Rum Review: Berry Bros Guyana 10y

Today is an independent bottling of a Guyana rum, which normally means good times ahead. The bottling is done by Berry Bros & Rudd. A London base wine and spirit merchant that also bottles their own spirits. You can find their history here. This 300+ year old company has a reputation of bottling some great rums, with there being so many independent bottlers around at the moment. These long standing companies are always a beacon of quality.

This is a 2 part review, this Guyana 10y and a Caroni 1997 22y. Two iconic locations. So I’m looking forward to it.

According to my sources (he says feeling like a real journalist) the rum was almost entirely aged continentally. Which should give a noticeable difference in colour and flavour (intensity). There’s no clear indication as to what still it comes from, so I’ll assume it’s a blend of pot and column stills (again, if your read this and have further information, let me know). The rum was bottled at 58.7% ABV and comes from cask #86 (for those keeping track of the casks)

This is the second Guyana rum I’ll review after this. The first was a bit of a letdown, so let’s see what Berry Bros can do with this style.

Colour:

Clear gold, very light. Aged white wine like

Nose:

Not white wine like, that’s for sure. Initial notes I get are honey, hazelnut, chocolate. Followed by some floral hints. Very nice and comforting scent. I smell the ABV, but it’s not overpowering at all.

Some Szechuan pepper spice is also present.

Taste:

It has that honey and Szechuan combination on point here. First an initial sweetness with a spicy kick make this a weird though pleasant experience.

On further tasting, I get some pancakes with a dribble of syrup glazing, the chocolate is less powerful than on the nose. Nice and thick flavour with none of the unpleasant syrup-y sugared mouthfeel. Alongside this sweeter palate is a very interesting spicy hint which combines rather nicely.

Finish:

A tannic and comparatively dry finish shows the purity of the rum. I appreciate the rum having a sweet nose and palate, yet having a dry and woody finish. Another layer of complexity is added in this way.

A very solid dram for the price, which should be about €90-€100 (definitely better priced than the Caroni, which should be a spurprise to absolutely no one). This of course is an immense upgrade from the everyday El Dorado releases or even my previous review as this is bottled at a higher ABV and no additives have been used. A very clean, classic Guyana-palate is presented with some unusual spiciness to make it worth trying.

7/10

Review #7: Compagnie Des Indes Guyana, Diamond 14 years

“average, yet not averagely Guyanese”

Today we’ll be visiting Guyana. And the only distillery that’s left in the country: The Diamond Distillery. But in an independent way.

We’ll be visiting it through the lens of Compagnie des Indes, an independent bottler from France.

The idea behind the company is to bring back the memory of the East India Company. A bit like rebooting a movie franchise but in rum trade. Let’s hope they don’t adapt the business model of “shafting the colony and absurdly enriching the homeland”. All kidding aside, CDI really wants to bring some of the best rums in the world to Europe and that’s a good thing, because we can never get enough rum, can we?

Compagnie Des Indes sells 3 types of rums.

– Blends “for beginners”, which have added sugar in them to make it more palatable for people who are getting into rum.

– Blends that are not for beginners, these blends will bring out the full flavour of the rums that have been mixed together.

– Single casks, pure expressions of one cask that should be a great representation of what the distillery can do. These single casks are of course limited in production, and are in some cases very sought after.

Today I’ll be going over one of these single casks. The Guyana Diamond distillery 14 year.

But before we go into the tasting, a quick word about the Diamond distillery and Guyanese rum-production.

In the early 1600’s the Dutch “discovered” and settled in what is now Guyana. They settled (amongst other places) near the Demerara river. The cunning Dutch irrigated the banks of the river, thanks to their absolute mastery of water control. This lead to massive plantations perfect for sugar and rum production. In the early 1800’s the British took the Dutch settlements… by force (the British really loved their forceful occupations back in the day), and they took over the production of the sugar and the rum.

After a while the Demerara region was one of the most prolific rum-producing places in the colonies. This lead the rum produced at the banks of the river to be a massive part of the Royal Navy Blend and thus a pretty essential part of the British empire.

Rum production in Guyana thrived until it (together with all of the rum producing countries) got hit with a heap of setbacks. From the increase in sugar beets in Europe, prohibition (kind of), the world wars and various other reasons. These setbacks eventually caused the closure of all distilleries, except for one.

The sole survivor of the (what I shall call it henceforth) “gruesome Guyanese gutting of rum(production)” is the Diamond distillery. A distillery that’s been nationalized after Guyana became independent. Since then it’s been privatized again.

Fortunately we don’t completely have to miss out on what Guyana could have been if it wasn’t for all the closures. Because DDL (Diamond Distillery Limited) has bought the main stills from some of the most iconic Guyanese distilleries throughout the year. And this is the ace up their sleeve. With such an amazing array of legendary stills; column (enmore,) and pot (Versailles, port mourant) there is a lot of fun to be had for both the good folk at Diamond and the thirsty crowd.

This is an extremely short and unprofessional summary of the immense history behind this region and its rum. So again, for people who want to know more about the whole story, I’ll direct you to Mr. Matt Pietrek.

Before we begin tasting, let’s go through the quick spec sheet. The rum has been aged for 14 years, it’s bottled at 43% ABV in France, from barrel GDD46 (for those interested, or with a emotional attachment to the number 46… or something)

Righty then, tasting time


Colour:

The colour is very light golden with a slight green tint. It very clearly shows continental aging, or carbon filtration (but that would be immensely stupid). The first thing I thought (and I apologize in advance to CDI) is “wow, this looks like how a healthy person’s pee looks like (yeah, I’m really sorry… but this doubles as a friendly reminder to stay hydrated!)

Nose:

On the nose, this tipple starts of rather fresh, fruity and a bit vegetal. I can really draw a parallel between the smell and the colour: light, fresh, green-ish. Although this is bottled at a mere 43% I can smell a certain alcoholic presence, it is however not disturbing.

After a little while, some creaminess comes floating up. But like a whale that comes up once in a while, it disappears quite soon in a sea of fruity freshness.

Taste:

Taking that first sip reveals a sugary note which went undetected in the nosing. This accompanies the ever-present note of fresh fruit. The combination of these are delightful for a moment, but get dull quite soon. Luckily this rum has some fresh spiciness, a little barrel-influenced bitterness and the return of the creamy flavour. These added elements make sure that one can enjoy this rum for more than a couple of sips.

After some more sips though, the rum becomes a bit boring. Nosing it again doesn’t reveal anything new and the tasting experience is stuck on a plateau of ‘slightly above average’ flavour.

Finish:

After swallowing the rum, the spiciness tickles the back of my tongue for some time and the sweet creamy notes linger for a while, but nothing particularly spectacular happens here. The finish is short to medium.


To conclude, this is not your average Guyanese rum, since most rums that come from this historical rum-place are smooth, sweet, liquorice-y goodness. It is however a pretty good rum, but that’s all it is, pretty good. It’s a solid recommendation for someone who’s not a fan of “big flavour” and who wants something else than what they’re used to in Demerara rum.

5.5/10

Review #2: Velier Royal Navy Very Old Rum

Review 2. Woohoo! I decided to review the other end of the spectrum of rum for my second review. This way I establish a scope in which I’ll be reviewing. From sweeter more “broad public” rums to niche and special flavour bombs like today’s rum.

So today we have the ‘Velier Royal Navy Very Old Rum’. As the very catchy name says, this is a royal navy rum. It’s a blend created by rum demi-god Luca Gargano as an attempt (and a very tasty one at that) to recreate the rum that was given to sailors of the British Royal Navy from as early as 1655 until the rum ration ended on july 31st  1970 (1 minute of silence please).

The original navy blend consisted mainly of (you guessed it) rums made in British colonies. BUT it wasn’t limited to only these colonies. Matt Pietrek from Cocktailwonk also shows that rum from Martinique and Cuba was at one time blended into the rum sailors got as a daily ration. There wasn’t really one singular recipe, it was more like a certain flavour profile.

This is a blend of 3 of the most significant rum producing former colonies that were blended into the original navy rum at one time or another.

The first is Trinidad & Tobago, well presented by Caroni with a tropical aging of over 20 years. This is a fiery, extremely flavourful rum with notes of tar, rubber and petrol from the legendary closed distillery which bares the same name.

The second part is rum from Guyana that’s been aged in Europe for over 15 years. Rum mostly known for its sweeter taste palette and notes such as raisins, brown sugar and plums.

And the third part of this holy trinity is Jamaican rum aged in the tropics for over 12 years. This is rum is mostly known for its high ester flavour with notes of overripe fruits, pineapple, black tea,…

This is all blended together to form a rum with (as a rum geek I absolutely love this part) a weighted average age of 17.42 years and a very specific ABV of 57.14% which, to be clear, isn’t navy strength but proof strength (for more explanation I’ll refer to cocktailwonk again).

The presentation of this rum is as we’re used to with Velier releases: a stately bottle, the classic informative cardboard box and a simple yet very clear label with everything mentioned one would want to know.

At the time of writing this rum is hard to find, it’s still available at some (online) stores, but mostly it can be found on online auctions. Expect to pay somewhere around €150 and up.


Now onto how it tastes, because all this talking only matters if the rum tastes good.

Colour:

Lovely orange bronze-ish colour, very natural colour with a golden hue.

Nose:

The first thing I get from smelling this rum is the warmer, heavier Caroni notes: tar, rubber, and oil. With just the tiniest bit of Jamaican esters/fruitiness. Some lovely pineapple, a smidge of coconut and overripe banana. But these fade quite quickly, to a bit of the Guyanese rum: some raisins and brown sugar mainly. Which plays nice with the heavier Caroni notes. Underneath all this some woody smells and the accompanying tannic bitterness also pop up.

Honestly, I could just sit for hours sniffing this beauty. It keeps on evolving and surprising me. After some time the Jamaican part even returns for a second act.

Taste:

Oh boy, that’ll kick you in the teeth. As the rum goes into my mouth I feel a little spiciness on my lips. The first sip will warm you up like a roaring fire (somewhat fuelled by petrol and maybe a bike tyre) after you’ve come home from a winter day of throwing snowballs and catching some snow in the back of your neck. You know what I mean? Like REALLY warm you up.

That first sip can and probably will give you a punch in the face. But to be honest… I kind of like that (I found out I’m a bit of a rum masochist). The Caroni notes are very powerful and you can barely taste the otherwise very prominent Jamaican funkiness. There is however some subtle substance given by the Guyana part.

I was a bit disappointed about the lack of funk in the rum. I mean, it’s there but has to be looked for, hard. When I nip the tiniest amount, and swirl it around in my mouth I do get the familiar Jamaican funkiness of pineapple, overripe bananas and just the tiniest bit of varnish (as always in Jamaican rum: I mean varnish in the best possible way)

Due to this last sip and reading some other reviews I decided to add some water in the glass to hopefully open the rum up a bit more.

This made a huge difference. The Caroni takes a step back and Jamaica moves forward. I still get the warmer darker notes of the Caroni, but they are evenly matched with the high ester, fruity notes of Jamaica. Eventually I also get just a miniscule (but noticeable) amount of red fruit.

Due to lightening, this rum the woody flavour also pops up more.

Still, the Guyanese sweetness in the form of raisins and brown sugar with a bit of dark chocolate (thanks to the water) remains as a nice undertone.

Finish:

With all that happening in the mouth, I’d almost forget what happens after I swallow it. I would have to say the finish is medium-long. It is a bit shorter than I would expect it to be. Don’t get me wrong, it’s still quite long. But given the rums in this blend I expected the finish to be an hourlong experience. Although it isn’t, the flavours remaining are still good enough to make you want to keep drinking.


So to conclude. If the royal navy would still give out their rum rations and the ration would be this… well, I would enroll immediately. But seriously, this is a great rum. It’s a bit much when drunk neat, but add some water and it’s an amazingly high flavoured yet nicely balanced rum. Mr Gargano, you did one hell of a job on this one.  Can’t wait to try the successor to this one: the “Tiger Shark” (some good work was already done on the catchy name). because of the initial imbalance of the rums I must only give it 8.5/10