Besides a few official bottlings and a pair of abysmal Moon Import Caronis from the 1960s, these are the oldest Caronis I know. But old isn’t always better, especially with Caroni, who had their glorious moments in the 1990s if you ask me. Anyway, we have to admit that this is already the second time we are doing this particular cross-tasting. The first time was a few years ago with our dear correspondent Johannes but we didn’t take any notes back then.
Bristol Caroni 1974 34YO (46%): Excessive reductions easily kill many Caronis, yet older rums tend to cope much better with water than younger ones. Let’s try to taste this without any prejudice. Nose: Just amazing! An incredible mix of fruity and dirty and a maturity that is very high but clearly not too high. While there’s a certain bitterness and lots of oak, the tannic scents do not take over. Instead, we get our often-found bouquet from the gas station, fresh scrap metal (d’uh), caramel, burnt crème brûlée, papaya and lamp oil. Oh boy, it is just great! Palate: Once again I have to describe it as fruity and dirty, with quite a lot of oak and now also more tannic notes than the nose suggested. The texture isn’t thin at all and the low abv makes for an easy, yet still incredibly complex sipping. It all starts with mango, papaya, vanilla and caramel, but turns to a mix of engine and olive oil, hints of tar as well as rich oak. It is super nice! Later chestnuts, walnuts, bitter oranges and olives – the good Kalmatas, you know!? Finish: Relatively long with wood, olives, tar and the walnuts. It is one of the all-time greats, there’s no doubt, but at the end of the day we are still missing a few ‘watts’. (92/100)
Velier Caroni 1974 34YO (66,1%): Sugar cane is just a thing of beauty, isn’t it? Nose: While the higher abv relative to the Bristol is clearly noticeable, the Rum doesn’t seem to be sharp at all. However, the profile is incredibly similar to that of the Bristol and I’d say that at least in the nose, the dilution definitely helped the former. The additional intensity doesn’t really offset what we lost in terms of complexity but we are still talking about a great Rum and I feel like the palate is about to tell a different story. Palate: Incredibly creamy but also a bit sharp now in direct comparison. It is less fruity than the Bristol and comes with more dirty notes and wood, relatively speaking. I get a mix of nuts, hints of cocoa, different sorts of wood, some caramel, orange bitters and more meaty notes, not completely unlike pastrami. Finish: Forever. Probably the best part of the rum. Caoutchouc, oak, tar, bitter oranges and engine oil stay with you forever. If there’s something to complain about with this rum it is its lack of complexity but there are rums that do not really require it. It would be a welcome bonus, sure, but it is great as it is – just not the kind of legend some say it is if you ask me. (92/100)