Rum

Review: Chaga Rum (Newfoundland Distillery) by Jason Hambrey

Chaga Rum.jpg
ABV
40%
Aging
5 Years
Recipe
Demerera Rum with Infused Botanicals
Distiller Newfoundland Distillery (Clarke's Beach, Newfoundland)

I really liked Newfoundland Distillery’s Gunpowder & Rose rum, so I’ve been very curious to try this one - a rum infused with Chaga mushrooms! Honey is added to the infusion, to round everything out. The 5 year old rum is sourced from Guyana, but the infusion happens in Newfoundland.

I’m evidently not the only one who liked this, as it also won best Canadian spiced rum at the World Rum Awards.


Review (2019)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2019

A terrific rich rum character, with a really nice earthiness which comes not only from oak but also from a subtle deep-forest mushroom earthiness. It has a real richness to it, much like the El Dorado rums. Orange peel, rich oak, mixed roasted nuts, dried cranberries, cacao, manuka honey, prunes, and brown sugar. The palate follows the nose, but the earthiness is amped up – dense, rich, dark earth. The finish, in particular is wonderful – there is a rich molasses character and a rich, roasted earthy character that is both sharp and deep. There is a light smokiness at the end, reminiscent a bit of chipotles.

How does this compare to Gunpowder & Rose Rum? They are both terrific. The Gunpowder & Rose is extremely floral and a bit more unique, but this one is dark and rich, and amps up the rich rum character with even more richness and earthiness. It makes me appreciate the gunpowder & rose rum more, perhaps – it is extremely innovative (rose & rum!) but works really well.

If you like aged rum, and have access to this – buy it. It would be even better at 45% or 46%.

Assessment: Very highly recommended.

Value: High. $40 is very good for this.


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: Sparrow Finely Crafted Canadian Rum by Jason Hambrey

Sparrow+Rum+2.jpg
ABV
40%
Aging
4 Years
Recipe
100% Blackstrap Molasses
Distiller Central City (Surrey, British Columbia)

I do quite like rum, if it isn’t too sweet, and I’m always interested if craft distillers are exploring it, since I think there’s so much that the spirit has to offer – especially to the Canadian market.This is made by Central City, who also make the Lohin McKinnon line of single malts.


Review (2019)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2018

The nose is quite nice – rich, sweet molasses notes with lots of oak and rich baking spice. The oakiness is rather reminiscent of Lohin McKinnon – the earthiness of the sort you might find in some root vegetables. Baked fruit too – blueberry crumble, raspberry pie, and even some baked peach. A very interesting, complex nose.

The palate is easy and sweet, with a rich molasses and berry character – finishing with sweet oak. The finish has more rich molasses – blackstrap, rich stuff. A very nice medium bodied rum that isn’t too sweet – it is slightly sweet, but not overly so (especially in the realm of rum). A quite pleasant mix of vanilla, spice, and oak on the finish. The fruitiness – berries, jam, and dried berry – continues.

Highly Recommended. I do quite like the oakiness on the nose…I would love to try this stuff at cask strength. I was very pleasantly surprised here! It’s nice to see some Canadian rum with 4 years on it, not that younger rum is necessarily bad, but age can bring some nice things to the table.

Value: Average, but very close to high (so really, it’s between them). Quite a decent rum for $50!


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: King's Lock Smuggler's Gold Rum by Jason Hambrey

King's Lock Gold Rum.jpg
ABV
40%
Aging
N/A
Recipe
N/A
Distiller King's Lock (Prescott, ON)

This is an older version of the King's Lock Moonshine.


Review (2018)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: ~2017

Definitely more oak (or bourbon?) than the standard 100 islands. It actually comes off with more bourbon than rum characteristics on the nose. The cask characteristic has become a much bigger part of the whole here. Still biscuity, with light fruit highlights underneath on the nose – but toffee, light smoke, and caramel are added in. Light oak, toffee, and a tannic structure is provided from the oak – leading to a palate which is dry, with some wood-smoke and light oak too. The finish comes on with the rum, with light molasses, sweetness, and the berry fruitiness typical in many rums.  Light spice and smoke on the finish.

I’m not actually sure if I like it more than the moonshine. It’s different – more oak and smoke – and more mature – but also a bit less balanced, which I expect will be fixed with more age. Quite light, and a bit unclear on vision – the cask is a bit too dominant for the spirit. I would have matured it in a re-used rum cask to develop cask character and preserve the delicateness of the spirit.

Value: Low. As with most micro-distilled products, it’s hard for this to compete with the big producers.