While we’ve had numerous Rhums of this batch already, I do not recall ever reviewing one. Of course that does have a reason (lack of maturity, low abv) but with a few more recent releases that might be about to change. At least, you should give Rums like these another chance from time to time, quite a bit could have happened. The only problem is: we didn’t find too many samples in our library but my general impression is that we are not having any major omissions.
Compagnie des Indes Barbancourt 2004 11YO (43%): As indicated already in the introduction, low abv (i.e. dilution) and a young age are seldom a good match. Nose: Indeed, what we expected. It is kinda flat with vanilla, pears, ever so slightly grassy notes, hints of spices but all in all, it is extremely interchangeable. Later gooseberries and some wood of a fruit tree perhaps but few of the batch-characteristic herbs. I think that it is not just the basic numbers being tricky here, on top of that we are probably dealing with a very inactive cask. Hmm… Palate: Uhh, at first I thought that this could be anything but after two or three seconds I must say that this is just very bad. It just does it all wrong: At 43%, it is incredibly sharp, flat, full of faulty notes, totally unbalanced and just not tasty at all. This is the kind of Rhum I’d expect from a discounter, but not from a (more or less) respected bottler like Compagnie des Indes, oh my. Finish: Short and continuing where the palate leaves off work. I think you understand what I mean. (47/100)
Silver Seal Barbancourt 2004 15YO (51,2%): Nose: A lot richer, more complex and intense than the Compagnie des Indes but that was to be expected. The wood is actually really present here and next to the pears and grassy notes, we get many more spices than with the previous Rhum but also slightly soapy notes (coriander?) and something close to dill perhaps. Not too bad, but still not spectacular either. Palate: Wood and herbs are the name of the game here and indeed, the cask clearly put its stamp on the Rum. It’s actually quite bitter given that it is “just” a 16YO Rum. After the herbs and the wood, we transition via grassy and the bitter notes to spices from the cask and personally, I am not fond of this particular astringency we are getting here (mind that astringency is not an issue per se for us but it just doesn’t fit in here). Finish: Short to medium long with the aforementioned astringency, wood and many of the herbs from the palate (a wild mix!). A lot better than the Compagnie des Indes, but I am still not a fan. (73/100)
Rum Artesanal Barbancourt 2004 16YO (58,9%): I wonder why there’s such a big difference in abv compared to the Silver Seal but it is unclear if that will help or not. Nose: Oh yeah, this one is so much better! We are still dealing with more or less the same profile, but here it feels more condensed and coherent. Herbs and sweeter elements (ripe pear, sugar) balance out one another really well and deeper in the glass I even get a hint of acetone. With more time, the herbs actually just become even more dominant, which I think is the “idea” of this particular profile. Palate: If you like dill, you will love this! Of course we can find many other herbs in the mix as well, but there’s no way to deny that dill really is the dominant element here. Besides that, we can mention (spicy) oregano, mint and parsley, as well as wood, vanilla and other spices from the cask, something between unripe pear and quince, hints of roasted marshmallows, tonka, cashew and other nutty notes as well as something that even reminds me of noodles. Finish: Long and extremely layered. Many of the familiar notes come and go (herbs, first and foremost), but we get more such as chestnut, macarons or rich oak. A really cool Rhum, that starts out very condensed and compressed, but then opens up and reveals a rather complex flavour profile where I am sure you’ll be able to find new notes halfway through a bottle. (84/100)
Isn’t it crazy how different these Rhums are in terms of quality? The majority of the Rhums from the batch that I know would be somewhere around the Silver Seal, but apparently there are outliers in both directions – which confirms the opening hypothesis: It is definitely worth trying otherwise familiar stuff over and over again, there’s always a chance that your endeavors will be rewarded!