Rum

Review: Gunpowder & Rose Rum (Newfoundland Distillery) by Jason Hambrey

Gunpowder+and+Rose+Rum+2.jpg
ABV
40%
Aging
N/A
Recipe
Jamaican Rum with Distilled and Infused Botanicals
Distiller Newfoundland Distillery (Clarke's Beach, Newfoundland)

In the old days, rum was a part of the sailors daily ration and quartermasters, at times, might consume the rum themselves and give the sailors a watered down version - infuriating for sure. To prove that the rum was of sufficient strength, it would be poured over gunpowder and ignited. If it was above 50%, the wet gunpowder would ignite and it would be “at proof”, which is where the “proof” language comes from in discussing ABV.

Inspired by the tradition, Newfoundland distillery wanted to actually create a rum with real gunpowder - but Health Canada wasn’t very impressed. So the distillery instead wanted to recreate the flavour profile with kelp for sulphur, charred birch for a charcoal component, and sea salt for the “salt petre” of gunpowder. And, to create contrast and uniqueness, wild newfoundland roses were added to the mix to add a floral, ethereal component. Talk about unique!

I was first made aware of Newfoundland Distillery because of their seaweed gins, which has one of the richest maritime characters of any gin I’ve tasted. It really gives a good sense of terroir.


Review (2019)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2017

The nose is sweet, lightly sulphury, and floral. The sulphur gives a nice edge here – it’s not like the rough sulphur often found in whisky. It’s accompanied here by a rich brown sugar and marine character, not to mention the top notes of roses. It’s not characteristic of a “pure” rum (i.e. only from molasses), but it doesn’t have any of the rather artificial characteristics of most commercial spiced rums. The palate is lightly sweet and full of rich brown sugar, blueberries, light wood notes, and a seafood-type umami. The finish has roses, a touch of sharp pine-like woodiness like juniper, and a rich fruitiness like fresh raspberry. Very interesting, rich, and easy to drink. It is remarkably balanced given all the contrasts in flavour.

Also, great to mix and some rather creative cocktails can be created from this stuff.

Assessment: Highly Recommended.

Value: High. $35 is very good for this.


Review: Foursquare 2004 Fine Blended Rum by Jason Hambrey

Foursquare 2004 2.jpg
ABV
59%
Aging
11 years; Ex-bourbon barrels
Recipe
From molasses
Distiller Foursquare Distillery (St. Philip, Barbados)

Foursquare is becoming an exceedingly popular rum brand, offering high proof, quality rums with transparent information (cask type, aging, etc.). Sadly, I've never seen it in Canada but it's not too hard to find in the states. They produce rums from pot and column still, and this is a blend of both distillates bottled as part of their exceptional casks selection.


Review (2018)

  • Batch: Exceptional Cask Selection Mark III

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2015

Bright, earthy, interesting – orange, molasses, sweet oak, butter, brown sugar, nutmeg, cinnamon, coconut – still very sweet and dessert like - some spicy grassy notes balance it out on the backend too. Oak is quite dominant for an ex-bourbon cask – the warm weather must really work on the oak extraction.

Palate starts slightly sweet, with more orange, blueberry, before finishing in a slightly earthy, molasses laden and spicy finish. The oak fits in very nicely – I imagine it’s a rum bourbon whisky drinkers might relate to because of the big oak integration. The finish builds very nicely, seemingly picking up flavor and viscosity as it builds – starting with dried fruit, then adding in dry spice and eventually oak – in the end drying out. Nice dried berries on the finish, too. I really like it at full strength – it swims well but there is a bit of tarry, medicinal notes that seem to be lost as water is added.

Very nice. Stylistically, I like sharper pot still rums (like the Jamaican Smith & Cross, which is sharper and almost smoky) – but this is terrific, complex, balanced, and interesting.

Assessment: Very Highly Recommended.

Value: Average. While it’s hard to find high quality, cask strength rums for this price, it still comes at a decent price (~100 CAD).


Review: Caroni 2000 High Proof Trinidad Rum by Jason Hambrey

Caroni+17+YO.jpg
ABV
55%
Aging
17 Years; Matured in Trinidad
Recipe
From molasses
Distiller Caroni (Trinidad)

Caroni is a legendary rum distillery which shut down in 2002 after the shut down of the sugar refinery which the distillery used as an ingredient source. It was noted for its heavy rum which supplied the British navy, but now it's known for a strong, unique and exceedingly complex rum. This rum was bottled from 7 casks which yielded 2700 bottles - over the 17 years there was an evaporation loss of 80%. But, what remains - remarkable rum.


Review (2018)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: B35L6

  • Bottling Date: 2017

What a fascinating nose. I’m not that exposed to premium and boutique rums, only having explored the largely mass produced and commercial rums. This is exactly what I have been looking for in exploring connoisseur rums – extremely unique. Warm rubber, tar, iodine, black pepper, clove, peat (not peat smoke, but rather peat bogs), dust, orange peel, dried orange, dried apricot, prune, bamboo, tamari – absolutely fascinating. Things become clearer with water, but it’s remarkable how much complexity is maintained at the higher ABV levels.

The palate continues with the medicinal and rubber notes, along with all the spice and citrus – but adding some cacao nibs and vanilla cream. I love the effect – it starts out big, dips down for a second or two, and then the flavor starts to grow and grow – sort of like a „U” in terms of the impact of flavor. The finish is full of almost every note in the nose – fabulous, rich, and enduring – but has maybe even more, with the vanilla cream, cacao, and some milk chocolate and oak coming in as well. Ubelieveable – in my top echelon of spirits.

Assessment: Exceptional. One of the best spirits I’ve ever tasted (inclusive of whisky!).

Value: Low (this goes for around $250 US) – but if you want to spend the money, I would!


Review: SMWS R1.4 21 Year Old Jamaican Rum by Jason Hambrey

SMWS R1.4.jpg
ABV
66.2%
Aging
21 years; Ex-Sherry Butt
Recipe
From molasses
Distiller N/A (Jamaica)

A SMWS old rum, from some time ago - not sure where it is from, but I'm always up for Jamaican pot still rum! One of 696 bottles.


Review (2018)

  • Batch: R1.4

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2013

The nose has butter, and a slightly herbal, sharp molasses character, dried rose, and smoked almond. It's a bit perfumed too. The palate is rich and savoury - a bit like the sour almonds you find at middle eastern grocers. Interestingly, a very different palate than the nose with the savoury and salty notes. The finish is toasty and remarkably herbal, the characteristic growing throughout the drink. Berries and molasses grow out of the finish too.

Assessment: Very Highly Recommended.

Value: N/A. This one is long gone…


Review: Havana Club 7 Years Old (1980s) by Jason Hambrey

Havana Club.jpg
ABV
40%
Aging
7 Years
Recipe
From molasses
Distiller Havana Club (Santa Cruz del Norte, Cuba)

This is an old bottling of Havana Club, and the air has certainly done good effect on the rum, hence the lack of rating. However, always fun to taste old stuff - the bottle is about 30 years old, likely from the 1980s sometime.


Review (2016)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: ~1985

Dry, and spicy. Then edgy brown sugar comes in, with nuts and macadamias. An old oxidized note - like that of burning dust when you turn on a toaster that has been neglected for some time. The taste is dry and light, with molasses and a slight earthiness. A light, quick finish - a touch of a medicinal note at the end. Vanilla comes, throughout - nose, palate, and finish - with time.

Assessment: N/A (would be a C+ bottled, but clearly has oxidized so not sure what the starting point would have been)


Review: Flor De Cana 18 Demerera Rum by Jason Hambrey

Flor De Cana 18.jpg
ABV
40%
Aging
18 Years
Recipe
From molasses
Distiller Flor De Cana (Nicaragua)

Although the bottle says "18" and not "18 years old" - dangerous with rum - the website seems to indicate that the bottle is in fact 18 years of age, but the bottle doesn't actually say it.


Review (2018)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: N/A

A dry nose, with dried corn husks, lots of oak, rich earth, tamarind, brown sugar, butter, and mustard seed. A lovely nose. The palate disappoints - it dies here. Flat, a relative lose of flavor - but with oak and citrus playing off one another. Slightly soapy on the finish where brown sugar leads the exit.

Assessment: Recommended.

Value: Average to Low, depending on what the buying price is. It’s on the border.


Review: El Dorado 15 Year Old Demerera Rum by Jason Hambrey

El Dorado 15.jpg
ABV
40%
Aging
15 years; Bourbon Casks
Recipe
From molasses
Distiller El Dorado (Guyana)

Despite enjoying the 12 (a staple of my cabinet and the best hot buttered rum base) and the rich 21 year old, I hadn't ever ventured to try the 15 year old until this summer - and it might be my favourite of the three. It is different in the distillates that go into the blend, giving it a much more earthy/funky/medicinal character that I like. Let's get to it!


Review (2018)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: ~2017

The nose has sweet tobacco, licorice (black and red), dried cherry, clove, dried orange, and a slight medicinal quality. Candied anise too, and slightly rubbery. Even some dense, whole wheat cake! The palate is dense and sweet, but with an incredible balance between the tobacco spice and tannins - still retaining many of the flavours from the nose - brilliant. The finish has orange, rubber, spice, black sugar, and grape jujubes. A nice every-day rum!

Assessment: Highly Recommended.

Value: Average.


Review: Smith and Cross Pure Pot Still Traditional Jamaican Rum by Jason Hambrey

ABV
57%
Aging
N/A
Recipe
From molasses
Distiller Hampden Estate (Wakefield, Jamaica)

I had this rum in a bar in the US and promptly bought a bottle. I've never had high proof rum, and, like bourbon, the sweetness of the spirit balances the powerful flavor of the high proof. It is a brilliant mixer, indeed, it is one of the most revered rums in bartending (subbing it out for gin in a negroni will blow your mind). It is made from Jamaican rums with a mix of two types of rum distillates - Plummer and Wedderburn (defined by the amount of esters in the final spirit) and it is fairly young (<3 years).


Review (2017)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: ~2016

A spicy, medicinal, waxy nose that I love. Molasses, anise, dried blueberry, oak, pencil shavings, candle wax, cinnamon, brown bread...a gorgeous nose. The palate starts with medicinal notes, then merges to dried cranberry and very gently to pumperknickel bread, fancy molasses, candied orange, oak and baking spices. The finish carries the medicinal notes, the oak, and the brown bread and molasses notes to perfection. Oak, and oxidized notes (like vermouth or sherry) on the finish. Balanced, interesting, well delivered, so flavourful, and so rummy. An incredible rum!

The sweetness balances the proof so well – it is a new side of rum to me. This is a bomb in cocktails, I can’t even express that enough. If you mix it in for gin in a negroni, you get a wow cocktail – and there are few of those. Seriously, try it. I bought a bottle in the US just to use in negronis...

Assessment: Highly recommended.

Value: Very high. This often goes for around 30$ usd, and for a very nice nearly cask strength rum!


Review: George Street Spiced Rum by Jason Hambrey

ABV
35%
Aging
N/A
Recipe
From molasses and spices
Distiller N/A (Guyana)

I was alerted to George Street Spiced Rum, which only appears from time to time in Ontario, by the Rum Howler's review of it, who says it is a mix of 2, 5, and 7 year old Guyana rums.  Since, it has become one of my favorite mixing rums. It is produced by 20 mixologists in rum-loving Newfoundland, where famous George Street resides - it has more bars per square foot than any other area in North America.


Review (2014)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2013

Vanilla comes out at first on the nose, coming through quite nicely, along with underlying rum,  dry and light oak, dry fruitiness, and nutmeg and cinnamon too. The palate is lightly sweet -  very pleasant and easy -  with a very nice vanilla finish. There's a touch of heat on the end - quite smooth and creamy, with just a tad of oak bitterness and spices. Nutty too.

This works wonders in cocktails, and the best spiced rum sipper I've encountered (though, yes, I know, they are meant more for mixing than sipping).

Assessment: Recommended, as a sipper. It’s a go-to for mixing, and I will always pick up a bottle for mixing if I see it.

Value: Pretty good, for $26!


Review: El Dorado Spiced Rum by Jason Hambrey

ABV
40%
Aging
N/A
Recipe
From molasses and spices
Distiller El Dorado (Guyana)

I quite like El Dorado rums, and there is little better for a cocktail than a good spiced rum. It is produced at their diamond distillery, and is produced from a mix of aged Demerera rums, cinnamon, vanilla, and citrus. 


Review (2014)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: ~2013

 The nose is deep, with some currants and baking spice - cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger. The nose is relatively dry and doesn't seem like it will be as sweet. The palate is dark and deep, with some black pepper and well defined clove, ruminess, and dark molasses. This would shine through brilliantly in cocktails. Not too sweet, but the spices are just beautiful. I was going to infuse this with thyme but I am having second thoughts because of what a wonderful mixer this could be. Some pepper and biting spice on the finish.

Assessment: Not a great sipper, but it mixes fairly well. Spiced rum makes quite a nice presence in cocktails!

Value: Average.