Mount Gay 7 Year Old – TWE Exclusive Cask Strength

Amazingly Mount Gay have not featured on this site before, but that will change today. With a deed dating back to 1703, Mount Gay Distillery occupies a beautiful site in the North of Barbados in the Parish of St Lucy. I have far more information to share and images to post and these will appear on later articles featuring more of my Mount Gay collection.

Master Blender Allen Smith

Under the direction of Master Blender Allen Smith, Mount Gay are more famed for their entry-level Eclipse Rums along with Black Barrel and their XO. They have extensive aged stock and yet rarely bottle for others or sell to brokers these days. I have a Cadenhead’s bottling that I swear is from Mount Gay and I read only today of a release by a Dutch bottler that will be coming in December. Utilising both a traditional Coffey Column Still and multiple twin retort Pot Stills, Mount Gay produce Single Blended Rum. Their Pot Still House up in St Lucy really is a thing of beauty…..photographs can’t do it justice…but to give you some idea, this is an image that I took on my visit in April.

Mount Gay Distillery Pot Still House

But enough of that for now, you want to know about the Rum.

Mount Gay 7 Year Old Cask Strength – The Whisky Exchange Exclusive – 54% abv – Single Blended Rum

A blend of Traditional Twin Column and Double Retort Pot Still Rum, this Single Blended Rum sees a maturation period of 7 years in ex-bourbon barrels in the warehouses at the distillery in St Lucy. Bottled at 54%, which is Cask Strength, this Rum has not been chill filtered, it does not have caramel colour and it is a release of 2400 bottles from a total of 20 barrels. Losses to evaporation ranged from 37.3% to 47.9%. I have also been advised that it has a higher proportion of pot still in the blend than most other Mount Gay releases. It will be available only through The Whisky Exchange and is now available.

Tasting Notes

Nose: Peppery and spicy oak up front, as with all of the older MG expressions. The deep oak carries the intense vanilla of crème pâtissière and nutmeg topped egg custard. A bag of dried mixed tropical fruit. A hint of caramelised sugar atop a buttery Eccles cake. It’s a well-balanced and classically Barbadian nose with a little more power. Time brings a pleasant but not overdone note of pencil shavings and light molasses. Coconut chips in milk chocolate. Stewed stone fruit.

Mouth: Beautifully sweet entry. It doesn’t show it’s teeth initially. Very creamy….reminiscent of Banoffee pie with a spiced ginger biscuit base. Bourbon vanilla custard and warm fruit cake. The mid palate really allows the oak and spice to flex its muscles. The heat of black pepper and charred bourbon barrel notes. Immensely dry and with plenty of grip. Such a spice driven mid palate courtesy of the oak and the increased but never too aggressive abv. 54% just seems so right for this. Fiery freshly cut ginger, cinnamon and a touch of celery. It almost runs to being too dry and too oak heavy on the mid-palate but it manages to regain balance and a sweetness on the finish. Chorley cake with buttery shortcrust pastry resplendent with juicy raisins. A hint of milk chocolate. Caramelised sugar on creme brûlée. Walkers liquorice toffee. All pinned together with a solid, classic woody Barbadian backbone.

I tried this alongside a glass of the old label XO. Its youth, abv and more aggressive oak approach make it a very enjoyable step up as an experience as opposed to the XO’s calmer more easy-going oak and 43% abv. It’s good to see Mount Gay releasing cask strength Rums, albeit as bottlings for others and limited releases. I still think that their current cask strength releases have their pricing structure a little high to truly appeal to a bigger market, £150 for the XO Cask Strength (which I picked up anyway) and £200 for the Peat Smoke throw them into truly ‘special purchase’ territory. As a group, we spoke at length to Raphael Grisoni about this when we were at the distillery in April. This release is priced at just shy of £88 which brings it into a better price bracket and given the enjoyment contained within this bottle, it’s bang on the money.

4.5 / 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.

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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.

Foursquare Destino – Single Blended Rum – Velier 70th Anniversary Edition

This post has a certain air of inevitability. I was always going to try my best to obtain a bottle of this Rum in one guise or another….

As quite a few of my Foursquare articles have started recently, let me take you back to March 2017 in Barbados. Monday’s are not famed for being great days….but this one as you’ll see was very different. It was mid-afternoon on Monday 27th March and we were stupidly late for our rendezvous with Richard and Gayle at Foursquare Distillery. Traffic wasn’t great, and we had stopped off to grab a Roti and a refreshing drink on the way to Foursquare….when I say we, I am talking about Me, my wife Barnali and our friends Ivar and Mariangela. We toured the distillery again (our second time on this trip), with Richard being kind enough to take us around again…..We tasted fresh from the still Rum, Ivar climbed to the top of the Coffey Still enclosure and we got up close and personal with the barrel houses whilst watching the new one being constructed in front of us. The smell of those places, the aroma of Rum, the barrels stacked in their different positions, labelled to keep full track of their location and contents, the sunlight shining through the cracks in the building and highlighting the dust particles in the air……Experiences like that cannot be truly conveyed to others fully. You have to experience it. It’s an assault on the senses and a real heart skipper when I think back and look at my photographs….again. But to Richard and the guys busy beavering around and getting on with their tasks, this is just another working day.

It’s almost as if they’ve been doing it for over 300 years in Barbados…..

Allow me if you will….again….to take you to the Foursquare Distillery tasting room come boardroom and its bountiful contents. Ivar had just been given his wings (in the Guardians of Rum sense) and we were trying Triptych and Principia. Then Richard disappears for a second and brings back a 200ml labelled flask……’this is Destino’ we were told……..It found its way into our glasses…..

Destino Flask

I only made brief notes on my phone on the day as my excitement levels had peaked…..but they comprised the following:

iPhone Notes

Short and sweet I know, but I was taken aback. This was an experience of a lifetime.

Flash forward almost 10 months and a friend and avid reader of the site was able to secure me a bottle of the Velier 70th Anniversary Edition Destino at retail price…..and sold it to me for zero profit. That is what a large percentage of Rum obsessives are like…..they don’t want to hoard and sell….they want to share experiences and help others share experiences.

Foursquare Destino – Single Blended Rum – Velier 70th Anniversary Edition – 61% abv

Destino translates from Spanish as “Destiny or Fate”……perhaps it was Richards destiny that he would produce something like this? Now the anniversary edition, apart from being a release of 600 bottles taken from two barrels was as a response to Luca wanting Foursquare to make an old Rum for the Velier 70th Anniversary. Richard not being one for cliches and anniversary bottlings agreed to have a differently labelled small quantity run of Destino. Everyone is a winner.

As you can see above, the abv did change from the 62% that we tried. This Rum is a Single Blended Rum…a blend of pot and traditional coffey column still Rum. A minimum of 14 years old, this release has seen a full 12 years tropical maturation in ex-Madeira barrels and a further 2 years in barrels that have previously been used for the maturation of Rum……so a ‘Rum finished Rum’ if you will…..though as we know….Foursquare Distillery don’t do finishes…..its double maturation. So, how does this Rum taste? Did Foursquare Distillery manage to keep track of the barrels, move their position and stop them from leaking for just long enough to fluke a win?

Tasting Notes

Glass: The Rum is a completely irrelevant (colour is not our guide) deep, dark bronze. Quite oily and clingy when swirled, the Rum also has an olive-green halo where it contacts the glass. The slightest tingle of alcohol vapour disappears in an instant and the Rum jumps from the glass and into the room. A beautifully focused and robust oak arrives first, a deep dark brooding oak with a tinge of bitterness. Pencil shavings and the heady aromas of the rummy oak from the aforementioned trip around the barrel houses. A hint of acetone. Stone fruit…plump ripe blackberries, blackcurrants and a little acidity. Light and non intrusive vanilla is accompanied by dark chocolate notes. A little tannic, but never distractingly so. It’s a very giving Rum that delivers with confidence. Wet corrugated cardboard. Manuka honey. More dark, powdery cocoa. Dusty books. Walnuts. Nothing is rushed here. Time has played its part and the resultant Rum is a joy to sit with. It’s quite difficult to not dig right in, but you’ll be missing out on so much by not giving it time, uncovered, in the glass. It raises a wide smile when considering just how approachable this robust and punchy Rum is.

Mouth: The initial sip is an explosion of juicy hedgerow berries. You’d also never peg this as 61%, such is the level of integration that the alcohol has. There is a sharp bite of gooseberry followed by the rich buttery base of a homemade cheesecake. The mouthfeel is such that your palate is dominated by homemade blackcurant and raspberry jam….dark stewed fruit. It’s incredibly rich. Victoria plum freshness is backed by the sticky bitterness of dried prunes that helps to announce the almost sweet and juicy oaken notes on the mid-palate. This soft, chewy oak dries in a wave over the sides of your tongue and brings a pleasing bitter note. This clears the way for toasted coconut, rich velvety dark chocolate and vanilla. The bitterness that fleets in and out is reminiscent of so many long aged Velier Demeraras. The long, rich finish starts with the nip of tart fruit and homemade jam before the drying oak brings salted liquorice, molasses and buttered chewy malt loaf. You’re left with a beautiful interplay of dark stewed fruit and oak that you can almost chew. Right at the back-end there’s something floral and almost perfumed before the trademark apricot vapours announce themselves. You just have to pour more….which is why I’m halfway down the bottle.

5 / 5

This Rum is so much better than a 5…….But 5 is all that I have to numerically display my appreciation…..perhaps the below can expand on this number….

So there we have it. This is seriously impressive stuff. A real kicking up of gears for Foursquare and a foray into new territory as this may be their oldest Rum matured fully in their own facility….and it is without a shadow of a doubt the best Rum that Foursquare Distillery has produced to date. It just has so much going on. I’m still discovering new things to write about even as I’m wrapping up this review. It has layers of complexity that unfold in front of you. Depth beyond anything they’ve produced previously. The bar that I said Principia had set, has once again been raised. Destino is bottled proof that if you know what you’re doing you can produce something honestly, with integrity and grace that flattens all in its path. There is no quick fix…this is knowledge and good old fashioned time. Foursquare has its production methods rooted firmly in the tradition of the 300 odd years of Rum making on the island of Barbados that preceded it, but their techniques are refined to a point where this kind of stuff is becoming effortless for the distillery.

This is a legacy Rum.

© 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.

Foursquare Principia Single Blended Rum – Early Thoughts

Now I’ve not been fortunate enough to obtain a bottle of Principia yet…..I do however have a generous friend that visited an even more generous distillery owner in late December and I now have about 25-30ml of Principia to bring you my initial thoughts. We were fortunate enough to first try Principia when we visited Foursquare Distillery in March 2017 and were instantly blown away. We then had another chance to try it over two days at the UK RumFest in October 2017 and were further impressed. Now it has been bottled and I assume shipped over to Velier in Italy, we can hopefully look to obtain a few of the available 5400 bottles.

Principia Sample – Foursquare Distillery, March 2017

Foursquare Principia Single Blended Rum – 62% abv

Luca and Richard…You can clearly see the amazement in Luca’s eyes – UK RumFest 2017

Principia is another result of Foursquares ‘double maturation’. It is a Single Blended Rum that has seen 3 years in ex-bourbon barrels and then 6 years in very old Oloroso barrels. No ‘finishes’ here. It’s quite standard for Foursquare to use Oloroso barrels but its their double maturation technique and the length of time that they are left to mature in those differing barrels that Foursquare do so well. It’s all just so well judged and must have taken a hell of a lot of foresight given the list of upcoming releases from the distillery. So without further ado…..

Tasting Notes

Glass: The colour is dark burnt amber. Oily citrus bursts out of the glass. A very apparent oak. Pencil shavings. Spice and black pepper. The oak is the backbone dragging with it deep dark stone fruit. As noted on my very first tasting back in March 2017, this is very full but so soft and approachable. A bag of mixed fruit and hazelnuts. Burnt toffee and the mildest hint of milk chocolate.

Mouth: It sings on initial entry. Its all that you want it to be. A classically crafted Foursquare sweetness gently wraps itself around your tongue bringing with it its robust but surprisingly soft sherried wood. Don’t think sherry as in the massive taste of sherry….its no hybrid abomination…far from it. Very old Oloroso barrels have been used and its the seasoned quality of the wood that is being sought, not necessarily heavy sherry influence. A jar of homemade blackberry and raspberry jam and the tartness of Ikea Lingonberry preserve. It has real grip as the oak begins to dominate the mid-palate….but its never aggressive…in fact quite the opposite. Its moisture sapping yet fruity and the alcohol is so well-integrated in the grand scheme of things that you would never guess this was 62%…2006 shows its heft way more than this. Tannic and peppery with plums, dried prunes and hazelnuts. It has a persistent oak led finish that grows in heat and dryness. Dried fruit and nuts abound. Even the empty glass is a delight to smell.

To be revisited, initial impression score………..

Yep….Its maybe the best, most complete Single Blended Rum that I’ve tried to date…though I think that Destino may offer up some resistance.

To be honest, Richard has taken Single Blended Rum production and innovation to a point now where he’s only competing with himself. It’s a competition between Foursquare Distillery releases to see which can be the best one…..and that changes with every subsequent raising of the bar. For now, that mantle falls to Principia…its the real deal.

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

An Interview with Nikos Arvanitis – Rum Traveller

Copyright Nikos Arvanitis

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

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

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

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

Instructor of Rum in Bar Academy Hellas

Copyright Rum Diaries Blog

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

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

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

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

From the West Indies to the World

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Copyright Nikos Arvanitis

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

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

Copyright Nikos Arvanitis

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

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

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

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

Copyright Nikos Arvanitis

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

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

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

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

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

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

Copyright Nikos Arvanitis

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Copyright Nikos Arvanitis

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

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

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

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

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

Copyright Nikos Arvanitis

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

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

© Steven James and Rum Diaries Blog 2017. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material, both written and photographic without the express and written permission from this blog/sites author and owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Steven James and Rum Diaries Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content

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.