The Whisky Barrel 10th Anniversary Berry Bros. & Rudd Ltd 19 Year Old Caroni

My dealings with The Whisky Barrel thus far have been limited although I did pick up one of the bottles in their 10th Anniversary collection….it was a particularly hefty 6-year-old Laphroaig. This Caroni represents the fourth release in the collection….and the first Rum. The intriguing thing is that they have chosen a Caroni….maybe they feel that it will resonate with whisky fans given that it is a closed distillery and the notes contained within may find favour with the whisky crowd…..or maybe they just enjoyed it. They have also paired up with Berry Bros. & Rudd who will be familiar to most. My experience with BBR Rum releases have seen all of them presented at 46% abv. What we are fortunate enough to find here is a substantially aged (continental age) Caroni at a far heftier abv. I have written about a few other  continental aged Caroni’s and have given a little background here and here…..What I have personally found is that demeraras and Caroni both suffer when continentally aged and presented at a sub-45% abv for the most part with a few Bristol bottlings of each being the only examples that I find do not fare as poorly……so I’m glad that we are in the 50’s with this release. I will state now that Caroni releases are far from my favoured Rums of choice. Even with the five Velier releases that I own, some I like and others I’m really not fond of at all. They run the gamete of typically oily, fuel like Caroni and my favoured style which has more apparent fruity notes bursting through. But what will this Rum offer.

The Whisky Barrel 10th Anniversary Berry Bros. & Rudd Ltd 19 Year Old Caroni – Cask # 165 – 55% abv

So what we have here is no-nonsense presentation of Cask #165….a 55% continental aged Caroni. But it’s what in the bottle that counts.

Glass: Mahogany / maple syrup in colour. Quite oily. Initial notes are immediately typically Caroni. Tar. Oil. Petrol. Not as heavy as expected though. Fortunately this is also displaying fruity, citrus oil notes. Burnt orange peel. It’s also a little ‘hedgerow’ too. Freshly picked blackberries and raspberries that have squished in your fingers. Light vanilla, powdery cocoa and pencil shavings. It’s also quite spicy with medicinal clove oil and fennel seeds. It’s unmistakably Caroni but the other more favourable aromas fight through. I’m left with the aroma of spent BBQ embers the next morning.

Mouth: There is an up front sweetness that is very short-lived as this is a very hot sip. Creosote bursts though and leaves a treacle bitterness. A little bonfire toffee and caramel. This gives way to a cooling eucalyptus vibe. It’s also quite earthy. Once acclimatised there are sappy, cedar notes bringing that hedgerow fruit and fresh apples. Medicinal clove oil. I’m enjoying the fruity character….a lot. It has waves of complexity. Salty, medicinal, fruity, bitter, Caroni. The finish is quite long and starts salty and briny. Preserved lemons, a whiff of smoke, drying oak. That familiar oily tar and creosote show up to round things out.

I always struggle with Caroni. Whilst I can appreciate a Rum, some are not what I would consider Rums that I would buy again and enjoy. This however has impressed me. I am genuinely considering buying one of the 310 available bottles…..that is if there are any left. It has enough fruity character to make me enjoy repeated sips and it has enough Caroni to make me recoil in horror. Its balanced and that is a rarity in continental age Caroni. I can see myself enjoying this Rum immensely, and that alone for me and a bottling of Caroni is worthy of praise.


© 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

Advertisements

Neptune ‘Gold’ Barbados Rum

We have another new Rum that has recently come to market and as with all such releases, it was viewed with an element of suspicion. That is until we found out that it has its origins in Barbados…..and more importantly that it is produced by Foursquare. It has been winning awards in both New York and China and one more that is under wraps for the moment….But as we all know these awards mean more to brands than to a seasoned drinker (functioning alcoholic)……Though it is fair to say that the casual drinker uncertain of what to buy may be swayed by a fancy sticker on a label.

Neptune Gold Barbados Rum – 40% abv

So, what is there to be added about this Rum. It’s from Foursquare….which is good enough for me….Well, it’s from Foursquare via E&A Scheer in Amsterdam. It has seen a full 3 years age in the Caribbean and is (as most Foursquare releases are) a blend of Pot and Column distillates aged together in the barrel…which is ex-bourbon. The Rum sits at a cask strength of 68% abv when it arrives. This is then diluted down to its bottling strength of 40% with the addition of a little spirit caramel to take it back to cask colour. No nasties have been added. The Rum is bottled in the UK. It would’ve been an ‘easy out’ to not put the age of the Rum on the bottle as it can be a big decision maker for a certain sector of buyers with a lot being put off by low numbers….but they were confident in their sourcing, tropical age and product to add it to the label. Presentation wise its a bottle shape and size that sits nicely on the shelf and there is a wooden topped cork closure. Embossed label text and a little information on the rear label. What I can also tell you is that there are plans to release a limited cask strength run of this Rum with the overall plan being to have 3 products in the Neptune Rum range. The cask strength alone is a welcome addition.

Tasting Notes

Glass: Light straw gold. A little peppery spike initially but it soon settles. Classic Bajan aromas (for me) of vanilla, pepper and light oak. Oily citrus is definitely present as is aroma of fresh peaches. Time gives a little marshmallow which I also find to be a classic Bajan aroma. Whilst not overly complex its solid and doesn’t give away its youth.

Mouth: Initial entry has you believe that this is way more refined than its 3 years. A light, peppery bite from the off, this rum genuinely has a little more grip than I’d expect from such a young Rum. It feels more viscous and all-encompassing than expected. Vanilla, very mild oak and a restrained crisp apple follow. Desiccated coconut is certainly there. That familiar peach note in the vapours that I associate specifically with Foursquare Rum is present too…The finish is short to medium length and starts with a beautiful sweetness developing those peach vapours. Powdery cocoa morphs into a drying light oak finish that sits for a while before fading into coconut.

I find this Rum very reminiscent of Old Brigand or Alleyne Arthur’s Special Barbados Rum…..whilst out and about in Barbados I managed to put away a lot of the One Eyed Pirate….

For new brands to market things seem to go one of a few ways. You can spend up front to start your own distillery and release an overly expensive unaged Rum to tide you over while your Rum matures. People will buy it because of words like Artisan and Small Batch on the label irrespective of quality and (as has recently been the case) whether it can even be classed as a Rum due to its origins not being from sugarCANE. Though doing it right is to be applauded. You can source average distillates (sometimes distilled to a neutral alcohol level) and fill them full of rubbish to appeal to the masses. People will buy it because its sweet, cheap and has a gimmick. Or, you can do as Neptune Rum have done. Source credible Rum (they don’t come much more credible than Foursquare), refuse to mess with it in the a hope that the honesty of the product and the flavour and credibility of the Rum will shine through. What you do have to do though is pay for that credibility which passes onto your retail price.

The latter one is perhaps the more risky way to go as you wind up asking, as is the case with Neptune Rum, upwards of £35 for a relatively young product. But as sales increase, business models change and economies of scale mean that prices can reduce. Buy this Rum with confidence….its currently on the high side price wise, but it possesses maturity beyond its 3 years and shows a few other Rums with bigger numbers how it should be done.

 

© 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

Hamilton Ministry of Rum Collection – St Lucia 2005 Cask Strength

This bottle, unavailable in the UK was obtained at the 2015 UK Boutique RumFest. Ed Hamilton had his rum collection on display for tasting and this particular bottle, along with the Jamaicans really stood out. I was fortunate enough to win a coin toss with Keegan that saw me go home with the remains of this bottle and Keegan go home with the remains of the Jamaican (following mutual sample swaps). Aside from the occasional drop here and there, the bottle has spent the last two years gassed and sealed using parafilm at the back of my St Lucia shelf. So it’s about time that I write about it whilst there is still enough left. The majority of you will be familiar with the Ministry of Rum website that was started by Ed Hamilton many moons ago. Most of us will have used this website as a source of information and discussion and many still do. Anyhow, Ed decided to release a series of Rums under the Hamilton Ministry of Rum Collection and if you live within the USA you’re fortunate as that is currently the only point of distribution, but not everywhere given the differing state laws. But you’re here for the Rum…..

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

Hamilton Ministry of Rum Collection – St Lucia 2005 Pot Still Rum – 66.7% abv

The barrels were shipped to New York for bottling in late 2014, and this particular bottle of pot still magic came from barrel number 420 and is bottled at cask strength. The Rum was distilled on the 2000 litre Vendome Pot Still which was commissioned in 2003. Rum from this still is always produced for ageing according to the information at hand. The distillate was condensed at approx. 82% abv and is collected in large holding tanks with other batches from the same still. From there the distillate which now sit at around 70% abv is matured in ex-bourbon barrels. Distilled in October 2005, this Rum was bottled in January 2015 giving it just over 9 years of tropical maturation. Again, if you refer to other St Lucia posts on this site, more information regarding stills and marques can be found. Personally I have found that certain stills at St Lucia Distillers offer something that for me has only ever been found in the ‘Rockley Style’ Rums from Barbados, so as a proposition this Rum is pretty attractive.

Tasting Notes

Glass: The Rum is a dark burnished gold and it appears to be nice and oily….you can’t help but smile at the aromas flooding out of this impressive cask strength thoroughbred. The initial spike of alcohol astringency is short-lived and gives way to beautifully accessible aromas of acetone, rubber and pear drops. Very apparent and growing oaken influence is present as is wet cardboard. It’s remarkably approachable given its heft. Little whiffs of smoke give way to wet pumice stone. There is a light and quite frankly beautiful medicinal quality to this Rum. Time sees growing stone fruit, raisins and cocoa. The medicinal notes are well-tempered by the fruit and underlying oaken spine to the distillate. Burnt orange oil rounds out things. This really is just a delight to sit and nose….

Mouth: Dry, spicy entry. Tannic. Oily. Chocolate, honeycomb (crunchie bars), light, delicate florals all make an appearance in a very impressive first few sips. There is a peppery spike of oak followed up by black olives, salty brine, acetone and that quite frankly beautiful medicinal note. Water (only a few drops) brings out syrupy oat flapjacks, tropical fruit (guava and pineapple), liquorice, wet wood and leather. Again and again, this Rum really impresses. The finish is long, tannic and full of liquorice, acetone, olives and those majestic medicinal notes with the merest hint of sticky dates.

The interplay of flavours and aromas from this rum is mind-blowing. From the sublime medicinal notes to the fruit, acetone and solid oak presence. It’s the integration of all of these elements that makes this Rum so damn impressive. If you had any doubt about St Lucia’s ability to compete with the big guns of Barbados, Jamaica and Guyana then don’t….some really exciting stuff could be on its way out of St Lucia Distillers soon and I for one hope to be able to sample it….

For now, this is the best St Lucian that I have tried to date…..by a long shot….and I’ve tried a lot..

 

© 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

Silver Seal Dennery Superior St Lucian Rum

This is a bottling that I have little to no information on. I have tried to source information online but aside from a few pointers leading to a 1988 distillation, there is nothing….no reviews, no literature and the only mention appears to be on auction websites. I’ve also tried emailing Silver Seal to obtain information but again have drawn a blank. So we’re flying blind on this one which makes it interesting. To start with, this Rum is not from the closed Dennery Distillery on the East Coast…this entity closed in the early 1970’s so the Dennery aspect is pure marketing. It will be from the site that is now St Lucia Distillers. It is also highly likely being a Silver Seal product…Silver Seal being an Italian Independent bottler that ages and bottles in Scotland…that this Rum has seen little to no Tropical age. It is also a Rum that I have struggled with since first opening it…..but I shall cover this below…

Silver Seal Dennery Superior St Lucian – 43%

Upon first opening the striking dark green / black bottle, I have to say that the aromas emanating from this Rum were very, very bitter. It’s colour, mixed with the bitterness initially made me think that it had seen an overdose of caramel colouring….an opinion that has not changed much. I have experienced bitterness previously in long continental aged demerara’s and in that instance, it was close to killing any enjoyment. I’m happy to report that the Rum opened up a little….and even more so once the fill level traveled past the shoulders of the bottle.

Tasting Notes

Glass: The Rum is dark amber in the glass and it is accompanied by the ever-present bitter edge. Initial aromas are quite earthy with an off note of wet corrugated cardboard boxes. Hazelnuts and wet earth follow. Very light antiseptic cream. Wet wood and an underlying caramel. Sour vegetal aromas and a hint of menthol. A little messy. I’d say that its light enough to be mostly column but it does seem to have a little backbone that hints at pot still content. I just can’t help thinking that they’ve dumped a huge measure of spirit caramel into it.

Mouth: Dry and bitter entry with hints of raisins and hazelnuts. Mouthfeel is a little light but still oily. Quite herbal and menthol. Still has wet wood but no real enjoyable oaken notes. Over roasted coffee beans. Mildly medicinal. Light citrus. But its all dominated by that unpleasant bitterness. Stewed celery and fennel seeds right at the end. The lacklustre finish is of medium length and starts dry, soon developing a nutty quality before that off bitter caramel note begins to dominate. Right at the back-end there is a hint of bonfire toffee.

If this was distilled in 1988 and I picked mine up in maybe late 2014, it could realistically be upwards of 22 years old. Maybe it would’ve been more vibrant and enjoyable as a younger Rum? Either way, age has not helped it. I have tried and tried to enjoy this Rum. I just can’t. It has too many off notes and is a little too messy to be enjoyable. These tasting notes are 12 months old and I have recently visited the bottle again to add to them and to be honest, nothing has changed. It’s still disappointing. It is so far detached from anything that St Lucia Distillers are producing currently that I would avoid this completely and start exploring their 1931 series which offers a lot of enjoyment. This bottle wasn’t too expensive when I picked it up but rarity has seen its price jump up. Glad that I tried it, just to add it to my body of experience, but it’s just not worth a purchase…..anything but Superior…

© 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

Foursquare Triptych Single Blended Rum

I’d hate to think what street value my bottle of Triptych has at the time of compiling this article. I am recently back from an astonishing visit to Barbados and my first visit to a Caribbean Rum Distillery just had to be a trip to Foursquare……in fact it was so much fun, we did it twice within 10 days. Just the ability to get such a first hand, up close and personal experience was amazing….and best of all…..given the open and honest policy that Foursquare Rum Distillery has (albeit adhering to the ‘no go’ signs which are there for your own safety), you can also experience this. I wholeheartedly suggest that you do. Just to share the room with the stills that produce these Rums is worth the trip alone. But lets just take a moment to look at the glorious black bottle, the striking label and that glass of majestic dark amber liquid…..

My first opportunity to try Triptych came at last years UK RumFest and even with a certain amount of palate fatigue, it was impressive……Now getting to try it again in its actual release blend format, whilst in the Foursquare Rum Distillery tasting room was the thing of dreams. I was sat next to Barnali, right opposite my good friend Nikos and I had Richard to my right. Glasses were duly prepared and Triptych was poured. The next five minutes were spent in silence, nosing the glass and grinning from ear to ear. As far as experiences go, this was by far one of the finest……but Triptych wasn’t the only thing that we got to try that day….and we tried even more when we returned for our second visit with Ivar and Mariangela….On that visit we were also fortunate enough to be joined by Gayle….but had the setting, the excitement of being in the room that I’d only previously seen pictures of, the sun of Barbados and the amazing company influenced my opinion of this Rum? Fortunately I have spent the last 5 weeks or so dipping into my available supply to compile my notes….

Foursquare Triptych – Single Blended Rum – 56% abv

You’ll know all about Foursquare Rum Distillery if you’ve been here before and a few of their more recent releases can be found here and here.

A little more about this release then. The name gives up a lot….Triptych…..We automatically assume that it has three components. The bottle label details that there are three single blended vintages each with a different oak maturation. A 2004 ex-Bourbon, a 2005 ex-Madeira and a 2007 Virgin Oak. Virgin Oak for me (based on my reading, not on experience) has always been synonymous with Bourbon given its distillation method. Where a distiller can make their cuts with a Pot still or choose a specific plate on a Coffey still, a Single Column still allows the good, the bad and the ugly to pass over into the distillate. Virgin Oak I have read is used as it has an initial aggressive effect on the distillate, calming the rough edges in a short space of time. That has always led me to view its use as something that wouldn’t necessarily be used for the maturation of Rum from a Pot Still or Coffey Still…..But this is Foursquare….and they thrive on this type of innovation. I posed a couple of questions to Richard regarding the make up of the blend and the differing barrels. Firstly, this Single Blended Rum is made up of three other Single Blended Rums. I was asked via Instagram whether the blend is a collaboration between Foursquare and Velier. I can report that the blend is entirely developed by Foursquare Rum Distillery, with samples being shared with the Velier Group for their comment and observations.  The ex-Bourbon barrels were utilised for the 2004 Single Blended Rum up until bottling in November 2016. The same goes from 2005 for the ex-Madeira barrels. I did however ask a few more questions about the Virgin Oak. Firstly I wondered if the aggressive character of the barrels led to them being monitored more closely than usual during the process and whether Virgin Oak was chosen to accelerate the maturation process over a shorter period…..I received some real insight into the use of these barrels. Virgin Oak requires sufficient air seasoning to allow it to become easier to work with….and the cask choice was perhaps one of necessity. With the reported stock shortages of ex-Bourbon barrels at the time (2007), Foursquare took the opportunity to experiment and familiarise themselves with the more expensive Virgin Oak barrels (Virgin Oak is twice the cost of ex-Bourbon). Monitoring of these barrels occurs more closely due to the aggressive effects of the oak and light blends will typically spend no more than 6 months in new oak. Based on the fact that the blend spent 6 years in Virgin Oak prior to transfer into older barrels for the remainder of its maturation period (approx. 3 years), I asked the obvious follow on question of whether this Single Blended Rum was particularly Pot still heavy to cope with the effects of the Virgin Oak. This was confirmed. An excellent and open insight into the constituents of this super complex Single Blended Rum. I also managed to grab a few (hundred) photographs on our visits and below are the two stills that created this Rum.

Forsyths Twin Retort Pot Still

Coffey Still

Tasting Notes

Glass: Dark amber with copper flashes. Quite a lot of astringency initially. Heavy stone fruit and the acidity of fresh quince juice. A developing grape influence and acetone. Soft but growing oak. The entire opposite of what I had expected given the presence of long maturation in fresh oak. I braced for dominant oak and vanilla….it did not dominate. Such is the complexity, even the oaken influence seems to introduce itself under a series of sub-headings. Light vanilla, pencil shavings, dusty library books, cherry influence from the ex-bourbon through to damp wood. Toasted coconut, walnuts, milk chocolate and powdery cocoa have an interplay with earthy, dirty aromas and chestnut mushrooms. Light floral notes are also present right at the back end. The nose is so well balanced. Everything just works in its own way. No shoulder barging….very British….just standing in a line waiting its turn. This can’t be a fluke though. It has to be down to exemplary cask management plus a large chunk of just knowing what you’re doing. To achieve such a soft, yet powerful nose delivering an experience that is just a joy using three such different and influential cask types is no mean feat. The nose on the 2006 was beautiful. Direct, robust and holding real depth. The Triptych almost makes it seem ordinary (by Foursquare standards). Its like comparing a three-piece band to an orchestra.

Mouth: This is a real experience. Soft enveloping amber liquid that is all encompassing. It has a beautifully velvety mouth-feel. Salty, sweet liquorice and pepper both initially and on the mid-palate. Talking of the mid-palate, the edges of your tongue almost curl as the oak announces its arrival….it takes the wheel for a good few minutes but its not overly dominant. Balance is the overarching feel to Triptych. Dry, tannic fortified wine accompanied by dates. Candied fruit peels. Apricot. Pickled Ginger. Toasted coconut. A definite sappy cedar wood. Floral wildflower honey. Its wave after wave of intense flavour. There is tropical fruit….maybe pineapple and banana. At the back end there is milk chocolate. It is a beautifully savoury / sweet Rum (thats sweet, not sweetened…never confuse the two). The finish is of a medium to long length….a dry oaken start progresses to salty-sweet liquorice and a return of the tannins and stone fruit. Again, characteristic of Bajan Rum for me is the trademark apricot vapour and its here.

Each barrel has its moment in the spotlight, tells its own part of the story. Certain elements grab onto certain areas of your tongue, pinging your senses and leading you on a journey. You absolutely could not create this experience using ‘short-cuts’….and thats what it is….its an experience. It takes the near perfect 2006 and just adds layer upon layer of complexity. Its more nuanced. More light, more shade. Sweet but never as sweet as the amazing Zinfandel and Port Cask. Even now, 5 weeks in I’m discovering more. I’ve not even added water….Did I mention just how unlike a 56% spirit this feels? It carries the intensity of a higher abv Rum but its maturity and balance make it a joy to behold.

Triptych is the mark of a Master Distiller and a Distillery rooted in tradition, devoted to doing things the right way. Building upon a desire to experiment, re-invigorated by the belief that others have placed in it and reveling in the impact that it is having on the industry and consumers alike. It is entirely on top of its game. Its ‘pulling wheelies’….not to impress….but just because it can. It is also sticking a middle finger up to the ‘Bajan rum is boring’ crowd.

I’ve struggled with this over the course of the 5 week period….dwindling my stocks of both Triptych and 2006 in side by side comparisons…..But I can hand on heart say, step aside 2006….there is a new benchmark in town……for now…..The amazing thing is, this wasn’t even the best Rum that I tasted on our visits to Foursquare….

© 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

Excellence Rhum Collection

I’m a regular purchaser from Alexandre Beudet and his Excellence Rhum website in France and it was interesting to see four new bottlings listed on the website tagged as Excellence Rhum Collection….especially as one was a Foursquare and the other was a Hampden. Anyway, a little background. Alexandre created his Excellence Rhum website in 2013 and it has grown in strength, now listing over 1800 different bottlings. It has been my go to mail order for Agricole and they deliver to the UK…Hurrah! For its ‘Collection’ releases, Alexandre has taken the sensible step of releasing the Rums without the addition of sugar or caramel colour. The Rums will also not undergo chill filtration. So for all intents and purposes, presented as the distilleries would want them to be and labelled and bottled in Paris. The plan is to release four new Collection bottlings per yer….good news for us! Anyhow, below is a brief list of the bottlings that will be available as part of the 2017 Collection. In a nod to the excellent, clear and informative labels of the Habitation Velier Collection the labels will also amongst other things have information indicating the distillation and bottling dates, type of still, barrel marks, percentage of Tropical vs Continental age and the Angels Share percentage….For instance, the Guadeloupe has 10% Tropical Age and 90% Continental Age and lost 30% of the barrel contents to evaporation…it was distilled in a Column Still and the barrel marks were SFGB (not a clue).

Guadeloupe Bellevue – SFGB – 1998 – 18yr – 59.9% abv

Guyana Diamond – MPM – 2005 – 11yr – 60.1% abv

Jamaica Hampden – LROK – 2000 – 16yr – 54.6% abv

Barbados Foursquare – MBFS – 2006 – 11yr – 62.8% abv

Now fortunately for me, I have been given the opportunity to try all four releases in the Excellence Rhum Collection due to Alexandre’s very kind offer of a press kit. This wont be definitive thoughts and my final opinion as the 60ml samples only go so far……but as a heads up I have already pre-ordered two expressions……I may want to revisit at a later date…..but my brief notes are……

Tasting Notes

Guadeloupe Bellevue – SFGB – 1998 – 18yr – 59.9% abv

Glass: Dark burnished gold. Immediate and powerful, redolent with banana chips and a light medicinal quality. Hints of Caroni! Tar and creosote. Lightly spiced nutmeg, but more apparently herbal with hints of rosemary, Norfolk lavender and an earthy quality. Oak is not dominant but is present.

Mouth: Intense and medicinal entry. Charred wood, lemon oils, pickle vinegar like acidity. Quite sour. Liquorice. Caroni like petrol. Dried banana and coconut pieces. Sticking plasters. Very very long finish which is oak led initially with a growing liquorice. More vinegar acidity and a sweet / bitter vermouth quality. Great stuff.

Guyana Diamond – MPM – 2005 – 11yr – 60.1% abv

Glass: Pale straw. Initial alcohol astringency. Raisin notes with liquorice and anise as I’d expect from a PM. Powering through this reveals lightly floral notes and the sweetness of grilled bananas along with freshly cut mango.

Mouth: Sweetness on entry and initially very floral led. This then clears and drops into the baseline notes of aniseed and liquorice that I’d expect….albeit with a touch of wildflower honey. It has a sweet / savoury interplay which is pinning in all together. A long finish that is all salty liquorice (there is a Dutch liquorice that escapes me that I know only as a ‘drop’) led with the remains of honeyed fruitcake. Solid but not outstanding.

Jamaica Hampden – LROK – 2000 – 16yr – 54.6% abv

Glass: Light straw gold. It could only be Hampden. Funkier than a mosquito’s tweeter. All pot still attack. Not quite in the HLCF territory. It’s not as down and dirty as that. Overripe bananas, mango, papaya. Intense fruit, florals, stinging astringency. Both sweet and spicy in equal measure. Hazelnuts, warm bbq’d banana smeared in fudge.

Mouth: Sweet, pot still bathed in baked banana. Drying oak and burnt wood. Dime (Daim) bar like caramel nuttiness and very well-balanced. A hint of savoury. The finish is long and full of liquorice, banana, black jack sweets, pineapple and biscoff spread. If you’ve ever seen the YouTube video about the ‘Crazy/Hot Matrix’….this Rum has strayed close to the unicorn zone.

Barbados Foursquare – MBFS – 2006 – 11yr – 62.8% abv

Glass: A shade darker than straw gold. Light oak, vanilla, florals and grapes. Banana, cocoa powder, dried fruit peels and royal icing. A light nuttiness. Intense…..but not Velier Foursquare 2006 levels.

Mouth: Sweet entry full of milk chocolate and dried fruit peels. This is slowly enveloped by a biting dryness bringing a strong bite of black pepper and fennel seeds. Further sips bring dessicated coconut, apricot and a sprinkling of fresh nutmeg. A long mildy oaken vanilla led finish develops into apricot, celery and a growing dryness. Again….right at the back-end there is a light apricot. High proof mixed climate aged Foursquare at close to its best.

As collections go, this is a really strong showing. The only one that I’m not really ‘feeling’ is the Guyana…..but thats not to say that it isn’t good….I just prefer entirely tropically aged Demeraras. I have pre-ordered two of these bottles…..the Hampden and the Foursquare. I hovered over the Guadeloupe but I have the Cadenheads Bellevue. If I could afford it, the Guadeloupe would  absolutely be on my list though as it is such a well-rounded, well-developed prospect. So much flavour from a column still, it really is a triumph. Thanks to Alexandre firstly for sourcing really good Rums, and secondly for allowing me to try them. I hope that you manage to pick one or two up for yourselves.

© 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