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

Santa Teresa 1796 (40%, OB, Ron Antiguo de Solera, L11211005, Venezuela)

Here is an oldie and hopefully a goldie. Meaning that this is an older release of this Rum, since the bottle has by now been revamped. Here we have a Rum from the so called Spanish style of Rums, Ron. Personally, I approach this style with caution. Often, this style is made by the solera method, nothing wrong with that, but please read on. I’ve looked into this method before and therefore won’t tire you with a whole explanation again, but if you don’t know what the solera method is please have a look at my Glenfiddich 15yo Solera review. Sometimes producers in this style (using the solera system) use (rather large) numbers on their labels making us, the consumer, believe the Ron is pretty old. A wonderful example of this practice is Flor de Caña. In this old review of the 18, the label reads: “slow aged 18 eighteen years” So to me this looks like an 18yo Rum. In my review of the 25, which was more recently bottled. Again, the range was revamped for this brand and so was the text on the label: “slow aged 25”. Well how convenient. The word “year” or “years” are no longer used, and word is that the 25 means only that it tastes like a 25yo. Ahhhhh silly me. Still fooling people I see.

Next the Spanish style is pretty middle of the road. Almost always reduced to 40% and quite sweet. Personally, I gravitate more to the big and heavy English style of Rums (f.i. Jamaica and Guyana, but there are more) and the French style (Martinique and Guadeloupe, but again, there are more). Within the French style we also have the very interesting: Rhum Agricole, a unique style in itself). Having said all this, it doesn’t mean that all Spanish style Rums are mediocre. I really, really liked Abuelo Centuria and Flor de Caña 25 for instance, but there are more…

Color: Copper Gold

Nose: First smell: Spicy wood, toasted wood with a little bit of tobacco, mixed with a little bit of fresh air and raisins. Hints of swimming pool chlorine (sounds worse than it actually is). Then nutty, sweetish, Oloroso Sherry-like and even some hints of cocktail cherries. Red sugary fruit gello. Fresh, smells sometimes like a Gin, juniper and pine. Sometimes a whiff of acidic sweat, mixed with mocha pie and coffee. Vanilla and toffee. Cookie dough, sweeter and more aromatic now. Right now, almost, or mostly, Panamanian in its approach. When smelling this, its not hard to hear that this Ron speaks Spanish. Well balanced (maybe that is the solera system for you, marrying Rons of different years continuously). Smells good and appetizing, however, knowing different Rons within the Spanish style, it is also a tiny bit unsurprising. I won’t say boring, but this has an element of been-there-done-that to it, yet this also has some new tricks. To me, Abuelo (which is sweeter) and the many different Rons of Oliver & Oliver come to mind. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not exactly the same. This is less sweet and way fresher. The similarities are not this Ron’s fault, it’s only yet another Ron that fits the Spanish style profile seamlessly. It’s a good thing, that this one presents some woody notes and especially some Gin notes, because it really helps the Ron forward. Most solera systems are quite old, and therefore lacking wood in the nose/taste, but somehow this Ron shows us some wood. Nice going, but how?

Taste: Definitely not as sweet on entry as I thought, which is very welcoming. Again some wood and wood spice. Licorice and slightly leafy. Caramel Yoghurt. A bit thin on entry but warming going down (the Gin notes evaporate in my mouth, nice). Decent body which, truth be told, seems to be lacking complexity (the nose had more). It is one of those Ron’s that usually seems sweet, but isn’t. Diluted cola with a woody edge. Some vanilla and toffee notes, but not much really. I won’t say it needs a bit more sweetness to it, but the profile does seem to ask for it (but don’t do it, Santa Teresa, just don’t do it). How unusual for me to say this! Again, pretty well balanced. Nice, because it has some wood, and some acidity to freshen it up, and setting it a bit apart from other Spanish style Rons. Short finish, but with a nice warming aftertaste. No off-notes. Decent stuff. Again I wonder how this would have been at a higher strength, because this version has definitely been reduced too much. The reduction ruins the finish. I’m sure this Rum would be quite excellent at a higher strength. I would love to try this at 50% or maybe even at cask strength. Please Santa Teresa, let us have it.

This in essence, you can taste and smell it, is a wonderful Ron. Alas is has been diluted too much. Since the quality is there, I wonder why they don’t do more with the brand? There aren’t a lot of expressions, no wide portfolio. A shame really. I wonder, does distillate from this distillery ever show up (at a different strength hopefully) at an independent bottler? If you know of an example, please let me know.

Points: 82

Havana Club Añejo 7 Años (40%, OB, Cuba)

Well, here is something I don’t do all that often, starting a review not knowing really what it is. (I’ll know in due time, before finishing it). I was given this sample and although I have heard some clues as to what this is, I am at the time of writing not sure what it precisely is. Well I do know it is a Rum called Havana Club though, bought by it’s owner right at the distillery on Cuba. And with Havana Club, I mean the real Havana Club, made in Cuba, you know, the island that has Havana sitting on it. There is also Puerto Rican made, Bacardi owned Havana Club, sold in the USA, that is said to be much worse. I don’t know, I haven’t tried it, but people who’s taste I trust, tell me so. The real Havana Club puts out quite some expressions, half of which are really, really affordable. Even the Selección de Maestros won’t cost you an arm or a leg, yet the other half is quite expensive to say the least. There seems to be nothing in the middle. Maybe the 15yo sits in the middle, but it already costs three times as much as the Selección de Maestros.

Color: Gold.

Nose: Starts with a peculiar rotting fruit off-note. Over-over ripe yellow fruits. Hint of gravy even. I’m definitely picking up something meaty, something I didn’t pick up on the first time around. Passion fruit, papaya and some mango. Over time the rotting bits fade away, leaving room for a more recognizable light to medium, sweet smelling, Cuban spirit. Some dusty wood and vanilla powder. Cancel the fade away bit, after snorting it one more time, the rot is back, or has never left. Wonky balance at first, yet bad it is not. Yes, fruit is the pivot around which the smell of this Rum spins. Is it real Cobb? Wait a minute the rot is again gone. Am I dreaming? A bit nutty but foremost ripe yellow fruits. Dried banana skin and a hint of red fruit acidity. There seems to be nothing more to it. Well there is some soft wood, and faint whiff of very old leather. Let this breathe for a while. The Rum picks up balance that way.

Taste: Super thin, instant evaporation in the cavity of my mouth. Rum vapors must come out of my nose. with still a thin, even coat of medium sweetness in my mouth, quickly followed by a wee bit more astringent wood notes. Sweet entry, toffee and fruits, and gone it is. Another sip (with lots of air). More nutty and even woody notes. And gone it is again. Yes a light Rum indeed. 70 cl of this must weigh around 10 grams. Simple, straightforward, but also without flaws. Generates a nice warmth. Toffee and fruits. That’s it, with still this wee woody spiciness underneath. As must be clear to you by now, the finish is short. Gewurztraminer notes suddenly appear, as well as some red fruit acidity. There is hardly an aftertaste. However this does leave a sort of toffeed Cuban memory behind. I wonder now if the Cubans drink this neat?

If you are really a novice, than is may very well be your starting point. Very light and unoffensive and Cuban. Yet it still has some alcohol for you to see if the world of Rum is for you. If so, boy are you in for a treat exploring further, because there is a lot more to find after this. Simple, fruity and medium sweet, but also clean and problem free. If you are more experienced, it may be too light and a bit boring, but having said that, this does bring to mind the pictures of Cuba. Sure you can mix this in many wonderful Rum based cocktails, but being on the island, I would have no problem whatsoever with a glass of only this Rum. Yes, I would enjoy it. Being quite hot today, I do understand the need for the Cubans to distill this light Rum.

Points: 75

Even though the score seems low, there is nothing wrong with this Rum. It’s just very simple. Thanks again to Auke.

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…