Today we have a very special Caroni which I have considered to be the absolute best one for a long time. Even though I have had a couple of other great once more recently it is still at least a top five Caroni in my book. I’m talking about the A.D. Rattray Caroni 1997 17YO.
From A.D. Rattray’s (A.D. standing for Andrew Dewar) website we know that it “has been a family business involved in the blending and maturation of Single Malt Scotch Whisky since 1868. The company’s horse-drawn carts, carrying cases of fine wine and spirits, were a familiar sight on Clydeside and in Central Glasgow during the late 1800s.” They started out as an importer of French wines, Italian spirits and olive oil and early on established themselves as a specialist in blending and storing whiskies. At the end of the 1800s, they represented many Highland Malt distilleries and started selling bulk to wine and spirit merchants. In the late 1920s, after periods of financial struggles, they sold the business to William Walker, who has been acquiring many smaller merchants at that time. Today, the company is owned by the Morrison family who are deeply involved in the Whisky scene, owning several distilleries. Funnily, A.D. Rattray don’t even mention their rum releases on their homepage, which once more demonstrates rum’s minor role in the spirits business. Or A.D. Rattray just doesn’t really care all that much about this small branch, who knows.
Even though Velier bought the vast majority of Caroni’s stock, they have never released a Caroni from 1997, which exclusivley has been released by other independet bottlers. This raises the question whether Caroni has been selling bulk that year. If they did, these should be continentally aged rums. However, browsing through my collection I notice that not all 1997 Caronis that mention a distillation date are part of the same batch, which decreases the likelihood of bulk exports. Nevertheless, at this point we simply do not know. Knowing that this is a single cask bottling at cask strength we can do a few calculations. The standard size of a bourbon barrel (see the information at key facts below) is 200 litres. 231 bottles at 0,7 litres give us 161,7 litres, mening that less than 40 litres have been taken by the angel’s in 17 years. This implies a yearly angel’s share of about 1,24%, which absolutely rules out even some time in the tropics. There are two possibilities why this might be wrong though. First, it might still be possible that the rum has been stored in an extremely cool place, but I highly doubt it. Second and way more likely, several barrels might have been thrown together prior to bottling, which still makes it a single cask bottling by definition. Unfortunately, this is a relatively common practice but at this point it’s only speculation anyways. At this point I am inclined to believe in the bulk export theory.
Dégustation “A.D. Rattray Caroni 1997 17YO”
Key facts: This single cask Caroni has been distilled on 17.6.1997 in Trinidad and got to age for 17 years in a bourbon barrel. On 19.1.2015, cask 213 has been bottled at 63,6% cask strength and yielded 231 bottles.
Colour and viscosity: Auburn/ polished mahogany. Incredibly oily. Thick legs and pearls seem to stick to the rim indefinitely.
Nose: Caroni. I feel that this should be a description in itself. Unbelievably dirty with tar, roadworks, tyres and inner tube. Then lots of wood, even glue, cherry drops and slightly phenolic notes. I could spend hours sniffing this one but my mouth is already watering. This is very close to the perfect Caroni nose. The only thing that’s missing are some of the more fruity notes but who really needs that in a Caroni!?
Palate: Caroni. See what I did there!? It’s very dirty stuff yet absolutely lovely. Rather dry, it is now a tad fruitier than the nose. Behind the tar and burnt rubber we can find flowery notes, foul mango and burnt caramel. I really don’t have anything negative to say about this one. It just works so perfectly. The rum is relatively tannic with plenty of wood, some vanilla and a hint of cloves. At the danger of repeating myself, this is Caroni perfection, or at least damn close to it.
Finish: Everlasting Caroni. Tannic elements and diesel fuel. Later also muscovado sugar.
The king is dead, long live the king. I have my doubts that someday another Caroni will push the A.D. Rattray Caroni 1997 17YO out of my Caroni top
five ten. It’s just that good. What was just as good was its price back then. For about 80€ you got a world class Caroni just two years ago. I miss these days and stories of people finishing an entire bottle in a day. I have been told that the resulting hangover is the worst you can possibly have. Given all the fusel oils in this rum I cannot help but believe it!
Today’s featured image has been provided courtesy of Thorsten.
P.S.: One more thing. I am currently working on expanding the page. In the ‘Countries‘ section I have added an article on Jamaica and if you scroll down you can also find pages for the Jamaican distilleries. Next on my list are articles on Martinique and Guyana. Perhaps one or another bottler will also be added.