The most exotic rum I’ve reviewed so far was probably the Inverroche 7YO from South Africa. As I have had it in a blind-tasting, I had absolutely no clue where to put that one. Similarily, I’ve also tasted quite a few rums from Japan and especially Germany, which I’d put in this very same category. Rums from, say, Mauritius wouldn’t fall in it however. Today I shall review a few rums from countries that you typically would not associate with the production of rum, or those that aren’t really famous for it. These are the “exotics” if you will.
Nusa Cana Tropical Island Rum (Indonesia, 37,5%): Now I’ve read conflicting sources on where this has been distilled but it is either Java or Bali. My understanding is that it is distilled on Java, Indonesia’s main island, “designed to reflect the buzzing spirit of Bali”. Since the local molasses is fermented with the addition of red rice this should probably be labled Arrak rather then rum but the differences are quite minor in fact. Distillation takes place in Chinese pot stills. Nose: Flowers and meadows. Then esters, some charcoal and cauliflower. It is quite nice and I believe I can even find the red rice! Palate: Surprisingly sweet. Sugar cane, lime, white chocolate, red rice and again the cauliflower. Even at 37,5% I like this a lot. The dilution must not have been very large I guess. At the right price and availability this would make for an awesome mixer. Finish: Not too short, still sweet, floral and even a wee bit vegetal. The rum is mainly intended for mixing but it even works quite well as sipper. Nevertheless, I’ve decided to mix a Daiquiri with the rest of my sample and the result was quite remarkable! (77/100)
Paranubes (Mexico, 54%): Here I have to think of Clairin right away and the rhum comes close to a mix of Vaval and Sajous. That is, I can find some of the sweet elements of Sajous as well as slightly smoky, salty nuances of the Vaval in the nose. It is not incredibly rich or complex but I do like the smell of this. Flavourwise, we shift more towards the Vaval and the Sajous would become a La Rocher now. It is quite smoky and in that sense reminds me of (oh well, it is too obvious) Mezcal! The structure is quite meaty and full, salted avocado perhaps. Other associations would be alga, seaweed and agava, which is pretty much the same for the relatively long finish. It is good, well-made rum and as always, I hope that they’ve already put some of this into barrels for further ageing. If you want to learn more about the distillery, their Instragram account is quite cool. (81/100)
Rum Nation SBRR Engenho Novo 2009 8YO (Madeira/ Portugal, 52%): This rum has been distilled on Madeira, Portugal and aged in an ex-Madeira cask. I guess that it spend all of its time in one instead of simply receiving a finish. Interestingly, the label states “tropical ageing” and I don’t really know what to make out of that. Since Madeira does not lie in the tropics, the barrel must have been moved but my guess is that this is simply a mistake. Either way, it is quite deceptive. Quelle surprise, the nose is full of all the typical Madeira notes: Dried fruits and raisins paired with dark leather, cedarwood and sweet, sweet candies. I already have an idea what’s going on here but let’s taste it first. We get a mix of the fortified wine and a solid rum, basically. It’s a like a cocktail but it doesn’t taste artificial at any time. Wet casks is my guess here and I really don’t mind it. Usually you can hear me bitch about it but for some strange reason I am enjoying this. The dark, winery character of the cask just works so well together with the distillate. I believe that this is what a certain Bajan distillery is aiming for with their rums but the marriage between fortified wine maturation and rum has seldom been this good. Sure, the adulteration is pretty high here (really, it must have been very wet casks) but it doesn’t feel unnatural. Also, there isn’t a whole lot of support from the rum as the distillate is lacking body and depth but hey, this is just an 8YO rum. If they can continue like this, we have found ourselves another very promising distillery. I’d love to taste more! (80/100)
S.B.S Enghaven 2014 4YO (Denmark, 50,6%): Enghaven is a rather new Danish distillery who produce all kinds of spirits. As far as I can tell, they try to replicate the general Jamaican profile when it comes to rum, or rom how our Danish friends call it. This has been distilled in a column and the 50,6% are the full cask strength. Nose: Yes, we do get the esters but they come in the form of foul papaya and mangos, accompanied with slightly smoke notes. It reminds me a lot of the Pirates of the Danubian 2016 and blindly I would surely have mistaken this rum for it based on the nose. Hints of spices round it off and while there isn’t much more to the rum, I’d say it might work. Palate: Here we can notice the rum’s young age, it is relatively sharp and tastes a bit perfumed in a way. We can find the spices and quite some wood but the fruits are now closer to ripe pear. It now has a clear Mauritian side to it. It’s not bad but after the nose I was expecting a lot more. Finish: Short with the pears and some wood. I have to repeat myself: The nose was very promising but the rest couldn’t deliver, unfortunately. But who knows what we might be getting in the future!? (75/100)
Strathearn Charity Rum (Scotland, 48,5%): Strathearn call themselves “Probably Scotland’s Smallest Distillery”. This at least 9 months old rum (gosh!) is a very limited charity edition with only a few bottles. For every bottle sold, Strathearn donates at least £5 to the Scottish Charity Air Ambulance. I have to admit that I am not expecting much from this but at least the colour, given that it is natural, indicates quite some influence from the cask. The nose is a bit weird as the rum smells a bit like a combination of rum and whisky. There’s plenty of grain, hay, alcohol and foul apples, apple strudel perhaps. Meh. At the palate we encounter a very young distillate without a lot of flavour. Mostly I can call out grain, hay and the foul apples again. The finish is short and very forgettable. The closest comparison to this might be some very young whiskies or young (and bad) indy bottlings from Guadeloupe. Usually I would bitch about selling a rum like this but given that it is a charity bottling and that the distillery cannot possibly earn a lot from it we shall just not do it this time. (63/100)
Velier Nine Leaves Encrypted 2014 3YO (Japan, 64,8%): For some of you Japan’s Nine Leaves distillery does not count to the exotics anymore and we’ve also had a few of their rums already but given my experience with them I’d say their learning curve is still rather steep. This is a single cask (#3) which would normally go into Nine Leave’s Encrypted bottling. Nose: Chocolate, nougat, cereal, grain, corn syrup and some glue. The rum is a bit alcoholic but given its age and abv that’s not a big surprise. Later also citrus and more grains. It’s very Whisky-ish. Palate: The first sip is quite sharp and gently burns the tongue. The texture is slightly fragile but weirdly heavy at the same time. I get a mix of different grains, chocolate, nougat, different citrus notes, hazelnut and corn syrup. While the nose was rather maltish, the palate is much closer to some odd Bourbon. Finish: Rather short with black tea, grains and lots of chocolate. It’s not bad but not exactly my cup of tea either. I like this a lot more than the standard Encrypted blend though and I see that some people might really like this. We should definitely keep an eye on the distillery. (76/100)