The Barbados GI & Why It Will NOT Threaten Diversity & Innovation

There has been talk within Rum circles and Facebook Forums about the proposed Barbados and recently completed Jamaican GI, and how there are concerns that this may stifle innovation and quell diversity. The following is the ‘as written’ response to this fallacy by Richard Seale which he has kindly agreed to allow me to publish in its entirety….and it is the best thing that you’ll read on the subject. Enjoy.

THE PROTECTION OF BARBADOS RUM

As Jamaica has completed their Geographical Indication for “Jamaican Rum” and Barbados moves to completion of their GI, it becomes increasingly important to dispel the canards around this important process.

With rum we have many canards – rum has no rules – rum is diverse and varied because of this wonderful lack of rules. Unlike other spirits, we are told Rum has no “global rules”. And that there are efforts to have a global rule which will crush our diversity.

See my takedown of this here – https://cocktailwonk.com/2017/08/richard-seales-epic-takedown-rum-no-rules.html

A recent canard is that a GI (a registered intellectual property) is a further threat to this diversity and a threat to “innovation”.

The irony of this situation is that a GI seeks to preserve and protect this diversity. It is the essential tool by which this is accomplished. And the dreaded fear of selling rum under one “unified” rule is EXACTLY WHAT HAPPENS NOW AND IS PRECISELY WHAT A GI WILL SOLVE.

If Caribbean producers sell rum into the US, it is not the standards of identity (“the rules”) of Jamaica, Martinique or Barbados that apply. It is the rules of the United States TTB that apply. That is right, despite being from three very different and diverse rum producing countries, they will be sold in the US under the same ONE rule. This means that although AGAINST THE LAW OF JAMAICA to add anything to rum besides caramel a Jamaica Rum can be sold in the US with added flavours including sugar (and labeled as Jamaican Rum) because the generic rule for Rum sold in the US allows blenders to be added to any rum.

But the situation is very different for the spirits produced by developed countries. The United States TTB will enforce the rules of Scotland for a Scotch Whisky sold in the US. The United States TTB will enforce the rules of Cognac for a Cognac sold in the US. The US will not protect a Jamaican Rum or a Barbadian Rum from adulteration in the US. The US does not control the use of the word ‘Agricole’ in the US market leading to all sorts of hideous products, not remotely consistent with the standards of ‘Agricole’ being legally labeled as Agricole

Now the US does not directly recognise GIs so creating a GI alone will not be enough to solve this issue in the US but the US illustrates the challenge of protecting our diversity very well and the GI will be the necessary first step.

The same situation applies in the EU save for the fact that the EU does recognise some GIs at this point (for example the word Agricole is protected) and it is hoped that they will recognise the GIs of Jamaican and Barbados in due course. At the moment, a Jamaica Rum and a Barbados Rum are sold in the EU under one and the same EU rule. If the EU recognises our individual GIs, it means that a Barbados Rum sold in the EU will need to meet “Barbados Rules” and a Jamaica Rum will need to meet “Jamaica Rules”. That diversity everyone wants will be protected – that dreaded ‘global rule’ for rum, avoided.

Because the EU recognises the GI for Scotch Whisky, the additional requirements to meet the standards of identity for Scotch Whisky over the EU generic standard for whisky are recognised and the label “Scotch Whisky” is protected throughout the EU. The GI for Jamaica Rum and the draft GI for Barbados pose additional requirements, over and above the generic EU definition of Rum (the “one” rule) to protect and preserve the characteristic identity of these rums. The GI is the tool by which we will protect our diversity. The GI is the tool by which we avoid having to produce under one “global rule”.

What of the claim that a GI stifles innovation?

Lets be clear as to what exactly is innovation. Marketing gimmicks that do not add value are not innovations. Changing the elements of repute in a Jamaica Rum or a Barbados Rum is not innovation. A GI is not a legal restraint on a producer. All producers continue to operate under the existing laws. A GI is a piece of intellectual property protecting how a type of “trademark” can be used – it places no law whatsoever on production. It constrains no one from producing as they please. It constrains them from labeling as they please. A Jamaican musician can play any tune just do not expect it to be called reggae unless it sounds like reggae.

So what are these innovation stifling constraints in the Barbados and Jamaica GIs:

– Barbadian trained operators

– fermented and distilled in Barbados/Jamaica

– Saccharomyces types only for yeast

– local water source only

– free of additives except caramel which must only be used for colour (Barbados draft GI has a quantitative albeit generous limit on caramel) – the same restriction in Scotch

– minimum ester levels for Jamaica rum (by marque)

– aged in oak (“small” is the Jamaica requirement, 700 litres maximum for Barbados)

– aged entirely in Jamaica (a min of two years in Barbados).

– Jamaica rum must pass an organoleptic test

I will address the wisdom of “restricting to oak” in another post, save to say that is hardly onerous and Scotch Whisky has the same “restriction”. There is a plethora of excellent oak casks available for “innovation”. One obvious point is that it keeps a point of difference between rum and cachaca and preserves an important distinction in our social and economic history.

Aging is Europe is a product of the colonial way of doing business where only limited value was earned in the colonies and product whether it be sugar, rum or bauxite was to be shipped at the lowest commodity value. Bulk brown sugar would leave the Caribbean in the ship’s hold but arrive on the supermarket shelf as branded granulated sugar. Bulk molasses sold as branded ‘treacle” once on the shelf.

The advent of continental aging therefore had nothing whatsoever to do with product quality and it is absurd as ageing Scotch Whisky in southern Spain. It simply steals value from the local producers leaving rich European brands and decrepit local operations. The Barbados GI arguably does not go far enough. Bravo to Jamaica – this “restraint” is worth millions in forex earnings. A greater share of what you pay for that bottle of rum ends up in the Caribbean with “restraints” like this.

Conforming Rums must (may?) use the words “certified Geographical Indication” on all documents including labels. Non conforming rums can be made but they will not be able to simply state “Jamaican Rum” or “Barbados Rum” and most importantly – “the use of any indication or sign which may cause a buyer to believe that a rum has the right to use the protected Geographical Indication “Jamaica Rum”, although it does not satisfy all the conditions defined in the present decree will be prosecuted”.

You cannot sell your product under another’s brand because of trademark law and you cannot sell your product under another’s protected origin because of intellectual property law. You add something to Jamaica Rum – it is no longer Jamaican Rum – that is the law of the land of Jamaica. A recognised Jamaican GI means you cannot avoid Jamaican law by selling in Europe. No more selling pure rum as “dry style rum” and sweetened rum as “rum”. In Jamaica and Barbados, rum without added sweetener is just known as rum. I have never in my life heard any Jamaican or Barbadian call it “dry style” rum. Would I dare go to Scotland and call all whiskies “dry style”? Who am I to dictate that.

So you can continue to flavour Jamaica Rum you just cannot label it in a way that may cause confusion to the buyer that they have purchased certified Jamaica Rum. The diversity and identity, created by Jamaicans, will now be protected.

Europeans created the concept of protected origins and it is used extensively by developed countries to develop and protect the intrinsic value of their products in export markets. Our time is now.

We and fellow Barbadian owned producer St Nicholas Abbey are on the record as supporting the Barbados GI as drafted.

The EU generic rule for Rum for which all Rums need to comply

The generic US TTB rule for Rum for which all Rums irrespective of origin need to comply

The US recognises and applies different rules for different types of Whisky. No such recognition for Rum – so a Rum labeled Agricole in the US need not even be from fresh juice

The US TTB will enforce the rules of different origins for different spirits but not for Rum. Even Canadian Whisky is protected.

A GI is a form of Intellectual Property – it is not a law constraining how Rum can be made

The EU will recognise GIs – they must then comply with the rules they submit through their technical file

The EU will protect a registered GI. Scotch is a GI and so Scotch sold in the EU must match the rules in the Scotch technical file, it is not enough to conform to the generic EU rule for whisky

The EU does protect some GIs for Rum. We hope to add Barbados and Jamaica to this list

An example of Cognac applying to New Zealand to say protect our origin. We need to do the same for Rum and the GI is the first step. Diversity can then be protected.

The Scotch Whisky technical file details the difference between the rules of Scotch and the generic whisky rule of the EU. They add further detail to this page.

To gain a recognised GI in the EU, a technical file must be submitted.

Jamaica has an organoleptic test requirement for its GI

I personally find it hard to understand why anyone that has an interest in the future and protection of the Rums and the people of Barbados would ever not think that the Barbados GI is an essential thing.

© Steven James and Rum Diaries Blog 2018. 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.

Drinks By The Dram Advent Calendars for 2017

*Press Release*

DRINKS BY THE DRAM UNVEILS 2017 ADVENT CALENDAR SELECTION

  • A collection of 25 different calendars packed with an extraordinary range of outstanding spirits, giving drinks enthusiasts the chance to try something new every day during Advent. Behind each window lies a 30ml handmade, wax-sealed dram!
  • New for 2017: Drinks by the Dram has expanded its Advent Calendar range through collaborations with Douglas Laing and That Boutique-y Gin Company
  • Returning favourites include The Whisky Advent Calendar, featuring whiskies aged for up to 50 years; The Gin Advent Calendar; and The Very Old & Rare Whisky Advent Calendar which boasts exceptionally hard-to-find whiskies from closed distilleries
  • All calendars available for pre-order now with RRPs ranging from £99.95 to £9,999.95

Drinks by the Dram Advent Calendars are back for the sixth year running with an award-winning range to ensure every drinks enthusiast can count down to Christmas in the company of their favourite spirit.

For 2017, classic favourites including Whisky, Gin and Rum are joined by exciting new additions, including a Calendar packed with whiskies from renowned independent bottler Douglas Laing, and another filled to the brim with incredible gins from the world’s best distillers, bottled by That Boutique-y Gin Company.

Highlights include the Premium Whisky Calendar, which showcases remarkable expressions from top distilleries, and the Gin Advent Calendar, packed with unconventional, horizon-expanding gins.

The Very Old & Rare Calendar, featuring incredible treats aged for up to 60 years from the likes of Karuizawa, Port Ellen, and The Macallan, is presented in a bespoke wooden box handcrafted by Kent-based cabinet-maker Simon Jewell Designs and available in Walnut and Macassar Ebony finishes.

“As proven with excellent growth over the last few years, these calendars are the perfect gift for the spirit geek or serious imbiber in your life,” said Adam Wyartt, global brand manager, Drinks by the Dram.

“We are thrilled to see how consumers want to trial more, exploring categories and price points – and these Advent Calendars are the ideal way of bringing that opportunity to family and friends.”

Drinks by the Dram first launched its line of handsome Advent calendars in 2012, starting with The Whisky Advent Calendar. Since then the range has grown year-on-year, always showcasing the most exciting liquid across each category and price bracket.

This year the full Drinks by the Dram Advent Calendar range includes Whisky, Premium Whisky, Old & Rare Whisky, Very Old & Rare Whisky, Scotch Whisky, Bourbon, American Whiskey, Japanese Whisky, Irish Whiskey, Single Cask Whisky, Gin, Vodka, Rum, Cognac, Tequila, Armagnac, Mezcal and Absinthe.

Drinks by the Dram has also teamed up with a number of brands to offer Advent Calendars filled with expressions from That Boutique-y Whiskey Company, Glenfarclas Scotch whisky, The ‘Hot Enough’ Vodka Co., Gin Foundry, Origin Single Botanical Gin, That Boutique-y Gin Company and Douglas Laing whisky.

The Drinks by the Dram 2017 Advent Calendars are available to pre-order from 31 Dover, Amazon and Master of Malt, and will be available from all good drinks retailers shortly. RRPs range from £99.95 to £9,999.95.

*End*

Clearly I have huge interest in the Rum Advent Calendar and if the last few years are anything to go by, there can be a few real stunners in amongst the ones that I will have inevitably tried in the past. The new Douglas Laing Calendar looks interesting too as I’m rather fond of independent bottlings! I’m not wanting to wish the next few months away, but roll on December!

 

© Steven James and Rum Diaries Blog 2017. 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

Drinks by the Dram unveil the Whisky (and Rum) Advent Calendars for 2016

*Press Release*

Drinks by the Dram 2016

Drinks by the Dram unveil the 2016 Whisky Advent Calendar

  • Drinks by the Dram launch the 2016 Whisky Advent calendar containing drams aged for over 50 years, and worth up to £600 per bottle as part of a range of 23 unique spirit-filled calendars.
  • This year’s new additions to the range include Advent Calendars dedicated to Scotch, American, Irish and Japanese whiskies, as well as collaborations with Glenfarclas, That Boutique-y Whisky Company and Origin Gin.
  • Drinks by the Dram also unveil the Very Old & Rare Whisky Advent Calendar, with an RRP of £9,999.95 and boasting a bevy of extraordinarily rare whiskies.

For the fifth year running, the range of Drinks by the Dram Advent Calendars has returned. The selection once again features classics like Whisky, Ginvent and Rum, while exciting new additions include calendars dedicated to Scotch, American, Irish and Japanese whiskies along with calendars full of Glenfarclas Single Malt, independent whisky bottlings from That Boutique-y Whisky Company and Origin Single Estate Gins made with juniper sourced from specific regions all around the world.

The Whisky Advent Calendar was launched in 2012, and has since become a tradition among whisky enthusiasts, letting them count down to Christmas and explore the world’s best whiskies. Each handmade, wax-sealed dram allows whisky fans to sample a new expression, tasting everything from single grain and bourbon to rare Scotch worth up to £600 a bottle.

Drinks by the Dram 2016 Box Image

2016 marks the debut of the Drinks by the Dram Very Old & Rare Whisky Advent Calendar (RRP £9,999.95), developing on the concept introduced by the Old & Rare Advent Calendar launched in 2015. Each calendar is a bespoke wooden box built by hand by cabinet-maker Simon Jewell Designs in Kent, and is available in a walnut or Macassar ebony finish. Within every calendar sit 24 individually numbered 30ml drams of some of the world’s most sought-after whiskies, including expressions from long-closed distilleries, a 60-year-old single malt and a whisky worth up to £19,000 a bottle.

Drinks by the Dram’s 2016 Advent Calendar range also includes calendars filled with single cask whiskies, mezcal, gin and more. The full range of calendars (listed below) will be available later this month.

 

Very Old & Rare Whisky Advent Calendar
Old & Rare Whisky Advent Calendar
Premium Whisky Advent Calendar Craft
Premium Whisky Advent Calendar Red

Whisky Advent Calendar Craft
Whisky Advent Calendar Red
Glenfarclas Whisky Advent Calendar
That Boutique-y Whisky Company’s Advent Calendar
Single Cask Whisky Advent Calendar
Japanese Whisky Advent Calendar
Scotch Whisky Advent Calendar
American Whiskey Advent Calendar
Bourbon Advent Calendar
Irish Whiskey Advent Calendar
Cognac Advent Calendar
Armagnac Advent Calendar
Rum Advent Calendar
Mezcal Advent Calendar
Tequila Advent Calendar
Absinthe Advent Calendar
Ginvent Calendar
Gin Advent Calendar
Vodka Advent Calendar
Origin Single Estate Gin Advent Calendar
Naga Chilli Vodka Escalation Advent Calendar

Drinks by the Dram’s 2016 Advent Calendar range will be widely available from leading retailers including Amazon, Master of Malt, Selfridges, Harvey Nichols, Fortnum & Mason, WaitroseGifts.com, Ocado, GinKiosk, Majestic Wines and Laithwaites, with more being announced when they launch at the end of the month.

*End*

Rum-Craft

We all know that THIS is the one that you’ll be after! Last year was great so with a bit of luck we hope to get our hands on another one this year to see what delights await within!

© Steven James and Rum Diaries Blog 2016. 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.

 

Drinks By The Dram Advent Calendars Released

The occasion is nearly upon us where we need to, in the words of Sir Cliff Richard lifted from his modern Christmas classic Mistletoe and Wine, ‘rejoice in the good that we see’…………..Now we’re no popular music experts, but we have it on good authority that the ‘good’ that he is singing about is the now yearly release of the ever-expanding range of Drinks By The Dram Advent Calendars!*

DBTD FrontWe wrote about the upcoming releases earlier in September and now they are on general sale!

The Drinks by the Dram’s range of (Christmas) spirit-filled Advent calendars include such delectable treats as Rum, Whisky and Gin and are this year joined by new additions including Tequila, Absinthe and Vodka (you won’t be needing this one).

The Whisky Advent Calendar (£149.95) was launched in 2012 to help whisky lovers explore the world’s best whiskies.  Highlights among this year’s 24 drams include a rare 50-year-old Scotch, an award-winning Japanese whisky and the World’s Best Blended Whisky. Each handmade, wax-sealed dram allows whisky fans to sample a new whisky, tasting everything from single grain whisky to rare Scotch worth up to £350 a bottle.

Each calendar in the range takes the explorer on a different journey of discovery through the fascinating world of their favourite spirit, introducing them to rare and unusual expressions they may never have tried.

Whisky connoisseurs (or those with expensive tastes) can also enjoy the Premium Whisky Advent Calendar (£249.95), which contains rare single casks and whiskies worth up to £500 a bottle. This year also sees the launch of The Old and Rare Whisky Advent Calendar (£999.95) (for those with VERY expensive tastes) that contains whiskies worth up to £2,000 a bottle, including a 60-year-old Single Malt – one of the oldest whiskies in the world.

Drinks by the Dram’s 2015 Advent Calendar range also includes calendars filled with Armagnac, Vodka, Mezcal and horrible, horrible, you’ll regret it immediately and pay for it in the morning Chilli Vodka.  The full range of calendars is available now and is as follows:

DBTD Close UpWhisky Advent Calendar (Craft Edition)
Premium Whisky Calendar (Craft Edition)
Old & Rare Whisky Advent Calendar
Bourbon Advent Calendar
Ginvent Calendar
Botanical Ginvent Calendar
Rum Advent Calendar
Cognac Advent Calendar
Tequila Advent Calendar
Mezcal Advent Calendar
Armagnac Advent Calendar
Absinthe Advent Calendar
Vodka Advent Calendar
Naga Chilli Vodka Escalation Calendar

DBTD RearThe good news is that we have now got our wooly mittened fingers on a Rum Advent Calendar and it is a thing of beauty! 24 x 3cl wax sealed bottles of delightful Rum sitting there waiting for you……….Now I’m usually a really, really good boy (which is why Santa Claus is usually so nice to me) but even I had to have a little peep behind the first window………..I won’t give the game away just yet but to give a little clue….December will start off with a bang………….

We’ll look to upload each Rum revealed on a day by day basis as we progress through December so as not to ruin it for any of you that have also picked up a calendar!

If you are looking to buy one then the main selection is here with the best one (in our opinion) found here, though we do quite fancy getting our heads around Mezcal. Now you can reveal the Rums inside on the Master Of Malt Website, but we haven’t…..and if you want to impress Santa with your patience we’d suggest that you restrain yourselves and check back here every day through December! Ho ho ho and all that.

The 1st December is upon us and so #Rumvent begins…

Starting proceedings with a BANG is the quite epic Pussers Gunpowder Proof...Your tot for the 1st December

Starting proceedings with a BANG is the quite epic Pussers Gunpowder Proof…Your tot for the 1st December

The 2nd December reveals a very nice white Rum that has been covered on these very pages...Botran Reserva Blanca

The 2nd December reveals a very nice white Rum that has been covered on these very pages…Botran Reserva Blanca

Click here for our write up of the Ron Botran Range

So here we are at the 3rd December already and todays delight is a new one on me! Bristol Spirits Sancti Spiritus Fine Cuban Rum 2003...bottled in 2013 giving it 10 long years to mature...

So here we are at the 3rd December already and todays delight is a new one on me! Bristol Spirits Sancti Spiritus Fine Cuban Rum 2003…bottled in 2013 giving it 10 long years to mature…

The bottle of joy for the 4th December is Mezan Jamaica Barrique XO and its a really solid blend that we are more than familiar with...

The bottle of joy for the 4th December is Mezan Jamaica Barrique XO and its a really solid blend that we are more than familiar with…

Click here for our write up of Mezan Jamaica XO

December 5th gives us a drop of Admiral Rodney....some consider this to be one of the finest examples of column distilled Rum available...We are quite fond of it...

December 5th gives us a drop of Admiral Rodney….some consider this to be one of the finest examples of column distilled Rum available…We are quite fond of it…

Click here for our write up of Admiral Rodney

December 6th reveals this rather tasty little drop....Plantation 5 Barbados Grande Reserve....

December 6th reveals this rather tasty little drop….Plantation 5 Barbados Grande Reserve….

December 7th sees a drop of Flor de Cana 12 uncovered!

December 7th sees a drop of Flor de Cana 12 uncovered!

December 8th sees one for the sweet toothed amongst you...Ron Zacapa!

December 8th sees one for the sweet toothed amongst you…Ron Zacapa Centenario!

December 9th revealed the corking Angostura 1919..

December 9th revealed the corking Angostura 1919..

December 10th sees Santa Teresa 1796 revealed....we've drunk our fair share of this in the past

December 10th sees Santa Teresa 1796 revealed….we’ve drunk our fair share of this in the past

December 11th sees a spicy one show up....Rumbullion! We'll be submerging this one in some coke later today!

December 11th sees a spicy one show up….Rumbullion! We’ll be submerging this one in some coke later today!

The 12th December has given us El Dorado 25!

The 12th December has given us El Dorado 25!

The 13th....unlucky for some...but not with the amazing Doorlys XO being revealed!

The 13th….unlucky for some…but not with the amazing Doorlys XO being revealed!

A drop of the sweeter stuff for the 14th...Diplomatico Reserva Exclusiva..

A drop of the sweeter stuff for the 14th…Diplomatico Reserva Exclusiva..

The 15th has revealed a drop of the excellent Pussers 15!

The 15th has revealed a drop of the excellent Pussers 15!

*May or may not be true

© 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.

2015 Drinks By The Dram Advent Calendars Announced

*Press Release*

DBTD

Drinks by the Dram unveil the 2015 Whisky Advent Calendar as part of a range of 14 unique spirit-filled calendars.

Drinks by the Dram’s range of spirit-filled Advent calendar returns for a fourth year.  Old favourites like Whisky, Gin and Rum are joined by new additions including Tequila, Absinthe and Vodka.

The Whisky Advent Calendar (RRP £149.95) was launched in 2012 to help whisky lovers explore the world’s best whiskies.  Highlights among this year’s 24 drams include a rare 50-year-old Scotch, an award-winning Japanese whisky and the World’s Best Blended Whisky*. Each handmade, wax-sealed dram allows whisky fans to sample a new whisky, tasting everything from single grain whisky to rare Scotch worth up to £350 a bottle.

DBTD Whisky Advent

Each calendar in the range takes the explorer on a different journey of discovery through the fascinating world of their favourite spirit, introducing them to rare and unusual expressions they may never have tried.

Whisky connoisseurs can also enjoy the Premium Whisky Advent Calendar (RRP £249.95), which contains rare single casks and whiskies worth up to £500 a bottle. This year also sees the launch of The Old and Rare Whisky Advent Calendar (RRP £999.95), containing whiskies worth up to £2,000 a bottle, including a 60-year-old Single Malt – one of the oldest whiskies in the world.

Drinks by the Dram’s 2015 Advent Calendar range also includes calendars filled with Armagnac, Vodka, Mezcal and horrible, horrible Chilli Vodka.  The full range of calendars is available now (shipping in October) and is as follows:

Whisky Advent Calendar (Craft Edition)
Premium Whisky Calendar (Craft Edition)
Old & Rare Whisky Advent Calendar
Bourbon Advent Calendar
Ginvent Calendar
Botanical Ginvent Calendar
Rum Advent Calendar
Cognac Advent Calendar
Tequila Advent Calendar
Mezcal Advent Calendar
Armagnac Advent Calendar
Absinthe Advent Calendar
Vodka Advent Calendar
Naga Chilli Vodka Escalation Calendar

*End*

Click on the link on the side banner to take yourselves directly to Master of Malt to reserve your calendar!

I’ve often looked on from afar at the images of other people’s Rum Advent Calendars……there are some cracking spirits to be had in all of them….well nearly all of them! Maybe this year will be my year…Fingers crossed.

© 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.

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.

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