Last time I’ve said that I will be reviewing a bunch of January 1998 Caronis today but something else and way more interesting has been delivered to my place. It’s not that long ago that I’ve introduced you to Clairin – The Spirit of Haiti. Now, a few, just slightly aged, single cask Clairins have been released and the few months (when did we decide to declare the age of a rum in months? Gosh!) these rums have been in the barrel have changed them a lot. While some have been put in former Whisk(e)y barrels (ex-Bourbon I guess but I really don’t know for sure), others have been put in Caroni casks. Oh baby, you heard it right. Rum in another, very special rum cask. Yes, we’ve had that before with the Le Gus’t Demerara 2002 14YO, a rum which I certainly would have put to Caroni in a blind-tasting.
Let’s not go too much in depth with the backstory here but Velier has built an ageing warehouse in Haiti to age Clairins. With a large stock of old Caroni barrels up their sleeves, they didn’t have too look long to find a few nice casks. In 2018, some of these barrels have been chosen in Port-au-Prince by people in Velier’s entourage. Four of them shall be reviewed today, which were all distilled in 2016 and aged for 19 months in former Caroni casks. In the order in which they will be reviewd they are the selections of the bartenders Nicos Arvanitis, Andrea Attanasio, Lidwine Maro and bartender Luca Simonetta.
Clairin Ansyen Sajous 2016 19 mois #CARSA5 (54,6%): Let’s start with the more easy going Sajous. The nose is pleasant mild and nowhere near as sharp and ‘aggressive’ as the unaged ones. There are plenty of floral notes to be found in the nose but the oh so typical raspberries aren’t there. Instead lamp oil, fuel and lots of aromas from the car workshop. The Caroni cask definitely left its mark. Then ripe pears and a slightly salty note akin to bacon-wrapped dates. At the palate lots of spices and herbs, at least compared to the unaged Sajous. There are some flavours we can attribute to the Caroni cask but I didn’t expect such a strong influence from the barrel to be honest, even though the Caroni flavours are rather subtle. The Clairin is way more approachable than the unaged version but I am mising a few characteristic notes from the distillate, which must have fallen victim to the adulteration from the barrel. After some time herbal and vegetal elements join the party as well as milk chocolate and caramelised nuts (Toblerone, say). Then clearly rum raisins and spice cake. Finish: Short, salty and spicy. It’s rare to find such a complexity in a 1,5YO (jeez, I am also doing it) spirit. Well done, I must say! (84/100)
Clairin Ansyen Sajous 2016 19 mois #CARSA10 (53,1%): Not as ‘open’ and intense as the CARSA5 (Caroni Sajous cask 5) but it’s at least as dirty. Relatively speaking, it is less floral and heavier on the engine and car workshop aromas. Then a mix of pears, brine, spice cake and delicate fruits. It’s more complex than CARSA5 but it takes some time to discover all the nuances. At the palate I can find the spice cake, rum raisins, lots of herbs, engine aromas and also the bacon-wrapped dates from the sister cask, paired with sweet onion/ prune chutney and salted crackers. The finish is exceedingly drier but not very long. Most notably, I get engine-like notes and some spices. The rum is more Caroni and less Sajous than the CARSA5. I like both of them but as a Caroni lover I’ll have to go with this one I think. (84/100)
Clairin Ansyen Casimir 2016 19 mois #CARCA8 (49,6%): What do we have here… At first, not a whole lot except the entire palette of herbs, most notably dill and thyme. While the unaged version is immediately there, this one takes some time to open up but it is also completly different. After a while I further get a mix of nuts and earthy elements. Fortunately, there’s much more going on at the palate but the herbs are still dominating everything else. The texture is quite creamy with olives and chickpeas making an appearance. Finish: Long and herbal with different kinds of antipasti. I am not sure what to make out of this one yet so let’s check the other cask before making a judgement. (82/100)
Clairin Ansyen Casimir 2016 19 mois #CARCA7 (49,5%): Much more reserved than the CARCA8. Still plenty of thyme, dry basil, lovage and what not. Deeper in the glass I can further find more earthy and vegetal notes. All in all both Casimirs are way less complex than the Sajous, which was the other way around for me with the unaged ones. Moreover, CARCA7 is less intense and also less inviting than CARCA8 if you ask me. At the palate I get slightly sour notes such as green apples or sweety (the grapefruit like citrus-fruit). Then a fresher version of the herbs from the nose and again not too many Caroni notes. Instead some exotic spices but nothing really worth mentioning. The finish is medium long with herbs and spices as well as green apples. Good stuff but almost incomparable to the unaged Casimirs. (82/100)
The aged Clairins are nothing quite like their unaged counterparts and should be seen as an addition to the range rather than as substitues. Many of the rough spots and characteristic notes have been smoothed out to tickle out more herbal notes. This resulted in more balanced and harmonious products but here and there I am also missing some of the notes that I loved so much about the unaged ones. While the positive aspects probably dominate, there was and always will be something special and even mythical about the unaged ones which these rums just cannot deliver. They are all good rums and I don’t even want to pick an individual cask as the winner as they all have their strengths and weaknesses. I think I do have a personal favorite but I guess that everyone will have his very own. That said, I like the influence the Caroni barrels had on the Sajous, even though I am really missing the typical raspberries of the raw distillates. With the Casimirs it is a different story as it is a completely different rum now and I am not sure whether I prefer the aged versions to the unaged ones. We aren’t getting many of the Caroni notes with these two bottlings but a herbal profile which we haven’t had before either. I’d say that you should give the rums a try but tasting one of each distillery and cask type is probably enough. The differences between the barrels just aren’t that big after the short time the rums have spent in them.