When we’ve had the first couple of aged Clairins, we’ve made a few observations. Firstly, the majority of the Caroni casks didn’t come through as we thought they would. We only found nuances of the “typical” Caroni notes in a few of the Clairins. Secondly, we didn’t think that these rums really benefitted from cask maturation all that much. I almost always prefered the raw distillate over the aged expressions. Thirdly, my preferences have been reversed more or less. With the unaged ones, my favorite is clearly Sajous, with the aged ones it seem to be the Casimirs that have a small edge on the other Clairins. Last but not least, we felt that the ageing period was not wisely chosen, at least to our subjective taste. It kinda felt as if these rums have been ageing either too little or too much and the couple of older bottlings we’ve had strengthened this believe.
Today, we shall have a look at a few more aged Clairins from different barrels types. I just love that you know exactly where the barrel is coming from. An absolute plus in the transparency category if you ask me!
Clairin Communal Ansyen (49,3%): The first aged version of the “Blend des Quatre Communes”. It should be about two years old and come from several different cask types, if I am not mistaken. Nose: Oily and briney, with salty and herbal olives, tapenade, red fruits, some floral notes à la violets or elderflower, green tea and even hints of Caroni (pretty sure they have used ex-Caroni casks as well here). Crazy stuff my friends! Palate: Very herbal and dry and actually also really bitter, especially when judged against its age. The green tea has been in there for a bit too long. Then again the brine with its assorted notes, moss, pumpernickel, clearly licorice and molasses. Finish: Relatively long and bitter with wood, stale tea and bitter nuts. I am having my issues with many of the lightly aged Clairins as I feel that about two years is either too much or too little ageing, but here I must say that it is hitting exactly the sweet spot. There’s just so much going on and when comparing this to the unaged Communal we have to realise that we are playing in a totally different stadium, if not and entirely different league. Well done! (86/100)
Vaval 2017 22 mois #VV16MG-1 (50,2%): A former Mount Gay cask, that’s new territory for us! Nose: Salty and briney, but, and I am not sure if that is my mind playing tricks on me or not, also almonds, marzipan and pastry – way more so than we do get it from most Mount Gays actually. Later some more herbal notes but only deep in the back. It is a very straightforward and simple nose but it is relatively nice nevertheless. My main complaint would be that it is a bit too subtle for my liking. Palate: Nope, I was right, this is the barrel. Vaval with its slightly sour and acidic element is still very present, but this vague layer of the Mount Gay notes described in the nose is a really cool twist. Bitter oranges, lemon peel, Kalmata olives and Peychaud bitters (the herbs, you know) are further associations. Finish: These notes also make it to the finish, but here a vinegar-based cleaner and wood take over very quickly. I’ve never been too much into Vaval, not because it is bad, but because I’ve preferred Sajous and Casimir, but this is cool. Maybe we’ll have to taste more, even though this acidic note is still slightly disturbing if you ask me. (81/100)
We weren’t the biggest fans of the unaged Le Rochers either, but I think that these aged expressions are different. It is probably the Clairin that benefits from barrel aging the most. It has been a while though…
Le Rocher 2017 21 mois #LR17JD-2 (47,7%): So this has to be your standard Bourbon cask, which is always good to have as a benchmark. Nose: Very fruity with those Mezcal-esque notes in the background. I am not sure how this works as neither Le Rocher tends to be fruity, nor do ex-Bourbon barrels seem to add those notes, but they are there. I get sweet strawberries and raspberries perhaps, as well as this slightly medical smoke that reminds us of iodine (Laphroaig even!?) and a high quality agave spirit. Then banana chips, salt (yeah, yeah), wood and something in this odd space between herbs and green tea. Not too bad at all! Palate: Oh dear, not what I was hoping for. This is much closer to the raw distillate. We do get a glimpse of the fruits from the nose, but within a second the smoke takes over altogether. If you are into that, great, you’ll love this, but sadly we are not. I actually think I prefer the unaged version to this one at this point. For the sake of completeness, other notes include olives, brine, tapenade (not the good one) and artichoke. Finish: Relatively long with those smokey notes, some wood and the more vegetal notes. It’s not my cup of tea. (75/100)
Le Rocher 2017 21 mois #LR17BL (47,7%): An ex-Blanton’s cask selected by Dominik Scheu from Germany’s most beautiful city. Nose: Once again, we have this added fruitiness which is completely beyond me but once more, I do endorse it! I get peach, apricot, nectarine and other related stone fruits, almost none of that smokiness that disturbed me with the Jack Daniels cask, vanilla, somewhat strongly perfumed floral notes, grenadine syrup (still not sure if the cheap or the high quality one) and later that whiff of herbs that we get so often with any of these Clairins. Very good, I must say! Palate: Again more smoke than before but here it is not overpowering. It is strong, yes, but it is only one of the notes that shape this profile. Next to that we can find the stone fruits once again, paired with those syrupy notes from the nose. Another rather simplistic expression, but this one surely works for me! Finish: Smoke, wood, eucalyptus, cloves and fir cones whirl things up. This is clearly the side of Le Rocher that I prefer and while it will probably never become my favorite Clairin, this particular barrel was really good! (83/100)