I have already introduced Versailles, the Single Wooden Pot Still which has produced rum at Enmore Distillery for a long time before it has been moved to Uitvlugt and eventually to the Diamond Distillery, so I won’t annoy you with that again. If you want to learn more nevertheless, make sure to check out the Guyana country article and reviews you’ll find at the bottom under “Versailles”. So far, we’ve already had the Cadenhead’s Enmore Distillery “MEV” 1990 26YO from today’s featured vintage, which has been one of the most prominent from Versailles’ times at Enmore, together with 1985 and 1988. These will follow at some point. All of the rums should come from the same December batch and should have spent the vast majority of their time, if not all of it, in Europe.
Duncan Taylor Enmore (Versailles) 1990 26YO (54%): This is a quintessential Versailles 1990. In the nose I can find pencil shavings, a mix of herbs (thyme, oregano), grapefruits/ blood oranges and more woody notes. This should be a good one to start the session, it basically contains everything that we are looking for, at least in the nose. Fortunately this trend continues at the palate. Mixed herbs dance around prunes and the pencil shavings. Later also fresher, slightly minty nuances and subtle fruits (the grapefruit again). The finish is medium to long with dry wood and a bag of herbs. Yes, this works for me. It should be a good benchmark to evaluate the rums to come. Even the dilution works quite well, which makes we wonder whether this has been diluted inside the barrel. (88/100)
Kintra Enmore (Versailles) 1990 27YO (53,7%): This one is stepping out of line a bit. While it has the pencil shavings, it also has a pronounced fruit schnaps profile to it, which irritates me a bit. In a sense, it has many characteristics of a young distillate, which might be a result of the dilution, who knows. The prunes can only be found way in the back and it are the herbal notes that have been squeezed out more by the water. I am not sure what to think about this yet so let’s take a sip. Okay, here we have it. My first impressions are the fruit schnaps (pears), watery alcohol and a continental fruit basket. The heavier, woody notes of pencils, prunes and marzipan are weaker than in the other rums and vanish after a short time. Then the herbs with oregano and rosary mostly but it all doesn’t really fit together. With the third sip I get more bitter notes such as grapefruit, which I can find again in the medium long finish. I also have herbs and a few spices from the cask such as anise or, very subtly, fennel. I did not believe that we would ever get a subpar rum from this vintage but now we did. The fruit schnaps notes just don’t belong here if you ask me. I was hoping to get a good old rum at a good price but of course that was too good to be true. (79/100)
Alambic Classique Enmore (Versailles) 1990 28YO (45%): Despite the dilution, the nose already suggest a heavy and full-bodied rum. It’s full of Italian herbs, pencil shavings, olive oil and dry cheese. Wow, this is good. I must admit that I was very reluctant to try it given the low abv but I am extremely glad that I did. Unfortunately, the dilution is very noticeable at the palate but here’s the crux: It is still an amazing rum which just makes me wonder once again how great it could have been with a Duncan Taylor type strength at least. Well, what can we do. What we get is a perfect balance of all the well-known elements: herbs, pencil shavings, grapefruit, oak and tapenade. All the flavours magically make it into a long a lovely finish as we don’t get it very often. I think Versailles is a style that works very well at a lower abv but some more % would have made this top of the class I think. As it is, it is just/ still an excellent rum. (87/100)
Murray MacDavid Versailles (Guigal Condrieu Finish) 1990 14YO (46%): Wine finishes are always interesting. They can be quite amazing or completely destroy a distillate. Murray MacDavid, and the successor line ‘Renegade’ have been the pioneers of wine finishes in rum. Please don’t ask me for further information on Guigal Condrieu. It originates from a wine growing region just south of Lyon but that’s all I can tell you. Despite the finish, it is very typical and characteristic in the nose, probably because of its relatively young age (well, comparatively). Pencil shavings, prunes, a mixed fruit basket as well as some medical herbs is what I am picking up. There’s no sign of the wine cask, at least if you don’t know what to look for. Only later do we get some grapery notes. The first thing I notice at the palate is the dilution, the rum is a bit too thin. My first associations are baked apple, prunes, wood and roasted almonds. Still not too much from the wine cask unfortunately. I get a few tannins here and there but that’s it. I also cannot find a whole lot of herbs. The finish is thin, herbal and not too long but nothing to write home about. A solid but in direct comparison not a recommended one. The problem is the dilution, not that it’s too young. (82/100)
Our Rum & Spirits Enmore (Versailles “MEV” 1990 24YO (61,2%): The nose is full and aromatic. As we know it from old rums from this batch, it takes quite a while to fully open up. Then we get the pencil shavings, prunes, herbs (melissa and nettle) but almost no fruity notes. After a while also lemon grass. Palate: Oh yeah. Prunes, heated oak, non-sweet marzipan and wild, medical herbs are my first impressions. Besides missing the fruity notes it’s an amazingly balanced rum that’s not incredibly complex but interesting and layered enough to discover new nuances even towards the end of your bottle (dry peppermint!). I love it, especially at its price. It’s very refreshing to see these smaller bottlers showing how it is possible to offer great rums at even better prices. Finish: Long, herbal with dry marzipan and prunes. Yep, this works for me! (89/100)
Rum Artesanal Enmore (Versailles) 1990 24YO (61,2%): On paper this is the same rum as the Our Rum & Spirits, it just comes from a different barrel. But that of course always means the difference between a good and a bad rum, way more so than any of these basic numbers. The nose is very full and heavy on the herbs (rosary, thyme). After the initial alcoholic scents are gone, I get grapefruits, blood oranges and dry wood. Then flavourful barks and tarragon. Just like the previous ones, it needs quite some time in the glass to fully open up. At the palate, the herbs are again my first associations, only then do I get the characteristic pencil shavings. It’s funny how I sometimes get the one or the other first. Slightly medical notes can be found and with the second sip also limes and a mix of spices. The prunes and the more bitter fruits seem to be missing entirely. The finish is just a bit too thin but long and herbal. It’s okay but nothing special (i.e. the finish). Relatively speaking, the rum is strong on the medial notes and weak on the fruits. All in all, it’s a good rum at what was a magnificent price back then. I should have stocked up when I had the chance but we couldn’t foresee the fast transition the rum scene would be going through even three years ago. (89/100)
Rum Nation Sherry Wood Finish Demerara (Versailles) 1990 24YO (45%): And finally we have a diluted 24YO with a Sherry finish, which is clearly noticeable in the nose but not too dominant. Dark, dried fruits mix and mingle with the characteristic pencil shavings and prunes. Especially the latter are enriched by the fortified wine finish and pushed to the fore compared to the other bottlings. It works very well. Then mostly herbal notes such as thyme and rosary. Palate: Sweeter than I expected but the profile is shaped mostly by a mix herbs. Further I get sweet (bramble-)berries and bitter cherries. Add freshly cut branches and ripe plums. Plenty of sweet and dry notes of (cheap) Sherry shape a medium long finish. The nose is really nice but at the palate I am missing too many of the typical elements. Somehow the finish was enhancing in the former, destructive in the latter. The aftertaste also feels a bit out of place. The series had some excellent old Demeraras, sadly this last release cannot quite keep up with the rest. (86/100)
Creating a ranking of these bottlings is tougher than it usually is. As you may know, I am really fond of this particular rum style and I see most of these bottlings at a very similar, high level. The Duncan Taylor bottling is perhaps the best example of what I like so much about the style as it is a perhaps the most balanced of the bunch. Pretty much the same can be said about the Alambic. At a higher abv it probably would have been the clear winner today. The two full proof rums are very much to my liking and I would give the edge to the Our Rum & Spirits here. While the nose of the Rum Nation is just adorable, it is too thin at the palate. With the Murray MacDavid, I just wish that the wine finish would have been more expressive and the Kintra just isn’t very good if you ask me.
Finally, thanks to everyone who has been splitting their bottles or provided a sample. As always, it is highly appreciated!