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

Dos Maderas PX 5+5 (40%, Spain)

Well after the fairly unusual rant of the last post lets leave the Whisky (business) behind and focus on some Rum. My other favorite distillate. A wonderful complement to the Whisky world. Oh yeah! This time around we” have a look at a Spanish Rum, although the Rums themselves come from Barbados and Guyana, places we know make excellent Rum, so if you can’t make top-notch Rum yourself, buy the best you can.

Dos Maderas is the Rum brand of Spanish Sherry producers Williams & Humbert. Williams & Humbert have a long history already, which, if you’re interested can be found all over the ol’ interweb. Remember, Google is your friend. Alexander Williams and Arthur Humbert started their wine-business in 1877. By 1972 the company was sold, and since then two times more. Current owners are the Medina’s who worked at the bodega and wanted it for themselves.

As I mentioned above, Williams and Humbert buy their Rums from Barbados and Guyana. Both Rums are approximately 5 years old. In Spain they are aged further for three years in cask that previously held a Palo Cortado Sherry. Part of this is bottled as the 5+3 expression. Another part is then further aged for another two years in casks that previously held PX Sherry, thus giving us the PX a.k.a. the 5+5. By the way both Sherries mentioned above, aged for twenty years in these casks, so these casks should impar a lot of aroma. Let’s see…

Dos Madeiras PX 5+5Color: Dark copper brown.

Nose: Smells extremely sweet. But also the liquid makes you believe that, since it is very syrupy. Hints of burnt sugar and definitely some Pédro Ximenez. Besides the depth this Sherry gives, it also impairs a fruity acidic note. Hints of paper and cardboard in the back and even some raisins. Not a lot of development and overall quite simple. Its like the sugar content this must have stopped its evolution and hides any possible form of complexity. Given the fact this contains 5 year old Rum from Barbados ánd Guyana, both highly aromatic Rums, the PX finish is a bit overpowering. That’s not bad, but its more about the PX, than it is about Rum. Altogether nice, but in a flavoured kind of way.

Taste: It starts with Rum, where the nose was more PX. Burnt sugar and Demerara qualities. Heaps of sweetness. It’s a light Demerara style which leaves room for the Bajan Rum as well. However, the PX takes the driver’s seat rather quickly and puts both Rum’s in the back to come along for the ride. Toffee, sugar and caramel, partly burned. Luckily there are some hints of vanilla and green olive (towards the finish). Hardly any wood. Finish is PX again. Aftertaste is PX as well.

I havent tried the 5+3 expression yet, and thus I don’t know if that one has some finesse to it. In this 5+5, the PX overpowers everything. I do like my PX’s, so I kind of like this, but it doesn’t have a lot to do with Rum. Maybe a shorter finish in the PX casks would have been better, and then they should be brave enough to call this 5+4 or even 5+3 1/2. But who am I to say so. Still good stuff though.

Points: 80

Agostón Garnacha & Syrah 2013

Bodegas Virgen del Aguila, Paniza Agoston-Jabali lies at the foot of Iberico mountain range in Carinena (a DO), in north-east Spain. The Ibérico mountain range has a wide variety of landscapes and eco-systems. Half is used for vines, the other half is still forest or rocky mountain slopes

Agostón was first made in 2008. The maker calls it “daring, young, fruity & loved by everybody” All wines in this series are blends of two grape varieties. Here we’ll review the “yellow” one that is made with Garnacha and Syrah. The “red” one is made with Tempranillo and Cabernet Sauvignon. Both red wines are true 50/50 blends. The “green” one (a white Wine) is a blend of Viura and Chardonnay and last but not least a rosé Wine that has an orange label is made with Garnacha and Cabernet Sauvignon. As can be seen, all are blends of a “typical” Spanish grape and an International grape. Very daring and modern…

Agostón Garnacha & Syrah 2013Color: Deep red with purple.

Nose: Fruity and jammy. Very modern and accessible. Not very complex. Extremely likeable, like one likes a lemonade. Bold fruit, cherries, with cream and vanilla. A little bit of dairy, at first some acidity but after moving the wine around a bit in the glass, some typical notes from Syrah emerge. Obviously grapes that have seen a lot of sun. Warm but not dry or dusty. The red and black fruits are pretty aromatic.

Taste: Again very fruity and jammy but here the thick fruits are helped along with some nice acidity. Hardly any tannins to be found. I can’t imagine this has seen wood, although a little bitterness is there, also some vanillin seems present. Although very easily drinkable it will hold the fort when combined with cheeses and meats. Will do nicely too on its own.

Actually a very likeable and very nice wine, that has won some prizes along the way. Still I feel it is a very modern wine. Taylor-made for the modern, fast-forward and demanding market. No fuss, just grab-n’-buy, or buy-n’-drink or drink-n’-forget. Very fruity and just needs the drinker to sit back and enjoy himself/herself. It will not terrorize your conversation or hinder you while apping away on your phone. Nothing overly complex, no talk about tannins or how long you should put it in your cellar. Nice stuff though and not too expensive to boot. Good pick for bars and restaurants. Hip!

Points: 81

Casa La Teja D.O. La Mancha Airén – Sauvignon Blanc 2009

Here we have a white wine by Bodegas Yuntero, Jesús del Perdón from the la Mancha district in Spain. A district that gets lots of sun. The wine is blended from Airén 85% and Sauvignon Blanc 15%. The owners focus on 100% sustainable viticulture. The wine is also made from certified organically grown grapes with an SHC certificate.

Casa La Teja D.O. La Mancha Airén – Sauvignon Blanc 2009Color: Pale straw yellow

Nose: Very fruity and fresh. Hints of banana and peach. Excellent aromatic fruitiness in the nose. Through the nose it promises a nice balance between the sweet and the sour. Although no of the used grapes are common to Alsace, you could have been mistaken trying this blind. Great balance, and a very appealing nose (to me).

Taste: Very soft, velvety and simple and straightforward. Slightest hint of bitterness (grapefruit). Lower in its acidity than I initially expected. A round overall taste without much acidity and also little sweetness without it becoming bone-dry. I expected a little bit more in the taste department. Even the alcohol seems lower than stated. Very light indeed.

Probably meant to be drunk young, but I have to say that a little ageing didn’t do the wine any harm whatsoever. Definitely an aperitif wine with a lovely nose, in the taste too light in my opinion, and if the wine makers would have been able to match the taste to the nose this would be a winner. As said, an aperitif wine which can be combined with light foods as salads and light seafood. Mussels come to mind. I liked the red better.

Points: 76

Humala IPA (7.3%, 33 cl)

Humala is a Spanish Beer brewed by The Nómada Brewing Company at Companyia Cervesera del Montseny in Catalonia, Spain. I don’t quite understand the workings of their website, but they have an interesting page on Facebook (if you can read Spanish).

Pale ale originally was an Ale that had been brewed from pale malt, lightly hopped and quite different from later pale Ales, with less smoking and roasting of barley in the malting process, and hence produced a paler beer. The East India Company requested a more strongly hopped pale ale for export to India. These early IPA’s, were only slightly higher in alcohol than most Beers brewed and would not have been considered to be strong Ales. In general more of the wort is well-fermented, resulting in fewer residual sugars, and the beer is more strongly hopped.

Nómada Humala IPAColor: Orange yellow, with heaps of shiny Sugar foam (peach yoghurt in color).

Nose: Very Sunny and fresh, very appetizing. I have to spoon out the foam to get to the Beer. Lovely fruity and very perfumy, but also a whiff of pee. This has really a great nose, and the pee-bit somehow seems to fit, although it would have been nicer without it. The whole comes across as refreshing, and does reminds me of half-sweet white wines.

Taste: Greatly balanced, all the flavours are behaving as a whole. Again a lot of fruityness and seems lighter in style than it is. Never would I have guessed this has more than 7% ABV. It seems so terrace in style, enjoying it watching people pass by, but it does have a kick, when you downed the whole bottle. Excellent, but when I sit down outside, in the city, with a beer to enjoy the sun and the people passing by I usually order a Duvel, which is widely available and also quite high in alcohol.

Well I have never looked at Spain as a country to look for beers, but that is probably a huge prejudice since most countries produce good beers. Don’t drink this too cold as you would miss a lot of great aroma’s. Not a perfect Beer but still I consider this a true find. Lovely stuff I wouldn’t mind drinking again and most definitely will order if I would find it in a bar.

Points: 86

Casa La Teja D.O. La Mancha Tempranillo – Merlot 2009

Next up is this rather cheap Spanish Wine. My mother made us a very good Moussaka with the recipe she used came the advice to combine it with a Tempranillo from the La Mancha region. So looking around on the many shelves in my “cellar” I spotted this Wine. This is a blend of Tempranillo (85%) and Merlot (15%). How unusual. Casa La Teja is a brand owned by Coop. Jesús del Perdón, and when Jesus loves it, who am I to think otherwise.

Casa La Teja 2009When looking for information about this cooperation, I can find that it is located in Manzanares, and I am led to the www.yuntero.com website. On this site I cannot find this Casa La Teja wine, so I don’t have a lot of hope this will turn out to be something good. Let’s have a go then.

Color: Deep ruby red.

Nose: Very fresh and fruity, the Obvious vanilla-like black currants and cherries, but also the smell of fresh apples. Very likeable and light. Easy, young and very pleasing. It gives off a feeling of warm, dusty soil and silence. Fleshy, buttery and bold. After this a little more on the black or rather red fruits and some more acidic freshness start to play a role. When it gets more air from swirling in the glass a more typical and fleshy Tempranillo smell oozes out of my glass. It’s not very complex but very enjoyable nevertheless.

Taste: Again easy, yet very refined. As the smell predicted, this is not very complex, but it has great body and harmony to it. Not very heavy on the acidity and certainly not a lot of tannins (at first). Given some time to breathe and develop a little, same more tannins emerge, but still not a lot. The apples return as well. Dark cherries, sweet cherries, and come to think of it, it is actually sweeter than I expected. Fruit Sugar and syrup with a hint of licorice. Great easy drinker this is. Lots of blackberries in the finish (the sweet and the sour).

Very easy drinkable and will do good with everything. Good birthday wine, because it will do well on its own. As I said before, the first time I had this was with a very tasty Moussaka and it accompanied that well, so this turns out to be a rather unknown wine, of pretty good quality that is very versatile to boot. Buy by the box.

Points: 84

Bodegas Ramón Bilbao Rioja DOCa Edición Limitada 2009

Today, Bodegas Ramón Bilbao is a modern winery with a long history dating back to the beginning of the twentieth century. The property is located in Haro, Rioja Alta, in the heart of the DOC Rioja region, and therefore Ramón Bilbao is considered to be one of the best. The soil is calcareous and loamy. The vineyards are located there, where the warm wind from the dry Sierra de Cantabria collides with the cooler Mediterranean breeze. This makes for modern, fresh and fruity entry-level wines and a classic ripe, vanilla and wood-scented Gran Reservas, and lots in between. Obviously, these Rioja’s are made with the Temperanillo grape variety.

Color: Deep ruby red

Nose: Bourbon vanilla, creamy, chewy, brooding and nice spiciness from the barrel ageing. It has that much vanilla I would say, American oak barrels or maybe the feisty Temperanillo grape variety overpowers the tannins of the French oak that could have been used in stead. Probably both are used at the same time. Dry leather and some dust. Red fruits, cherries, strawberry and raspberry. Lovely stuff.

Taste: Dark wine, dark spices, but with an added spiciness and a killer vanilla finish. Dry blackberry. Perfect woody spiciness comes through, late in the finish with no off notes whatsoever. The only beef one could have with this wine is that the finish is too short. It doesn’t have a short finish, but the wine is so good and the aftertaste is so pleasant as well, it should have gone on forever. Very mild in the tannin-department, which again makes me think that most of the barrels used for ageing is made from American oak.

Highly versatile wine. Is probably good with a lot of foods, but most certainly drinks very well on its own. For me a great Rioja! 14% ABV. Advised not to keep lying around for a long time, but another year or two can’t hurt this. Recommended.

Points: 87