Alaaf my friends, it’s Fastelovend! Special times call for special rums and that’s why we shall have a look at the Velier Caroni 2000 17YO today, a single cask rum that has been bottled exclusively for Eataly.
Eataly is one of the largest retailers of Italian consumption goods in the world, offering restaurants, foods, drinks, kitchen hardware and more. I like the concept quite a bit, even though their products are rather pricy. Founded by Oscar Farinetti, they opened their first branch in January 2007 in a discontinued Wermut-factory in Turin. Since then, they expanded to more than 25 locations in eight countries. To the best of my knowledge, this is the first Caroni from 2000 after a bunch of exclusive single casks released in 2015 and the “Millenium” magnum bottling. From 2000, I have already reviewed the Velier Caroni 12YO in my very first review on this blog, a rum I still consider to be one of the very best value for money rums ever (about 40€ a few years ago, sometimes even less than that!). Of course a lot has changed since then and in 2017 this single cask Caroni’s asking price of about 170€ seemed rather fair. Quite crazy if you think about it. However, it doesn’t matter too much as the chances of actually getting a bottle of the single casks are rather slim. I even jumped on a plane to Italy but still didn’t succeed in getting a copy of it ;). Even worse, the reserves will be depleted in a few years and then the only chance of getting any Caronis at all will be the secondary markets. Oh well, let us not complain too much…
So what makes Caroni so special? We have had all tons of speculations from experts and amateurs alike but ultimately none of us knows for sure. Anyway, I think we can narrow it down to three potential reasons: The wash/ wines, distillation and ageing/ blending. I think it is very well established by now that “terroir” is not part of the molasses, meaning that any sorts of factors that are specific to Trinidad (think the bitumen lake) will not be carried over externally through the sugar cane into the molasses, wines, and rum. That of course doesn’t mean that terroir does not play a role altogether. Fermentation is still affected by the local bacteria and yeasts, even if you do not add them to the process deliberately. Similarly, what happens inside a barrel is still somewhat of a mystery to me. We know that the rum on the inside constantly moves in and out of the cask’s wooden walls, thereby absorbing and extracting flavours as well as colour but the process of what (think bacteria for instance) might interact with the wood from the outside is relatively unknown. Especially Whisky producers often argue that storing your distillate next to the sea (for example) provides different nuances. A good example with rum would be Savanna’s Chai Humide from Monday’s review. Finally, we have distillation. Simply put, distillation solely separates certain components or substances from the wines. Thus it doesn’t create but much rather extracts flavours which have been created during the fermentation process. Then, depending on how you distill, you can choose which of these components you want to extract, resulting in different amounts of congeners (esters), which are then called Light and Heavy rums at Caroni. Some people have dubbed the method of obtaining these Heavy, typical Caroni rums “bad distillation”. At least I am not convinced that distillation is THE decisive factor here cause if it were, there must be some way of replicating this style given you know/ figure out how to set up you still. I will pick up at this point in my next Caroni review.
Dégustation “Velier Caroni “Bottled for Eataly” 2000 17YO”
Key facts: Distilled in 2000, this single cask rum is one of the last Caronis distilled on Trinidad. After 17 years of ageing in the tropics, Velier bottled 242 bottles for Eataly in 2017. The abv is lofty 68,4%.
Colour and viscosity: Tawny. A crown of big pearls emerges. The rum flows back down in thick streaks. It is incredibly oily.
Nose: There’s no sign of 65+% alcohol. Then immediately (burnt) caramel, lid matches and gasoline, followed by inner tube and exotic fruits such as papaya and guava. Behind that we can find a wall of sandal- and fir wood. I’d say this is a rather ‘dirty’ one, even though it is not too strong on the tar aromas. The nose is very solid, but I am not totally flashed by it. Maybe my expectations were too high or I have had too many other great Caronis in the recent past.
Palate: The first sip numbs my tongue for a second. After it recovers, flavours of papaya, guava and sandalwood remain. With the second sip I get more delicate nuances of papaya (again), enginge oil, burnt caramel and something akin to lovage. What I usually associate with fresh tar in other Caronis is much closer to clear asphalt in this one. Then a mix of (Mexican) herbs and spices in the form of mustard, marjoram and oregano, most notably.
Finish: Long and dirty with engine oil and asphalt. After some time the sandalwood and mustard seeds but these associations are rather volatile.
The Velier Caroni 2000 17YO for Eataly is a solid but not an outstanding Caroni in my opinion. Of course I would have loved to get a bottle of it but you cannot always have everything. At the prices at which it is currently being sold for on secondary markets it is only interesting for collectors anyways. I would love to taste the new 2000 bottling for the US market but, as you might trivially expect, getting a bottle or even a sample here in Europe is very difficult. I can only hope that there is more to come as 2000 is a Caroni vintage I like quite a bit.
Todays sample comes from a bottle split by Marc. Merci bien!