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Tuesday, 16 March 2010

A Rum old time in the Caribbean...

How much fun have we been having lately. Some top draw whiskies, gins, Absinthe Day and more recently, with the advent of some sunny weather (!) we fancied a little foray into the dark and sweetly flavoured treats of wonderfully aged rums.

In readiness, I dusted off my Malacca cane and slightly weather beaten Panama hat to begin my pursuit of some of the world’s finest rums. (That is, after a cup of tea and a nice chat with this young lady...)

For the past several hundred years or so, rum has embodied a true sense and spirit of controversy, rebellion and adventure. From a time when pirates sailed the high Caribbean seas, out-running naval fleets with their illicit contraband, to the prohibition wars of the 1920’s and the revolutionary epoch in South America, other than oil, perhaps no single commodity has left such a lasting impression on the worlds trade routes. Indeed, rum is one of the most prolifically produced and widely adapted spirits and as a result, can be seen as a drink that defies both class and standing. Aside to its proliferation around the world, the Caribbean islands are often viewed as the spiritual home to rum and it is here that we begin our bittersweet journey into the spirit’s production heritage and beguiling legacy.

For over 3 centuries, rum was considered the backbone of the British Naval fleets and a steadying influence for many of our greatest nautical heroes. Since 1731, the Royal Navy issued a daily "tot" of rum to all their sailors, the equivalent of around half a pint, with the measure being doubled in times of battle or celebration. This procedure can actually be traced further back to 1655, where the term ‘Grog’ was first used (a stiff measure of crude, un-matured rum, mixed with sugar, water and lime) being deemed a suitable remedy in the prevention of Scurvy. Several popular brands of rum have grown as a result of the nautical association, the most enduring being Pussers (originally a corruption from the word ‘Purser’- the naval officer originally responsible for the ships stores)

The fateful day of July 31st, 1970 will be forever etched into the minds of every naval veteran when the navy ended the daily rum issue to their sailors. Across our entire naval fleet, this date has now become known simply as ‘Black Tot Day’ This summer will see the 40th Anniversary of Black Tot Day, so we will be wearing our armband in sympathy.

So here's a collection of recommendations from us (and our new friends above) for you try out, if you fancy a different taste on your next spirits voyage...

Appleton Estate Reserve- 8 Year Old Rum 43% - (Jamaica)

Nose: Very earthy on the first nosing. Roasted vegetable notes, mixed with a slight bourbon’esque floral/vanilla sweetness and an aroma of Java coffee and toffee, topped with chopped hazelnuts.

Palate: Dark chocolate, with some drying spice notes. The sweetness is immediately apparent, but more citrusy with orange notes.

Finish: Rich sugar sweetness and Demerara notes linger on the palate.

Overall: A solid, all-rounder of a dark rum. What it lacks in complexity, it makes up for in drinkability.

El Dorado Special Reserve -15 Year Old - 43% -(Guyana)

Nose: Now this is a little different. Wow. Very rich, with deep dark woody notes, Cigar box fragrances (cedar and dark tobacco leaf), sweet molasses, honey and hints of toasted oak and a fine spiciness. Absolutely wonderful.

Palate: Extremely smooth on the first sip, with a touch of sweetness, the extra maturation gives this a silky mouthfeel. The tobacco notes are still present. With a returning spicy backbeat.

Finish: A great mouth-coating sensation, with further touches of that spice, drying oak and dark sugary notes right at the end.

Overall: A very well balanced and luxurious rum and one of the best i've tasted. I could sip this for hours- Joel, bring me my Humidor!!

Rum Sixty Six- Family Reserve – 12 Year Old – 40% (Barbados)

Nose: Much spicier than the others, Sixty Six has more in common with an aged bourbon on first nosing. Dusty books, overripe bananas, with an underlying nuttiness (esp. Brazil nuts) Left in the glass, the spice develops into aromas of flat cola, and dried raisins.

Palate: Superb mouthfeel, with a great floral note, followed by ginger biscuits, sweetness of Demerara sugar, and a slightly lemon’y citrus flavour.

Finish: More lingering spice but this time with a further hint of tobacco and reflections of the cola.

Overall: Lighter than the El Dorado, but slightly weightier and spicier than the Appleton. Another solid, well sippin’ rum indeed.

for more info on the Caribbean rums, check out