Worthy Park Quatre Vins 2013 (52%, OB, Cask Selection Series #8, Ex-Bourbon 4 years & Ex-Monbazillac, Ex-Sauternes, Ex-Moscatel & Ex-Jurançon 2 years, 1.318 bottles, Jamaica)

As we saw in the previous review, Worthy Park, as it is now, is a relatively new distillery, with the first distillate running off the still in 2007. As we all know, new distilleries sell a lot of young stuff, so there are a lot of rather young independent bottlings to be found, as well as a lot of the releases of the distillery itself are quite young, like most of these Cask Selection Series. By now, there is our Single Estate Reserve as well as a few 10yo’s (again finishes like the Madeira and the Port, both bottled @ 45% ABV.) and a 12yo bottled @ 56% ABV. So, since the distillery isn’t operational for all that long, it simply doesn’t have older stuff to release. A new distillery has to reach a lot of people to get some of the invested money back quickly to survive, so a distillery like this won’t be going for an extreme and funky style (yet). Non of the Worthy Parks I have tried until now, came across as a high ester Rum in taste (and nose). So for a Jamaican Rum, Worthy Park isn’t about all that super high ester stuff, like we saw with Hampden (or Long Pond).

By the way, Monbazillac, Sauternes, Moscatel & Jurançon are all sweet White Wines. Moscatel is fortified and Jurançon exists also in a dry version as well but then it is called Jurançon-Sec. However, I don’t think they used the dry variant here, since the rest is Sweet, but you can never be sure now can you. Since the previous review and the one below are from the Cask Selection Series, here is a list of the eight releases I know of:

Worthy Park 2012 Marsala Cask Selection Series #1 for La Maison Du Whisky, France, 60%, 319 bottles, 2017
Worthy Park 2012 Oloroso Cask Selection Series #2, 59%, 428 bottles, 2017
Worthy Park 2013 Sherry Cask Selection Series #3, 57%, 1.148 bottles, 2018
Worthy Park 2013 Madeira Cask Selection Series #4, 58%, 677 bottles, 2018
Worthy Park 2008 Port Cask Selection Series #5, 56%, 585 bottles, 2018
Worthy Park 2013 Virgin Cask Selection Series #6 for The Nectar, Belgium, 55% 342 bottles 2019?
Worthy Park 2013 Oloroso Cask Selection Series #7, 55%, 1.612 bottles, 2019
Worthy Park 2013 Quatre Vins Cask Selection Series #8, 52%, 1.318 bottles, 2019

Color: Orange brown.

Nose: This one starts with a nice funky caramel, like Jamaican funk toffee (if it exists). Clay, fatty and creamy. Honey, nutty, unlit tobacco, slightly burnt toast and warm plastic or polyester even. Organic and slightly grassy. Paint with a hint of solvents and vinegar made from Wine. Chocolate Rum beans. Spicy and obviously a bit winey yet also meaty. Gravy, dry and dusty. Nice fresh oak, in part a bit like plywood. Hints of Alsatian Gewürztraminer, but also the flinty bit of a Pouilly Fumé. Both wines, strangely enough, not one of the Quatre Vins. A fast flowing gutter in the rain. What? Yeah, well, the Wines give this Rum a bit of a combined note that is hard to put into words. Red fruit candy without the sweetness. Dusty, as well as some mocha and vanilla powder. Do you remember the smell of a bowl that had vanilla ice-cream in it a few hours ago? So, from this big funky start it first turns fruity and next, more dry and spicy. A lot of the complex initial smells wear off a bit. Stock cube, with hints of toasted oak and licorice. The development is not all that dissimilar to the previously reviewed Oloroso version. No doubt about it, this is a very good quality Rum, yet again, lacking a bit of the Jamaican funk, I’ve come to expect from a Jamaican Rum. It is almost closer to, yet another, rather new, high quality Rum that is Foursquare from Barbados, than to its Jamaican brother from another mother, Hampden. Traits I’m actually looking for in a Jamaican Rum. When you have a few open bottles of Rum around, like me, sometimes you feel like having a nice Rhum Agricole from Martinique, Guadeloupe, or Reunion. On other occasions, Jamaican Funk or a nice Demerara is the way to go. Worthy Park is very good Rum, but it isn’t old skool Jamaican in style. Jamaican funk without the funk is like chicken without the jerk, but I may have mentioned something like this as well about the Oloroso bottling. So sometimes when I want to go Jamaican, I tend to go for something like Hampden or Long Pond, more outspoken and yes, sometimes hit or miss, like the Hampden from Cadenhead I just reviewed. That one is just strange (in a good way), but therefore not for everybody/anyone. Apart from the nose not being quintessentially Jamaican, it definitely is a rather good nose though, lots happening and very fine. I have to say the Wines do lift this nose beyond the nose of the Oloroso version, the Quatre Vins smells rather exciting, and in comparison, the Oloroso can smell young and unfinished.

Taste: Big, fatty and sweet at first, yet quickly (in a millisecond or so) turning dry, spicy and winey. Although more of the Red Wine kind, than Sweet Whites (because of the sour notes). Herbal, medium bitter, green and somewhat hot. Flinty and with a slightly burnt edge to it. Licorice upfront as well as some bicycle inner tube rubber seems to be associated with it. Warming. Maybe slightly Jamaican in the beginning, but not really actually during the rest of the experience. As I said, short lived. Wax and almonds. All those different casks got very busy, but here in a somewhat disharmonious way. For me, it worked a lot better in the nose. Just like the Oloroso version, it thus starts big, funky and fatty, and it turns more dry, austere, herbal and spicy, rather quickly, which might seem odd. People tend to believe Rum is a sweet distillate, since is it closely associated with sugar as well as the fact that this has been finished in casks that previously held Sweet Wines, so one would expect something sweeter than this. Hints of latex paint. Where the Wine-casks helped the nose past the Oloroso, here on the palate, the Oloroso clearly worked better. Which is a shame really, because the nose of the Quatre Vins is much better. Well, one supposedly can’t have it all. In the finish, obvious notes of slightly milky, Red Wine notes, Merlot, this time and again not one of the Quatre Vins, and yet another Red, how peculiar. Hints of toasted oak, European oak, spicy and tannic. The finish, with some plastic/polyester and bitter notes, is short and quickly moves into the aftertaste. Which is unbalanced, actually it falls apart into a woody (bitter) bit and an acidic, winey bit, making this one somewhat less tasty to drink. Still a shame really, since the nose is really good and interesting as well.

First of all, if you want old skool Jamaican funk, than maybe you should reconsider buying a Worthy Park just yet. Do you want to buy a good Rum, than Worthy Park is happy to oblige, why not, it can be, and usually is good stuff, even though this Quatre Vins is something of an strange beast. Which one to get is up to you. Between the two, the Oloroso version is better and easier to get through, although somewhat sweeter (and more of the burnt notes) and with a (slightly) less interesting nose than this Quatre Vins offering. This one in particular is let down a bit by the taste, with the Wine casks playing a dubious role, and definitely overpowering the Ex-Bourbon cask maturation.

Points: 81

Worthy Park Oloroso 2013 (55%, OB, Cask Selection Series #7, Ex-Bourbon 4 years & Ex-Oloroso 2 years, 1.612 bottles, Jamaica)

Since we already are on a roll with nice Rums, why not just continue and go on? I’ve got no choice actually, since some of the Rums I have, already have a dangerously low filling level, so they need to be reviewed before they are gone. After two Hampdens, and understanding better what kind of Rum Hampden actually is, maybe it is a good idea, to stay on the island of Jamaica some more and look at another example from one of the other distilleries, which in this case is Worthy Park again. I say again, because it already featured on these pages before, with the Single Estate Reserve and a Oloroso finished Rum Nation release. What was lacking in those reviews was maybe some more information about the distillery itself.

Although the year 1670 is put prominently on all the Worthy Park bottles, The first mention of distilling comes from 1741. As we all know, the Sugar industry in the Caribbean hit upon hard times for reasons mentioned before, so no use going into that again here. Fast forward several centuries. Worthy Park stopped distilling in 1960. Fast forward some decades to Gordon Clarke, member of the family that owns Worthy Park since 1918. We have seen Matt’s pictures of Hampden, a place that oozes the feel of steam punk and abandoned places. Hampden was revived to a workable state, essentially not changing much. It still looks 200 years old and dilapidated, which is a big bonus for us Rum aficionados. We love that kind of thing as we are utter romantics. Long Pond is another example, also an old distillery. Worthy Park, even though steeped in a similar century old history, was not revived as it was, no, Gordon Clarke decided to build a hyper modern, new distillery in 2005. Modern, efficient and clean. In it, a single 18.000 litre Pot Still built by Scotland’s pride: Forsyths. The first Rum from this distillery was bottled in 2007 as an unaged Rum. Personally, I’ll treat this as a new distillery, not feeling romantic about it at all. However, even with this sense of history gone, this surely doesn’t mean that the distillery is bad, far from it, we have already encountered some pretty decent Rums from Worthy Park.

Color: Orange brown.

Nose: What can I say, this reminds me of the Rum Nation version I reviewed 5 years ago big time, albeit dryer and more dusty and cardboard-like. Very light Jamaican funk (only), and even this wears down after some time in your glass. Slightly creamy, with raisins, pear, milk chocolate and some vanilla from the American oak. Wood and toasted cask. The “Oloroso” itself comes somewhat later. Next, lots of fresh and acidic citrus notes show themselves. Overall quite dry smelling. Sinaspril (very artificial orange flavoured head ache medicine for small children) and sometimes it seems like a grassy note whiffs by. Occasionally a whiff of cigarette smoke from further up this grassy field. Quite a spicy and austere Sherry note, starts dry, but over time, (in the glass), becomes more jam-like. Red Wine-like with a nearly ripe red fruit mix. Although both come from the same island, Jamaica, this is no where near Hampden in style. This is much cleaner and more modern, just like the distillery itself, almost completely lacking Jamaican Funk altogether. The nose is not really quintessentially Jamaican to me, maybe only that moment, right after pouring. If I would smell this not knowing what it was, on a bad day, not picking up at the traits that are arguably Jamaican, I could have easily gone for maybe Foursquare (from Barbados). Seems to me the base Rum was quite light and the finish quite heavy. Medium complexity.

Taste: Slightly sweet (but only right from the start) and spicy, quite some, again modern, wood influence. Somewhat hot going down. Vegetal wood, in part leafy, in part waxy, almost like virgin oak. This fresh wood influence is quite large to be honest. Licorice, and dull red fruit. Dusty and toned down fruit. Dry and woody and not at all that complex. Not very bitter wood though, which might be masked. After some breathing, the jam-like fruit separates into jam-like fruit and an acidic top note. This does liven the Rum up a bit, makes it fresher and distracts from the wood. I’m not sure, in this case, if this takes a way from the balance a bit. The aftertaste seems quite short, and fades away rather quickly and shows some hint of machine oil and vegetable oil. Nevertheless it is a highly drinkable Rum, even at this ABV. A fun bottling. I need to find out though how an older official Worthy Park would taste to see the influence in this Rum of its youth. 6 years is not much if you ask me, but then again, it is tropical ageing isn’t it?

If memory serves me well, I think the Rum nation offering pleased me slightly more. It was also older, so maybe the youth of this Worthy Park has something to do with it. Compared to the Single Estate Reserve the Oloroso does seem to add something to the whole, another layer, coming from the Oloroso finish. The label on the back of the Single Estate Reserve states that the Rum has aged 6 to 10 years in ex-Bourbon barrels, so mathematically it is older than the Oloroso finish. So the Oloroso finish trumps the extra ageing of the Single Estate Reserve. Well, therefore I still need to try the 12yo to have a better understanding of what ageing does to Worthy Park Rum.

Points: 83

Hampden 13yo 1992/2006 (66.2%, Cadenhead, “HLCF”, Pot Still, Jamaica)

The previous review was of a more recent official release and I wrote down some sparse and basic early history of Hampden Estate. Well, since all good things come in pairs, I’ve managed to unearth, from my stash of samples, a nice companion to the previous review. If you call the official one bottled at 60% “Overproof”, then surely this Cadenhead’s offering fits that bill as well, clocking in at 66.2% ABV. Since the previous review turned out to be quite a long one, I decided to leave it at that and keep the rest of the information I gathered for that review for future reviews of Hampden Rums. Well, the next one came along rather quickly, so I can now use this space to tell you some more about the recent history of Hampden as well as some basic info about the marks of Hampden.

By 2003 Hampden Estate was nearly bankrupt, and the government of Jamaica stepped in to save a lot of local jobs, since lots of people were employed by the estate as a whole, working for the sugar factory, the distillery, the great house and working the 750 acres of sugar cane fields. A lot of legalities were exercised between 2003 and 2009, when finally the Jamaican government sold Hampden Estate at auction. The new owners became Everglades Farms Ltd. owned by the Hussey Family. The Hussey’s are well known on the island owning several (different) businesses on the island.

When making Rum for different purposes, one can aim for a certain ester count. So for instance, when making Rum as used in baking, a high ester count is key, for it gives off a lot of aroma with a tiny amount of liquid. For our purpose, the more esters the heavier and more flavorsome the Rum becomes. Are you a Rum aficionado, then you likely prefer a high ester count, are you a novice, the lower marks are best places to start your Rum journey on (if you can find them on the label that is. Again I’m going to steer you towards Matt, since he has, yet again, a very informative page on his site about the marks of Jamaican Rum, as well as to the site of Marius where he comprised a list of which marks were produced in which years at Hampden Estate (especially useful for the independent bottlings of Hampden). We can put this to the test and look up 1992 and sure enough, 1992 is coupled with HLCF. HLCF stands for Hampden Light Continental Flavoured and has an ester count of 500 to 700 g/hlaa (grams per hectolitre of absolute alcohol), which in comparison to most other Rums on the market is very heavy, but for Hampden, this mark can be found on the bottom half of the list!

Before we dip into this Rum here is the list of Hampden Marks:

  • DOK – Dermot Owen Kelly – 1500-1600 g/hla
  • C<>H – Continenal Hampden – 1300-1400 g/hlaa
  • H/GML – Hampden George MacFarquhar Lawson – 1000-1100 g/hlaa
  • <>H – Hampden – 900-1000 g/hlaa
  • H/LCF – Hampden Light Continental Flavoured – 500- 700 g/hlaa
  • LROK – Light Rum Owen Kelly – 250- 350 g/hlaa
  • LFCH – Lawrence Francis Close Hussey – 85- 120 g/hlaa
  • OWH – Outram Warmold Hussey – 40- 80 g/hlaa

Color: Light gold.

Nose: Banana (only in the first nano-seconds or so) and some soft dull wood, cold gravy and tree sap. Even more banana and papaya come next, and like the previous Hampden a lot of fruit in the pre-rot phase, especially pineapple. Passion fruit ice cream mixed with vanilla ice cream and a wee sprinkle of wee (lukewarm urine, acidic). Wow all this just leaps at you. Vegetal, with dried pineapple and an undefined solvent. Dry and dusty notes with licorice (of the all sorts kind), announcing wood. Funk, dried cow dung (lying in the sun) and leather. Artificial fertilizer and a slight note of warm plastic, like the electrical cable mentioned in the previous review. Cold black tea. Very fruity with lots of spicy and woody notes for balance (I don’t get the wood all the time though…). 17th century spices. Sailing ship hold after a spice transport. Very well balanced. The freshly emptied glass reveals cinnamon, and dare I say that it smells even better than the glass still containing the Rum. Maybe the high ABV gets a bit in the way of things, although normally that isn’t a problem for me. Soft wood, and more different spices, still this associated with times lone gone. I don’t know why, it just doesn’t smell like anything from the past two centuries I guess. The note mentioned earlier turns into a more organic urine note, steamed up sauna full of people. Died out fire, cold burnt wood, charcoal. Very complex and laid back. Hints of grenadine lemonade and even the slightest whiff of cola and unripe green apples. Amazing stuff, very different from those dosed and utterly sweet and cloying Rums, some people believe to be true Rum. Remember the Rums of A.H. Riise and even worse, Don Papa? Freak out!

Taste: Starts with most of the fruits from the nose as well as the wood, and its bitterness, and the urine notes with some added ear wax notes. Might sound horrible, but isn’t, although it’s impossible to shed this association. I guess this makes this Rum not for everyone, but I don’t think “everybody” will seek out this Rum that was bottled a good fifteen years ago. Fruity with ashes. Oranges and lemons to some degree, but it seems to be those aroma’s without being all that citrussy. Hope this still makes sense… Warming and friendly. Some toffee and warm caramel, but to a lesser extent than your usual Rum. Very well balanced. I would never have guessed this was as high in ABV as it is. Quite tasty but with, in some areas, medium staying power. Some bitterness in the finish, as well as the urine and some varnish and/or resin.

This is a Rum (I mean Hampden in general) that in nose and taste, is closer to “extreme” than “middle of the road”. It is very big and unusual. Rivière du Mât is another good example of this. I guess both Rums are not for you, if you are new to the game of Rum, nor if have a mind unlike a parachute (works best when open). An acquired taste.

Comparing the Cadenhead’s offering to the Overproof shows us something interesting. First of all, the Cadenhead’s is five years older, yet the Overproof is darker in colour. That in itself isn’t saying much, however, the Overproof is made up of foremost lighter marks OWH and LROK (OK, and a wee bit DOK for good measure) and the Cadenheads offering with H/LCF, but smelling both side by side the Overproof seems fuller, less fresh and acidic, yet more syrupy and glue like, so more of this indistinct solvent mentioned above. The average consumer would associate the smell of Overproof more like a “classic” Rum. The Cadenhead’s offering smells quite different and more complex (as it should). Both are actually quite good, and quite different as well. Both have their good and bad sides to them. Cadenhead’s needs some work and experience from the taster, Overproof is more forgiving and surely would please more people. For me personally, the Overproof just might be the better Rum overall, although that obviously is a matter of taste, but the Cadenhead’s has the better, definitely less cloying and more complex finish. The Overproof seems to be also a more modern Rum, where the Cadenhead’s brings back times long forgotten. Both Rums have been a blast to review.

The empty glass (the next day) smells of wood and hints of chlorine, yet soft and waxy, hints of lemon (acidity) and wood and a wild mix of herbs. Old machine oil, like lying on the bottom of an old motor vessel that hasn’t run for many years. (Rivière du Mât has also this old machine and industrial feel to it, maybe even more so). Smelling an empty glass the next day, can reveal things you didn’t pick up on when tasting, and especially with Hampden Rums this seems true.

Points: 87

Hampden Estate Overproof (60%, OB, LM191, Jamaica)

What can we say about Hampden Estate. First of all, I don’t want to be a completist here and write down a full-blown history. On one hand there is much better information online than I can write down here by myself, and on the other hand, there actually is also not a lot to be found. There are a few great sources for information, but there is still way less information available on Rum than there is on Whisky. Much less. If you have some time then Matt’s visit of Hampden is an excellent read.

Hampden started out somewhere in the 18th century already, and the distillery today still operates more or less in the same way today. Old skool. The first mention of Hampden was in 1684. However, Hampden’s own website starts history in 1753 (as a sugar plantation), but no clear year is mentioned for the start of Hampden as a Rum distillery, only 1779 is coupled with Hampden Great House where the ground floor was a Rum store. What we do know is that somewhere Hampden started distilling Rum, as did many sugar plantations, when exports of sugar from sugarcane started dwindling, when in Europe sugar was made from sugar beets in stead of cane. What we also know is that Hampden, after all there years, still looks more or less unchanged, and looking at Matt’s pictures, steam-punk comes to mind as well as the pictures from fans of abandoned places. Time definitely stood still here big time.

Hampden is also known for its Jamaican funk, and of all the Jamaican funk that can be had, Hampden is probably the mother of Jamaican funk. The funk is partially there because of a very long fermentation, somewhere between 8 and 15 days, fermentation with wild yeasts that just come flying in with the wind. No yeast is added. Also, Hampden produces a sugar cane vinegar (muck) that is added during the fermentation, helping the funky aroma along. Hampden currently has four stills they call the heart of the distillery, and rightly so, but I guess that is true for most, of not all, distilleries: A 1960 John Dore (7.560 litres) from Forsyths, Scotland, a 1994 Vendome from Kentucky (18.900 litres), a 2010 Forsyth still (18.900 litres) and the most recent addition is a Pot still made by T&T from South Africa (18.900 litres). All stills are heated with coils on the inside.

Hampden’s core range consists of Hampden 46 (8 years of tropical ageing) and Hampden 60 (or Overproof, 7yo and older, a mix of different marks). I have yet to try the 46% ABV. I never got around to it because, up ’till now, I always believed it is the reduced version of the Overproof, but that might not be true. The Hampden I’m about to try must be one of the early bottles, where the front label mentions 8yo and the back label 7 yo, whereas newer versions have a more prominent 8 on the front label. To add to the confusion. The website mentions 7 years again. However I still believe the 46% is nothing more than the reduced version of the Overproof.

Color: Orange gold.

Nose: Highly aromatic. Big, fatty, sweet and nutty. Fruity with bath/shower cosmetics florality. No, you cannot even call this big, no, this has an humongous aroma, so high level of esters indeed. Fruity and fresh. Acidic and lively. Fatty nuts, almonds. High ester Rums like this are used for their aroma’s for baking and yes, that’s where you know this aroma from. After the initial wave of bigness passes, a little bit of wood starts to become noticeable, grows bigger over time and is here to stay. Some oak and some pencil shavings and an indistinct herbal quality, as well as a tiny hint of car exhaust. It is remarkable how the big, fatty and syrupy start does move back to leave some room for more astringent notes like the woody notes. It doesn’t even carry this promise for a sweet toffee’d Rum any more. I have to say excellent balance after some air. A sort of instant classic. Unique. A must-have.

Taste: Where the wood is somewhat laid back in the nose, it is most definitely present here on the palate. The wood opens the ball. Modern wood, but that probably won’t make any sense to you. hint of plastics, otherwise it smells of tropical ageing, you just sense the heat that surrounded the cask. Acidic. Big fruit and quite a lot of fresh acidity as well, with this underlying woody backbone. Acidity bordering on very, very (over)ripe fruit, the pre-rot phase almost. The wood becomes more dark chocolaty in style, and more spicy. Less herbal though, but more leathery in stead. Wood and ear wax. In fact the ear-wax was here right from the beginning, just in the plethora of things I didn’t recognize it immediately. The bitterness moves forward now, especially noticeable in the back of your mouth. The wood is upfront but luckily, in this case, its not over the top bitter. At this point, the pencil shaving note on the note grows stronger. On the palate it shows some similarities with Demerara Rum and a specific Port Mourant comes to mind. This is not something I get all the time. When trying this late at night, with a tired and fulfilled palate, the Demerara association isn’t there. So this has some bitterness and it certainly shows wood which now picks up a slight soapiness, reminding me of the bath/shower cosmetics from the nose. The aftertaste is long and warming with a key role for the woody bitterness, but again, it is kept in check sufficiently not to bother you.

For me this is a good Rum with a good ABV, sold at a very fair (good) price and with good availability as well. In hindsight it also has a remarkable simplicity uncommon for a high ester Rum. This is the overproof version and I hear some good stories about the reduced versions as well. I may have to look into those as well, since by now there are some more expressions to choose from than the 46% ABV version alone. Hampden LROK, and Hampden LROK the younger, both bottled at 47% ABV have become available just recently. LROK is a mark given by Hampden. LROK stands for Light Rum Owen Kelly and by this, it tells you that is has 250-350 g/hlaa of esters. By the way, this Overproof version is made with several marks: OWH (Outram Warmold Hussey, 40-80 g/hlaa), LROK and DOK (Dermot Owen Kelly, 1500-1600 g/hlaa). I don’t think a lot of DOK went into this blend to be honest. More about “Mark and Ester” in the next Hampden review.

Points: 88

The empty glass, the next day, smells of warm electrical cable and the dusty insides of an old transistor radio. How odd…

Savanna 15yo 2004/2019 (62.8%, Rum Nation, Rare Rums, 2nd Fill Cognac Cask #59, 402 bottles, Réunion)

So the yet another strange year has passed (2021), a year Master Quill did a lot of Whisky yet finished off with a Rhum Traditionelle (distilled from Molasses) most likely from Savanna. Today it’s 2022, so why not pick up where we left off with yet another Rhum Traditionelle from the same outfit, but this time Savanna has been mentioned on the label.

This offering was released in Rum Nations’ Rare Rhum series, with nice and classy white labels. The websites Rum Nation keeps up, are quite good and informative. Just have a look at the page for this Rhum particularly. Reading all the info about this Rhum some additional facts becomes apparent to us consumers, like this is in fact a 13yo Rhum, since the Rhum only aged in wood for 13 years (in the tropics). The Rhum spent its final 2 years in Stainless steel tanks (in Europe). In the introduction it is also mentioned this comes from Cognac casks (plural), yet the label mentions one cask #59. So the more information one gets the more questions arise… Well let’s not dwell too long about the facts ma’am and shift focus towards the Rhum at hand.

Color: Copper Orange.

Nose: Sweetish, with warm toffee and caramel. Intense, oozing with perfumed aromatics. Quite fruity as well, with dry notes as well. Dusty and somewhat oaky. Cold black tea. Dried red fruit. Goji berries. Even though this is clearly a Savanna, like the previous reviewed Rhum, this also has some similarities to the Rhums Traditionnelle from Rivière du Mât, maybe that is the (volcanic) influence of the island? The Rhum smells extremely balanced and appetizing, but not all that complex to be honest. When this gets some time to breathe it also becomes more and more “friendly” and less intense, less of a heavy hitter. When snorted vigorously, some green spices emerge (reluctantly). Dried parsley? Hard to tell actually. More sugared black tea and somewhat nutty as well. Fragrant.

Taste: Yeah, big. Very nutty. Edible charcoal and nuts. Initially sweet but when that coating descends down the hole, quite a lot of wonderful chewy wood and heat come forward. Yup, more toffee. Tropical ageing all right! Sweet, nutty, hints of toasted oak and some smoke from a distant laid back smoke lying in the grass. The wood influence is quite big, and may not be for everyone, it isn’t all that disturbing to me. It deals with the sweetness in a wonderful way, but yes some might say this has aged too long, probably why this was transferred into stainless steel. Having tasted it now, the nose get even better than it already was. Dark chocolate, peppery, white pepper, herbal and with some good velvety bitters. More ashes and toasted oak. I like the oaky bitters in this Rhum. It suits it well. I’m tasting this from a sample, so I don’t have a back label at hand, but it should make the statement that this is an austere Rhum for connoisseurs who don’t like excessive sweetness. It did so on the back label of the previous Rhum I reviewed.

Since I still have a tiny amount left of the Réunion Cask Strength 7yo, and since it just has to be another Savanna, lets just compare the two. The 7yo is definitely lighter, friendlier and has a somewhat more industrial plastic smell in the nose, close to a more children’s clay smell. Many similarities, but in a toned down fashion, yet more of the fruity and sweet black tea notes. This 15yo just has more of everything (a lot of wood especially). On the palate the similarities don’t end, the 7yo is lacking most of the wood, but it also does show you how the 15yo was before most, yet not all, of the wood influence. The 7yo seems simple compared to the 15yo, but its worth the price of admission and the score I gave it earlier. So if you are having it, just don’t have it after the 15yo, that “wood” make no sense. Catch my driftwood? The 15yo is just a lot bigger, more mature and more sophisticated than the 7yo is, and has a lot more wood influence, but I believe you already got that if you made it this far down the review…

Summa sumarum: this Cask #59 is just a great Savanna.

Points: 89

Merci beaucoup Auke for the sample!

Réunion Cask Strength 7yo (60.5%, Rum Nation, Cask Strength, Rhum Traditionelle, 3.000 bottles, 2018, Réunion)

This is not the first Rum from Rum Nation on these pages and not even the first Rhum from Ile de la Réunion. Earlier I reviewed a Rhum from Rivière du Mât and I thought that one was nothing short of amazing, even though it was a reduced to a measly 42% ABV. Rivière du Mât isn’t even the most popular distillery from the Island, that honorary mention goes to Savanna, and then especially to the Rhum Agricoles Savanna produces. Savanna distillery was founded in 1870 in Saint Paul on the north west corner of the island and supposedly made Rhums based on molasses only. Fast forward many years. Since 1964 the distillery runs a continuous still. In 1992 the distillery moved to Bois-Rouge on the north eastern corner of the island, by today’s standard, some 50 kilometres by car. Today the distillery makes Rhum Agricoles, for which it is now mostly known, as well as Rhum Traditionelle (molasses based), some of the Rhums are of the high ester kind.

The Cask Strength series is a somewhat recent addition to the Rum Nation portfolio. The first Rum released in this series is actually this 7yo rum from Réunion, probably distilled at Savanna, and matured in ex-Cognac casks. Savanna uses a lot of ex-Cognac casks, because may of the official releases have been matured in Cognac casks as well. After this, examples from Jamaica and Guyana were also released.

Color: Orange Gold.

Nose: Fruity and creamy. Fresh (air) with toffee and caramel. Slightly funky and somewhat sweet smelling. Lightly waxed. Sweet White Wine, mocha, licorice and leather. Some dust on rainwater. Definitely has some traits from Rhum Agricole. The nose reminds me of J.M Agricoles. More J.M than, lets say, Rivière du Mât (Rhum Traditionelle). Initially some sweet citrus bathroom cleaner, soft chlorine and ozone from a pool or jacuzzi. These aroma’s are short lived, and are gone soon, never to return again (unless you pour yourself another one). Black tea with lemon. Hints of cookie dough, moist brown sugar, wood and sweet mint candy. Malty and biscuity, and thus some very soft oak. A whiff of fresh air, yet also spicy, a mix of many dried kitchen spices, yet also some cinnamon and hints of toasted oak (soft). Some unripe banana and also the brown bits of a banana skin and some aroma’s of overripe, almost rotting yellow fruits. Don’t worry, the Rhum still smells quite nice and is nicely balanced as well. Rum Nation also bottles quite a lot of Cask Strength Savanna’s, and I have one here to compare it with. Based on the smell of both, it is safe to assume this 7yo is a Savanna as well, nevertheless, one can be never entirely sure (please read on). By the way, the day after, the empty glass smells just wonderful. Very fruity and with hints of the fireplace at Christmas, or a nice bonfire. Love it!

Taste: Big and still sweet, although the back label mentions this is “for connoisseurs that don’t like excessive sweetness“, it is sweet but not excessively so. This sweetness is balanced out with quite some spicy wood, and toasted wood as well. Distant pine anyone? Quite hot going down. Brown sugar and candied cinnamon mixed with cola notes for freshness or zest. Very tasty. Well balanced stuff of high quality. Now for an interesting remark. Where the smell is all Savanna, there are some notes in the taste that do remind me a bit of Rivière du Mât (also from the Island of Réunion). An industrial, fatty, motor oil aroma. Crushed almonds with some woody bitterness mixed with brown sugar. I’m still convinced this is a Savanna, the smell is there and since Rum Nation has many other Savanna’s in their portfolio it is simply highly likely, but as said above, one can never be sure. Even though this is bottled @ 60.5% ABV, it isn’t hot all the time, like many other high strength R(h)ums. Licorice and Cognac, (really?), in the finish, as well as some wood. The aftertaste shows even some more wood accompanied by its bitterness. The Casks used must have been quite active or caught a lot of sunshine.

I say, high quality, big and very tasty. Lance mentions in his review: “It’s very much like the new wave of Jamaican rums now making such big waves – Hampden and Worthy Park in particular, because this presses many of the same buttons“. This is my sentiment exactly. It presses the same buttons without even being really close to those in smell nor taste. Its big and estery and bottling this @ 60.5% ABV helps the Rhum come across big time. Since this has been bottled in Rum Nation’s Cask Strength series, only mentioning it is a 7yo hailing from Réunion, thus calling it an entry level Rhum, (yeah right), this therefore also damn affordable. Heartily recommended and definitely not for novices to R(h)um. If you are just that, you should by it all the same, but do not open it just yet.

Points: 87

Plantation Grenada 1998 (42%, Old Reserve, 1H210710, Grenada)

Yeah! The Nicaraguan expression did eclipse the Panamanian expression, yes it did! Wow! Hopefully this final sample I have from the Plantation Old Reserves maybe even surpasses the last three tasted. One must keep faith. This final sample is from a country somewhat lesser known for its Rums: Grenada. But more about Grenada another time. So without further ado… Wait a minute, wow, that was a short intro. Whyzdat? I’m actually cutting the intro short this time, because there will probably be plenty to say about the whole series at the end of this review…

Color: Full Gold.

Nose: Initially a pretty decent aroma welcomes us. This time less round toffee and caramel notes, yet more nutty, grassy and dry leaves. Coffee candy. Candied sugar. Add some sharpness and wood. Also a pretty heavy floral note as well (sometimes soapy). Some oak, chocolate and toffee. Alcohol comes undone, separates from the whole. Not the first time in this series. Almost like the gas from your deodorant. This marks also the demise of the wonderful initial aroma’s. Yup, there is the Cognac cask again, impairing its wonderful aroma’s, but this can’t hide the loss in balance. Personally I find Cognac casks very interesting for second maturation or finishing. In Whisky, Cognac can be sharp and specific, with Rums not so much. Alas the Cognac, nor the Rum itself, can’t do much against the dosage this Rum must have received, considering the dullness the nose shows us now. The initial aroma’s also get carried away in the wind, and the Rum leaves it at that. Lacking a bit in the complexity department, but that is probably the fault of this dosage.

Taste: Very, very sweet on entry. The syrup sticks to all of the insides of your mouth to never let go again. Fruity as well (as far as the sugar lets me discern it) and slightly prickly. Artificial milk chocolate. Wood bitterness, honey and peach syrup. Boy, this is sweet. Cloaked in sweet, big on toffee and caramel. Truth be told, I’m a bit tired of all this sugar by now, and after tasting this, I’m actually chuffed this is the last sample to taste from the Old Reserve line of bottlings (apart from revisiting the Guyana and Jamaica expressions). Right now eating grass off a field almost seems tempting. Almost, I said. Maybe a Greek salad would be the smarter choice for the ye ol’ stomach. It started out nice, actually underneath this cloak, you can still somehow taste there is some good Rum in here somewhere. However, it turned on me becoming dumb and flat again in the finish, just like, or maybe even more so than, the Trinidad expression. Forget the grass I mentioned above, can I have a super dry, over the top, over-oaked Rum now please? Yes here we have this foul sugary aftertaste again and a total lack of balance. The base Rum must have been considered really bad by someone to add this much sugar. Somehow, I don’t believe it, the initial smells are too good for that to be true (and the only reason this won’t score into the sixties). Maybe someone slipped and made a mistake in the dosage? Personally I would be ashamed to put this out on the market. I stopped belonging to the market this Rum is targeted at a loooooong time ago. Amazing, but this is even sweeter/worse than the Trinidad expression. I really believed that already hit rock bottom, guess not.

The introduction to this review was quite short, let make up for it now. One might feel that all these Plantation Rums are ruined by dosage, yes, in a way even the St. Lucia and the Guyana, which were the highest scoring expressions. It is certainly a good thing Rums from so many different places on the globe are presented next to each other, which makes for nice comparisons. I have definitely no beef with finishing them all off in Cognac casks, au contraire, its making for a unique experience. France has them, and France also has Rhum Agricoles and independent Rum bottlers, so why shouldn’t they use their Cognac casks?

Then there is this practice of dosage. Sure, the market seems to want sweet Rums, the market believes Rums are a sweet drink/distillate, and yes Rum producers and bottlers aren’t in the Rum business to educate people, they are in the business of making money, and sure enough, sugar sells, just like sex. What? You probably have never seen the Dictador promotion train in the flesh? I remember even Abuelo doing something similar. Me being, by now, a more prolific Rum-taster, the beef I have with dosage is that it does not only raise the level of sweetness, but especially what it does with the Rum where the sugar has been added to. It dumbs it down, it flattens it out, it masks aroma’s and very importantly, it ruins the mouthfeel in the finish and the aftertaste. By now I started to really dislike the aftertaste of dosed Rums.

I remarked earlier in some other reviews, that I (still) don’t dislike sweet necessarily. A good PX, or Port, or White dessert Wine can be damn sweet, without leaving this foul aftertaste in your mouth. Sure, Rum hails from sugar production, and rightly so, (some) sweetness belongs to the Rum world. Somehow, if one produces a Rum without tampering with the process in doing so, the Rum might turn out great, sweet(ish) and great, and can stay great when tasting, without adding sugar. Added sugar is the bad guy here. Having said all that, by now, these Plantation expressions are definitely not for me anymore. There are enough differences between the expressions. The Jamaica, the Guyana, the Saint Lucia expressions are ok, The Nicaragua to a lesser extent as well, and so forth, but all of them, yes all, have this cloak of “wrong” which makes these Old Reserve Rums less interesting if you already know your way around Rums.

I mentioned these Rums might be interesting for novices, but in my opinion it is better to stay away from Rums which received these levels of dosage altogether. Top tip! Now go educate yourself.

Points: 70

Plantation Nicaragua 1998 (42%, Old Reserve, 1H211209, Nicaragua)

Onwards! We will soldier on with yet another Plantation Old Reserve from a few years back. By now, I really hope for a drier expression within this range. Where the Trinidad expression turned out to be quite a low point in the series, so sweet and the true aroma’s of the Rum cloaked in cloying and sticky sweetness. The Panama expression seems to have somewhat found a way up again and seems to have coped better with the added sugar than the aforementioned Trinidad. Quite a feat for a Spanish style Ron, as opposed to a British style Rum, which should be heavier. I hope this Nicaragua expression can even eclipse the Panama expression, just for the fun of it, but I have my doubts by now. You never know. So, vamos again!

Color: Full Gold.

Nose: Hmmm, nice full on aromatics. Lots happening, with lots of fresh butter, vanilla, custard and pudding, but also the Cognac cask is recognizable again. Fresh air and after some breathing this becomes more floral. Hand soap and cold dish water adds to the complexity. Again, these notes may sound horrible, but in reality they aren’t. The Cognac adds a weak red fruity acidity to the nose as well this time. Sharper hints of wood, but also soft wood, and slightly funky wood notes are present (as in bad breath). More fresh butter. You might also want to call this a bit dusty. The nose doesn’t seem to promise a lot of sweetness, which is nice for a change. All aroma’s present, re-enforce each other. The base Ron was good and the second maturation works well. The nose doesn’t seem to be hurt much by the dosage. Maybe the dosage was done sparsely? Yeah right. Quite well balanced for a dosed Ron though. Let this breathe for a while and even some fresh air whiffs by. Smells familiar, Flor de Caña maybe?

Taste: Decent entry, quite soft actually. Not big and sweet, but thinner, sharper and warming. Cognac, coffee, hard coffee candy. Not as sweet as…but it still has plenty of sweet notes to work with. Nice bitter oak notes and even some slightly burned sugar. Both are very welcome in this range of Rums. This has more to it than many of the other Plantation expressions to date. Fairly long aftertaste, with toffee and this coffee-and-oak like bitter note. We are definitely on our way up again once more. Toffee, coffee candy and oak even remain for the aftertaste, how untypical for a Plantation bottling in this series. Towards the end of the body, and especially noticeable in the, slightly dull, aftertaste, is the dosage. Its present alright, only not to the extent of some other Plantation offerings I reviewed earlier. This Nicaraguan expression is not bad at all. Soft, fairly complex and not very outspoken, well behaved. A shame this received dosage, since I’m sure this might have done without it. It could have been much better without it. The dosage flattens the finish, making it of the sugar water kind. Such a shame.

Maybe in reality, compared to other Rums, this Plantation offering by itself maybe just so-so, but by now, scoring quite high for an “Old Reserve”. This, together with the Flor de Caña offerings, do strike an interest into more of these rums, lets see what else is made in Nicaragua. Must make a mental note…

Points: 80

Plantation Panama 2000 (42%, Old Reserve, Panama)

Wow, that was quite a disappointing Trinidad expression from Plantation, didn’t see that one coming to be Frank. Lets move on quickly and have a look at this Panama expression instead. Just like many other expressions of Plantation, this is also a double matured Rum. As we all know by now, Plantation is owned by Cognac Ferrand, so no shortages of ex-Cognac casks in that company I suppose. The Trinidad I reviewed last, wasn’t hurt by the Cognac casks at all, au contraire, it did it good.

However, there is another practice Cognac Ferrand applies to their Rums (of this “Old Reserve” range, at least). Dosage, the practice of adding extra sugar somewhere in the (maturation) process to cater to a certain taste profile of their consumers. In the case of the Trinidad expression, well…it smothered it essentially… But, I digress, so back to the task at hand. Panama. Again nothing is known where this Rum was sourced, and Panama does house more than Varela Hermanos alone, you know, although… In case you don’t know, the Varela brothers are the people behind the Abuelo brand. At this point, I can add nothing more to this introduction but to say Vamos, and review this Ron de Panama…

Color: Full Gold.

Nose: Sweetish, vanilla and quite some clear office glue (Velpon). The glue leaps out of my glass, especially with a drop of water added. Slightly dusty. Big on toffee, butter and caramel aroma’s, but this time in a more pleasant way (meaning, not so damn sugary). Soft spicy wood notes for balance, and hints of cigarette smoke and new oak. All probably coming from cask toast. Not really a very “sweet” nose, not even with the presence of toffee and caramel. Coffee and mocha. Black tea and a whiff of florality. Sweet yoghurt and vanilla. Cannoli. Well balanced and pleasant. I hardly dare to say it, but sometimes I’m getting fresh Gin-like notes again, like I did with the Santa Teresa. This maybe me. Lacking are the Cognac cask notes present in many Plantation bottlings. Maybe the Ron is masking it, or the second maturation was done more sparsely. This already smells a lot better than the Trinidad expression, although very exciting it is not.

Taste: On entry, well, Cognac (yes its here) and some cola, but also, luckily, some bitter oak. Definitely more character. Quite sweet again, vanilla and runny caramel. Again, also a bit flat. The spicy backbone, present in the nose, is somewhat masked in the taste. It still isn’t heavily sweet, but there seems to be enough dosage to flatten the taste. The Rum used as a base for this probably had enough oomph not to be totally overpowered by the dosage, like in the case of the Trinidad expression. The fact that a little bitter note stays behind in the finish (and aftertaste) shows that. The taste is less balanced than the nose was, and flatter, which is a shame since the nose was pretty good in my opinion. Here the thicker and sweeter bit, seems to be not really well integrated with the alcohol. You can almost taste the separation between the two. Towards the end of the finish and the warming aftertaste, are notes reminding me a bit of the Abuelo 7 and some other notes reminding me of the Abuelo 12. Definitely to much dosage again in this Plantation expression for my taste.

In the end, this is not all that bad (as the Trinidad was), but given the choice I would rather opt for an Abuelo 7yo or 12 yo, depending on your taste, or if you dare, mixing both in one glass. The Santa Teresa has a similar profile and is also better than this Plantation. You can also have a look at one of the Panamanian Rons from Rum Nation. I have some more Plantation Rums to review, but by now I’m already feeling that these Plantation Rums are nice, if you are a novice, but almost unsuitable when you passed the novice station already, and on your way to greater Rums. If you already know your way around Rums, you might want to skip these Old Reserves altogether. I had a whole bottle of the St. Lucia Old Reserve, and although it is probably the best Old Reserve, Plantation has done, the dosage in that one really started to annoy me a bit towards the end. I still have samples of both the The Jamaica and the Guyana expressions, so I’m going to try them after the last new Plantation review, to see if they are still worth buying, and if necessary update those reviews.

Points: 76

Plantation Trinidad 2000 (42%, Old Reserve, 1H200111, Trinidad)

As you might have gathered from my recent reviews, I picked up on Rums again, and after reviewing several bottles I have open on my lectern, I also turned to my stash of Rum samples, to see what’s there. I unearthed a few Plantation samples from the time of the Jamaica and Guyana samples I reviewed earlier. The Guyanese review already covered a bit about Plantation so no need to repeat that here. Trinidad is also the birthplace of the wonderful, yet utterly wrong (according to some), and alas, no-more, Caroni Rums, which has quite a following. Trinidad is also the place Angostura is made, and based on my review of the 1919 and the newest 1824, a Rum distillery I’m in no hurry to buy more of. I’m afraid this Plantation Trinidad isn’t likely to be based on Rum from Caroni. Nevertheless, the three Old Reserve’s reviewed until now, got quite some favorable marks, so let’s see how this Trinidad turned out…

Color: Full gold.

Nose: Quite closed at first. Sweetish, buttery, vanilla powder and crushed dry leaves. Greenish, half ripe banana and slightly floral. On entry quite big (almost Bajan). In the back of the smell there is something I recognize from Port Charlotte CC:01, yes this Rum was finished in Cognac casks alright and it is recognizable as well. A welcome addition. Again a Rum based on Cookie dough and vanilla aroma’s. Dusty, minty and woody notes come next with more banana on top, reminding me a also bit of Angostura 1919, of which I’m not a fan. That’s it, nothing more comes from this. After the initial aroma’s it flattens out quite quickly. At this point, I checked if my nose maybe died on me, with the Santa Teresa in a second glass, and I’m happy to report there is nothing wrong with my nose, works perfectly, and I’m also happy to report the Santa Teresa is a much, much better Rum than this Plantation Trinidad, although the smell of this Trinidad is initially not bad.

Taste: Quite sweet on entry, but also a hint of fresh oak. Recognizable Cognac casked sugar water, with more cookie dough and vanilla again and a sort of flatness I get from Blended Whiskies laced with caramel coloring, dumbing down the finished product (Blanded Whiskies) and cloaking all that used to be there (fruit probably). Dosage flattened this Rum as well (with a sledgehammer, I might add). This enters your mouth and seems not that bad, but disaster strikes when you swallow it, you get a sort of rounded out total taste, that’s it. You swallow it whole, and the sugar stays in the cavity of your mouth the longest. A taste and sensation you can follow up with another sip, but really, what I am craving after this is a nice cup of coffee. When I wait a bit, and still before the ordered coffee arrives, my mouth contracts because of the sugar residue left behind. So coffee and a toothbrush are needed after this Rum. I’m quite happy right now this is only a sample and not a full bottle. This Rum really lacks development, it just sits there in the glass staring back at you with its dull eyes. You look into its brain and you don’t even sense the synapses firing. A very dumb (dull) Rum. A stupid Rum. The dosage even leaves some sort of bad taste behind in my mouth. It shows me no respect. Very good though, this has some notes from Cognac cask maturation, otherwise it would have been even worse than it already is. Even Diplomático was better than this.

From this series I liked the previously reviewed Guyana and the Jamaica versions much better, and to be honest, you have to do a lot to damage to a Demerara or to kill Jamaican funk if the dosage was the same in those examples. So as a novice it didn’t hurt me getting to know the Demerara and Jamaican styles with those two bottles). A light Angostura on the other hand, yes, you can hit that very well with dosage. This Plantation Trinidad, for me, isn’t up there with both others. Dull, dumb, boring. A dud. The Angostura (and hey we are not even sure this is an Angostura) they had to work with wasn’t probably much, but what they did with it is kill any character dead that might have been left in it. I hope more recent bottlings of Plantation Trinidad are better than this, but I won’t be the one to find out, since there are a lot more, and way better bottlings out there, waiting to be discovered. I still have a few Plantation samples left, I hope it gets better again from here.

Points: 72