Cadenhead’s Sancti Spiritus 1999 17YO

Another rum from Sancti Spiritus albeit from another vintage and another bottler. Actually it’s two rums as Cadenhead’s released a follow-up with the same age, same mark and almost exactly the same abv a few months later. Unfortunately they do not give us the number of the cask and the similar alcohol content might just be coincidence. It is the Cadenhead’s Sancti Spiritus 1999 17YO!

The Bottling

Cadenhead’s has been founded by William Cadenhead in 1858, who renamed the business operated by him and his deceased brother-in-law George Duncan. When William died in 1904, his nephew Robert W. Duthies took over the company and started to establish its reputation in bottling Scotch and Demerara rum. Cadenhead’s was not in good shape financially during the Great Depression of 1931. Even worse, Mr Duthie has been run over by a tram on his way to a meeting with his bank manager. There was no ideal candidate to commence the business which has been handed over to Ann Oliver, a long-term employee who was known for her sloppy operations and bad business decisions. Cadenhead’s had to be sold eventually and while their warehouses were full of old whisky and rum barrels, no-one was able to determine their value. Christie’s, who had liquidated plenty of rum in the past, organised a two-day sale (3.-4. October 1972) which has been the largest sale of wines and spiritis Great Britain has seen till this day. It was quite the success as it resulted in a huge surplus over the company’s liabilities. Cadenhead’s has subsequently been sold to J & A Mitchell & Co Ltd, proprietors of Springbank Distillery. Today, Cadenhead’s is still releasing a handful of rums every year but their focus is definitely on Scotch Whisky.
As stated in the review of the Isla del Ron Cuba (Sancti Spiritus) 1998 18YO, Sancti Spiritus doesn’t exactly glut us with information. According to Difford’s Guide, the distillery has been founded in 1946, a couple of years before the Cuban Revolution. The distillery produced 2.2 million litres of alcohol in January 2017, their highest monthly figure ever. They are thus more than on track for reaching this year’s goal of 16.06 million litres, which would be the second largest output of the distillery ever. More than 80% of the produced alcohol is classified as rectified and intended for export and consumption. If you believe the rest has to be rum production you are wrong. Besides rum, the remaining 20% are also used as fuel and in cosmetics and liqueurs. Rum is really just extra income for many distilleries. Compare that with the output of a Scottish whisky distillery… oh my. Barcadi also released a rum with the name Paraíso in it (Facundo Paraíso XA, Paraíso is the official name of the distillery, Sancti Spiritus is simply the name of the city)  which, if we can trust their marketing, contains rum from some of the oldest barrels found in the warehouses of their distilleries in Puerto Rico, Mexico and The Bahamas. What’s the connection to Sancti Spiritus? I have no clue.

Dégustation “Cadenhead’s Sancti Spiritus 1999 17YO”

Key Facts: Distilled at Paraíso distillery in Sancti Spiritus in the heart of Cuba in 1999, this rum has been bottled at 62,6% cask strength after 17 years of ageing in April 2016. It should thus not be confused the other Cadenhead’s Sancti Spiritus 1999 17YO that has been bottled in December 2016 at 62,2%. Since Cadenhead’s doesn’t give us the cask number, only a tasting can show whether this comes from the same barrel or not.

Colour and viscosity: Yellow/ old gold. Thick pearls and thin streaks that flow down unevenly at different speeds. The oiliness seems appropriate.

Nose: At first I get a hint of alcohol, before citrus and the sweetness of white chocolate enter my nostrils. Then heavy red wine. This aroma is unmistakable. There are tannins and a hint of cloves. All the time I am being reminded of the richness of a barrique aged Barolo or Dornfelder. It is relatively dry.

Palate: The alcohol burns gently and is not unpleasant. I taste sour apples and unripe grapes. This time I get associations of white wine, a sparkling Riesling perhaps. There are some other flavours hiding in the background and it is hard to point them out. The rum is quite sour. Now I get banana bread and stewed banana. It took me a while to name it but it is clearly there. After a larger sip, the alcohol numbs the tongue a bit. The cask did a nice job at shaping this rum.

Finish: Quite dry, which is a bit odd given the rums sour profile. It doesn’t really leave a lasting impression.


The Cadenhead’s Sancti Spiritus 1999 17YO is a good rum by all means. It’s basically everything you want in a Cuban rum. That said, it is lacking this certain little something for me. I really enjoyed my sample but after having this and three other Cubans I don’t really feel like getting an entire bottle of it. My thirst of Cuban rums has been appeased for the time being.
Compared to this rum, I would describe the Isla del Ron Cuba 1998 18YO as having a slightly lighter body and being more fruity (apples and lime). I don’t know whether this differences stems from the vintage or the cask. It also doesn’t have the banana bread.
Personally, I like the Cadenhead’s Sancti Spiritus 1999 17YO a bit more than the Isla del Ron but you might disagree. The Cadenhead’s didn’t give me the impression that it has been wine-finished. While the wine flavours are clearly there, they are much better integrated into the rum and don’t feel like they have been put on top.

April 2016 vs December 2016 bottling

Comparison with the Cadenhead’s Sancti Spiritus 1999 17YO (62,2%, bottled in December 2016)

As stated in the introduction, Cadenhead’s doesn’t mention the number of the cask on the label (they have the same mark though) and only half a percentage point of abv separates both bottlings. While it seems plausible that they originate from the same cask, we cannot be sure. Eight months lie between them, which should be enough time for the alcohol content to change by that amount. After two cross-tastings I am pretty sure that both rums come from the same cask. There are some differences but they are well within what a couple of extra month might do with the rum.
With the December bottling I get the banana right away, but perhaps that’s because I now know what I have to look for. It’s a rich banana cake, which I can also smell this time. The flavours seem to be more coherent and the rum is a bit less sour. The finish is slightly fruitier.
Overall, I like this a bit better even though the differences are not overwhelming. Fortunately, this one should also be more widely available. So if you want to buy one of these Cubans (the Isla del Ron included), this is the one I recommend.


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