We’ve had mostly cross-tastings lately and while I prefer this way of tasting and reviewing rums it often requires a lot more time and effort than single reviews. Moreover, sometimes we just have these rums which deserve a review on their own. Today’s rum is the Cadenhead’s Caroni 1998 18YO.
This is another bottling from Cadenhead’s 175th anniversary last year and the first “Heavy Trinidad Rum” by this bottler that I get to try. I’ve tasted a Cadenhead’s Caroni before but that was a light style expression.
A few things are interesting about this rum. Firstly, the date of distillation is stated as December 1998. Why is this interesting you may ask!? Well, the vast majority of the 1998 Caronis come from the January batch. That means that it is one of only very few vintages from which we’ve got multiple batches with certainty. While many bottlers, especially Velier with Caroni, solely state the year on their labels, we can attribute most of the 1998 Caronis not bottled by Velier to the January batch (the differences in the flavour profiles and the rums’ qualities between these batches is tremendous!). In fact, the only other bottling that I can safely match with this batch is a gorgeous Kill Devil but my guess is that most 1998 Veliers also come from this batch (just guessing, really). This brings us back to the old question of bulk selling versus auctioning. With the rums from this batch, I am pretty sure that they made it to the 2008 auctions but it is less obvious for the January batch. Given the differences in the overall profile it is tough to say whether they are batch specific or whether they originate from the location and climatic conditions of ageing. If you’d put a gun to my head I’d say batch specific however.
The second key point is the stated method of distillation. Cadenhead’s mentions a Pot Still but most other sources claim that Caroni didn’t have one towards the end anymore (or did not utilise it). Of course we should be careful to trust these information as the brokers often times get it wrong and Whisky bottlers typically aren’t very knowledgable about the rum industry but I think we it would be negligent to dismiss it as faulty straight away. Depending on which information we trust, a two-column Blairs Still and a (copper) pot still replaced the old Wooden Coffey as well as the Iron Still in 1984 (see flyer above). I think most people agree that Caroni did have a pot still in the 1980s at least but here the flow of proper information comes to an end. Despite the well-known yellow flyer circulating around there don’t seem to be many primary source information either so everything beyond that always necessarily contains some speculation or incomplete information but the more knowledgeable people on Caroni claim that there was no pot still just prior to the distillery’s closure. While I have no reason not to believe them, some residual doubts remain.
Dégustation “Cadenhead’s Caroni “HTR” 1998 18YO”
Key Facts: The rum has been distilled in December 1998 at Caroni Distillery in Trinidad and bottled after 18 years by Cadenhead’s in Scotland. It measures a loft 65,8%. No information are provided regarding the cask, number of bottles, or the angel’s share. The declared method of distillation is a Pot Still.
Colour and viscosity: Tawny. Solid, fat streaks and a tiny crown.
Nose: The alcohol is really present at first but that shouldn’t be surprising given the rum’s abv. Generally, the aromas are extremely intense. The fruity notes and typical dirty Caroni aromas balance eachother out very well. I get fresh rubber, inner tube and lamp oil, which meet papaya, dragon fruit and even honey melon. Behind that burnt caramel and some sweeter notes. This is a textbook example of a Caroni and indeed no comparison to the January batch.
Palate: No way this is 65+%. This Caroni is incredibly mild, slightly sweet and still unmistakably Caroni; there’s tar, inner tube, petrol, lamp oil and whatever else is necessary to describe this very distinct profile. The fruit is now less prominent and I wouldn’t even want to pick out any individual notes here. Later again the burnt caramel and very mild espresso machiato. At the danger of repeating myself: this really is the quintessential Caroni without any twists or interesting nuances, just all of that at an extraordinarily high level. One heck of a rum!
Finish: Nothing exciting happens here. It’s long with petrol and sweet caramel. Just what the rum needs, basically.
The Cadenhead’s “HTR” 1998 18YO has to be one of the best non-Velier Caronis. The December 1998 batch just isn’t comparable with the January batch and superior in basically all regards. It’s just a wonderful rum. Some people said it’s too alcholic but I cannot understand this at all. As far as simple and ‘standard’ Caronis are concerned, this is almost perfect. You might say that this is the 17YO standard range bottling on crack. Please, give us more of the December batch!
A special thanks goes out to Flo’s grandma for letting me try out her tasting glass, a very antique Glencairn!
Other impressions: Flo called this ‘one of the better Caronis he has had‘ and Ben “can see what the fuss was about“.