A Spring Tasting of Rum

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April 15, 2012

Manuela Savona of Savona Communications sent me a lovely selection of Rum from the French producer named Plantation the other day.  These Rums are not your typical Rum and Tonic or dare I say Pina Colada Rums.  They are as sophisticated as the most valuable Cognac or Armagnac for your snifter. 

Plantation Rums are initially aged in oak that held Bourbon.  Aged in the sun in the method known to producers of Madeira- the caramelized flavors of Kentucky Bourbon shine through in a magical display of sumptuous textures.  But instead of just aging in Bourbon Oak, Plantation Rums are shipped to France where they undergo a further aging in casks that held Cognac.  Cognac you say?  Yes. 

These barrels hail from the distillery named Pierre Ferrand.  In France, small French oak Ferrand cognac barrels age the single island Rums in Cognac infused barrels, giving the already flavorful liquids even more complexity and character.  It's amazing to me, at least in my tasting of the six Ferrand Rums, how my memories of the islands show through each sip.

During my teenager years while my friends were getting smashed on Whiskey and Coke, I was fortunate to have traveled in the winter months to the Caribbean islands to spend time on my mom's Little Harbor yacht. 

One of the things that sailing does is develop a thirst for the liquor of the sea.  That is Rum... The choice of Sea-Dogs and land-lubbers the world over!

The day would begin with a Rum and orange juice, mid-day would signal a couple of Rum and Cokes.  Dinner would call for a couple Pina- Colada cocktails with, you guessed it, more Rum.  But after dinner was a special time, at least for my young palate. 

The dessert Rum would be something marvelous, a beauty to hold in the hand. If we were dining out- something I hoped for every night we put into another hidden cove for anchorage- the digestif cart would be rolled out at the end of the meal. 

In this case the Rum would be something truly elegant and dare I say even mind-blowing! 

The greatest Rums of my young life were enjoyed with the soft saline air of the Caribbean Sea enveloping my body- a digestif to help with digestion of the meal! 

Food on board my mom's yacht was not what I would call particularly well prepared.  My mom couldn't cook her way out of a paper bag.  She would take wonderful ingredients and just destroy them, scorching eggs at breakfast and cooking dinner roasts into oblivion. 

But of course there was the one thing I enjoyed more than the solid food.  In this case it was the promise of a nice snifter of hand-crafted Rum at the end of the meal.

Some years we would sail around the French West Indies and the Rum we enjoyed spoke of a different provenance.  Rum from the British Virgin Islands tastes differently than Rum from Martinique.  I may have been young at the time, but I knew and could taste the difference that maturation in Cognac cask makes on a bottle of Rum.

It was around this time of sailing in the British Virgin Islands and the French West Indies that I truly began to enjoy Rum as more than just a mere metaphor to a buzz.  It was (and still is) my preferred drink for hot weather. 

Of course there is nothing like enjoying a Hot Buttered Rum when the grippe takes hold or a chill comes over me.  Even in the summer months, at the end of a long day, a chill may be in the air.  For this occasion, Rum is quite beguiling and finds a place in my memory and memories to be made for the future.

Tasting Notes for Plantation Rum single expressions and blends.

1. 1998 Guadeloupe

There is the predominant flavor of Cognac on the attack.  Long finish with notes of petrol, in fact a petrol nose is not at all unpleasant, but highly delicious.  Caramelized Banana Foster dessert comes to mind, but just the liquor with a fat finish of juicy, long cooked tropical fruits.  It can be dessert in a glass if you want to skip dessert!

2.  2000 Jamaican

This Rum is incredibly floral in the mouth.  The aroma is of toasty oak with an incredible multi-minute finish of burnt sugar and grade B maple syrup.  Thick on the tongue, the Jamaican Rum is memorable in every way with further notes of toasted nuts and coconuts.

3.  2000 Trinidad

Sugar predominates each sip.  This Rum is lighter in the mouth than the Jamaican of the same year.  The Terroir speaks clearly of crushed stones.  It's not really complicated but the finish is memorable in the length, going on and on. 

4. 5 Year Barbados

Creamy and thick on the tongue with a silky mouth-feel.  Much more vanilla but in this case the vanilla is from the Bourbon Oak.  There is plenty of fire in the finish and I really liked the aroma of pineapple and grilled oranges. 

5.  Over Proof- Trinidad and Tobago.  Beware!  This is not Rum for your snifter, this is Rum for floating on top of a tropical beverage such as a Punch. Rum that approaches this level of power should be taken with care!  Beware the Puncheon!

6.  Extra Old

The Extra Old I believe is a blend of several vintage dated Rums.  The nose reminds me of Stroh Rum from Austria.  Butterscotch and caramel vie for the leadership role with Spanish leather and charred wood taking over immediately.  Drinking the Extra Old is akin to riding a magnificent steed over hedgerows.  It is powerful in the finish and in the start. The Extra Old demands attention, just as a powerful horse keeps your attention unless you want to fall off into a briar patch.  This is marvelous stuff.  The leader of the tasting!

Side notes on a couple of Rums tasted during the main tasting:

JM Rhum Blanc from Martinique

Pretty white flower nose with notes of freshly cut cane and cane sugar.  Elegant and bold.  Not at all like Puerto Rican White Rum.  Martinique Rhum has a specific AOC and the method for producing it dates back over 100 years!

Mount Gay Extra Old

Chocolate and mocha on the palate- notes of allspice, nutmeg and toasted coconut predominate along with Spanish leather and toasted wood.  The finish is a bit more watery than the Plantation offerings, leading me to believe that this Rum can be mixed, whereas the Plantation Rums are purely for the snifter.  I wouldn't be at all upset at the prospect of this Rum being mixed with Tia Maria in a nod to the heritage of the sea.  We always had Mount Gay on board our yacht.  With all the Rums available to us, Mount Gay was my step-father's go/to along with Cruzan.  In fact, bottled water costs more than gasoline in the islands.  Rum costs less.  You drank Rum!

St. Barth's Rhum Agricole

This 100 proof monster of a Rum is a take-off on the Rhum Agricole from Martinique.  It is fire in the mouth with a multi-minute finish.  They call it a Rhum Agricole.  What is missing is the Punch, like the Rhum Punches I enjoyed on St. Barth.

Mix this Sugar Cane Moonshine with freshly squeezed lime juice, mango and coconut water and chunks of grilled pineapple for a Rum punch that will change the way you look at Rum.  I think what I like most about the St. Barth Rum is the ease in mixing. 

It needs to be mixed with tropical fruit juices.  Anything else is just too harsh for my palate. 

So stop complaining and mix this Rhum!   

 

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Comments

Freddy's picture

Your tasting note are all over the place with not a clear structure related to the product you taste. I highly recommend you to get your hands on some chromatic analyse to determine the aromatic spectrum of divers spirits. AOC Martinique is not 100 years old but did start from 1996. Since, all the distilleries did adjust the process from harvesting to distillation. About vintage rum, there is no control at all and therefore no garanty of age proof from sugar mill rum nor the origin of molasses. Pure cane juice rum gets mature anything from 18 to 36 months (15/17 years maximum). Which equal a single malt of around 12/20 years old or a Cognac of 6/10 years old. The maximum potential for rum and other spirits is base on molecular complexity. Pure cane juice is around 30 maine molecules while light rum is about 1 to 4 molecules. Here come the dilema to justified going agains the low of the nature. What ever marketing says, mother nature never lies.

Warren Bobrow's picture

Freddy: Thank you for taking the time to write.
Rum as a craft and science is over 100 years old. I'm sorry if you thought that I said the establishment of the AOC is over 100 years old. I apologize.

I write with my own style, thank you. I review restaurants and write about wine, also with my own style. My work is published globally by dozens of magazines, has appeared in books and encyclopedia format publications. Are all these editors mad?

The liquor and pr companies (to date) have been very happy with my own style of reviewing and writing. My writing has transformed my life. I'm over 50 and transformation from one job to another is very difficult!

My writing pays for what I do, this is my passion and it works for me.

I'm also so very happy that you included this scientific information for my readers.

If you would like to contact me directly I'd welcome your conversation. Thank you for your viewpoint and for taking time out of your life to comment. Warren Bobrow

Warren Bobrow's picture

Freddy: Thank you for taking the time to write.
Rum as a craft and science is over 100 years old. I'm sorry if you thought that I said the establishment of the AOC is over 100 years old. I apologize.

I write with my own style, thank you. I review restaurants and write about wine, also with my own style. My work is published globally by dozens of magazines, has appeared in books and encyclopedia format publications. Are all these editors mad?

The liquor and pr companies (to date) have been very happy with my own style of reviewing and writing. My writing has transformed my life. I'm over 50 and transformation from one job to another is very difficult!

My writing pays for what I do, this is my passion and it works for me.

I'm also so very happy that you included this scientific information for my readers.

If you would like to contact me directly I'd welcome your conversation. Thank you for your viewpoint and for taking time out of your life to comment. Warren Bobrow

Laura B's picture

I was transported back to the Caribbean when I read your article. I spent a wonderful holiday in Grenada and every night the hosts would produce a fresh, clean, fragrant pitcher of rum punch. Its simplicity (freshly grated nutmeg) was pure joy - I have tried, but have never been able to replicate it at home - obviously, with a lack of palm trees and sun! I have never thought of rum as the seafaring tipple - of course, it makes total sense. Great article!