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Archive for the ‘Rum Reviews’ Category

The Year In Rum (2014 Rum Howler Awards)

Posted by Arctic Wolf on January 19, 2015

RH-winner2014I have come to the last of my Rum Howler Awards as I determine my 2014 Rum Howler Awards for the excellence in the production of rum. This year, sadly, I have eliminated the Regional Rum Awards as time simply has gotten the best of me, and I must forge on into the year 2015 and leave 2014 behind.

In my discussions with different spirits companies I have noticed a welcome change in attitude regarding the oak barrel. Whereas, in the past these companies would only discuss how long their spirit had rested in that barrel, today those same companies are beginning to talk about the barrel itself. I hear terms like New Oak, First Fill, Second Fill, and re-charred oak barrels not just when companies are discussing whisky; but also now when they are discussing Rum. We are also seeing an influx of exotic finishing barrels like cognac casks, Sherry Casks and many more. It seems that as we are in this time of diminishing aged stocks, the spirits companies have embraced innovation to bring more flavours and more character forward in new and exciting ways. If this trend continues, then as the companies replenish their aged stocks over the next five and ten years, we will then enter into a new paradigm where the consumer may have the best of both worlds, a return to blends which contain only well aged rum as well as these same blends benefiting from all those years of innovation. We may indeed look back on this time as the shot in the arm that industry needed to bring something even more wonderful forward. Of course, only time will tell.

Here is a link to the Awards Page for the 2014 Rum Howler Award winners for excellence in the production of Rum. These are the spirits which have risen to the top and provided us with our greatest enjoyment in the World of Rum.

The 2014 Rum Howler Awards – The Year in Rum

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The 2014 Rum Howler Rum of the Year: Dictador XO Insolent Rum

Posted by Arctic Wolf on December 24, 2014

rum_howler_badge-2014This past May, I was invited by Thirsty Cellar Imports, to attend a Rum Master Class hosted by Hernan Parra Arango, Rum Master for Dictador Colombian Rum. At the event, the attendees were given the opportunity to taste the entire Dictador line-up which of course included not only the Dictador 12 Year and the Dictador 20 Year Solera Rums, but we also tasted and learned about the Dictador XO Perpetual and XO Insolent Rums.

At that Rum Master Class, I learned that for the Dictador XO Insolent in particular, the aging barrels used are pre-used oak barrels which have a significant percentage of oak obtained from Jerez Spain, as well as pre-used Port Wine Barrels. Near the end of the aging process, the barrels earmarked for the XO Insolent Rum are emptied (and the rum stored of course), and these barrels are subjected to an open flame process which caramelizes the rum soaked oak fibres on the interior of the barrel. These barrels are then refilled with the same rum allowing the spirit to draw the sweet caramelized flavours from the interior of the oak barrel. The final rum is blended and barreled at 40 % Alcohol by volume.

Of course the proof is in the tasting, and this year, the Dictador XO Insolent Rum was the very best that I personally tasted in 2014.

Here is a link to my review for the Rum Howler 2014 Rum of the Year:

2014 Rum of the Year – Dictador XO Insolent Rum

“… The aroma is simply luscious with sweet toffee smells rising from the glass tainted with impressions of butterscotch, vanilla, corn syrup, creme de brulee, maple syrup and peanut brittle. There is a backbone of firm oak sap and spice melded wonderfully into these sweeter butterscotch like aromas with delectable baking spices (cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves) and hints of milk chocolate lying underneath …”

The Dictador Insolent Rum is full of sweet and spicy character, and just might be as close to rum perfection as I have tasted. It is one of those rare spirits which I am loath to mix into a cocktail, and from me, that is high praise indeed!

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Note: You may find my full Countdown list of the 25 Best Rums of 2014 here:   The Rum Howler – Top 25 Rums of 2014

 

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Rum Howler 2014 # 2 Rum – El Dorado 21 Year Old

Posted by Arctic Wolf on December 23, 2014

rum_howler_badge-2014The DDL Master Blender is credited with the creation of El Dorado 21-Year-Old Rum which uses a blend of rums selected from their world-famous stills, the Enmore (wooden Coffey still), the Versailles (single wooden pot still), and the Albion (Savalle still). All of the rums in the blend have been aged in oak for a minimum of 21 years, making this one of the oldest production rums in the world.

This is also one of the very best, and for the third straight year it ranks as one of the top 5 rums in the world. This year the El Dorado Special Reserve 21-Year Old Rum moved up two spaces and grabs the number 2 spot.

SAM_1390Here is a link to my review:

# 2 Rum – El Dorado 21 Year Old

“… The immediate nose is full of baking spices, orange peel, vanilla, and dry fruits. There are absolutely no medicinal notes or harsh scents associated with the aroma. As the rum decants, I begin to sense glimmers of almonds and hazelnuts weaving through the tapestry of smells, and I sense a building oakiness which is bringing more spice to the fore …”

The oak has melted into the spirit (or perhaps the spirit has melted into the oak) and the result is a special aged rum which perhaps has no equivalent in its category. This rum is a marvel of aging and blending and belongs on every serious rum aficionado’s shelf.

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Note: You may follow my Countdown list of the 25 Best Rums of 2014 here:   The Rum Howler – Top 25 Rums of 2014

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Rum Howler 2014 # 4 Rum – Diplomatico Exclusiva Reserva

Posted by Arctic Wolf on December 21, 2014

rum_howler_badge-2014The Diplomatico Exclusiva Reserva is a premium rum which is produced from both column still rums and pot still rum. Within the blend are rums which are aged up to 12 years. The combination of tropical aging, batch still production, and those rich aromas and flavours which I mentioned above yields an exquisite rum which has long been one of my favourites.

diplomaticoThis rum is regularly selected as a favourite when I hold tastings, both in public and in private. However, I note that for this series of reviews, when I tasted the rum side by side with the other top 5 competitors, I was forced to slide its scoring down a couple of notches from its previous high of 97 points. Despite this minor adjustment, the Exclusiva still scores extremely well, as shown by its number 4 ranking in the top 25 rums of 2014.

Here is my recently revised review:

# 4 Rum – Diplomatico Reserva Exclusiva

“… There is a nice underlying nuttiness (walnuts and hazelnuts), some sweet caramel and some very delicious baking spices (vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg, and brown sugar). As the glass breathes, The richness of the rum builds and I taste even more brown sugar and cinnamon with butter …”

Although it has moved down in my rankings a couple of spots from last year, the Exclusiva Reserva remains a favourite of mine for sipping and for mixing, and still five years after my original review, still one of the best rums I have tasted.

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Note: You may follow my Countdown list of the 25 Best Rums of 2014 here:   The Rum Howler – Top 25 Rums of 2014

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Rum Howler 2014 # 5 Rum – Appleton Estate Extra 12 Year Old

Posted by Arctic Wolf on December 20, 2014

rum_howler_badge-2014Appleton Estate 12 Year Old Rum is a molasses based rum produced on the Island of Jamaica. Over the past few years It seems that every time I re-sample this particular brand, I am forced to re-score my review and place it further up the ladder until this year it has reached the rungs occupied by what I feel are the best rums in the world.

Appleton 12 YO CanisterMy new score this year places the Appleton 12 Year Old Jamaican rum all the way up to the number 5 spot in my countdown of the best rums of 2014.

Here is a link to my latest review:

# 5 Rum – Appleton Estate Extra 12

“… I taste a dominant trio of dark brown sugar, charred caramel, and a spicy oak which asserts itself firmly into the flavour profile. I found if I was patient, and let the rum sit in my glass and then sipped very slowly, I could catch the nuances of other more subtle flavours underneath …”

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Note: You may follow my Countdown list of the 25 Best Rums of 2014 here:   The Rum Howler – Top 25 Rums of 2014

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Rum Howler 2014 # 6 Rum – Rum Nation Demerara 23 Year Old

Posted by Arctic Wolf on December 19, 2014

rum_howler_badge-2014The number 6 rum in my 2014 countdown is quite an interesting spirit. According to my correspondence with Mr. Rossi of Rum Nation, he purchased 3 casks of aged Demerara rum from a vendor in the United Kingdom in 2002. The barrels bore the marque from the famous Double Wooden Pot still of the Port Maurant Estate (PM). These ex bourbon casks were transferred into a Sherry Butt (Oloroso N. 61)  in 2004 and were left to age in an underground cellar in Bristol, England where “early landed cognac” (Hine and Delamain) was also aged. The cellar in Bristol was closed in 2007, and the rum was brought to the Piedmont area of Italy (famous for the nebbiolo grape varietal) where it continued to age until 2012 when it was bottled in Italy.

Demerara 23 1989The  age statement on the rum is based upon certification in the United Kingdom. Unfortunately there is no record of when the rum was shipped from Guyana to the UK; however my speculation is that it was probably meant to be part of the blend of a ‘navy style’ rum as Port Mourant Rum (from the Double Wooden Still) is one of the key ingredients in British Navy Rums.

Here is a link to my review of this very interesting and outstanding rum:

# 6 Rum – Rum Nation Demerara 23 Year Old

“… The initial aroma is perhaps a little daunting as rising from the glass are rich caramel scents laced with the smells of wood sap and resin. Felled poplar trees, spruce wood chips, and fresh unstained oak all seem to be part of that wood filled onslaught in the breezes above the glass. …”

A Note about the Port Mourant Still: The Port Mourant Sugar Factory was founded in 1753.  The original wooden pot still (the PM), is the only production still of its kind left in the entire world.  If one was to make a list of the Seven Wonders of the Rum World, the Port Mourant Wooden Double Pot Still would surely be upon that list as this ancient still produces Demerara Rum for DDL Distilleries to this day.

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Note: You may follow my Countdown list of the 25 Best Rums of 2014 here:   The Rum Howler – Top 25 Rums of 2014

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Rum Howler 2014 # 7 Rum – El Dorado 12 Year Old

Posted by Arctic Wolf on December 18, 2014

rum_howler_badge-2014Demerara County (in Guyana) is popular across the world for its rich, three hundred year history of rum production. Using a combination of old wooden stills in conjunction with modern stills and distilling techniques, Demerara Distillers Ltd. (DDL) has built a reputation for outstanding quality and consistent production. In fact, Demerara Distillers is the currently the largest supplier of bulk Caribbean rums to Europe and North America.

El Dorado 12 SAM_1389The El Dorado 12 Year Old Special Reserve Rum is blended from aged stocks (the youngest being no less than 12 years old) from the original Wooden Enmore Coffey still, the original metal Diamond Coffey still, as well as from the ancient Port Mourant double wooden pot still which was used to produce ‘navy’ rum for the English Admiralty. All of the Demerara Rum produced by El Dorado is aged exclusively in American oak (bourbon barrels).

Checking in as the 2014 – 7th best rum in the world (that I have tasted anyways), here is my review for the El Dorado 12 Year Old Rum:

# 7 Rum – El Dorado 12 Year Old

” … This rum enters my mouth with a spicy sweet baking spice explosion. Deep dark brown sugar, vanilla, cinnamon, cloves and hints of orange peel and citrus fruit lay upon a foundation of oak and wood spices. Rich tobacco accents the flavour and some luscious dark fruit (dates and raisins) finds its way into the flavour profile …

I have tried this rum in different settings and in a few cocktails, and it pleases me almost completely every time. I find that the sweetness of the rum is perfectly balanced with the spicy oakiness, and I also appreciate that the flavour of the El Dorado 12 Year Old remains robust and complex yet very approachable.

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Note: You may follow my Countdown list of the 25 Best Rums of 2014 here:   The Rum Howler – Top 25 Rums of 2014

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Rum Howler 2014 # 8 Rum – Juan Santos 21 Year

Posted by Arctic Wolf on December 17, 2014

rum_howler_badge-2014The rums of Juan Santos are produced in Colombia, South America by Santana Liquors. The 21 Year Antigua Reserva is a molasses based rum which has been apparently been aged  for 21 years in used whisky and bourbon barrels from Kentucky. At this time the Juan Santos brand is available only in Western Canada, although the Ron Santero brand from Santana Liquors is available in other markets.

Juan Santos 21 SAM_1397Although the Juan Santos brand is relatively unknown outside of the Western Canadian market I have discovered that these rum brings an astounding level of smoothness and depth to the rum glass.

Here is my review of the Number 8 Rum in my 2014 Top 25 Rum Countdown:

# 8 Rum – Juan Santos 21 Year

“… Soft caramel notes are mingled with light spices, and the whiskey character I noted in the breezes above the glass has in fact melted into the rum creating a buttery praline cream. The result is a well-balanced rum with remarkably deep flavour. Vague hints of almonds and cinnamon are apparent with ghostlike vestiges of caramel, nutmeg, allspice, and rye spice …”

Juan Santos 21 Year Old Rum is one of the very smoothest rum I have encountered. The balance is wonderful, as the various flavours the rum possesses seem to melt and merge into each other such that individual flavours were very hard to discern. This mixing and melting of flavours results in a truly wonderful rum. Just about perfect!

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Note: You may follow my Countdown list of the 25 Best Rums of 2014 here:   The Rum Howler – Top 25 Rums of 2014

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Rum Howler 2014 # 9 Rum – Rum Nation Caroni 1998

Posted by Arctic Wolf on December 16, 2014

rum_howler_badge-2014The Caroni Distillery in Trinidad and Tobago was established in 1918, and was operated at near full capacity until 1993. Unfortunately, due to industry consolidation, rum production at the facility began to decline late in the 20th century and the distillery was closed in 2002. As a matter of interest, the consolidation of the rum industry during the last two centuries is amply illustrated in Trinidad and Tobago where there this small country featured 50 distilleries at the turn of the 19th century. One hundred and fifty years later (in 1950) only 8 had survived, and today there is but one, Angostura. It seems a pity that so much tradition and history has vanished. Although I guess we can count ourselves lucky that some of the rum barrels from the Caroni distillery are still finding their way into the market place.

Rum Nation Caroni 1998-2014The Rum Nation Caroni 1998 is one such offering from the folks at Rum Nation. This is an old-style heavy column still rum which was distilled in 1998 and aged for nine years in American Oak casks on the Caribbean Island of Trinidad. From this tropical locale, the rum was transported to Europe for further aging in  refill American Oak (bourbon) casks which had been also previously used to age Rum Peruno (8YO). The resulting Rum Nation Caroni 1998 rum was bottled at cask strength (55 % alcohol by volume).

Here is my review:

# 9 Rum – Rum Nation Caroni 1998

 “… I noticed firm oak firm oak scents drifting upwards alongside equally firm notes of baking spice (vanilla, cloves, nutmeg, and a touch of cinnamon) and molasses/licorice stained caramel toffee. I left the glass to sit and breathe and noticed that the oak I had sensed in the breezes grew stronger demonstrating scents of freshly cut wooden planks which were dripping with wood sap …”

This Rum Nation Caroni 1998 rum is very pleasing indulgence with an original, albeit somewhat dry and bitter flavour profile. Fortunately there is just the right amount of sweetness present to offset the bitter and I found myself quite smitten with the overall result.

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Note: You may follow my Countdown list of the 25 Best Rums of 2014 here:   The Rum Howler – Top 25 Rums of 2014

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Rum Howler 2014 # 10 Rum – Reimonenq Vieux 9 Year Old

Posted by Arctic Wolf on December 15, 2014

rum_howler_badge-2014Distillerie Reimonenq (also referred to as Musee Du Rhum) was founded in 1916 by the Reimonenq family. The distillery, like most others on Guadeloupe, produces Rhum Agricole from distilled sugar cane juice. The fresh-cut cane is crushed by electric mills and the resulting ‘honey’ undergoes a 24 to 48 hour fermentation in open air vessels. The fermented ‘wine’ is distilled in a stainless steel column in the traditional french manner.

Reimonenq 1999 SAM_1385Unfortunately for the rest of the world, this particular bottling seems to be only available in Italy (and in other small pockets of Europe), however the following review hopefully will provide some insight into the taste profile of the Guadeloupe Rhum produced at the Reimonenq Distillery.

Here is my write-up of the number 10 rhum in the world:

# 10 Rum – Reimonenq Vieux 9 Year Old

“… The rhum enters the mouth with the same intensity which it displayed in the breezes above the glass. I taste first and foremost the spicy sap of fresh wood chips, however, there is an obvious butterscotch sweetness which permeates the spirit, and this provides a counterbalance to the spicy rush of flavour …”

The Reimonenq Vieux 9 Year Old Rhum is wonderful complex, full flavoured, sipping spirit. What a pity that the spirit is not available in North America!

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Note: You may follow my Countdown list of the 25 Best Rums of 2014 here:   The Rum Howler – Top 25 Rums of 2014

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