Velier Caroni 2000 TWE Exclusive

As the name would suggest, this release is a bottling from the legendary Caroni Distillery that closed in the early 2000’s. I have previously written about Rums from the Caroni Distillery and that information can be found here, here and here.

Velier Caroni 2000 The Whisky Exchange Exclusive Bottling – 70.4% abv

This Whisky Exchange Exclusive Velier bottling is a Full Proof Heavy Caroni distilled in 2000 and bottled in 2017 giving it 17 years of maturation in Trinidad. It is a ‘single cask’ bottling (#R4008) which yielded 238 bottles at a mammoth 70.4% abv. Loss to evaporation is stated as >75%. It must have been a consolidation of casks at some point into #R4008 given the release of 238 700ml bottles, unless a larger vessel was used. Anyhow, its Velier, so there will be no tricks at play. Honesty is their thing.

Tasting Notes

Nose: Proper heavy Caroni. The type that isn’t immediately petrol / oil / tar led. It’s initially a very medicinal, smoke and hedgerow fruit rum. Varnish. Linseed oil. Tar creeps in. The aroma of summer as a child….freshly creosoted fence panels. The petrol and oil are definitely present but very much under control. The longer you leave it, the fruitier and more baked goods it becomes. Bread and butter pudding with crispy burnt raisins and a sprinkling of muscovado sugar. Mixed candied fruit peels. It plays very well for such a brute with a solid backbone of oak and cedar wood wrap from a cigar tube. This is the kind of Caroni that I enjoy.

With water the addition of powdery cocoa and lighter floral notes.

Mouth: Wow. A huge explosion of smoke, antiseptic, heavy oak. Old Demerara Rum bitterness. Bitter burnt raisins. So intense.

With water and 20 minutes in the glass: Hedgerow fruit. Homemade blackcurrant and raspberry jam. Beautifully approachable and subtly sweet. Terry’s chocolate orange. Candyfloss. Caramel. Liquorice. A beautifully enveloping mouthfeel. Pencil shavings take over the spicy and peppery mid palate. Intense drying, spicy oak. The finish is heavily oak led, with smoke, bitter liquorice and molasses. Maybe a touch of eucalyptus as the long finish eventually fades.

Caroni is not my favourite Rum, I don’t possess the same fanatic obsessions as some…but when it’s good, it’s REALLY good….and this is REALLY REALLY good. It’s actually quite nuanced for a Caroni, dare I say it, at times delicate and approachable….but don’t let your guard down as it’s a bit like a wild animal…it should be respected or you could lose an arm! It’s amazing what plenty of years in a barrel in a tropical climate can do for something that must surely have been handled with caution straight off the still. It could have replaced the Velier Caroni 21 as my favourite Caroni as it has the fruit that the 21 has, but its just carried through in a fuller experience.

4.5 / 5

This Rum will be £299 on release. It is available via ballot only from The Whisky Exchange on this link: The Whisky Exchange Ballot

If you are fortunate, you will be charged on the 4th October. I want it, but I have tried it…and therefore I won’t use up a spot in the ballot to deny someone that hasn’t

© 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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Rum Nation Caroni 1999

Rum Nation Logo

Back in July of 2015 I posted an article all about a previous Rum Nation Caroni 1998 – 2nd Batch which included a little information on Rum production at the Caroni Distillery in Trinidad. To refresh your memory that article can be found here. Right, now that you’re back we can get straight into it.

Rum Nation Caroni 1999 – 55% abv

Photo 10-07-2016, 22 06 43 (1)

This particular iteration of Rum Nation Caroni was distilled in 1999 and bottled in 2015 and is noted as being a classic heavy Caroni….of course from a column still. This release, Batch number L 15/217, comprises 4480 bottles. This Rum was initially matured in Trinidad for 11 years in Refill American oak and 4 years is the UK. It was then shipped to Piedmont, Italy for a finishing period of 12 months in casks that had previously held Spanish Brandy and Sherry. The data that I requested shows additions of 9.42 g/L. The signature postage stamp is present and correct along with the same bottle style as the other release bottle and the same wooden topped cork…..Here we go

RN Caroni 99

In the glass: The Rum is a dullish dark mahogany and as soon as the Rum is poured you get that overwhelming and ever-present heavy Caroni signature petrol aroma…this is quickly backed up by an astringent varnish. A spike from the alcohol stings your nose and there is a freshly cracked black pepper to it. Burnt, almost bitter sugar is there along with something resembling pear drops. Adding a little water calms the savage beast slightly and the astringency gives way to tangerines and the petrol is subdued enough to make it more approachable but it still has a very oily feel.

In the mouth: Straight away the Rum is a very oily and full-bodied experience. It opens up with punchy creosote that really dominates and is all-encompassing for the first ten seconds or so. It is very astringent and carries an almost menthol vapour taste too. The sweetness from the additions fights through and there is a definite medicinal quality to the Rum. It’s a very warming mouthful and it carries black pepper and a hint of liquorice. The finish is of a medium length and is initially all about the petrol before a hint of that menthol leads into a drying oak laden ending. A little water still allows the Rum to retain its punchy, oily character but the petrol is subdued. There is a little more fruit present and the oaken finish is a little more like pencil shavings. The finish is shortened and pear drops make a return but the petrol is still present.

On the whole, again, yet another very approachable Caroni release from Rum Nation. 55% definitely seems to work well for heavy Caroni’s (in my eyes) and there is much enjoyment to be found in this bottle. For me, it doesn’t quite hit the heights of the 1998 2nd Batch which I thought was the most enjoyable (non Velier) Caroni that I have tried….and I still do.

3-0-star

© 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.

Rum Nation Caroni 1998 – 2nd Batch

Rum Nation LogoA few weeks off from writing but now we’re back with a rather nice proposition. Rum Nation Caroni 1998 – 2nd Batch. This is the first Rum that I have written about from the much fabled Caroni Distillery in Trinidad….I have a few Caroni bottles on the shelf so it may be worthwhile to start with a brief introduction and background to the history of Rum production at Caroni Distillery.

Caroni Rum Production

There were originally in excess of 50 distilleries in Trinidad but by the 1950’s that had fallen to just 8. Now there is only one….and that is Angostura. In 1918, the Caroni sugar factory begun distilling Rum (1923 is also mentioned. Clarity would be welcomed). It did so in a Cast Iron Still. During this period, there were several other sugar factories also distilling differing types of Rum in differing stills. As you can imagine, the process could be a little ‘changeable’ which when accompanied with blending that is perhaps done on a random basis, saw never to be seen again ‘one-off’ creations being commonplace. During its years of Rum production, Caroni improved their processes and also began to purchase and utilise new stills, moving from their original Cast Iron Still to a Wooden Coffey Still in 1943. The Cast Iron and Wooden Coffey Stills remained in operation until 1945 when a new all Copper Still was installed. Due to the Caroni takeover of the Esperanza Estate and therefore taking ownership of their Still, the Esperanza Single Column Still arrived in 1957. A Four Column Gerb Herman still was installed in 1979 and commissioned in 1980. This assisted in two ways. It helped increase the capacity of the distillery and led to a diversification in the number of differing products that the distillery could offer. The Cast Iron Still and Wooden Coffey still were replaced in 1984 by a Twin Column Still from Blair, Campbell and McLean of Glasgow and also a Pot Still.

In 2001, despite union protests, the Government of Trinidad sold its 49% stake in Rum Distillers Limited which was Caroni’s Rum arm, for $35 million to Angostura. The unions had actually offered to buy that same 49% stake for a higher price than that seen in the Angostura bid ($40 million) but due to negotiations with Angostura being at ‘an advanced stage’, the bid was refused. From 2002 the Caroni Distillery carried on its operations at a vastly reduced output but the sugar operation was closed in 2003 and that was followed by the closure of Caroni (1975) Ltd in 2004. No more Rum production. This coupled with the death of the sugar industry there, devastated Trinidad with the loss of upwards of 10,000 jobs and a knock on effect to other industries and countless thousands of employees family members.

Caroni Rum Styles

Caroni was famed for producing both ‘Heavy’ and ‘Light’ Rums. With my basic understanding (plus a lot of help from a learned friend) this is a reference to congeners (both desirable and undesirable) which create the flavours within a Rum. ‘Heavy’ Rums from a column still have a higher percentage of undesirable congeners due to low rectification. ‘Light’ Rums have a lower percentage of undesirable congeners due to higher overall rectification. The ‘Light’ Rums produced by Caroni were close to neutral spirit territory at 96% abv…..though not all spirit at a higher proof is neutral. The ‘Heavy’ Rums produced by Caroni would probably be closer to 65 – 70% abv. Due to the high abv, the light Rum was reduced to around 80% abv prior to maturation to avoid excessive evaporation during that process.

There is a common aroma and flavour profile that seems to run through every Caroni Rum that I have tasted, regardless of the abv. It is in part as a result of the attempt to make a heavy, pot still style Rum via low rectification methods in a column still. This actually ends up producing a distillate heavier than that produced via a true low rectification still and a distillate containing a higher percentage of undesirable components, such as fusel oils, that a pot distiller would usually exclude when making their cuts. This alongside a higher sulphur content certainly makes them not to everyone’s liking. There is no doubting though the ‘Unicorn’ status that certain bottles of Caroni Rum have among the Rum Community…..I’m not certain whether this is as a result of their growing rarity or the flavour and aroma profile of the varying expressions.

With all that said, I suppose that its time to talk about the Rum in question.

Rum Nation Caroni 1998 – 2nd Batch – 55% abv

Caroni 98 WideAs per usual, you can refresh your knowledge of other Rum Nation releases and Rum Nation as a company here, here and here.

This Rum was distilled in 1998 and bottled in 2014, and is the 2nd batch of this expression. This release, Batch number L 14/349, comprises 4580 bottles. This Rum was initially matured in Trinidad for 9 years in American oak before being shipped to Piedmont, Italy for a second maturation period of 6 years in casks that had previously held Rum Nation Peruano 8. The familiar postage stamp is present along with the squat bottle and wooden topped cork. Time to dig in……

Tasting Notes 

In the glass: the Rum is a dark mahogany in the glass with bright orange flashes (darker than it appears in the photograph) and a swirl of the glass releases long thick droplets. Immediately and rather surprisingly given my earlier Caroni experiences, the first aroma that hits me is an oily, almost perfumed orange peel….then this is backed up with that familiar petrol aroma that I have come to expect from Caroni….but it is dialled down…a lot. Oak is quite apparent as is a varnish like aroma. Caramel, burnt sugar and something resembling freshly ground cumin round things off alongside something hinting at a raisin influence.

Given the 55% abv I added a few drops of water and waited for a while. The petrol takes a back seat now and fruitier aromas come to the fore. Tropical fruits, a heightened oak and a tingling spicy character are revealed.

In the mouth: This is a bruiser up front. There is a huge hit of that familiar petrol and tar like flavour and the initial experience is very astringent and tannic. Following sips reveal a fresh, almost menthol like pine note. There is definitely a clove influence and that oak detected on the nose is very influential. There is also an underlying savoury edge to this Rum with that cumin and also the floral, almost perfumed taste of biting into a coriander seed. This Rum is almost in the realms of slightly bitter or tart and it is all the more interesting for it. The finish is of a medium to long length and contains highlights of aniseed, petrol and that perfumed coriander seed…..it is still very tannic until the end.

With a little water, liquorice is really standing out for me as is a peach like fruitiness. This is far easier to drink as the astringency has been muted. The florals are far more dominant with that orange oil, pine and something medicinal on the finish.

Caroni 98 LabelFor me personally, this is one of the more approachable and enjoyable Caroni experiences that I have had. I can only assume that this is down to the casks used for the second maturation period. The flavours and aromas familiar to all are there, but they’re dialed down allowing more to shine through and maybe allowing a fuller impression of the spirit to be gained. Water makes it infinitely more sippable, or should I say it increases the palatability of the Rum over a longer period of time. If you enjoy Caroni releases, I see nothing to stop you getting enjoyment here. It is different enough to offer something new, whilst also being familiar. I’m really still not sure of my own feelings for Caroni bottlings. One day I can’t get enough of the flavour, another day I can think of nothing I’d like to taste less. It is certainly a mood thing with me but this release has seen more action in a shorter timeframe than any of my other Caroni expressions so that speaks volumes. Its different, so I’d say give it a try. It is almost, and I do mean almost, ‘Caroni-lite’. One thing that I will add is that I think the abv is about right for this release. The lower abv expressions that I have encountered (40%) have been almost over diluted and contain more of what I don’t enjoy in a Caroni. Having control to take the abv down slightly really helps me personally with Caroni Rums. As per usual, feel free to pop by for a drop.

3-5-star

© 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.

Rum Nation Jamaica 8 Year

Rum Nation Logo

I’m quite excited about this post as it represents two stages of the same product. You see I had previously written about the Rum Nation Jamaica White Pot Still which is an unaged 100% pot distilled Rum. This expression is also from the same distillery (Worthy Park) in St. Catherine, Jamaica but unlike its younger sibling, this Rum has been matured……twice.

You can read up about the younger sibling and also get a little background on Rum Nation and Fabio Rossi by clicking here

Rum Nation Jamaica 8 Year Old Pot Still – 50% abv

Rum Nation Jamaica 8The Rum was distilled in 2006 and bottled in 2015. It was aged in ex-bourbon barrels in Jamaica for a period of 7 years before being shipped over to Piedmont, Italy, for a second maturation period of 1 year in first fill ex-Oloroso Sherry barrels. The Rum belongs to batch number L 15/020 with 5436 bottles being produced from this batch. I have a lab report in my possession that lists a figure of 1.67 g/l of ‘inverted’ sugar in the Rum. This bottling is not the biggest offender by a long shot and this specific topic in relation to this Rum has been discussed to death on other sites. Rum Nation have been honest enough to share the lab information with me and others and that displays a level of honesty in relation to this Rum……so I’m going to leave this information as just that…..information. Information allows you to make your own informed choices. Back then to the Rum…..

Rum Nation Jamaica 8 StampThe Rum is presented in the same stumpy bottle which all of the latest releases have been. I love the bottle size and shape as my shelves are governed by headroom not width therefore a shorter and wider bottle helps me greatly! That chunky timber topped cork is present along with the postage stamp that has become a sign of a Rum Nation bottling. The same label style as the unaged expression but this time it is presented in a striking gold to compliment the black which also works against the burnished red / mahogany of the liquid in the bottle. As presentation goes its pretty classy stuff. I’ve also been told that the Rum will come in at around £40 a bottle.

Tasting Notes

In the glass: The Rum displays itself as a dark gold with burnished orange flashes. A swirl of the rum in the glass shows an oily slab of liquid that releases reluctant droplets. A pot still character is immediately evident but it is slightly masked by tropical fruits and a subtle oaky undertone. There is a slight sting of astringency initially and a little of the heat from that 50% gives your nose a little bite. Raisins are definitely in there alongside a kind of solvent aroma reminiscent of glue. Once the alcohol dissipates and the Rum warms you are left with a very pleasant fruity and oaky aroma with the slightest whiff of cigar tobacco. Not the beast that I expected, more of a refined prospect than its younger sibling.

In the mouth: Straight out of the gate this Rum is very warming with a pepperiness at the front on your tongue and a slight but not dominant sweetness helps temper this. The pepper is accompanied by a clove like taste before raisins and prunes start to make you salivate………then the oak comes into play and starts to dry the Rum out. It’s not heavy oak but it is apparent. There is also a little burnt sugar in there and you can really sense dark stone fruits. The finish starts with cheek tingling raisins and soon dries into a medium length finish resplendent with pepper, cloves, dried prunes and oak. There is still that feeling of cigar tobacco but not overly so. The whole experience is very pleasant and very approachable given its 50% abv. It in no way feels like it is this strong and can catch you unawares after a few glasses (dependent upon how heavy-handed your pours are). Right at the back of the finish there is a really pleasing liquorice taste that clings on for dear life. It really is a flavourful Rum that always carries with it that strong pot still backbone to which all of the other character traits cling to.

I put this Rum into the obligatory Mai Tai along with its younger counterpart. I had never previously used a sherry finished Rum in this drink but it made for a tasty proposition. Again, the abv of 50% along with the 57% of the unaged expression is apparent but never too dominant….very powerful and very tasty as you’d expect. Very moreish! I would also bet that the facets of this Rum would pair well with a cigar as it carries just a hint of cigar tobacco on the nose. Versatile in cocktails, not overly dominated by the Oloroso finish and more than pleasant to sip neat, this Rum should be a big hit…..if only it were more readily available here in the UK. France is our nearest option for purchase.

As with all of these matters, feel free to pop in if you’re passing by and share a glass with us…

© 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.

Rum Nation Jamaica White Pot Still

Rum Nation Logo
I have been more than aware of the Rums released by Rum Nation for a while. I have even had the opportunity to try a couple of them. I then started seeing images of a striking bottle of Rum appearing on the web but could not locate it over here in the UK and it was whilst making my first order from France that I noticed it for sale at what was the rather competitive price of £28. That price for a white Jamaican 100% Pot Distilled Rum at 57% abv……I’d be a fool not to snap it up….

RNFrontA little background on Rum Nation should start things off in earnest. The company founder, Fabio Rossi was born in 1961. His father, Mario Jr started to deal in wines and spirits in 1956 and was the first importer of Laphroig Whisky in Italy. He then proceeded to import brands such as Rhum Barbancourt. Fabio grew up around fine wines and spirits and took a degree in Oenology (the study of wine and wine making). During a series of business related distillery visits to Scotland in 1990, Fabio noticed old barrels of Rum from Jamaica and British Guyana stacked near the whisky barrels. These barrels had been sent there for maturation as the climate would reduce the loss to evaporation and also slow down the maturation process. With Rum only retained in memory, Fabio formed Wilson & Morgan in 1992, a company that releases an independent line of single malt whiskies. Several years later having never forgotten those memories of the Rum tastings that he had been a party to, Fabio asked Silvano Samaroli, himself a respected independent bottler, for advice on Rum and Rum styles. Fabio purchased his first barrels of Rum and their contents were bottled. Not wanting to release the Rums under the Wilson & Morgan name, in 1999 the Rum Nation brand was born. For the curious, those first Rums were a vatting of two barrels of 25 year old Jamaican Rum (1974-1999 Cask Nos 857 and 858) and a barrel of 24 year old Demerara Rum (1975-1999 Cask No 4111). These barrels were left to rest in an underground warehouse in Bristol (I’d hazard a guess that it is the warehouse of Mr John Barrett of Bristol Spirits Ltd). Apparently there is still remaining stock, some 16 years later.

A decision was made early on in the life of Rum Nation to not label the Rums after the distillery, but to make them single domaine Rums named after their country of origin, and as Fabio has been an avid stamp collector from an early age, one thing that runs through the range (and is particularly striking on the label of this bottle) is that each label contains an image of a postage stamp from the country of origin.

You can read more about Fabio Rossi and Rum Nation as there is a far more lengthy and colourful representation of this story available on the Rum Nation website, and you can find that by clicking here.

Rum Nation Jamaica White Pot Still – 57% abv

Rum Nation Jamaica

The rear label on the bottle hints at the distillery location in St Catherine, Jamaica. This therefore could be either the Worthy Park Estate (most likely) or the Monymusk Estate. For me there is something almost mythical about these high powered, high ester, Jamaican flavour bombs. They are often misunderstood as exercises in potent liquids much beloved of teenagers daring eachother to down shots. When taken in that context….yes, they can be pretty hellish. All brashness and aggression….but much like King Kong, they can be tamed. When treated with care and respect, they offer an honest glimpse into just how much flavour can be crammed into a distillate that is to receive no barrel maturation. You will have read my article on Glorious Revolution so will be aware of the principles of trying to cram as much flavour into the fermentation process as possible given that distillation strips flavour. In the context of this Rum, similar to Wray & Nephew Overproof at 63% abv, the fermentation and distillation method shapes the profile, but I wonder if the mythical ‘dunder’ plays a part in adding the meat to this Rums bones? Slow fermentation time and a pot distillation method are the building blocks of this quite remarkable Rum, and I can tell you that this Rum will not be for everyone. It is almost using itself as an example of how powerful can also be subtle…..a little like the aforementioned King Kong. The bottle is nice and squat (not easily toppled which is useful if you’re going to be imbibing a quantity of this Rum) and has really simple, clear labeling with a striking silver Jamaican postage stamp taking pride of place. As soon as you remove the wooden topped cork, the aromas jump out at you….

Tasting Notes

RN BackIn the glass: The Rum displays itself as a crystal clear liquid brimming with grassy, funky aromas.A swirl of the glass leaves little slow beads that are reluctant to move. Savoury is the first word that I’d use to describe this Rum. Initial aromas are of salty olives on cheese biscuits. A vegetal aroma then pushes through and the Rum starts to smell very fresh and green. It is quite astringent and spicy. Next up are the pungent, lacquer and varnish aromas bringing a real sting to the nose. There is also a nice waxy creaminess that brings oily citrus peel and ripe fruits such as mango and banana into play. It sounds strange but I then get what seems to be a wallpaper paste and superglue concoction. Finishing the experience are those funky grassy pot still aromas that could seemingly punch their way through a brick wall if asked nicely.

In the mouth: The Rum has an all encompassing mouthfeel that leads with a heavy dose of olive brine and white pepper. It initially bites quite hard with a kind of solvent flavour carrying liqourice which is the next flavour that makes an appearance, and with it comes a slight sweetness that feels like a custardy wave. It is very grassy and vegetal but along with this is the feeling of ripe bananas. The finish is very long and it stays around for a while with liqourice, molasses and that superglue. It is hard hitting and unapologetic but it also has those soft ripe fruit, oily citrus and banana flavours that hint at a softer and more approachable side to the Rum.

It feels like an experimental style of Rum, maybe even a reference Rum. A fine example of this style of Rum production to which others can be compared. I am massively glad that I seized the opportunity to pick a bottle of this Rum up and I urge you to do the same. It has a great deal of complexity both in it’s aromas and it’s flavours and I can imagine it working wonderfully in the right drink such as a daiquiri or maybe as a portion of the Jamaican component in a powerful Mai Tai replacing J Wray as the punchy element. There is also an aged expression of a Jamaican Pot Still Rum available soon from Rum Nation….I am trawling the online drink shops on a daily basis awaiting its arrival!

ValrhonaAn interesting opportunity has presented itself to me after I was sent a box of Rum Nation branded chocolates (more on those in a later post), each one different in style and hand picked to match the Rum Nation range of Rums. The recommended chocolate to accompany this Rum is the Valrhona Caraibe 66% which is from the same region as the Rum. So I took a little sip of the Rum to accustom myself to it again. Nibbled off a chunk of the chocolate and let it sit in my mouth, slowly melting. The chocolate itself has a beautiful flavour of intense cocoa and coffee. Sipping the Rum again, its bite is tempered by the cocoa and the bitterness cuts through the mouthfeel making the whole experience very pleasant. I look forward to delving deeper into the box of chocolates in the future and matching the Rums where possible.

© 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.