After the Baur au Lac Llandovery Estate Old Jamaica Rum it’s time for another very special bottling and piece of rum history. The great Silvano Samaroli labeled this ‘one of the best spirits he has ever tasted’ and coming from him, I am inclined to believe that this rum truly is something magnificent. But let’s see for ourselves. Today we have the Samaroli West Indies Dark Rum 1948!
Samaroli has been founded by Silvano Samaroli in the Italian town of Brescia in 1968 and quickly gained a reputation for bottling high quality Whiskies. But also special rum bottlings such as this one made Samaroli known in spirits circles. In fact, bottled in 1991 the West Indies Dark Rum 1948 is the first rum ever sold by Samaroli. Again, he called this rum the best thing he has ever tasted/ put in a bottle, so apparently that was enough to convince him to continue selecting rum. While he was somewhat of an advocate for cask strength Whiskies, he unfortunately bottled only a few rums at abvs higher than 45%; but these were mostly real crackers. Towards the end of 2007, Silvano decided to retire and sold his company to Antonio Bleve, whose family has been the biggest client of Samaroli for about 15 years and who continue to release rums under the Samaroli label. After 77 years, this pioneer of the spirits scene passed away on 16 February 2017. For a very elaborate and great overview of Samaroli’s life, check out this article by Scotchwhisky.
We really don’t know much about this rum unfortunately, besides its date of distillation (1948, who would have guessed…). Thus, we can only speculate about its origin and chances are that it is not coming from a single distillery. From Cyril we know that Silvano Samaroli apparently told Pietro Caputo that it is a blend of rums from Jamaica and Martinique (Serge calls Long Pond an mentions another sources saying Black Rock (W.I.R.D.)) which have aged in a fairly large barrel. At least that would explain why this rum has not been taken over completely by the wood after all those years. Bottled in 1991, that amounts to about a proud 42 years. What is more, its 49% abv a very high for such an old rum. Rarely ever do we get something this old at more than 40-43%. Nevertheless, 800 bottles have been sold of this. If you consider the relatively high abv as well as the rum’s age and angel’s share this gives you an idea of how large the barrel must have been.
Dégustation “Samaroli West Indies Dark Rum 1948”
Key Facts: Distilled in 1948, this rum is supposed to contain Jamaican and Martinican distillate. 800 bottles have been bottled in 1991 at 49%.
Colour and viscosity: Mahogany. Extremely oily in the form of a few fat streaks.
Nose: Dried and candied fruits must be the most dominant aromas here. It is almost Sherry-esque, but a rather good, dry one. Then leather, hints of tobacco and slightly vegetal notes. There are also some spices here and there but they are rather volatile. It seems a bit stupid to say but somehow this smells rather antique, a bit like the smells you get from a dusty antiquity store with plenty old furnitures and rusting coins. I am actually a bit baffled.
Palate: What could this possibly taste like? My first association is the antiquity store again, but now we also get the inside of a dry sherry cask and high quality and nutty beef filet waiting to be seasoned. I think we should put on some thyme, pepper and cinnamon perhaps. Overall the flavours are very musty and gravy-like, but not in a negative way! I really cannot describe it much better than that. Latter also more exotic fruits such as overripe mango and a good fruit tea mix. Generally I am not sure whether the flavours are so complex and volatile that I have a hard time focusing on individual impressions or whether I am simply lacking the vocabulary. Let me just tell you one thing: Todays rums taste very different!
Finish: The finish is long and sweet with the candied, dried fruits and a slightly herbal touch. It build a very nice bridge from one sip to nosing some more.
I have to agree that the Samaroli West Indies Dark Rum 1948 is among those very great rums but as always with these alleged ‘legends’ I often times expected a bit more. Having read and heard about the rum and its stories beforehand created an anticipation that is tough to keep up with. I am inclined to believe that rums like this would be rated completely different in a blind tasting. Also, Silvano probably made his statement about ‘the best spirit he has ever bottled’ around the date of bottling, namely 1991. A lot has happened to the rum scene since then! I like to call this proleptic behaviour self-fulfilling prophecies: based on what you have heard (stories, reviews, the rum’s age etc) you belief that the rum has to be great so it actually also will be great to you. Sure, the entire experience of tasting a piece of rum history and the myths and stories about it only help in that process. Note that I am not blaming anyone here. I believe it is simply a trick our mind is playing on us that is tough to avoid. We naturally have these biases. But enough of that. This might be the content of an essay for the future. After all, it’s still an incredibly good rum.
Thanks for the sample, Sebastian!