What do you do if you have a bad cask? Right, give it a fancy finish! But hey, some people claim that there are also great rums that might get even better with these fancy finishes. I am not so sure, but what I know is that some styles and base-rums, if you want, are much more suited for these kind of experiments. From this session I am expecting examples from all over the spectrum. Let’s see.
A Dream of Scotland Rumbastic 12YO (Belize Travellers, Lagavulin, 60,6%): If A Dream of Scotland doesn’t sound familiar, don’t worry. They have released a couple of rums under the name Rumdealer’s Selection in the past and now commence under this name. It makes sense that they have an Islay finish to attract the Whisky crowd – after all they have made quite a name for themselves with their Whisky bottlings. Nose: The finish isn’t subtle at all and the cask dominates almost everything. These classical Spaniards typically are solid candidates for these types of finishes but the nose is too much driven by the peat for my liking. I get a mix of ash and smoked sausage, peanuts and peanut puffs, slightly citruss-y notes but rather few of the Travellers profile as I know it (resin, pine & pine cone, caramel – you know). How does all of this work in the mouth? Palate: The peaty and smoky notes are omnipresent and dominate everything. Behind that applesauce (familiar), citrus, fresh tobacco, ash, salted coconut and, with plenty of imagination, perhaps now also resin. Finish: Quite long with smoke (in the form of ash), roasted peanuts and the salted coconut. We’re starting to turn the corner. There might be an audience for rums like these and I guess that it is mostly Whisky drinkers but my question in cases like these is: Why not go for Whisky right away!? After all, this is more Islay than Belize I must say. It might make for a very nice Vienna in Ashes by the way. I will definitely try that one out. Maybe there will be another cocktail post again!? (72/100)
Compagnie des Indes “Boulet de Canon 2” (Blend, Coal Ila, 46%): This is a blend of rums from Trinidad, Guyana and Barbados that has received a finish in a former Coal Ila cask. The smoke is very noticable and comes closest to a mix of cold ash and mettwurst. Judged by the nose, this would be a Whisky in almost every blind-tasting. After a while the smoky notes make room for vanilla, greek yoghurt, honey and even some fruity aromas. It’s getting nicer by the minute. At the palate, it is now clearly a rum but the finish cannot be denied. The blend is smooth and mellow and the finish is integrated quite well. While it doesn’t feel natural, it also isn’t simply “put on top” of the rum. The mouthfeel is quite creamy with the yoghurt again, accompanied mostly by bonfire-like notes. Finish: medium long with some spices, smoky notes and banana. It’s not the most complex rum but a tasty one if you are into these kind of products. Definitely one of the better rums from Compagnie des Indes’ Boulet de Canon series. (81/100)
Pirates of the Danubian 2015 (Blend, Lagavulin, 48,6%): Pirates of the Danubian is/ was a series of rums released anually by Slowdrink, whom we’ve already encountered with the absolutely magnificent Crois Chill Daltain II and the recent Sailing Seagull (Bowmore cuvée), but also the Pirates of the Danubian 2016, which was really polarizing. Nose: Lovely! Sweet notes of ripe berries, caramel, vanilla and pastry are paired with smoky and more salty, maritime notes, most notably alga. It’s an amazing nose which suggests a great rum. Palate: The rum is still sweet but the smoky notes now clearly dominate the sweet flavours, which was the other way around in the nose. The salty and maritime notes are even more subtle. The smoke can best be described as warm ash or bonfire (probably my favorite kind of smoke) and is a very nice addition to the other flavours, e.g. caramel, vanilla, sweet, red berries, salted biscuits/ crackers, popcorn, and honey-mustard flavoured pretzels. Finish: Medium long with sweet, fortified wine, red berries, alga and some oak. It works really, really well. A lot better than the 2016 and easily the best of the Pirates. The 2017 is just horrible if you ask me. (86/100)
The Rum Cask Panama 2004 13YO (Don José, Lagavulin, 58,5%): Bottling both, rum and whisky sure helps in acquiring suitable casks for these experiments. The Rum Cask already bottled another Panamanian with an Islay finish which was rather good. The rum has only been inside the cask for about two weeks by the way but the result is more extreme than you might expect! Nose: Bacon, ham and mettwurst en masse! Is this Comapgnie des Indes’ Tuyé finish? Well, almost. It’s quite the meaty rum (d’uh). Behind the smoke and different sausages we can eventually find sweeter notes of ripe berries, citrus fruits and pomegranate. All of this changes at the palate as the smoke is now more akin to charcoal and bonfire. This is a really funny transformation and I am happy that it performed this way. Then again the sweeter elements of the distillate, which aren’t really different from what I’ve found in the nose. An interesting symbiosis that feels like it falls a bit short of what it could have been. Finish: Relatively long and smoky with a decent amount of wood and sweetness from the distillate. Add a certain leatheryness. I didn’t like the nose but the palate works surprisingly well. All things considered, the rum is a bit too extreme for my liking and doesn’t come close to The Rum Cask’s first finished Panama, which was decidedly more interesting and less aggressive. (76/100)
and a pair from 1992…
A.D. Rattray Pampero 1992 18YO (Venezuela, ?, 48,5%): I’ve heard things such as “best Venezuelean rum” and “best rum with an Islay finish” about this one. Can it hold up to our expectations!? Nose: Even though I am thinking ‘Whisky’ here at first I must say that this seems to be one of the more harmonious finishes. It is just that we cannot find much Pampero in the nose; but is that really a bad thing!? Instead sweet ashtray, bonfire, honey, galia melon and, I am saying it, Bowmore. This is all just too typical but the odds are I am having it wrong anyway. Palate: Again, the smoke is very obtrusive at first and it again so with the third moment but in between we are getting a glimpse of the rum. What is more, I’d be going away from my Bowmore impression towards Islay’s southern coast, I don’t think I have to give names here, even if you are a true rum-bro. Anyway, what I wanted to say is that between all the different smoke-notes we are getting more of the galia melon, caramel and tobacco here and there, even though these are constantly overshadowed by the finish. Nevertheless, I like what I am having and while the opposite is true in general, I’d prefer this to most smoky Whiskies I know. Finish: Long and lasting with plenty of smoke (bonfire, ashtray), wood and tobacco. This is a really good one, mostly because it seems to be a rum that can deal very well with the finish. Now clearly there has to be more “rum” to permit a better score but nevertheless, this is a good demonstration on how the symbiosis can work. (83/100)
Berry Bros & Rudd Port Mourant 1992 15YO (Guyana, Laphroaig, 46%): This is another rather mythical botttling that’s a very rare sight these days. Nose: The first thing I get here is… Port Mourant! The anise and wet wood combination paired with fruity notes such as banana or apple is just too obvious and familiar. But then there’s this rather subtle smokyness next to it, which is almost a bit medical and suits the rum really well. Port Mourant itself is often times slightly smoky of you ask me, totally different from peated Islay smoke, but here it seems to be a good match. After a while more ash and charcoal, but also more exotic spices and notes close to salted mango or salted coconut. Really interesting! Palate: The smoke is now more dominant and definitely the first thing I notice but then I also get anise, mango, fennel, cumin or passion fruit – the rum. It doesn’t take long until the smoke takes over again, this time leaving a “darker”, much colder impression of ash and charcoal. The latter now stays with us indefinitely, only to let us get a glimpse of some of the fruity notes of the rum here and there. The finish is incredibly long and more balanced, even though it is still clearly marked by the peat. Mango and medical herbs as well as cold ash are my main associations. I think it is a very good rum and an excellent demonstration of how this combination should work. By the way, it feels much, much older than just 15 years, blindly I probably would have put it in the early to mid 20s. The only minor downside here is, as usual, the dilution. (88/100)
and there’s another recent bottling that just hit my desk. Honestly, I was just waiting for that particular one to arrive to do the review.
The Rum Cask Worthy Park 2007 11YO (Jamaica, Laphroaig, 57,9%): This one even spent two years (!) in a former Laphroaig cask. If you compare that to the two weeks of the The Rum Cask Panama… well, I don’t think I have to finish that sentence. Anyway, our buddies from The Rum Cask probably have their reasons so let’s see what we’ve got. Nose: That’s really two years!? Wow. The balance is spot on! There’s the Worthy Park profile as you know it (banana, banana chips, herbs, milk chocolate and hints of kerosene) and then there are the smoky notes integerated into this as if it has never been different. They aren’t clearly recognisable as Laphroaig though as they are lacking this certain medical element that’s so typical for this style. The nose makes a lot of sense, even though I am not quite sure if I’ll like it. Palate: Speak of subtle, elegant integration! Worthy Park is made for finishes and this one is no different. I am guessing that a longer period in a much more used cask is way more effective than these intense, short period finishes. The banana and bonfire combination is just so harmonious and the strength and smotheness of the rum is spot on. Now also a bunch of wild berries and mixed forest fruit jam, stone fruits and slightly herbal nuances. Milk chocolate and even marzipan would be further impressions. Finish: Mostly shaped by the latter notes, a smoky nuance and quite some wood. The rum is extremely mature and, while not necessarily the best rum of the day, easily the best example of a successful Islay finish we’ve ever had. But then again, we’re probably talking double maturation rather than finish here. (87/100)