Caroni 12yo 1996/2009 (69%, Krugers Whiskygalerie, Rendsburger Bürgermeister, Cask #1107, Trinidad & Tobago)

October always starts out with the best Whisky Festival in the world, The Whisky Show in London (UK). I visited it so many times already it stopped being about the Whiskies, although I tasted many of them. It’s a festival about people. Meeting the makers, the owners, the writers, the bloggers and its about meeting the friends I made along the way, your old buddies, so to speak. Missing those who could not be there this year. It’s always nice to meet some new people as well. I’ve just returned and it always takes me a while to adjust back to normal life. Many Whisky reviews were written before The Whisky Show and many were tasted at the show. So why not go cold turkey and do some Rums for a while, another passion of mine?

The Kruger in Krugers Whiskygalerie is Thomas Kruger, probably best known for his auction site. I actually don’t know if he auctions Rums somewhere, but he does bottle Whiskies and the occasional Rum. From Thomas’ bottling business, here is a Caroni! My heart always skips a beat when hearing that name, especially when it is un-diluted.

Caroni #1107Color: Orange brown.

Nose: Right from the start you get this utter balanced smell. It smells fairly dry, herbal and industrial, with a nice dose of heated oak (when sawing) and sawdust, just like a Caroni should. It’s also easily recognizable as a Caroni, leaning towards Rhum Agricole, with a splash of petrol in it, but not as much as other Caroni’s have. In and out come some whiffs of tar, burnt sugar, leather, Italian laurel licorice and again the wood of the cask. Past the usual suspects, this one boasts also some nice (red) fruitiness. The fruit, ripe raspberries, sugared pineapple (which I know are not red) and unripe wild strawberries. These fruits merge as a second layer and when that layer settles in, you get a more creamy, vanilla-like, toffee-sweet smell. It still is a Rum y’know. If I was presented with this blind, I would have argued it was an aged, rather dry, Rhum Agricole. Love this profile. Once you get the hang of it, there is no going back.

Taste: Starts out dry with a woody aroma, aided by the high ABV. Nevertheless very drinkable (for me) at this strength. I no way does it feel as 69% ABV. A little bit dirty, as Caroni should be. Petrol, exhaust gasses and licorice. Exhaust gasses, wow, never had that before! Not an aroma for the masses. Since the world prefers the flavour profile of Angostura, no wonder Caroni got closed, a fact that makes Rum aficionados break out in tears once in a while. It is so dirty I could also call this animalesk. It does resemble the nose, but seems a bit less complex. Powdery dryness. The high strength is duly noted when my lips start burning a bit and some heat clings to the roof of my mouth. Is it a problem? No it’s not. Blood comes out my nose. Just kidding. It does taste dryer than the nose lead me to believe. But when the dry spell passes, there is some residual toffee sweetness noticeable. In the taste, it is less of a “Rhum Agricole” than the nose promised. Not all returns for the finish. The finish is made up of the wood and (thin) licorice, but has lots of staying power with some very late, yet diluted, warm caramel to it.

I tried to compare this one to the Bristol 1998, but that is impossible, the difference in ABV is too big. From memory I know the Bristol has the petrol but is even more fruity. This Kruger expression is woodier. But I have another ace up my sleeve. The Kintra 1999 expression. Both seem remarkably similar at first. Lots of wood going on in both, but more of that in the Kruger. The Kintra has some whiffs of (clear) glue that can’t be found in the Kruger expression, and the Kruger shows some honey and even hints of Bourbon Whiskey (Buffalo Trace to be exact). On the taste, the Kintra is woodier and Kruger has more licorice and sawdust, but again they are pretty similar. Even the fruit profile matches. Always a good idea to do direct head to head (H2H) comparisons.

Points: 88

Thanks go out to Nico!

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Caroni 1998/2008 (40%, Bristol Classic Rum, Trinidad & Tobago)

The Caroni distillery was founded in 1923 and after 80 years of operation, sadly was closed in 2003. In 2001 the Trinidad government sold its 49% share in Rum Distillers Limited to Angostura for $35 million who were forced to close the distillery two years later, because that same Trinidad Government closed their sugar refinery on the island. In the first half of the 20th century Trinidad had some 50 odd distilleries, but today only one survives, Angostura. The demise of the Trinidadian sugar cane industry means that molasses today are mainly imported from Guyana. Because of its heavy style, Caroni was a favourite with the British Navy and yours truly.

Bristol Spirits Caroni 1998-2008Color: Gold.

Nose: Dry, funky and slightly industrial. Like a crossing between Rhum Agricole and Jamaican Rum, with added motor oil and petrol. High ester heavy style Rum. Different kinds of wood and waxy. Lots and lots of aroma. Hints of oranges and mushrooms. Hot butter. Orange skins at first, but with good nosing a deeper (and sweeter) kind of sugared oranges appear. I’m a big fan of Rums like these. Later on, some oak and earwax. Burnt wood and smoke. Bonfire and a fishy note. Grilled fish (hanging over the bonfire). When my mind wanders off, I will associate the hint of smoke and burnt wood with Islay Whisky. Nice side effect. When all the extremities wear off on the nose, the whole becomes slightly sweeter and friendlier. More salty and smoky vanilla. What a nose!

Taste: Dry oranges with some hidden sweetness underneath. Still a bit industrial, not saying that is bad, on the contrary. Nice hints of oranges again, all of it, the skins, the freshly pressed juice and the candied oranges. All quite dry and smoky, never truly sweet. The wood is trying to get some bitterness across, but that hardy is the case. The Rum itself is highly aromatic, the bitterness is pushed back, there is simply not a lot of room for it. Bitter orange skin and again a burnt note. I can’t help but feel that the orange oil you get with the juice from the skins also gives off a slight acidic note that doesn’t completely integrate with the rest of the taste. Something that also happens in the Abuelo 12yo. Only here it’s not that bad.

This is great stuff from a sadly closed distillery. Not your run of the mill easy-going overly sweet Rum, but something more daring and industrial. Maybe this Rum isn’t for everyone, but if you like the profile this was one of the best.

The 1998 Caroni reviewed here was bottled in 2008. In 2013 exactly the same rum was released, just 5 years older. That one would be nice to review sometimes. The picture on the left is from the 2013 release, but looks exactly the same as the 2008 release.

Points: 86

Caroni 1999/2013 (56%, Kintra, Barrel RR619, Trinidad & Tobago)

Erik Molenaar (again)Kintra is no stranger to these pages but up untill now, all Kintra products were Single Malt Whiskies, but this time Erik Molenaar surprises us with a Rum, and not just any Rum, but one form Caroni, a Rum distillery sadly closed for over a decade. Caroni is a rum from Trinidad (& Tobago). Founded in 1923 and in its final form, worked from 1975 to 2003. Caroni is known for its heavy style that was perfect for British Navy Rum.

Color: Orange-brown

Nose: Very vegetal and smells from under the bonnet. Oil, petrol and fumes. Industrial and automotive, but in a good way. Lots of dry oak and tree sap. Unlike Whisky, a heavy style Rum like this Caroni, can cope with lots of oak, especially this Caroni’s dirty style! Furniture polish, burnt sugar and some tangerine skins. Black tea and when snorted up vigorously, a little hint of mint. Perfumy like the best kind of Rye Whiskey or high rye content Bourbon. Leaps out off the class with lots of complexity and very good balance. It’s a Rum that you want to smell over and over again, it never ceases to give. Wonderful. Amazing how something can smell dirty and industrial, ánd elegant at the same time.

Kintra CaroniTaste: Again a lot of oak, but as with the nose, this Rum can cope with the wood. The whole is quite dry and very aromatic, but very balanced. yet less complex on the palate. It does resemble Rye Whiskey a lot on the palate. Just cancel out the burnt sugar note and some other slight markers that are typical of Rum… The oakiness is well masked, but it really shows itself on the slightly bitter, waxy and drying finish.

Truth be told, this actually stayed too long in the cask, but since the Rum itself is so overwhelmingly rich, it can deal with the oak that’s there in abundance. Is that a problem? No it certainly is not. It’s the only small issue, but Rum, like Whisky, is what it is because of ageing in oak, and we all want nice woody tastes to begin with but quickly complain when we taste too much wood. Finally here is a Rum that deals with a lot of wood and keeps it in check. I really, really hope this is not a one-off deal for Kintra. An excellent find from a beloved closed distillery and a very nice price to boot. Thanks Erik, keep up the good work. More Rum please!

Points: 87