Ah, 1989. My year of birth. Yes, I am that old, or young, depending on where you are coming from. For some people, having vintage bottlings from their year of birth is very important. For me, it is not, for two reasons. a) We prefer quality over romanticism. which leads to: b) The high quality vintage rums from 1989 are few and far between. At least mom and dad got a few cool bottles of wine, some of which were already undrinkable when we’ve opened them. Anyway, we have both, Light and Heavy Trinidad Rums from 1989 (LTR and HTR, resepectively) and, together with the dismal Isla del Ron Caroni 1989 27YO, these three bottlings are all releases from that vintage that I am aware of.
Bristol Caroni 1989 19YO (43%): Light? Blended? I am not sure but does it really matter? Let’s just let the rum speak for itself! Nose: Given that it is Caroni, it indeed feels kinda light but we also get plenty of the typical notes that we associate so much with this distillery. There’s tar and engine oil (the heavy style), lots of mineral notes (typical for the light style), caramel, coconut, some scents from the gas station, something between banana and plantain, and now also vanilla yoghurt. Quite nice! What is more, I really didn’t expect this one to be this powerful at just 43% but Bristol know how to reduce spirits, which makes me think that they do it slowly and in the barrel. Palate: Now the dilution is noticeable but even at only 43% it is not as much of a problem as I feared. These low ester styles are clearly better suited to be diluted than the heavy, high ester expressions. Nevertheless, it is incredibly flavourful with tar, engine oil, coconut, banana and the minerals again. Alas, pretty much the same as the nose, albeit way thinner. Finish: It is here that the dilution becomes a problem. Wood, vanilla, caramel and some spices stay with us for quite some time, but they are really faint nevertheless. A really cool rum and one of the very few examples where Caroni can work at < 50%. (84/100)
Velier Caroni “LTR” 1989 17YO (64,2%): A full proof LTR and probably one of the coolest labels I know. I just fear that the price of this might be completely unreasonable. Nose: Quite alcoholic at first but then with lots of vanilla, wood and gasoline. Hints of sugar cane and raw pineapple perhaps but that’s about it. A very disappointing and flat nose if you ask me. Palate: I don’t think it will get much better but let’s see. The alcohol is very well integrated, which is a big plus. Then lots of fruits such as pineapple or mango, wood but also a kinda sharp note close to acetone/ varnish in the background. Finish: Medium long with vanilla, wood and grapefruit. There are a few things which I really like about this rum (the fruity notes of the palate) but frankly, that’s just not enough. Especially the poor nose leaves plenty to be desired. If there ever has been a collector’s item, this is probably it. It is definitely not a bad rum, but there is absolutely nothing magical about it either. (76/100)
Velier Caroni “HTR” 1989 16YO (62%): At 62%, this HTR is actually full proof. Not sure why the’ve diluted it, but I guess (really only guess!) that the dilution was probably not very high. But with Caroni you’ll never know. Nose: Incredibly boozy and initially I can only detect a few fruits which I cannot match more closely. I think this might need a lot of time and indeed, after about an hour it has finally opened up. I get cocoa/ chocolate, plums, some mineral notes, wood and wood varnish, more cocoa and hot chocolate, a few spices here and there as well as gooseberries perhaps. That’s all fine, but is this really a HTR? It is so different from the rums from the 1990s, say. Palate: Super smooth and dry with some cocoa and more floral notes, a hint of tar and now clearly also engine/ lamp oil. However, it is incredibly thin and light, which is really puzzling. What is going on here? It is definitely a Caroni unlike any other, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it is very good. The best aspect is still the texture but flavourwise it just doesn’t have much to offer. Finish: Not too long with vanilla, wood, a hint of tar and some cocoa – nothing to write home about. All in all, it is another cool Caroni experience, but mostly only one for the history books. (79/100)