Advent Calendar 2018 Blind Tasting Part I

Just like last year I am currently participating in an advent calendar blind tasting. Once again, we have to guess the country of origin (not distillery but hey, we will try to do it nevertheless), the rum’s age, the abv and if it has been sweetened or not. Let’s hope for not too many of the latter. I’ll also assign grades from 1 (worst) to 10 (best) and will add post reveal comments from time to time. We’ve also got a few additional pieces of information. One brand can be found twice (with a different rum of course), there are two blends, the average age is 11,42 years, the average abv is 54,31% (yes!) and there’s only one rum with 40%. Last but not least, it is the 1st of December already so let’s start!

grasbrookGrasbrook (Germany, 42%): The nose is quite a bit vinous with green grapes, some Blanc de Noir, lime and some fruit schnaps. Then white chocolate with lime flavour and spices such as cloves or nutmeg perhaps. This should be a (small) column still rum and seems quite familiar but I am not exactly sure yet. I guess it has been diluted considerably which reduced the intensity of the aromas so let’s hope we can trust our palate. Yep, exactly what I thought. The rum didn’t really tolerate the dilution (so pot still after all?) and it is very fragile if you know what I mean. It really feels like it gets smashed on the tongue. Flavourwise, we are in the same territory as in the nose, namely green grapes, lime, Blanc de Noir, sweet white chocolate and spices. The finish is short and minimally bitter with some oak and more of the vinous notes. It’s not bad at all but we have to deduct a few points in the B-grade. It has some Bajan notes a la WIRD to it but ultimately I have to settle with a 17 year old Cuban from Sancti Spiritus at 46%. 5/10
I didn’t really expect a German rum here even though it has this fruit schnaps character. Interestingly, many other tasters thought this is a Jamaican. Anyway, it is a 2YO rum (we’ve tasted barrel 4) made from Guatemalan molasses. It was closer to a 4,5 in my book but we can only give full integer grades.

004_Demarara15 (2)Cave Guildive Port Mourant 2005 10YO (Guyana, 55%): The first thing I notice are the consistently even streaks. Wow. My first impression is a very herbal profile but it quickly shifts to a very dominant mix of spices. I get cumin, anise, cinnamon, viscid Pink Lady apples and old potatoes. The taste is again a mix of herbs and spices (anise, pepper), quite some wet wood and even more of the apples now. Add some dry old cheese and slightly maritime notes and there you go. The rum isn’t really complex but it is a lot of fun to sip. Only the alcohol could be integrated a bit better for my liking since it is way too thin for how strong it is. Initially I thought this might be an older one judged by the viscosity but it clearly isn’t. The finish is short and doesn’t leave a lasting impression at all. What a pity. Again, I am relatively sure what this is but cannot really decide on a vintage nor an age. Then again, we should never feel to be too safe when believing we know what we have in front of us as the “first little door” has shown. My guess is a 13YO Port Mourant at 56%. 6/10
We’ve already had this one and while I can clearly recognise my tasting notes again, I don’t think I would ever have nailed this exact bottling. In the review I said that the alcohol is integrated very well, today that wasn’t the case at all. Either my perception really was different or it is just the mood of the day.

boutiqueenmoreThat Boutique-y Rum Company Enmore Distillery (Versailles) 1990 27YO (Guyana, 51,2%): Once again, this smells familiar. The nose is dominated by wild herbs (spicy thyme, estragon, strong peppermint) but we can find other notes such as hazelnut, sulphate, nutmeg or leather as well. Behind that there’s even a whiff of powdered sugar. It reminds me a bit of Versailles but I cannot really find the characteristic pencil sharpenings here. There’s definitely a wooden element so… who knows. Anyways, the nose is really good. The palate is completely different. It’s still very heavy on the herbs but the mouthfeel and texture of the rum speak a different language. Again, it is quite fragile and I am not sure anymore if this is a Guyanese rum, even though the distillate is driven by the wood quite a bit. There just aren’t other distilleries out there that can produce this flavour profile. Other notes I get are coriander, cactus pear, glass noodles and soapy flavours. And before I forget, it is quite sharp and spicy but a bit too thin once more. Finish: Relatively long. Unfortunately the soapy notes are all over the place. It’s quite a weirdo. The nose was really great but the palate cannot keep up at all. Blend actually is an option this time but given that my first associations have been Guyana I’ll just stick with it. 5/10
Oh my, a 1990 Versailles. The rum doesn’t even taste half as old and the dilution has killed it for sure. I admit that the label designs are rather cool but this stuff is horribly overpriced.

m53043_2 (2)Neisson XO (Martinique, 48,5%): Mhh, our first agricole :). My first associations are a lot of wood and spices from the cask with notes of marzipan and almond milk, supposedly from the distillate to support it. This must be rather old juice but these tropically aged agricoles don’t really have to be all that old to reach this level of maturity. It’s always a fine line between being spot on and too woody but we will have to take a sip to find out more. Anyways, it’s clearly the best one so far. Palate: Yup, it works just fine and we can still easily find the general character of the distillate. Before I can pick out any individual notes though I get to meet the rhum’s bitter and adstringent side. Then there are walnuts, dry and bitter lettuce sweet chestnut, lots of wood and some hints of the spices from the cask. Add pastry and vanilla perhaps. The finish is nothing spectacular and mostly driven by wood and the sweet chestnuts. It kinda makes you want to take another sip though. I like it quite a bit. Let’s hope we found ourselves a bargain here. Martinique is clear to me and the rhum should be quite old with just above 50%. 8/10
I’ve already reviewed it and it remains excellent. A real bargain as you can rarely find it these days.

fsprinFoursquare Principia (Barbados, 62%): And here we should have the first “Spaniard”. These Spanish-style, column still rums just are so typical. And it is not exactly what I’d call bad. The nose is full with creamy vanilla, caramel, palm sugar, tobacco and leather. The abv is higher than we are used to with these rums and the nose doesn’t seem as if the rum has been sweetened. The palate demonstrates a similar picture and doesn’t really have a characteristic note. Eventually I believe I might recognise some pine/ resin as well as briny notes in the background which makes me wonder if this really is a true “Spaniard”. The finish is nice and medium long with tobacco, wood and again, some of the resin I guess. The viscosity screams old distillate but the taste seems to indicate a rather young one, which would support my suspicion. I have a slightly alcoholic note which is a bit disturbing but it would go hand in hand with my estimated age of about 9-10 years. I think I should settle with Belize. 4/10
I should have known. Not only did I have this exact rum before but if we have a mix of two traditional rum styles it is usually this distillery. I guess the column share is rather large here, which is a real pity. I’ve failed to detect the Sherry cask and I guess that they have either been sucked out entirely or they contributed more towards this classical Spanish-style profile.

erdapwcfEl Ron del Artesano Ardmore Finish 7YO (Panama, 57,8%): The nose has a pronounced smokey element and I immediately have to think of an Islay-Whisky finish. I get a mix of Lapsang Souchong and strong Earl Grey tea, maritime notes of salt and seaweed as well as salty popcorn. There’s no way that all of this can come from the rum alone and indeed, this definitely is a finished one. This is absolutely clear with the first sip. I usually don’t have much love for these rums and while there have been a few good exceptions, the combination just doesn’t work too well for me in general. This one is rather well done though as the finish is not too dominant. There are some nice elements such as citrus or fennel seeds and I don’t mind finishing the sample but I would never see myself drinking an entire bottle of this. It just becomes too annoying too quickly. Let’s just move on from this. 3/10
El Ron del Artesano is an entire series of finished Panamanian rums and we have already reviewed another one.

Here’s an overview of the other parts: