Cadenhead’s Gardel 1982 20YO

It’s time for another rum from a lost distillery. One of the few I really miss. I’ve tasted a few Gardels over the years and this is not only the very best of them, it is also up there with some of the best rums I’ve ever tasted. Today we have the Cadenhead’s Gardel 1982 20YO.

The Bottling

Being one of the oldest players in the game, Cadenhead’s will always be associated with some of the legendary rums they bottled many years ago thanks to their first mover advantage. While most bottlers these days seem to be happy with just getting anything, back then Cadenhead’s were in the great position to be one of only a handful of players who could select the very best barrels from a seemingly endless stock of high quality rum. Hence it shouldn’t be too surprising that these old Cadenhead’s bottlings rarely ever disappoint.
The Gardel sugar factory and distillery has been founded in Grande-Terre’s Moule in 1870 by the “Générale Sucrière”, the ‘Sugar Baron’. It is one of the world’s largest sugar refineries and the only active one on Guadeloupe. Owning a 934 hectare large sugar cane plantation and working together with more than 2,500 sugar cane farmers on Guadeloupe, Gardel processes all the sugar cane from the main island (yearly: 600,000 tons) with their five modern steam-powered mills to produce different varieties of sugar (60,000 tons), molasses (25,000 tons), biomass/ bagasse (180,000 tons), ethanol and, back then, also r(h)um. For reasons that are absolutely beyond me, their column stills have been scrapped in the 1990s, adding Gardel to the long list of ‘Lost Distilleries’.
Contrary to what is stated on the bottle, this should be a traditional, i.e. molasses rum, rather than an agricole by the way.

Dégustation “Cadenhead’s Gardel Distillery 1982 20YO”

Key facts: This rum has been distilled continuously by Guadeloupe’s Gardel Distillery in 1982. After 20 years, the Scottish company Cadenhead’s bottled it at 57,8% in 2003.

Colour and viscosity: Brown Sherry. Incredibly thick streaks stick to the rim of the glass forever.

Nose: The nose is dominated by lots and lots of deep, heavy aromas. Muscovado sugar meets charcoal, old wood, tar, molasses and cashew nuts. What an amazing nose. It’s a rum exactly to my liking: dark, complex, intense, heavy and simply sublime! In a way this is an experience that we rarely every get. While it is certainly different in terms of aromas, its general character reminds me quite a bit of the equally dark and heavy Skeldon!

Palate: …and it continues in the nose. Dark, almost burnt wood, liquorice and molasses as well as tar, mint and muscovado are my main impressions here. Oh yeah! Words don’t really do this rum justice but you also have to have a fondness for these dark and heavy rums. I know quite a few connoisseurs who have little or no use for them. There are so many nuances to this profile such as bamboo, cashews or salty popcorn but none of them would even come close to describing the general profile and it is tough to compare it to other rums we are getting these days. Other old and slightly dirty Guadeloupeans such as certain Damoiseaus come to my mind but these are also quite different in many other regards.

Finish: Long, dark and heavy (I know, I have said this several times now but it just fits so well…). Musvocado and burnt bamboo are probably the most characteristic notes here.


I know how stupid and futile it is to mourn and hype the rums of ‘lost distilleries’ but oh boy, I just love this one. I wish I had an entire bottle of this but this seems to be a matter of availability rather than willingness to pay. Too many people apparently did the “right thing” and actually drank the rum ;).
Thanks to Rene van Hoven and his “Rum Rarities”, thanks to whom I was able to acquire a sample of this rum.

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