Last year, Velier released their first and so far only US exclusive Caroni, a 17 year old heavy rum from 2000. Since you cannot let the EU come out empty-handed, we get our own version as well. Today we shall compare the two bottlings and judge how they compare to the other Caronis from 2000 we’ve reviewed thus far.
The US version is the result of seven barrels which produced 2700 bottles while the EU version measures 582 bottles coming from two barrels. Both should have been distilled by Caroni’s small column still(s) and have been diluted to 55%. From the single casks we know that the full proof of these rums should be about 70%, meaning that the dilution is actually quite large. Usually my alarm bells are ringing when I see this but given that we have had excellent Caronis at or around 55% they are not. Arguably, some 55% or 57,18% versions might have been better than the full proof releases but, to the best of my knowledge, these typically contain different barrels and are thus different rums anyways.
The photo on the bottle is the same we’ve already seen on the labels of the 1983 releases and on some boxes. It shows Rudy Moore, the CEO of Rum Distillers of Trinidad and Tobago (RDTT), who were in charge of liquidating Caroni’s stocks, in front of the precious barrels during the times of liquidation. Today, he is mostly known for the ‘legend‘ according to which he sent Caroni samples of the different vintages to Luca Gargano in 2005, after Luca and Fredi Marcarini, the photographer who shot the photos of the Caroni labels, visited Trinidad in 2004 when they were doing reasearch for their rum book. The part of the Caroni story that usually doesn’t receive as much attention is that the RDTT team around Moore valuated the remains of the Caroni stock way above what anyone, especially Angostura, was willing to pay for it at the time, which let to a failed auction in October 2008.
While my shoutouts and credits typically come at the end of the review (if I don’t forget them as I do most of the time), I’d like to do it here and share my small anecdotes. Obviously, getting the US version in Europe is not straightforward. Without any deeper intentions in mind, in the review of the Velier Caroni “Eataly” 2000 17YO I mentioned how I would like to compare it to the US small batch version. It didn’t take long until a very nice and collaborative fellow connoisseur from the US approached me and offered a sample. It was highly appreciated, Tannon! With the EU version, I got a sample from a fellow Frenchman, who also added the label to the sample bottle. I am not sure whether he did it on purpose or not but at Mr Moore’s feet there’s a Windows-band with the word “prochain” (soon) in it. I believe he is referring to (read: mocking) a certain French online shop which always has quite a few items on “soon”, often for several months (at the time of writing, they still have the EU version on “soon”). If this is the case, you hit exactly my sense of humor my friend, well played! If not, it is still an incredibly funny coincidence.
Dégustation “Velier Caroni 2000 17YO EU versus Velier Caroni 2000 17YO US”
Colour and viscosity: Tawny. US: A crown of thin droplets. Thin schlieren flow back down very slowly. EU: Similar to the US but the streaks are minimally thicker.
Nose: I now gave the rums over an hour to oxidise. Let’s start with the US version. This one really needed the time in the glass to fully open up. A lot has happened here over the span of an hour. I get sweet notes of almond pastry paired with a subtle dirtiness and the typical Caroni notes (inner tube, tar, you name it). All in all, 2000 is by far not as dirty and complex as other vintages such as 1996 for example. Instead, it is more accommodating and compliant and comes across very balanced and harmonious. I further get a mix of more floral notes paired with the smell of a new car (Wunderbaum anyone!?). Add lamp oil and slightly herbal notes as well as toffee.
The EU doesn’t need the same amount of time as the US version. It’s right there, right away. That’s why I thought that it is way more intense and clearly better right after pouring it. In the end, the differences weren’t tremendously large. Relative to the US, the almond pastry is more dominant and has thick sugar crystals on it. Similarly, I think the herbal touch has more nuances to it. I’d describe it as fresh herbs, compared to foresty herbs with the US. Then lamp oil, fresh tyres, rubber, and burnt caramel. As I said, the differences aren’t huge but the EU feels a bit more aromatic.
Palate: Here, we get caramel, toffee and slightly grassy notes with the US at first. The typical Caroni notes join subtly but noticeably. I get rubber, tar, and oil, but they are not overly obtrusive. With the second and third sip salammoniac, forest herbs and a bouquet of flowers from the gas station.
Interestingly, the first thing I get with the EU is the salammoniac followed by other, slightly salted liquorice. Next comes the toffee, caramel, grated fitsroot and lamp oil. It’s definitely less grassy and floral than the US but leans more towards the pastry side of the rum, again with a stronger emphasis on the salammoniac. Of course these are only the differences, the more typical flavours are all there ;).
Finish: Medium long and balanced with almonds for the US. It is only now that I can taste the very pronounced influence of the cask, in a pleasant way that is. For the EU, the finish is slightly longer with salty pastry and liquorice. Both are quite oily.
The two Velier Caroni 2000 17YO are high quality, easy-sipping Caronis. At first I was quite disappointed by them though. As a result, I have cross-tasted them with a few other 2000s. The benchmark was the Velier Caroni 2000 12YO since it is a rum that I know quite well. The result was remarkable: I really had to rethink/ reevaluate the 12YO, which was extremely lackluster in direct comparison. And I felt that with both, a sample from a freshly opened bottle and one that has been open for a couple of years now. Anyways, the comparison made me appreciate today’s rums way more.
From my notes, you can take that I liked the EU version a lot more at the beginning. However, the US simply needs a lot more time to open up in my opinion. Once it does, both rums are actually quite close to one another, quality-wise. I don’t even want to choose between the two anymore but if I had to, the EU gets a slight edge since it is immediately present and because I liked its finish a bit better. The palate might just be ever so slightly superior with the US.
So while they are both on pretty much the same level, where do we put them in relation to the other Caronis from 2000? To keep it short: I prefer both of them to the 12YO and the recent Eataly single cask, as well as the Millenium Caroni which I have yet to review. However, the two 15YO single cask bottlings which I tried in the same session were both more to my liking. I shall review them eventually, of course! All in all, the vintage will certainly never become one of my favorite ones from Caroni, however.
Other impressions: Roger liked the EU version, but rightly thinks that it is overpriced.