Tuesday 28 May 2013

Plantation Barbados range

Plantation are a side project by a French Cognac distiller, now Cognac manufacturing is all about the blending, bringing together the elements to create a harmonious whole. Apparently over the years a lot of rum distillers went to this Cognac looking for barrels to give a nice finish to their rums, in return the French took some barrels of rum and created the plantation range.
The rums are decanted and aged in smaller cognac barrels for up to 2 years before blending and bottling.
I'll add a small caveat before my review - as this was a tasting it was only a glass of each (though I've had the 5 yo and 2000 before) and I had just eaten a rather delicious pizza.

3 Stars
  • A blend of white rums from Trinidad, Barbados and Jamaica
  • 41.2% ABV
  • £20 a bottle
  • Aged about 90 days
  • Nose - some banana, sweetness and not a huge amount else
  • Flavour - the banana is subtle but present, layered over a pleasant sweetness and without the harshness you might expect
  • Finish - clean, short
  • Also tried this in a daiquiri and this really comes into its own once mixed, I'm not a white rum drinker but I'd happily have a bottle of this for cocktails

Bardados 5 year old
  • 5 years in ex-bourbon in Barbados then finished in France
  • the youngest rum is 5 years old
  • A mix of pot still and continuous still rums
  • 40% ABV
  • £23 a bottle
  • Nose - lot of toffee sweetness with coconut and vanilla
  • Flavour - Toffee, vanilla, coconut and spiced orange
  • Finish - subtle, smooth with a lingering warmth
You could mix this but you really don't need to, an absolute bargain of a rum

Barbados 2000
  • As the name suggests rums from the year 2000
  • 42% ABV
  • £35 a bottle
  • Pot still rums only
  • Nose - the vanilla and coconut really come through but aren't overpowering, still a very pleasant sweetness
  • Flavour - an initial toffee sweetness with banana and coconut coming through later with another fruit flavour I couldn't quite place
  • Finish - a very smooth and very long finish

20th Anniversary
  • a blend of Barbadian rums with the youngest being 12 years old
  • Beautifully presented
  • 40% ABV
  • £45 a bottle
  • Nose - As before it's the toffee, coconut and vanilla but each expression gets more subtle and refined
  • Flavour - a rich, sweet and very rounded taste with toffee, vanilla, a little bit of chocolate adding to the coconut and orange accents. An almost buttery feel in the mouth
  • Finish - incredibly smooth, this glides down your throat leaving a very satisfying warmth and a little hint of grape

Original Dark Overproof
  • Around 5 years old
  • a blend of Trinidadian rums
  • 73% ABV
  • £33 a bottle
  • Nose - Very intense toffee and smoke
  • Flavour - Toffee, heat and some vanilla
  • Finish - a lot of heat but smoother than it has any right to be

Overall Plantation rums are some of the biggest bargains I think you can find in the rum world, the 20th anniversary is one of the best rums I've tasted and is an absolute steal at that price. Each expression builds on the previous one, refining and improving it.
Any of the dark rums would be a great entry point for a friend who says they don't like rum. As for the overproof it's not my thing but it's nicer than anything that strong has any right to be, there is actual flavour rather than just raw alcohol burn and the white rum does make a very nice daiquiri.

Cadenhead's Classic Green Label

A mysterious little number here from WM Cadenhead's, Scotland's oldest independent bottler and usually more known for their Whisky bottling but they also do a pretty interesting line of rums.
This is their basic green label product and has no age or origin statement beyond "Product of the Caribbean", I've chatted to the guys in the shop and they won't be drawn on what all is in here but I'll add my speculations after the tasting notes.

  • Atmosphere - tasted this while listening to the Red Dead Redemption soundtrack, a wonderfully atmospheric and evocative album.
  • 50% ABV
  • £27 for 70cl
  • No additives other than water to lower the ABV
  • Colour - dark golden
  • Nose - burnt biscuit and caramel with some spice, almost pungent (in a good way)
  • Flavour - an initial hit of sweetness, followed by a pineapple & banana fruitiness with some cinnamon
  • Finish - a lingering warmth with some pepper and a bit of bite on the way down with a dryness
  • Initially I had this neat and while it doesn't strictly need water/ice it does smooth out some of the rougher edges that a higher ABV brings and brings out a bit of vanilla on the nose and the palate.
Now, there is a fair bit of speculation as to where the hell this is from on the web and it's pretty clear it's a blend of different countries but which? To my mind it's:
  • Mainly Jamaica - the fruity notes remind me more of a Jamaican style, a lot of esters giving a powerful nose
  • Some Guyana - the more whisky-esque notes running through this remind me of some of the younger El Dorado range
  • Possibly Trinidad & Tobago - Peppery notes always bring Angostura to my mind, and I know they do produce a lot for other people, so maybe
This is a quite challenging rum overall, the high ABV and mix of flavours certainly keep you guessing and I quite like that but I can see how others might not be a fan. Certainly it's not one that you'd sit and drink all night, more of a glass or two at the end of the night, if you're also a scotch drinker I think you'd enjoy it.
Cadenhead's also do a lot of interesting regional bottlings which I'll review in the near future.

Pusser's Navy Rum - an unapologetic bruiser

A slightly different take on this review because this particular rum is a little bit of history so some context before we get to the booze itself.

What shall we do with the drunken sailor? - serve him a Caipirinha

From 1655 until 1970 the British Royal Navy served sailors a daily ration of rum, prior to that beer was served but that often spoiled on long voyages. Once Britain had colonised the Caribbean rum was served and each sailor was given a pint a day. Funnily enough this resulted in a lot of accidents and drunkenness and Admiral Vernon issued an order stating that:
“unanimous opinion of both Captains and Surgeons that the pernicious custom of the seaman drinking their allowance of rum in drams, and often at once, is attended with many fatal effects to their morals as well as their health … besides the ill consequences of stupifying [sic] their rational qualities … You are hereby required and directed … that the respective daily allowance … be every day mixed with the proportion of a quart of water to a half pint of rum, to be mixed in a scuttled butt kept for that purpose, and to be done upon the deck, and in the presence of the Lieutenant of the Watch who is to take particular care to see that the men are not defrauded in having their full allowance of rum… and let those that are good husbanders receive extra lime juice and sugar that it be made more palatable to them.”
The drink was nicknamed grog and gave us the word "groggy" as you'd expect to feel after a pint of rum.
Over time the amount of rum served was reduced until it was finally halted on July 31st 1970, Black Tot Day when the Royal Navy finally conceded that drinking high % rum and operating warships was a pretty bad idea.
A few years later a Canadian entrepreneur persuaded the Admiralty to sell him the recipe for navy rum and this is what Pusser's is today, more than 50% of the profits go to various naval charities including the Royal Naval Sailors fund and the US Navy Memorial Foundation amongst others.
So, to the booze:
  • 54.5% ABV (in UK, believe it’s around 42 - 43% in US)
  • Around £30 a bottle
  • A blend of rums from stills in Guyana and Trinidad
  • Aged a minimum of 3 years
  • No added sugars or other flavourings
  • Initially on the nose you get a huge alcohol hit, as you’d expect at that ABV but as it warms in the glass spicy orange, ginger, pepper, oak and a little bit of vanilla come through
  • Taste wise there’s a peppery, burnt caramel warmth with a smokiness once the alcohol hit melts away, a lot smoother going down than you’d necessarily expect it to be
  • The finish is long and lingering with an overall smokey note being the last to go
This “behaves” a lot more like a good whisky than most rums, and that comes down to the stills. The wooden pot stills in Guyana that are used are the only commercial ones still in use and are over 250 years old. This makes things a lot heavier and more full-bodied than most other distilleries can manage, rum from these stills also goes into the El Dorado, XM and OVD ranges.

As with cask strength whiskies you can sip this neat and it’s good, but a drop of water really does open it up and mellow off some of the rougher edges. A bottle of this will last you a long time, a glass or two of an evening will take the edge off nicely or after a good meal but it’s definitely not a session rum.

That being said some things should be savoured, enjoyed over time and this is certainly one of them.

Stroh 40 - I drank it so you don't have to

Stroh is an Austrian spiced rum and is as redolent of the Caribbean as you'd expect a drink from there to be.
To the facts:
  • 40% ABV - but 60% and 80% versions are available, if you're mental
  • Unaged spiced rum
  • £21 a bottle
  • Been around since the 1850's, there is some controversy about what this is made from, some sources say sugar beets, some say a little bit of real rum and then grain neutral spirit, others say sugar cane.
  • The Stroh website describes the aroma as unmistakable, well that's for sure, no other rum gives off the scent of burnt rubber and play-doh with a hint of ginger that this does.
  • Flavour wise it's a very aggressive alcohol burn, giving away the lack of ageing and the source of the alcohol.
  • Weird plastic, synthetic flavour with very slight hints of ginger and cinnamon
  • Diluting with coke brings out the ginger so it tastes somewhat like a not very good ginger beer
  • Don't, just don't
    This really is pretty awful stuff, I'm by no means a fan of the massive vanilla hit of a Sailor Jerry but at least it's not this, Stroh's sole purpose is to serve as a baseline for what bad rum tastes like.

Ron Abuelo 7yo

A Panamanian rum, the only one I've tried thus far and a bit more complex than I'd expected. The basics
  • A blend of at least 7 year-old rums
  • Aged in white oak
  • Around £25 a bottle
  • 40% ABV
  • Burnt caramel colour
  • Once it warms up in the glass you get a huge toffee hit on the nose with some floral hints following after
  • It's on the palate that things get a bit more interesting, you really get very different flavours depending on how big a sip you take:
    • Taking a small sip you get quite a floral taste with a good bit of dryness followed by a mellow heat on the way down and a lightly smoked aftertaste, almost like a decent Speyside whisky
    • A larger taste gives more toffee and vanilla but not to the exclusion of the floral flavours and the dryness remains but is more subdued, still slightly smokey.
All in all this is a good value sipper, something a bit different and a little more challenging perhaps than other rums but that's no bad thing. This would be a good after-dinner drink or I can see it going well with some dried meats and cheeses.

Chairman's Reserve - The Forgotten Casks

OK, so a quick review of Chairman’s Reserve - The Forgotten Casks from St Lucia Distillers.

The story goes that in 2007 there was a fire at St Lucia Distillers which destroyed a lot of their storage and ageing facility, barrels were stashed anywhere they could find and some were put under the floorboards and promptly forgotten about. Fast forward to 2011 and these were found, tasted and released as a limited edition.
  • 40% ABV
  • A blend of 7-12 years old rums
  • Aged in Jim Beam, Jack Daniels and Buffalo Trace barrels
  • Colour – Dark golden
  • Nose –Light, bit of vanilla, raisins and toffee with the toffee really coming through as it warms up in the glass
  • Flavour – Very smooth, slips down nicely with a gentle warmth, you get the aforementioned vanilla and raisin together with a wee bit of banana bread and some spicy cinnamon hints.
At around £35 a bottle this is an absolute bargain and compares very well to bottles at the £45 to £50 price point, a very enjoyable sipping rum which has a real depth of flavour and character.

Ron La Hechicera - the Enchantress

This is quite a new rum to the UK, launching here late last year, apparently it's been around in Colombia for ages and two daughters of the family are trying to bring it to a wider market as a premium rum.
So, the basics
  • Pronounced etch-ee-seh-rah
  • No age statement but a blend of 12-21 year old rums, mixed in a solera system
  • No additives, no chill filtering
  • Aged in Jack Daniels barrels
  • Around £40 a bottle
  • 40% ABV
  • Light golden colour
  • Lot of toffee and vanilla on the nose with a hint of coffee and cocoa
  • Bursting with flavour once it warms up a little or you loosen it up with a splash of water, lots of vanilla, orange, cinnamon and toffee with a little smoke on the finish.
  • Very smooth going down, as you'd expect with a nice lingering warmth.
  • This feels like it would go very nicely in a Manhattan or an Old Fashioned.
Personally I thought it was a lovely drop and the bottle is a beautiful thing, the main photo doesn't show it too well but it's a raised blue seal on the front of the bottle which is very striking and really grabs the attention.

The premium rum market is buzzing just now with a lot of very high quality booze coming to a shelf or back bar near you, La Hechicera is competing with the likes of Zacapa 23 and El Dorado 15 and fits very comfortably in such august company and I'm definitely looking forward to sampling more of this beautiful rum.