Port Morant 6yo (46%, Renegade Rum Company, GYA, Tempranillo Finish, Guyana)

Why review only one Renegade when you can do two for twice the price? The previous review was about a Jamaican Rum finished in Tempranillo casks. Tempranillo is a blue grape variety used for an excellent Spanish Red Wine. We know that Jamaican Rums have a big or heavy style, a. k. a. high ester Rum, however, we found that it just barely coped with the Tempranillo finish, which was able to hijack the Rum a bit. We know of another big and heavy Rum-style. Demerara. how would that perform? Today we’ll have a look how an almost similarly young Demerara will do. It’s not just any Demerara, it’s a Port Morant! So another Renegade, another big young Rum and another Tempranillo cask, those will be the ingredients of this review. Again, I expect an interesting Rum, out-of-the-box just like the Renegade Monymusk. Will this one taste better?

port-morant-6yo-42-renegade-rum-company-gya-temperanillo-finish-guyanaColor: Light gold.

Nose: Right out of the gate, this is Port Morant alright. Typical Demerara. From memory, but for a brief moment only, somewhat similar smelling to the Plantation Guyana I reviewed earlier. Where that one seemed to have a sweeter start (added sugar), this one has a big dusty, nutty and vegetal component added to it. Changing instantaneously. It seems to me already, both the Jamaican Rum and the Demerara I have in my glass now, react quite differently to the Tempranillo cask. Here it gives off a clear Grappa aroma. Know your distillates people. Venture off the beaten path sometimes. It will make for a better experience. Interesting. Both turn dry in no time at all. Some oak and vanilla, so I’m guessing that, at least one of the casks used was made from American oak. Being the original cask the Rum was matured in or the cask that held the Tempranillo Wine. Probably both. Quite fruity. Fresh pineapple for sure and some less pronounced, yet creamy, citrussy notes as well. Spicy oak combined with thick and juicy almonds and pudding. After letting this breathe for a while it almost smells like a Single Malt Whisky matured in a Bourbon cask. Just like the Jamaican Renegade, this is a nice, although a bit out of the ordinary, smelling Rum. I hope the palate will be better this time around, compared to the Monymusk.

Taste: Not very sweet Demerara, not in a big way, well, quite dry actually. Again a Rum that chances quickly in the glass. The Tempranillo is immediately a bit overpowering and I can’t say it does wonders for this Rum. Next a flinty note that doesn’t seem right. Paper, cardboard and Grappa come next. Lots of Grappa actually, with some fruity and Wine-like notes. So expect hay, dry grass and a very dry taste. Definitely still recognizable as a Port Morant on the nose, but in no way, here in the taste. As I said earlier, overpowered by the Wine finish.Funky Wine cask finish you also got from the first batch of Whiskies being finished in Wine casks. By now in the Whisky-world they have mastered finishing in ex-Wine casks, but Rum is a different puppy ‘eh Jim? Quite big into the finish, but a quick break-down afterwards, making the finish medium at best. I hoped that this one would taste better than the slightly disappointing Monymusk I reviewed before this one, alas, here the experiment is even less interesting, although not a totally failed effort. There is something to be learned here, but I’m not sure what exactly…

Well, I hoped this would do better, but in fact it worked even less for me. If you know your Grappa’s than this one will interest you for sure. I know a lot of people raise their eyebrows when tasting (their first) Grappa. Definitely an acquired taste, even more so than a Rummy, acquiring the taste of Rhum Agricole. When I tried to taste the Port Morant right after the Monymusk, well all I can say, don’t do that. Doesn’t work either…

Points: 78

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Francisco Montero “50th Anniversary” (40%, 7.000 bottles, 2013, Spain)

Francisco Montero Martin was born on April fools day 1929 in Motil, Grenada, Spain. Motil is unsurprisingly also the place Spanish sugar cane came from. For a long time Francisco dreamed about making Rum, or Ron as it is called in Spain. Finally when in his thirties, in 1963, the year of the demise of JFK, Francisco decided that life is short and started his own Rum-distillery called the Azucarera Montero distillery. Quite a bold move since (domestic) Rum was still unknown in Spain. In 2006, Sugar cane cultivation was seized and one year later, Joaquín Martín Montero, nephew of the founder buys the distillery. His daughter Andrea Martín Targa manages the place, so the business remains in the hands of the family.

Although there is a lot of history concerning sugar cane, the Rum is not distilled from sugar cane juice, but rather from the molasses from the locally grown sugar cane. The cultivation of sugar cane seized in 2006, so the distillery imports molasses made from sugar cane, from Brazil, Egypt, India or Mexico. Sometimes nice molasses from other countries can be brought in as well.

The Rum of Francisco Montero is a light style Rum. Fermentation is done for only 24 to 30 hours and the distillery uses four continuous column stills, of which the first operates under vacuum. This allows for distillation at a lower temperature, claiming less flavour is “boiled off”. However, nothing is said about the conditions provided in the other three columns and their effect on flavour of the final product. Ageing is done exclusively in 500 liter, new American oak casks, configured in a Solera system. And last but not least, in the blending process caramel coloring is done.

Francisco Montero 50th AnniversaryColor: Full Gold.

Nose: A breath of fresh air and a nice floral touch. There is a nice elegant woody nose with an edge of scented paper. Fruity black tea with a little bit of sugar in it. Definitely a molasses based Rum, bot nowhere near the thick and syrupy big Rums. No, it smells refined and elegant without being a completely different Rum, like Agricole. Hints of licorice and more fresh air, but also some wood pulp and breakfast cereals. Sweetness becomes more like a warm liquid of diluted refined sugar. Development in the glass stops rather soon, so after a short while WYSIWYG (What you smell is what you get). I like the floral tough that stays throughout.

Taste: Thin toffee and caramel. Aided by some liquid wood in the background. Lots of warming toffee, vanilla and caramel candy notes. Hints of waxy apple skins and a bitter walnut skin note, but these hints are pushed way back. You have to work for them. Quite unexpected, because the very smart and luxury packaging as well as the speciality of a “50th Anniversary” made me expect something very deep, in part old, and special, just like Abuelo Centuria stands out from the rest of the Abuelo range. This comes across as quite young. Initially very appetizing, with the toffee notes. Towards the finish the taste breaks down a bit. The nice toffee note gets weaker and thinner, and isn’t really replaced by something else. The finish is quite short, and you’re left behind with only an echo of a Rum.

Considering the packaging and the occasion, I was quite disappointed really. I expected a lot more. By its own merits I am disappointed as well. Sure, its a lighter style Rum, but just look at the Cuban Rums I reviewed earlier. The same lighter style but way more happening there. It is all right to sip, but if I would place this according to its merits it would sit right next to the most inexpensive of Abuelo’s, the Añejo, making this Montero way to expensive for what you would get. If you like the style, go for a Cuban.

Points: 78

Spirit of Hven Backafallsbyn “Organic Gin” (40%, OB, Sweden)

Avid followers know that in october, Master Quill likes to go to the Whisky Show in London, England. Up ’till now there has always been something that really surprises. A few years back Tomatin surprised with a lot of non-1976 bottlings. Another year, a lot of offerings from Benromach were a discovery, and this year (2015) was the year of Indian Distiller Paul John. Especially their single cask bottlings were stellar. Even a Boutique-y Paul John was fantastic! However, hidden in a corner of the room, next to the coffee stand near the entrance, were three Swedes. They didn’t even had a real stand, but they used a cask as a table and put some Erlenmeyer flasks with colored stuff on top. I have to say, I met some driven and passionate people doing the Spirit of Hven. Spirit of Hven is not only a distillery, but it is also a hotel, a restaurant, Whisky bar and chemistry lab! Mad scientist with a passion for booze? I like that! So apart from Paul John, the discovery of the year was this Spirit of Hven Gin. Go figure!

Gin is an interesting product, since Gin can be made rather quickly, you don’t have to wait ages to see how it turns out. Nice stuff to experiment with and make it personal, by thinking up and combining different botanicals. This Gin has its obvious basis of Swedish Juniper and citrus. Other botanicals include Grains of Paradise, Aniseed, Calamus Root, Mauritian Bourbon Vanilla, Cassia bark, Cardamom, Sichuan Pepper and Guinea Pepper (dried fruit), not to be confused with Grains of Paradise which is also known as Guinea Pepper (ground seed). The Gin is oak aged prior to the final distillation, so the influence of wood is another ingredient.

HVEN Organic GinColor: Clear water.

Nose: Laid back and sweet-smelling juniper. Toned down by some sweet carrots and hidden vanilla. You know it’s there but somehow in disguise. Soft vanillin from wood maybe? Sure it is a Gin, with juniper and citrus, like all, but in here the combination smells excellent yet different. The sharpness is shaven off by the hidden vanilla and the promise of sweetness. A bit like a Gin Liqueur, although this might not be sweet tasting at all. Next some grain, black tea and dried grass. It’s still a Gin, so not extremely complex, but this one is so well-balanced. It’s hard to put down and stop smelling. Very soft and mellow with a nice floral touch and some sweet spices and soft wood to finish it off. Pine forest (floor) after autumn rain.

Taste: The first sip is of sweet grain and paper. The basis is there. It has notes of Vodka, a very smooth and soft Vodka. Next come the juniper, sweet oaky vanilla and well-integrated soft citrus note as well as a hint of caramel. Towards the finish we’re most definitely in the territory of sweet licorice. Laurel licorice. It’s a honeyed kind of sweetness, so more depth than sugary sweet. I use “sweet” a lot, but let me assure you that this comes nowhere near Gin Liqueur and not even an Old Tom. The finish has quite a bit of length and finally it leaves you with a nice anise and licorice aftertaste. Wonderful sipping Gin.

This is the first Gin on these pages and for a long time there was a good reason for that. Gin usually winds up in a cocktail or in a Gin-and-Tonic and I am a drinker and taster of Spirits. When Gin gained popularity the last few years I obviously got the chance to try some very nice Gin-and-Tonics, the way I like my Gin the best. It all went wrong when I started trying Gins by themselves. Nipping them, say, like a Whisky. Well, I can assure you, Gin is no Whisky! So Gin seemed to be not for nipping, so I left it alone for a while. I did find some nice Gins though, that worked well in Gin-and-Tonics. Hendricks with Fever Tree is nice, but Zuidam aged Gin with Indi Tonic, was a lot better. The Zuidam aged Gin was the first Gin I liked by itself, so I decided not to give up on Gin (as a sipper) yet. And then I encountered this Organic Gin. Wonderful stuff. With this one I never got passed the sipping stage, it’s that good. I do hope I have enough left to try it with Tonic though. Recommended!

Points: 78 (and believe me, that is a lot of points for a Gin by itself)

Four Roses (40%, OB, 2011)

After the highly specialized Octomore, let’s get back to basics with this Four Roses Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey aka Four Roses Yellow, since it has, and you’ve guessed it, a yellow label, although with every revamp of the look, the yellow label gets less yellow. The one I’m about to review, is one that was released a few years ago, but since this is the entry-level best known product of the distillery, I expect a lot of consistency exists between different batches. Four Roses is a bit of a tricky Bourbon for me. Four Roses have their ten recipes and it depends of the usage of these recipes in blending the Bourbons if I like them or not. For instance, if you have read my review of the Single Barrel expression, you know I found the new 50% ABV version quite good, whereas I didn’t like the older 43% ABV version as much. For me it was too floral. Don’t get me wrong. It’s about the taste, not the amount of alcohol in the finished product. I understand that this yellow labelled Bourbon I’m about to review is around 6 years old and can contain any of the ten recipes Four Roses makes, although most of it is OBSK and OESK. If this means nothing to you, please have a look at my other Single Barrel review.

Four Roses YellowColor: Orange gold.

Nose: Smells young, and slightly alcoholic. Light and creamy. Even some yeast and quite some honey. Dusty, with charred oak and whiffs of the new oak underneath. It has more to do with oak than the florality of the old single barrel expression. It seems a bit closed to me, since it is a bit hard to get all of the aroma’s out of my glass from the start. Maybe it’s reduced a bit too much. Another layer shows us some cardboard and a leafy, grassy note. Dry grass mixed with the slightly spicy note that has to do with the toasted oak. The honey note quickly disappears, making it less sweet and somewhat more spicy. Otherwise quite light and yes, simple. Bourbon tea.

Taste: Cardboard, wood and sugary sweet. Waxy paper. Sugar water sweetness and a very nice oaky note. New oak, with again a grassy, spicy and soapy note. There are some good flavours in this and even has enough character for an entry-level Bourbon. The wood and cream give it its initial likeability and backbone. It maybe a bit simple, but it’s very nice as an unoffensive entry-level bourbon should be. Nice body, medium finish.

Start with something like this, share a bottle with mates, get to know it. Compare it to several other entry-level Bourbons, like Jim Beam (white), Evan Williams (black), Buffalo trace and others. Quickly move on from there, if you’re an adventurous person. My review may seem a bit harsh, but it’s actually not that bad at all. This Bourbon is pretty decent, has some nice aroma’s and is very drinkable and buying this, won’t scare your wallet at all. With the age comes also a rather simple body with a not too long finish. I hope it’s strong enough for mixing, but I couldn’t say. I’m no mixologist.

Compared to the aforementioned single barrel expression, the single barrel has more depth to it, seems better balanced and benefits greatly of its higher strength (50% ABV), although it has a tad more of the feared florality. Luckily it’s not enough to spoil it for me.

Points: 78

Bruichladdich 10yo (46%, OB, 2003)

Earlier I reviewed the most recent, standard range, Bruichladdich from the Dumpy OB era: the Scottish Barley bottling. Today we’ll have a look at the one that started it all for the previous owners. A short recap is in order I guess. In 1994 Bruichladdich was closed (again) since not a lot of Malt Whisky was needed back then. In 2000 Bruichladdich was taken over by a group of people fronted by Mark Reinier (of Murray McDavid), who in turn, asked Jim McEwan to take on the post of master distiller and (progressive) production director. Who would have thought Jim to ever leave the Bowmore building. In 2001 Bruichladdich was reassembled, without making it a computer driven modern distillery and without disturbing the Victorian bits as well. If memory serves me correctly, by 2001, three bottles were released as some sort of core range. A 10yo (this one), a 15yo and a 20yo. So this 2003 bottling, is one of the next batches after that. Yes no NAS bottles back then yet!

Bruichladdich 10yo 2003Color: Light gold.

Nose: Light, sweet barley. Extremely dusty. Paper. Dishwater citrus, but also perfumy wood, otherwise not a lot of wood noticeable. Pretty fruity. Thick sugared yellow fruits. Some pineapple and papaya with a slight hint of mint and cardboard. Somehow it smells sugary with hints of toffee and caramel. No peat.

Taste: Paper and a sweet woody note. Also something metallic. Perfumy too. It tastes almost the same as it smells. A bit hot on entry, but quickly dissipating the heat. Citrus fresh, but not of the dishwater kind. Rhubarb and again some caramel, which moves into toffee towards the finish. Hints of mocha and wood. Some woody bitterness helps the Whisky along. To my amazement, the dishwater component returns.

The current entry-level Bruichladdich is the NAS Scottish Barley and as luck would have it, I still have that one here too! The Scottish Barley has a lot of butter on the nose, but the fruit reminds me of the 10yo (but only the fruit). Definitely a younger Whisky. More raw and closer to new make spirit. It even has a tiny amount of smoke (and a wee bit of peat and oil, since it resembles Springbank a bit), which is nice. Tastewise the NAS is even simpler than the 10yo, more on barley and lacks some of the off notes of the 10yo.

I was never a fan of the 10yo, and after more than ten years, I still don’t like it that much. The Scottish Barley however, reminds me of Springbank, and even though it is simpler, less complex, in this case I prefer the NAS over the 10yo. (The “Yellow Submarine” I had next, was definitely better than both)

Points: 78

Linkwood 13yo 1990/2003 (43%, Jack Wiebers Whisky World, Castle Collection, Cask #1922, 120 bottles)

This time we will have a look at a Linkwood from the rather obscure Castle Collection by one of Germany’s finest: Jack Wiebers Whisky World. Not a lot of pictures can be found of any bottle from this series. I still have the Linkwood bottle, but it is rather empty, so not so nice for a picture. Alas no true picture of this particular Linkwood. Most Whiskies for this series were reduced to 43%, although the odd cask strength version does exist. Besides reduction it doesn’t seem to me, that the whole cask was bottled. Usually only around 105 to 120 bottles are bottled per bottling. Yes I did that on purpose. It’s rather hot today.

Castle CollectionColor: Light gold.

Nose: Spicy oak and vanilla. We know already what that means don’t we? Next aroma is quite meaty. Diluted gravy combined with a salty caramel or toffee note, Just like the previous Linkwood this has some sort of herbal smelling wood. This also has a freshness that borders on ozone. Have you ever been in an ozone cleaned pool? Right after that the Whisky becomes more floral and retains its freshness. Creamy, powdery, not spectacular but at least very decent and reliable.

Taste: Light, very light, slightly alcoholic and fatty. Still meaty though and right after that some water diluted licorice. The wood turns slightly acidic and even a bit bitter. A kind of bitterness that is not welcome every time around, if you ask me, especially when combined with a floral note. But hey, that’s Whisky. It’s spirit aged in wood, and sometimes the wood impairs wonderful flavours to the spirit and sometimes not so great. Vanilla and watered down, molten vanilla ice cream and flower-water. Spicy and herbal again. Simple, so not a big body on this one. Short finish too. For me a bit too light and weak, but I’m not convinced it would be better after less reduction, or even at cask strength.

This Linkwood is pretty simple and straightforward and it is sold that way in a reasonably priced series and reduced to 43% ABV, to cut the cost even more. Not great, even with this nice nose, but not bad either. I imagine this to be emptied in one evening over a game of poker. It beats a lot of overpriced NAS bottlings of today though.

Points: 78

Abuelo Añejo Reserva Especial (40%, Panama)

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

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

Abuelo AnejoColor: Gold with a pinkish hue.

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

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

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

Points: 78