Rum Exchange Belize 2009

This wont be the first time that you’ve encountered a Rum Exchange release on these pages. Rum Exchange is Facebook Group that was created by Andreas Isopp to provide a platform for bottle and samples trading, but much more than that, it is also a company that was set up to facilitate the introduction and selling of Rums that not considered ‘mass market’. They take complete control of the import, trade and distribution of these brands and products. They provide a link between producers, retailers and consumers. I first covered their Rum Exchange Jamaica Trelawny back in August, which was release #001 for them. This Rum Exchange Belize 2009 from Travellers Distillery is release #003 for them. But a little about the distillery first.

In 1950’s Belize, sugar was a popular and plentiful commodity and seemingly on the surface everyone that owned a Plantation was bathed in wealth and producing their own Rum. Enter Jaime Omario Perdomo Sr. (Don Omario), a man with very humble roots who in 1953 opened a bar in Belize City. Given that his bar gained most of its custom from people travelling in or out of the city, Travellers seemed to be the most appropriate name. Travellers sold imported spirits and beers alongside locally produced Rums. At the time in Belize, the custom was for bars to create their own Rum blends and offer them for sale exclusively through their establishments and Don Omario was no different. He created his unique blends combining varying flavours and essences. As the exclusive Rum blend for Travellers proved popular, Don Omario sought a more consistent base for the blends. This proved to be more and more difficult as growing competition in the Rum manufacturing business meant that it was becoming harder to obtain spirits of a consistent enough quality. To overcome this, Don Omario entered into partnership with Luis Alberto Espat who agreed to build a distillery for him in Belmopan. Joined by his sons, Romel and Mayito in the 1970’s, the company began to grow in size. In 1983, Travellers was registered as a limited company and in 1989, when Luis Alberto Espat decided that he wanted out of the business, Travellers purchased his share of the company gaining full control over all aspects of the business for the first time. In 1992, Travellers upgraded its facility moving away from utilising acids to expedite its fermentation process and now, for their Rum (other spirits / alcohols are produced on site) they employ natural fermentation using locally sourced molasses and a double distillation in their triple column continuous still. Maturation is carried out in ex bourbon barrels at their facility.

Now most of us will have at some point had a run in with their most famous export, One Barrel…..a truly horrific concoction. Five Barrel doesn’t fare much better…..but apparently their Don Omario range breaks the cycle for their distillery bottlings. We have also seen other releases from Tiburon, Fair, That Boutique-y Rum Company, Cadenhead’s, Duncan Taylor, Whisky Broker, SBS, Kintra and The Duchess…..and now we have the Rum in question today, Rum Exchange Belize 2009.

Rum Exchange Belize 2009 – 60.8% abv – Modern Rum – 0 g/l additives

Distilled using local molasses, natural fermentation and a double distillation on their triple column continuous still in 2009, this Rum was matured in a tropical climate at the distillery in an ex-bourbon barrel until 2019 when it was bottled. A release of 288 bottles at an abv of 60.8%, this has no colouring, no additions and has not been chill filtered. With that said, lets have a look at how this fares.

Tasting Notes

Nose: A touch of solvent…and weirdly liquid paper, soon dissipates to usher in quite an apparent barrel led nose with plenty of splintery wet wood. Toasted coconut, a hint of vanilla. Charred wooden splints. A possible very light sulphur, but it doesn’t stick around. The alcohol definitely doesn’t interfere with the experience and it all remains quite calm and balanced providing you don’t shove your nose into the glass. Milk chocolate over sweetened coconut chunks. Something bitter but nutty, maybe a touch of walnut and maple syrup with the corresponding levels of bitterness. There’s also a caramel aroma, not burnt sugar caramel initially….more Caramac bar. A little perfumed and floral. Portuguese Custard Tarts too with their sweet custard and buttery crispy pastry.

Mouth: The entry is a little heated and initially carries none of the sweetness from the nose. As you acclimatise the heat builds with spicy, peppery barrel notes. This is quite cutting and dry straight away. What strikes you is just how big a mouthfeel this Rum has…not viscose, but more of a palate weight feeling. It’s a little in the ball park of a well aged Barbados Rum initially. Mid palate the spice and moisture sapping oak gives way a little to reveal mixed nut brittle, white and milk chocolate florentines. Cold Custard and warm Madeira cake. The Caramac from the nose makes an appearance. The oak remains a prominent characteristic of the experience through to the finish which carries a decent length and hangs vanilla, peppery barrel spice and a touch of walnut bitterness on the woody spine.

In conclusion: Beautiful development from nose to palate. Very well balanced and approachable even at its 60.8%. The nose is warming and carries enough interest to hold your attention with equal measures of wood influence and sweeter notes. The palate doesn’t succumb to the sweetness of the nose and it retains a pleasant woody character throughout with the light bitterness, mildly sweet / spicy interplay and pleasing weight lifting this Rum way above my expectations. Forget One Barrel……this is good stuff.

Not quite a 4.5 but more than a 4. Lets call it a 4.25.

4 / 5

© Steven James and Rum Diaries Blog 2020. 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.

Rum Sixty Six ‘Fine English White Rum’

I first saw this release when a friend sent me an image of the bottle. I was very intrigued as I know that Rum Sixty Six is a brand that for a good few years, a lot of us have trusted solely based upon the fact that it is / was a Foursquare product in the bottle. I mean, just look online for reviews of their Cask Strength 12 which is astonishingly good, their Family Reserve which has been upped to 43% (my own review of the 40% release from back in 2015 is available here) and the newer and younger of the aged releases which is their Extra Old 6. The Rum Sixty Six brand is owned by The Bajan Trading Company and in the tradition of all Rum brands, there was a back story…..

So, the Sixty Six of Rum Sixty Six refers to the 30th November 1966 which was a date that saw the Barbados Independence Act 1966 come into effect. The Act also presented the ability for a new constitution to take effect upon independence and this was actioned through the Barbados Independence Order 1966. This effectively made Barbados the fourth English speaking country in the West Indies to achieve full independence from the UK. A coat of arms adorns the bottle with the motto ‘Pride and Industry’. This coat of arms was adopted on the 14th February 1966 by decree of Queen Elizabeth II. The Family Reserve aspect refers to the fact that due to production costs and the effects of evaporation on long aging of Rum in Barbados, the quantities of Rum aged for this time period are reduced and their allocation reserved for family. With an allocation given the the British branch of the family which emigrated in the 1960’s. Up until the launch of Rum Sixty Six, it was only ever exported when members of the family returned home with unmarked bottles after visits to Barbados. So now that is out of the way…..

In 2016, Halewood Wines & Spirits purchased a significant stake in The Bajan Trading Company and initially really upped the profile of the brand, adding the aforementioned 12 Year Old Cask Strength and the 6 Year Extra Old as well as increasing the abv of the Family Reserve to 43%.  Sadly of late though, the Rum Sixty Six brand has seen itself appear at Rum Festivals on the same table as the Dead Man’s Fingers range……and I’ll be brutally honest, it looks completely out of place for a brand with such provenance. When I looked further and closer at the rest of the range, I picked up that although the Family Reserve and Cask Strength are still labelled as Barbados Rum from Foursquare, the 6 Year Extra Old offering is now labelled as a 6 Year Old Panama Rum……which brings us nicely onto the bottle that is up for assessment today……Rum Sixty Six ‘Fine English White Rum’. I picked mine up from The Drop Store for £13 down from £16 for a short while and the service received was great….the bottle is priced at around £20 on most other sites.

Rum Sixty Six ‘Fine English White Rum’ – 38% abv – 0g/l additions

There doesn’t seem to be a huge amount of information around about this release……it’s almost as if they want it to slip under the radar. I have sent several emails to Halewood with hopes of gaining information regarding the sourcing of the Rum and further details but as yet I have not received a response. What I am 100% sure of is that this is NOT a Foursquare Rum Distillery product. So all that we have to go on is the bottle information. A 2 Year Old ‘Caribbean’ Rum is imported to the UK where it is rectified at the Sovereign Distillery in Liverpool. This is then rested and ‘matured‘ in copper tanks. Apparently the result is an ‘outstandingly smooth white rum’.  What’s also amazing is that the rectification of a Caribbean Rum in the UK also makes it an English Rum…..Lets have a look.


Tasting Notes

Nose: Initially the nose on this is very neutral. In all fairness, even an hour in and its still very neutral. It has the spike of a very young spirit, a hint of sweet alcohol and it then just fades into white spirit.

Mouth: Neutral again. I’m trying hard to uncover something. Young, mildly sweet alcohol. A touch of white pepper before the burn of a harsh young spirit leaves you with a warm tongue and nothing else.

In conclusion: If I had to guess and without any of the requested information, I’d say that the base 2 Year Old Rum was multi column Rum. I also don’t really see the need for it to be matured as its hard to imagine that it has any impact on the bottled product, predominantly because I just can’t imagine it being any more lacklustre than it is in its current form. The rectification has reduced what was probably in all honesty, a dull base rum, to a joyless neutral spirit. Resting a spirit in holding tanks to allow the multiple batches to marry, I’ve read about…..’Maturation’ in copper tanks however is straight up nonsense. A Caribbean Rum rectified in the UK does not become an English Rum…..but I’m glad to see that they’re not trying to pass it off as a product of its origin country…..and that country of origin should also be mighty thankful.

You may now be wondering what I actually expected from a bottle that can cost up to £20…..so I opened a couple of unaged and lightly aged & filtered Rums that cost the same or less than this bottling and carried out a side by side tasting. These were Alleyne Arthur’s White Rum from Barbados which cost me £6 (creamy, citrus oil, ginger, surprising body), Rum Bar Silver from Jamaica which cost me £22 (straight up Ester driven funk) and for the multi-column comparison I opened Don Q Cristal which cost me £20 (ginger, lightly floral, citrus). They all offer a far better experience than this bottling for similar money…..and let’s face it, you can buy Appleton Signature for £15 at times.

The really saddening thing to see is that this brand, which has built a solid reputation upon being associated with a trusted Rum producer, is being exploited and treated with such utter disdain in this way by a brand owner that clearly doesn’t care. Using the purchased Rum Sixty Six name, which up until this point has been synonymous with quality, severely and irreparably damaging it by unleashing this perfect storm of neutral spirit and meaningless marketing hogwash on an unsuspecting public is absolutely unforgivable.

This whole experience shows the complete disrespect that still exists from some quarters towards the category and the consumer.

0 / 5


© Steven James and Rum Diaries Blog 2020. 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.

Chairman’s Reserve Master’s Selection 2006 13 Years Old Exclusive to The Whisky Exchange

The Chairman’s Reserve Master’s Selection 2006 13 Years Old Exclusive to The Whisky Exchange (to give it its full and complete title) is one of a deluge of new releases that we have seen from St Lucia Distillers under their Chairman’s Reserve label recently. With a bit of a dry spell for new releases from the distillery being well and truly ended as like the proverbial buses, you wait ages for one…..so and and so forth. Not that there will be any complaints from me…for once. Before we get into this Rum, a little history about the distillery.

Saint Lucia is one of the Windward Islands. The Windward Islands are the South Eastern, generally larger Islands of the Lesser Antilles within the West Indies. They are comprised of Dominica, Martinique, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent & the Grenadines and Grenada. I have sadly never visited, but I am more than aware of the Pitons. The Pitons are two mountainous volcanic spires, Gross Piton and Petit Piton that grace the Chairman’s Reserve labels.

St Lucia Distillers emerged from a long tradition of on site, rustic rum production that was a common feature of the West Indies sugar plantations. The molasses (a by-product of the sugar industry) was fermented and distilled into Rum which was always in high demand, despite the fluctuations in the economy of the West Indian plantations. By the late 1950’s, only two distilleries remained on Saint Lucia. One in Dennery on the East coast, established in 1931 which was the site of the Barnard family plantation and the other in the Roseau valley which was owned and operated by Geest, a Dutch banana company. The St Lucia Distillers Group was formed in 1972 when due to the rise in European sugar beet, sugar production on Saint Lucia ended forcing the Barnard family to enter into a joint venture with the Geest owned Distillery moving their operations from the Dennery Distillery to the Roseau Bay Distillery in the Roseau Valley. This is the current location of St Lucia Distillers. In 1992, the Barnard family, who had been planters and Rum distillers for over a century, purchased the Geest shares. In 1997, the Barnard family sold some of their shares to Angostura Ltd before in 2005 selling their remaining shares to Clico Barbados Holdings with third generation rum maker Laurie Barnard staying on as Managing Director. In 2012 Laurie Barnard passed away and in 2013, Mrs Margaret Monplaisir was appointed his replacement. In early 2016, Martinique-based “Groupe Bernard Hayot” (GBH) acquired Saint Lucia Distillers Group of Companies (SLD) for an undisclosed sum.

Since its inception in 1972, St Lucia Distillers have grown from producers of single label mass market Rum to producers of well-regarded Rums and Rum based products. Not surprising given their capabilities. Distillation at St Lucia Distillers takes place on one of their 4 stills…..1 continuous and 3 batch.

Continuous

Coffey Still – The two column (continuous) Coffey Still at St Lucia Distillers was commissioned in 1985.

Batch

John Dore 1 – This pot still distills both molasses and sugarcane juice Rums, has a 1500 litre capacity and was commissioned in 1998.

John Dore 2 – This pot still distills only molasses Rum, has a 6000 litre capacity and was commissioned in 2004.

Vendome – This pot still distills both molasses and sugarcane juice Rums, has a 2000 litre capacity and was commissioned in 2003.

Vendome Pot Still centre, John Dore II behind, John Dore I left

I’m a big fan of a lot of the output from the distillery with a particular penchant for the Vendome and John Dore I stills, and there is far more information contained within this site as I have previously written quite extensively about the distillery. Information can be found by clicking here.

Right….lets get into the Rum in question…..the Chairman’s Reserve Master’s Selection 2006 13 Years Old Exclusive to The Whisky Exchange.

Chairman’s Reserve Master’s Selection 2006 13 Years Old Exclusive to The Whisky Exchange – 56.3%abv


Distilled in pre-August 2006, this Rum is a 50 / 50 blend of batch distilled Rums. The first was distilled on the 2000 litre capacity Vendome Pot Still and the second was distilled on the 1500 litre capacity John Dore I Pot Still. Matured in ex bourbon barrels for a full minimum term of 13 years at the distillery in St Lucia, this Rum was bottled at 56.3% abv on 16th August 2019 is devoid of additives. Its great when there are no shenanigans. Only 286 bottles and this one is 264.

Tasting Notes

Nose: As expected, the nose on this blend of pot distillates is a big one. There’s so much billowing out of the glass. Quite sharp initially it also possesses some sweetness. The unmistakable qualities of both stills are fully on display here. Medicinal is the order of the day for the Vendome and more classic pot still notes are present for the John Dore I. Acetone is unmistakable and very prominent. Plenty of brine is accompanied by an acidic, almost balsamic note. Sticking plasters. Pine. Sweet menthol notes. Given time to breathe in the glass, you can push past the medicinal characteristics and this really opens up. There’s cherry stone aroma, similar to the one found in the new Mount Gay Pot Still release. This ushers in barrel influence with wet wood, vanilla and some growing spice characteristics….think black pepper, ginger, fennel seeds, candied hazelnuts and the unmistakable aroma of the cedar wood insert from a cigar tube. I want to say black tea too…..it kind of is and isn’t at the same time. A minerality follows this with wet pumice stone. There’s a sweet sugared almond or maybe a powdered sugar aroma that sticks with the back end and some warm sticky tropical fruit like papaya and guava jam show up. Molasses, Raisins, dates and maybe black walnut bitters. It becomes almost floral at the back end.

Mouth: Blimey. There it is. Big. Dry. Tannic. Very oily. Plenty of warmth to the entry but not as much heat as expected. It’s in possession of a big and oily mouthfeel and that starts bringing a fair bit of acidity which grows a little too much and becomes mildly distracting….fortunately only for a short while. It’s a little tangled and knotted based upon the first sip and you definitely need to acclimatise to separate the experience, but it starts to develop very nicely with the Vendome medicinal notes playing a role up front and dead centre. Herbal tablets. Antiseptic. Fiery ginger. Medicinal, verging on peat smoke…..more Ledaig than Caol Ila though as it’s carried on the drying wet spicy oak. It teases your mouth encouraging your salivary glands to work overtime with its dry pepper, sharp vinegar and citrus oil. This slowly guides you towards the John Dore I with its acetone, brine and salty coastal notes. The mid palate has plenty of weight and is barrel led initially with cocoa, ginger, and plenty of peppery heat. A touch more smoke, leather, cedar sap, pine and menthol. Milk chocolate coated ginger pieces…..think more fiery heat than sweet ginger. Maybe a hint of cigar tobacco. The back end brings chocolate coated honeycomb, caramelised peanuts and cashews. A touch of sweet syrupy black cherry and a heady mix of stewed rhubarb and ginger syrup. The finish is still going…..it’s a full reflection of the preceding experience. The herbal, acetone, brine, medicinal and sharp notes pull you through heat and spice into the fading sweetness of honeycomb, caramelised nuts, and strangely a hint of melon Jolly Rancher sweets. The barrel bursts in at the death with black pepper, fennel, a return of the minerality rounded out with sweet smoke and menthol.

In Conclusion: It’s a near spot on amalgamation of the more straight up (when compared to its bottle mate) pot still nose of the John Dore I with its acetone and brine and the more weighty medicinal nose of the Vendome. The balance achieved on both the nose and palate with these two big, vocal characters is very impressive and is testament to what they can do at St Lucia Distillers. It continues to develop and the transition from nose to palate is excellent. It’s no secret that my favourite still at St Lucia Distillers is the Vendome, second place goes to John Dore I…..it could’ve been a mess…but it isn’t. The John Dore I tempers the Vendome perfectly well and the abv is spot on. Now all we need are regular releases like this with more blend combinations…..I’d even like to see a John Dore I only bottling released here. It’s not without its flaws…..but it’s just so enjoyable. Well done St Lucia Distillers…..you listened…..and this Rum geek is very happy.

4.5 / 5

© Steven James and Rum Diaries Blog 2020. 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.