Monymusk 5yo (46%, Renegade Rum Company, JMA, Tempranillo Finish, Jamaica)

Renegade Rum Company. What might that be? If you are familiar with Single Malt Whiskies, then the name Bruichladdich should mean something to you. In fact it will mean the world, since it is one of the famous Whiskies from the Isle of Islay. Home of the best peated Whiskies in the world, only historically, Bruichladdich is more famous for its unpeated Whiskies than for their peated Whiskies. To put an end to that, master distiller Jim McEwan started to make Port Charlotte, a heavily peated Single Malt Whisky (around 40 ppm phenols) and the astronomically peated Octomore (up to 258 ppm, which is a lot more than 40 ppm). There is no normal way to peat Whisky that high, so in comes the skill of Jim. Bruichladdich is also the home of The Botanist Gin, made up with botanicals from Islay, and also of Renegade Rum. Jim supposedly hand-picked casks of Rum and hand-picked Wine casks to finish those Rums in. Expect relatively young Rums, all finished in some sort of Wine cask. All reduced to 46% ABV, in my book better than the usual 40% ABV. Anything below 40% I don’t even consider buying if I have to be honest. In everything Jim does he pushes the envelope, so prepare yourself, as will I, for an unusual Rum experience…

monymusk-5yo-42-renegade-rum-company-jma-temperanillo-finish-jamaicaColor: Light gold.

Nose: Yep, funky Jamaican style. I love the high ester quality it has to it. Easy to recognize. Fresh cookie dough. Extremely creamy. Already the promise of a cloying syrupy Rum. Wait a minute… A drier note emerges. Old raisins and some wood. There is a note here I struggled for a while to identify, so common, but what is it? Its Grappa! The Temperanillo cask infused a Grappa note to this Rum. Grassy, hay-like. Clay, butter candy and a more vegetal note. If you have ever sticked your nose in the hole of an empty Red Wine cask, you’ll recognize its strong spicy notes in this Rum as well. Nice and quite unusual for a Rum. Amazing how the finish is taking over the Rum when you let it breathe for a while. When nosing this the high ester Jamaican smell is retreating quickly (move it around a bit so it gets some more air, and it briefly returns). With the Grappa nota also a more nutty aroma emerges as well as some warm butter. So it starts big, funky and creamy but after a while it has this well-balanced dryness combined with a nice warm butter note. This is the most two-faced Rum I have smelled untill now. A bit unusual, but I like it. Pushing the envelope a bit. If you love Grappa, you’ll love this nose.

Taste: Here the funky part is even shorter. Upon entering your mouth, for a brief moment, you think you are drinking a typical and clean and simple example of a Jamaican Rum, but it turns around rather quickly. Lots of wood and heaps of acidic woody notes followed by strange red fruit acidity from stale Wine. It doesn’t have the taste of wood itself though. It also lacks the bitterness of clean wood. No, its different. What it also lacks is the Grappa I found on the nose, for some that is a good thing, but it also makes for a somewhat unbalanced Rum. Well it’s not really a Rum either, especially a Jamaican Rum. What it does have is some nice exotic spices, dare I say Indian again? Also slightly soapy and floral, and it has some notes of Foursquare as well, which is a Rum, although not Jamaican. A long time after swallowing, a very discrepant winey, acidic and fruity note re-appears, combined with toasted cask, well hidden into the background. Can’t really say that the finish is well-balanced. It’s like a race where all the competitors cross the finish well apart from each other, running different distances as well. So unbalanced it is, and definitely the weakest part of the whole experience.

This bottle is clearly an experiment. Where for me it works wonders on the nose, it doesn’t actually work that well when tasting it. Somehow the finish overpowers the young Jamaican Rum. Maybe this experiment would have worked better if the Jamaican Rum was older, bigger, more of a match to the Tempranillo?

So there it is. I love Jamaican Rum to death, I love Jim McEwan and I love a good experiment, and that is what experiments are for. You try something that is usually out-of-the-box. It might work or not. Here it clearly works on the nose, but less so on the taste. So not the best of Rums around, and the score will reflect that, but because of its out-of-the-box-ness I still would buy one, although many of the Renegades are sold out by now…

Points: 81

Dutch Jenever Week – Day 5: Zuidam Korenwijn 5yo 2008/2013 (38%, Single Hogshead #761, The Netherlands)

Jenever Week Logo

We’ll continue our journey with this Zuidam Korenwijn 5yo, the brother of the Zuidam Oude Genever 5yo. Korenwijn (grain wine) is a Jenever, very similar to the 18th century style Jenever, and is often matured for a few years in an oak cask. It is made from grain only and  contains a minimum of 51% Malt Wine and up to 20 g/l of sugar. Caramel can be added for coloring and added sweetness. Caramel that is, not E150 which is used in coloring Whisky and doesn’t add sweetness. If the Korenwijn is distilled from Malt Wine only, it can be called a Malt Wine Jenever (Moutwijnjenever).

In the case of Zuidam, The Zeer Oude Genever 5yo was distilled three times without spices, and this Korenwijn 5yo was distilled four times, before the fifth distillation with the added spices is carried out. According to Zuidam this raises the fruitiness and makes for a more delicate Jenever. The ingredients here are the same as in the Zeer Oude Genever, so rye, corn and malted barley. Spices are also the same, juniper berries, licorice root and anise seeds. According to the Zuidam website, newer bottlings of the Zeer Oude Genever and Korenwijn are matured solely in virgin oak barrels, which is obviously not the case with this older bottle from 2013 which contains Korenwijn matured in a (Whisky) Hogshead. The Zeer Oude Genever 5yo I reviewed by the way, was aged in a used Bourbon barrel.

Zuidam Korenwijn 5Color: Full gold, slightly orange.

Nose: Much, much more aromatics than its little brother. Loads of soft spices and some (dry) green notes. Mocha, vanilla and toffee. Wax and wood. Oak and cedar. The occasional whiff of an unlit Cuban Cigar. Nice. Thick and chewy. Almost like a candy store or grocers shop from a hundred years ago. (Indian) Spices, old sweets and cookie dough. Cinnamon, cloves and crushed beetle. If you’ve experienced that smell, you’ll know what I mean, if not, don’t go out hurting animals now. Old wet wood and burlap. Sweet mud and some fermenting clay. Animalesk. The fruitiness moves into the realm of sugared citrus skins, but also some warm apple pie. Orange zest (not lemon, since it lacks the freshness and the sharp acidity). For me this is definitely a step up from the 5yo Zeer Oude Genever. Much more happening, wonderful interaction with the wood, and way bigger. Maybe a tad too big for lovers of Jenevers? Wonderful.

Taste: Sweet on entry but also plenty of wood and wax again. Sawdust and freshly cut wood. Sugar-water and creamy latex paint. More green leaves and garden waste. Believe me it smells better than it might sound right now. Again, just like the nose, much more aromatics going on, compared to it little brother. Small hints of nuts and coffee, and also lots of fudge. Toffee and caramel happening again. Not of the added kind of course, mind you! This is definitely sweeter, bigger and more chewy compared to its twin from another egg. So not really delicate as Zuidam puts it. Light milk chocolate and to liven things up, a nice acidic note is present as well. The finish is reasonable for something that has a an ABV of only 38%, which is quite common in the Jenever business. It sure would be nice for once, to try a higher strength version of this, and I don’t mean 40%. What do you say Patrick? By the way, this is labeled as a “Single Barrel” (although note every cask found in this series yielded from a Barrel). This Korenwijn, for example, came from a Hogshead that previously held Whisky). Since different types of casks were used in this series, the outcome is different every time, so you’ll never get the same if you buy another bottle.

By now you know I prefer the Korenwijn version of Jenever over the Zeer Oude Jenever. Or do I? When I had the chance to talk with a lot of the Dutch Jenever drinking public, some told me they found the Korenwijn too sweet. Some even preferred the 3yo version over the 5yo version. The Zeer Oude Genever is lighter and a tad simpler and more towards vanilla than to the sweetness itself. Both can coexist very well next to each other. They are quite different. I’m not sure anymore if I prefer the Korenwijn over the Zeer Oude Genever. It is a welcome distraction when I try it right after the Korenwijn and does holds it own, even when lighter in style. It’s a breath of fresh air. There are enough moments I want the Zeer Oude Genever more. In a direct H2H, it is the bigger taste and the quality that makes me score the Korenwijn higher, but I really like the Zeer Oude Genever as well, no question about it. I’m more than happy to have both bottles open on my lectern.

Points: 83

Dutch Jenever Week – Day 3: Zuidam Zeer Oude Genever 5yo 2008/2013 (38%, Single Barrel #178, The Netherlands)

Jenever Week Logo

Since the previous review was about the Rye Jenever from Zuidam, for this Zeer Oude Genever we can stay in beautiful Baarle-Nassau, because here is another Zuidam Jenever. This one classifies as an “Oude Jenever”. So no funny business with a single grain version or the addition of an unusual spice. By the way, the word “Genever” is sometimes used as a synonym for Oude Jenever.

Oude Jenever must contain at least 15% Malt Wine, and no more than 20 g of sugar per litre. Yes sugar. It is not uncommon to add caramel to Jenever to enhance the color and to sweeten it up a bit. Oude Jenever must have a minimum ABV of 35%. Compared to Jonge Jenever, Oude Jenever has a smoother, more aromatic taste with malty flavours. Oude Jenever is often aged in wood. Some others are finding that its malty, woody and smoky flavours resemble whisky a bit, but personally I would say that it is a distant relative at best. Different grains can be used in the production process, such as barley, wheat, corn, spelt and rye.

For This Zeer Oude Genever Zuidam uses the same amounts of rye (spicy), corn (giving sweetness) and malted barley. The Jenever is distilled three times. In the fourth distillation run the spices are added. Juniper berries, licorice root and anise seeds. In general it is possible however that the spices are distilled separately and blended together in the final product or some or all spices are redistilled with the Malt Wine. Finally, the spirit is reduced to 45% before entering the cask. Casks are newly made American oak barrels. a.k.a. Virgin oak.

As I already mentioned in the first review of this week, old doesn’t mean the Jenever has aged for a long time, rather means it is made in the old style. This doesn’t mean the Jenever is not aged for a prolonged amount of time, since a lot of Jenevers in this style get (long) ageing in oak.

Zuidam Zeer Oude Genever 5yoColor: Light gold.

Nose: Grainy, floral and fruity, so all is here. Silky soft and somewhat sweet. Smells like an old well made grain distillate. Old as in, not modern. Like the combination of a dusty alley and a slightly damp alley. Clean alleys from the past, that is. Quite romantic. Old parcels come to mind next, those with the brown paper held together by a piece of string. Brought to you by way of steam train. That’s the kind of romantic feel I get from this. Yellow fruits and somewhat waxy. Hay and dry wild grass. Distant apricots and hints of lavender and jasmine. Perfumy. Crispy citrus is present as well. Well balanced stuff, all fits together well. Hints of wood, soft and silky. Fresh oak and some tree sap. Vanilla, so no doubt this being from an American oak barrel, also helped by the fact that the label mentions this particular Genever was aged in a 190 litre cask. Overall quite light and friendly and a very nice distillate to smell.

Taste: Light, sweet and a bit thin. Starts out with some oaky bitterness, but also some spices are noticeable right away. Sugar water with lots of toffee and caramel. Fruity, warming and well-balanced. Both the nose and the taste fit together very well. Creamy vanilla with hints of added anise. Almond like nuttiness. Fits the warming quality this Genever has. Even after 5 years, the wood didn’t leave an overly woody taste behind. Overly? It’s hard to detect any wood at all! Hardly any bitterness whatsoever. However, after 5 years I expected a bit more complexity to be honest, but then again this is not a Whisky and its bottled at 38% ABV. Not very complex, but very likeable nevertheless.

First of all, with this you get a nice, light and well made Genever. Your first dram of the day. Enjoyable. Second, if you can find it where you live, this comes at quite a nice price, especially when compared to today’s Whisky, and you’ll get a whole litre to boot. Other sizes like 0.5 and 0.7 litre bottles are in existence as well.

Points: 82

Cognac Week – Day 3: Château Montifaud VS (40%, OB, 2001/2006)

Cognac Week LogoDay Three already of Master Quill’s Cognac Week. Today, and tomorrow, we’ll have a look at Château Montifaud. Château Montifaud was founded in 1837 by Augustin Vallet, and by now the sixth generation of Vallet is with the company: Laurent Vallet. In between came Pierre, Maurice, Louis and Michel. Where Jean Fillioux has sort of a super premium reputation, Château Montifaud has lots of fans with the public. You get quite some quality and the Cognacs are very reasonably priced and most of the time get longer ageing than similarly named Cognacs from the big brands. Take this VS (Very Special) for instance. The youngest component of a VS is required by law to be at least two years old. The VS of Château Montifaud is five years old, and is made with grapes from the Petite Champagne region. You’ll see this “overageing” throughout the range.

Chateau Montifaud VSColor: Orange copper gold

Nose: Slightly winey, light, dusty and sweetish. Young, with already a nice depth to it. Licorice. Abundant sugared fruits. A nice one to smell vigorously. Wonderful nose, but a little bit restrained. It doesn’t leap out of the glass even after some time exposed to air. Definitely more complex than the A. de Fussigny Superieur.

Taste: Quite light. hints of licorice. Sugary sweet and fruity. Syrupy and the sweets are like half crystallized light honey. Maybe too young, but it tastes too thin. I know 40% ABV is typical for Cognac, but it just is too light. Very mellow, nothing sharp at all. Short finish, but whats there, is very nice.

Young, good stuff. Excellent daily drinker Cognac. Very friendly, not very complex, light and mellow. Great balance. If it’s there it’s in the right place. Well made and Montifaud is definitely worth exploring further. I’ve also tried a more recent version (2014) of this very Cognac, and that one seems stronger, is more aromatic, but also tends to be somewhat simpler, less complex and even thicker in its sweetness. The quality is unmistakably there though, and it still would get the same score as this earlier bottling.

Points: 83

Plantation Grande Reserve 5yo (40%, Barbados)

Lying on a Bajan beach suits me, albeit only in my mind that is. That’s enough reason for me to stay on the beach for a while longer and dig up some more Bajan Rums from the sand. Today we’ll take a look at another independent bottling. This time Plantation, the Rum brand of Cognac Ferrand from France obviously. Italy’s Fabio Rossi (Rum Nation), who actually comes from Wines and Whisky, found a passion for Rum. Now the same goes for Cognac Ferrand as well. They also found a passion for Rum. The people of Cognac Ferrand buy aged Rum’s from several Caribbean distillers, ship them to France and finish them for a couple of months in Cognac casks before bottling. This 5yo Grande Reserve is no different, it gets the same treatment as the others, except this blend of Bajan Rum’s has aged less than other Plantation expressions.

Grande Reserve 5yo (40%, Plantation, Barbados)Color: Gold.

Nose: Quite closed at first and light. Fresh and fruity. Later more sweet and waxy, with hints of vanilla, yet still light and fresh. Vegetable and leafy, combined with a flowery breath of fresh air. Very friendly. Minute hints of mocha coffee, toffee and cow dung (you must think I’m mad by now). Orange flavored powdered candy. The orange note for me is to weak and to synthetic for it to be real orange. Remember this is quite light and none of the aroma’s really stand out. It’s a very introvert Rum. Let it breathe some more and yes some soft orange peel shines through.

Taste: Again quite light, weak black tea with sugar. This has enough character though. Slightly burnt sugar. Fern and a proper sweetness, although the burnt cask note hides part of its sweetness. It’s quite alright. Sometimes this reminds me a lot of Cognac. For me this is a young rum, which hasn’t picked up a lot of sweetness yet and other typical Rummy aroma’s and has quite some Cognac influence, more than other Plantation bottlings, like the Old Reserves. Medium to short finish with notes of runny caramel with a slightly burnt edge which stays well into the aftertaste. Very likable though.

A young Rum with obvious young Rum traits. Lacks a bit of depth like many of its older brothers and sisters have. Its playful and nice. Likeable and cute, with a nice dark ridge of burnt sugar and cask toast. So it’s not all lovely and cute but also has a bit of Chucky to it. So in the end this is a well made although, young and undemanding and underdeveloped Rum. I still say you should get it because it costs next to nothing and is very well made.

Points: 83

English Harbour 5yo (40%, Antigua, West Indies)

And here is another Rum in a dumpy bottle. This time, just like the El Dorado, we have a Rum with an age statement that really does mean that the contents have been aged for that period of time. Where the El Dorado is 15yo, this English Harbour only has 5 years under its belt.

Antigua Distillery Ltd. is established in 1932 with a 3-column Savalle still from France placed one year later. In 1943 Antigua Distillery Ltd. buys the Montpellier sugar estate with 2500 acres of cane field. We have to wait until the fifties to see the first Rum called Cavalier Muscavado Rum. The first Rum that was called English Harbour was released in 1990. Today the portfolio holds the 5yo we’re about to review, a 10yo, but also a 1981 vintage. This 1981 Vintage is the last of the Rum distilled on the original Savalle Still from 1933, which was eventually decommissioned in 1991…

English Harbour 5yoColor: Light orange gold.

Nose: Sugary sweet, nutty, fresh and fruity. Appetizing. Slightly dusty and some woody dryness. Fresh sugarcane-juice and hints of Bourbon. Typically vanilla, toffee, caramel and a hint of roasted coconut to finish it all off.

Taste: On entry first quite thin, but just right after that a slow, caramelly, sugary sweet sip slides down my throat. lots of toffee and creamy notes. Nougat (with hazelnuts). A distant laid back fruitiness emerges, which I can only describe as the marriage of sweet sugared cherries with dried apricots. It’s neither of the two but some sort of marriage of the two. Half long finish with a light backbone of oak, leaving a very pleasant, and slightly hot, after taste.

For the cost a very good Rum you can do anything with. The work-horse of your collection. It’s a very nice un-demanding sipping Rum, but will work excellent in cola and cocktails. Yes is may be slightly simple due to its youth, but it is highly drinkable, not too sweet, not to woody. Everything seems in its place and has no off notes whatsoever. Good stuff.

Points: 83

Chairman’s Reserve (40%, St. Lucia)

Sydney Fireworks2015 is upon us! Happy new year! This side of the planet that means that the new year starts off rather cold. Therefore this month I will pay some more attention to one of the warmest of distillates; Rum. In my opinion definitely worth checking out outside of your cocktail. Yes sipping rum to get through the cold as opposed to avoiding scurvy. Rum to be enjoyed to the max I say! Got Rum?

The story is that the chairman of St. Lucia Distillers Laurie Bernard wanted a quality rum made with aged rums from continuous and pot stills. In 1999 this rum was born. At first only for the local market but soon internationally. The blend is circa 5 years old has been matured in barrels that previously held American Bourbons and Whiskey from Jim Beam, Jack Daniels and Buffalo Trace. The aforementioned rums are blended and married together then put back into the barrels for six months.

Chairman's ReserveColor: Full gold

Nose: Nice and thick, but quickly more green and leafy. Syrupy smelling and very nice, aromatic. Thick and funky. Pickles from a jar and hard candy powder. I like this very much. If nosed blind I would sometimes call this Jamaican (but not often). The initial fatness and funkiness wears off and changes into something more dry and dusty, yet preserving its initial impression. Small hint of smoke and some mild tangerine skins ánd curiously, the smell of someone preparing a steak. Nice woody touch with dirty smoky honey.

Taste: Nice light and refined taste, with only a sweetish start and then into a more aged and dry rum. Thin yet very appetizing. Cold black tea and lots of honey. When swallowed and when it leaves my mouth it dissipates quickly, leafy a slight oaky bitterness behind. Although very light and thin, I do like it. Very tasty.

Definitely a rum worth sipping. It has a certain character though, that makes is very suitable for cocktails. St. Lucia Distillers themselves recommend it with coconut water.

Points: 81