Havana Club Tributo 2019

I was fortunate enough to have recently been asked if I’d like to try a small sample of the new Havana Club Tributo 2019. Not wanting to miss out on the opportunity I said yes. There is a little accompanying background information on the release that I’d like to give prior to my thoughts.

Havana Club Tributo 2019 marks the fourth iteration of this series of releases. The 2019 Havana Club Tributo release has been blended by three generations of Maestros del Ron Cubano. Don Jose Navarro, Maestro del Ron Cubano; Asbel Morales, Maestro del Ron Cubano; and Salome Aleman, the first and only female Maestra del Ron Cubano were tasked with selecting a rare and extra-aged Rum base representing their own style and laid down in the decade of their appointment to their position. 1970’s. 1990’s and 2010’s respectively. These base Rums, including and additional one that had been matured in rare Cognac casks were combined and then blended again with a Rum that has spent in excess of 25 years in French Oak. Presentation wise the Rum comes in a wooden box and each of the available 2500 bottles are individually numbered and will set you back €400.

So there you go. Some particularly old Rum sitting within this bottle, and quite a commanding price tag to go with it. But what does it taste like?

Havana Club Tributo 2019 – 40% abv – Modern Rum

Tasting Notes

Nose: The Rum is a very intense proposition. Quite heavy and dominant oak leads as expected for something with components of this age. There is a welcome astringent bite of French oak that really increases the pungency of the Rum in the glass. Dried fruit comes to the fore with particular emphasis on candied fruit peels accompanied by a burnt sugar. Dried apricots, flamed orange peel and a little fruit cake spice such as clove, nutmeg and cinnamon. It remains quite tannin led and its all the better for it. The trademark leather and the merest hint of cigar box are present but the French oak really lifts the nose on this above other Cuban Rums that I’ve tried and brings a lot more complexity to a style of Rum that I have grown a little disillusioned with.

Mouth: A sweeter entry than desired and this is accompanied by a far lighter mouthfeel than expected. Quite simplistic to begin with….Vanilla. Fruit cake with a brown sugar crust. A freshly opened bag of dried prunes. Lightly toasted almonds. Custard and buttery shortcrust pastry. In actual fact, the palate remains quite simplistic and is lacking the complexity hoped for. I expected more of that wonderful oak that was found on the extremely impressive nose, but sadly I’m left wanting. Sure there is oak, but nothing like the intense drying behemoth that I expected. I get the feeling that sweetening has been added to combat the effects of the extensive maturation, maybe even to assist in cigar pairing. Unfortunately this is dulling the experience rather a lot for me. The finish is a relatively lengthy one with fruit cake mix, mild oak and the trademark cigar box.

2 / 5

*Hydrometer Test Result – Label stated abv 40% – Measured abv 39% – 3.9 g/l additives*

The level of additives surprised me as it certainly felt like more (so much so that I ran the test three times), and I know that I’m not alone in this thinking. Higher abv would really help this bottling and if this could be presented at the 45% of their very enjoyable Selección de Maestros, that would’ve really assisted on the palate. The complexity of the nose is a delight to experience with its heavy, brooding oak, dried fruits, and the impact on the overall aroma that the French oak has had cannot be under emphasised….but sadly it does not carry through to the palate which a little dulled and lacklustre…hence the score. Could’ve been great, but my experience was found to be lacking.

© Steven James and Rum Diaries Blog 2019. 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.

R. L. Seale’s Finest Barbados Rum – Export Proof

A relatively short one today as this is a re-review of sorts…..R.L Seale’s Finest Barbados Rum, or R.L Seale’s 10 as I’ve previously called it and how others know it has been around for a while and for me has been one of the most classic examples of Barbados Rum available. Numerous members of the Rum Community have sung its praises on multiple occasions….in fact I’d rate it on any list of ‘must have’ bottles for Rum lovers both new and old. You can read my rather basic summation of the bottle in its previous 43% abv guise here. You only have to scroll through the pages here to understand the high regard in which I hold Foursquare Distillery……But let’s dig into it.

R.L Seale’s Finest Barbados Rum – Export Proof – 46% abv – Single Blended Rum

What you have in the quite unique and very recognisable blue-bottle is a Single Blended rum. A blend of Coffey Column and Pot Still rum from Foursquare Distillery. It is a minimum of ten years old and has been matured in ex-bourbon barrels. It is a Classic Foursquare proposition and one that I enjoyed multiple bottles of in its 43% iteration. I was quite excited to see it released as a 46% products, I had no real issue with it at 43% as it always delivered just what I was looking for….classic Barbados. But it’s always nice to get that little uplift to see how it affects the overall experience and Richard is not one to do these things on a whim, there will have been thought and reasoning behind it. I had forgotten about this bottling for a while, as if often the way. But over the course of the past few months I have found myself reaching for it more and more frequently….so I thought that a re-visit was on the cards.

Tasting Notes

Nose: Classic Foursquare and classic Barbados. Vanilla. Caramel. Buttery pastries. A warming, well-integrated yet spicy wood influence. Growing powdery cocoa and a hint of coconut. The oak brings a touch of black pepper and nutmeg. A hint of raisins and citrus peel. More time in the glass reveals freshly cut apple, sugared almonds and the mildest floral top notes. Beautiful stuff.

Mouth: Beautifully dry entry but along with the obvious oak and vanilla it brings a sweetness of coconut and milk chocolate. Raisins and mixed fruit peel. Maybe a touch of citrus oil. The mid palate is all about the commanding oak. It is very drying and brings with it some welcome spice notes like cinnamon and white pepper. Flamed orange oils. It also brings a buttery pastry like quality and a hint of almond tart. Warm crème brûlée. The finish brings a little crisp apple and some raisins, maybe juicy plums before the oak and particularly the warming spiced barrel notes lead you off into the sunset. Classic Foursquare peach vapours at the death. It is both robust and gentle whilst remaining approachable.

4.5 / 5

*Hydrometer Test Result – Label stated abv 46% – Measured abv 46% – 0 g/l additives*

I had decanted and saved a small bottle of my 43% release at there was crossover with this release. Assessing it side by side I note that there does not appear to be as much caramel colour added to the new release…it is more of a straw gold…don’t let the image fool you. I also noted that this 46% release is not as wood heavy on the nose or the palate and its better for it. It just delivers more of everything…..and here’s the real killer….it is still available for between £35 and £40 in the UK.

Things are changing for Foursquare though, they are very much in the ascendancy with the Exceptional Cask Series and their collaborations with Velier….but this exposure and acclaim has been earned by producing such consistently good releases such as R.L Seale’s, the Doorly’s range and my particular favourite, Old Brigand. This bottling remains as classic an example of Barbados Rum, and Foursquare Distillery as you’ll find.

© Steven James and Rum Diaries Blog 2019. 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.

Diablesse Caribbean Rum

New Rum brands are popping up everywhere…..and here is another…..but I have a little more knowledge about this one. Around two years ago I met brand owner Cleo Farman for lunch in South Manchester. She had contacted me as a result of a mutual friend suggesting that we discuss her ideas for bringing a new Rum blend to market. I had prepared a few of my own blends from my home stock for us to discuss at that initial meeting. There were a few real stand outs (for me) and a few were pretty ropey. Anyhow, we discussed distilleries and principles and the state of the industry from a consumer standpoint. As is often pointed out, we Rum Enthusiasts sometimes exist in an echo chamber whereby we are surrounded by similar views on what constitutes good Rum. My focus during discussions was on the formulation of an honest product, free from additives and nonsense. Cleo, who has previously owned multiple successful bars in Manchester happily agreed and listened as I rabbited on about the importance of not messing around with Rum. If you are doing it, do it justice. I sang the virtues of distilleries like Foursquare, Mount Gay, Worthy Park, Hampden and St Lucia Distillers and all of this information was absorbed. Things were going well and I was hopefully going to be more involved in the project but then due to personal issues (if you know, you know) in early May last year I had to back away and sort a few things out. Fortunately Cleo pursued the project and with the help of a few quality bar tending friends progressed with sourcing and trialing blends. Fast forward to early November 2018 and I met for lunch with Cleo again. In her hand she had the final blend. She also had a brand name and label images. In mid February I was able to purchase this creation from Master of Malt. I’d imagine this to be a pretty proud moment and reward for Cleo’s hard work….and financial outlay! Below is a little image that I took at the launch at Cottonopolis in Manchester…..one of the signature drinks is a quite awesome Roasted Banana Daiquiri. So we know that it plays very nicely in cocktails…..but what does it taste like?

Diablesse Caribbean Rum – 40% abv – Blended Rum

So here we have it. Diablesse Caribbean Rum. There is a marketing tale to accompany the Diablesse name but I’ll let you view the brand website for that. Presentation is in a nice heavy bottomed squat bottle….similar to the one that the excellent Woods has started using and from the wooden topped cork stopper to the label design and material its a pretty classy package. But its whats in the bottle that counts. This Rum is blend of three Rums. An 8-year-old Single Blended Rum from Foursquare Distillery in Barbados, a 4-year-old Pure Single Rum from Worthy Park in Jamaica and a 2 year old Traditional Rum from the Enmore Coffey Still at DDL in Guyana. Proportions wise, though not deadly accurate, we have roughly 45% Barbados, 35% Jamaica and 20% Guyana. Along with the sourcing of credible Rums for the blend is the little note on the label……Pure, Golden Rum free from added sugar and other adulteration…..It is this principle that I put so much emphasis on during our early discussions….and the fact that it made such an impact on Cleo that it has made it to the label is very satisfying on a personal level.

Tasting Notes

Nose: A beautiful candied aroma. The Worthy Park definitely rules the early exchanges. Tropical fruit punch. Trademark overripe banana. Molasses. This leads into a char-grilled pineapple. The maturity of the Foursquare component brings coconut shavings and a warming, well-integrated oak with just a hint of spice notes from the barrel. Cocoa powder and vanilla fudge. Beautifully light marshmallow.

Mouth: Very soft and gentle entry. Butterscotch Angel Delight. Freshly sliced tropical fruit accompanied by a gooseberry like sharpness. Relatively thin mouthfeel and a little alcohol bite….but a touch of youthful exuberance never did any harm. Mid palate brings spice bun and mashed banana with just a sip of black tea before warming, peppery oak and vanilla hits home. Subsequent visits reveal more of the interplay between the banana of the Worthy Park and the well-integrated oak and classic peach vapours of Foursquare. The moderate length finish is warm and spice led with banana bread, dried cranberries, pineapple cubes and a little black pepper.

3.5/5

*Hydrometer Test Result – Label stated abv 40% – Measured abv 40% – 0 g/l additives*

Price wise this sits at the higher end of standard at £37. Like Neptune which is the last top quality new brand that came before it, it is an economy of scale thing. But like that Rum, as sales increase, pricing may change. I’ve definitely spent a lot more on a less honest and poorer quality product. This is no-nonsense tasty blend of two of my favourite distilleries plus a little Enmore column still to lighten things up. It’s clear that Cleo cares about the Rum given her emphasis on no additives. I’d buy another, and I reckon that you should pick one up too.

© Steven James and Rum Diaries Blog 2019. 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.

El Dorado 25 Year Old Rum – 1986 Vintage

I last wrote about El Dorado Rums a good few years ago. To summaries a little about the brand, I previously compiled this information:

“El Dorado rums are produced by Demerara Distillers Limited (DDL) at the Plantation Diamond Distillery. This lies on the east bank of the Demerara River, Demerara County, Guyana (which is on the north-eastern shoulder of South America). Sugar and Rum production has existed in Demerara County since the 17th Century. The big breakthrough came in the 1650’s when the British planters introduced the pivotal process of distilling. This proved to be so popular that by 1670, every sugar estate had a small still attached to it which meant that by the 1700’s there were well over 300 independent estates involved in producing their own unique rums in over 300 stills. Through time these estates and distilleries have been amalgamated to the point that the Plantation Diamond Distillery operated by DDL is the last remaining distillery in Guyana. Here they have retained the old marques, traditional skills and original stills which make Demerara Rum distinctive. With 9 different stills, there is no other rum distillery that can offer the range and variety that DDL can spread over 20 different styles of rum.”

With that said, maybe we have a look at this expensive bottling.

El Dorado 25 Year Old Rum – 1986 Vintage – 43% abv

One thing to say from the off, is that the age statements on El Dorado bottlings are pretty much bullet proof. What you get with it is a minimum age….not aged up to. Looking to obtain blend component information I was struggling to unearth a complete list but a glance at the review of the 1988 release over at Lance’s site, The Lone Caner, gave a few of the components. The blend contains, amongst others, EHP from the Enmore Wooden Coffey Still, PM from the Port Mourant Double Wooden Pot Still and AN from the Albion French Savalle Still. There have been releases so far from 1980, 1986 and 1988 and so far as I know, these components have been present in all. Presentation is suitably flashy for something that will set you back around £435 in the UK as it is still available at Drinks Supermarket in its 1986 guise. Lets see if it warrants that price tag…..

Tasting Notes

Nose: Not as giving as I’d hoped. Initial aromas are of banana caramel and thick molasses. Walnuts. Iced coffee and walnut cake. With time a maceration of prunes, raisins and dates shows itself but you have to work hard. I’d expect maybe a hint of bitterness given its age and components, but not a hint of that PM anise is present. Maple syrup like aromas and a clear and obvious sweetening. It almost smells granulated if that’s possible. A hint of light floral notes with concentration but man this is dull.

Mouth: Very thick mouthfeel….sadly I feel that it’s not from craft. Quite oily….though it feels more ‘greasy’ as is its layering of your tongue. Vanilla. Melted Quality Street Caramel Pennies. Each sip clings to your mouth in a most alarming way. That coffee and walnut cake complete with coffee icing. Mild raisin like notes like a poor quality old PX sherry. A hint of citrus oil….maybe. None of the expected oak from its 25 years. None of that enjoyable tannic bitterness that I was craving. It’s just sweet….full of dead spots and is a huge disappointment. The finish which is short, is all vanilla, oily sweetness and sweet soft liquorice. A crying shame.

If this is Super Premium, you can keep it. I’ll take entry-level.

*Hydrometer Test Result – Label stated abv 43% – Measured abv 32.5% – 39.8 g/l additives*

0.5 / 5

Very often, myself included in the past, the Rum community have given an easier ride to El Dorado given the fact that they have such a collection of heritage stills at DDL. But one evening I contemplated this approach…..and I questioned myself. I’ve seen reasoning that this product is nowhere near as bad as a lot of products like Bumbu, Don Papa and the like and sure, it doesn’t taste as bad as those offerings. But ask yourself, is taking a poor distillate, filling it full of additions and then hawking it as ‘premium rum’ for £35 a bottle really worse than what’s happened here? Taking a blend of quality distillates from heritage stills and through whatever means, sweetening them to the point of removing so much character that you render it unrecognisable….and then selling it as a ‘super premium’ product for £435? I find both practices massively deceitful, and I find the latter very disrespectful. It’s such a shame as this could’ve, and should’ve been wonderful. Sadly, it’s a dull, uneventful mess.

Fortunately we have the El Dorado Rare Collection to fall back upon…….

© Steven James and Rum Diaries Blog 2019. 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.