Plantation Xaymaca ‘Special Dry’

Plantation as a brand will be familiar to pretty much everyone reading this. No real explanation is required. Xaymaca however will need a little explanation. It is the name given to the island of Jamaica by its first inhabitants, the Arawaks. With their purchase of the West Indies Rum Distillery (W.I.R.D) in Barbados, Maison Ferrand also gained a third share in National Rums of Jamaica (NRJ). This gives them a share of Long Pond and Clarendon Distilleries. There are pot stills available at those distilleries. Long Pond has a John Dore Pot Still and Clarendon has a Vendome Pot Still. With access to the distilleries came improved access to stock. Hence, the Plantation Xaymaca ‘Special Dry’ was born.

The release of the new Plantation Xaymaca has been accompanied by much fanfare in Rum circles. It speaks of a revival! Their own website marketing information states that the Xaymaca ‘Special Dry’ will:

“revive the quintessential Jamaican-style, 100% pot still rums of the 19th century with an expression of intense flavors that reveal the traditional, legendary « Rum Funk » : aromas and flavours of black banana and flambéed pineapple, locally called “Hogo,” an Anglicization of the French term “Haut Goût” (high taste).”

Quite the claim.

Information provided by Plantation is as follows:

  • Alc./Vol. : 43%
  • Origin : Jamaica
  • Distilleries : Clarendon and Long Pond
  • Raw material : Molasses
  • Fermentation : 1 and 3 weeks
  • Distillation : Pot Still (Vendome) from Clarendon Distillery / Pot Still (John Dore) from Long Pond Distillery
  • Tropical ageing : 1 to 3 y.o. in ex-Bourbon casks
  • Continental ageing, elevage : 1 year in ex-Cognac casks
  • Volatile Substances : 312 g/hL AA
  • Esters : 156g/hL AA
  • Marques : Clarendon EMB & MLC marks / Long Pond VRW & STC^E marks
  • Classification : Plummer
  • Dosage : 0 g/L

Digging deeper, as Matt over at Cocktail Wonk has, more information can be gained from those marques. I urge you to view his article but I will also break it down further below utilising the detailed information that Matt obtained on his trip to Maison Ferrand.

Plantation Xaymaca ‘Special Dry’ – 43% abv – Pot Still Rum

As mentioned above, the marques used in the Xaymaca are as follows:

  • Long Pond – VRW (Vale Royal Wedderburn) from the John Dore Pot Still with an ester range between 150-250 g/hL AA. Less than 1 year Tropical maturation & between 1 and 2 years Continental maturation in ex-cognac casks
  • Long Pond – STC^E (Simon Thompson Cambridge Estate) from the John Dore Pot Still with an ester range between 550-650 g/hL AA. 8 years Tropical maturation & 1 year Continental maturation in ex-cognac casks
  • Clarendon – EMB from the Vendome Pot Still with an ester range between 125-175 g/hL AA. Less than 1 year Tropical maturation & between 1 and 2 years Continental maturation in ex-cognac casks
  • Clarendon – MLC (Monymusk Light Continental) from the Vendome Pot Still with an ester range between 500-600 g/hL AA. Less than 1 year Tropical maturation & between 1 and 2 years Continental maturation in ex-cognac casks

Now there is way more information including specific distillate fermentation periods and abv prior to blending in the linked article.

The article linked to will also tell you that this initial release has another marque in the blend that could be permanent, may not be permanent, may be replaced or may be replaced repeatedly. It’s currently an unknown, but given the age of the marque,its doubtful that it will be available in enough quantities to be permanent.

Missing Marque:

  • Long Pond – ITP from the John Dore Pot Still with an ester level of 280 g/hL AA. 17 years predominantly Tropical maturation

The final Xaymaca noted ester level of 156 g/hL AA, putting it at the bottom end of the Plummer range of 150-200 g/hL AA lets you know that the VRW and the EMB marques are the predominant components of the blend. But, as with Hampdens DOK marque, a little higher ester goes a long way. So let’s have a look at how it tastes.

Tasting Notes

Nose: Candied fruit sweetness. Bright acidic fruit as I would expect with a Long Pond component. Orange peel. Warm Pineapple chunks. Overripe banana. The nip of young alcohol. Light oak. Quite subdued.

Mouth: Sweet warming entry. Thinner mouthfeel than I was expecting but it’s not overly watery. Quite a bit of spice and a more apparent wood influence that wasn’t present on the nose. Fresh ginger. Mild raisin. Faint milk chocolate. The mildest note of pear drop sweets is present if you really concentrate. Mid palate is warming and has hints of toffee. It’s very much Jamaica-lite….but too lite for me. More multi island blend. The finish is surprisingly short with watery wood and weak butterscotch. Pretty dull on the palate, especially when considering how promising the nose was. I would also note that it feels as if it may have an element of column Rum in the blend, even though not noted as such.

For a product that makes a big deal about “hogo”, “Rum Funk”, and “reviving the quintessential Jamaican style 100% pot still rums of the 19th Century”……even getting so geeky as to give a list of the marques used in the blend and giving Ester and Volatile Compound levels, I find that the message being pushed runs at odds with the liquid in the bottle. I’m also not sure who it is aimed at. It can’t be current Plantation fans as they have no issue with the additions anyway. It’s not aimed at geeks as although it has the info, it’s just not interesting enough. It seems to be tagged as a good “beginners” Jamaican Rum in a lot of reviews that I have seen post note writing. If I was new to Jamaican Rum and this was my first bottle, it wouldn’t excite me enough to make me want to know more. Beginners want approachable, not uninteresting. Much has also been made of the lack of ’dosage’. In fact, the lack of ‘dosage’ is stated on the label. Great move, but it only has meaning if you also state on the bottle label when you HAVE added something. Please correct me if this happens with the bottles that have high levels of “dosage” as I’ve not seen it. Website data, Bacardi and Diplomatico do it too, but it means nothing if you’re choosing when to disclose on the label and when not to. Small step, and one to be noted….but we’re not in the promised land yet.

I wanted to enjoy this Rum. It should be a winner on paper. 100% pot. Proper marques being used. Loads of label clarity. But it’s like a jigsaw, with all of the right pieces arranged to make the wrong picture. With those marques, it should be impossible to make a boring blend….but thats what I believe the Xaymaca is. Maybe the secondary age dulled it’s vibrancy. It would’ve maybe been better presented as the distillates blended without the “elevage”, as it has definitely not added value. Could’ve and should’ve been so much more.

2 / 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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Don Q Oak Barrel Spiced

Don Q is a brand that has been written about on these pages previously. I will admit that although they have released some very fine Rums, I usually have a tendency to steer clear of lighter multi-column spirits….its purely a personal preference thing….though if I am compelled to go for a lighter Rum, Don Q is usually the bottle that I find in my hand. The range has some real stand outs including the very flavourful Gran Anejo and the Single Barrel 2005 and 2007 releases. The Gran Anejo and Single Barrel 2007 actually have a portion of single column distillate in them, as Destilería Serrallés has a Single Column Still made by the Vendome Copper and Brass Company. You can read a little more about the other releases along with Destilería Serrallés by clicking here and here. Spiced Rums get talked about even less than light multi-column Rums here, but in this instance we will be discussing both…..

Don Q Oak Barrel Spiced – 45% abv – Modern Rum

The first thing that may strike you is the ‘Oak Barrel’, hinting that the Rum is aged. Now that is not totally unusual as brands like Foursquare have been doing that for years with their Spiced Rum, but quite a large percentage of other brands utilise unaged Rums as the base for their Spiced products. The aged rum in question here is a 3-year-old blend of their multi-column Rum. This is then Spiced using Cinnamon, Vanilla, Nutmeg and Clove……natural spices….no flavoured syrups. Caramel will have been added for colour to give uniformity to the shelf appearance. The second thing that will strike you is that is presented at 45% abv…….most other Spiced Rums go in at 37.5% – 40% (probably as they don’t sell for a hugely inflated price, why pay the duty on a higher abv spirit) so this is a welcome change….though it does make me wish that they’d implement this in their Gran Anejo and Single Barrel releases which would really excel at a higher abv.

Tasting Notes

Nose: Initial sweetness. Cream soda. Vanilla. There is a warming spice character too (obviously) that is all Nutmeg and crystallised ginger. Light clove oil. Chocolate coated ginger biscuits and a fresh zesty orange rind. This is all carried on some pleasant oak notes being pushed along by the increased abv.

Mouth: A nice heated entry with the abv immediately noticeable. Not as sweet an entry as other spiced offerings though it feels like there is sweetener added. Vanilla, cloves and cinnamon in abundance. Quite a pleasant milky chai latte. None of the spices are ‘over done’…..and the best thing? Neither is the vanilla. There is a hint of kola nut being brought through on the dry woody accents which themselves run through the mid palate. Following the subtly sweet entry the rum finishes with drying oak, a nip from some fiery crystallised ginger and black pepper. Right at the back-end the vanilla has one last hurrah and the warmth of the spices sees it home.

It pairs well with coke in the right quantities (about 50/50 with plenty of ice) but this has been enjoyed mainly in a glass on its own or in the occasional daiquiri. As Spiced Rums go, its solid stuff.

4 / 5

We don’t consume much spiced rum here anymore, but when we do, this is one of our 3 go to offerings.

Better than 95% of spiced rums on the market and it very much models itself after the Foursquare Spiced with its aged rum base yet this offers a higher abv which is a nice touch. Now to just get them to up the abv of the Gran Anejo and Single Barrels and we’ll all be 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.

Duncan Taylor Single Cask Rum – St Lucia 2002 – Cask 5

Duncan Taylor are an independent bottler of (mainly) whisky, and in their own words:

“Duncan Taylor & Company has ownership of one of the largest privately-held collections of rare scotch whisky casks. The company has been “laying down” casks from premium Scottish distilleries for decades and has, in recent years, made its branded products available to whisky connoisseurs throughout the World.

Duncan Taylor has its origins in Glasgow where the company was initially a merchant and broker of Scotch Whisky casks within the Industry. Devotion to the principle of providing only the finest casks to be filled at Scotland’s leading distilleries has been a key feature of the company’s history and this tradition of building an outstanding portfolio of only the finest scotch whiskies is being maintained to this day by the current owners.

When the company moved its headquarters to the North East of Scotland, close to Speyside – Scotland’s largest whisky producing region – it also took the decision to focus on the production and marketing of its own brands and to cease the “brokering” of whisky in cask form to Distillery companies and Independent bottlers.”

They are also celebrating 80 years of business, being founded in 1938.

Duncan Taylor bottle many Rums, mainly at cask strength or close to cask strength. Having whisky as their origin they do not chill filter and they bottle with natural colour. Now I have numerous bottlings from Duncan Taylor spanning Jamaica, St Lucia, Guyana and Fiji. I also have one of their own Caribbean Blends. Up for review today though is one of their St Lucia offerings.

Duncan Taylor Single Cask Rum – St Lucia 2002 – Cask 5 – 52.6% abv

You can have a read of my previous writings on products from St Lucia Distillers here, here, here, here, here, here and here. Phew. Now you’ll be fully versed with St Lucia Distillers, we can continue. As the label states, this Rum was distilled in September 2002 and bottled in September 2013 giving it 11 years of (assumed) Continental age. Bottled entirely from Cask No 5 which yielded 242 bottles, this has been bottled at 52.6% which I can only assume is cask strength. Though others have questioned bottle yield with assumed angel share and assumed barrel size to potentially arrive at a different number insinuating that it may not be cask strength. I personally can’t say I’m too bothered to dig into that. Of note is the fact that this Rum is Pot distilled. Now St Lucia Distillers have 3 Pot Stills, the John Dore I, John Dore II and Vendome. Given the date of distillation of 2002, that would point towards the John Dore I still as it is the only one that was commissioned at that point. It is also the smallest of their batch stills with a capacity of 1500 litres.

John Dore I on the left

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

Tasting Notes

Glass: The Rum displays as a dark straw gold  in the glass. Heavy. Medicinal pot still. A little diesel and a dose of creosote. All the good stuff. Sticking plasters and antiseptic cream. A hint of menthol and mint. Quite grassy too. Rubber and acetone back up the medicinal quality of the nose and time in the glass allows the merest hint of savoury vanilla and sticky grilled pineapple. Citrus oil. Whiffs of sweet smoke. It has quite a fresh and nuanced nose that gives more and more over time like the merest hint of barrel influence. A brine and salty quality is ever-present and is rounded out with a hint of powdery icing sugar. A few drops of water and half an hour in the glass adds enamel paint and sugarcane.

Mouth: Very heated entry with the smallest and short-lived hint of sweetness in the form of floral wildflower honey before the dryness shoulder barges its way in. Mint. Creosote. Petrol. Oily but not viscous. A thinner mouthfeel than expected but it does cling on, mainly in the vapours. Almond brittle. No really influential barrel notes can be picked up through the peppery heat. Liquorice. Olives and salty feta cheese. If its possible for Rum to morph into a molasses based offering from Guadeloupe mid-palate, this one does. Bringing with it pickle vinegar and ginger puree. A few drops of water push the sweeter elements to the fore with chocolate, dialed down brine. Less mint. More menthol.

Quite a long finish starts out relatively sweetly with the sugary minty residue from the bottom of a poorly made mojito and wildflower honey but again this dries to leave a grassy sugarcane and mild vanilla. Maybe some almonds. The medicinal pot still note announces itself again bringing to mind any number of Rockley ‘style’ Rums…..but for me never hitting the flavourful heights of them.

It is St Lucian Pot Still Rum at its most identifiable from first nosing. It is everything that I like about St Lucian Pot Still Rum. I would love to see more barrel influence that would come with tropical age and although it’s probably completely off the table given the new owners, a release of cask strength tropically aged individual still offerings from St Lucia Distillers would be welcomed with open arms and wallets by the geeky Rum crowd. Its good, almost very good, but it just lacks that light and shade that I think tropical age would offer.

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

Don Q Signature Release Single Barrel 2007

I’ve written about the core Don Q range including the Single Barrel 2005 but minus the recent Spiced addition (which I still need to grab) previously and you can refresh yourselves  by clicking here if you wish.

Now the Don Q stand at the 2017 UK RumFest gave us a little insight into two great things…Firstly the Rum that I’ll be looking at today…Don Q Single Barrel 2007….and the quite frankly mind-blowing Don Q Double Aged Vermouth Cask Finish which is a 5 to 8-year-old Rum finished for 4 to 6 weeks in 600 litre Mancino Vecchio Vermouth casks and its pretty crazy stuff with the fact that it is a multi-column distillate playing in its favour. This will be released in the UK hopefully before summer.

Alexx kindly displaying the Vermouth Cask – UK RumFest 2017

Don Q Signature Release Single Barrel 2007 – 40% abv

This is very similar in principle to the Single Barrel 2005. The explanation behind use of the ‘single barrel’ term is that all of the Rum in this limited release was from the same 2007 distillation which would then be split between the pre-requisite number of ‘similar’ barrels to carry the volume. Each barrel would then bottled individually so rather than each bottle containing the vatted blend of all barrels from the 2007 distillation, technically each barrel has its own series of bottles. There is again no way to know which barrel the bottle that you have is from. Mine is bottle 47, 823….so not too limited. Bottled in 2016 makes this a 9-year-old Rum. The same distillation process is employed as the majority of the range but this time there is a component from the Vendome Single Copper Column (taken off the still at 75%) and given the discussions recently regarding congener levels, potentially quite high in congeners. It is again bottled at 40%.

Multi-column set up and Vendome Single Column at Destilería Serrallés

Tasting Notes

For reference I carried out the tasting process with a glass of 2005….it quickly became apparent that this was a different animal and the 2005 as not my reference…

Glass: Immediately different to the nose on the 2005. The 2007 feels a lot heavier. It’s actually, as far as column rum goes, quite the bruiser. A lot of heavy astringent oak up front. The light whiff of freshly burnt wood. A hint of tropical fruit is carried on the vanilla notes, though the vanilla notes are subdued by a little sulphury note. There is even a slight unleaded petrol aroma to the nose. This all gives way to powdery cocoa and coconut chips along with a very obvious hazelnut. I’m not aware of the ratio of single column to multi column in the Rum but its clear that the single column has a real influence….and its a good move.

Mouth: Lip-smacking entry. Peppery and dry. The oak has real teeth and it shows them straight away. This gives way to a light, floral sweetness followed up by burnt brown sugar. The mid-palate is all drying oak and spice. Nutmeg, cloves and an ‘earthy’ turmeric root. It has the pepper and spice of a rye whiskey. There is also a slight soapy note. The medium length finish brings a spicy, throat tingling heavy oak, dark stone fruit and freshly cut vanilla pods. Right at the end there are poached pears studded with cloves.

4.5 / 5

This is clearly a step up in experimentation from the 2005 and is all the better for it…though the 2005 was no slouch. This even surpasses the Gran Anejo for me which was my previous benchmark…..its a real treat. Maybe a touch higher abv would be welcome….a bump up to 43 or 46% for a special release would be ideal. That said, this is £35 a bottle and very well priced for the enjoyment within.

© 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

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

Don Q Rum

don-qDon Q as a brand was one that I’d heard about and read about but one that never actually seemed to be available to buy here in the UK despite their regular (and very enjoyable) presence at the UK RumFest….well last year saw them get distribution with Spirit Cartel which of course meant that I could grab them. I maybe started at the wrong end with my first purchase as I opted to go straight for the Gran Anejo but that was soon rectified and I now have the Cristal, Gold, Anejo and Single Barrel (we’ll come to that later) 2005 to enjoy.

destileria_serrallesWhat struck me looking into Don Q as a brand was the amount of history associated with the family. The place of Don Q as a Rum brand was cemented in the history books in 1954 with the creation of one of the most iconic and well-known Rum based drinks available, the Pina Colada. But their story began in around 1820 when Juan Sebastian Serrallés arrived in Ponce, Puerto Rico from Spain. He founded the Hacienda Teresa sugar plantation soon after. In 1865, Don Juan Serrallés, the son of Juan Sebastian Serrallés uses an imported French copper pot still to produce his first barrels of rum. Fast forward to 1934 and Don Q as a brand is launched taking its cues from the literary character Don Quixote. In 1954, Ramon “Monchito” Marrero creates the Pina Colada whilst at the Beachcomber Bar in San Juan. 1981 sees Felix J. Serrallés take leadership of the Destileria Serrallés which kickstarts the family’s desire for growth and innovation and in 1985 Serrallés Inc. acquires Puerto Rican Distillers Inc. which allows it to massively expand its range of products. On to modern-day and in 2004, Roberto Serrallés joins the family business and applies his skills in environmental sciences to implement a waste reclamation process that cements Don Q as one of the more environmentally friendly producers. Felix J. Serrallés remains the President and CEO of Destilería Serrallés.

There is a huge section on the measures taken by Don Q to become more environmentally aware and also a little more fleshed out version of the brand history that can be found on their website here for you to peruse at your leisure.

Anyhow, on with the more interesting stuff…..the Rum. The Rums that Don Q produce are from a multi-column set up……mostly. They also have a Single Column at Destilería Serrallés. I’d say that Don Q Rums definitely find their place with the lighter styles of Rum….don’t let that put you off though. Don Q produce some very flavourful Rums that under the new classification proposed by Luca Gargano and backed up by Richard Seale would fall under the “Rum” heading due to their multi-column production method.

One thing to note is that the Don Q Rums being written about here buck the trend of a lot of light Spanish style Rums in the fact that they do not appear to have been doctored with unnecessary additions such as sugar etc which sees them come up clean in the hydrometer tests carried out by others. In fact they have been quite vocal about their ‘clean’ rums which is a great thing as I personally have fallen out of love with ‘Rons’ given that they are usually highly marketing led and contain for the most part a fist full of sugar or other additions. They also seem to lack a lot of complexity. Even some independent bottlers have been duped by the practices of certain producers having thought that they’d obtained ‘clean’ barrels of Rum.  But onto the range…I could (and probably should) split over multiple articles but I thought that I’d pool the ‘resource’ (if you can even call it that) in the one location.

Don Q Cristal – 40% abv

Don Q Cristal is a multi-column distilled blend producing a very light style of Rum. I have it on good authority that the Rum is taken off the still at 90.5% for this blend. The distillates are aged for between 1 and 5 years in re-charred American White Oak Barrels prior to being blended and filtered to remove colour. The Rum is then bottled at 40%.

Don Q Cristal

Tasting Notes

Nose: This is very light stuff. It’s close to neutral but it does possess all the characteristics of a Rum….you’d pick it out of a line up of mixed unaged spirits. It’s all very clean with a light sweetness, something slightly prickly and a watery fresh ginger quality. Maybe a hint of nutmeg.

Mouth: Light sweetness on entry initially which develops an oily citrus quality and a light floral note that dries a little. It has an extremely light body. Creamy, mild white pepper on the mid-palate with a very short lightly sweet and nutty finish.

I would struggle to pick this out of a line up of other Rums of its style given its light nature but it does what it sets out to do. It’s a no-nonsense affordable light Rum that gets used predominantly in cocktails. Not much else I can say about it to be honest.

2-0-star

Don Q Gold – 40% abv

Don Q Gold is again a multi-column distilled blend. Again, for this blend the Rum is taken off the still at 90.5% as it has the same make up as the Cristal. The distillates are aged for between 1 and 5 years in re-charred American White Oak Barrels prior to being blended. Again the Rum is bottled at 40%. The rear bottle label states that spirit caramel has been added for colour.

Don Q Gold

Tasting Notes

Nose: Mild vanilla and a grassy, oily quality. Cinnamon, sweet, young alcohol notes and the mildest oaken note. Maybe a little Kola Cube.

Mouth: Initial sweetness and a hefty bite from the young aggressive alcohol. It also dries like the Cristal but brings with it a hint of bitterness. Light floral notes are present along with vanilla custard. The finish s short to medium length and starts with creamy vanilla which soon changes into a spiky white pepper accompanied by the heat of young alcohol.

It has a few characteristics that lift it above the Cristal for use in drinks where you want the Rum component to work in your favour but again its a good example, perhaps one of the clearer examples of a very light Spanish style Rum. I use it in Zombies and Pina Coladas at home.

Don Q Anejo – 40% abv

This is where things start to take a turn for the interesting. This Rum is again a multi-column blend but this time it is a blend of aged Rums between 3 and 10 years old….and it shows. Bottled again at 40% with label declared spirit caramel addition.

Don Q Anejo

Tasting Notes

Nose: The nose is immediately more fun and definitely more rummy. It is less crisp than the younger offerings but it does possess the same alcohol spike but this time it is accompanied by light oaken notes. Vanilla, light powdery cocoa and faint apricot fruitiness. There is a more apparent floral element and it possesses way more balance. It is a little more self-assured then the younger offerings and also has hints of nutmeg and cinnamon.

Mouth: A light, almost fruity sweetness on entry which is soon overcome by a drying oak. The mid-palate has pepper and nutmeg along with light oily citrus. Apricot lingers in the vapours. The finish is of a medium length with more flavour than expected. A drying sweetness accompanied by warming vanilla and a pepper driven oaken fade.

I’d perhaps suggest a bottle style change for this expression as flavour and aroma wise it really does stand head and shoulders above the Gold. I made a Pina Colada with this……it was hellishly tasty.

3-0-star

Don Q Gran Anejo – 40%

This is the first Don Q expression that I picked up and it represents the top of the line in the permanent line up of expressions (there are the 2005 “Single Barrel” and the Reserva de la Familia Serrallés as limited editions). Again from the same multi-column set up the Gran Anejo does have another component in its make-up. As is alluded to above, Destilería Serrallés has a Single Column Still made by the Vendome Copper and Brass Company. They take a Rum off that single column at 75% and it is a key component in this blend. The Gran Anejo is a blend of Rums aged between 6 and 12 years plus (here’s that dreaded word again) ‘Solera’ Rums aged up to 50 years. Again the disclosure of spirit caramel is there as is the staple 40% abv bottling strength.

Don Q Gran Anejo

Tasting Notes

Nose: Up front astringent alcohol which swiftly dissipates to reveal orange oils and a bitterness. Warming oaken notes drag vanilla and milk chocolate along for the ride. With the alcohol notes gone, this really is a pleasant Rum to nose. It could almost be from Barbados such is the interplay between sweet, floral and oaken notes. It really is that well-balanced. As the Rum warms the oak brings a light bitter, metallic note.

Mouth: Initially entry is up front black pepper and a sweetness that is present for a fleeting moment before the drying oak begins to dominate. The mouthfeel is quite light but further sips improve this as the flavours linger. The mid-palate is heavily dominated by milk chocolate, pepper and a creamy vanilla custard. The finish is surprisingly long given the mouthfeel and it lingers laden with nutmeg topped egg custard, prominent black pepper and celery which then morphs into a drying oaken wave bringing with it a metallic bitterness.

Considering that this is partially the product of a multi-column set up, the aroma and flavour contained within this expression is great. I can’t see that much flavour is carried over from distillation in the multi column element so the single column must carry a lot of influence along with a barrel management that must be exemplary. To find this depth in a light style of Rum is a wonderful thing. I usually use the Gran Anejo in an Old Fashioned with a dash of chocolate bitters and it works a treat for me.

4-0-star

Don Q Signature Release Single Barrel 2005 – 40%

Single Barrel as an expression in its actual reflective form for this release would lead to (at a 6000 bottle run such as this) an ocean sized barrel. The explanation though is that all of the Rum in this limited release was from the same 2005 distillation which was then split between the pre-requisite number of ‘similar’ barrels to carry the volume. Each barrel is then bottled individually so rather than each bottle containing the vatted blend of all barrels from the 2005 distillation, technically each barrel has its own series of bottles. There is however no way to know which barrel the bottle that you have is from. What would’ve been nice is an indication of barrel number on the bottle to accompany the other information. Anyhow, bottled in 2015 makes this (if the dates align) a 10-year-old Rum….9 years at the very least. The same distillation process is employed as the majority of the range (no single column) and it is again bottled at 40%. No mention is made of spirit caramel…but as we know, colour is not our guide…..neither is marketing.

Don Q Single Barrel 2005

Tasting Notes

Nose: The nose has a sharpness to it and a fair bit of sour. Quite prominent oak gives way to something way more pungent than anticipated. Light chocolate, hazelnuts, vanilla, raisins and an astringency of pear drops. This is followed by egg custard wrapped in buttery pastry with a sprinkling of powdery nutmeg.

Mouth: Lighter entry than the nose hints at and definitely lighter than the Gran Anejo but the oak punch is right at the fore and dominates the opening few seconds along with pencil shavings. Once accustomed to the oak the pear drops appear along with light florals. There is a raisin like quality to the mid-palate that soon becomes awash with oak and a growing spice. The finish is of a medium length and is all oak, black pepper and light caramel.

It doesn’t, for me have the consistency and balance of the Gran Anejo but it is still impressive given that it is 100% multi-column. Its inconsistencies may actually be what makes it interesting and gives it more appeal over repeated visits than the consistent Gran Anejo. This is where I think that descriptions trump scoring systems.

4-0-star

I have been very surprised by the Don Q range. From what are pretty average (to me) entry Rums the jump in quality is massive. Maybe I have been spoilt by the fact that I started with the Gran Anejo in my journey but I’d say that if you are a fan of lighter Rums, you owe it to yourself to pick a few of the Don Q offerings up. Competent in cocktails and more than capable in spirit led mixed drinks, if like me, Rum in this light style isn’t your thing….try it as you may be surprised. Alexx at Don Q has been a huge help in providing me with information and reading what is upcoming in the range over the near future with a Spiced Rum, Single Barrel 2007 and something that I can’t mention….keep your eyes on them.

Also, if anyone has the Reserva de la Familia Serrallés and feels generous…..you know where to find me!

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