The Employee series by the Italian bottler Velier wants to honour the former workers of the Caroni distillery. I really like the idea and Velier obviously knows just too well how important it is to provide us little pieces like these which make the myth, heck, the legend, live on. The mysteries around the distillery are just part of the experience with Caroni and getting small bits here and there is not only incredibly smart from a business perspective, it’s also extremely nice from a consumer’s point of view.
Where there is praise, I think some minor criticism is also justified. My buddy Roger recently did a very nice interview with Luca in which he told us that the former employees received a bottle with their label and some compensation for the photo shooting. If you consider how much money Velier is making/ still going to make with this series (after all, these are the most expensive Caroni releases so far!) all the recent “end of colonialism” talk is a bit suspect, to say the least.
Anyway, the first two bottlings are a 1996 22YO at 66,5% called John “D” Eversly and a 1998 20YO at 69,5% named after Dennis “X” Gopaul. Both come from five barrels, with an angel’s share of >81% and >78% and produced 1192 and 1151 bottles, respectively. John “D” Eversly worked at Caroni from 1981 until 2003 but we don’t know what his role at the distillery was. Similarly, Dennis “X” Gopaul worked at Caroni from 1988 until 2003. So let’s just taste these beauties, shall we!?
Velier Caroni 1996 22YO “John D Eversly” (66,5%): So what do we have here? The nose is lovely, almost floral and incredibly dirty at the same time. It has the famous bouquet of flowers from the gas station, aromas I associate with a scrapyard, papaya, grapefruit, dark caramel and rubber/ inner tube. Deeper in the glass menthol, raw cocoa, cold brew and more rusting metals. Awesome! If it weren’t for the intensity of the profile, you might mistake this with a 40% rum actually. Palate: Extremely delicate, almost fragile at first. The rum has a lot of facets which are quite hard to grasp immediately. Fruits akin to papaya or mango, dirty aromas such as tar or old tyres, fresh cane juice, the flowers from the nose and some spices can all be found here. Menthol and a fresh, sweet citrussy character prevail throughout a sip while the other notes come and go. The rum is now decidedly fruitier than the nose suggested. It’s quite a great one by the way. Finish: Looong. Slightly bitter oak, spices, engine oil and caramel. Initially also some of the fruity elements but they vanish rather quickly. What shall I say!? This is simply an amazing rum. Even if I haven’t reviewed them in this same session, I’ve compared it to some other 1996s and this was one of if not the very best of them. (94/100)
Velier Caroni 1998 20YO “Dennis X Gopaul” (69,5%): With 1998, the question is always if it is closer to the magnificent December or the subpar January batch. Nose: Vanilla, caramel, citrus, balsamic vinegar, papaya, engine oil, coconut and biscuits. It’s not as complex as the Eversly but oh boy, it smells great! And it definitely belongs in the December camp. Palate: Rich, brown caramel, granulated sugar, lamp oil, vanilla, toffee, biscuit dough, latte macchiato, speculoos and a very pleasant touch of spices and wood from the cask. The finish is long with engine oil, petrol, wood and dark caramel. Great stuff. I’ve compared it with the Cadenhead’s Caroni “HTR” 1998 18YO and the Kill Devil Caroni 1998 18YO and the rums all have the same overall profile but the different nuances to them make a huge difference here. I am afraid we have to place this one a notch above the suberp Cadenhead’s even. It’s definitely the king of 1998. (92/100)