A couple of old Rockleys came out recently and we’ve done a massive session to compare them. We’ve also included all the other, younger Rockleys we could find and decided to split the session for the reviews. Today, we will have the “younger ones” (<20), next time, we shall have a look at the “older ones”. Please let me also refer you to this excellent article by Cedrik for more information on the Rockley style once again.
The Secret Treasures W.I.R.D. 1986 14YO (40%): 40%… oh dear. Nose: Oh dear. Is this aromatic water? Just kidding, but 40% are really just a slap in the face. Well, actually, we aren’t kidding. We get little to nothing. Another slap. Ouch. Let me make sure we’ve poured it already. Ah yeah, vanilla, oak. Honey!? Herbs!? Palate: Ah, there’s more. Still herbal. Ashy. Charcoal. Maybe some idione and very bad BBQ sauce. Haromex, what have you done? This is insult to injury. The barrels cannot have been great either. Now what would have been our judgement if this would have been our very first Rockley style Rum? Poor Bajans indeed! Then salt, dry oak, walnuts, but that’s mostly us describing the finish. I know that this wee text is almost useless, but so is the Rum. Heck, it isn’t terrible, it is still good stuff (in a sense), but no, this has been killed, there’s no doubt. This stuff doesn’t seem to tolerate much water when it isn’t aged sufficiently. On the other hand, this Rum has been bottled well before we’ve made it to legal drinking age, so who are we to judge. (77/100)
Velier Rockley (WIRD) 1986 11YO (46%): A bottling from way before Velier was the hottest player on the market. Nose: A very good, style-character driven, young Rockley. Despite the young age, the Rum feels relatively mature and comes with quite some oak and honey, lots of honey actually, fruits such as dates or figs and later also herbs. The medical notes are surprisingly subtle here but I wouldn’t say that they are really missing. Nice! Palate: A little watery and a bit too thin for my liking. Here the young age cannot handle the dilution adequately, I’d say. Flavourwise, I can find greek yoghurt, honey, vanilla, thyme, a certain fruity note that’s really hard to identify and once again, very little smoke and few medical notes. It is still a fine Rum, but clearly not what the nose promised. Medium long with smoke and honey. Here and there the oak and vanilla notes pop up. Rums don’t always have to be complex, but when they are not, I like them to be extreme, which is not the case here. Still good stuff though! (85/100)
Bristol Rockley 1986 12YO (46%): Another one that has been bottled before the turn of the century. In the very same year a certain other Bajan distillery just started production! Or using simple words: 23 years ago. That’s the number on the label of another infamous “Rum” by the way, but we are digressing… Nose: Young and medical, and more fruity than more recent bottlings. This note somewhere between mango and papaya is definitely new for me here. The honey is present, but you have to look for it semi-actively in order to find it. Then herbs, vanilla, oak and the smoke of a freshly lit grill. Palate: Fuller, more intense and aromatic than the nose. It is actually quite creamy, still easily sippable and frankly, quite good! You’ll notice the young age towards the end of a sip, sure, but the Rum does reward you with those same fruity nuances that we’ve also found in the nose, which is rather cool if you ask me. Other noteworthy impressions include jasmin petals and elderflower. Finish: The more flavourful notes vanish very quickly while smoke, herbs and a somewhat watery note (think elderflower again) stick around for a bit longer. Good, but not great. (84/100)
Carribean Reserve Rockley 1986 16YO (46%): Nose: My inital thought was: Rather Fiji-esque as this is closer to some Rums from the South Pacfic Distillery (SPD) as the Fijians are to the Rockleys, if that makes sense to you. It just has this burnt plastic note that’s oh so typical for these SPDs. Then salty iodine, plasters, charcoal, herbs, less beeswax than we are used to, gauze bandage… the peat aside, this sounds like a Laphroaig, doesn’t it!? Palate: Relatively sharp and given the young age and low abv, not on the same level as some of our beloved legends. You’ll notice that this is an interesting distillate, but the quality just isn’t there. We get those medical notes again, some oak, the herbs, more alcohol than we’d like, some honey, clearly BBQ, but it doesn’t knock us off of our socks. Finish: Long but not very good if you ask me. Just too boozy. Aroma-wise, I’d name honey, charcoal and those medical notes again. I cannot help it but I this Rum reminds me of Port Mourants that didn’t quite reach their ideal maturity yet. A few more years or a better cask and they are amazing. Like this, it is good, at best. (81/100)
Bristol Rockley 1986 16YO “Fino Finish” (46%): Another Bristol bottling, this time with a Fino Sherry Finish. Nose: Oh yeah, it has those typical, nutty (almonds, macadamia) Medium Dry Sherry notes, there’s no denying. Smoke, honey, herbs, vanilla and oak can be found as well, however. After a few more minutes in the glass, the finish actually doesn’t seem to be that strong anymore, even though it is still there. We should add yellow plums, apricot and maybe even leather. Palate: Lots of smoked honey, paired with the yellow plums, unripe banana and apricot. Then the nuts, oak and slightly salty Serrano ham perhaps. The finish is still relatively subtle and nicely integrated into the profile of the Rum, which is exactly what we are looking for. Nicely done, Mr. Barrett! As a sidenote: Blindly, the finish is actually closer to a “regular” wine finish I’d say, very much in the tradition of the old Murray McDavid and Renegade bottlings. I don’t think I would have detected the Sherry as a Sherry, let alone a Fino, in a blind tasting. Finish: A bit more on the sweet side first, even though it is getting more dry and nutty after a few seconds. Later anise, licorice and related notes. It almost asks you to wait patiently to take another sip in a few minutes. Very good! An extremely cool expression, and probably the best Rockley bottling with a Finish we’ve had. (87/100)
Cadenhead’s Blackrock “BRS” 1986 16YO (67,7%): Not the 73,4% monster that we’ve had previously but still a very strong one. Nose: I get a super intense and concentrated bouquet full of beeswax, honey, vanilla and tarragon. Then citrus-y esters, lime, pineapple and oak. What is more, this smells extremely smooth and not overly alcoholic, which makes me very hopeful. Palate: Sharp but not overly so. The Rum is very intense and the alcoholic does a fantastic job at delivering notes of honey, vanilla, cinnamon, banana, wood and perhaps even anise. I think I can even find the tarragon again, as well as the citrus fruits later on. Finish: Strong on the herbs and forest honey. Then oak and a few spices here and there. A crazy good Rockley Rum which shifts the focus a bit. Especially that tarragon kick is very uncommon but very welcome after the massive session we’ve just had (Remember that there’s more to come…). (89/100)
The featured image has been provided by Matt Pietrek.