Today we’re having something special for you! For the first time on this blog, you will not only get my impression, but also that of another rum blogger I respect a lot. I am talking about our Belgian friend from Liège (so almost German basically), Roger Caroni! The idea goes back to when he was bragging about the 43% version of todays rum, how great it is and what not. Being quite the fan of the 46% version myself, we quickly decided to swap samples and, being the bloggers we are, doing a cooperation. As you might know, our styles and approaches are quite different but that might make this way of discussing todays rums quite fun. What should add even more fun is me translating his French tasting notes… My French is on the level of a bad high school student so I hope that both, you and Roger will excuse the occasional odd translation. But maybe his notes are just weird, who knows…
Yeah right… today we have two Bristol Caronis at drinking strength with a Sherry finish of unknown vintage. The label states 10 years old but given that the rums have been released in 2015 and that Caroni shut down for good in 2003 (with the last known IB batch coming from 2000), they have to be a lot older than that. And indeed, the back labels tell us that the rums aged for a minimum (!) of ten years in Trinidad and were in fact already older than that, before Bristol shipped them to, well, Bristol, where they have been put in former Sherry casks. They should both be blends of HTR (Heavy Trinidad Rum) and LTR (Light Trinidad Rum), which Bristol knowns from the barrels. Ok. So the auctions were held in 2008 and Bristol shipped the rum immediately, which means that it should have spent a good six to seven years in the Sherry casks in Europe. However, we should not simply deduct 10+ years from 2008 to arrive at the vintage. I’d say we probably should go back to at least 2003, 2002, or even earlier than that – at least to the point when they stopped producing rum! This means that the rum should be from ~1991-1993, making it roughly 15-17 years of tropical ageing plus another six to seven years in Europe. Doing the math, we arrive somewhere between a total of 21 and 24 years; and all of that disguised in a bottle stating 10YO. Take that, Zacapa and co!
In the following, I shall give you my impressions first, followed by what Mr Caroni (well, it is actually not his real name, you know!?) had to say.
À propos, notre ami Roger va publier les mêmes notes en français aussi. Tu peux le trouver ici.
Nose: A bit discrete and very strong on the Sherry notes. Dark stone fruits and berries are my first associations and pretty much dominate the general character of the rum. Then citrus, wood and slightly sweeter elements. After a while also more mineral, soil-like elements and candle wax, i.e. aromas I’d usually rather associate with TDL/ Angostura.
Roger: Ahh, sherry! Lots of nutmeg, vanilla, blood oranges, burnt caramel, cherry pit, rusk, brown bread, rubber, pepper, raisins, leather, hot wax and smoke. A Caroni that has merged with the Sherry quite well… “too much sherry kills Caroni”. Nevertheless, it’s pleasant, very warm and sweet. The 43% are very discrete. Blindly, I still hesitate to call this Caroni because a lot of things are going on here. It’s more like a Brandy aged in a Caroni cask actually (but I like Brandy).
Palate: Very creamy and sippable but a bit alcoholic towards the end. Given the dilution, I wouldn’t have expected either of that. It’s a very nice Sherry rum but somehow I get the feeling that this could have been almost any rum and not necessarily Caroni. Nevertheless, it has a few interesting flavours such as ripe plums or old papayas, which eventually shift towards a more vegetal profile. Here and there we can also find some of the citrus notes again.
Roger: Very sweet, smoky, caramelised, vanilla, vinous, rancid, actually just at the limit to a liqueuer. The red fruits make an appearance and I find more of the Caroni side with an oily aspect and the distillery characteristic asphalt.
Finish: Not extremely long but nice, round & fruity.
Roger: Bitter orange peel finishes this tasting of a medium long but very pleasant Caroni.
Verdict: It’s a fine, easy sipping rum. A perfect companion for a BBQ if you want but consequently, I wouldn’t be willing to spend a lot on it. Moreover, don’t make the mistake and expect a high ester, heavy Caroni here!
Roger: A very nice Caroni but far away from Trinidad. I am going to say it again, Bristol creates beautiful things, even diluted.
Nose: While the 43% version was not directly recognisable as a Caroni, this one surely is. Tar and inner tube are very present and the Sherry plays an enhancing role here rather than shaping the rum entirely. It adds sweet, fruity elements and makes this a rather unusual, yet very nice smelling Caroni. Funnily, the nose is a bit thinner than that of the 43% yet way fuller and more intense.
Roger: Vanilla, leather, tar, oil, oranges, amber (Hypericum), grapes, hazelnut, walnut, sherry and camphor. Less marked than the 43%; is there a second passage? Or do the additional 3% help letting Caroni develop? I would say that this version is more Caroni, elegant and delicate than the 43%, which is heavier and more vinous.
Palate: Very intense and flavourful despite the low abv. Sherry-dipped rubber, dark, candied fruits and old leather are some of the more straightforward impressions. Then caramel pudding, brown sugar as well as a nice mix of dirtier and sweeter notes.
Roger: Lots of dried fruits and vanilla. The tar, the oil, as in the nose, is more marked. Beautiful brown sugar and caramel add a lot of flavour to this version. The fruits are also present with more bitter orange and red fruits. The nutmeg is always there without being stifling.
Finish: Medium long with the best of both worlds, i.e. the Caroni distillate and the Sherry barrel.
Verdict: A very nice rum at a pleasant drinking strength. Caroni has never been better at <50%, let alone with a Sherry finish.
Roger: I really like this version, leaving more room for Caroni while having a relatively soft side. If you are looking for a Caroni, the 46% version is perfect to share with your friends who do not know Caroni (darn Roger, this is exactly what I did… stop copying! 😀 -SCR). The Caroni side is there but it is slightly softened by the Sherry. The 43% version is far away from Caroni… But personally I find it really good and I take a lot of pleasure tasting this bottle.
To conclude, Roger has one final question: “Why have a Sherry finish with Caroni? Were the barrels not good enough to hide something? In any case, well done Bristol, this was very good once again!”
I think he has a point here. While finishes are often nice and add further nuances to otherwise well-known, standard products (we’ve had plenty of examples on this blog, just take this Port Mourant or Worthy Park), I feel that they are often overused. Many times they just create very generic products (hello a certain Bajan producer, hello also Berlin-based subscription rum dealer) or are used to mask bad barrels or distillates, or simply immature juices. This has become a problem with Scotch Whisky in particular and given the increased demand for Rum and the shortage of decently mature supply I can see how that might become more and more prominent with our spirit of choice as well.