Rum Review : Rasta Morris Trinidad 2007

The second Rasta Morris, This time we’re traveling to Trinidad and Tobago. An island we all know for the legendary caroni and some (mostly locals and rum-geeks) know for Fernandes. Today Trinidad is home to only one distillery. TDL (Trinidad Distillers Limited), these are the kind people who make Angustora rum, the world famous bitters and some other products.

TDL is a pretty modern institution when you look at their production method, the distillery has these huge column stills which make rum a very light, approachable rum. Think Bacardi or Havana Club, but better quality and taste. Angustora has a very wide portfolio ranging from a 3 year old white rum (charcoal filtered) to special blends with significant dates for the company as names such as: 1919, 1824, 1787.

Overall I’m not to crazy about this type of more commercially focused “light” rum. Don’t get me wrong, it’s still a very tasty tipple and more people should be drinking this than Don Papa or Kraken or whatever is in a new skull-shaped bottle. I just don’t really get as much pleasure from drinking this type of rum. So, I’m very curios what Mr Bruyneel has done with this distillery.

The rum is 13 years old, having spent 8 years in Trinidad & Tobago and then another 5 years in Europe. And -here’s the real put-your-mouth-on-the-curb-kicker- bottled at 67.5% ABV, yes, sixty-seven point five. We’ll see how it goes, I’m intrigued.

Colour:

Light golden with a subtle brown hue.

Nose:

On par with its baffling 67.5% ABV, very prickly and rather sharp at first. Some coconut shavings and dried plums are closely behind this initial sharpness, this sharpness also translates to some glue-ish nose. All this is being coated by honey, or at least a floral sweetness. The nose isn’t bad, nothing too mindblowing either.

Taste:

The taste is much better than the nose lets on. My first impressions are that the rum is warm, with a pleasant alcoholic spice. Not like the sharp nose. I do feel the alcohol going down my throat, though it’s way more Hot Toddy than shot-of-vodka.

The light floral theme does carry over to the palate, behind the ever-present heated spice of 67.5% there is a very subtle rum full of fresh honey, coconuts and orange blossoms. The combinations of both extremes (the ABV and subtle flavours) gives a whole range of flavours. As the honey sometimes transforms itself into dark slightly bitter caramel and the coconuts get roasted a bit.

Finish:

The finish is medium-long. The main notes remaining are those of roasted coconuts, the bitter caramel and a tiny amount of the floral orange blossom. The finish gets darker the longer it goes on, eventually leading to a distant hint of tobacco.

I didn’t expect this rum to work as well as it does. The ABV is something you’ll probably won’t get used to, and that seems to be the point here. Trinidadian rum in general is nice, in both meanings of the word. it’s pleasant tasting, but it has no real presence, no fist slamming on the table and demanding your attention.

This kind of does have that. 67.5% is a pretty big fist of course. It also makes the lighter, “nicer/kinder” flavours heavier and more interesting while still preserving them somewhat. I also really do love that it’s still such a drinkable rum, even at this ABV. This one works way better than the lower ABV Venezuela from Rasta Morris. Good one Bert!

8/10

Rum Review: Berry Bros Caroni 1997 22y

Today is an independent bottling of a Trinidad rum, more specifically Caroni, quite the legend. 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 Caroni was distilled back in 1997, and bottled 22 years later. A significant part of the aging was in continental conditions and it was bottled at 60.3%.

Since this is the first Caroni that I’ll review, I’ll give a small introduction. The Caroni story started in 1918 like so many others, with a sugar plantation. Actual rum distilling started in 1923 and this lasted up until 2002 when the distillery was closed by the government. The distillery produced a “Heavy” rum, a flavour profile with notes such as tar, rubber and petroleum. This all may not sound attractive, but for most experienced rum drinkers, it’s an eye-opening experience. Unexperienced drinkers on the other hand may believe something is very wrong with it, to each their own.

Because of this intense and expressive profile, the rum wasn’t all that popular when the distillery was open, especially since most of the worlds tastebuds were more prone toward lighter rum and rum cocktails.

In 2004 Luca Gargano re-discovered this now-closed distillery and found a massive amount of resting barrels in an abandoned warehouse. Gargano continuously released single casks and blend of the rum which went from the fringes to wide recognition and now legendary status. Gargano made Caroni great and a lot of independent bottlers are trying to share some of the profits with him.

Among which is today’s bottler. With their 1997 vintage, they’ve brought a (hopefully) memorable Caroni identity.


Colour:

Amber, orange with deep golden hues.

Nose:

There they are: petroleum, tar, rubber. These heavy notes are also complimented by tropical fruits (passionfruit and bananas). The heavy elements serve as a solid base on which the fruit can float. Chocolate and molasses join the party as well but these get lost in the heavier notes.

The intensity of the nose and its ABV of 60.3% makes my eye water sporadically when diving in deep. Nothing I can’t handle though. (yes, I’m a badass)

Taste:

Molasses, orange, tar, petroleum, banana, chocolate and tobacco. In that order. Just a very warm and intense rum. It’s like sitting at an open fireplace in a cabin and smoking a fat cigar and eating tangerines… near a petroleum factory. I’ve been told this is one of the “more approachable” and lighter caroni’s still out there. Since this is my first review of a Caroni I can not confirm nor deny this statement. I’ll just have to see as the years come along where this one ranks.

The ABV is filling and not sharp at all. Also some spice is present on the tongue, but very light. A light saffron hint.

Finish:

The finish is almost infinite and woody, the tar and rubber linger. A thin layer of caramel covering a cask remains as a last lingering note.

This being the first caroni I’ve reviewed, I don’t really have a standard with which to compete. But as a rum on its own, it is of course an immensely good rum. I must admit I like the tar, rubber and petroleum notes, though I don’t love them. Meaning that this is a solid rum to try occasionally; not daily or weekly. Perhaps monthly or even less frequent than that. With the status this distillery has and its intense flavour it only seems normal to keep this type of rum for special occasions or tasting sessions.


Overall, good rum, powerful and expressive. Wouldn’t recommend it for the weaker hearted, but for the ones that are open to trying it. It’s a great piece of history to try it.

This Caroni now stands at a price of €520. Which is a lot. The question is, is it worth it? There are 2 sides to the answer.

-As a collector’s item? yes! as a collector’s item this is definitely worth it, since Caroni is a closed distillery, prices will only go up. So the best time to buy Caroni is yesterday.

-As a drinker? not at the moment. There are cheaper Caroni’s available on the market, both full and partial tropical ageing. Over the next couple of years this could become worth it though. As the already limited stock sells out, this type of pricing will be normal for Caroni (as it is now for the more limited bottles, that run at multitudes of this price already).

In the end it’s really up to you if you’re willing to pay this kind of money for this kind of rum.

And for this money you can be that annoying and pretentious person that has drunk Caroni and can’t stop talking about it… Like I will be from now on. You may from now on address me as ‘Sir RumRobin, Knight who says (Caro)NI‘. all I need now is a crown, a cupbearer to bring me rum at a moment’s notice and a shrubbery.

9/10

Here you can find the link to buy the bottle. The webshop only works for Belgian customers or for people who have “Bancontact” at the moment.

If you aren’t from Belgium and are still interested in this bottle. Send me an email on robin@crombewines.com

Disclaimer: I work at the store of which I included the link. I do not however receive any money or incentives to sell these rums. I just like them, put them in the store and share them with you all.

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