It’s time for the first tropically aged Demerara by Velier. The collaboration between Luca Gargano and Yesu Persaud gave us a few of the very best column still rums ever if you ask me. Today we have the Velier Uitvlugt 1996 18YO!
The relationship between Luca Gargano, the head of Velier, and Yesu Persaud, back then the boss of Demerara Distillers Limited (DDL), truly was something special in the rum scene. In 2004, Mr. Gargano acquired shares of DDL and developed a close friendship with Persaud, who eventually granted him the exclusive rights to DDL’s warehouses. Velier subsequently released a whole series of fully tropically aged full proof Demerara rums which are by many connoisseurs regarded to be among the best rums ever bottled. Relatively spoken, especially the column-still rums have a flavour intensity which I have yet to find in any other column-still products and the Uitvlugts are no exception. In fact, I do not think I can recall a non-Velier Uitvlugt (true column-still rum from Uitvlugt distillery, not a Port Mourant) which I actually liked.
Thanks to Marco’s research on the Demerara Distilleries we know that the Uitvlugt plantation has been founded at some point between 1759 and 1776. The first known owner is Johan (Berend Christoffer) Frederik Boode, whose initials might be responsible for the marks ICB/U, ICB/C or ICB, where ICB/U might stand for Iohan Christoffer Boode/ Uitvlugt, where the J from Johan might have become an I eventually (K&L Wine have declared that it stands for Issac Christiany Boody/ Uitvlugt, however). Other rums from Uitvlugt that we have got have the mark ULR (Uitvlugt Light Rum) or Modified GS, i.e. this one. I have no idea what this means but Marco hypothesizes that the S denotes the French Savalle still, which is responsible for both of the latter rums. But enough of that.
Uitvlugt started as a coffee plantation but has shifted fully to growing sugar by 1832. The distillery thus should not date back much further than this. Anyways, it quite likely precedes the invention of the Savalle still (patented in 1868), meaning that the still used by DDL today is most likely not (or not made from the remains of) the original Uitvlugt still. Nevertheless, it is very well possible that it has been added eventually to Uitvlugt Distillery, perhaps when the Booker’s group overhauled it in 1960. Following the consolidations of several Guyanese distilleries, Uitvlugt took over the production of Albion, Blairmont, La Bonne Intention and Skeldon. Consequently, some of the stills from these distilleries probably have been moved to Uitvlugt while others, i.e. redundant stills, have been scrapped (the Port Mourant still must have been moved earlier since the distillery was already closed in 1955). Following the fusion with Diamond Liquors Ltd, Uitvlugt has finally been shut down in 1999. Some of the stills survived this next and final consolidation, among them also the French Savalle still, which is believed to be the actual Uitvlugt still. As explained above, its true origin might also be Blairmont, for instance. Please refer to Sascha’s article on DDL for more information on and pictures of the still.
Dégustation “Velier Uitvlugt “Modified GS” 1996 18YO”
Key Facts: This experimental light rum has been distilled by Uitvlugt Distillery’s French Savalle Column Still in 1996. After 18 years of ageing in the tropics with an angel’s share of 78%, these four barrels are among Luca Gargano’s last selections from DDL’s warehouses. 1124 bottles have been filled in 2014 at 57,2% cask strength.
Colour and viscosity: Mahogany. Thick streaks slowly flow back down. The oiliness is remarkable.
Nose: Chocolate, coffee and almonds are the first scents crawling out of the glass. The nose is very sweet with notes of caramel, burnt sugar and apricots. Then plenty of vanilla and a touch of cinnamon. It’s rather complex for a column-still rum and the long time it has spent in the tropics created a very intense profile. In a nutshell, this is more or less how I imagine a heavily charred bourbon barrel smells like. Very promising.
Palate: Oh my sweetness. Rums like these make me think why some producers (most notably DDL with their El Dorado brand of course) sweeten their rums. There are absolutely no additives needed here, this is more or less as sweet as the vast majority of the “blacklisted” rums. Without the sugar that is. For me it might be even slightly too sweet. Taste-wise, my impressions are still coffee and chocolate with a lot of spices. Then apricots and orange zest as well as a mix of dried fruits, which become more and more prominent with every additional sip. If it weren’t for some of the other Velier Demeraras, I’d say this is column still perfection.
Finish: Moderately long and rather dry. The mix of dried fruits (raisins, oranges and mangos) is very noticeable.
Yes, the Uitvlugt 1996 18YO “Modified GS” is another good Demerara from Velier. Unfortunately we have not got an Uitvlugt column-still rum of comparable quality in the post Velier Demerara age. The 1998 vintage, which has been released by many independent bottlers, was more than just disappointing and the 1997 column still rums (e.g. by Duncan Taylor) are absolutely no comparison to Velier’s 1997 “ULR” Uitvlugt. Even though it is not the very greatest, I am afraid that this rum style, like many others from Guyana, is one that we won’t be getting anymore in the future, at least not at a decent quality. I just hope that eventually a rethinking will take place at DDL, a process thath might have started already with their “Rare Collection”. The quality of their releases did not really convince me so far as I even prefer the Demeraras of Rum Nation‘s Small Batch Rare Rums series (I have reviewed a couple of them here and here). Let’s hope for the best!
Shutouts go to Malte for providing me with a sample.
Other impressions: A bunch of other people reviewed it as well, with different opinions. Among them are Cyril, Roger and Wes.