Bristol Classic Fine Barbados Rum – Foursquare 2004

This is as you’d expect, a follow-up to my recent review of the Bristol Classic Fine Barbados Rum – Foursquare 2003.

If you are unaware, Bristol Classic Rum is a company headed up by Managing Director John Barrett and they are based in, you guessed it…..Bristol. John Barrett says that Bristol Classic Rum:

“Seek out small quantities, sometimes only single barrels from a single distillery, or a single estate or even a single still to show rum in its true un-blended form. Aging at the Distillery, or here in the United Kingdom is so important to the rums development, this combined with careful bottling and a minimum of filtration allows the characteristics of each individual rum to show. Enjoy with your favourite mixer, in exciting cocktails, or at its best just over ice!”

Foursquare Distillery you will already know about but some information on other releases can be found here, or you can do a site wide search.

Bristol Classic Fine Barbados Rum – Foursquare 2004 – 43% abv – Single Blended Rum

This Rum was distilled at Foursquare Distillery in 2004 and bottled in 2013 at 43% abv. It would most likely be the result of a minimum maturation period in Barbados, of around 3 years which is the Foursquare way, with the remainder of its 9 year maturation period spent at the Bristol Spirits facility in the more temperate UK climate. It is a single blended rum, a blend of both batch and continuous distillates from the Foursquare Distillery. It saw maturation in the standard american oak ex-bourbon barrels. No bottle quantity information is available.

Again, this is bottle number two of this Rum for me, so taken was I with this and the 2003 upon release. I paid around £40.

Tasting Notes

Nose: A classic Foursquare nose. Heavily influenced by the oak it has classic bourbon spice. Maybe a nip of young (ish) alcohol. Light vanilla, nutmeg and cinnamon. A bag of mixed dried fruit sits alongside warm rice pudding. Toasted coconut alongside Snowballs….marshmallow coated in milk chocolate coated in desiccated coconut. A touch of citrus oil. Warming oak sits in the background carrying everything. Perhaps a little nutty too.

Mouth: A beautifully balanced entry with nuts and oak up front. The peppery oak announces itself straight away with warmth and a real bite. This develops into peanuts and chocolate….Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups. Mild dried fruit sweetness punches through and brings candied citrus peels. Vanilla. Coconut coated in milk chocolate. The mid palate starts with the nuttiness and leads into a drying bourbon oak. This becomes a theme into the finish which is all nuts, milk chocolate and coconut. Warming medium length finish.

It’s a good, solid Rum and is very typical of what you’d expect to find in a ‘standard’ Foursquare release…..well integrated oak and a classic Barbados, or more to the point, classic Foursquare profile…albeit with a little less intensity given its continental heavy maturation. It is a great all round performer that, similar to the 2003, is of its time. Surpassed by the exceptional cask releases of late, and currently for sale in its 12 year form for £75, it is easily outgunned for similar money, or even less by these distillery bottlings with true tropical maturation. However, it’s still a really solid and enjoyable rum. As an aside, if I could have this Rum, with more of the nose of the 2003, I’d be even happier.

4 / 5

© Steven James and Rum Diaries Blog 2018. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material, both written and photographic without the express and written permission from this blog/sites author and owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Steven James and Rum Diaries Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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Bristol Classic Fine Barbados Rum – Foursquare 2003

This could be the first Bristol bottling that I have featured on the site which is quite amazing given my love of the their 1986 Rockley Still release. Anyhow, Bristol Classic Rum is a company headed up by Managing Director John Barrett and they are based in, you guessed it…..Bristol. John Barrett says that Bristol Classic Rum:

“Seek out small quantities, sometimes only single barrels from a single distillery, or a single estate or even a single still to show rum in its true un-blended form. Aging at the Distillery, or here in the United Kingdom is so important to the rums development, this combined with careful bottling and a minimum of filtration allows the characteristics of each individual rum to show. Enjoy with your favourite mixer, in exciting cocktails, or at its best just over ice!”

They have been responsible for some very good and quite landmark releases over the years, their 1990 Port Mourant and the aforementioned 1986 Rockley Still to name but two. This one however hails from one of my favourite places, Foursquare Rum Distillery in Barbados….not Four Square as the label states….an unfortunate issue that plagues quite a few independent bottlers.

Bristol Classic Fine Barbados Rum – Foursquare 2003 – 43% abv – Single Blended Rum

Distilled at Foursquare Distillery in 2003 and bottled in 2012, this Rum would likely be the result of a minimum maturation period in Barbados, probably 3 years, with the remainder at the Bristol Spirits facility in the more temperate UK climate. It is a single blended rum, a blend of both batch and continuous distillates from the Foursquare Distillery. It saw 9 years maturation in the standard american oak ex-bourbon barrels. Bottled at what seems to be the ‘island abv’ of 43%. No bottle quantity information is available but I would assume that it is a blend of multiple casks from the same year.

Tasting Notes

 

Nose: Very astringent from the get go. Really bright fruitiness. Pear drops. Superglue. Varnish. This opening then delivers a mass of tropical fruit by the basket. Bananas. Ripe mango. Star fruit. Guava. I’m going to say that the initial opening in this one would have you convinced that it was a light fruity Jamaican, it has a touch of the continentally aged Long Pond fruitiness. Maybe this 2003 is quite pot still laden in the blend? It certainly feels like the blend is solid and composed of very very good distillates. The oak influence does not show itself, instead there is a biscuity aroma. Hob-Nob biscuits coated in milk chocolate. Time brings buttery puff pastry and creme patissiere. The oak continues to be a no-show on the nose of this one and instead there is a return of the beautiful underlying sweetness that brings overripe bananas and a hint of peach. Crisp apples. Toasted marshmallow and a touch of candyfloss.

Mouth: Beautifully sweet entry. The fruit carries through on the palate from the nose.  Initially light, but then the assertiveness of the fruit shows bringing a freshness and less of a sweetness. A light touch of black pepper precedes intense vanilla and creme brûlée. Buttery pastry and a warming fresh ginger with pepper on the mid palate. There is decidedly less wood influence than I would’ve expected….it is there given the drying nature of the rum, but the mouthfeel, whilst intense is devoid of those heavier oaken notes that usually appear in continentally matured Foursquare. The finish is initially full of intense fruit, vanilla and black pepper but this soon fades to a slightly dry croissant. The finish is quite short, a lot shorter than expected anyway, but the fruit remains in dialled down form with a hint of those peach vapours at the back-end. Salty Liquorice rounds things out.

A very very beautiful nose let down a little by a surprisingly below-par finish. I would love to try this blend with tropical age as I have no doubt that it’s the maturation location that has betrayed this Rum. Don’t get me wrong, it’s still a very good Rum and it deserves your attention and money, but it is perhaps suffering from being surrounded by such great Rum from the same distillery. I will say however that it has one of the most vibrant and fruity noses that I’ve ever experienced in a Foursquare Rum.

3.5 / 5

© Steven James and Rum Diaries Blog 2018. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material, both written and photographic without the express and written permission from this blog/sites author and owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Steven James and Rum Diaries Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

 

Veritas White Blended Pot & Coffey Still Rum

The only way that you won’t have heard about Veritas (Probitas when released in the States) would be if you had absolutely no interest in the Rum world.

A teaming up of two amazing and honest distilleries to produce a pot and column blended ‘White’ Rum. These two powerhouses are of course Foursquare Rum Distillery in Barbados and Hampden Estate in Jamaica.

The front label, resplendent with a “Guardians of Rum” crest, states that it is a blend of Coffey Still and Pot Still Rums…..it also states the Master Blender (Richard Seale) and the inspiration (Luca Gargano). As you would expect, the rear label confirms that the Coffey Still component is from Foursquare and the Pot Still component is from Hampden…..the rear label also confirms that the Rum is aimed at the cocktail market…..but its so much more than that simple. There is also a ‘tongue in cheek’ mention of dosage on the label….I’ll say no more about that….but the jibe would fall flat if the Rum did not stand up to closer inspection. I have written extensively about Foursquare Distillery products and you can read more here, with a bit of information on Hampden Distillery here.

Veritas White Blended Rum – 47%

I mention above that this Rum is more than it appears on the surface….and here is why. The make up of Veritas is more interesting than stated as it is actually a blend of three Rums. The first component is a 2 year Tropically aged Foursquare Pot still Rum (the Rum has colour for a reason). The second component is an unaged Coffey Column still Rum from Foursquare. The third component is an unaged Pot still Rum from Hampden Estate. There is no charcoal filtration of the Rum. The biggest component of the blend is the unaged Coffey Column Rum which when tasted really does show that a little pot still can go a long way. Digging deeper, the Hampden marque used is OWH (Owen W Hussey). Numbers wise, this is the lowest count marque that Hampden produce….but as has been pointed out to me, purely elevating ethyl acetate isn’t improving the Rum. The OWH marque, whilst ‘low ester’ in relation to Rum, is actually high by spirit standards. The marque itself was put forward by Vivian Wisdom, Master Distiller at Hampden (and all round lovely chap) for use in the blend and its inclusion was agreed by Richard Seale.

 

Tasting Notes

Nose: Beautifully creamy. The abv excerpts itself robustly on the nose with a little sting. Portuguese custard tarts. Vanilla pods. Present but light and very well-integrated pot still element. It possesses the creaminess and fresh vegetal cane like quality of the Habitation Velier Foursquare 2013 and 2015 releases. Light acetone bite dragging citrus oils and a basket of fresh tropical fruit on the table at breakfast in summer.

Mouth: There it is. The pot still is way more present in the mouth feel which is a lot more oily than I expected. Real proper weight in this rum on the palate. It is the pot still that leads the early exchanges. Chewy Molasses. A touch of Kola Nut. Give it time and the lighter, fruitier elements come to the fore. Sugarcane. Light and so so typical marshmallow from the Coffey column. Banana. Guava jam on a buttery crumpet. Croissant like buttery pastry sweetness. Molasses in the finish. So much body to it.

Really really impressive. Prepare to have your preconceptions of young, cocktail oriented rum changed for good. It’s not just good for a young Rum, it’s good full stop. Yes…..I’d be perfectly happy drinking this neat….but it mixes so well. Daiquiris…good….provided you keep them on the sour side this Rum sings a wonderful tune. Banana daiquiris…..good. It even mixes well with coke.

4.5 / 5

A previous favourite of mine at home for daiquiris was Plantation 3 Stars…I enjoyed the fact that it had a bit of pot still in there and that it was reasonably cheap …..I have no need for it now. Tried side by side, the 3 Stars lacks palate weight, lacks character. Night and Day difference

Veritas is around £25 a bottle….you’ll have to buy from a France or Italy at the moment which is annoying…but it’s worth the effort.

© 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.

The Duchess Barbados 2005 13 Year Old Rum

What we have today is another independent bottling, this time of a Foursquare Rum. The Duchess is a specialist independent bottler of whisky and rum that they say are to cater for a “discerning audience”. All Rums released by The Duchess are additive and colourant free. They claim to sell an honest Rum for an honest price. I have their Guadeloupe 19 release and can say with all honesty that it is a very good bottling…..so I’m looking forward to digging into this offering. You can do a search on these pages for Foursquare Distillery if you need some background, there are plenty of articles to choose from.

The Duchess Barbados 13 Year Old Rum – 59% abv – Single Blended Rum

We are aware that the label incorrectly displays 1995 and not 2005

This Duchess Barbados 13 Single Blended Rum release was distilled at Foursquare Rum Distillery in 2005. It saw 3 years maturation at Foursquare before being matured for a further 10 years in Europe prior bottling at 59% abv. It is a run of 294 bottles from cask number 44. The labels on all Duchess bottlings are by Hans Dillesse who is renowned for his work on various Whisky labels. It depicts the National Flower of Barbados whose Latin name is Caesalpinia pulcherrima. It is also known as The Pride of Barbados. The Rum was a joint selection between Richard Blesgraaf and Nils van Rijn for the Whisky & Rum aan Zee Festival 2018 which will take place in the Netherlands this October. I received a small sample of this release ahead of schedule and as a result have already placed my order.

Tasting Notes

Nose: Straight off the rum is bouncing from the glass. A classic Foursquare nose. Oak. Vanilla. Candied fruit peel. A little coconut. There’s plenty of acetone like aromas in there but they’re not dominant. The fruit is joined by some pretty obvious flamed oily orange peel and a bag full of nuts. Dried tropical fruit, maybe some guava juice. Fruit and nut milk chocolate. Freshly shelled peanuts. It is very reminiscent of the nose on the Rum Sixty Six Cask Strength. Wood glue. Sappy cedar wood.

Mouth: A very warming and astringent oak led entry. An all-encompassing mouthfeel. Mild sweetness straight off but the oak rapidly comes into play in the early stages. Subsequent visits to the glass reveal a little more sweetness. A bag of dried tropical fruit. Peanuts. Cocoa. Peach loop sweets. Vanilla. Coconut. The mid palate is where the oak excerpts it’s dominance. It brings a host of light spices and plenty of black pepper heat. Seeded bread sticks. Cedar wood. Cumin seeds. The finish, which is decidedly long is initially heavily spiced and full of peppery oak, drying, warming and with real depth. As it progresses it lightens with burnt orange oils, nuts and those oh so familiar peach vapours that I adore. Mild tobacco notes and a hint of mint.

4 / 5

It’s always well-balanced, always poised. It lacks the intensity that the rum Sixty Six Cask Strength possesses, possibly a maturation location thing, but my word it’s an impressive Rum. I’ve tried a fair few independent offerings of Foursquare Rum, some have been better than others, but this one gets it all right. It will set you back around €75 and it’s worth every penny. It can be purchased here, and I’d suggest that you do as it’s a limited run.

© 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.

The Barbados GI & Why It Will NOT Threaten Diversity & Innovation

There has been talk within Rum circles and Facebook Forums about the proposed Barbados and recently completed Jamaican GI, and how there are concerns that this may stifle innovation and quell diversity. The following is the ‘as written’ response to this fallacy by Richard Seale which he has kindly agreed to allow me to publish in its entirety….and it is the best thing that you’ll read on the subject. Enjoy.

THE PROTECTION OF BARBADOS RUM

As Jamaica has completed their Geographical Indication for “Jamaican Rum” and Barbados moves to completion of their GI, it becomes increasingly important to dispel the canards around this important process.

With rum we have many canards – rum has no rules – rum is diverse and varied because of this wonderful lack of rules. Unlike other spirits, we are told Rum has no “global rules”. And that there are efforts to have a global rule which will crush our diversity.

See my takedown of this here – https://cocktailwonk.com/2017/08/richard-seales-epic-takedown-rum-no-rules.html

A recent canard is that a GI (a registered intellectual property) is a further threat to this diversity and a threat to “innovation”.

The irony of this situation is that a GI seeks to preserve and protect this diversity. It is the essential tool by which this is accomplished. And the dreaded fear of selling rum under one “unified” rule is EXACTLY WHAT HAPPENS NOW AND IS PRECISELY WHAT A GI WILL SOLVE.

If Caribbean producers sell rum into the US, it is not the standards of identity (“the rules”) of Jamaica, Martinique or Barbados that apply. It is the rules of the United States TTB that apply. That is right, despite being from three very different and diverse rum producing countries, they will be sold in the US under the same ONE rule. This means that although AGAINST THE LAW OF JAMAICA to add anything to rum besides caramel a Jamaica Rum can be sold in the US with added flavours including sugar (and labeled as Jamaican Rum) because the generic rule for Rum sold in the US allows blenders to be added to any rum.

But the situation is very different for the spirits produced by developed countries. The United States TTB will enforce the rules of Scotland for a Scotch Whisky sold in the US. The United States TTB will enforce the rules of Cognac for a Cognac sold in the US. The US will not protect a Jamaican Rum or a Barbadian Rum from adulteration in the US. The US does not control the use of the word ‘Agricole’ in the US market leading to all sorts of hideous products, not remotely consistent with the standards of ‘Agricole’ being legally labeled as Agricole

Now the US does not directly recognise GIs so creating a GI alone will not be enough to solve this issue in the US but the US illustrates the challenge of protecting our diversity very well and the GI will be the necessary first step.

The same situation applies in the EU save for the fact that the EU does recognise some GIs at this point (for example the word Agricole is protected) and it is hoped that they will recognise the GIs of Jamaican and Barbados in due course. At the moment, a Jamaica Rum and a Barbados Rum are sold in the EU under one and the same EU rule. If the EU recognises our individual GIs, it means that a Barbados Rum sold in the EU will need to meet “Barbados Rules” and a Jamaica Rum will need to meet “Jamaica Rules”. That diversity everyone wants will be protected – that dreaded ‘global rule’ for rum, avoided.

Because the EU recognises the GI for Scotch Whisky, the additional requirements to meet the standards of identity for Scotch Whisky over the EU generic standard for whisky are recognised and the label “Scotch Whisky” is protected throughout the EU. The GI for Jamaica Rum and the draft GI for Barbados pose additional requirements, over and above the generic EU definition of Rum (the “one” rule) to protect and preserve the characteristic identity of these rums. The GI is the tool by which we will protect our diversity. The GI is the tool by which we avoid having to produce under one “global rule”.

What of the claim that a GI stifles innovation?

Lets be clear as to what exactly is innovation. Marketing gimmicks that do not add value are not innovations. Changing the elements of repute in a Jamaica Rum or a Barbados Rum is not innovation. A GI is not a legal restraint on a producer. All producers continue to operate under the existing laws. A GI is a piece of intellectual property protecting how a type of “trademark” can be used – it places no law whatsoever on production. It constrains no one from producing as they please. It constrains them from labeling as they please. A Jamaican musician can play any tune just do not expect it to be called reggae unless it sounds like reggae.

So what are these innovation stifling constraints in the Barbados and Jamaica GIs:

– Barbadian trained operators

– fermented and distilled in Barbados/Jamaica

– Saccharomyces types only for yeast

– local water source only

– free of additives except caramel which must only be used for colour (Barbados draft GI has a quantitative albeit generous limit on caramel) – the same restriction in Scotch

– minimum ester levels for Jamaica rum (by marque)

– aged in oak (“small” is the Jamaica requirement, 700 litres maximum for Barbados)

– aged entirely in Jamaica (a min of two years in Barbados).

– Jamaica rum must pass an organoleptic test

I will address the wisdom of “restricting to oak” in another post, save to say that is hardly onerous and Scotch Whisky has the same “restriction”. There is a plethora of excellent oak casks available for “innovation”. One obvious point is that it keeps a point of difference between rum and cachaca and preserves an important distinction in our social and economic history.

Aging is Europe is a product of the colonial way of doing business where only limited value was earned in the colonies and product whether it be sugar, rum or bauxite was to be shipped at the lowest commodity value. Bulk brown sugar would leave the Caribbean in the ship’s hold but arrive on the supermarket shelf as branded granulated sugar. Bulk molasses sold as branded ‘treacle” once on the shelf.

The advent of continental aging therefore had nothing whatsoever to do with product quality and it is absurd as ageing Scotch Whisky in southern Spain. It simply steals value from the local producers leaving rich European brands and decrepit local operations. The Barbados GI arguably does not go far enough. Bravo to Jamaica – this “restraint” is worth millions in forex earnings. A greater share of what you pay for that bottle of rum ends up in the Caribbean with “restraints” like this.

Conforming Rums must (may?) use the words “certified Geographical Indication” on all documents including labels. Non conforming rums can be made but they will not be able to simply state “Jamaican Rum” or “Barbados Rum” and most importantly – “the use of any indication or sign which may cause a buyer to believe that a rum has the right to use the protected Geographical Indication “Jamaica Rum”, although it does not satisfy all the conditions defined in the present decree will be prosecuted”.

You cannot sell your product under another’s brand because of trademark law and you cannot sell your product under another’s protected origin because of intellectual property law. You add something to Jamaica Rum – it is no longer Jamaican Rum – that is the law of the land of Jamaica. A recognised Jamaican GI means you cannot avoid Jamaican law by selling in Europe. No more selling pure rum as “dry style rum” and sweetened rum as “rum”. In Jamaica and Barbados, rum without added sweetener is just known as rum. I have never in my life heard any Jamaican or Barbadian call it “dry style” rum. Would I dare go to Scotland and call all whiskies “dry style”? Who am I to dictate that.

So you can continue to flavour Jamaica Rum you just cannot label it in a way that may cause confusion to the buyer that they have purchased certified Jamaica Rum. The diversity and identity, created by Jamaicans, will now be protected.

Europeans created the concept of protected origins and it is used extensively by developed countries to develop and protect the intrinsic value of their products in export markets. Our time is now.

We and fellow Barbadian owned producer St Nicholas Abbey are on the record as supporting the Barbados GI as drafted.

The EU generic rule for Rum for which all Rums need to comply

The generic US TTB rule for Rum for which all Rums irrespective of origin need to comply

The US recognises and applies different rules for different types of Whisky. No such recognition for Rum – so a Rum labeled Agricole in the US need not even be from fresh juice

The US TTB will enforce the rules of different origins for different spirits but not for Rum. Even Canadian Whisky is protected.

A GI is a form of Intellectual Property – it is not a law constraining how Rum can be made

The EU will recognise GIs – they must then comply with the rules they submit through their technical file

The EU will protect a registered GI. Scotch is a GI and so Scotch sold in the EU must match the rules in the Scotch technical file, it is not enough to conform to the generic EU rule for whisky

The EU does protect some GIs for Rum. We hope to add Barbados and Jamaica to this list

An example of Cognac applying to New Zealand to say protect our origin. We need to do the same for Rum and the GI is the first step. Diversity can then be protected.

The Scotch Whisky technical file details the difference between the rules of Scotch and the generic whisky rule of the EU. They add further detail to this page.

To gain a recognised GI in the EU, a technical file must be submitted.

Jamaica has an organoleptic test requirement for its GI

I personally find it hard to understand why anyone that has an interest in the future and protection of the Rums and the people of Barbados would ever not think that the Barbados GI is an essential thing.

© 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.

Rum Tasting of the Century & Hampden Estate Rum Launch

Sometimes in life, things happen that totally blow your mind. I have often looked on with extreme jealousy when I have seen amazing events playing out whilst I’ve been at home on the sofa…..but not this time! You see, I was one of the fortunate few to be invited by Luca Gargano to what was being called “The Rum Tasting of the Century”. This event had been arranged to celebrate the launch of the La Maison and Velier distributed Hampden Estate Rums. Luca also pointed out that these Hampden Estate releases celebrate the end of the colonial era in the Rum world after 265 years as Hampden Estate are bottling their own tropically aged Trelawny Rums. Now being invited to the Four Seasons Hotel to celebrate the launch of the Hampden Rums would’ve been a great experience, but the Rum Tasting of the Century was close on panic attack inducing. Imagine if you will, every toy that you ever wanted as a child, then the joy that spreads over you like a wave of euphoria when you see that ‘Santa has been’…..and he has delivered them all!

When I received the invitation, I also received the list of Rums that we would be tasting during the evening. You often see Rums and think to yourself, “I would love to try even the smallest drop of that”. For me those Rums include Skeldon 1973 & 1978, UF30E 1985, Albion 1983 & 1994, Blairmont 1991, La Bonne Intention 1998, Rhum Clement 1952, Saint James 250th Anniversary, Rhum JM 1987, Harewood House 1780, Barbados 1985, Bally 1929, Enmore 1995, Wray & Nephew 17….and the list goes on! You resign yourself to living in the land of make-believe with some of those Rums, imagine my joy when I saw the invitation and it announced that the Rums we’d be trying were:

Harewood 1780 – Barbados The oldest dated Rum in existence

Saint James 1885 – Martinique One of the oldest Rums ever sold

Bally 1924 – Martinique The first vintage in the Rhum Agricole world

Skeldon 1978 – Guyana A legendary bottling from Velier

Hampden Estate – Jamaica The new aged releases from one of the best distilleries in the world

We assembled in the beautifully decorated bar at The Four Seasons Hotel at Ten Trinity Square. Anticipation built and I was able to meet up again with old Rum friends in Wes Burgin, Peter Holland, Tatu Kaarlas, John Gibbons and Matt Pietrek and I also had a first face to face meeting with old Rum friends in Lance Surujbaly and Gregers Nielsen. We briefly spoke to Luca before being ushered into a private lift up to Apartment 17 on the 7th floor. We milled around next to the bar surrounded by members of the press from such publications and The New York Times, Le Monde and Imbibe. I had the opportunity to chat with Andrew Hussey of Everglade Farms Ltd, owners of Hampden Estate and the Long Pond Sugar Factory. We were then ushered into a large room at the end of the corridor, sliding glass partitions  to two elevations affording beautiful early evening views of Tower Bridge, The Tower of London, The Gherkin and the Shard. Sadly I only took a photograph after dark….but still…what a view

We also had our first view (and touch) of the amazing line up of bottles that we would be tasting…….Rum making spanning four centuries

We sat in our predefined places and awaiting the evenings events.

There was a beautiful introduction to the evening and a really passionate speech from Luca about the gathering and his delight at the new Hampden releases. We also received a detailed description of the Rums that we would be tasting and why they are special his opinion. The anticipation that had been built was clear for all to see as the tasting began.

The Rum Tasting of the Century

I managed to take tasting notes for each of the Rums and given the brief time with them I will present my notes as written with no elaboration. Purely first impressions.

Harewood House 1780 – Barbados – circa 69% abv (Light)

Sukhinder Singh of The Whisky Exchange was given the honour of opening the bottle. This was quite possibly one of the most amazing things that I have experienced in my Rum life. As you will hear in the video, there were approaching three dozen bottles found at Harewood House (you can read more here), some were full, some part full. The Rum was decanted, checked and re-bottled in the existing bottles, re-corked and wax sealed. There were 28 bottles released to auction in two batches. You can view the bottle opening video below:

Tasting Notes

Nose: Pears. Quite Acidic. Clean. Very little wood influence. Putty. Grape. Very astringent.

Mouth: Very dry. Way more barrel influence. Fortified wine. Crisp apple / pear. Tobacco notes. Fino sherry at back-end. Earthy. Dirt / Soil. Chewy.

This was quite the thing to try. To be nosing and tasting a Rum distilled over 238 years ago. To nose the Rum, you would have said that it was a cane juice distillate. I didn’t feel like it had much age on it. Maybe just the age that it gained on the journey from Barbados to the UK. The fortified wine notes could also be down to the barrels that it was transported in. Richard Seale often talks about Rums traditionally being transported in the barrels that had just delivered Port and Madeira with ex-bourbon being a modern practice. I also spoke to Richard regarding the cane juice feel of the Rum and he advised that in those days the Rums had cane juice from skimmings from ‘rum canes’ that had low sucrose content. The molasses would’ve also been very dilute which would have led to a less distinct caramelised molasses flavour. This was well and truly the experience of a lifetime. Amazingly, re-visiting the empty glass, any hint of the Rum has been replaced by  a very weak window putty aroma. This puts to bed the notion that the rum of the past was a horrific concoction.

Saint James 1885 – Martinique 

Tasting Notes

Nose: 100% Demerara nose. Dates. Walnuts. PX sweetness. Bitter raisins. Cream. Heavy. Thick. Coconut. Cough Medicine. Herbal Tablets. Lion Ointment.

Mouth: Medicinal. Emulsion paint. Ralgex vapours. Agricole oak notes. French oak. Molasses. Fruit cake. Treacle toffee.

This had by far my favourite nose of the night. In fact, blind tasted you would swear the Saint James was Demerara Rum and the Harewood House was a light cane juice Rum.

Rhum J. Bally 1924 – Martinique – 45% abv

Tasting Notes

Nose: Crisp ripe pears. Tinned pears. Astringent. Acetone. Pear drops. Clearly agricole. Real depth. Foam bananas.

Mouth: Very obvious French oak. Very dry. Really fruity. Celery.

The Bally 1924 was an absolute delight. One of my favourites from the evening.

Skeldon 1978 – Guyana – 60.4% abv

Tasting Notes

Nose: Raisins. Liquorice. Dates. Rose water. Fruit cake. PX sherry. Honey. Walnuts. Prunes. Stone fruit. Victoria plums. Uncut tobacco.

Mouth: Warm fruit compote. Christmas pudding. Cough sweets. Treacle. Walnuts. Walnut and Date cake.

Beautiful stuff.

Next up we tried the new Hampden Estate pairing but I will be covering these in a separate review at a later date.

We were also very fortunate in the fact that we were able to try both Unaged and Tropically aged Hampden DOK marque. The unaged was so unbelievably pungent and fruity, the aged was more approachable yet still an absolute bruiser.

We cleared the tables and chatted over a few glasses of Hampden as the meal was prepared and served. The food was unbelievably beautiful and the meal was concluded with Baba au Rhum utilising the new Hampden Estate 46%. What an amazingly beautifully presented and tasty treat. We also added a little unaged DOK to one of the Baba au Rhum…..Crazy stuff.

We then relaxed on the terrace as Luca enthused us with passionate talk of Hampden Estate, the experience of visiting Haiti and his Distillerie de Port-au-Prince. Locations that one day I really hope to be fortunate enough to visit. Following more chat inside about the fascinating new Velier Long Pond bottlings, we retired to the Four Seasons Hotel bar. Over two bottles of Hampden we continued to talk into the night as the group of 7 became 4. We eventually saw our rooms at around 5am. What happens in the hotel bar, stays in the hotel bar.

I’m still in a daze about the event. It is one of those rare moments in time where everything falls into place and there is nowhere else that you’d rather be. Its all still a little ‘pinch yourself’. By far the greatest experience of the evening was to be present at the opening of a bottle of the Harewood House Rum. I honestly can never see that being bettered as a Rum experience. The outstanding nose of the evening was definitely the Saint James 1885 though sadly the palate did not match the excellent nose. Stand outs for me were the Bally 1924 and the Skeldon 1978. I’d find it hard to separate those two at the top of my list. The location, the people, the Rum and the event played out absolutely perfectly and I am so immensely grateful to Luca Gargano and La Maison & Velier for giving me the opportunity to be present. It was a dream come true. This Rum Tasting of the Century will live long in the memory of all attendees and will go down in the annals of Rum Tasting History.

To quote Luca, I am very very happy

© 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.

Admiral Rodney St Lucia Rum Collection

Yes you read that right…..collection. You see, one of the best examples of 100% Coffey Column Rum is soon to gain a younger and an older sibling. Part of the new strategy from the new owners of St Lucia Distillers, Groupe Bernard Hayot (also owners of Rhum Clement and Rhum JM) is to introduce a shake up of the current ranges from the distillery and to breathe new life into the distillates from their amazing collection of stills. The Bounty range seems to be getting a push outside of St Lucia, the 1931 releases are becoming part of the Chairman’s Reserve brand and the Admiral Rodney range gains two new expressions and a rebrand of the original. I’ve written extensively about St Lucian rums here, about the Chairman’s Reserve range here, and more importantly about Admiral Rodney here.

But allow me to elaborate with a bit of marketing bumf and the story of Admiral Rodney.

Admiral George B. Rodney, 1st Baron Rodney KB (1718-1792) was a famed and brilliant naval strategist. A gambler and a collector of the spoils of war. He will historically be remembered as the Admiral who broke the French line at the Battle of the Saints thus ensuring the British domination of the Caribbean.

It’s nice to see the range expanding and to also see how the range is has been renamed. The original Admiral Rodney will renamed as HMS Royal Oak whilst the two new additions will be HMS Princessa and HMS Formidable. Due to a stroke of good fortune, I have a small sample of each to review today. So without further ado, let’s dig in.

Admiral Rodney HMS Princessa – 40% abv- Traditional Rum

HMS Princessa was originally a Spanish vessel but was captured by the British in 1780 at the Battle of Cape St. Vincent. Captained by Charles Knatchbull with Rear Admiral Francis Samuel Drake aboard, this 70 gun ship of the line was one of the first ships to engage the French in the Battle of the Saints.

The rum itself is as alluded to earlier, the product of the Coffey Column at St Lucia Distillers. The still which was commissioned in 1984 has 45 plates. The Rums set down to mature for the Admiral Rodney Range are taken from the lower plates of the still. The distillates are matured in ex bourbon oak and are aged between 5 and 9 years prior to blending.

Tasting Notes

Nose: Light oak. Vanilla. A fair dose of astringency and pepper. Light creme patissiere on a buttery vanilla slice. Vague hints of banana chips and honey. Quite soft. Maybe the lightest drop of almond. Really well-balanced.

Mouth: Initial sweetness. A touch of tannic oak. Quite a pleasant bite of alcohol. White pepper teases the tongue as the oak encourages you to chew the rum. A beautiful dryness with a hint of tobacco. Banana yoghurt. Light custard with caramelised brown sugar. A well-balanced finish that shows great integration of all components but it is all butterscotch, green apple and pepper underpinned with a drying oak

4 / 5

Admiral Rodney HMS Royal Oak – 40% abv- Traditional Rum

HMS Royal Oak was in the vanguard of ships to engage the French in the Battle of the Saints. Captained by Thomas Burnett, the Royal Oak manoeuvred skilfully and brought to bear all of her 74 guns on the enemy for the duration of the battle. With 8 men lost and 20 wounded, Royal Oak played an integral role in the first skirmishes of the battle.

Again taken from the lower plates of the Coffey Column, the distillates are matured in ex bourbon oak and are aged between 7 and 12 years prior to blending.

Tasting Notes

Nose: That delightful Admiral Rodney toasted coconut and oak leads things. Savoury vanilla leads into Cherry. Christmas mince pies. A hint of Nutmeg. Powdery cocoa. Roasted peanuts and Bourbon oak. A touch leathery. Chocolate coated peanuts

Mouth: Again there is an initial sweetness before the drying oak forces itself in. Better mouthfeel than I remember. Feels a lot fuller. Some Stewed stone fruit sweetness but this is definitely spice and spicy oak driven. Nutmeg. Pepper. Chocolate coated peanuts. Saliva inducing dryness rolling across the tongue. Mild vanilla and banana. The finish is of a medium length with a touch of sweetness courtesy of caramel and raisins before the spicy, peppery oak barges through and takes over

4 / 5

Admiral Rodney HMS Formidable – 40% abv- Traditional Rum

Launched in August 1777, HMS Formidable was Admiral Rodney’s flagship in the Battle of the Saints. Formidable was in the centre of the British fleet and took advantage of a sudden change of wind to break the line and sail into the French fleet unleashing her 98 guns on Admiral de Grasse’s ships.

This time the distillates are aged for between 9 and 12 years prior to blending.

Tasting Notes

Nose: Really really intense. More of everything. Properly cutting and nose tingling acetone takes you by surprise. Based on the first sniff I’d question whether this had a touch of pot still but I know it’s 100% Coffey Column. Crazy good. A beautifully intense oak and spice driven nose. Honey. Raisins and dried tropical fruit. Such a big oaky nose. Toasted coconut. Tobacco. Chocolate. Heavy bourbon cherry. Mixed roasted peanuts and hazelnuts. Pear drops….really. Furniture polish. Creosote. This is properly impressive

Mouth: Quite a gentle well-balanced entry. Pear drops. Astringent oak. An underlying sweetness being kept at bay by the crushing power of the oak influence. This has plenty going on. Puff pastry mince tarts. Mixed candied fruit peel. A little citrus oil. Milky, sweet coffee. Hot chocolate with marshmallows. Candied warm peanuts. A light smoke. There’s so much depth and complexity to this Rum…..you have to remind yourself that it’s a Coffey Column spirit. Beautifully long and chewy finish full of cutting, drying oak. That furniture polish and nail varnish lingers in the vapours. Warm peanuts, raisins and more of that coffee carries through but the oaken influence is the star. Very very good rum

4.5 / 5

The new additions really do step things up a notch. The youthfulness of the HMS Princessa makes it a really intriguing addition to the range and one that I really do rather like. HMS Royal Oak is the solid performer and it feels as though the blend has been tweaked slightly for the better. But the real star of the show is HMS Formidable. It just in possession of so much complexity it really shows how good a tool the Coffey Column still is. So fully of complexity and enjoyment.

Yes I’d love to experience all of the range at between 43 and 46% and I really do believe that this is something that should be investigated for the range in the future….even as special releases. The market that is interested in Admiral Rodney as a product really does demand it.

St Lucia Distillers have really stepped up their game and given the array of Rums that they have in their warehouses, maturation in differing casks and the complex array of available Rums from their wonderful stills at their fingertips, St Lucia is definitely my third favourite Rum producing Island!

© 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.