Kill Devil Hampden 17

Now we have the basis laid down for Hampden Estate with its own bottlings here, we can look to explore some independent releases….of which there are plenty. Kill Devil seem to be in possession of plenty of Hampden Rum as their releases from the distillery are growing in number….particularly on the Cask Strength side with a 24-year-old (which I’ve never tasted), a very small release of less than 60 bottles of a 9-year-old Cask Strength rum which will be coming to this site and a limited edition bottling of a Cask Strength 10-year-old for The Whisky Barrel….which I have on order as I write this. Kill Devil are the Rum arm (Golden Devil in the U.S) of Hunter Laing, specialist blenders and bottlers of single malt whisky. They bottle either at 46% (50% as standard in the U.S with no Cask Strength releases) or at natural Cask Strength….un-chill filtered and with no additions or colouring. They apply their whisky principles to their Rum releases. They really are true single cask releases. The Kill Devil range is Hunter Laing’s showcase of the quality and diversity of rum available in the Caribbean and from further afield.  So without further fuss…let’s dig into this bottle.

Kill Devil Hampden 17 – 46% – Pure Single Rum

Distilled in the traditional twin retort pot still at Hampden Distillery in December 1998, some 11 years prior to the current ownership taking over and 5 years prior to it being subject to a government takeover, this Rum was bottled in 2016 giving it over a full 17 years of maturation. There is an 18-year-old bottling from the same distillation date of December 1998 which I will look at in time.

Tasting Notes

Glass: The pale white wine coloured liquid has one hell of a nose. Even at 46% this is bursting from the glass. Huge. Pungent and typically Hampden….but also a touch Long Pond too in its fruity delivery. Esters esters esters. Acetone. Varnish. Buckets of fruit both ripe and overripe. A clear and definite menthol note. Sweet Victoria pineapples. Ripe strawberry sweetness. Almost perfumed. Pineapple mint. Overripe bananas. Guava juice. Sugared almonds. Olives. Smoked cheese. This is a joy to sit and nose. It just keeps on giving. Beautiful fruit, confectionery, fresh mint and sappy pine notes. Not the funkiest Hampden that I’ve tried, but it’s massively pungent.

Mouth: Sweetness is the vibe initially backed with an amazingly medicinal quality of acetone, varnish and a little pine. The sweetness fades relatively quickly but whilst its there the initial overwhelming note is Pineapple….a lot of pineapple. Grilled and sticky sweet. The fade brings a slightly bitter or more likely sour note…like fizzy sour sweets or a past its best fermenting pineapple. Further refreshers reveal more of that base sweetness….green apples, ginger syrup and a light vanilla. Kola Kubes. Pear drops. The sweet / sour interplay of a ruby grapefruit. Citrus oil appears along with that beautiful sweet and menthol pineapple mint interplay that was present on the nose. There is a lack of any real oak influence in this which probably assists in allowing the fruit to shine through. Savoury notes of olives and brine are present as expected but are nowhere near the dominating flavours. At the back-end I found the finish to be of a medium length and as the sweetness of that pineapple fades it boosts the menthol and pine quality to the fore. White wine. Pomelo with a sprinkling of black pepper and a little clove oil. Surprisingly whisky like too. The finish for me after such a flavour and aroma explosion was quite disappointing and by far the weak link here…..thats because it was so vibrant and giving at the front end. But if you carry on refilling your glass…..you always maintain the sweet spot of those aromas and flavours.

4 / 5

An amazing Rum that for me was a little bit of a let down at the finish line. A more vibrant finish would’ve seen an extra half mark on the score. But if you see this, you should buy it. Money well spent.

© 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.

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Hampden Estate – Hampden Gold and Rum Fire Velvet

Amazingly this will mark only the second and third rums from Hampden Estate to feature in the site, the first being the quite excellent Excellence Rhum Collection release. I thought it useful to gather some information and give a little background on the Hampden Estate and their history.

Hampden Estate, known for their incredibly pungent pot still output lies in the northwest parish of Trelawny in the Queen of Spain valley and first operated as a large sugar plantation in around 1753. At this time it was owned by a Scotsman by the name of Mr Archibald Sterling. In 1779 the Hampden Great House was built on the Estate with the large ground floor functioning as a rum store until the early 1900’s. 20 years later in 1799 the upper residential level of the Great House was added.

Hampden Estate Great House

Solidly embedded in Jamaican history, Hampden Estate established the Hampden Presbyterian Church in around 1824 making it the first church of that denomination in Jamaica. Under the ownership of Mr Archibald Sterling up until circa 1827, the Estate then came into the ownership of Dermot Owen Kelly-Lawson, Justice of the Peace of Trelawny. Ena Kelly-Lawson, his daughter, married a Mr Farquharson who upon her death inherited Hampden Estate. The Farquharson’s owned and operated the estate as a sugar and rum production facility until financial difficulties in 2003 saw the government operated Jamaica Sugar Company take ownership . So essentially during a 250 year period spanning 1753-2003, the Estate was owned and operated by only two families. The government ownership was also accompanied by the shouldering of an element of debt to help protect local employment. At one time the Estate was renowned to be in possession of some of the best Cane yield lands in Jamaica and boasted the highest tonne of sugar from tonne of cane milled. But due to a perceived lack of investment from the previous owners it was deemed that the estate had become archaic, therefore inefficient and subsequently unprofitable. In 2009 following a legal dispute relating to the estates previous owners, Everglade Farms Limited owned by the Hussey Family acquired the Estate via public auction as a result of a divestment of assets by the Jamaica Sugar Company. A commitment was made by Everglade Farms to invest $6.2 million into Hampden Estate and Long Pond Sugar Factory (not distillery) and this brought with it an element of stability to the Trelawny economy.

As far as the Rum itself goes….Hampden is a treasure trove of goodness. They specialise in the making of heavy Pot Still rums and have in-depth knowledge in the art of making High Ester Rums that can only be gained from experience handed down from generation to generation. Hampden do not use commercial yeast.  They culture, suspend and regenerate their own. They also use that most mythical of creatures….the dunder pit. They’re also still using fermenters made more than 100 years ago. This is centuries old traditional Rum making at its best…..a place that I’d love to visit.

Hampden make a variety of marques ranging from 50 to 1600 Esters. The higher the ester range, the more intense the aroma of the rum. Their rums are used extensively in the blending of other rums throughout the world and their higher ester rums are used by the food, flavoring and perfume industries. Familiar known marque names will be LROK, HLCF, <>H and DOK but there are many more.

Although certain marques are set aside for ageing, the majority of Hampden’s business comes from bulk Rum sales to the likes of E & A Scheer in Holland.

There is plenty of other reading on the subject of Hampden Estate and one of the most in-depth sources can be found here

All of that brings me to the fun subject of  the two Rums that I have chosen to look at today…..Hampden Gold and Rum Fire Velvet.

Hampden Gold – 40% – Unaged – Pure Single Rum

Tasting Notes

Glass: The Rum is a completely unaged pale straw gold. Now do we see the uselessness of categorisation by colour? E150a….Spirit Caramel. In this instance they’re not doing it to dupe you, quite the opposite. It’s being done to combat your preconceptions about unaged Rum. To allow a quality distillate to be experienced by those that would otherwise write it off. They’re not hiding it, however it would be good to have some acknowledgement of this on the label. Initial aromas definitely show us that we’re in pure pot still Jamaican territory. Acetone. Pear drops. Tropical fruit….think papaya and guava. Beautiful bruised bananas. Molasses. A touch of freshly cut green apple. Light sweetness.

Mouth: The Rum has a very thin mouthfeel and carries none of the sweetness present on the nose. It’s very spirit driven. Molasses. A light vegetal, almost agricole like sugarcane note. Fresh, ice-cold apple juice. Lidl Apple Loop sweets. Mixed tropical fruit jam. Dialed down funk. Even though its very light (for a Jamaican) and has a very thin mouthfeel, I enjoy it. It doesn’t have the abv to hammer home what makes its origins great but it could be a gentle introduction to the style and at a good price to display the quality of the distillate even down at 40%. Better to nose than to drink, but solid stuff for their entry-level nonetheless. Great in a rum and coke which is where I use it.

3 / 5

Hampden Rum Fire Velvet – 63% – Unaged – Pure Single Rum

Tasting Notes

Glass: Wild. This is more like it. A huge fruity arrival. It grabs you by the scruff of the neck and screams Jamaican! They use dunder at Hampden…and it shows. Plump ripe strawberries and their fresh candied sweet aroma. Lots of citrus oil. Overripe mashed banana. Green cooking apples. Kiwi fruit. Funky as hell. Really heavy vibrant sugarcane notes. Root vegetables…earthy turnips and parsnips. Something rotten on the compost heap. Stinging acetone. A coating of varnish on a cheap cricket bat. Wax. Brine. Olives. Rather weirdly the aroma of passing the flue of the boiler that exhausts at the side of my house. Slightly metallic. Simultaneously both heavy and light. Beautiful natural sweetness. It’s the Rum equivalent of the state that Newt from Aliens was in when Ripley found her.

Mouth: An oily flavour explosion and way more approachable than I expected. That’s not to say you can dive in. You have to acclimatise. Small sips to ease yourself in. Very hot. Very peppery. Very funky. Pear drops. Acetone. Savoury leads the way with olives, brine and freshly cut fiery ginger. Quite herbal. Very agricole like in its root vegetable quality. The sweetness pushes through on the mid-palate though and its very welcome. The juice from a chewed chunk of freshly cut sugarcane. It’s quite sharp too. Cloudy apple juice and apple purée. Fleshy pears. It has a very creamy and oily mouthfeel…its also really floral. Citrus oils. A drop or two of water really helps open the Rum up and releases Guava jam. More apples. Tropical fruit. Salty crackers. Aniseed sweets. The finish is long, warming and returns to the savoury leading with anise, salty olives and vegetable crisps. Crispy seasoned lotus root. Molasses and that magical vapour that can only be fresh, vibrant Jamaican Rum allows it to finish really cleanly. It’s a brute of a Rum that needs a cautious approach….a bit like a game of Buckaroo….gently gently.

4 / 5

This is pretty much the only distillery produce available on the market in the UK with the USA getting Rum Fire which is a higher ester version of the Velvet. There is no doubting the quality and tradition that goes into the production of these Rums. Both are definitely worthy of a purchase. The aged independent stuff from Hampden Estate for me is where the real fun lies though….and it is those releases that will be getting a run out in the coming months as I’ve a wealth of releases from Habitation Velier, Velier, Adelphi, Blackadder and Kill Devil to choose from. Stay tuned.

Newt

© 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.

Habitation Velier Worthy Park Range

Well OK, if we’re being honest it should be the Habitation Velier Forsyths Range as though the distillery name is there, it’s not there where it matters….which is in the large letters adorning the top of the label……yet.

I picked up the first releases in the range early doors when the Habitation Velier concept was introduced and immediately picked up the Forsyths WP 502 and Forsyths WP 151 Proof. This was then quickly followed by the Forsyths WP 2005 when released and the latest addition arrived over UK Rumfest weekend….Forsyths 2006.

I recently published an article about the Worthy Park Estate Signature Range which you can read here……I’d say that its worth a read.

That’s kind of all that there is to say before moving onto actually appraising the Rums…..which is of course why you’re here.

Forsyths WP 502 – Pure Single Jamaican Rum – 57% abv – Un-aged

Firstly the 502 in the name directly relates to the congener level of 502 gr/laa….or in layman’s terms….pungent. This also (as far as marques go) puts it firmly in the WPE category (WPE – Up to 800 gr/laa). This Rum is distilled from a wash that undergoes a 3 month fermentation period to create all of those flavours and aromas that will be extracted in the Forsyths Double Retort Pot Still.

Tasting Notes

Glass: Crystal clear. Very oily. Waxy. Viscous. Initial aromas are all varnish and incredibly powerful acetone. Pear drops. Deep molasses. Creamy, overripe bananas. Natural yoghurt??? There is also an underlying sweetness to the whole affair with Banana Jam. It’s very aromatic with almost floral notes popping up until the brine, olives and coastal notes hit home. It’s incredibly ‘funky’ and unbelievably lovely stuff.

Mouth: Remarkably approachable. Sweet entry initially before the peppery bite and heat build to a crescendo. A creamy, almost milky coffee. Overripe banana which is the Worthy Park trademark. Fresh sugarcane. It’s very agricole like, but in its sweetness…its not really a vegetal Rum. Fresh coconut shavings. Salty. coastal. The finish is relatively short in length but it crams a lot in…..Brine. Olives. Pineapple. Overall it is not as ‘giving’ as the nose suggests but man its massively impressive. Imagine this with 5 years tropical age…Take. My. Money.

4 / 5

Forsyths WP 151 Proof – Pure Single Jamaican Rum – 75.5% abv – Un-aged

This is very much a more intense, higher abv version of the WP 502….best used in mixed drinks…..does go unbelievably well with Ting and makes a killer Daiquiri.

Tasting Notes

I’ll focus this brief set of tasting notes on the additions to the notes found in the WP 502. In the glass there is a very obvious apple turnover and marshmallow along with a real herbal quality (think marjoram). It has hints of Bajan Blackened Spice Mix. In the mouth the molasses is thicker, heavier and almost chewy….though there are lighter moments with vanilla and citrus oil. Cloves and apple juice round things out. I’d love to taste this Rum fresh from the still. That’s the dream.

4 / 5

Forsyths WP 2005 – Pure Single Jamaican Rum – 57.8% abv – 10 years old

This Rum was from the first distillation at Worthy Park Estate in 50 years. It is the WPL marque which is the most commonly aged marque produced by the estate (WPL – 60-119 gr/laa). Distilled in 2005 it sees just over 10 years of tropical age. There was a loss of in excess of 64% due to evaporation during that 10 year period which averages at 6.4% loss per year. Crazy.

Tasting Notes

Glass: Oily. Beeswax. Overripe Bananas. Bourbon Oak. Dulce de leche. Chocolate. Dried tropical fruit. Light acetone. An almost Rye Whiskey spice to it. The ex-bourbon barrels have had a huge impact. Sweet. Lightly medicinal with smoke and leather. Quite floral.

Mouth: Quite astringent from the off. Oily. Warming. Almond milk. Heavy drying bourbon oak influence. Powdery cocoa. Kinder Bueno. Growing sweetness. Fruit and nut chocolate. Dried banana chips. Rye spice. It skirts very close to whisky territory with its spiced oak but stops just short thankfully. A medium length finish that is heavily bourbon oak led….slight cocoa and nut sweetness gives way to dryness. Cigar smoke. This could genuinely be a good Jamaican Rum for a newcomer. Forget the sugary gateway tripe…this is Jamaican enough to give a really solid grounding yet approachable enough to be enjoyable as the pot still is dialed down a touch by the oak. It all plays really well. Nose translates to palate. It gives easily.

4.5 / 5

Forsyths 2006 – WPM – Pure Single Jamaican Rum – 57.5% abv – 11 years old

Distilled in 2006 and bottled in 2017, this Rum carries the WPM marque (WPM- 120-239 gr/laa) so we’re kicking things up a notch here. Aged for a full 11 years in a tropical climate, losses were in excess of 63%.

Tasting Notes

Glass: The closest thing that I’ve had to the sheer punch of LROK without being from that distillery. Oily. Wow. You get that stinging bright acidic fruit note upon first pour reminiscent of so many classic Jamaican Rums. This is a brute. No dunder remember. Time, and it needs time, gives acetone. Heavy stinging acetone. Sharp tropical fruits. Mango. Starfruit. Fruit Salad chewy sweets. A solid medicinal note binds the aromas together. It leads with sweetness, that trademark Worthy Park overripe banana is here in abundance. Banana bread. Sticky ginger cake. Peppery oak brings iodine. Smoked cheese. Brine. Olives. Citrus. Acetone is ever-present with the medicinal, coastal notes. Very deep. Very revealing. Rewarding.

Mouth: It takes over your mouth from the off. Tangy, lip smacking sweetness. Candied tropical fruit peels. Pear drops. Acetone. Spice bun. Dark fruit and spices. An almost sugared almond note. Overripe banana bursts through. Vanilla fudge. Salty liquorice. Growing heat and oak influence. A dry and salty mid palate. Solid, all-encompassing and chewy. It demands your attention. The long finish starts with sharp tropical fruit and creamy mashed banana moving through biting, peppery dryness, earthy turmeric and heat onto brine, acetone pear drops and powdered liquorice root. Molasses right at the back with an almost sherried oak. Best Worthy Park yet……I mean best Forsyths yet……

5 / 5

Worthy Park Estate really are hitting their stride in terms of the Rums that they’re producing. A real quality output from some really great people. Buy all of the above now alongside their flagship Signature Range and you’ll be rewarded with hours of enjoyment and maybe a new favourite Rum producer.

© 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.

Duncan Taylor Single Cask Rum – St Lucia 2002 – Cask 5

Duncan Taylor are an independent bottler of (mainly) whisky, and in their own words:

“Duncan Taylor & Company has ownership of one of the largest privately-held collections of rare scotch whisky casks. The company has been “laying down” casks from premium Scottish distilleries for decades and has, in recent years, made its branded products available to whisky connoisseurs throughout the World.

Duncan Taylor has its origins in Glasgow where the company was initially a merchant and broker of Scotch Whisky casks within the Industry. Devotion to the principle of providing only the finest casks to be filled at Scotland’s leading distilleries has been a key feature of the company’s history and this tradition of building an outstanding portfolio of only the finest scotch whiskies is being maintained to this day by the current owners.

When the company moved its headquarters to the North East of Scotland, close to Speyside – Scotland’s largest whisky producing region – it also took the decision to focus on the production and marketing of its own brands and to cease the “brokering” of whisky in cask form to Distillery companies and Independent bottlers.”

They are also celebrating 80 years of business, being founded in 1938.

Duncan Taylor bottle many Rums, mainly at cask strength or close to cask strength. Having whisky as their origin they do not chill filter and they bottle with natural colour. Now I have numerous bottlings from Duncan Taylor spanning Jamaica, St Lucia, Guyana and Fiji. I also have one of their own Caribbean Blends. Up for review today though is one of their St Lucia offerings.

Duncan Taylor Single Cask Rum – St Lucia 2002 – Cask 5 – 52.6% abv

You can have a read of my previous writings on products from St Lucia Distillers here, here, here, here, here, here and here. Phew. Now you’ll be fully versed with St Lucia Distillers, we can continue. As the label states, this Rum was distilled in September 2002 and bottled in September 2013 giving it 11 years of (assumed) Continental age. Bottled entirely from Cask No 5 which yielded 242 bottles, this has been bottled at 52.6% which I can only assume is cask strength. Though others have questioned bottle yield with assumed angel share and assumed barrel size to potentially arrive at a different number insinuating that it may not be cask strength. I personally can’t say I’m too bothered to dig into that. Of note is the fact that this Rum is Pot distilled. Now St Lucia Distillers have 3 Pot Stills, the John Dore I, John Dore II and Vendome. Given the date of distillation of 2002, that would point towards the John Dore I still as it is the only one that was commissioned at that point. It is also the smallest of their batch stills with a capacity of 1500 litres.

John Dore I on the left

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

Tasting Notes

Glass: The Rum displays as a dark straw gold  in the glass. Heavy. Medicinal pot still. A little diesel and a dose of creosote. All the good stuff. Sticking plasters and antiseptic cream. A hint of menthol and mint. Quite grassy too. Rubber and acetone back up the medicinal quality of the nose and time in the glass allows the merest hint of savoury vanilla and sticky grilled pineapple. Citrus oil. Whiffs of sweet smoke. It has quite a fresh and nuanced nose that gives more and more over time like the merest hint of barrel influence. A brine and salty quality is ever-present and is rounded out with a hint of powdery icing sugar. A few drops of water and half an hour in the glass adds enamel paint and sugarcane.

Mouth: Very heated entry with the smallest and short-lived hint of sweetness in the form of floral wildflower honey before the dryness shoulder barges its way in. Mint. Creosote. Petrol. Oily but not viscous. A thinner mouthfeel than expected but it does cling on, mainly in the vapours. Almond brittle. No really influential barrel notes can be picked up through the peppery heat. Liquorice. Olives and salty feta cheese. If its possible for Rum to morph into a molasses based offering from Guadeloupe mid-palate, this one does. Bringing with it pickle vinegar and ginger puree. A few drops of water push the sweeter elements to the fore with chocolate, dialed down brine. Less mint. More menthol.

Quite a long finish starts out relatively sweetly with the sugary minty residue from the bottom of a poorly made mojito and wildflower honey but again this dries to leave a grassy sugarcane and mild vanilla. Maybe some almonds. The medicinal pot still note announces itself again bringing to mind any number of Rockley ‘style’ Rums…..but for me never hitting the flavourful heights of them.

It is St Lucian Pot Still Rum at its most identifiable from first nosing. It is everything that I like about St Lucian Pot Still Rum. I would love to see more barrel influence that would come with tropical age and although it’s probably completely off the table given the new owners, a release of cask strength tropically aged individual still offerings from St Lucia Distillers would be welcomed with open arms and wallets by the geeky Rum crowd. Its good, almost very good, but it just lacks that light and shade that I think tropical age would offer.

3.5 / 5

© 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

Habitation Velier Foursquare 2013 – Pure Single Rum

Whats that you say? Another Foursquare Rum review…..another piece of the jigsaw. This time its a follow-up to its rarer and younger relative the Habitation Velier Foursquare 2015 Pure Single Rum.

You can read about that Rum here…..and just do a search for Foursquare in the search box to find out plenty more about the distillery and its Rums.

Forsyths Twin Retort Pot Still

This Rum was distilled at Foursquare on their twin retort Forsyths (with added Green Engineering whistles and bells) pot still and then matured for 2 years in ex-cognac barrels. As is usual with the Habitation Velier bottles, the information on there is amazingly comprehensive as we’ve been informed that the loss to evaporation in that 2 year period has been >15%, that the rum has not been chill filtered, is natural colour and is released at barrel proof with no dilution. Obviously, it is sugar-free.

Habitation Velier Foursquare 2013 – Pure Single Rum – 64% abv

Habitation Velier Foursquare 2013

Tasting Notes

Glass: The Rum is a pale gold apple juice in colour. Initially there is quite a bit of white pepper. It’s very punchy and up front….its definitely not shy. Immediately I get Rhubarb and Ginger crumble. Oaty and nutty aromas. Mild olives and salty brine. Preserved lemons and a hint of acetone. There is surprisingly not a huge alcohol attack, just a heavy delivery of aromas. Lotus biscuits, vanilla. The Rum is full and very oily….maybe even waxy. A hint of raisins and dried guava pieces. Doing my usual blowing into the glass reveals a beautiful marzipan quality to the vapour. This has only been matured for two years remember…..crazy stuff.

Mouth: A powerful, oily entry wrapped in warmth and sweetness. It is initially quite biting and that brings black pepper and salted liquorice…..maybe even a hint of liquorice root. A little bitterness but some real grip on the tongue, quite a fruity and grassy mid-palate. That oily citrus returns to tease your saliva glands before the anticipated brine and olives bathe your entire mouth. It takes on a savoury quality that sits at the back of your throat with a vegetal note before the vapours give way to peach and dried tropical fruit. The shortish finish is salty sweet caramel, liquorice and even has a mild amount of smoke. Very enjoyable.

After the initial punch you have to keep reminding yourself that this Rum is so young (though with tropical age probably hitting 5 years if it were a whisky) and at such a high abv as once acclimatised it’s even more approachable. It brings the sweetness of a young well crafted Rum, the weight that you expect from batch distillation and the level of flavour that a Rum of this maturity just shouldn’t have…..a nod perhaps to the choice of ex-cognac barrels. Quality french oak used not to gain anything from that famous cognac heritage, but to gain all from the quality of wood. Punchy? Yes. Powerful? Of Course. Approachable? Surprisingly so. Flavourful? Like you wouldn’t believe. Just the remaining taste in my mouth is taking me back to the aromas around the still and that tap that was turned to allow us to experience freshly distilled Rum at Foursquare. I would love to experience this Rum with a few more years on it as it has world domination stamped all over it. Another hit……like we expected anything else.

4.5 / 5

An example of Pure Single Rum that can trade punches with some tasty Jamaicans. Buy this while you can as there is still availability…even in the UK. £85 for a two-year old Rum? It’s so much more than the sum of its years….it offers development, aroma and flavour that some can spend a lifetime failing to achieve. Judge it on its merits and pick it up. It warrants your attention.

© 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.

An Interview with Nikos Arvanitis – Rum Traveller

Copyright Nikos Arvanitis

Nikos Arvanitis will be familiar to most of my Facebook Rum forum frequenting audience. He’ll also be more than familiar to Rum Festival attendees throughout Europe. In fact his biography reads very well:

Nikos Arvanitis has been working as a bartender since 2006. Rum is his passion and his desire to understand it led him to the Caribbean. Living in Barbados and using this island as his base, he has visited 30 islands of the tropical zone of the “West Indies” and over 45 distilleries and sugarcane fields, both active and inactive. His journey is still on, it will soon be reflected on paper and he has named it “From the West Indies to the World”.

Nikos Arvanitis through his travels and speeches is trying to spread the traditional production process of Rum and the culture of the Caribbean people.

He is a member in the jury panel and an instructor in rum presentation, in several European Rum Festivals (Berlin, Paris, Poland, Greece, Spain etc.) and bar shows.

Instructor of Rum in Bar Academy Hellas

Copyright Rum Diaries Blog

On a personal level, I have known Nikos for around three years and during that time we have conversed a lot about life, Rum and everything in between. During our period of friendship I have seen Nikos grow into a very well-respected spokesman for Rum and an evangelist for the history and tradition that exists within the Caribbean. More recently he has become a very active independent spokesperson for the Gargano / Seale Classification and a campaigner and activist for Pure Rum and raising the category in general.

I was fortunate enough to meet Nikos earlier this year in his natural habitat….a Rum distillery. The distillery in question was Foursquare Rum Distillery in Barbados and it was also my first Rum Distillery visit. We chatted for a while, walked through the distillery with Richard and sampled untold delights in the Foursquare Tasting Room. We also shared a pretty eventful taxi ride with him.

Open and honest is all that I have known from Nikos and I’m giving his full, unedited responses to my questions. No cutting, snipping or leaving out of any detail. Hopefully you’ll see that his responses relay the passion that he has and the high regard in which he holds Rum as the true essence of the Caribbean and its people.

1 – For those that may not already be familiar with you and your work, explain to them what your project “From the West Indies to the World” is about.

From the West Indies to the World

It’s a personal project including photos, thoughts and notes for the real side of Caribbean islands and the connection between the locals and the Rum, through the eyes of the unknown reality.

Sugar cane fields, unknown dead estates, Rum Distilleries and traditional Rums.

In short, it’s my lonely trip-wandering in the tropic zone of the West Indies. Personal experiences, emotionally charged stories, culture, people. I don’t travel the easy way. I’m visiting places that they are really inaccessible to many white people and also I organized the 95% from all these trips myself, without sponsors, companies etc. The final collection of these experiences is the reason that this project is born, and due to that, I don’t focus only the to rum and the production process..

I’m not an author / writer and I do not even want to be. I just have the feeling and the belief that the experiences created to share. This project is an extension of me and the opposite.

The ultimate goal of my project is to make as many people as possible respect and fall in love with the Caribbean, the local culture, the people and finally the distilleries that are keeping alive and  unchanged the traditional production process of the spirit we love the most.

2 – Your travels are followed by and envied by many people….including me. One thing that often gets said to people like me is that to truly understand Rum and all that it is, you have to visit distilleries. Just how many countries and distilleries have you visited?

I would like to speak on a personal level without meaning that it’s either wrong or right. Yes, I clearly believe that if you don’t visit the Caribbean by yourself and the distilleries as well, it’s really difficult to understand rum. There’s a huge difference between the word ‘knowledge‘ and the word ‘understanding‘. Countless sites on the Internet with completely different opinions and misleading information, distributors, companies and ambassadors talk about rum and they’ve never touched sugarcane in their life. So there is misinformation and false information about rum. When I visited the distilleries I acquired a complete image, totally different to the one I had before. And yes, I was reading and attending seminars. But I figured that it wasn’t enough. It was like I was going inside the glass and becoming one with rum. Of course, it is important that the people of the distilleries are also honest with you. I was lucky (and a pain in the ass for them)

I have visited in total 30 islands of the Caribbean tropic zone. The number of distilleries is 45 out of 50. My last trip was in Haiti and trust me, Haiti is a unique situation. It’s a category by itself.

Copyright Nikos Arvanitis

3 – I personally see you as a direct link to Rum producers that are not active on social media and have little to no online presence. Do you think that your relationship with these Rum producers is vital in bringing the plight of forgotten and overlooked distilleries such as the Callwood Distillery in the BVI and River Antoine in Grenada into the spotlight?

The first time I saw distilleries like the ones you mentioned, I said to myself, “I will spread all over the world about these distilleries-Caribbean’s heritage”.
I saw this subject in a very romantic tone. It is truly a shame that 90% of the whole world does not even know the existence of wonderful rums like these. But the most important thing is that they do not know the passion, the love and respect that the people who surround distilleries have for their rums. Their existence is the link between the past and the present. And if you do forget the past, the heritage and the history, the future is cloudy and uncertain…

Copyright Nikos Arvanitis

4 – Apart from your project and the Rum, what continues to drive you to travel to these places?

People. Certainly people. The human relationships that I created there are by far the most important school of my life. They changed my worldview. I’m not the same person as I used to be before. At least I do not act and think the same way.

I adore the warm climate. I don’ really like the cold and I am freezing really quick and easy. I am not really sure if I will survive this winter in Paris. Hahahaha. Yeah, Paris is going to be my base for the following year(s)…

Finally, the word “vibe“. I can’t explain this feeling in a few words. It’s something much deeper. The vibe in the tropic zone makes me happy and above all, I’m 100% myself. Something I have never experienced before in the big European countries even in my own country, where the friendship and human relationships are in the second or even third fate. Unfortunately…

Copyright Nikos Arvanitis

5 – You’re a firm advocate of the proposed Gargano / Seale Classification. Explain the classification for those that may not be aware of it. Why you feel that it is so important?

Usually, my presentations for this matter last like 4 hours…..So I believe it’s a little bit difficult to explain in a few words.

Yes, I am a 100% supporter of this wonderful classification. It was the middle of 2014 I think when Richard (Seale) firstly introduced me to this classification in one of my weekly visits to Foursquare distillery. When I saw the classification I told to myself: “Yes, this is the only way to have a better and promised future for the category of Rum, to put things in a row and first of all to give Rum the respect it deserves”. Two years later I found Luca (Gargano) in one of his trips in Barbados. He also helped me understand the classification. So, my communication with the two most influential persons of the Rum world plus my personal research was the common link for the final result…..to spread this classification all over the world.

This Classification focuses to the type of the producer, the type of the still and of course at the distillery statement. I believe that this last thing is the biggest problem in Rum. The 70% of rums of the global market haven’t got a distillery statement. This is really bad.

This classification it’s not about what’s good and what’s bad. Tasty or not. Originally, it’s a chronological order of the history of distillation and is based on facts. There is a separation between the traditional production process and the modern.  This doesn’t mean that tradition overtakes modern methods, but we surely have to have a different approach to an original artisanal Rum from an industrial one.

Finally, some people say that this classification is a copy of the Whisky’s classification. This is not true, not at all and please if you don’t understand the role of the classification, don’t judge. Open your mind and be more Caribbean…I am always open for conversations about this subject, contact me and it would be my pleasure to help you have better understanding about the classification.

Copyright Nikos Arvanitis

6 – Your time spent with Rum producers has seen you spearheading the important job of communicating the classification through your interactions on social media and your presentations to industry and consumers. Do you see knowledge of the classification spreading throughout the community to the point that there is a basic understanding already when you talk to the industry and consumers?

First of all I really need to share with you that NONE of the producers ever told me what to say in my presentations or to promote specific Rums (I am not a f****n promoter or brand ambassador and I will never be). I was In Berlin some weeks ago and someone came to me and said that: “You promote the rums of your friends distilleries”. This is not true. I love to promote the Rums I love and the distilleries who still respect the Caribbean’s heritage and tradition. It’s true that I have a personal connection with many distilleries like Worthy Park, Foursquare and others but this connection is more a friendship and match to our beliefs than a business. The people out there who know me personally, know this much better than anyone. The situation with the association is something new but all of us used to fight about the traditional production process of the Rum many years ago, but our voice is heard by a lot of people only in the last 2-3 years. The customers really want to know more about the Rum and this is wonderful. The promise I am giving is that I will always act 100% as Nick and I will do the best to raise the category of the Rum.

7 – A large proportion of the Rum producers appear to fear the classification. Why do you think that is?

From my point of view, the main reason is that they initially believe that if they accept this sort of classification, it is like neglecting what they say so many years about their products on the market. I think that they are only interested in the rise of their own label and not rum as a spirit. We all have to understand that sales cannot go up in a particular bottle if the category is not developed in general. You cannot deny that tradition, not least the complicated production process of rum, should not go into the same sink as modern industrial products. They cannot have the same prices and above all the word “artisanal” on their bottle. So yes, I think they initially think of their sales which is not true because if the rum is classified and developed in general, this will be a good thing for everyone. Speaking so much time for the world market, I will give a personal example from my own country that reflects what I have said. See it as a miniature of the market.

Ambassadors who have never touched a still, have not bitten sugar cane, have never walked in the Caribbean, have not spoken to locals and have not understood the rum, continue to promote products that are in the company’s portfolio, for which you do not know the existence of the distillery (which of course does not exist), so-called spiced easy rums and pure alcohol full of flavors and sweeteners, industrial products that have nothing to do with the history of the island are being produced. How do you orient yourself in the market by telling lies and having the main goal of selling your own only products and at the same time looking for the good for the future of rum? It can not be done. Quite simply because there is no love for rum and the Caribbean but love for your dominance in the market and the word “monopoly“.

The shawls have no pockets. What is the essence if you are not faithful to your values ​​and your beliefs as a person and you adapt to what the system imposes on you…?

8 – Do you think that the Classification will ever become industry standard?

I am very optimistic and positive as a human and yeah man, I believe that it will. Already you can see a great rise of the artisanal Rum in the global market and this is wonderful and makes me very happy. But I don’t like to use the world “industry” next to the word “Rum“. Let’s use another term: “The World of Rum” is much better I think.

From me and my team, there is a promise that we will do all we can to build strong foundations in this classification and we will fight for it through presentations, seminars, articles etc. What is the essence of human being as if you haven’t got something to fight for??

Copyright Nikos Arvanitis

9 – Do you think that having a Geographical Indication for Rum production will become the natural progression?

Yes, I believe that this is the path. Jamaica for example, is fighting about this. But I would like to make a general statement on this really important subject.

In Jamaica we have distilleries that make completely different rum in a totally different way. In particular, it’s not possible to consider a pure single rum from Worthy Park or Hampden with that of Clarendon. Yes, these three distilleries take place in the same island, they are all Jamaican, but the Rums are completely different. The production process as well. In Clarendon they use a small amount of Rum from Batch distillation. The majority of the final blend is coming from distillation in Multi column ethyl alcohol plant. This does not happen in the first two distilleries I mentioned earlier. So, I say that simply saying Jamaican Rum is not enough because there is diversity within Jamaican Rum.

They all rely on some common elements in the production process, but at the end of the day the final products are completely different. So, just the world Jamaican Rum I don’t feel that it’s enough.

There must be also control to the independent bottlers with no distillery statement. I’m tasting very often rums like these, let’s say a Barbadian Rum, and this rum has nothing to do with the traditional rums of the island. The same happens also with other bottlings. Personally, I find it unacceptable to add sweeteners, aromas and other extras that literally do not respect the distillery, the history and the heritage of the island, and also the tradition, except some special situations. Of course, the majority of these independent bottles haven’t got distillery statement on the labels and at the same time they say that they choose personally the best barrels from the distilleries. They didn’t .They just bought these rums from other companies. Be careful with the false marketing terms. I really would like to see better control and balance between the distilleries and the independent bottlers in future. If the rum is not even close to the character of the distillery and the distillery bottlings, don’t give the permission to the independent companies to make the bottling. The master distiller has to taste the rum and if he agrees, enter the name of the distillery and his signature. So everyone cannot bottle whatever they want. Quite honestly, I believe this.

Copyright Nikos Arvanitis

So there we have it…..an amazing amount of passion and a completely open forum for Nikos to give his true, unedited opinions.

I’d like to personally take this opportunity to thank Nikos again for his agreement to undertake this interview and I hope that I have given him the platform which he deserves.

© 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

Secret Treasures Selection Privée St.Lucia Collection

Another visit to St Lucia and I’m expanding my array of reviews from the island with three more independent bottling’s from the same range…..The Secret Treasures Selection Privée St.Lucia Collection.

This collection comprises the following:

Vendome 9 Year – Single Cask No. 528 – 53% abv

Vendome 6 Year – Single Cask No. 850 – 52% abv

John Dore 9 Year – Single Cask No. 26 – 55% abv

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

Again, you can familiarise yourselves with my previous writing on St Lucia Distillers and some of their own label products by clicking here, here, here and here…..and there is also information on a magnificent independent bottling here.

Right, now you’re back and have a little background on St Lucia Distillers, its straight into the bottles.

Tasting Notes

Vendome Pot Still – 6 Years Old – 52% abv

This still has a 2000 litre capacity and was commissioned in 2003

Glass: Bright gold. Oily. A pleasant alcohol spike initially. Light fruit such as pineapple, ripe banana and mango. Mild oaken influence. Light floral notes. Sweet vanilla fudge. Liquorice bitterness and that magical medicinal quality.

Mouth: A little alcohol up front gives way to peppery oak. Light sweetness and an almost biscuit-y whisky note. Medicinal for sure but with pipe tobacco. Time gives pineapple, mango and ginger. An herbal quality is present. That medicinal note is well pronounced and it carries through to the medium-long finish. This starts with dry oak and herbal notes before developing into peaches, caramel, oat biscuits and pipe tobacco. Youthful but with a good level of maturity.

Vendome Pot Still – 9 Years Old – 53% abv

Glass: Gold. Oily. Less aggressive from the off. Acetone. Burnt rubber. Oak. Ripe bananas. Beautiful medicinal quality again. Very pungent and well-rounded. Like Hampden meets Rockley. Light smoke. Oak. Liquorice. Vanilla. Pineapple chutney. A more accessible and mature proposition with the medicinal notes well-tempered.

Mouth: Again the alcohol is well-integrated. Oak meets pepper meets herbal tablets (maybe this is just a UK thing). Ginger. Banana jam. Mildly menthol. Honeycomb. Light florals wrapped in that beautiful medicinal smokey note. The long finish starts with fruit, caramel and liquorice chewy sweets before developing into a moisture sapping smoke driven dryness with a faint herbal note to end. Very well-rounded and really impressive.

John Dore Pot Still – 9 Years Old – 55% abv

There is no specific mention of which John Dore Still this comes from, I or II. John Dore I has a capacity of 1500 litres and was commissioned in 1998. John Dore II is the largest Pot Still at SLD and has a capacity of 6000 litres. It was commissioned in 2004

Glass: Dark gold. Viscous. Very pungent. Acetone, pear drops. Fruit. Oak. Honey. Banana chips. Chocolate. Caramel. It all seems less medicinal forward through it is there. Pineapple. Mango. Cloves. Cinnamon. Pipe tobacco. Integration is the overarching theme here. Maybe the still gives out less medicinal notes?

Mouth: Hot Hot Heat….pretty sure that was a band? Far sweeter entry than expected. Pronounced cinnamon. Pepper kicks hard and is followed by a light oak. A beautiful candyfloss joins the party. Banana chips, mango fruit leathers. It could be Jamaican for a split second. Funky. The mid-palate is all about the medicinal notes, smoke and spice. Anise and a liquorice bitterness. It remains quite heated with a growing foreboding dryness. This Rum is a lot more meaty and all-encompassing. The long finish starts with banana chips in chocolate before developing a nutty oaken quality. Tobacco follows along with whiffs of smoke and just a hint of that medicinal note.

It hard to separate the Vendome 9 and John Dore 9. Both display maturity and complexity far in excess of their tender years. Even the Vendome 6 brings a more playful puppy like quality to the party. Given my time again, I’d buy all three again. If you have to only have one, ask how much you like medicinal notes….if you adore Rockley style rums then it has to be the Vendome 9….if you like medicinal notes present but tempered by a sweeter spice driven note…it has to be the John Dore. I personally can’t pick between the two older expressions as you’ll note by the scores. I love medicinal notes, I love the bite of a Rum that sits over 50% and I pretty much love St Lucian pot still rum. More!!!

© 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