Kill Devil Caroni 20 Year Old Cask Strength – The Whisky Barrel Exclusive – 64.8%

Kill Devil, as you will have seen on these pages before are an independent bottler of Rums hailing from Scotland from the stable of Hunter Laing. This is one of two bottlings , sister casks if you will, that have recently been released as exclusives through online retailer The Whisky Barrel. It’s quite a saturated market for Caroni releases as there are many independent bottlers piggybacking on the reputation gained from the tropically aged Velier releases that always sell out and always end up on auction sites. I seem to personally walk the line between loving certain releases and despising others. Even the releases that I like are only really enjoyed when the mood takes me. The legendary Caroni Distillery that closed in the early 2000’s has somewhat of a cult following. I have previously written about a mix of Tropically matured and European matured Rums from the Caroni Distillery and that information can be found herehere, here and here.

 

Kill Devil Caroni 20 Year Old Cask Strength – The Whisky Barrel Exclusive – 64.8% abv

Distilled in December 1998 and seeing a full 20 years maturation, it was bottled in January 2019. Probably fully but at least partially matured at Main Rum in Liverpool, this would’ve used Estate molasses. Drawing from a single cask that yielded 214 bottles, this Rum has been bottled at its cask strength of 64.8% with no colouring or additives. It is currently still available on their website here and will set you back around £150. There is another release as mentioned above clocking in at 65% abv and that will be up on the site soon.

 

Tasting Notes

Nose: Needs a little time to stretch its legs. It’s not very revealing initially. Quite a tannic nose with some really heavy and spicy oak present. The tar and fuel like notes are present, definitely present, it’s Caroni after all…..but they are kept in check by what feels like huge oaken influence. This is a positive for me as I’m more of a fan of the oak and fruit led expressions. Butterscotch sweets, a candied fruit and burnt raisin creeps in with the vague hint of tropical fruit that gets beaten down by a touch of smoke and a hint of creosote riding the wave of oak. Time brings a lightly herbal quality with hints of root beer. A touch of acetone and wood varnish is accompanied by a menthol note. Water brings a creamy, almost dairy element to the nose and calms down the typical Caroni notes. It brings a hint of milk chocolate and sweetens up the oak.

Mouth: The full force of the oak really flexes it’s muscles on the initial entry. Very hot, very spice driven, extremely drying. There is a hint of sweetness present before the creosote kicks the door through. It’s heavy on the oil and lamp fuel with just a hint of tar. Respite comes in a developing interplay between fruit and bitter notes. Plum Sake and sticky dates….the sticky kind that we buy by the box here at Christmas but also big medjool dates stuffed with walnuts. The mid palate brings freshly cut ginger (and it’s juice) and more of that tannic oak spice. The merest hint of candied fruit, maybe pineapple, and a touch of clementine oil. Heavy on the eucalyptus and menthol with pine notes. Hints of pineapple mint. Water brings the sweeter elements forward and accentuates the walnuts and sticky dates. Makes the whole package more approachable as expected with chocolate coated raisins and it brightens up the oak making it a tad less dominant. The finish is long and remains very consistent with the mid palate. Fruit, oak, menthol and a hint of lamp fuel but an underlying sweetness.

4 / 5

It’s another good example of the type of Caroni that I enjoy. Fruity with dialled down tar, fuel and creosote which enables me to find what’s beneath the components that usually form a barrier to my enjoyment.

*Hydrometer Test Result – Label stated abv 64.8% – Measured abv 65% – 0 g/l additives*

© Steven James and Rum Diaries Blog 2019. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material, both written and photographic without the express and written permission from this blog/sites author and owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Steven James and Rum Diaries Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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El Dorado 25 Year Old Rum – 1986 Vintage

I last wrote about El Dorado Rums a good few years ago. To summaries a little about the brand, I previously compiled this information:

“El Dorado rums are produced by Demerara Distillers Limited (DDL) at the Plantation Diamond Distillery. This lies on the east bank of the Demerara River, Demerara County, Guyana (which is on the north-eastern shoulder of South America). Sugar and Rum production has existed in Demerara County since the 17th Century. The big breakthrough came in the 1650’s when the British planters introduced the pivotal process of distilling. This proved to be so popular that by 1670, every sugar estate had a small still attached to it which meant that by the 1700’s there were well over 300 independent estates involved in producing their own unique rums in over 300 stills. Through time these estates and distilleries have been amalgamated to the point that the Plantation Diamond Distillery operated by DDL is the last remaining distillery in Guyana. Here they have retained the old marques, traditional skills and original stills which make Demerara Rum distinctive. With 9 different stills, there is no other rum distillery that can offer the range and variety that DDL can spread over 20 different styles of rum.”

With that said, maybe we have a look at this expensive bottling.

El Dorado 25 Year Old Rum – 1986 Vintage – 43% abv

One thing to say from the off, is that the age statements on El Dorado bottlings are pretty much bullet proof. What you get with it is a minimum age….not aged up to. Looking to obtain blend component information I was struggling to unearth a complete list but a glance at the review of the 1988 release over at Lance’s site, The Lone Caner, gave a few of the components. The blend contains, amongst others, EHP from the Enmore Wooden Coffey Still, PM from the Port Mourant Double Wooden Pot Still and AN from the Albion French Savalle Still. There have been releases so far from 1980, 1986 and 1988 and so far as I know, these components have been present in all. Presentation is suitably flashy for something that will set you back around £435 in the UK as it is still available at Drinks Supermarket in its 1986 guise. Lets see if it warrants that price tag…..

Tasting Notes

Nose: Not as giving as I’d hoped. Initial aromas are of banana caramel and thick molasses. Walnuts. Iced coffee and walnut cake. With time a maceration of prunes, raisins and dates shows itself but you have to work hard. I’d expect maybe a hint of bitterness given its age and components, but not a hint of that PM anise is present. Maple syrup like aromas and a clear and obvious sweetening. It almost smells granulated if that’s possible. A hint of light floral notes with concentration but man this is dull.

Mouth: Very thick mouthfeel….sadly I feel that it’s not from craft. Quite oily….though it feels more ‘greasy’ as is its layering of your tongue. Vanilla. Melted Quality Street Caramel Pennies. Each sip clings to your mouth in a most alarming way. That coffee and walnut cake complete with coffee icing. Mild raisin like notes like a poor quality old PX sherry. A hint of citrus oil….maybe. None of the expected oak from its 25 years. None of that enjoyable tannic bitterness that I was craving. It’s just sweet….full of dead spots and is a huge disappointment. The finish which is short, is all vanilla, oily sweetness and sweet soft liquorice. A crying shame.

If this is Super Premium, you can keep it. I’ll take entry-level.

*Hydrometer Test Result – Label stated abv 43% – Measured abv 32.5% – 39.8 g/l additives*

0.5 / 5

Very often, myself included in the past, the Rum community have given an easier ride to El Dorado given the fact that they have such a collection of heritage stills at DDL. But one evening I contemplated this approach…..and I questioned myself. I’ve seen reasoning that this product is nowhere near as bad as a lot of products like Bumbu, Don Papa and the like and sure, it doesn’t taste as bad as those offerings. But ask yourself, is taking a poor distillate, filling it full of additions and then hawking it as ‘premium rum’ for £35 a bottle really worse than what’s happened here? Taking a blend of quality distillates from heritage stills and through whatever means, sweetening them to the point of removing so much character that you render it unrecognisable….and then selling it as a ‘super premium’ product for £435? I find both practices massively deceitful, and I find the latter very disrespectful. It’s such a shame as this could’ve, and should’ve been wonderful. Sadly, it’s a dull, uneventful mess.

Fortunately we have the El Dorado Rare Collection to fall back upon…….

© Steven James and Rum Diaries Blog 2019. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material, both written and photographic without the express and written permission from this blog/sites author and owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Steven James and Rum Diaries Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Velier Caroni 2000 TWE Exclusive

As the name would suggest, this release is a bottling from the legendary Caroni Distillery that closed in the early 2000’s. I have previously written about Rums from the Caroni Distillery and that information can be found here, here and here.

Velier Caroni 2000 The Whisky Exchange Exclusive Bottling – 70.4% abv

This Whisky Exchange Exclusive Velier bottling is a Full Proof Heavy Caroni distilled in 2000 and bottled in 2017 giving it 17 years of maturation in Trinidad. It is a ‘single cask’ bottling (#R4008) which yielded 238 bottles at a mammoth 70.4% abv. Loss to evaporation is stated as >75%. It must have been a consolidation of casks at some point into #R4008 given the release of 238 700ml bottles, unless a larger vessel was used. Anyhow, its Velier, so there will be no tricks at play. Honesty is their thing.

Tasting Notes

Nose: Proper heavy Caroni. The type that isn’t immediately petrol / oil / tar led. It’s initially a very medicinal, smoke and hedgerow fruit rum. Varnish. Linseed oil. Tar creeps in. The aroma of summer as a child….freshly creosoted fence panels. The petrol and oil are definitely present but very much under control. The longer you leave it, the fruitier and more baked goods it becomes. Bread and butter pudding with crispy burnt raisins and a sprinkling of muscovado sugar. Mixed candied fruit peels. It plays very well for such a brute with a solid backbone of oak and cedar wood wrap from a cigar tube. This is the kind of Caroni that I enjoy.

With water the addition of powdery cocoa and lighter floral notes.

Mouth: Wow. A huge explosion of smoke, antiseptic, heavy oak. Old Demerara Rum bitterness. Bitter burnt raisins. So intense.

With water and 20 minutes in the glass: Hedgerow fruit. Homemade blackcurrant and raspberry jam. Beautifully approachable and subtly sweet. Terry’s chocolate orange. Candyfloss. Caramel. Liquorice. A beautifully enveloping mouthfeel. Pencil shavings take over the spicy and peppery mid palate. Intense drying, spicy oak. The finish is heavily oak led, with smoke, bitter liquorice and molasses. Maybe a touch of eucalyptus as the long finish eventually fades.

Caroni is not my favourite Rum, I don’t possess the same fanatic obsessions as some…but when it’s good, it’s REALLY good….and this is REALLY REALLY good. It’s actually quite nuanced for a Caroni, dare I say it, at times delicate and approachable….but don’t let your guard down as it’s a bit like a wild animal…it should be respected or you could lose an arm! It’s amazing what plenty of years in a barrel in a tropical climate can do for something that must surely have been handled with caution straight off the still. It could have replaced the Velier Caroni 21 as my favourite Caroni as it has the fruit that the 21 has, but its just carried through in a fuller experience.

4.5 / 5

This Rum will be £299 on release. It is available via ballot only from The Whisky Exchange on this link: The Whisky Exchange Ballot

If you are fortunate, you will be charged on the 4th October. I want it, but I have tried it…and therefore I won’t use up a spot in the ballot to deny someone that hasn’t

© 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 Nation Caroni 1998 – 2nd Batch

Rum Nation LogoA few weeks off from writing but now we’re back with a rather nice proposition. Rum Nation Caroni 1998 – 2nd Batch. This is the first Rum that I have written about from the much fabled Caroni Distillery in Trinidad….I have a few Caroni bottles on the shelf so it may be worthwhile to start with a brief introduction and background to the history of Rum production at Caroni Distillery.

Caroni Rum Production

There were originally in excess of 50 distilleries in Trinidad but by the 1950’s that had fallen to just 8. Now there is only one….and that is Angostura. In 1918, the Caroni sugar factory begun distilling Rum (1923 is also mentioned. Clarity would be welcomed). It did so in a Cast Iron Still. During this period, there were several other sugar factories also distilling differing types of Rum in differing stills. As you can imagine, the process could be a little ‘changeable’ which when accompanied with blending that is perhaps done on a random basis, saw never to be seen again ‘one-off’ creations being commonplace. During its years of Rum production, Caroni improved their processes and also began to purchase and utilise new stills, moving from their original Cast Iron Still to a Wooden Coffey Still in 1943. The Cast Iron and Wooden Coffey Stills remained in operation until 1945 when a new all Copper Still was installed. Due to the Caroni takeover of the Esperanza Estate and therefore taking ownership of their Still, the Esperanza Single Column Still arrived in 1957. A Four Column Gerb Herman still was installed in 1979 and commissioned in 1980. This assisted in two ways. It helped increase the capacity of the distillery and led to a diversification in the number of differing products that the distillery could offer. The Cast Iron Still and Wooden Coffey still were replaced in 1984 by a Twin Column Still from Blair, Campbell and McLean of Glasgow and also a Pot Still.

In 2001, despite union protests, the Government of Trinidad sold its 49% stake in Rum Distillers Limited which was Caroni’s Rum arm, for $35 million to Angostura. The unions had actually offered to buy that same 49% stake for a higher price than that seen in the Angostura bid ($40 million) but due to negotiations with Angostura being at ‘an advanced stage’, the bid was refused. From 2002 the Caroni Distillery carried on its operations at a vastly reduced output but the sugar operation was closed in 2003 and that was followed by the closure of Caroni (1975) Ltd in 2004. No more Rum production. This coupled with the death of the sugar industry there, devastated Trinidad with the loss of upwards of 10,000 jobs and a knock on effect to other industries and countless thousands of employees family members.

Caroni Rum Styles

Caroni was famed for producing both ‘Heavy’ and ‘Light’ Rums. With my basic understanding (plus a lot of help from a learned friend) this is a reference to congeners (both desirable and undesirable) which create the flavours within a Rum. ‘Heavy’ Rums from a column still have a higher percentage of undesirable congeners due to low rectification. ‘Light’ Rums have a lower percentage of undesirable congeners due to higher overall rectification. The ‘Light’ Rums produced by Caroni were close to neutral spirit territory at 96% abv…..though not all spirit at a higher proof is neutral. The ‘Heavy’ Rums produced by Caroni would probably be closer to 65 – 70% abv. Due to the high abv, the light Rum was reduced to around 80% abv prior to maturation to avoid excessive evaporation during that process.

There is a common aroma and flavour profile that seems to run through every Caroni Rum that I have tasted, regardless of the abv. It is in part as a result of the attempt to make a heavy, pot still style Rum via low rectification methods in a column still. This actually ends up producing a distillate heavier than that produced via a true low rectification still and a distillate containing a higher percentage of undesirable components, such as fusel oils, that a pot distiller would usually exclude when making their cuts. This alongside a higher sulphur content certainly makes them not to everyone’s liking. There is no doubting though the ‘Unicorn’ status that certain bottles of Caroni Rum have among the Rum Community…..I’m not certain whether this is as a result of their growing rarity or the flavour and aroma profile of the varying expressions.

With all that said, I suppose that its time to talk about the Rum in question.

Rum Nation Caroni 1998 – 2nd Batch – 55% abv

Caroni 98 WideAs per usual, you can refresh your knowledge of other Rum Nation releases and Rum Nation as a company here, here and here.

This Rum was distilled in 1998 and bottled in 2014, and is the 2nd batch of this expression. This release, Batch number L 14/349, comprises 4580 bottles. This Rum was initially matured in Trinidad for 9 years in American oak before being shipped to Piedmont, Italy for a second maturation period of 6 years in casks that had previously held Rum Nation Peruano 8. The familiar postage stamp is present along with the squat bottle and wooden topped cork. Time to dig in……

Tasting Notes 

In the glass: the Rum is a dark mahogany in the glass with bright orange flashes (darker than it appears in the photograph) and a swirl of the glass releases long thick droplets. Immediately and rather surprisingly given my earlier Caroni experiences, the first aroma that hits me is an oily, almost perfumed orange peel….then this is backed up with that familiar petrol aroma that I have come to expect from Caroni….but it is dialled down…a lot. Oak is quite apparent as is a varnish like aroma. Caramel, burnt sugar and something resembling freshly ground cumin round things off alongside something hinting at a raisin influence.

Given the 55% abv I added a few drops of water and waited for a while. The petrol takes a back seat now and fruitier aromas come to the fore. Tropical fruits, a heightened oak and a tingling spicy character are revealed.

In the mouth: This is a bruiser up front. There is a huge hit of that familiar petrol and tar like flavour and the initial experience is very astringent and tannic. Following sips reveal a fresh, almost menthol like pine note. There is definitely a clove influence and that oak detected on the nose is very influential. There is also an underlying savoury edge to this Rum with that cumin and also the floral, almost perfumed taste of biting into a coriander seed. This Rum is almost in the realms of slightly bitter or tart and it is all the more interesting for it. The finish is of a medium to long length and contains highlights of aniseed, petrol and that perfumed coriander seed…..it is still very tannic until the end.

With a little water, liquorice is really standing out for me as is a peach like fruitiness. This is far easier to drink as the astringency has been muted. The florals are far more dominant with that orange oil, pine and something medicinal on the finish.

Caroni 98 LabelFor me personally, this is one of the more approachable and enjoyable Caroni experiences that I have had. I can only assume that this is down to the casks used for the second maturation period. The flavours and aromas familiar to all are there, but they’re dialed down allowing more to shine through and maybe allowing a fuller impression of the spirit to be gained. Water makes it infinitely more sippable, or should I say it increases the palatability of the Rum over a longer period of time. If you enjoy Caroni releases, I see nothing to stop you getting enjoyment here. It is different enough to offer something new, whilst also being familiar. I’m really still not sure of my own feelings for Caroni bottlings. One day I can’t get enough of the flavour, another day I can think of nothing I’d like to taste less. It is certainly a mood thing with me but this release has seen more action in a shorter timeframe than any of my other Caroni expressions so that speaks volumes. Its different, so I’d say give it a try. It is almost, and I do mean almost, ‘Caroni-lite’. One thing that I will add is that I think the abv is about right for this release. The lower abv expressions that I have encountered (40%) have been almost over diluted and contain more of what I don’t enjoy in a Caroni. Having control to take the abv down slightly really helps me personally with Caroni Rums. As per usual, feel free to pop by for a drop.

3-5-star

© Steven James and Rum Diaries Blog 2015. 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.