Mezan Jamaica XO

mezan-2This will be the first of quite a few posts covering the Mezan bottlings that I own. Mezan Rums are vintage unblended (apart from the XO) Rums from individual islands and countries in the West Indies and South or Central America. They are produced from a single vintage years distillation, are aged in oak Barrique* and are bottled one cask at a time when considered mature enough. The claims / promises made by Mezan are that their Rums are: Unblended (XO aside), Unsweetened, Uncoloured, Filtered through a light gauze with no chill filtration. There has been a statement put out on another site whereby these claims have been confirmed. So what you should have here are bottlings that will vary from barrel to barrel in colour, aroma and taste. The Rums have not been aged in wine casks or finished in casks that have previously held another spirit. They are an expression of each distillery and country of origin.

*A Barrique is also known as a Bordeaux Barrel and is a small but relatively tall 225 litre oak barrel

The range has seen many releases of which I have several. The release list so far comprises: Jamaica XO, Jamaica Monymusk 2003, Jamaica Hampden 2000, Trinidad Caroni 1991, Trinidad Caroni 1999, Guyana Uitvlugt 1998, Guyana Enmore 1990, Panama Don Jose 1995, Panama Don Jose 1999 and Guyana Westerhall 1998. All Rums are reduced to a bottling strength of 40% abv apart from the Panama Don Jose 1999 which has a sticker over the 40% on the label informing you that it is bottled at 42.2% abv.

Mezan Jamaica XO – 40% ABV

This Rum is aged as individual components, then blended and returned back to the barrel to marry prior to bottling. It is a medium ester blend based on a supply of 2 to 3 Rums from the same source with differing ester profiles (I’ve read that the youngest Rum in the blend is 4 years old) and the addition of older Rums dating back to 1983 to allow the blend to really shine. I have two bottles of the Jamaica XO and they are from different batches / release so this will allow me to compare notes on both bottlings to see how / if the blend has changed and I for one find this quite interesting and I hope that you do too. I have also read that the old release was made up of Rums solely from the Hampden Distillery but the new release hints that different distilleries are used in the blend. I will update the article when the information has been received.

Tasting Notes – Earlier Release


In the glass: The Rum displays itself as a very pale straw and a swirl of the glass shows that the Rum appears quite oily. A halo of Rum forms on the glass with small reluctant droplets forming and eventually falling. Aromas of ripe banana appear right away along with a prominent acetone aroma. Plastic aromas are also present and are quite aggressive. Through the plastic comes a pear drop acidity on the nose along with raisins. There are no real oak influences on the nose but very light molasses and citrus aromas are there rounded out with some white wine characteristics.


In the mouth: There is a light oily mouthfeel to the Rum on its very calm entry. Raisins up front give way to a slight sweetness and a spicy tingle. I expected a little more fruit. The oiliness really helps disperse the light flavours throughout the mouth. The finish is relatively short and quite heated, maybe hinting that the split of older and younger Rums favours the younger components. Ripe banana is present on the finish as is that acetone in the vapours and the whole thing is over way too soon.

Tasting Notes – Later Release


In the glass: The Rum is a light straw gold and is perhaps a shade darker than the other release. A swirl of the glass leaves a ring of very lazy and reluctant droplets that take upwards of 3 minutes to move. Very oily and very dense are words that I’d use to describe my initial observations of this Rum. Bananas, dried tropical fruit, raisins and a nice oily citrus peel show up and hint at what could appear when tasted. There is also a more prominent molasses aroma and the plastic and acetone notes are really dialled down making it far more pleasant to sit and smell. It is really well-balanced with just enough astringency to keep things interesting. There are also light caramel and creamy chocolate aromas rounding things out.


In the mouth: The Rum shows itself as being a lot more oily and dense. It really disperses well and completely coats every bit of your mouth. There is a really good balance of sweet and spicy components on entry. There is a peppery tingle up front with citrus oil and a little oak influence showing itself. Overripe bananas, tropical fruit leathers and pleasant molasses play nicely alongside raisins, oak and light smoke. The finish is of a medium length, not too hot and is full of creamy chocolate, warming pepper and ripe banana with what feels like banana skin and citrus peel within the vapours.

So these Rums appear to make good on their promise of no additives, even caramel for colour, and there is a natural variation within the blend to keep things interesting. These are both Rums that were picked up for around the £28 mark and both represent a decent investment and show how blends can differ but still be the same product. Each offers something different with what I believe is the addition of a greater portion of older Rum in the newer release. It just feels more rounded and complete with the spikiness of the young Rums being kept in check by the older component and it benefits from this. The younger Rums are not dulled and they are still spiky but they’ve just had their nails clipped which enables other components to shine through. That pot still funk and ripe banana work so well with cola and they play nicely in a daiquiri, especially the newer release whose oiliness and citrus peel really combine well. The colour is also light enough to not ruin the appearance in the glass. The older release is a little rougher and childlike and distracts somewhat with its heightened plastic and acetone notes. When tried alone it is not as noticeable but don’t take my word for it, feel free to pop in and we’ll taste them side by side.

© Steven James and Rum Diaries Blog 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material, both written and photographic without the express and written permission from this blog/sites author and owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Steven James and Rum Diaries Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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Posted by on April 19, 2015 in Rum


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English Harbour 10

I am a big fan of the other Rums that I’ve tasted by Antigua Distillery Limited including English Harbour and Soldiers Bay. This post however is all about the bigger more mature brother of the young fiery upstart that was English Harbour 5. A little about Rum and Antigua firstly though.

EH10 BottleAt around the middle of the 18th Century around 70,000 acres (about half of the arable land in Antigua) was planted with sugar cane. There were also more than 150 stone built sugar mills on the island with associated boiler houses etc. This led to the Plantation Act of 1793 establishing sugar cane as the principal Antiguan crop. By the 1920’s the Rum Shops on Antigua were importing large quantities of Rum from other Caribbean Islands for blending and aging to create their own brands to sell to customers. Rums with names such as Red Cock, Silver Leaf, White House, Black Cock and Bolanda were all available! As Rum Shops were the inevitable meeting place within the village, they were very popular venues with the majority of the Rum Shop owners being Portuguese immigrants from Madeira. It was in 1929 that a group of 8 local entrepreneurs joined together to bulk buy molasses with the end goal of controlling the process of distilling their own Rum. All but one of the 8 were Rum Shop owners! They had an initial request for land in the St John’s area turned down by the colonial government as they were not keen on a distillery and all of the associated smells that it brings. They were however granted land on the wonderfully named ‘Rat Island’ which sat next to a one time leper colony! In June 1932 the Antigua Distillery Limited company (ADL) was founded. All of the founding members stayed to serve as active directors. Early equipment comprised a 3 column copper Saville still from France. The Rum that this still produced was characterized by a pronounced sweet, sugar cane aroma in conjunction with a medium-bodied dry flavour. Apparently the rectifying section of this still is currently in use to this day! The first Rum produced by ADL was sold by the barrel to local Rum Merchants and was blended and bottled by each Merchant individually under their own private labels. By the 1940’s, the company started producing its own Rum which was initially called Caballero Rum. This was changed in 1947 to Cavalier Muscovado Rum. A lighter version of this Rum is still available today as Cavalier Antigua Rum.

Fast forward to modern-day goings on at Antigua Distillery Limited and they buy molasses in bulk on the world market in conjunction with other Caribbean buyers. I’ve read that Guyana and Dominican Republic are preferred sources. In 1991 the old Saville still was replaced with a *5 column copper still* copper column still sourced in England from John Dore & Co. The spirit is drawn off at a strength of 95% abv and piped into stainless steel holding tanks to be tested by both taste and smell in the hopes of identifying any unwanted trace flavours. The spirit is also lab tested for trace elements that may affect flavour. The Rum is then diluted with pure water to 70% abv. It is at this point that it is laid down into newly charred used 200 litre Bourbon and Tennessee Whiskey barrels. The aging period for Rum on Antigua is never less than 2 years and generally ranges from 2 to 10 years with the occasional batch being held for 25 years…..(an article on the bottle of 1981 that I have will follow as soon as I’m brave enough to open it). With this new still, ADL began to expand its product line and in 1993 English Harbour Rum was introduced named after Antigua’s Navy Heritage. As an aside, the English Harbour Dockyard was restored in the 1950’s and is the only active Georgian dockyard in existence. Currently ADL is managed by descendants of the founding directors. Paul Farara, son of Quin Farara is Chairman of the Board of Directors and Anthony Bento, related to both E.C Farara and Quin Farara is Managing Director. ADL continues the tradition of distilling Rum at the ‘Rat Island’ site.

*EDIT: It appears that my still information is inaccurate, I have requested clarity from ADL and will update once confirmed*

English Harbour Reserve 10 Year Old Rum – 40% abv

EH10 Bottle and GlassSo what we have is a column distilled Rum and the first thing to state is that every drop of Rum in this bottle is a minimum of 10 years old. ADL is quite keen to point that out. The rear bottle label also tells me that some Rums in the blend are up to 25 years old… much is that age is unknown. Also the availability of test data (both amateur and professional) for certain Rums helps identify any additional ‘tampering’. The result found for this Rum is based on Dave Russell’s excellent Rum Gallery site and the estimated sugar content (undissolved solids) is 0 g/L. I state this as if you have previously read my English Harbour 5 article, Anthony Bento stated that guidelines forbid the addition of ‘extras’ apart from caramel which should be tasteless and for colour only. But there was a random test result verified between two sources on the 25-year-old 1981 bottling giving a reading that would mean added sugar……this was however a proofing error at ADL in the actual product it seems so the panic is over! The bottle is a nice squat affair that has a low centre of gravity….the Rum is also housed within a presentation box which is a nice touch. To buy in the UK it will set you back upwards of £70 which is a hell of a price….fortunately I purchased from a French website at what I consider to be an absolute steal of £45! I really should’ve purchased in bulk! So here goes nothing……

Tasting Notes

In the glass: The Rum displays itself as a coppery bronze in the glass and a swirl of the Rum leaves a ring of sluggish droplets. The Rum is pretty spiky too with a fair bit of alcohol burn but this calms to leave quite a bit of fruitiness in the form of apples, Victoria plums and a bit of dried fruit. Vanilla, light buttery pastry and croissants follow on. There is a little oak bringing with it toffee and chocolate. There is also a nice freshness to the Rum and a little floral note to round things out. You can smell a few of the toffee and vanilla notes without even going near the glass. It is a really pleasant Rum to sit with.

In the mouth: The Rum is spicier than expected initially with an entry that is driven by oak and black pepper. There follows a sweetness full of cinnamon, vanilla and caramel. This lingers for a while as the Rum has a nice oily medium body that coats every bit of your mouth. It does start to dry a little as the oak comes forward and that reveals some brown sugar and also gives way to the dried fruit and a crisp apple freshness. The finish is quite long and is full of pepper, buttery home-baked cinnamon swirls as the sweetness makes a return. Subsequent sips calm the spicy entry and leave you with what is a very flavourful and moreish Rum.

So what you have here is a Rum that has not been ‘tampered’ with, that is a minimum of 10 years old, and tastes like joy in a bottle. At its £70 price tag I would still buy a bottle just to see what all the fuss is about….I would be careful with it and would not have it on heavy rotation….however, I paid considerably less and will enjoy it on a weekly basis. Is it twice the Rum of its younger sibling? It takes things up a notch for sure but when English Harbour 5 can be picked up for £25, that represents a bargain….this not so much. I love it however and will most certainly be purchasing another bottle from my newly found source! Still to come though is the much fabled English Harbour 1981….a 25 year old bottle from ADL that for want of a better phrase made me fall in love with Rum all over again. But we’ll save that for when I’m brave enough to open my bottle.

As per usual, I’d love to hear your opinions on the Rum and feel free to pop in for a drop.

The eagle eyed amongst you will also note that I’ve been trying out a new tasting glass for this article. It is an absolute peach of a glass and really does encourage generous pouring which suits me down to the ground!

© Steven James and Rum Diaries Blog 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material, both written and photographic without the express and written permission from this blog/sites author and owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Steven James and Rum Diaries Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.


Posted by on April 11, 2015 in Rum


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Rum Nation Panama 21

Rum Nation Logo

This article marks the second Rum Nation release that I have been fortunate enough to cover here. The first was their Jamaica White Pot Still which you can read all about here whilst also getting a little history of the Rum Nation brand and the man behind it, Fabio Rossi.

Lets get down to business then…..

Rum Nation Panama 21 – 40% ABV

RNP21 BoxThe first thing that strikes you about this Rum is the presentation. The box, whilst having a simple matt black lid resplendent with silver text and bottle outline, has a mirrored cardboard base that just oozes quality. Within that base lies one of the most dazzling bottles that I own. Large satisfying silver topped cork? Check. Heavy decanter style bottle? Check. Silver band around the stubby bottle neck bearing the Rum Nation logo and age of the Rum? Check. Spanish text that I can’t understand? Check. Fortunately, the latter is easily resolved. Whilst if the Rum is good enough, it can be presented to me in a cardboard box with a plastic tap, there is something quite ceremonial about removing the bottle from its reflective home, uncorking it with a satisfying ‘pop’ (I’ll wait whilst you insert your finger into your mouth to make a popping sound) and then pouring the mahogany liquid into a suitable vessel whilst the aromas fill the room. The Rum itself is a blend created by Francisco ‘Don Pancho’ Fernandez. It is distilled in a continuous column still and is aged in ex-bourbon American oak barrels for a period of 21 years. From the information that I have uncovered online its origins are based at the Varela Hermanos Plantation and Distillery that also produces Ron Abuelo. RNP21 Inner BoxThe mature distillates are blended in Panama prior to being exported to Italy for bottling, fully certified in terms of both origin and age. The beautiful bottle that carries the liquid is produced in Italy therefore it makes sense take the liquid to the bottles to avoid sending empty bottles from Italy to Panama and then back again. Releases of this Rum are limited. The first release of 3600 bottles was in 2011 with a second release again of 3600 bottles in 2013. The last release of 5436 bottles was in 2014 (Lot Number 14258). I only wish that I were tasting this Rum is sunnier climes, perhaps on a sunny terrace overlooking the beach with the smell of cigars and the saltiness of a retreating tide in the air. Sadly I’m in Cheshire, it’s considerably less than tropical outside and I’m engrossed in the Arnold Bitner book: Scrounging the Islands with the Legendary Don the Beachcomber. Lost in the book and nosing the Rum, taking the occasional sip until it hits me again….that is why I love Rum so much….it has the ability to transport you to these places, no matter your location. It has the ability to paint pictures that are so convincing, they could be memories of a past adventure. But enough waffle, what does the Rum taste like?

RNP21 Bottle Glass

Tasting Notes 

In the glass: The Rum displays itself as a beautiful dark mahogany and a swirl of the glass releases slow reluctant teardops of Rum. The aromas bubble over the glass and the aromas of stone fruits such as prunes and dates start to fill your nose…raisins follow along with a sherry like aroma. Salted caramel sauce, chewy toffee sweets and a little brown sugar all follow the sherried notes and there is the lightest hint of smoke. It reminds me of a holiday that we once took to Newquay where we stuffed local fudge into bananas and put them onto the barbecue to warm through releasing warming smoky caramel aromas into the night air. Leather and tobacco are next to show up and really make me wish that I had a cigar to pair with this Rum….Chocolate and black cherries are also apparent in sort of a liquid Black Forest gateaux. An oaken element and more of that tobacco round out the nose which has been extremely pleasant.

In the mouth: The Rum leads with a little bite which is a nice surprise after its aroma packed easy-going nose. Maybe its a little bit of a dark horse! Smoky sweetness and those sherried notes are the first flavours to fill my mouth carried on its medium body….that’s medium…not the chewy behemoth that I was expecting. Prunes and raisins lead the next flavour assault wave before a beautiful oaky dryness starts to fade in and bring with it a little pepper. It has a bit of an attitude too with the pepper which shakes things up a little. Brown sugar, chocolate sponge cake with amarena cherries and cream is hitting me in a big way along with apricot before light dry orange peel appears….very much like a dry curacao. The finish is of a medium length and is medium dry with a heavy leather and tobacco influence. Oak and sherry are also there before the fade into a last peppery kick. Again…I wish that I had a cigar to pair with it as the leather influence is amazing with the tobacco leaving the same feeling in your mouth as when you are sitting out in the last of the evening sun finishing a cigar. It’s a strange one for sure in the fact that it appears on the surface to be a soft and playful puppy dog that eventually nips you with those needle like teeth…that’s what that little peppery kick feels like. At times it feels a lot stronger than 40% abv due to the little bites it keeps taking out of you but you need that little bit of attitude. It’s not the lazy old man of the Rum world given its 21 years…its grown old gracefully but retains its reckless teenage streak as the oak has not over influenced it.

The Rum itself retails for around £75 to £92 and when picked up at the lower end of the bracket is in the same price bracket as El Dorado 21…and although they are totally differing styles, this maybe has a shade more going on given its attitude….both warrant purchase though. I’d gladly extol this Rums virtues to anyone who would like to listen….pop around and be sure to bring a few cigars…Montecristo Open Masters maybe…nothing too heavy. Better still, fly me to that terrace overlooking the beach…I’ll bring the Rum.

© Steven James and Rum Diaries Blog 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material, both written and photographic without the express and written permission from this blog/sites author and owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Steven James and Rum Diaries Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.


Posted by on April 6, 2015 in Rum


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The Real McCoy Rum

The Real McCoy Rum is the brainchild of Bailey Pryor, the Emmy Award winning Producer of the documentary, The Real McCoy. In fact the documentary won 5 awards; Writing, Directing, Editing, Photography and Producing. This was the first time that an individual film had won an award in each of these categories. The Real McCoy documentary, and indeed The Real McCoy Rum, are based on the story of Bill McCoy. Bill McCoy was a pioneer Rum Runner during the Prohibition era. In January 1920, Bill McCoy was the first to sail to the Caribbean and fill up a boat with Rum and sail back up to New York to legally act as a floating Rum Shop. Legal because at the time the international waters boundary was located 3 miles offshore and Bill McCoy was careful to anchor his boat outside of this boundary line. There was a tendency for some to dilute and adulterate their Rum (as is still the case today) with turpentine and prune juice giving rise to the nicknames of Booze, Rot Gut and Hooch. Apparently Bill McCoy never did this to his Rum, thus his Rum became known as ‘The Real McCoy’.

During his research for the documentary, Bailey traveled to Barbados where he met, you guessed it, Richard Seale. Together Richard and Bailey began to discuss and develop a classic Barbados Rum which obviously as it is produced by Foursquare Distillery, also adhered to the ‘no additives’ philosophy. The Rums are a blend of both pot and column distillates produced from black strap molasses and a proprietary strain of yeast. The distillates are then matured in heavily charred ex-bourbon American oak barrels. Three expressions make up the range and they are The Real McCoy 3, The Real McCoy 5 and The Real McCoy 12. The Rums have won a host of awards and deservedly so. We were fortunate enough to meet Bailey and we got the opportunity to chat with him at the Boutique RumFest in 2014 and he’s a very engaging chap. We also picked up a copy of The Real McCoy Documentary which makes for a great watch and further expands on the story.

The Real McCoy 3 – 40% ABV

Real McCoy 3

The Real McCoy 3 is a blend of 3 year ex-bourbon barrel matured pot and column distillates that have been charcoal filtered to remove colour before being reduced to bottling strength. A crisp white label reveals only the necessary information about the Rum. Its age (minimum obviously) and the barrel type used for maturation. The rear label has a little information contained within. The sturdy squat bottle also has a plastic cork closure which for me on a Rum in this price bracket is neither here nor there but it does make a satisfying pop. You can pick up The Real McCoy 3 for around £19 if you shop smart……

Tasting Notes

In the glass: The Rum is crystal clear in the glass. It’s initial aromas are of crisp, creamy sweetness reminiscent of soft summer fruits and berries. Vanilla and that marshmallow aroma that I frequently get from white Bajan Rums rounds things out.

In the mouth: Initial proceedings are warming and lightly peppery up front. Sweetness coms along in the form of custardy vanilla. The mouthfeel becomes really creamy with peaches on the back of the palate….peaches and whipped cream.

A beautiful, no-nonsense flavourful Rum at an affordable price point. This Rum also makes a great Daiquiri.

The Real McCoy 5 – 40% ABV

Real McCoy 5

The Real McCoy 5 is a blend of 5 year ex-bourbon barrel matured pot and column distillates. The label on this expression contains exactly the same information but obviously you switch out 3 for 5 and the label is a more pleasing shade of cream. The rear label has the addition of an image of Bill McCoy. Again, a plastic cork closure is present which is a pleasant addition. You can pick up The Real McCoy 5 for around £24 if you use the same source…..

Tasting Notes

In the glass: the Rum is a light coppery gold in the glass and for a 5-year-old Rum is the aromas are very approachable with little heat. Vanilla, butterscotch fudge, caramel and a light oak are in the initial aroma attack. A little citrus peel follows along with more vanilla. As the Rum warms up the oak becomes more apparent in the glass.

In the mouth: It has a spicier than expected entry based on the nose….more so than the 3. It has a little heated, peppery kick that is quickly followed up by a vanilla led sweetish component. Ripe banana and peach loop jelly sweets are next to appear. The sweetness is short-lived though as a pleasant dryness creeps in and allows you to pick up a little cola, a slight powdery cocoa, more peach loops and a little molasses. Quite a lot going on and it is a very drinkable relatively young Rum.

Again, this Rum is a great example of its ilk. It also makes for a great Corn N Oil. This cocktail has recently been ‘Cocktail of the Week’ over with our friends The Floating Rum Shack and like them, we also tone down the Falernum as it is a very tasty, but very sweet concoction. We also use John D. Taylor’s Velvet Falernum (another Foursquare product) in the drink. The recipe and method used at Rum Diaries HQ are as follows: 60ml The Real McCoy 5 and 30ml Falernum. We enjoy this drink nicely chilled and diluted so build it like a Rum old fashioned. Take a double rocks glass, add a large cube of ice (ours are 2 inch square). Pour over the Falernum and stir slowly then add the Rum 30ml at a time whilst stirring, This ensures that the whole thing is chilled nicely and has a decent amount of dilution. Add bitters if you feel that you need to. We don’t usually but when we do we use Dr Adam Elmegirab’s Teapot Bitters. We enjoy the clove aspect of the drink, but Angostura Bitters makes the clove too dominant whilst the Teapot Bitters bind anything Rum based together….trust us!

So, what you have here is a back story that is nice but is ultimately just that, a nice back story. The real stand out thing is the Rum. Both expressions offer what they set out to offer, un-adjusted, un-flavoured, un-perfumed proper Rum made in the classic Barbados style and from a distillery and a distiller that do their utmost to promote all of these values. You should absolutely pick up a bottle of both.

© Steven James and Rum Diaries Blog 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material, both written and photographic without the express and written permission from this blog/sites author and owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Steven James and Rum Diaries Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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Posted by on April 5, 2015 in Rum


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La Confrérie du Rhum Cuvée Anniversaire

Rhum ArrangeLa Confrérie du Rhum is a Facebook Group created in March 2013 that already has over 5000 members! Professionals and Rum lovers use it to talk about and share their common passion about Rum and sugarcane distillates. I use it to stare at pictures as my grasp of French is not the best!

For its second birthday, the administrators decided to bring out a Cuvée Anniversaire and teamed up with Cédric Brément, the famous French rhum arrangé producer of Les Ti’arrangés de Céd to produce it. On March 28th, this new bottling will be released in a limited edition of 500 bottles for sale at the Christian de Montaguère store in Paris. During this anniversary event the administrators of the group and the producer of this special bottling will release the Cuvée Anniversaire Ananas Victoria (Label Rouge) – Sauternes Finish Single Cask.

This infused Rhum uses a white AOC Rhum from Martinique as its starting point. This has been aged for 8 months in Sauternes Casks (Sauternes is a French sweet wine from the Sauternais region of the Graves section in Bordeaux) prior to being infused with red labelled Victoria Pineapples from Réunion Island. These red labelled Victoria Pineapples are rare, of a high quality and are cultivated and chosen in a very selective way. The standard of this variety of Pineapple is very high in terms of its cultivation and final product.

The 700ml bottle of this Cuvée (32% abv) is presented with a white and gold label containing the group logo. This bottling is an exclusive only available for purchase at the Christian de Montaguère store in Paris (20, Rue de L’abbé Grégoire, 75006, Paris) priced at 32 Euros from 28th March.

Cuvée Anniversaire Ananas Victoria (Label Rouge) – Sauternes Finish Single Cask – 32% ABV


In the glass: The Rhum is a pales straw colour in the glass and its agricole base is hugely apparent. You get that vegetal punch in the face straight away but it is tempered by the lower abv and the raisin sweetness that billows over the top of the glass. This is all accompanied by a huge dose of pineapple which is sublime. I can’t help longing for summer!

In the mouth: It has an all encompassing mouthfeel full of sweet pineapple and raisins followed up by the green agricole quality. There is an earthy character too. It is warming, refreshing, sweet and now its gone! I would love to try this with a touch of ice on a hot day…its beautiful stuff.

I’m a huge fan of pineapple anything so this was always going to be a hit with me, and as my first try of a rhum arrangé the experience has been massively positive. I’m fortunate enough to have planned a short break in Paris at the end of April / early May, so obviously visiting the Christian de Montaguère store is a given as we are staying close by and I’m hopeful that I can pick up a bottle (or two) as this is very tasty stuff.

© Steven James and Rum Diaries Blog 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material, both written and photographic without the express and written permission from this blog/sites author and owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Steven James and Rum Diaries Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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Posted by on March 29, 2015 in Rhum Agricole, Rum


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The Balvenie Caribbean Cask

I was recently approached with regards to giving an opinion of a Rum cask ‘finished’ whisky, and though I’m more than partial to a little drop, I’m most certainly not a whisky drinker by any stretch of the imagination. But I thought that it would be a fun little aside to give it a try. I was duly sent a 100ml sample of The Balvenie 14-year-old Caribbean Cask Whisky for the purposes of this post. So here is a little about The Balvenie Caribbean Cask taken from choice excerpts of the press release information that accompanied the bottle.

This whisky was created by The Balvenie Malt Master, David Stewart who in 2012 celebrated his 50th anniversary at the distillery! The single malt whisky at the base of this release has undergone a 14 year maturation period in traditional oak whisky casks prior to being transferred to casks that have previously held Caribbean Rum. This is purely to ‘finish’ the aging process.

When asked about The Balvenie Caribbean Cask, David Stewart said “We’ve found that many years maturation in traditional oak whisky casks followed by a few months of Rum cask maturation complements The Balvenie single malt very well. This expression is a beautifully rounded whisky that combines traditional Balvenie vanilla notes with rich toffee, a hint of fruit and a warm, lingering finish”

The Balvenie Caribbean Cask – 43% abv

Balvenie in GlassPrior to receiving any information or indeed the sample bottle, I posed a few questions that were referred to the Balvenie Brand Ambassador who was very helpful in assisting with responses.

Firstly I asked how long the whisky spends finishing in the Rum barrels? Is it a fixed period based on experience or is each barrel sampled and a judgement call made? It appears that the whisky is finished for between 3 and 6 months in the casks. There is no fixed period as such as it depends on how active the cask is so it is the role of David Stewart to determine when the time is right. The barrels are then blended together to achieve the consistent flavour profile.

I foolishly assumed that they had obtained ex-Rum barrels for the finishing process but I was reliably informed that this is not the case. They utilise whisky barrels that are seasoned with Rum by Balvenie themselves. These barrels are ex-bourbon, American oak barrels that would usually be used to mature whisky. David Stewart has a ‘bespoke’ Rum blended just for him which he uses to season the barrels for a period of up to 3 years. I obviously asked about the source of this Rum blend and its components but was advised that the specifics are considered a ‘trade secret’. The time period for the seasoning is barrel dependent but the aim is to season the barrel for long enough to allow the spirit to permeate deep into the wood and for there to be a good amount of interaction between the Rum and wood. After this process, the now aged Rum is sold back to the producers and the barrels are then filled with 14-year-old Balvenie whisky for finishing.

I also asked about the abv of the whisky when it is finished. It sits at between 56 and 58% abv prior to being reduced to its bottling strength of 43% abv. I wonder how much flavour the Rum finishing imparts…..

Tasting Notes

In the glass: The Whisky is an apple juice gold with darker bronze flashes displaying in the light of this particularly sunny day. Sweet vanilla instantly jumps out of the glass along with quite a dominant honeyed porridge. Sweet nutty aromas follow which are reminiscent of nougat and warm sugary peanuts. There is absolutely no bite from the nose aside from a little peppery tingle. A raisin fudge aroma begins to develop given time and there is some light tropical fruit akin to dried papaya chunks. The Rum used must be light of body and aroma as it influence is not massively apparent. To round things out there is a little floral note accompanied by green apples and honeyed vanilla.

In the mouth: There is a nice level of viscosity to the Whisky. A peppery bite leads at the front end but that is quickly quashed by a malty, honey and fudge concoction. A little oaty and flapjack like. There is also buttery croissant following. It is in the taste that I am picking up something familiar but it is not as expected. It may just be me but there is a distinctly agricole flavour imparted onto the Whisky. It’s quite green and vegetal. This sticks with me throughout subsequent visits to the glass. The finish is of a medium to long length and is all sweet short crust pastry topped with raisins. A little peach flavour exists at the back of my throat before the tiniest bit of oak influence washes it away.

You can certainly tell that the Rum has been used as a finish not as a maturation as it is very subtle. I’d love to compare to the same whisky minus the Rum finish to see just what additional flavour I’m getting. Would I purchase a bottle? Well as a Rum drinker not a whisky drinker I’d give it a go yes. It sits at around £41 a bottle so it’s not the cheapest but it is a 14-year-old single malt and therefore it commands that price (I wonder if a day will come that we are able to talk of a Rum in this way? Technique and age commanding a price point). I don’t know if there would be enough here to keep a serious whisky drinker entertained for a while but it would offer a pleasant and easy drinking distraction with just enough going on to make it interesting.

© Steven James and Rum Diaries Blog 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material, both written and photographic without the express and written permission from this blog/sites author and owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Steven James and Rum Diaries Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.


Posted by on March 21, 2015 in Rum, Whisky


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Pusser’s Rum Strikes Gold

*Press Release*

Pusser’s Rum strikes gold at Rum Masters 2015 and The Fifty Best Spirits Awards

PussersTwo rums from the Pusser’s Rum portfolio have been awarded gold medals at The Spirits Business World Rum Masters — an annual blind tasting competition judged by an independent panel of rum experts. The winning rums were Pusser’s Rum Blue Label (40% ABV) and Pusser’s Spiced, which also won gold at The Fifty Best Spiced Rum Tasting, where contenders were evaluated for the distinguished “Best Spiced Rum” awards for 2015.

Pusser’s Spiced has gone against the grain of traditional Spiced rums, utilising a steeping process with fresh culinary ginger and other Caribbean herbs and spices, not a typical infusion. The process takes up to 14 days to complete, which means that the rum cannot be tested, let alone bottled in this time. The ingredients are all natural, following in the tradition of Pusser’s Rum blends, and adheres to stringent quality tests once the steeping process has finished.

Peter Thornton, Brand Manager for Pusser’s Rum said, “We are delighted to win these prestigious awards because they are given by true rum connoisseurs. The Spiced category is one of the fastest growing in the spirits market, and we are thrilled that Pusser’s is able to capitalise on this trend with our new Spiced Blend.”

The Spirits Business is a London-based publication, website, and media partner of the International Bartender’s Association. Read by over 50,000 spirits professionals, it conducts yearly blind tasting competitions that draw entries in a variety of categories from throughout the world. This year’s Global Rum Master competition took place at The Jugged Hare in London’s Chiswell Street, and received a record-breaking number of entries across 15 categories. is an award-winning online guide to fine living, featuring rated listings from unbiased surveys and proprietary tastings judged by wine/spirits journalists, spirits professionals, retailers, mixologists, spirits consultants and connoisseurs. Adhering to strict tasting rules and rigorous methodology, The Fifty Best achieves the highest standards of spirits evaluations.

The Pusser’s Rum gold medals were in the following categories:

  • Pusser’s Rum Spiced: Spiced Rum – Rum Masters 2015 Awards
  • Pusser’s Rum Spiced: Spiced Rum – The Fifty Best Awards
  • Pusser’s Rum Blue Label: Dark up to 7 Year Old – Rum Masters 2015 Awards

Pusser’s Rum bottles, blends and distributes the original Pusser’s artisanal rum blends are crafted using time-honoured traditions and techniques. Each marque is hand-selected, according to specification, for its individual smoothness, flavour, and mellow depth. The rich flavour of Pusser’s Rum is all natural — no artificial flavouring or colouring is added.


Having tried, picked up and consumed a bottle of Pusser’s Spiced at RumFest, it is indeed tasty stuff and the Blue Label (I’m assuming that it is the reduced abv expression) was also a tasty piece of kit from what I recall of RumFest!

Up Spirits!

© Steven James and Rum Diaries Blog 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material, both written and photographic without the express and written permission from this blog/sites author and owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Steven James and Rum Diaries Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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Posted by on March 17, 2015 in Press Release, Rum


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