Today we have the second rum from the Caroni 1998 December batch by a bottler which I have not reviewed so far. It is the Kill Devil Caroni 1998 18YO.
Kill Devil is the rum line of Hunter Laing, a renowned independent bottler of Scotch Whisky. Hunter Laing’s history dates back to 1949, when Stewart Laing’s father Frederick founded his whisky blending company in Glasgow. Fifteen years later, Stewart joins the family business and starts to develop the now famous brand. With the increasing sales volume of whisky globally, especially in the 1990s, the company starts to develop several exclusive bottling lines, which culminated in the founding of Hunter Laing & Co. Ltd in Glasgow in 2013, just one year shy of Stewart Laing’s 50th anniversary in the Scotch whisky industry. In 201, they acquired a new maturation warehouse in which they can hold 14,000 casks. The idea was to decrease the time it takes to take a cask sample as much as possible. With the necessary infrastructure established, they finally decided to launch their rum line, Kill Devil. Under this label they have been releasing single cask rums at either 46% (mostly) or cask strength for about three years now. Both, the quality of their releases and the success in sales volume have been so-so, which even resulted in the company consulting the rum nerds on Facebook for feedback. For me, it is mostly the dilution together with the asking prices but problematic retail channels and a lack of knowledge (on their homepage they state that natural cask strength and navy strength are synonymous) probably factor in as well. While this, among others, is symptomatic for an entrant in a new industry, it also demonstrates that they are eager to learn and that they really want to establish themselves as one of the major players in the rum scene. Competition never hurts my friends and that’s why I hope that Hunter Laing/ Kill Devil will stick around for some more time!
One interesting key-note we’ve missed from the company’s biography is the construction of the Ardnahoe Distillery on Islay, which began in 2017. The first batches have already been distilled and were also offered for sale to other independent bottlers: the prices were as high as they have ever been for new make spirit. Whether this is simply Islay hype or rooted in a deeper believe/ knowledge is beyond me but either way, Hunter Laing are apparently doing it the right way.
Dégustation “Kill Devil Caroni 1998 18YO”
Key Facts: This single cask rum has been distilled in December 1998 at Caroni Distillery on Trinidad. After 18 years, 233 bottles have been bottled at 63,2%.
Colour and viscosity: Auburn/ polished mahogany. A thin crown of tiny pearls and medium sized streaks that stick to the rim like syrup. The oiliness is remarkable.
Nose: It is immediately clear that the rum is very similar to the Cadenhead’s Caroni “HTR” 1998 18YO. It is amazingly balanced between the typical, ‘dirty’ Caroni notes such as inner tube and lamp oil and fruity aromas such as papaya or sour cherries. Moreover, I can find cocoa, roasted coffee and cardamom. It’s all there and if you love Caroni it doesn’t leave much to be desired. However, it’s a lot more alcoholic and a bit less intense than the Cadenhead’s but more fruity instead. Make sure to give the rum quite some time in the glass since it really benefits from the oxidation, which squeezes out more and more of the fruity notes and eventually even a hint of herbs.
Palate: It’s now clearly less fruity than the nose suggested. Especially the papaya is still there but other flavours such as caramel, vanilla, roadworks, lamp oil and cinnamon are way more dominant. The mouthfeel is incredibly creamy and I now get slightly salty notes and a tad of tar as well. I have a lot of love for the rum but given how similar it is to the recent Cadenhead’s bottling (in all regards, really), I must say that it falls just a little bit short in basically every category; but that simply demonstrates how good the Cadenhead’s is and not that this one isn’t fantastic.
Finish: Long and dry with caramel, lamp oil and salty cream. It supports the rum quite well.
It’s a great Caroni and a great rum in general, even if it cannot quite keep up with the equally old Cadenhead’s from last review. Nevertheless, it is as good of a substitute as it gets and a great rum. While it is pricey, I doubt that we will ever get an excellent Caroni at a better price again, unfortunately.
Next time we will have a closer look at the January ’98 batch.
My thanks goes to Johannes for the sample!