2000 is the last known Caroni vintage and somewhat ironically, also my first encounter with the distillery back then. It was love at first sight if you want and I will probably never forget my very first sip of the Velier Caroni 2000 12YO. This was so unique, lovely and just different from all other rums I knew and still know to this day. Today, we shall continue with the batch, from which we have also had the Eataly SC and the EU and US 17YO releases. The session will be a mix of batch and single cask bottlings. Let’s start with the blends.
Velier Caroni 2000 18YO “Replica” (51,4%): This rum has been bottled to celebrate Caroni’s theoretical 100th birthday (1918-2018). It should be the last batch bottling of the vintage if I am not mistaken. Nose: Quite dirty but also somewhat mellow and oily. It immediately sets me back to the 12YO. I get lots of aromas from the gas-station, engine oil, tar, some wood but less of the fruity notes that were so lovely with the 12YO. At best I can pick out papaya deep in the background. Then wood glue and fresh paint as well as burnt caramel. So far so good. Palate: I must admit that I don’t mind the drinking strength at all. It is very creamy and oily with a mix of fresh and burnt caramel, tar, lamp oil, vanilla, wood, slightly bitter crème brûlée, hints of William’s pear and something close to whipped cream perhaps. This might be a very nice Caroni if you are looking for one that doesn’t require a ton of attention. Finish: Medium long with an amazing mix of the sweeter and dirty notes. It’s crazy just how sweet this Caroni is towards the end. Sugar, caramel, vanilla pudding, tar and wood would be my major associations. This is as good as “every-day” or easy-drinking Caroni gets. I know that many connoisseurs weren’t very impressed by it but I must say that I adore it very much, it fills a much needed niche in the Caroni portfolio. (87/100)
Velier Caroni 2000 15YO “Millenium” (60%): This one has been bottled as a Magnum bottle. Nose: Really dirty and it immediately reminds me of the 12YO as well, albeit as a much more intense version of it. Petrol, tar, scrap metal, muscovado and palm sugar and after a few minutes also quite some wood and even slightly tannic notes as well as plenty of sulphur. Interesting! It doesn’t offer many new notes but it provides an intensity to a Caroni-subprofile that we didn’t have as such before. Palate: Now this is different though. Sure, it kicks off with many familiar notes such as caramel, burnt sugar, wood, lamp oil etc. but then we get this mix of sulphur and menthol, which is quite cool. I am a little bit put off by the tannic notes in the back but that’s not a major issue. Later also even more herbal notes next to the mint/ menthol such as oregano or thyme. Different is always a big plus with these familiar styles! Finish: Medium long and quite nice with the typical Caroni notes, quite some wood and also the herb mix. It’s a somewhat different Caroni and that’s why I like it I guess. Sure, it is not the greatest of all time but at this point that’s not necessarily what we are looking for with Caroni anymore. (87/100)
Velier Caroni 2000 15YO “Ullrich” (70,3%): This one and the subsequent bottling for The Nectar are part of a series of 15YO single casks bottled for a few selected shops. Nose: Somewhat reluctant at first but quintessential Caroni. What I’ve noticed with this vintage is that it is pretty much on the dirty side, without many fruity notes. Instead, the wood is already quite prominent here. Tar, lamp oil, wood, burnt caramel, salted peanuts, old rubber and also some spices that I’d attribute to the cask make this somewhat of a typical Caroni. After about an hour it has opened up entirely and is now really intense and on point. It’s well worth the wait – what a difference sixty minutes can make! Palate: At first, the alcohol is very present but not more so than it actually should. Then the peanuts again, paired with caramel, rubber, tar, lamp oil, wood, papaya and something close to raw ham. It’s quite good, but much closer to the level of the initial nose than to that after about an hour, if you know what I am talking about. Finish: The finish is quite long with the characteristic Caroni aromas, wood and a mix of nuts. There’s nothing new to find here, but the duration means that you can sip on a tiny amount of rum for a long time. So where do we place this one? A bit above the previous contenders, but not quite among the very best ones, I’d say. (90/100)
Velier Caroni 2000 15YO “The Nectar” (70,4%): I know this one rather well and the only question is why I didn’t stock up on it back then… Nose: Holy moly, this one is amazing. It is a bit like the direct opposite of the “Ullrich”: it is right there, in your face and doesn’t take any prisoners. I get caramel, almonds (orgeat), a mix of dried fruits, something close to christmas stollen and then finally plenty of rubber and of course also some tar. What’s cool about this one is that, while it’s immediately “open”, it is still changing a lot after about twenty to thirty minutes and then once again after about an hour. It is now decidedly less brutal, more settled and elegant and reveals more fruity notes such as foul mango, papaya and very delicate pear. Mmhmm. Palate: Just as great as the nose. The pear is still there, quite to my surprise, and the texture is nothing short of spectacular. Crème Brûlée, caramel, sugar cane juice, more or less the right amount of oak, nuts (cashew, almond), menthol, unripe sour cherry, rubber, tar and lamp oil are my main associations. Oh dear, I love this one! Finish: Looong with tar and rubber. Here and there some herbs and wood but the characteristic Caroni notes are the major associations here. Rums like this one make me think that this might be the most underrated of all Caroni batches. (94/100)
Velier Caroni 2000 18YO “Lion’s Whisky” (65,4%): Like with the 15YOs, there were also a couple of 18YOs released for a few selected shops. Nose: Super aromatic and intense. Amazing! Fresh, fruity, dirty, mature… this one does it all! Papaya, engine oil, caramel, fresh and burnt rubber, a mix of nuts, delicate olives, fresh sugar cane juice, milk chocolate (the red ones) and sweet, red currants. Oh my, let’s hope the palate keeps up with this. Palate: Very mild, slightly less sweet and a bit more bitter than the nose suggested. That’s not say that this isn’t excellent, mind you! It all starts with the milk chocolate, caramel, rubber, cashew and dried fruits (raisins, plums) and eventually transitions to more wood, some spices, ever so minimally tannic notes but also this sweet, berry- and syrup-like texture. An amazing Caroni! Finish: Exactly the right duration with a mix of mature (wood, spices), sweet (sugar, caramel) and fruity (berries) notes. Just a Caroni as it should be, it doesn’t leave much to be desired. (93/100)