Let’s taste a rum from a country (and distillery) which is still a bit under many rum drinkers’ radars. It is a style which I enjoy quite a bit but it is also very distinct and definitely not to everybody’s liking. Today we have the Cadenhead’s Fiji South Pacific Distillery 2003 13YO.
The story of sugar on Fiji dates back to 1862, when the first attempt to plant sugar cane on Wakaya Island resulted in a financial failure. Planters, supported by incentive based governmental rewards, only turned back to sugar after the cotton price slump of 1870. The first sugar mill was built in 1872 in Suva and six years later nine more were in operation. In 1880, the British colonial official John Bates Thurston went to Australia to attract investments for Fiji and convinced the Colonial Sugar Refining Company (CSR) to extend its operations to Fiji. Nevertheless, most sugar mills did not survive the sugar price slump of 1884 and by 1926 CSR owned all of the five survivors. Their “reign” lasted until 1973 and by 1976 the national Fiji Sugar Marketing Company Limited (FSC) has taken over the sugar mills. Crucially, this spawned the only distillery on Fiji three years later, the South Pacific Distillery. Their pot still, which should be responsible for the rums we have got so far, has been acquired from the New Zealand Whisky distillery Willowbank, which closed for good in ~1995. It seems likely that they only had a column still before that, at least there are no signs pointing towards another pot still.
Cadenhead’s has already been introduced in the review of the Cadenhead’s Sancti Spiritus 1999 17YO. Today’s rum is the follow-up to an earlier Cadenhead’s release, the Cadenhead’s Fiji South Pacific Distillery 2003 12YO. Marco from BAM liked the rum quite a bit. Unfortunately, Cadenhead’s does not provide us with information regarding the cask (besides the mark) or the number of bottles so that we have no idea whether this comes from the same barrel or not. I did have a sample of the 12YO but I finished it some time ago. Back then I was not planning on starting this blog, otherwise I would probably have kept a few drops. Both rums come at a similar abv and have the same mark (FSPD, which surely stands for Fiji South Pacific Distillery). The assumption suggests that this is the same rum as I get the impression that Cadenhead’s tends to bottle only half of a cask from time to time. But without a proper cross-tasting we cannot know for sure. It would be nice if someone out there can shed light upon this.
edit: Stephen Worrall from Cadenhead’s London inquired with Cadenhead’s and said that the rums originate from seperate barrels. Moreover, he’ll campaign for Cadenhead’s putting these information on their labels in the future. Thanks!
Dégustation “Cadenhead’s Fiji South Pacific Distillery 2003 13YO”
Key Facts: This pot-still rum has been distilled at Fiji’s South Pacific Distillery in 2003. After spending time in both, Fiji and Europe, it has been bottled at 59,6% in 2016. For comparison, its 12YO brother was bottled at 60,7%. Both should be cask strength.
Colour and viscosity: Jonquil/ ripe corn. After a quick pivot, a thin crown manifests inside the glass, which slowly splits into thick pearls that slowly crawl along the rim in smaller streaks. The viscosity definitely suggests a different maturity than the rum’s colour which is likely the result of its time in the tropics.
Nose: This is heavy stuff. I smell many esters, foul papayas, phenolic acids and medicine, honey and fresh barbecue. Many of these aromas can already be smelled from afar. Deeper in the glass we get more dirty aromas in the vein of Caroni, even though their fragrances are quite different. I get burnt rubber and rusting metals. There are quite a few medical herbs as well as some spices such as cloves and nutmeg, perhaps even anise. After some time I can also find lemons and oranges. The nose is very promising.
Palate: If you never had a Fijian before you are in for something special, whether you like it or not. At first I can taste esters and sour lemons, paired with some other fruits such as fresh oranges and old papayas. Perhaps also persimmon. The rum has a very special mouthfeel, reminding me of plastic. Then burnt rubber and freshly spread tar. After some time the herbs come a bit closer to the foreground and the rum becomes more medical. Eventually, the orange comes back and jumps up and down on your tongue.
Finish: Medium long. Many of the dirty aromas such as tar and plenty of oranges. The lemons come and go.
As you might have guessed already, I am quite the fan of this rum. Or much rather this particular style of rum in general. It combines many of the rum styles I enjoy, namely fruity and ester-rich Jamaicans, smokey and medical Rockleys and dirty Caronis. That said, the Cadenhead’s Fiji South Pacific Distillery 2003 13YO is not yet the top end of available Fijians. I’ll discuss quite a few of them in the weeks to come. On the other hand, there really are not that many bad things to say about this rum’s price and quality. The bang for your buck is really good if you ask me. The only “problem” is that opinions differ on this style and it might require getting used to. While Fijians have quite a few fans, many others don’t get along with them at all. If you haven’t had a rum from Fiji before, I definitely advice getting a sample before buying a full bottle.
Todays shoutout goes to Marcel. Thanks for the bottle-split.