Let’s take a trip to what might be my favorite Bajan distillery. I must admit that I am having a weakness for some of the Mount Gay releases by independent bottlers but unfortunately the only batch we ever got was from 2000. Even bigger was my excitement when Velier announced a tropically aged Mount Gay. Let’s see whether it can keep up with expectations. Today’s rum is the Habitation Velier Last Ward 2007 10YO.
I don’t think I have to tell you much about Velier’s Habitation series. Even though I’ve just realised that I haven’t introduced it yet, it should be well-known by now. I’ve already reviewed the Habitation Velier Hampden HLCF 2010 6YO blindly and added a few words on the Velier page but that’s it. At the beginning, the idea was to release a couple of very young or even unaged rums with the new bottle design, both of which put a lot of emphasis to the corresponding stills. However, we now have got a few more mature rums as well so there you go. Let’s just wait and see where the journey is heading.
To tell the story of this bottling we have to go far afield. The history of Mount Gay dates back to 1703 (they also have a rum with that name). Back then, the Mount Gilboa estate has been founded by William Sandiford by consolidating several surrounding sugar plantations. In 1747 the 113 hectare large estate has been sold to John Sober, whose family operated it for the next century. At some point Jonh’s son asked his friend and owner of the neighbouring plantation John Gay Alleyne to help him manage his family’s business. Apparently he did such a good job that they renamed their plantation in his honour, Mount Gay (Mount Alleyne was already taken). Let’s fast forward a bit. In 1918, the English businessman Aubrey Ward acquired the distillery and overhauled it, added a column still and tried to establish the Mount Gay brand in the international rum market. His son Darnley continued what his father has started but after his death in 1989 Rémy Martin (now Rémy Cointreau) acquired the majority of the shares in Mount Gay. The Ward family retained some shares and the physical ownership of the refinery however, which was then licensed to produce new make for Rémy Martin/ Cointreau, who would then store and blend it. In 2006, Frank Ward, a descendant of Aubrey Ward, launched the triple pot distilled rum Mount Gilboa (in reference to Mount Gay’s former name), which unfortunately never received the attention it should have got. Velier now bought 19 of the oldest casks of one of the first batches and blended them. It’s the Last Ward.
Addendum: I have done some math. From Luca we learned that 4746 bottles have been produced. These are 3322,2 litres or 174,85 litres per barrel. With an angel’s share of just over 65% we get to a barrel size of 500 litres. To the best of my knowledge these large Puncheons are rather uncommon in the Carribean.
Dégustation “Habitation Velier Last Ward 2007 10YO”
Key Facts: The Habitation Velier Last Ward 2007 10YO has been “triple distilled” in a McMillan double retort pot still at Barbados’ Mount Gay Rum Refinery in 2007 for Mount Gay’s Mount Gilboa brand. It comes from a batch of 19 barrels which have been bottled at 59% after 10 years of tropical ageing. The angel’s share was >65%.
Colour and viscosity: Russet muscat. After a powerful pivot, a thin crown remains. Eventually thin legs emerge that reluctantly flow back down.
Nose: After about two hours under the aroma lid, the alcohol shoots straight through my nostrils. I am not sure why I am surprised but I wasn’t expecting the glue. Then almonds (amaretti), spiced biscuits, vanilla and sugar. It takes a while to perceive and appreciate all the flavours, the nose is rather complex. After some time I also get orange zest and more spices. Lovely!
Palate: The rum feels “fresher” in the mouth than I expected while sniffing. Crucially though, it also has a way lighter body than I thought it would have. Mint and menthol are my first impressions, then spices and chocolate. Unfortunately the lovely aromas from the nose are nowhere to be found. It is quite intense but nowhere near as complex anymore. The alcohol isn’t very well-integrated and almost seems to daub all the nice flavours it has to offer. With the second and third sip I also get more woody and spicy flavours from the cask as well as cocoa.
Finish: Long, minty and slightly bitter with cocoa and salted caramel.
Let me be honest with you, I am a bit disappointed by the Habitation Velier Last Ward 2007 10YO. Perhaps I wouldn’t have been if my expectations weren’t as high. The nose is magnificent but the palate cannot keep up with it. The alcohol is not particularily well-integrated and the body is very light for a pot still rum. Fortunately, I am placing the rum more or less were my reviewing colleagues have placed it (see the new “Other impressions” section below). That said, I still like it, don’t get me wrong, it is just not the high flyer I was hoping for. A good rum, nothing less and nothing more. Crucially, it is very different from the Mount Gays which made me fall in love with the distillery (e.g. the Cadenhead’s Mount Gay BMMG 2000 8YO or the Duncan Taylor Mount Gay 2000 12YO). At best, you can conjecture that the flavours of coffee and marzipan, which I found in most other Mount Gay OBs, are there. Having new styles is never bad though and I believe I’ll finish my bottle quicker than this verdict might suggest ;). Perhaps we should simply treat this bottling in isolation and not judge it against previous releases.
Other impressions: Johannes pointed out that it is useful to gather other opinions and impressions on the reviewed rum and I have to agree. I’ve done this sporadically in the past but will try to do this more often from now on. Eric, Maik and Thomas from Rumboom seem to like it a little less than me but I think that’s exactly where I would have ended up if I weren’t particularly fond of Mount Gay. Flo from BAT sounds a bit more enthusiastic, however.