Today we have Velier’s latest vintage Caroni. It has been “double matured” in Trinidad and Guyana and comes with a colossal angel’s share of >85%. It’s the Velier Caroni 1994 23YO.
“Il y a même des gens qui m’ont dit ne pas avoir acheté les premiers Caroni car le prix n’était pas assez élevé pour des rhums aussi vieux.” Luca Gargano said in an interview with Cyril at DuRhum (translation: There are even people who have told me that they did not buy the first Caronis because the price was not high enough for such old rums.). Oh how things have changed. I doubt we will hear these “complaints” ever again…
Interestingly, in the same interview Luca also tells us that he thinks that the optimal age for rums aged in tropical climates is six, which is a pretty common number for agricoles. Needless to say, there are minimum numbers for some rums that he “discovered” that are inevitably higher than this but still the question arises why he has been holding back some rums for way longer than this. I’d say the majority of Velier‘s releases is considerably older. My guess is to have enough rums to spread them across the years but there’s probably more to it. For example, I believe that they wanted to tease out this very special tannic flavour in this rum. I have yet to cross-taste this rum with a younger Caroni from 1994 but that will probably be very telling. We should just ask him someday. Anyways, this will be an important question as we are about to see.
Dégustation “Velier Caroni 1994 23YO”
Key Facts: The Velier Caroni 1994 23YO has been distilled at the closed Caroni Distillery in Trinidad in 1994. It has been ageing in Trinidad until 2008 before Velier moved it to DDL’s warehouses in Guyana for further ageing. After 23 years in total, it has been bottled at 57,18% navy strength. The angel’s share was >85%.
Colour and viscosity: Mahogany. Incredibly thick streaks slowly crawl along the rim of the glass. It’s incredibly oily.
Nose: Burnt caramel, old wood and wood varnish, brush cleaner, vanilla and tar. The nose is very elegant but that’s no big surprise given the rums age and maturity. It has also got a few tannins and bitter compounds. After some time I can also detect more fruity aromas such as mango and banana. These are very subtle however. The nose doesn’t leave much to be desired.
Palate: Wow. This is a different Caroni with two distinct faces. The first is the extremely elegant and flavourful aspect. I taste plenty of caramel, fresh and burnt, leather, vanilla as well as dark fruits and berries. Then mango. The flavours of inner tube, tires and tar blend in as enhancements to the other associations rather than being aggressive flavours themselves. Then plenty of menthol and spearmint, it’s quite interesting.
The other aspect is the very woody and bitter side of this 23 year old tropically aged rum. The influence of the cask is tremendous and it is quite heavy on tannins, which are harmoniously integrated however. Parallels to barrel aged, heavy red wines are blatant.
Finish: Long, dry, and surprisingly fresh. Oak and tannins take care of the bitterness, notes of mint and mangos of the freshness.
The Velier Caroni 1994 23YO is the Caroni for lovers of barrel aged, heavy red wines. I must say that I did not enjoy it too much at first (measured against my expectations). My initial judgement was that it has been seeing the inside of a cask for too long and that it is beyond its zenith. For many people this is probably true. If you, like me, have a weakness for those heavy red wines that are rich in tannins however, you might fall in love with this one. Please understand that this is a very big “if”! It is very different from most other Caronis I know. You really need this particular fondness. Also make sure to give it some time in the glass, the rum benefits a lot from it, even needs it. The high age and maturity definitely added an new, previously unknown element to Caroni.
My thanks goes to Johannes for the sample. It eased my buying decision.