Rum Review : Renegade Pre-cask series

Yet another long interval splits two of my reviews. I’m sensing a theme here.

This time, to make up lost time and reviews, I’ll be tasting the range of THE hottest new thing in rum. Renegade rum’s pre-casks. Well… when I say, the hottest new thing I basically mean; a new brand, new distillery but one with massive respect for older practices.

Renegade is the new venture of Mark Reynier, the man who brought Bruichladdich back to what it is today and who created the Irish Whisky distillery of Waterford. A whisky mirroring the world of wine in many senses. From its single farm expressions to the Organically and Biodynamically grown barley for their respective whiskies and eventually the Cuvées and Micro-Cuvées. Selecting the best fields, barley, and maturation that give -supposedly- the best whisky.

But this is not about whisky. we’re talking rum here. Renegade has the same general idea as Waterford. Creating a spirit that differs noticeably from terroir to terroir. Terroir is a principle mainly connected with wine and its grapes. The idea is that the environment is very important for the characteristics in the grapes that are grown in certain regions, this entails: soil, temperature, sunlight, water, moisture,… It’s a very significant part of wine-making as the end result (wine) lies very close to its raw material (grapes). In distillates, the idea of terroir has always been seen as mumbo-jumbo, something for the marketeers.

This is what Mr. Reynier is trying to disprove. He’s made it his mission to prove terroir makes an actual difference. I won’t judge on his endeavors in whisky here. But let’s see what these principles bring to rum. And he’s doing it in Grenada, the home of River Antoine. A location chosen by the wide variety of landscapes that should let the Terroir shine through.

I’ll be trying 5 rums, all of which are completely unaged and at 50% ABV:

Old Bacolet: Here we have a terroir which lies on the Southern cost of the Island. It’s a flat flood plain between two rivers. The high availability of water and clay combine for a luscious growth of cane. Here they use a cane variety they call CAIN. Distillation was done by pot still.

New Bacolet: A south-facing, steep-sided, sunbaked bowl. A location with more slopes and a rougher growing location than Old Bacolet. Here they use the Lacalome Red cane variety and distil using pot stills.

Dunfermline: Dunfermline also lies on a slope, on the north-eastern coast of the Island. Here we have two expressions, both from the same field, same cane, but different distillation. One pot still, the other column still.

Pearls: On a coastal plain, with an Iron-rich Volcanic underground, the cane used here is called Yellow Lady and the distillation is also through pot still.

 Old Bacolet (comparative tasting with New Bacolet)

Colour:

White

Nose:

Fat and sweet grass. It almost has fruity qualities, I’m getting apples, pears and even a beginning of raspberries and other red fruits. Nail polish and cleaning supplies too.

Taste:

Vey different than the nose. Here the I have some nettles, mint, and hay. The cleaning supplies turned to metal. A mix of sweet and salt. Very punchy.

Finish:

Long finish with little development. The freshness lasts for quite a while without revealing a lot of new flavours

New Bacolet (comparative tasting with Old Bacolet)

Colour:

See-through

Nose:

Much more “classic” Agricole nose. Fresher and minty with a considerable amount of minerals. Scallops, dill, and seaweed.

Taste:

Still has a very dry taste. Very fresh with lots of citrus. Grass in a glass. This reminds me of a good Marie-Galante rum. Also some olive brine after a bit.

Finish:

Also quite long with much of the same characteristics hanging on. These Bacolets are similar in flavour development, yet they do have very different “base flavours”

Dunfermline: Colum still (comparative tasting with Pot Still)

Colour:

Never saw a cask in its life

Nose:

Smells like the fruits & vegetable department of my local supermarket. Fresh salads mixed with a hint of summer-y fruits and some low-fat Greek yogurt.

Taste:

Fresh , pointy. White peppers combined disinfected grass. A bit harsh and extremely aggressive on the palate. It tastes as though it’ll be extremely proficient against Covid.

Finish:

Due to the intensity and sharpness of the rum, this lingers for a while. Perhaps a bit too long. Let’s quickly get to the Pot Still.

Dunfermline: Pot Still (comparative tasting with Collumn Still)

Colour:

Water-like

Nose:

Much fuller than its columned companion. This reminds me of the Providence First drops. Meat, olives, grass that’s been lying in the sun for a couple of days.

Taste:

Much better and well-balanced as well. It’s rather fat and really sticks to the palate. The meat takes a step back to expose the fresher elements more, but it still provides a nice coating for a gentle experience. Though it still has some peppers, it’s a benefit here as it complements the complexity instead of adding aggressiveness like with the column distilled sibling.

Finish:

The finish here is medium-long and adds some subtle smoky notes. I’m very curious what a cask will do with this.

Pearls

Colour:

Glass, but liquid (I’ve run out of ways to say it looks clear)

Nose:

Very funky, overripe everything. Some Jamaican funk. Marinated meat and olives overwhelm me with the first sniff. After a while, the nose opens up nicely to reveal some red fruits; raspberry’s, blueberry’s and even some strawberry’s

Taste:

Same funky qualities, this could easily compete with the Jamaican heavy-hitters. Lots of minerality as well. At first, there’s a lot of full flavours, the meat and mineral rocks are very prevalent at the start. only towards the end do the vegetal qualities start coming through.

Finish:

Here I’m getting that transition from full and fat to grassy and fresh. It never fully changes but this gives it a nicely complex and lasting finish. I guess this tasting was really building up to a climax.

Conclusion :

Overall, the tasting notes here are almost identical with every rum. This is of course normal as they’re so closely related and all unaged. It was mainly the balance and depth of those similar flavours that sets them apart and makes some great and others not so much. Let’s give out some points. Old and New Bacolet were decent enough but will have to develop with ageing to stand out. Dunfermline column was sharp and aggressive, not my thing. Things really got good at the Dunfermline Pot still and the Pearls. Both rums with something special going on. Full-bodied and with a varying degree of funkiness.

Old Bacolet: 7/10

New Bacolet: 7/10

Dunfermline Column: 5/10

Dunfermline Pot: 7.5/10

Pearls: 8/10

Review #17: Rivers Antoine

Looking forward by looking back

The obscure cult-legend of Grenada: River Antoine Royal Grenadian rum. What is there to say to fans and where to begin for a layman?

The distillery was established in 1785. A bit later than big names like Mount Gay (the longest still operating distillery in the world, 1703), Appleton estate (1749) and Worthy Park (1740’s). But contrary to all these distilleries, Antoine stayed in the 18th century in all its pre-industrial glory or backwardness, however you see it.

Everything about the distillery is old. The cane is pressed by a water powered cane mill, the stills are heated by locally scavenged wood. There’s no controlling equipment whatsoever, so the rum is never quite the same, in flavour profile or ABV. Therefore, the percentage mentioned on the bottle is just a general guideline. There are 2 -let’s call them- expressions; one for local consumption, which is bottled with at an ABV of at least 75% and one for export (of which there’s very little) which is bottled at around 69% (nice).

The distillery has earned it cult status with rum fanatics (more specifically with the hogo-niche) through its wild fermentation, wildly inefficient yet very flavourful distillation and the whole mystique surrounding this rum.

This is only a short summary based on The CocktailWonk’s article of what the distillery actually is. It’s a great read, a deep dive that’s at once educational and easy-reading. Read it! Now!

The bottle in my possession, I got from Spirit Academy. They recently dropped a small amount of bottles, again thanks to Gargano, who is understandably a fan of the distillery. So getting it to Europe in a small quantity was his latest pet project.

The bottle’s aesthetic (if you can call it that) is very artisanal and authentic or cheap and Lidl/Aldi-ish, however you see it.

Colour:

I’m running out of ways to say something is clear. So you know… it’s … it’s clear, and pretty see through… yeah…

Nose:

A very deep and heavy nose presents itself straight out of the glass. Almost nothing like the funky Jamaican rums. Comparable to Clairin, but heavier and with less grassy notes.

This smells more like briny sardines that’ve been laid in the grass and dirt for a little while. And then put into their tin can, the salt still quite present. At times the alcohol really comes out with a whiff of eyewatering pungency; If your nose is dear to you, don’t put it to far in the glass as I just did, twice (what’s that saying about a donkey and a rock?).

After some breathing the rum reveals some lighter notes; grass, some varnish and tropical fruits come up. Quite the varying nose.

Taste:

Yes, sweet Mary mother of Jesus and all that’s holy !!! This is something to careful with. It’s like drinking gasoline that’s on fire, then eating a cigarette. Yet I want to go straight back for another sip. The second and third sip are still challenging, hot and spicy. To be honest, the sheer power of it all never really subsides.

The full 69% is just hardly drinkable and enjoyable for any mere mortal.

Here’s my attempt at some actual tasting notes: the palate is very dry, leaning on sour. The briny and oily nose extends through the taste as well, though the fish doesn’t accompany it. More varnish and spice are along for the ride.

Finish:

The finish is more of the same. A warm hearth filled with peat remains for minutes. Other than that there are trace amounts of the varnish and spice are also present.

This really is the rum equivalent of the exorcist. All the while you’re drinking it, you’re thinking “What the hell am I doing?” and you’re thinking over all of your lives decisions. Yet it still manages to intrigue, it still challenges you to tame it. Even though you know you’ll never truly be able to handle and understand it completely, you’re still chasing that ultimate Nirvana of conquering the beast. Actually; I’ll change my comparison, it’s probably like a bad heroin habit.

Personally (and by now, unsurprisingly) I like it. It’s challenging, interesting and nothing like I’ve ever drunk. This being said, it really is a manic assault on the senses and the mouth as a whole and I believe the novice of it all can wear of pretty fast and it can get boringly brutish. That’s why I’ll give it two scores. One for all you crazy psychopaths (of which I’m partly one), and one for regular people. I can only recommend giving it a try, if you find one out there in the wild. You might love it, you might hate it. But it’ll blow you out of the water regardless

Self-destructive-sadomasochistic-wax-play-fetish-score

10/10

Everyone else

5/5

Overall

7.5/10