Velier releases a rum from a distillery which we usually don’t get from independent bottlers or at full proof: By now it shouldn’t come as a surprise that I just had to try it! Today’s rum is the Velier Antigua Distillery 2012 6YO.
The story of sugar in Antigua goes back to 1674, when Sir Christopher Codrington, a planter with holdings in Barbados and St. Kitts and the governor of the Leeward Islands, founded the Betty’s Hope plantation with two cane crushing windmills. In order to prove that the island was suitable for the cultivation of the booming crop, he introduced new cultivation methods which he also passed on to other planters. Turning away from tobacco cultivation, Antigua soon became a sugar island with about half of the arable land being devoted to sugar by the middle of the 18th century. And as we know all too well, where there was sugar, there (eventually) was rum.
However, the only remaining distillery today is Antigua Distillery Ltd (ADL), which came to life when a group of seven local rum shop owners plus a friend got together in 1929 to buy molasses and control the production of their rums. Three years later, they managed to raise £2,500 and found ADL. Another year later, the distillery has been build on Rat Island in St. John’s harbour, with a 4-column copper Savalle Still (my guess is that it was probably very similar to that from Uitvlugt Distillery) at its heart. Buying molasses from the governmental as well as an independent sugar factory, each of the rum shop owners blended and bottled the rum under his own label to sell in his shop. The only such rum that has survived to this day is Bolanda, which is still sold at Bushy’s Rum Shop in Bolans. In 1947, a joint rum has been released, which is still available today – the Cavalier Antigua Rum. In 1991, their Savalle still has been replaced by a new, 3-column copper John Dore still. With the John Dore still in place, ADL expanded their portfolio with the English Harbour Rum three years later. This widely available OB has for a long time been the only rum from ADL I knew, until I had English Harbour Extra Old, a 21YO rum, in a blind tasting. I liked it quite a bit but felt that it was really lacking some power, which is to a lesser extent also true for the standard bottling. So how about this full proof rum bottled by Velier? Let’s see!
Dégustation “Velier Antigua Distillery 2012 6YO”
Key Facts: This column still rum is a blend of 27 barrels distilled by Antigua Distillery Ltd in 2012. In 2018, it has been bottled by Velier at 66%, which should be full proof.
Colour and viscosity: Deep copper/ deep gold. Medium sized streaks that flow back down at different speeds. A few thick drops stick to the rim.
Nose: Yes, this smells like the full proof version I have been looking for and for whatever reason it is more intense than I expected; it might be the “unusually high level of congeners” or the extra abv, I don’t know. What I definitely did not expect is the glue I can smell, which is paired with a subtle sweetness of caramel or muscovado sugar. Then vanilla-intense crème brûlée, raw, almost citrussy pears and lemon sorbet. The mix of sweet and sour (no, not like sweet-sour sauce) elements is certainly interesting. At least in the nose, the support from the cask is very modest but that’s no problem as long as the rum has a decent texture and body.
Palate: After the first sip I am a bit puzzled. It feels very familiar, but there are plenty of unknown elements in here. All in all, it’s like a Bajan with some esters, something I’ve never had in this form. The flavours are more blunt, edgeless than they were in the nose. On the fruit side, there are lots of bananas with pears and citrus to support them. Every now and then vanilla pudding pops up, with glue and some spices (cinnamon? cloves? Hard to tell…) luring in the background. The rum is a bit thin and even though the alcohol is relatively well-integrated for such a young distillate, I am wondering whether a few drops of water might help here.
Finish: Medium long (basically just about right!) with vanilla, subtle wood and spices. A very nice ‘bridge’ towards the next sip.
Adding water: I just realise that I haven’t done this in quite some time… The nose is already a bit thicker with a stronger emphasis on the citrus notes. I cannot find any additional notes at the palate but I believe it might be a bit heavier now (ironc, eh!?). Maybe it’s just in my mind though.
The Velier Antigua Distillery 2012 6YO is a nice and quite interesting rum with some flaws to it. It’s flavour profile is relatively unique yet not extremely distinct. The thin body is not necessarily a bad thing as sometimes I am really into these lighter rums as well but nevertheless it doesn’t feel complete if you know what I mean. Some others have complained about it being too alcoholic but I cannot really see that given its abv and age. At its asking price you cannot really go wrong if you are into Bajan rums and also the occasional Long Pond, I’d say. I am definitely looking forward to a follow-up release in a couple of years ;).
My thanks goes to Johannes for the sample and Niki for the title picture.