous, but really isn’t. Well it is, but not in this Rum. Dry crushed leaves and molasses with a return to the more woody notes. Green and (dry) grassy. Hints of lavas, but darker and more brooding. Tar covered lavas then? Black tea and hot toffee (again, slightly deep burnt sugar-toffee). Dry, dusty and now I get more than a fair share of licorice (and warm caramel), whilst I revert to smelling it like a Dyson would. Vortex snorting. (I must remember this expression, and use it more often, since it is revealing). Nice stuff. I have a feeling there is some fruit to it as well, but since the Demerara style is strict and fierce it doesn’t let it out. Very appetizing but also I fear some added sugar was used on this old Rum. Let’s taste it.

Taste: Thick (for a brief moment) and sweet, but not too much, and never cloying. Lots of licorice again, but also a slight nudge towards the style of Agricole. Unmistakable, I get it every time. Excellent aged brown sugar aroma, but with lots of soft wood notes to balance this out. A nice burnt (sugar) note, toasted oak with vanilla, combined with bitter oranges. Cold black tea and ear wax, but with less bitterness than both. This one is about wood. So here the number 21 does mean age. Very balanced, it tastes exactly like it smells, less sweet maybe and “thinner” in structure. Since this is an old one, because in Caribbean weather, 21 years in wood is almost a lifetime, the sweetness is broken down and surpassed by the effect the wood has on this Rum. Hints of freshly sawn oak even. It’s not as big and shows some delicacy of the old, especially towards the finish. In the finish some soapy and definitely bitter wood stay behind and some honey as well. The aroma’s are brittle and hardly a problem though.

This is geriatric Rum, I love it, sure in many ways it is over the top, as if aged for too long, gaining too much of the benefits of wood, making it less easily drinkable, than the very sweet 12yo and the very nice 15yo. This is why of the whole series people tend to prefer the 15yo as a sipper, and the 8yo as a daily drinker. But this 21yo has its moments and when it time, this delivers, warts and all. Granted this may be for experienced drinkers to really appreciate it, and so be it. If you are not one of those, you might want to stay off this one for a while for you to become of age and try it again. And if you do, it will be clear this was (today), fairly priced as well.

Points: 87

Don Papa No.7 (40%, Philippines)

This is a review I’ve been putting off for quite some time now, for different reasons. First of all, I do not review liqueurs. Cyril has found out, that Don Papa has 2.4 g/l added glycerol, 29 g/l added sugar and…wait for it…359 g/l added vanillin. This last number is extremely high. Another Rum known for a lot added vanillin is Diplomático Reserva which has “only” 4.8 g/l added vanillin. That is almost a 100 times less! (However, Diplomático has even more added sugar than Don Papa; 44.1 g/l), but if you lace it with vanillin, who cares anymore about the sugar? So, for me, with these kinds of numbers, this simply isn’t a Rum, and according to laws in many countries this isn’t even allowed to be called a Rum. Still it is sold everywhere, so much for enforcement and protecting the public.

I do not dislike sweetness in drinks. Not at all, I like a good PX Sherry, and other kinds of good, sweet fortified and normal wines. But that’s about it. Apart from some exceptions obviously, I don’t have a sweet tooth. There are some styles of Rums that can be sweeter than others, but that goes with the territory. Some Rums can have added sugar somewhere in the production process but that doesn’t necessarily mean, they are bad, or taste bad, although sometimes they are. However, considering the data, it seems to me Don Papa isn’t a Rum, and therefore I didn’t feel the need to review it. On the other hand, since it claims to be a Rum, and I can’t review Rums here without some oddballs now can I? But the best reason for waiting so long is, what if…I like it! The horror! The shame! I might just like it, never to be taken seriously anymore. On the other hand, to be taken serious is highly overrated, don’t you think? Do you want to be taken seriously?

Many reviews have surfaced since Don Papa landed in the west and they haven’t been mild, some reviewers fell ill, some are dead, some have lost their palate, some have lost their minds and subsequently their wives and some were able to unblock pipes that seemed blocked forever. There are even reports that it also functions quite well as motor oil. Why should I review something with only one other positive fact, the utterly gorgeous label! I’m not an art critic. But worse, what if I like it!

Color: Brown.

Nose: Vanilla.

Taste: Sweet (very).

Label: Perfect.

Well, only if you are the worlds biggest fan of synthetic vanilla or artificial baking products, this is for you. You know these small bottles of artificial Rum flavours you can get for backing cakes, this is it. It’s really like reviewing that stuff. So I guess my next review will be of a chunk of marzipan or sugared artificial cherries, made of artificial sugar. Sure we like baking cakes, and brownies. We don’t mind it contains 75% sugar, we’ll still eat them. Don Papa is like that, the smells are nice, it’s only vanilla, so its nice, and its sweet, and the world will eat anything if its sweet, that’s why the sugar industry is ruling the world. Just find out for yourself how much sugar Cola contains (and how much acid is needed to hide that sugar from you). Acid, not good for your teeth. So a nice smell, but in no way this is a Rum. Calling this a Rum is disrespectful, offensive, maddening and criminal. Call it an (artificial) liqueur and it is borderline ok. Just remember you are being duped big time. If you bought it, tell people because, just like me, you adored the label.

Points: 43, since it is essentially a liqueur, and most definitely not a Rum.

Big thanks go out to two people from the Rum bloggers community, telling me they miss me and urging me to write more Rum reviews. This one if for you Lance and Wes! I’m back!