After months, perhaps even years, of searching I’ve finally found a rum collector in Panama City who not only has the entire, incredibly rare, range of Señor Popo, but who was also willing to send over some samples. If you are a frequent reader of this blog, I won’t have to tell you how rare and special these rums are but if you are unfamiliar with Señor Popo, let me just tell you that there are close to no market prices for these rums since they are barely ever traded. I will write more about the story and histroy behind these rums in the individual reviews.
Señor Popo Gold (40%): The classical Señor Popo rum, one of the very first rums that have been produced in a large multi-column. A real piece of history. Sure, today we are constantly joking about labeling rum as “Gold” but a hundred years ago that was common practice. Crucially, this is said to be the rum that has been drunk by a certain Captain Morgan, which would make it the real Captain Morgan. And since the rum was barely drinkable by todays standards, it has been massively dosed, of course. Nose: This is not the multi-column rum we are used to these days. It is much lighter in style, but also rawer, dirtier and thinner. It is incredible that it is possible that rums like these have been produced back then. Dear traditionalists, rums have been super light, disgusting and sweet back then. Please stop talking about pure single rums, ok!? This just isn’t the spirit’s spirit. It never has been! Palate: A very exotic variety of simple syrup that I’d be inclined to say is not that simple after all. Then the characteristic anchovy and aspargus note but I must say that this it comes across much, much better in some later releases. Finish: Incredibly long. The mouthfeel is so sticky that I can barely open my mouth. This is the type of rum that you can still feel in the next morning. Because of the caries and the hangover, that is! While the rum is not really my cup of tea to be honest, it really is the what rum tasted like back then. Every serious connoisseur just needs to try this at least once! (56/100)
Señor Popo XXO (43%): The extra X in XXO stands for extra, making this one extra extra old. It is said that part of this rum has already been aboard William Kidd’s ship. After all these years, there’s probably not much more than the fraction of a teaspoon (that angle’s share my friends!) in it but nevertheless, that makes it the only XXO rum that has ever been released! Nose: Lots and lots of wood as well as lots and lots of rum. This one just has this rum aroma, you know!? Rum comes in so many different varities but if you sniff this, you will just know what rum is. And it is good! Palate: A real chameleon. There’s rum, rum raisins, rum cake, rum flavoured chocolate, rum flavoured coffee, wood, old rum, gold rum, hints of cedar wood, marzipan, rhum agricole and Rumbullion – it just has it all. It makes little sense to describe the profile in greater detail, you just have to taste this! Finish: Even longer than that of the Gold and so much better. Very rummy. The rum has even more rum than Rummikub. It’s amazing that the only undosed rum of the session is by far the best one… (98/100)
Señor Popo Sistema Solera 69 (40%): A true Sistema Solera rum, this has been produced from the most virgin of all sugar cane honey, way up in the highest hills of the flattest lowlands in Sugarlandia. It’s more virign than the Holy Virgin Mary! Like Astra’s Rotlicht, this one comes with a tad more “love”. Unfortunately I didn’t manage to score a sample of the even rarer “Etiquetta Afro-American” by the way. Nose: Sherry on mass, as you’d expect from a true Sistema Solera! We can only guess how much 69YO juice went in there, but at these bottle prices it must have been a lot! Then sweet sugar, both virgin sugar cane honey and refined sugar as well as the anchovy and aspargus combination. Later also estragon. Palate: Different forms of sugar. It gives you a real sense of terroir. This is unlike any other form of sugar I have ever tasted and comes with many different, incredibly complex layers. Then caramel, syrup and glucose. Interestingly, there is not a lot of wood in this one at all, despite the high age. I am starting to believe that the age statement might have been misleading!? Finish: Sweet aspargus and dried anchovies. Also hints of the Sherry from the nose. I have a tough time scoring this rum but for the record: (69/100)
Señor Popo Mascara (57,18%): The legend of this rum goes that pirates used to mix their Mascara with some old Señor Popo back in the days. This resulted in a more potent cosmetic that served several purposes: scaring their victims, reducing rings under the eyes and having the lovely smell of Señor Popo around all day long. Of course that was only reserved for the captains of the pirate ships. Nose: Already from afar I can smell lovely mascara and the scents that only come from Sevillian orange wine, a wine that is so rare that it basically doesn’t even exist. Hence, it is also pretty obvious why this one is so limited. Then glue, vanilla, glycerin and vanillin. Palate: An exact copy of the nose, just a tad sweeter and a wee bit more interchangable. The glycerin is way more dominant now and saves the rum from being terrible. In fact, it even makes it drinkable! Who would have thought. Vanillin, sugar and rum aroma also do the trick. Finish: Finally some of the typical aspargus and anchovies. I was afraid that the dosaged masked these lovely flavours but luckily we still get a glimpse of them. An interesting rum, that might have been really terrible without all these additives! A real rarity in the ultra premium segment of rums. (72/100)
Señor Popo No, please Ultra “Black Bloc Edition” (late 1890s, 38,5%): A newer bottling, this one is said to revamp the old Señor Popo style. Bottled especially for die-hard football supporters (the “Ultras”), it has aged in five different, incredibly wet fortified wine barrels. I think it is safe to say that this one marked the way for other football related rums. A quick hydrometer test gave us a sugar content of 98,7 g/l. Under the new EU legislation it thus won’t be able to call itself rum anymore, but then again, this is an older bottling from the late 1890s. This old version of the rum has been limited to just seven bottles, which was estimated to satisfy the demand for the next 120 years. What is more, it was the first ever rum in a black bottle. Nose: Riise would be jealous! This sweetness and artificiality is simply unmatched! Tobacco, leather, dry notes, all the fruits in the world, sweet notes, a pronounced bitterness but also very mild nuances. Wow! Palate: What is this? The nose was amazing, the palate is a real slap in the face. It’s like promises have been broken. I guess the Ultras are not amused. Finish: Just like the palate, just even flatter. But there’s something else, something that reminds me of goat fodder. Very strange. At first it had Champion’s League quality, after the first sip it was more like Bezirksliga. I hate football. (19/48)
Once again, I believe the message is clear. Don’t believe in misleading age statements, fancy marketing or additives. Know what you drink, drink what you like.