This is the second series of 1996s after this pair of 17YOs, which were solid, but not quite up there with some of the other amazing Caronis from that year. Like the 17YOs, these two beauties come from the “Trinidad stock” as well, which, for reasons unknown to me, seems to have produced the slightly inferior Rums compared to the Guyana stocks but nevertheless, these two are really, really good, as we are about to see.
Velier Caroni 1996 20YO (57,18%): Nose: Quintessential Caroni. I don’t think any other Caroni vintage carries the Caroni vibe as well as this one – it just combines all of the amazing facets and nuances that we are looking for. Of course I get the full doze of the “typical” Caroni notes such as tar, lamp oil, rubber and scrap metal (not too much of the latter) but also fruits (ripe papaya, mango, even banana), caramel, a creamy mix of red berries, not too much wood and deep in the background even some glue. I love it! Palate: Very “dirty” with tar, lamp and engine oil, fresh and burnt rubber and heavily charred oak. My, oh my, this really is my kind of Caroni. Then caramel, more wood but definitely not too much, something between pepper and nutmeg but barely any of the lovely fruits we’ve had in the nose. This really wants to make you sniff again, which is just great! With the third and fourth sip we now get some of the fruits but, more crucially, also some herbal notes. Age-wise, I think this is the sweet spot of ageing for Caroni and there are only a few older Caronis that can match this quality if you ask me. Finish: Long with rubber, wood, some tar but now all of sudden also the mix of ripe mango and papaya again. Probably the most underrated Caroni out there. (93/100)
Velier Caroni 1996 20YO (70,1%): HTR at 70%, don’t tell me that doesn’t sound great. Nose: 70%, really!? It feels more like 55%! It starts with papaya and the bananas we’ve found in the reduced version but here we also get burnt rubber, fresh tar, oak, a whiff of honey, vanilla perhaps, caramel, smokey tobacco leafs and all of a sudden an intense sweetness that reminds us of freshly squeezed sugar cane. Really, really nice, even though I feel that it doesn’t open up fully (nope, I am not going to try to add water here…). Palate: The alcohol is present, for sure, but probably less so than you’d imagine. Nevertheless, this is a really strong and freaky one that needs to be tamed, either by water or by “experience” (the words of a true drinker, no!? Let’s stick to aficionado, perhaps). It is surprisingly sweet with sugar, sweet red berries, but of course also the characteristic Caroni notes we love so much. Then more fruits such as papaya or banana, burnt sugar and caramel, quite some wood and a few spices from the cask that we cannot really identify more accurately. Finish: Incredibly long and essentially a repetition of the palate where the different notes come and go. At first I thought that this one is merely average since I felt that it has so much more to offer than what we can effectively taste at 70% but it is just great, especially if you give it the time it needs. It is this extremely rare combination of strength and maturity that makes it so special. (93/100)