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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 Canadian Whisky – Wiser’s 18 Year Old (2014 Edition)

Posted by Arctic Wolf on December 23, 2014

rum_howler_badge-2014This year I noticed that Wiser’s had increased its Limited Release production for its 18 Year Old whisky from a total of 3500 cases produced each year to 5600 cases produced. In the past the number of whisky barrels selected to produce each batch rum was relatively small. In fact, according to Hiram Walker Mater Blender, Dr. Don Livermore, the number of casks selected for each bottling of Wiser’s 18 Year Old was in the range of only 15 to 20 ex bourbon casks per batch. With such a small group of barrels to work from, it is inevitable that variations will exist between separate batches.

Wiser's 18 SAM_1401And, I have noted in my previous reviews how this particular whisky seems to be spectacular one year, and then falls to a level of mere excellence in the next. This year, (perhaps because of a greater number of barrels used to produce a larger production rum) the whisky has moved back towards the realm of the spectacular, and the 2014 edition of Wiser’s 18 Years Old Limited Release Canadian Whisky, is number 2 on my Countdown.

Here is my newly written review:

#2 Canadian Whisky – Wiser’s 18 Year Old (2014 Edition)

“… I let the glass sit for several minutes, and when I returned the clean wood and rye spices have not abated; however, alongside the wood spice I sense a growing sweetness of maple and butterscotch toffee. There is some lovely marzipan underneath and given enough time in the glass the orange peel begins to turn to marmalade as the orange peel spice melds into the butterscotch …”

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

Posted in Awards, Canadian Whisky, Extras, Whisk(e)y, Whisk(e)y Review | Tagged: , , , , | Comments Off

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 #3 Canadian Whisky – Crown Royal Cask No. 16

Posted by Arctic Wolf on December 22, 2014

rum_howler_badge-2014Crown Royal® Canadian Whisky was originally introduced in 1939 (by Samuel Bronfman of Seagrams) as a special whisky bottling to commemorate the Royal tour of Canada by King George VI and Queen Elizabeth in that year. Until 1964, the whisky was only available in Canada; however, today it is available world-wide and is in fact the number one Canadian whisky brand sold in the USA. Crown Royal is currently produced in Gimli Manitoba, at the Crown Royal Distillery which (since the dissolution of the Seagrams portfolio in 2000) is owned by the spirits conglomerate Diageo.

Cask No. 16 is according to the company website,

“handcrafted from more than 50 different aged Canadian whiskies and then finished in Cognac Oak casks from the Limousin forest in France”

Cask No. 16 SAM_1402Although rumours persist as to the demise of this outstanding blend, I note that as of the end of 2014, it remains listed on the Crown Royal website as part of the Crown Royal Family, and remains readily available in my home Province of Alberta.

And, I am quite happy that the Cask No. 16 is readily available, as I have placed it in the number 3 spot, in my Top 25 Canadian Whisky Countdown of 2014.

Here is my recently updated review:

#3 Canadian Whisky – Crown Royal Cask No. 16

“… The first sensation in my mouth was of an incredible softness that this whisky presents. It is almost chewy soft. A mellow corn whisky is up front on the palate, but rich soft butterscotch, caramel and sweet brown sugar sit under the corn flavour supporting and enhancing the experience. A nice spicy bite which has the hallmarks of pears and grapes grabs at the taste buds … “

For those who prefer a more subdued corn profile and a milder rye like burn, this is probably the perfect Canadian whisky. It is wonderfully luxurious and rich, yet full of character and complexity. Sip it neat, or on the rocks, and you will not be disappointed.

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

Posted in Awards, Canadian Whisky, Extras, Whisk(e)y, Whisk(e)y Review | Tagged: , , , , , | Comments Off

Rum Howler 2014 # 3 Rum – Ron Millonario XO Reserva Especial Rum

Posted by Arctic Wolf on December 22, 2014

rum_howler_badge-2014Although Ron Millonario, is headquartered in Italy (owned by Rossi and Rossi S.R.I.), the rums of Ron Millonario are distilled and aged in Northern Peru. The company website does not give us the exact location of the distillery which produces the Millonario rums although it does speak of a mid-sized Northern Peruvian distillery with three old Scottish column stills and a slow distillation process which is used to produce their rum from sugar cane molasses.

Ron Millonario XO Reserva Especial Rum is the premier rum produced by this Italian Company, and this year, it checks onto my list of the best rums of 2014 in the Number 3 spot.

Ron Millonario XO SAM_1404Here is a link to my review:

# 3 Rum – Ron Millonario XO Reserva Especial Rum

“… The main flavours of caramel/molasses, oak spice and baking spices seem to be perfectly melded together. Hints of raisin, figs, tobacco and chocolate seem to provide just the right accent to make this a suave mouth watering rum. There is plenty of sweetness, but this sweetness is tempered by the more pungent flavours such that the rum never seems to be too sweet … “

This is one of those really special rums that scores up in the stratosphere for me. The rum has it all, great depth of flavour, wonderful consistency from nose to mouth to finish, and wonderful balance between all of its elements. I simply love it.

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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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The 12 Cognacs of Christmas #2 – Pierre Ferrand Cigare

Posted by Arctic Wolf on December 22, 2014

2729_PF Cigare HD (1125x1500)Pierre Ferrand Cigare was produced in very small quantities, created solely from aged eaux de vie produced within the 1st Cru de Cognac, specifically the Grande Champagne Cognac appellation of France. In producing the Cigare Cognac, the aim was to structure the final spirit such that it would be suitable for pairing with a fine Cigar, hence the name Pierre Ferrand Cigare. Although the final spirit has no age statement, according to the information provided to me, the Cognac is blended to achieve an average age of 25 years.

Here is a link to my latest Cognac Review:

The 12 Cognacs of Christmas #2 – Pierre Ferrand Cigare

“… The aroma is oak stained and decadent with dark dry fruit (dates, raisins and prunes), charred coconut, and roasted walnuts all rising into the breezes. I am also greeted with strong oak and cedar smells which carry a rich combination of leather and spice (hints of spicy clove mixed with allspice, and cinnamon and nutmeg) in their wake …”

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Stay tuned as on Christmas Eve I will unveil my final review of the year, and complete the 12 Cognacs of Christmas!

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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 #4 Canadian Whisky – Gibson’s Finest Rare 18 Years Old

Posted by Arctic Wolf on December 21, 2014

rum_howler_badge-2014In 1856, John Gibson purchased 40 acres and built a distillery along the shore of the Monongahela River in Pennsylvania. By the turn of the century, the Gibson’s Distilling Company was the largest producer of rye whisky in North America. Unfortunately, early in the new century, fate dealt the company a tragic blow, in the name of Prohibition. Consumption of legal whisky all but dried up, and Gibson’s Distilling Company went bankrupt. In 1923, the entire contents of the distillery including the stills, the aging barrels, all of the remaining spirit, (and even the grain which was on site) was sold via Sherriff’s auction to Schenley Industries of New York. Fifty years later this whisky brand, which was born on the US side of the border in Pennsylvania, was resurrected by the brand owner at the Schenley Distillery in Valleyfield, Quebec. Now, of course, it has become one of the iconic brands of Canadian Whisky.

802621_18YRAccording to my correspondence with the media company responsible for, Gibson’s Finest Whisky, the Gibson’s Finest brand is produced from of two sources: a base grain whisky (which would be a corn-based column still whisky), and a blend of rye based flavouring whisky which contains rye and malted barley (distilled by a single column still and a pot still). When aging their whisky, Gibson’s Finest uses a variety of barrels: ex-bourbon barrels, new oak barrels, etc. The ratio of each barrel-type used can differ from batch to batch because the whisky is blended to a specific taste profile rather than to a specific barrel regimen. Gibson’s Finest Rare 18 Years Old Whisky is limited to a production of not more than 12,000 bottles per year.

We have reached the number 4 spot in my Countdown of the Best Canadian Whiskies of 2014, and that spot belongs to Gibson’s Finest Rare 18 Years Old.

Here is a link to my most recent review:

#4 Canadian Whisky – Gibson’s Finest Rare 18 Years Old

“… The initial aroma is spicy with a firm oak presence. The breezes above the glass are filled with tobacco, rye, and (what I am going to term) clean firm oak spices. These dominant scents are accented by caramel, butterscotch and vanilla …”

There are only 3 spaces left in my 2014 Top 25 Canadian Whisky Countdown, and I hope that there has been a few surprises so far. The final three spirits were tasted against each other one more time just to be sure I had it right. I wonder if anyone can guess which three they are?

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

Posted in Awards, Canadian Whisky, Extras, Whisk(e)y, Whisk(e)y Review | Tagged: , , , , , | Comments Off

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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The 12 Cognacs of Christmas #3 – Hennessy X.O

Posted by Arctic Wolf on December 20, 2014

Hennessy XO SAM

Jas Hennessy & Co., is the largest Cognac producer in the world today with sales that exceed 45 million bottles per year. The company was founded in 1765 by Richard Hennessy who was an Irish Officer in the army of Louis XV. Hennessy XO Cognac traces its development back to 1870 when Maurice Hennessy created a special cognac for him to share with his closest friends. This cognac meant for his ‘inner circle’ was given the name X.O to denote it as an “extra old” cognac. This X.O designation has become a labeling standard used throughout the industry, and today denotes an older Cognac style which must meet a minimum age requirement of 6 years for all of the eaux de vie within  its assemblage.

The subject of this review is the modern Hennessy X.O Cognac. The spirit is produced from the fruity Ugni Blanc grapes which have been harvested from the four great crus of the Cognac region (Grande Champagne, Petite Champagne, Borderies and Fins Bois). The grape wine produced is (of course) double distilled upon Hennessy Distillery’s copper pot stills, and then selected eaux-de-vie is set down to age (some for as long as 30 years) in french oak casks which have constructed from old growth oak timbers.

Here is a link to my review:

The 12 Cognacs of Christmas #3 – Hennessy X.O

“… The initial aroma displayed a strong indication of oak and wood spice with firm scents of caramel and raisin buried within that spiciness. The oak is dominant, however there is enough caramel sweetness and raisin-like fruitiness to compliment the oak and entice me to go further …”

Although I believe this Cognac is wonderful to sip on its own, I could not resist mixing one cocktail to sip on as I watched the stars on a the cold December evening, a Cognac Old Fashioned!

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Stay tuned as between now and Christmas I will continue my series,the 12 Cognacs of Christmas!

Posted in Brandy and Cognac, Cognac Review | Tagged: , , , | Comments Off

 
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