Port Mourant is interesting since the style can roughly be grouped into three eras. There’s this 1960s/ ’70s/ and parts of ’80s style which has a profile which is about as dark as the Rums themselves. Then there’s the 1990s profile, which share similarities with some Rums of the 1980s where the anise and salty wood notes dominate. Finally, the 2000s (i.e. the Diamond Distillery era) has a somewhat different profile which often times includes notes of fruit schnaps. Now 1997 obviously falls into the second category and is, right behind the gorgeous 1998 vintage, probably the best of its “subclass”.
Banks Port Mourant “MPMM” 1997 16YO (59,58%): Since 2000, this has been maturing in a former Malt Whisky cask. Unfortunately we don’t know which type of Malt Whisky exactly. Nose: At least it isn’t Islay (I think). The Rum is still mostly shaped by the distillery character, which is great, but when comparing this head to head with some of the other Rums of the batch, differences become obvious. I get oysters and other maritime notes, wet wood, cardboard perhaps, brine, olives, lots and lots of lemon as well as quite a few smokey notes, which may or may not come from the cask. At least they are not disturbing at all and feel like they should belong here. Then other citrus notes such as grapefruit perhaps. Not too shabby at all. Palate: Very smooth with plenty of citrus once again. No matter what the cask has added, this is just a magnificent distillate, there’s no doubt. Together with the 1998 batch, clearly the best Port Mourant from the 1990s. Then wood, the oysters from the nose, hints of quality mustard, fennel seeds, avocado, a mix of continental fruits, umami notes (think tomato juice or soy sauce) as well as a few more herbal flavours here and there. The only downside is that the alcohol could be integrated a tad better. Finish: Long with mustard/ mustard seeds, woods and seaweed. Especially the mustard stays around forever. Was this an Islay cask after all? I am not sure. It was definitely a “coastal” Whisky I’d say, but there isn’t really any peat involved. A really good one, in my book. (87/100)
Banks Port Mourant “MPMC” 1997 15YO (56,46%): We didn’t say it but “MPMM” stands for Main Port Mourant Malt of course, while the C denotes Cognac in this case. Like the previous Rum, this one also only spent two years in an ex-Bourbon cask before it was moved French Oak. Nose: A lot sweeter than the Malt Whisky cask but also quite a bit more refrained and closed. It starts with a mix of honey and vanilla, before we get other notes such as brine, salty popcorn, a mix of nuts, anise, pepper and clearly also caraway. A really interesting twist! These types of ageing are still too rare with Rum, I must say. Palate: Quite mellow but in a sense also sharp with the spices we’ve also had in the nose. There’s this certain pepperyness, which I know from neither, Port Mourant, nor Cognac. The wood was definitely very active. Then anise, wood that has spent a long time at sea, scallops, olives, brine, a whiff of tar and an astringency which is a pleasant surprise here. Quite cool, but not “exceptional” in my book. Finish: Long with salty and woody notes, as well as the spices we’ve encountered before. Here and there the olives pop through. An interesting experiment, that worked out rather well if you ask me, but the base distillate is just great, of course. (88/100)
The Rum Cask Uitvlugt (Port Mourant) 1997 20YO (56,5%): Nose: Full of olives and brine with more salty notes such as canned fish or perhaps even seaweed. Pretty good! While it is of course totally different and absolutely unlike certain Islay Whiskies, it kinda resembles their styles. Besides the maritime/ coastal impressions, I also get slightly smoky, almost medical notes that would confirm that pattern. Then a mix of herbs and slightly sweet notes akin to grapefruit or ripe rhubarb. It is a Rum that you can, but also need to, spend a lot of time with. Palate: Extremely delicate with olives, lots of citrus and dried citrus peel, salty wood (Ayay, captain!), hints of beeswax, mineral notes and probably also chalk. Finish: Long and just lovely. It really combines what we’ve just had in a very elegant way. Magnificent! This is close to Port Mourant perfection, even though it is a very atypical one in many regards. (91/100)
Kintra Uivlugt (Port Mourant) 1997 21YO (49,1%): Has this one been diluted? I know that Kintra has a knack for diluting just a little bit while maintaining the impression that it might be barrel proof. Nose: Relatively similar in profile to the The Rum Cask but definitely less intense. Olives, brine, seaweed, citrus, anise and pepper can all be found, which makes it you “standard” profile for this batch. Standard, but great! Just like the former Rum, it also has this switch to more vegetal notes, which might be even stronger here. Palate: It kinda does feel diluted, which is a pity. But that’s only the first impression, since you already feel the wee benefit of the water within a few milliseconds: We get notes of honey, vanilla and sugar, which we maybe wouldn’t have got otherwise. Then salty pastry, more honey and beeswax, sweet lemon/ white grapefruits, jasmine and wood. I am also getting a few floral notes here and there, which I didn’t really expect after the previous Rums. Finish: The small downside here. It is not as long as I think it should be. While it is really nice with its notes of lemon pie, vanilla vla, caramel and wood, it just vanishes way too quickly for my liking. A really good one nevertheless, that just suffers a bit from the low abv (dilution!?) and the short finish. Besides that, it is excellent. (88/100)
El Dorado Port Mourant “PM” 1997 20YO (57,9%): The first of two tropically aged Rums. Nose: And it does have this glue-like note, which we only also find in the subsequent Velier bottling. Then a mix of tropical fruits (pineapple and mango, mostly), different sorts of wood, sugar and sugar syrup, and a few spices here and there in the background. This might sounds very standard and I must admit that the nose isn’t very complex, but it is outstanding nevertheless. Just something that you want to keep on sniffing. Palate: It is a this mix of slightly sharp and ultra intense that just catches me. The fruitiness is almost unseen in Port Mourant and I believe that it is something that you can only find in the non-woody, tropically aged expressions but oh boy, it is just great! Mango lassi, sharp acetone, wood, licorice, something between red grapes and blueberries, a whiff of brine and also a hint of olives (think Martini) as well as lavender are some of my other impressions but unlike the nose, there’s indeed a lot to discover here. The only small downside here is that it is lacking a bit of body, but that’s what you often get with these super intense ones. Finish: Long and rich with sugary candies, lemon, wood and finally some more maritime notes. Not the most amazing but definitely a bottling that has this certain “magical” touch to it. (91/100)
Velier Port Mourant “UPM” 1997 15YO (65,7%): “UPM” should stand for Uitvlugt Port Mourant of course. Nose: Holy moly, glue again. I love this! Then papaya, anise, apricot, quite some wood, something between ripe bananas and plantains, sugar and deeper in the glass also some of that characteristic wet and salty wood plank. The intensity is unmatched and I have a feeling that this one might be special. Palate: Oh dear. No sign of 65% at all, the Rum is ultra smooth and creamy and delivers its flavours with ease. Quite to my surprise though, the profile is shaped by those banana-like notes from the nose and really reminds me of a few Jamaicans I know. Then papaya, wood, pepper, hints of tobacco, and more spices from the cask. Somewhat like the El Dorado, it is not the most complex Rum of the session, but if you deliver what you have to say just like this, I don’t care. Short and on point speeches often times just do the trick, no!? Finish: Lots of wood and cask aromas, as well as the bananas. Not bad at all! It is everything the El Dorado wants to be, and then a some more. A great Rum. (93/100)
Duncan Taylor Uitvlugt 1997 17YO (52,8%): This rum has been declared as “Column Still” but it definitely is not (Similarly, there’s a 1997 Uitvlugt by Duncan Taylor that has been labled as “Pot Still” but that’s clearly a column still distillate. Nose: Very interesting and typical Demerara, I am inclined to say. I can find the characteristic salt and anise. Crucially, the rum is a bit thinner than the pot still counterparts and can indeed be characterised as a column still distillate. But if you know column still Guyana, you’ll know that they might be heavier and more flavourful than some other distillery’s pot still rums. I now also find nuts (mostly almonds), herbs (oregano), lavender and some exotic spices. The palate follows in the same tradition and again contains elements that we can clearly associate with Port Mourant. Amazing! Relative to the palate, we lose the nuts and lavender and have to add wet wood, nutmeg and pepper. The rum is quite full and heavy and the drinking strength is well chosen. Finish: Very dry, woody and full of spices. Definitely a Rum from the Port Mourant still, there is no doubt. While it is a very good one, it kinda loses out in direct comparison today though. (85/100)
High Spirits Port Mourant 1997 21YO (49,9%): The bottle says Full Proof so maybe the Kintra hasn’t been diluted after all!? Oh, and High Spirits bottled some of the finest Port Mourants ever so apparently they now what they are doing when it comes to the double wooden pot still. Nose: Rather nice indeed, with wood, a mix of nuts, some brine, pear, anise and that typical saltwater breeze. It probably comes closest to the Kintra if you want, but given the same age and similar abv, that is not a huge surprise. Palate: But here come the differences. The Rum is quite woody, with pear, the nuts from the nose, anise, citrus, salty licorice, olives and brine and later, just before the finish kicks in, also a few herbs. It is rather complex but the wood has already taken over considerably. Another year or two and the barrel might have killed the Rum. Finish: Relatively long with wood, nuts, pear and citrus. Despite its length, it might be the weak spot here. Another really good Port Mourant from this batch, but I have to admit that I was expecting a bit more, even. (89/100)
That was a very insightful session. We’ve had a pair of Port Mourants that distinguished themselves due to their respective casks as well as two pairs of continentally aged Rums, which were quite different again from the subsequent pair of tropically aged Port Mourants. There’s clearly no better or worse here. All three camps should essentially be seen as being different from one another, with every Rum having its raison d’être.