Wednesday, 24 August 2016

Review 87-89 - Rum Nation Small Batch Rare Rums (2016 release)

Photo copyright © H.Kristoffersen
Two weird cousins and a rather stoic uncle.

Not that long ago DDL and El Dorado issued three single cask, cask strength rums. The first ever directly from DDL, by DDL themselves.

This marked the beginning of an era, and around the rum world, whispering was heard how DDL was now going to kill off the indie bottlers who has been issuing bottle after bottle of continentally aged, cask strength Demeraras (and a single one who issued tropically aged ones).

Luckily the rum brokers still have there grubby hands on a lot of older Demerara casks, and therefore a lot of indie Demeraras are still popping up all over the place.

Now, Rum Nation is not unknown in the sense of issuing Demeraras.

They have had their Demerara No. 14 for some years now, and they have also had an almost annual release of a 20+ year old Demerara.

But until recently they haven’t been dealing in cask strength rums, apart from a couple of Caronis and a white Jamaican pot still rum.

Then they issued the Supreme Lord VIII – A gargantuan cask strength Monymusk.

And now they are firing all guns, and bringing no less than three small batch cask strength rums to the market.

Because they chose to issue three Demeraras at once, I thought it would be fun to attack them in a similar way, that I did with the three El Dorado Rare Collection rums.

So let’s go.

Much like their Guyanese competitor, Rum Nation has chosen to issue three single still, single cask rums.

1)    An 11 year old Diamond from 2005 bottled at 58,6% ABV.
2)    A 14 year old Enmore from 2002 bottled at 56,8% ABV.
3)    A 21 year old Port Mourant from 1995 bottled at 57,7% ABV.

Sound good, doesn’t it. The 11 year old Diamond feels like something I’ve seen a million times before. But a 14 year old Enmore and particularly the 21 year old Port Mourant are very, very interesting.

However Diamond, Enmore and Port Mourant are to my knowledge the most commonly indie bottled rums from Guyana, so nothing too special here.

Yeah, I know, I’ve been tackling a lot of Rum Nation rums lately. Nope, they didn’t pay me to do it. I just like what they do, and they have issued a lot of very interesting products all at once these days. So, that’s why.

Now shut up and read on.

I only have samples of these rums, so Google will be supplying the visual data for this paragraph.

For this release Rum Nation has done something refreshing: Chosen a new design. But not so vastly different, that it doesn’t still relate to the regular releases.

The bottle looks very much the same as the newer stubby bottles, but with a slightly more ”techno” closure. Perhaps it’s a glass ”cork”, perhaps it’s synthetic. I’ll have to ask Mr. Rossi about that when I see him in October.

[EDIT]: A kind reader explained to me, that the closure is a Vinolok glass thingie, which seals off the bottle completely, gives off no taste or odour, and allows you to stack your rums sideways like you would with wine. I'm suddenly very interested in learning more about those, and possibly getting a bag of them to replace old, broken corks in my rum collection.

For the first time ever the bottles come in tubes. Beige coloured cardboard tubes. With metal lids.

Apart from the old wooden boxes, this has to be my favourite Rum Nation packaging so far. Proper packaging just adds that little extra.

The tube is decorated with typical Rum Nation type graphics and stamps – and a new label with all the right information.

Following in the tracks of CdI, Rum Nation is suddenly starting to provide all relevant data right there on the label. Great news everyone! Year created, year bottled, still used, origin, strength, cask number and bottle number.

All in all, I like the presentation very much! It seems cleaner and more crisp, than the regular Rum Nation appearance.

Diamond 2005

Image courtesy of Rum Nation

The famous double column metal coffey still has lately been a large favourite among the indies. And for good reason I reckon. I have tried several Diamonds along the way, and they rarely disappoint.

The rum has a nice mahogany colour. Considering its rather meagre 11 years of age, it seems darker than I would expect.

Inside the glass it creates a nice visible layer of residue when twirled. Nothing too thick, but a ring is quickly made visible, and slowly it morphs into small droplets, which descend slowly.

The nose comes off a little thin.

It does have some nice Demerara notes, like big juicy raisins and prunes mixed with soaking wet, dark wood.

There is some fresh grassy undertones, with a big bag of spices.

Mostly cumin and cloves, but also a little vanilla and cinnamon.

And then, the most surprising thing of all: a strange layer of vodka.

It feels super fishy, and I have never found that note in a rum before, but that is what it reminded me of. A slight sharpness and an enormous trip down memory lane to my youth where quantity beat quality at least two nights a week.

Funny nose, but thankfully there was some usual suspects.

Going in, some of the notes from the nose take the lead.

Big, fat raisins and prunes, along with the cloves, cumin and soaked wood.

And that sticks with you for quite some time, before it opens up to display some anise, a dash of vanilla and a big stick of liquorice.

It does have a sharpness to it, which feel just barely controlled. I’m not saying that it is unpleasant, but it’s not very pleasant either.

Could it be the high strength? Perhaps. But I have had many high proof rums, which was better controlled.

It is by no means a bad rum. Not a all. It is tasty, it’s enjoyable and it’s good fun. It just needs a little knuckles before it plays nice.

Nice, long finish.

Nothing new going on, just a lot of the same old at lower volume.

As the fade kicks in, it feels more and more enjoyable as it nears the end.

As if the undesirable elements fades quicker than the desirable ones.

Pretty nice.

Good stuff. No doubt.

The vodka reference is weird. Super weird. It doesn’t destroy the experience. On the contrary actually. Thankfully it tastes nothing like vodka, so I’m not anxious about the quality about the rum.

Funny nose, good tasty and long, pleasant finish.

This is definitely an interesting rum.

Going for around €130 (if you can find it), it’s not the most expensive one. However there will also be other indie Diamonds available in the price range. Will it be single cask? Not necessarily. Will it be cask strength? Probably not. But a few may be, and you have to make sure to check them out as well.

This is not the best Diamond I’ve had, so there may be better alternatives out there.

However, as this is a good rum and indeed an interesting drink, it gets a…

Rating: 78/100

Enmore 2002 
Image courtesy of Rum Nation
One of the most famous Guyanese stills is the Enmore wooden coffey still. Regularly the source of an indie rum or two and in my opinion often a big case of hit or miss.

Lately most of the Enmores I have encountered are huge bags of pencil shavings, and nothing more.

I have however met a very awesome 2002 Enmore at while back, which now rests on my shelf, and will be adressed at a later time on the blog.

Therefore I’m looking very much forward to trying this Rum Nation Enmore 2002 as well.

Where the Diamond was a dark mahogany, the Enmore is a bleached, dirty blond – almost white – liquid. Twirling it yields familiar results. Easy flowing, nice droplets, blah, blah. The usual pure rum.

Okay. Pencils. Boatloads, but a little restrained.

When you sit down with it, and allow it to enthrall you, there is still something to be discovered.
Massive lime and lemon peels. This rum is huge on citrus notes.

And that is practically it. The light woods and the citrus.

The Diamond had that strange vodka note.

This citrus part of the Enmore reminds me heavily of lukewarm gin and Schweppes dry lemon. You know, that half drink, late at the party where you should have left an hour ago. The ice cubes are long gong, and you can’t remember when you had you last sip.

By now you must be thinking that I’m completely off my noodle. And for good reason.

I know it is insanely hard to believe, but I’m dead serious.

There is not much diversity to the nose of the Enmore, but it is quite the interesting fellow. There is no off notes, and nothing that I would rather have done without. And the strange notes brought a smile to my face.

Right now I’m just looking forward to see where we are going from here.

Thankfully it didn’t taste like stale gin and lemon. That would have disappointed me beyond comprehension. It does however taste a lot like other Enmores I’ve tried.

A good cocktail of pencil shavings, cloves and anise, and a very distant couple of fruity notes.
Nothing too spectacular.

It is however a very nice rum. Although this profile is not my preferred one, it is evident that we are dealing with a great rum.

The pencil shavings are controlled, tasty and well presented.

It is round, but also hot as hell because of the high proof.

Well done, Rossi.

Rather short considering the strength.

The fade brings nothing new, except for a slight shift in the balance away from the pencil shaving elements. It feels a bit sweeter and a little more fruity as it makes its way towards the exit.

And it cleans up super nicely. 

Good stuff.

Yet another super interesting rum. Even though it isn’t my preferred profile, I enjoyed it a lot.

Perhaps the best bottle of pencil shavings I’ve tried.

The massive lime peel on the nose was something new and fun, and I’m grateful that it didn’t carry over to the palate too much.

Sold for €150 it is a bit more expensive than the Diamond, and I can see why.
It is clearly a better built rum. Personally I would opt for the Diamond because of its more approachable nature with more usual notes. But the Enmore is by no means a dog in the big picture.

If you have €150 to spend there is a lot of options. But there isn’t many cask strength Enmores available. If you’re thinking about the El Dorado Enmore 1993, you are looking at an increase in price of €75, so that is a slightly different league.

I recently looked at a Samaroli 1990 Demerara, which also had massive pencil shrapnel. But where the Samaroli felt narrow, uncontrolled and destructive, the RN Enmore is more rounded, more controlled and less of an I.E.D. The heat is even kept in check, and it felt nowhere near as aggressive as the much older and weaker Samaroli.

Therefore it get away with a nice…

Rating: 82/100

Port Mourant 1995
Image courtesy of Rum Nation

Last but not least, the 21 year old Port Mourant.

Aaah. Port Mourant. Perhaps the most famous of all Guyanese stills. The double wooden pot still. 

The last one in the world. In operation for a million years. Made by God on the 12th day of creation, right after he created Adam and Eve, sugar cane, the cane press, yeast and the art of distilling.

Jokes aside, this one is practically identical to the Diamond in colour, which increased my surprise with the Diamond colour. The PM is almost twice as old and almost the same colour. Strange.

If you give it a twirl, it will react as you expect. Nice layer, nice ring, nice droplets, nice gravity.

Already at the nose, you are going to feel right at home. This is a very typical Port Mourant.

Heavy in nature, with initial notes of dark wood, anise, juice prunes and winey tannins.

I’m wondering where the massive muscles of the 57.7% ABV are hiding.

So far it feels more like any other sub 50% Port Mourant, than a sub 60% beast. But I have been surprised in the past, so let’s see what happens.

Beneath the classic Port Mourant profile, there is also some ripe limes. Juice and peel.

And in the background, a little burnt rubber, but nothing to intimidating.
Everything blends together in a way which makes sense. A bit layered, but not separated.

I hope it tastes equally well.

And there we have it … the hidden beast!

Wauw! The first sip almost tore my head straight off.

Although ”just” medium profiled, it showed me a level of flavour and force, that had to be taken seriously.

First the classic Port Mourant wood. High on oak, high on tannins, with a big, juice red wine character.

Then came an unusually large bag of dried fruits, with prunes, figs, juicy raisins and apricots.

It feels more fruity than most other Port Mourants I’ve tried, and it brings some sweetness to the table.

Huge amounts of liquorice. The raw and quite bitter pure liquorice. Very nice.

The another wave of dark, heavy wood, but without feeling over oaked.

There is no doubt in my mind, that this is a very good Port Mourant. It is super tasty, and feels well composed, balanced, flavourful and interesting.

It dies off a bit too quickly. When you survive the first blast, and you experience how tasty it is, you’ll want it to stay for a very long time.

Perhaps the bitterness from the liquorice and the tannins does too good of a job of cleaning up, and kind of jumps the gun a bit.

Never the less the fade is still very tasty, and brings out a little of the lime-features from the nose.

This is by far my favourite among these three new cask strength Demeraras.

Much more tasty and much more well composed than the Diamond and the Enmore.
No funny stuff, just a great, old Port Mourant.

I have found the PM for anything between €200 and €250, and that is quite a lot.

It is however what these old, single cask Demeraras cost these days.

I would however advice you to try before you buy. Cask strength rums are not an instant love affair for everybody. Some may prefer one of the 45-46% Demeraras from the Rum Nation past – or any other bottler for that matter.

If you are a cask strength fanboy like me, you will enjoy the Port Mourant very much.

The quality of this rum should be rather obvious. I really think it is. But knowing how insane a cask strength Demerara can be, this Port Mourant is perhaps too gentle and too easy going.

And that is why it won’t reach the top of rum world. But it still leaves with a…

Rating: 87/100

Final Thoughts

What a great experience. Once again Mr. Rossi has issued a lot of rums, which makes you feel that you are trying something new.

The strange vodka-Diamond, the gin and Schweppes-Enmore and the awesome, but gentle, classic Port Mourant.

Two weird cousins and a rather stoic uncle.

A set of this strange family will set you back around €520, so most people will think twice before getting the full range.

The cheaper Diamond and Enmore may lure some to give them a go without having tried it first. But in my world the real gem is the much more expensive Port Mourant.

Even at the €200 mark it is a great rum. No question about it.

Cask strength and smaller batch rums are getting more and more popular these days, and people seem to be willing to part with large amounts of cash for such bottlings, so the evolution of the Rum Nation line-up is very understandable.

I acknowledge the effort from Mr. Rossi with these rums, and I for one am not going to complain about more cask strength rums. But I can’t help but wonder if this is truly the right move for Rum Nation.

In my opinion Rum Nation is the king of 40-46% indie bottlings. They churn out a large and varied line up of rums from all over the old school origins, and they do it very, very well.

The Port Mourant was stellar, but the other two were not up to typical Rum Nation standards. In my eyes at least.

Recently I tackled the Supreme Lord VIII which was fantastic, and they have great success with high proof Caronis and a couple of whites.

I don’t know. Perhaps I’m just not adjusting to change that well.

I’ll have to wait for further releases before drawing any conclusions. For now I’m just thankful that the world has more small batch, cask strength rums to choose from.

Keep up the great work, Mr. Rossi.

Ratings (repeated)
Diamond 2005: Rating 78/100

Enmore 2002: Rating 82/100

Port Mourant 1995: Rating 87/100

2-3 years ago, I got the Velier Diamond 1996, Enmore 1995 and Port Mourant 1997 for around that same prices, as the three new Rum Nation rums costs. The rum world has moved a very long way since then and we are seeing a completely different market now.

So, if you get one or more of the Rum Nation small batch rums, and fall in love, my advice will be to stock up. Because once they are gone, the next similar rum may be a lot more expensive.


1 comment:

  1. I enjoyed a lot reading this review. Interest of the tastings aside (although they are very interesting), the way you wrote it made me smile several times :)

    Thank you!