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.

Rumburra Orach

RB-logoYou can be forgiven for having never heard of this particular Rum brand as I most certainly had no idea of their existence until a chance Twitter based encounter made me very intrigued by the Rum. One thing led to another and I find myself in possession of a bottle of Rumburra Orach. Rumburra is a play on the Rums Edinburgh origins and Orach is the Gaelic way of saying Golden. I always like to find out the source of the Rums in a blend and I am keen to understand the origins and background of a brand.

Just over twelve months ago, Gregor Hutt, along with other family members, decided to start a project blending their own Rum. They sourced a contract distiller to blend the Rum and set about obtaining a selection of Caribbean Rum. The Rum itself is a blend of four overproof Rums that are aged in their country of origin prior to being blended, reduced to bottling strength and bottled in Scotland. Numerous attempts were made to adjust the quantities of each of the Rums in the blend to arrive at the current bottled product.

Rumburra Orach – 40% ABV

Rumburra Bottle 1

Rumburra Bottle 2The blend, composed entirely from Column Distilled Rums, comprises a 6-year-old Rum from Guyana’s Demerara Distillers Limited, a 3-year-old Rum from Jamaica’s Hampden Distillery, a 1-year-old Rum from Barbados’s Foursquare Distillery and a 1-year-old Rum from Trinidad’s Angostura Distillery. All rums are blended and left to marry for a short period prior to the 70% ABV Rum blend being reduced to its bottling strength of 40% ABV. Flavourless caramel colouring is added to the blend to stabilise the colour of the batches after the water has been added and it is bottled not too far from Edinburgh city centre. Gregor is quite keen to hammer home the point that aside from the Scottish Water and Caramel Colouring, nothing else is added to the blend. Good information to know.

The label is quite understated with only black and silver present. It should catch your eye on a shelf when placed next to a myriad of colourful labels so shouldn’t get lost. The rum is a nice dark golden colour in the bottle and it looks pretty inviting……so let me tell you how it tastes.

Tasting Notes

In the glass: The rum displays itself as a light, vibrant gold and swirling the glass releases long thin legs. The first aroma to spring from the glass is that of a fruity honey. There is absolutely no astringency at all with the rum. Slight Demerara notes come through alongside overripe banana and malted milk biscuits. Light caramel carries the banana further forward alongside subtle sugarcane notes and fresh mango. There is a light aroma of pink shrimp foam sweets and marshmallow. This is a very pleasant Rum to sit with and the blend really does bring character to it and it hints at a complexity within. I can’t wait to taste it.

In the mouth: The rum is very balanced on entry. It washes over your mouth with a light bite of pepper. This immediately subsides and leaves your mouth awash with fruit but this rapidly dries out. Peaches, and light but certainly present Demerara drag along caramel. Further sips reveal honey, a touch of leather and cherries. It has a medium body and on the way down it leaves your mouth with a peppery bite and a hint of the savoury. The finish is of a medium length and full of oak and peach loop sweets. Tobacco rounds out the aromas as you sniff the glass.

The rum is really well-balanced and the flavours aren’t clamouring for your attention. It is not as complex to taste as it is to smell but that is in no way a bad thing. It is quite an understated product that creates no fuss in its presentation yet provides way more depth and character than numerous other Rums that have high marketing budgets and have ad campaigns and labels full of words such as Premium.

I have also been informed of a few cocktail recipes that have been worked on by the folks at Rumburra. They have no names but one is a definite winter warmer whilst the other sounds like a very refreshing summery concoction. They can be found at the bottom of this article.

This Rum retails for around £25 a bottle and at that price, for me, you get a very tasty Rum. It isn’t available in many outlets at all which is a real shame as this deserves to be way more well-known than it is.

Cocktails

Ingredients:

37.5ml Rumburra Orach

50ml Cloudy Apple Juice

20ml Cabernet Sauvignon

20ml Ginger & Lemongrass Cordial

2 dashes of Chocolate Bitters

Method:

Mix all ingredients into a heat proof jug and steam using a coffee machine steaming wand. Serve in a Martini glass with a large orange tweel.

Ingredients:

50ml Rumburra Orach

25ml Lime Juice

50ml Clear Apple Juice

Half a Granny Smith Apple

Small bunch of Coriander

A pinch of Black Pepper

Method:

Muddle all ingredients in a Boston glass. Shake well with ice and strain into a Collins glass. Top with Ginger Ale.

Both sound great!

© Steven James and Rum Diaries Blog 2014. 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.