Actually I wanted to write an article about the Cologne Spirits 2019 but there we’ve done a great cross-tasting including many old J.Bally vintages which I don’t want to withhold from you. I am not a fan of the Bally standard-range but their recent full proof bottlings (1998, 1999 and 2000) are among the best agricoles I’ve ever had. I am kinda expecting something in between here.
Once again, this cross-tasting has been done semi blindly, meaning that we did know the rhums of the session but not which rhum could be found in which glass. Unfortunately, it is incredibly tough to get to know the ages of these vintages but they should be mostly in the six to twelve year range. For the sake of tradition, let’s go backwards in time. Needless to say, the order of the tasting was different of course. Also, please excuse the brevity of the notes but the tasting didn’t really allow for more elaborate ones.
J.Bally 2003 (43%): This rhum almost didn’t make the cut since the session was supposed to cover some of the older J.Bally vintages but here it is. To tell you in advance, we were more than happy to have it around. Nose: Excellent! Glue, apples, apple tree and just the right influence from the cask. Palate: Just as great. Incredibly intense, super fruity with apple tree and glue. We’ve had this one before the tasting to “acclimate” to the style and thought it was nice but that was it. Sometimes it does require a tasting just like this to reveal greatness. (91/100)
J.Bally 1993 (45%): With this one I get plenty of vanilla, pepper and some nutmeg. It’s a lot dirtier than the other rhums, which makes me wonder if this might be an older vintage. All in all it’s a solid nose even though it isn’t an exciting one. Palate: Much, much better! Super intense and spicy with a lot of power. I get pepper, apples and fruit trees with a solid influence from the cask. The finish is quite long, again with apples and fruit tree. The first highlight we’ve had in the order of our tasting. (87/100)
J.Bally 1986 (45%): This one stands out in some way as it is rather herbal with a pronounced minty note and fennel seeds. It’s really different. The nose is grassy, fruity with a continental fruit basket while the palate is again quite nice but totally different from the other rhums. It doesn’t really seem to fit in here which might make it the 2003 in my thought process. I get the fruit basket, a subtle oaky- and spiciness. Not bad. (84/100)
J.Bally 1982 (43%): Nose: Very mild and well-balanced but nothing really stands out here. Some glue and vanilla, the rest follows the “typical” Bally profile. Palate: Rather dry, spicy and woody with a very long and smooth finish. This has to be the highlight here and while the finishes of the previous rhums were solid, it really shines here. It’s a harmonious mix of oak and fruity notes with an emphasis on the apple. (85/100)
J.Bally 1982 (45%): This has got to be the most grassy rhum of the session and I believe it should be the youngest. Of course that doesn’t allow us to draw any conclusion about the vintage here though. The nose is typical but decidedly more alcoholic than with the rhums we’ve had so far. The palate is rather thin and flat with some wood here and there, pepper, cauliflower and a certain spiciness. The first disappointment. The finish was rather a let-down as well. (78/100)
J.Bally 1979 (45%): Nose: Quite intense with very fruity notes (apples) and a genuine influence from the cask. Palate: The texture is rather thin and the rhum seems to be only briefly present. Somewhat watery so it’s probably one of the 43% versions. Then plenty of apples and some oak. The finish is also quite short and not very memorable. Not bad but quite interchangeable. (80/100)
J.Bally 1972 (45%): Now here we have some glue, wood, broadleaf and fruit trees as well as plenty of Calvados. J.Bally always carries this apple-note but here it is particularly pronounced and a bit different. Tastewise, the rhum is very mild quite intense at the same time. Again I get the broadleaf and Calvados combination as well as strong vegetal associations (cauliflower, chicory). With this one I am really on the fence. There are many aspects about this which are great (broadleaf, Calvados) but also some which are not as much to my liking (vegetal notes). (82/100)
J.Bally 1960 (45%): A bit of an oddball if you want. The rhum is extremely woody with a massive wall of cupboards, some leather and basically no grassy notes. This makes a for a very reluctant nose but the palate is a huge step up from this. It’s still very woody and dry but we are now also getting tannins, branches and ripe, floury apples. Needless to say, the finish is incredibly long, bitter and woody. For my liking it is a bit too old and mature and a few years less would probably have helped but this is not bad at all. (84/100)
J.Bally 1953 (45%): This was the very first rhum of the session. The nose is rather intense, fresh and fruity with notes of foliage and walnuts. Then more earthy, grassy scents as well as leather and oak. The grassy character continues at the palate and we can find the grassy and earthy notes, but also the walnuts again. The finish is medium long. Quite nice but nothing special. (82/100)
J.Bally 1950 (45%): The nose is very woody and the scents remind me of a dying, old apple tree. One that’s about to be cut down for good. Then lots of spices such as pepper or nutmeg. The texture is rather creamy and balanced but the profile isn’t really exciting, unfortunately. Here we get some vanilla and otherwise only a very tuned down version of the ‘standard’ profile. (83/100)
What a surprise the 2003 was. Surely none of us expected this and the tasting demonstrated once again that older doesn’t mean better, often quite the opposite in fact. Knowledge and production techniques have improved and we are getting better rhums than ever. At least on average this seems to be true. By the way, if you wonder where all the remaining bottles of the 2003 have gone, I know a few people ;p
And a big thanks goes out to the person with the biggest sample library I know without whom this tasting would have been impossible!