William George Rum

A few weeks ago at Manchester Rum Festival I got to meet a chap named Andrew Nicholls promoting a Rum. That Rum was called William George. I had been enjoying my bottle for a few months now so it was good to put a face to the brand. Andrew himself is one of the founders and oversaw the blending of the Rum. He started life as a bartender in January 2000 and only recently gave that up at the end of 2018. Andrew is the Netherlands Rum Educator for WSET and was the Benelux Representative for the ACR (Authentic Caribbean Rum) programme. On top of this he has gained awards for his bartending and bars, is part of the seminar selection committee for Tales of the Cocktail and is also on the judging panel for ‘Worlds 50 Best Bars’……His list of accolades is far more impressive than anything I can muster….though I do have a 25m swimming badge and a certificate marking my third place in the school ‘egg and spoon’ race in 1985.

There is also a story behind the Rum, so if you’ll indulge me I’ll recount it below.

William Simpson

Andrew created this blend to honour his two grandfathers…..can you guess their names? Yep….you got it…..William and George. William Simpson (above) and George Nicholls (below) were Grandfathers to the two founders of William George Rum….Andrew and Richard Nicholls.

George Nicholls

William moved from England to Zambia in 1938 and returned to England to serve in World war II….he then returned to Zambia after the war. George moved from England to Zimbabwe in 1956 after also serving in World War II. Both men developed a love of Africa and they would have been in Africa at the same time in 1956, though they were living in separate countries. This connection ties through to the imaging used on the labels. Housed in a tall and elegant bottle, the label is quite unique and detailled. William lived in Zambia and George lived in Zimbabwe. On the border between these two countries is Victoria Falls. The quill on the compass is pointing to 11 degrees west of magnetic North which in 1956 would have been true North when calculated from Victoria Falls. Further label details connect to the Rums namesakes with the font being taken from a 1964 Certificate of Baptism that George had signed as Godfather to his friends child. The handwritten element reflects the writing found in a letter that William sent to his wife (Andrew and Richards Grandmother) in the 1950’s and the wording you see reads ‘blissful happiness for decades of time’. This is what was written by William in the letter to Wendy. So there you go. Lets have a look at the bottle contents.

William George Rum – 43% abv – Blended Rum

It looks to be that the blend has been put together without any emphasis on age or origin, instead attempting to focus on the flavour profile and the core value of no additives. The information on the bottle tells us that the Rum has been blended in Amsterdam, so that will be at E&A Scheer. It is a blend of six Rums in total. Four Pot Still Jamaican Rums and two multi-column Trinidadian Rums. The Jamaican Pot Still components which make up 61% of the blend are all unaged. They are from Hampden, Worthy Park, New Yarmouth and Clarendon. The multi column Trinidadian components which account for 39% of the blend are obviously from Angostura. One of them is unaged and the other is a blend of 2 to 5 year old Rums matured in 200 litre ex-bourbon barrels which are then carbon filtered to remove colour. The ester range of the marques used within the blend ranges from 100 gr/hlaa to 900gr/hlaa with the total volatile count of the final blend being 317.1 gr/hlaa.

Tasting Notes

Nose: Nice and oily in the glass with legs taking an age to form. There’s no doubting or avoiding the fact that this blend has a majority Jamaican pot still component within. Bright grassy cane notes. The merest hint of the familiar aroma of Uncle Wray. Molasses. Creamy. Tinned fruit cocktail and single cream. Candied sweetness of pineapple rings in juice. A good balance is struck as just when you get your nose lost in the unaged pot still, the lighter aged column notes lift to the surface and bring with them vanilla. Citrus oil and a little bright fruit sweetness linger almost permanently as you approach the glass and as the liquid heats up it morphs into warm banana fritters. A little ethyl acetate creeps in right at the back end. Plenty to enjoy here.

Mouth: Not as sweet an entry as the nose eluded to but it’s definitely as oily as the appearance led me to believe. Plenty of grip on the palate with a little heat. A hint of tinned strawberry soaked trifle sponge. It’s all pot still up front and very approachable….also massively enjoyable neat. Grassy vibrant cane plays alongside the merest hint of white pepper and the zip of citrus. Sugared almonds. A mixed bag of creamy Macadamia and Cashew nuts. Sweetened whipped cream and peaches round things out. Growing heat.

Not as entertaining on the palate as it is on the nose (maybe a lift to 46% would assist?) but that is not meant to do the palate a disservice….it wouldn’t usually see regular rotation neat for me but it has done since I opened it. Dare I say it that I’m also mentioning it in the same sentence as Veritas……which is quite frankly a superb Rum and is high praise indeed….though this does sit around £10 higher in price than Veritas. Its designed to mix well but also to display and retain its character….and it does. It makes a superb Daiquiri (I do enjoy prominent pot still in a daiquiri) and a very refreshing Rum and Tonic. Also…..I love a Banana Daiquiri, and with a more than 50% pot still component, this does a hell of a job. My bottle was picked up from the chaps at Skylark Spirits on their Amazon Store.

© Steven James and Rum Diaries Blog 2019. 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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MHOBA Rum – Pure Single Sugarcane Rum – Part 2

Time for Part 2 in the series of MHOBA Rum reviews but the third part in the full MHOBA series of articles. You can pick up on Part 1 of the reviews here and also read a lot more into MHOBA and the inner workings of what they do here.

You can clearly see in those two articles how much effort goes into the production of the output MHOBA and how much care is taken to prepare the casks for the maturation of MHOBA Rum. This article will feature three of the four matured Rums in the line up. These are:

MHOBA Strand 101

MHOBA American Oak Aged

MHOBA French Oak Cask

*There is another release, the Glass Cask which will be included here once I have completed my notes*

Let’s get right into them.

MHOBA Strand’s 101 – 58% abv – Pure Single Sugarcane Rum

Now called Strand 101 for its LMDW release, it remains however inspired by its namesake…the “Crazy Dane” Knud Strand. Knud has a history of working with large brands from Bacardi to Cachaça Novo Fogo and this bottling, like quite a lot of MHOBA ideas was a happy accident. Following an extensive sample tasting process Knud found himself with samples of the first run of the High Ester and the super woody 2 year Glass Cask Aged. He mixed the two together to hopefully balance the in your face funk of the High Ester and super woody profile of the glass cask. During a few tasting and presentation sessions Knud found that the blend proved to be popular. The desire was to have the product as an homage to some of Knud’s favourite products. The 101 to reflect his enjoyment of Wild a Turkey 101….Knud expected a direct proof to abv halving as per the US system but true to Roberts heritage, Imperial Proof was what we got. The Blue and Gold of the label reflects Knud’s love of Smith & Cross. But what is the liquid like.

Tasting Notes

Nose: Bright vibrant cane. Very pungent. Acetone. Varnish. Earthy root vegetables. Menthol. Herbal and perfumed. A hint of oak influence excerpts itself with a whiff of smoke. A lot of fermented fruit and wild strawberries carry through on the nose. It remains astringent and pungent with crisp green apples. It’s almost the best of both worlds. Vibrant youth and more balanced age.

Mouth: Beautifully sweet and oily entry accompanied by a lot of heat. The bite of a youthful spirit rules the early exchanges with fresh sugarcane, fermenting tropical fruit and cider. A lot of funk. On the mid palate the aged component begins to envelop your tongue and becomes quite tannic, drying out your palate. This leaves a medium length finish that develops from tinned fruit with fresh cream through coffee, an oaken influence and then into a warming peppery finale. Good balance of youth and maturity.

Very very enjoyable Rum……and if you’ve met Knud, you’ll see how it reflects his character…..approachable, warm and a little bit crazy.

4 / 5

I attempted to pair it up with Smith & Cross in a Mai Tai but it destroyed the Jamaican in standard recipe proportions so it needed re-balancing. Once I’d done that, it made an unbelievable drink.

MHOBA American Oak Aged – 43% abv – Pure Single Sugarcane Rum

Initially left to mature in large glass demijohns with wood fire charred and cut American oak staves, this Rum is then transferred to Ex South African Whisky casks for a second maturation period. It is then reduced and bottled.

Tasting Notes

Nose: Charred wood. Smoke. Caramel. Vanilla. Burnt wooden splints. Light sweet grain notes. Bonfire embers and powdered sugar. Warm fudge. Black pepper and pencil shavings.

Mouth: Heavy, drying oak. Damp cardboard. Grilled smoked meat. Warm charred timber…memories of woodwork classes at school. Butterscotch. The mid palate brings a slowly growing coffee influence. Dark chocolate. The charred embers of a fire on the beach. The dry and medium length finish is all dominant oak, light vanilla and powdered cocoa with lingering charred, smoked wood that grows increasingly bitter.

Not at the top of my list as far as the aged Rums go, but I do have a small cask sample of just the ex South African Whisky barrel matured and its a bit special.

3 / 5

MHOBA French Oak Cask Rum – 65% abv – Pure Single Sugarcane Rum

The French Oak Cask release sees a real step up in bottle presentation. It is housed within a hand constructed laser engraved bamboo box and the front and rear bottle labels are laser engraved bamboo. As you’ll note, this bottle was personalised and given to me at the UK Rumfest in October. Receiving it was a very humbling experience. The Select Reserve Rums are some of the Rums adjudged to be the most exceptional. In this instance the selected distillates have been matured for a minimum 12 month French Oak casks that previously held Cape Red Wine. These casks are brought in by MHOBA and are refurbished.

Barrel Charring with Hardwood Coals

The first eight French Oak casks obtained by Robert we’re stripped, ground and reassembled before toasting and sealing. Toasting would be via either the use of coals of an LPG torch. Each cask was filled over a two day period. First half filling with a single distillate Rum, Robert then sampled the cask blend the day after and make a decision on where to go next. Second distillate Rums are then added along with water for dilution reducing the abv to somewhere between 65 and 70%. Only when happy with the contents are the barrels sealed. The French Oak Cask reviewed here is taken from an equal blend of the best six casks from the initial eight. I do have an LMDW order bottle that has seen an additional six months in the barrel so I will update when that is opened.

Tasting Notes

Nose: The nose displays a lot of control for a 65% spirit. The oak is well integrated into the spirit but a perfumed and fragrant effect from the French oak is definitely present. A perfect balance of spiced notes from the barrel and classic, grassy sugarcane notes. Reminiscent of some truly wonderful aged agricoles. Bright acidic fruit, crisp apples. Growing tropical fruit….ripe mango. Guava jam. The oak is ever present but never overly dominant. Warming and spicy. Pencil shavings. Hints of red grapes and tart cranberries.

Mouth: Well balanced entry. Initially sweet, intensely so with a touch of powdered sugar and tropical fruit leathers. The freshness of the cane shines through. Intense moisture sapping dryness and huge amounts of grip on the mid palate from the French oak. There’s also a mineral quality. It remains soft though and never aggressive. Well balanced spice notes from the oak bounce off the vibrancy of the spirit to provide a fulfilling experience. The exceedingly long and intense finish sees sugarcane and tropical fruit mix with a huge oaken influence laden with spice, barrel charr and wet cardboard. Cranberry juice and succulent, crisp apples. A well balanced, fulfilling experience that will surprise a lot of people. Well crafted well executed rum.

Some producers have been working for years and have still not produced something as accomplished as this Rum.

4.5 / 5

I am fully aware that the Rums reviewed in this series will and may have moved on from these expressions. Different batches, harvests and more cask time are all components, welcome ones of being such a small producer and that fascinates me. It is also why I feel that MHOBA are so exciting as a producer, changing, developing and growing in both output and confidence all of the time. Robert has full autonomy over the distillates and therefore has the ability to experiment with fermentation methods, time, dunder, cane varieties and also with cask maturation enabling so many possibilities. Updates will be provided moving forwards.

© Steven James and Rum Diaries Blog 2019. 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.

Foursquare Hereditas – Private Cask Selection

Seemingly of late, releases from the Foursquare Rum Distillery Exceptional Cask Selection have been a little like buses here in the UK……you wait ages for one, then three turn up at once. That is definitely the case here. Setting aside the Foursquare Distilled, Blended , Bottled and Velier Distributed Patrimonio we have in the space of a week seen the Exceptional Cask Selection IX which is Empery and X which is 2007 and is the successor to the excellent 2004 and even more excellent 2005. The third in this public transport based Rum release analogy was a surprise to some but a piecing together of the jigsaw pieces for others. It is the appropriately named Foursquare Hereditas Rum – Exclusive to the Whisky Exchange.

I have covered release from Foursquare Rum Distillery quite extensively on these pages and you can either put your own search in the “search box” or click here to read a little more about them. This bottling is the first exclusive release from The Whisky Exchange post unveiling of their new classification system and would be classed as Single Traditional Blended Rum under their system….or Single Blended Rum under the Gargano / Seale. It is also an exclusive Private Cask Selection bottling. But what is it like?

Foursquare Hereditas Rum – Exclusive to the Whisky Exchange – 56% abv – Single Blended Rum – 2520 bottles

As you will be well aware, Foursquare produce predominantly ‘single blended rum’ which is a single distillery blend of traditional batch (pot) and traditional continuous (twin coffey column) distillation. Unlike most other producers, Foursquare blend their batch and continuous distillates prior to maturation. Exact ratios are never revealed but you’ll occasionally be advised when something is batch or continuous ‘heavy’.

The make up of Hereditas is a 14 year solely ex-bourbon barrel Single Blended Rum and a 14 year ex-bourbon / ex-sherry Single Blended Rum. The former is self explanatory but the latter saw 10 years in ex-bourbon prior to being placed into ex-sherry barrels for a secondary maturation period of 4 years. 14 years is a long time in the Caribbean climate and we are only just starting to see Rums of this age coming out of Foursquare……the ones that I’ve tried thus far have been an intense proposition to say the least. The Sherry barrels used are all ex-Oloroso with varying histories prior to their use at Foursquare but they are all first fill.

Tasting Notes

Nose: Higher abv but absolutely no need to fight through any pesky alcohol bite. As soon as your nose gets anywhere near the glass you immediately get that familiar and classic Barbadian, and more so Foursquare nose of a well integrated oak and Vanilla. But there is so much more depth here. The intensity of a spiced fruit loaf nearing readiness in the oven. Imagine that the top of that fruit loaf had slightly burnt and crisped up a few raisins. Plump Raisins. Flamed orange peel. A heavy, warming stewed plum note develops. Hereditas possesses the kind of depth and character from the Sherry cask that I had previously only experienced on a short lived love affair with a good batch bottle of Aberlour A’Bunadh. Time in the glass allows those classic notes of coconut and damp wood to come to the fore accompanied by hazelnuts and light cocoa. Deep, approachable and inviting but with a light floral perfumed quality.

Mouth: Blimey. This is a BIG rum. Good mouthfeel. Sweetness. Bitterness of burnt raisin. Mixed candied peels. Hazelnuts. Walnuts. Plump, juicy raisins. Plenty of fruit loaf notes. Light ginger syrup. Very hedgerow….homemade mixed berry jam. Soft Liquorice. There is plenty of weight and heft on the palate. The mid palate becomes pleasingly spicy. Those 14 years of tropical maturation begin to flex their muscles. A robust dryness grips your tongue and begins to tug at the edges with a little heat and peppery spice. Plenty of wet wood and a hint of minerality. An earthy quality. Right at the back end there is a hint of coconut, dark chocolate and fennel seed. Plenty of woody and stone fruit bitterness…..all in balance with the arid barrel and sweet fruit loaf notes. The finish is entirely consistent with the entry and mid palate. Dark chocolate, plenty of wood, fruit, barrel spice and pleasing molasses and soft liquorice bitterness.

Hereditas is a multi faceted but entirely cohesive experience. Whilst it is heavily influenced by the 4 years maturation in those first fill ex-oloroso barrels…it also carries with it the heft of those 14 years in ex-bourbon in that beautiful Barbadian sunshine. Don’t you dare confuse it with the awful Rum / Sherry hybrid abominations coming out of continental Europe either. We’re talking Single Blended Rum, two barrel types, no colour and no chill filtration plus patience and time. This is a deep, woody, intensely fruity and rewarding tropically matured beast that will win over sherried whisky lovers and Rum fans alike.

It is available from The Whisky Exchange.

4 / 5

I have to confess that I was a little cautious about the trio of Sherry cask releases. I’ll be brutally honest. Premise, whilst a very competent and approachable Rum, maybe an excellent Rum by many other producers standards, just wasn’t for me. We’re talking very “nit picky” but for me it was completely overshadowed by its companion releases at the time in Dominus and 2005 and therefore was the only release that didn’t get picked up in quantities larger than two….an action which has become the norm for me and Foursquare releases. After having a little time with all three, my fears are without foundation.

© Steven James and Rum Diaries Blog 2019. 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.

MHOBA Rum – Pure Single Sugarcane Rum – Part 1

I shared a rather large article a short while ago and it comprehensively told the story and explained some of the processes behind the creation of MHOBA Rum. You can find a link to it here. Right….if you went down that rabbit hole it’ll be a short while later and you’ll either be enthused to find out more about MHOBA Rum given how personal and hands on the creation of the Rum is…or complaining that you’ll never get that time back…..I’m hoping that it’s the former given the effort spent and time devoted by Robert to inform the article….but as a drinker I totally understand the latter. So I’ll assume that you’re enthused and keen to find out more. This review will be split into two and I will look to cover the Unaged and Flavoured releases in Part 1, and that encompasses 4 products.

They are:

MHOBA Pot Stilled White

MHOBA Select Pot Stilled White

MHOBA Pot Stilled High Ester

MHOBA Franky’s Pineapple

All of the distillates start off with the freshly pressed sugarcane juice extracted from the sugarcane varieties N57 or N36. This begins fermentation almost immediately as it is pressed due to the naturally present yeast. Following transfer of the juice to their 2000 litre fermentation vats, the fermentation processes split dependent upon the end product to be created…..High Ester long ferment or standard length ferment.

MHOBA Pot Stilled White – 43% abv – Pure Single Sugarcane Rum

This Rum utilises a 7 to 10 day fermentation period using standard bakers yeast. The fermentation is not temperature controlled. Distillation occurs on the handmade pot stills and the resultant distillate is chosen, reduced in abv using local pure crystalline water prior to bottling by hand.

Tasting Notes

Nose: Bright. Fresh. Vibrant notes of freshly cut cane. Plenty of plastic notes. Acetone. Furniture polish. Model Glue. Creamy with a hint of menthol.

Mouth: Initial sweet and creamy entry. Reminiscent of slightly sweet freshly whipped cream. Cane notes creep into the mid palate along with a herbal quality. The finish brings fresh cane, cream, light brine and plastic.

Its a functional and versatile offering. Makes a decent Daiquiri or Ti Punch.

3 / 5

MHOBA Select Pot Stilled White – 58% abv – Pure Single Sugarcane Rum

This Rum is the result of the 7 to 10 day fermentation period using bakers yeast and sugarcane variety N57, this blend is slightly different though. The new make spirit at MHOBA is collected in small separate fractions (cuts) and this blend is adjudged to comprise the best cuts taken over the period listed on the front label. In this case the batch number is 2018SR1 with a collection period of July to September 2018.

Tasting Notes

Nose: This builds upon the foundation of the Pot Stilled White with vibrant sugarcane at its core, and adds layers of complexity. It becomes increasingly vegetal. Earthy notes of turmeric and saffron. Quite a herbal quality too. Bright acetone notes sit atop well cooked root vegetables. Powdered sugar. The hint of fresh fruit.

Mouth: A sweet and bitter quality on first sip. Roasted root vegetables and light white pepper. The bitterness is reminiscent of bitter gourds such as Korola. A robust mouthfeel. Deep sugarcane flavours develop on the mid palate bringing menthol and a hint of apricot. The finish brings tinned apricots and fresh cream with classic Agricole notes of grassy cane.

This really does offer up plenty to enjoy as an unaged Rum. It is flavourful and offers a robust depth that matches a lot of established and well respected sugarcane juice Rums and Rhums. Probably my favourite in the unaged line up and just about as good as it gets insofar as the balance of aroma and flavour is concerned. Makes a great Fish House Punch.

4.5 / 5

MHOBA Pot Stilled High Ester White – 78% abv – Pure Single Sugarcane Rum

Note that later batches are at differing, lower abv levels but the release reviewed is Batch number 2018 HE1 using sugarcane variety N57 from the September 2018 harvest and is bottled at 78%. The initial small period of wild yeast fermentation that is present in all batches is then boosted in the fermentation tanks with the addition of dunder prior to the commercial yeast. It is presented in its straight from the still form.

Tasting Notes

Nose: Far more approachable than you’d expect for a product that has a 21 day fermentation period utilising dunder. This is the sum of everything that preceded it and so much more. Very grassy, cane driven nose initially. Unmistakably Agricole like with vegetal notes but completely recognisable as a heavy pot still product. It steps foot in Jamaican funk territory. Olives. Brine. Acetone. Fresh tropical fruit. Layers upon layers. Starfruit. Guava. Ripe mango. Boiled fruit sweets. Sweet cane and the perfumed aroma of small wild strawberries. Fermenting fruit. Furniture polish, solvent glue and black pepper.

Mouth: A full and encompassing, oily mouthfeel. This is a big rum. A lot of heat in the initial exchanges. This rum has more of an obvious earthy and savoury quality on the palate. Spiced pumpkin soup. Black pepper. Turmeric. Mustard oil. The mid palate brings a return of the fresh vibrant cane. All encompassing, the rum dominates your palate. Grilled tropical fruit. Fruit leathers. Strawberries and cream. Brine. Salty preserved lemons. Citrus oils. Eucalyptus. The finish has real length and is initially peppery, with black olive tapenade and the sweetness of liquorice root.

A real exercise in crazy. Its an absolute monster and can get away from you initially. Its an all encompassing sensory assault but once you are acclimatised it allows you to access a little more nuance. Its like a cross between the A1710 La Perle Brute and Savanna Lontan. High Ester with a lot of bright acidity and fruit plus that solid base of accessible pot still backbone that the A1710 possesses. I can’t drink too much of it in one sitting but it definitely warrants your attention.

4 / 5

MHOBA Franky’s Pineapple – 43% abv – Flavoured Rum

At its base is the Glass Cask Aged Rum along with a blend of two differing unaged Pot Still Rums. These are infused separately with ripe and fresh Natal Queen pineapples that have been seared….the infusions are then blended to produce Franky’s Pineapple. Pineapple seems to be the big thing as far as flavouring Rums go at the moment and there are a fair few available. Stiggin’s seemed to have started it but the door did not close. This should be an interesting prospect as I know of only one other sugarcane juice Rum flavoured / infused with Pineapple.

Tasting Notes

Nose: Full on pineapple sweetness up front. Initially freshly cut pineapple but there’s greater depth. An almost charred, bbq pineapple with caramelised syrup and a hint of smoke. Hints of grassy cane spike through the sweetness almost like a Rhum arrangé.

Mouth: Entry is not as sweet as the nose would suggest. The influence of young wood appears initially on the palate and this then develops into bbq pineapple. A light but sweet pineapple sponge cake. Warming mid palate with hints of charred fruit. Quite an earthy note is present. The relatively short finish brings more pineapple sponge cake with a drizzle of fresh cream. This is very much an infusion rather than a sweetened pineapple rum, and it is all the better for it.

I have used it in Pineapple Daiquiris and also in a Pina Colada and it does exactly what you want it to do.

3 / 5

If you’ve not tried anything from MHOBA as yet, you really should seek them out. Availability is growing and I now know of two outlets with Europe wide shipping and one that definitely ships to the USA. All very different, all have their own character and personality. If you were to buy only one it would for me be a toss up between the Green Label Select and the Red Label High Ester……it depends what kind of experience you are after. I like the occasional high ester offering but prefer steady drinkers and for that reason the Select is my go to.

So, that’s Part 1 over. Next up will be the Aged products. Glass Cask, American Oak, Strand’s 101 and the majestic French Oak.

For availability click the link to Richard Blesgraaf’s online store in the right hand panel or visit LMDW.

© Steven James and Rum Diaries Blog 2019. 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.

Flor de Caña 12 Centenario Slow Aged

Flor de Caña which translates as Sugarcane Flower from Spanish is a product from a distillery that traces its roots back in excess of 125 years.

In 1875, Alfredo Francisco Pellas Canessa, a young adventurer from Genoa, Italy traveled Nicaragua. He initially decided to operate a short and safe steam boat route through Nicaragua to transport passengers and goods from the East Coast of the US to the West Coast at the height of the California Gold Rush. This route was a success, but as news broke about the construction of the Panama Canal and the U.S. coast-to-coast railroad, Alfredo Francisco decided that it was time to change direction. In 1890, he located the setting for the Flor de Caña distillery at the base of the tallest and most active volcano in Nicaragua. The fertile soil of its surrounding lands, the water and the hot volcanic climate proved to be instrumental in forging the rum’s ethos. Since 1890 the sugarcane mill and distillery have been located in Chichigalpa, North West Nicaragua at the base of the San Cristóbal volcano.

The process continues under the supervision of the same family, 5 generations later. Through its history, the brand, the company and the family have survived a plane crash, dictatorships, civil war, nationalizations, hyperinflation, fires, hurricanes, earthquakes and volcanic eruptions. It remains a family concern.

That’s the background marketing and tall tale out of the way…..now let’s get into the Rum.

It has to be noted that Flor de Caña have had huge issues with CKD (Chronic Kidney Disease) amongst its cane field employees and the press has not been good. The whole issue sounds appalling. Apparently steps have been taken and I’ve read about investment in hospitals and a further promotion and reach for Rainforest Alliance and Fair Trade Certification. There are plenty of articles online covering the CKD issue and the remedial steps taken (hopefully as a result of the issue and not as a result of the impending release of the information at the time) therefore there is no need for me to shift focus away from the product review. It cannot however just be swept under the carpet.

Flor de Caña Centenario 12 Slow Aged – 40% abv – Modern Rum

Flor de Caña as a product was first distributed by Campañia Licorera de Nicaragua SA based in Managua in 1937. As a company they pride themselves on their sustainability via their renewable energy use, their volcanic soil, climate, water supply and the fact that they claim to not utilise post distillation additions. Speaking of distillation, it is entirely multi-column distillation. Not an immediate route to a product lacking aroma and flavour. Just see Don Q for proof that the flavourless argument doesn’t stand up to scrutiny, but it is however an indicator of a lighter style of Rum. Maturation takes place in ex-bourbon barrels that are apparently ‘sealed with Nicaraguan plantain leaves’. With reference to the large meaningless number ’12’ on the bottle, and then the also vague ‘ Slow Aged’, I have varying and slightly conflicting information. They do not utilise a solera system, which cancels that theory out. I have seen it written that a brand representative had advised someone that ‘banana leaves are put in the barrel to promote slow ageing’. I assume this would possibly hark back to the statement above regarding plantain leaves and maybe that would promote less exchange through the barrel if it is lined with these leaves therefore slowing maturation. I have also recently seen information stating that the number is an ‘average’. The 7 Slow Aged would be a blend of 5 to 9 year Rum, the 12 Slow Aged here would be a blend of 10 to 14 year old Rum as apparently they don’t exceed 2 years either side of the stated number. Whichever theory is correct, if either are, it is a large prominent number designed to mislead next to a random phrase that is totally meaningless. It works for them though as websites list it as 12 Years Old and people talk about it as a 12 Year Old Rum….and the consumer loses out yet again. I’m not a fan of designed in, purposeful ambiguity and misleading numbers. We have neither a guaranteed minimum age nor an explanation for the number on this bottle. There is also a lack of explanation on the website. For a company that has been striving for accreditation for its processes and one that is keen to highlight that it doesn’t use additions, its a shame that it doesn’t apply as much effort to its label clarity. They are however clear to point out however that this is in their ‘Ultra Premium Collection’…..whatever that is.

Tasting Notes

Nose: Very light. A touch of up front alcohol…perhaps more youth than alcohol. It’s also carrying a little sharpness. Light floral notes and freshly cut apples and grapes. Sweetness creeps in with a hint of caramel pennies. Not much action from the barrel as far as wood influence is concerned. No depth to speak of.

Mouth: Very light and unassuming entry. Not a lot of body to it. Maybe an initial flavour reminiscent of rubber balloons……a hint of caramel follows with the merest whiff of milk chocolate. A suggestion of sugared almonds….it also carries their disappointment too. Mid palate shows a bit of barrel spice and the oak does start to cut in and provide a drying quality but the lack of body and mouthfeel means that it’s short lived in both the mouth and the memory. It’s very flat. What you are left with is a thin and watered down, mildly woody experience and a really apparent and unpleasant bitterness that just grows….like biting into an unseasoned, roasted, mini unripe gourd. The very short finish is a simplistic with light oak and a touch of brown sugar. The bitterness doesn’t want to leave either and it is the only facet of the oak that dominates, or even influences to a greater extent.

1.5 / 5

It was going to be 1 / 5, but it gained an extra half mark as it would’ve been so easy to try and manipulate this product with additions, but this measured clean and doesn’t taste doctored in any way. I usually like bitter flavours. I enjoy the extreme bitterness of Korola, I always choose good quality dark chocolate and I’m also a fan of the bitterness in old demeraras, but here its just unpleasant when coupled with the rest of the lacklustre experience. It’s instantly forgettable, insipid, thin, watery boredom bottled. Price wise it is £35 in the UK, and I can think of numerous bottles not as costly, some even utilising the same distillation method, that are so much better than this rum. The nonsense number also leaves a bad taste in my mouth. That said, the ‘7 Slow Aged’ is much better than this.

*Hydrometer Test Result – Label stated abv 40% – Measured abv 39.5% – 0-5 g/l additives*

© Steven James and Rum Diaries Blog 2019. 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.

Kill Devil Caroni 20 Year Old Cask Strength – The Whisky Barrel Exclusive – 65%

 

This review is of the sister cask to the 64.8% release reviewed a few weeks ago which can be viewed here

Kill Devil Caroni 20 Year Old Cask Strength – The Whisky Barrel Exclusive – 65% abv 

Again this Rum was distilled in December 1998 and it also saw a full 20 years maturation being bottled in January 2019. Maybe fully, but at least partially matured at Main Rum in Liverpool, this would’ve used Estate molasses. Drawn from a single cask that yielded 233 bottles, this Rum has been bottled at its cask strength of 65% with no colouring or additives. It is currently still available on their website here and will set you back around £150.

Tasting Notes

Nose: This Barrel is more giving than it slightly lower abv relative…..it not a cheap date by any means but it’s showing its personality far sooner. I’m sitting out in the garden nosing this rum and the glass, a good arms length away is giving up quite a malty aroma initially…..a hint of sweetness before that familiar summertime aroma (in the uk anyway) appears…..reminiscent of someone three doors away creosoting their fence. It’s quite woody too revealing freshly sawn timber and warm wood shavings fresh from the saw blade. There’s a sweetness running alongside the wood and creosote…..burnt citrus peel and a hint of mixed tropical fruit juice. Fighting to come through are a waft of smoke, spilt diesel and a freshly started petrol lawnmower. There’s the merest hint of chocolate alongside a slightly soapy note…..or maybe slightly more floral like washing machine softener from clothes hanging on the washing line.

Mouth: Far hotter entry than the other barrel…..I mean….yeah it’s higher abv…but only 0.2% higher. It’s a very, very hot and peppery rum. Quite acetone like in its approach with a hint of furniture polish. Very tannic, definitely brings the creosote along to play and that in turn brings heaps of wet wood and dryness with a bittersweet interplay reminiscent of sucking on a piece of liquorice root. It has those plummy, prune and stewed notes but with a hint of clove and cinnamon. The mid palate brings mixed nuts, bitter orange and a hell of a lot of dry and spicy barrel notes. The finish is a lengthy one and starts with that heat and wet wood before bringing the nuts and a hint of chocolate to the fore. Burnt citrus peel bitterness, diesel and a bag of raisins. It tails off with wood and smoke…..maybe just a hint of menthol.

4 / 5

Another enjoyable Caroni carrying continental maturation and another enjoyable one from 1998 which seems to have turned out a few good examples. They definitely work better for me at cask strength rather than lower abv offerings. Equally as good as the previous cask as far as the spirit in the bottle is concerned. This one, whilst immediately giving from the outset does have a slight inconsistency from nose to palate, or rather I find the nose better on this one than the palate. Hard to call….I’d say that overall I enjoy the nose on this 65% bottling better, but I prefer the experience of the 64.8%.

© Steven James and Rum Diaries Blog 2019. 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.

St. Lucia Distillers 1979 Ruby Reserve

Released to celebrate the 40th Anniversary of St Lucia’s Independence in 1979, the Ruby Reserve is only available on island and only 1979 bottles have been produced. Changing hands between the British and the French 14 times during the 17th & 18 Centuries, St. Lucia gained independence on the 22nd February 1979. More detailed information can be found with a visit here. I have been fortunate enough to get a small sample from a friend to use in this review, and use it I will. I have written quite extensively about St Lucia Distillers in these pages and a quick trip to the search box will uncover some detailed information on the distillery, their processes and their stills.

Image Copyright of Dave Marsland

I don’t want to waffle on more than I need to as we have some Rum to taste…..

St. Lucia Distillers 1979 Ruby Reserve – 46% abv – Single Blended Rum (though it contains both molasses and cane juice components)

The wonders of social media means that we have information from Michael Speakman of St Lucia Distillers about the exact components of the blend….and it as follows:

It is a blend of 49.5% column still and 50.5% pot still

Column Still components are:

21.5% is: Coffey Still – RR101 marque (molasses) – Ex bourbon barrels – 6-12 years

28% is: Coffey Still – RR104 marque (molasses) – Ex bourbon – 6-12 years

Pot Still components are:

16% is: John Dore I Still (molasses) – Ex bourbon barrels – 8-12 years

6.5% is: John Dore I Still (molasses) – Ex brandy barrels – 8-12 years

5.5% is: Vendome Still (molasses) – Ex bourbon barrels – 8-12 years

21% is: John Dore I Still (sugarcane juice) – Ex bourbon barrels – 8 years

1.5% is: Vendome Still (sugarcane juice) – Ex bourbon barrels – 7 years

Tasting Notes

 

Nose: Definitely instantly recognisable as a St Lucia Distillers Rum. That classic medicinal note from the John Dore I pot still is very prominent during the early exchanges. A hint of acetone and sticking plasters soon gives way to tobacco and a hint of barrel spice. There’s some real depth to the blend and an element of minerality to the nose. Time is shows a very rewarding experience. Light vanilla runs throughout with powdery cocoa and chocolate coated coconut pieces. Ever present astringency brings a beautiful Jamaican element to the Rum with caramelised pineapple, salty preserved lemons and citrus oil….there’s something about that classic sticky fruit, saline and citrus interplay that really elevates the Rum. Fresh star fruit, mango and guava juice. A hint of grassiness and a wine like note rides the growing oaken influence with a developing spiced and floral pink peppercorn before the well-integrated wood shows as freshly cut pipe tobacco culminating in walnuts and marshmallow sweetness.

Mouth: A dry and quite spicy entry to the Rum brings milk chocolate coated nuts and raisins. Mixed dried tropical fruit and citrus peels. A tannic wine note is certainly present along with stewed plums, prunes and baking apple with a touch of mincemeat (think Christmas mince pies). Syrupy oat flapjacks and caramelised bbq pineapple lead into a little bitterness. Maybe a touch of scrumpy. The mid palate carries a beautiful dryness from the oaken influence and brings cinnamon and nutmeg. More savoury spice notes of cumin and fennel seed rest in the background. There is also liquorice root, damp musty oak and wet cardboard. The finish which carries some length starts off with warm, spiced scrumpy. A light stone fruit bitterness leads into oak and jammy fruit with tobacco and a hint of spice rounding things out. The oak really hangs around and allows the medicinal notes from the nose to make a last-ditch come back with a touch of molasses.

This is a really solid Rum and as we’ve become used to with their 1931 Series and new Chairman’s Reserve 1931, the make up of the blend is really sound with every element playing its part. I prefer the nose to the palate on this one but it rewards time and provides plenty of interest.

4.5 / 5

I’m massively grateful to a friend for the sample. Sadly that has just made me crave a full bottle. Unfortunately as it’s only available on the island, the chances of me obtaining one are low. But if anyone can help me out, I’d be massively grateful.

 

© Steven James and Rum Diaries Blog 2019. 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.