Consider a distillery that is producing mostly below average rums. Sure, like many others, they also have a good rum here and there, but the vast majority of their products is boring, interchangable and typically just not very good. What is more, they even buy rum externally for their own blends. Doesn’t sound good, right!? Grenada’s Westerhall was one of these distilleries. Trinidad’s T.D.L. is another.
Change of scenery. There are these couple of “lost distilleries” that have gained cult status over the years. Enmore surely is one, “Rockley”, while not a distillery, is widely regarded to be another. But the king of all lost distilleries, there’s no doubt, is Caroni.
When Caroni shut down for good and their remaining rum stock was auctioned, Bristol, Velier and T.D.L. were the three main players that acquired the last barrels. In hindsight, it is funny that a first auction failed, as the valuation of the stock was regarded to be too high. While Bristol and Velier went on to bottle or resell these last remaining casks, T.D.L. used all of the rum for their blends. Or so we thought, cause this changes the narrative. Caroni has become legendary, and the prices for their rums skyrocketed. Now imagine one of two scenarios. a) T.D.L. forgot one barrel of Caroni somewhere in the back of their warehouse. Not knowing what to do with a single one, they decide to resell it. b) While consolidating barrels due to evaporations (angel’s share), they blend rum from Caroni with their own produce and eventually sell it because it is a rather unusual cask.
Speculations like these have been going through Whatsapp and Facebook en masse last week, and today we will check out if the new Rum Artesanal bottling really is a Caroni, a T.D.L., or perhaps even a T.D.roni ;). But let’s have an aperitif with a dram of the rather nice 2003 T.D.L. batch first.
Kill Devil T.D.L. 2003 13YO (46%): Rums from this batch were pretty cool at cask strength and I am wondering how a drinking strength might work. Nose: Lots of vanilla and the typical mint. Then eucalyptus, mouthwash, some oak and herbal notes that will clear every snuffy nose. It is neither great, nor amazing, but seems to be a solid rum. Palate: More of the same, really, with a bit less vanilla than before. The mint is still dominant and the a hint of nougat aside, the flavour profile is merely a copy of the nose. With plenty of imagination mango perhaps. Once again, not great, but really solid. Finish: Relatively short due to the dilution, but nevertheless there isn’t anything new to be found here either. The dilution didn’t destroy the texture, but clearly the rum’s intensity. This rum definitely would have worked better at a higher strength, there’s absolutely no doubt. But maybe the target audience disagrees, who knows. After all, it is not often that we are interested in T.D.L.. (80/100)
Rum Artesanal T.D.L. 2001 19YO (56,5%): So what are you, my friend? The rum has been diluted, by the way. Nose: Yes, there’s a certain dirtyness in here, but the omnipresent note is the mint, even more so than with the Kill Devil. Sure, there is some scrap, also rubber and even engine oil, but also a pronounced oakyness that might give us the impression to be in more familiar territory than we actually are. Now I even get some glue and menthol – very nice! Palate: Quite fat and constantly switching back and forth between fresh (the mint) and dirty (the Caroni-esque notes). I don’t think I’ve ever had a rum quite like this and this is indeed a more mature, dirty and nerdy profile of T.D.L. I am pretty sure though that it is not a Caroni. Now more wood, tannins, orange bitters, a certain dryness and again and again mint, mouthwash, and menthol. A two-sided, one-trick-pony if you want. The mouthfeel is pretty cool by the way, despite the dilution. I wonder what this must have been like at cask strength… oh dear. The finish is long and rich with dark chocolate, mint, oak and some tobacco, perhaps also bitter walnuts. It’s definitely a T.D.L., I’d say, albeit one that can indeed serve as a substitute for Caroni; and that is as good as it gets if you think about it: If this were a Caroni in disguise, it would simply be another good Caroni at a great price, but this not being a Caronir means that there is potentially more to come! At the end of the day, it is easily the best T.D.L. to date, hands down, and we should be looking out for more! (88/100)
As our buddies on ebay like to write: #nocaroni. Have a good start to the week!