This is Magic…Skeldon 1973

skeldon-collage

The rum genie in a bottle!

And finally….finally the holy grail (or one of the grails) and wet dream of rum landed in my hands…..the Skeldon. The true genie in a bottle that can make magic is not a genie….it´s a rum!

The 1973 Skeldon, is a 32 year old rum from Guyana (abv 60.5%) by the independent bottler Velier and which over the years has earned a cult status among rum connaisseurs and collectors. Unavailable nowadays as far as I know unless you are lucky to score a sample somewhere or even a big bottle maybe, if your pocket is as deep as this rum…..

On the back of the label it says “aged 32 years in tropical weather” “Produced 544 bottles”. The angels share (the contents in the barrel evaporating over time) which concentrates the flavors, color and viscosity, must be something like 75-80%.

It´s a very long time I have wanted to try the Skeldon 73 and 78 (years) and finally my turn has come to be able to try the 1973 expression. I have a firm belief that the good rums sooner or later eventually comes to those who truly appreciates them……This little sample is to me as precious a treasure as a treasure box in all it`s glory…and this might be Luca´s very best rum ever. My mind goes to the best I know of and have tried of the rums from Velier, the UF30E – which I find incredible, will this one be as good or better or can they even compare? I`m sure not….they gotta be very different rums.

I take a look at the little sample bottle…the rum in there has a dark brownish color with hues of deep red…yes red, a pronounced dark deep red…and when I take pics of it in the glass it shows even purple hues…like a dark red purplish tinted wine…amazing.

The history of this rum goes back to the Skeldon sugar plantation which was established between 1802 – 1834 by William Ross on the far east part of Guyana, or more exactly, on the west bank of the Corentyne river, near the border of Suriname. From what I read on the pictures of the labels both the 73 and 78 was distilled in a coffey still in 1973 and bottled in 2005, so makes 32 long tropical years – but exactly where it was distilled I´m not sure…..since the Skeldon facility closed down in 1960. But during the last decade stills have been moved from one distillery to another and most likely the Skeldon still and it`s marques were moved to Uitvlught.

Ah… some of the mysteries of the old Guyana sugar plantations and their stills…will we ever know? I think not…and maybe that’s the best because when the magic is gone it´s gone…so let it remain…

skeldon-label

And in true “Gargano manner”, Luca Gargano found the last barrels of it…(4 barrels!) –  just like he found all those forgotten Caroni barrels in a warehouse at the defunct distillery on Trinidad …. and the 1980 Damoiseau…which was considered to not be “any good” since it contained a  bit of molasses….(or it was rejected by the AOC) but Luca sensing a hidden gem bought almost the entire stock and and in 2002 released it at cask strength and that my friends was the beginning of the Velier era. Damosieu held back some of that rum which they released later at the same strength, probably taking notice Luca was on to something.

Luca is like the ultimate “rum finder” in the rum world…it seems that he just knows where the precious stuff is….and he transforms them into true gems of pure rums, all tropically aged and very unique, every expression is a one of a kind. When these rums are gone it`s an era that will be over.

That said, luckily for us, there`s also new rums in the making, for example the very interesting and unique Clairin rums from Haiti issued by Velier and the fabulous pure single rums from Habitation Velier which is a collaboration between Luca Gargano and the best producers of pot still rums. Also the Foursquare distillery has come out with some remarkable rums in collaboration with Velier like the single blend “Foursquare 2006” (a blend of pot still rum and twin column Coffey still rum from one distillery) – which sold out within just a few hours after it´s release….yeah….to some sort of collective chock among serious rum enthusiasts making it´s ripples through social media, it was just gone – and nope this girl didn`t score a bottle…but I scored a sample.

But back to the legendary old Skeldon…

skeldon-sample

So in an attempt to describe the taste notes of this rum from my notes made on an envelope as they came paired with the notes I got when I re-tasted it a few days later:

Nose – first hint – I first got something medical in my nose which gave way to liqorice…followed by musky dark prunes and black fruits, burnt molasses, leather, cocoa and tar…then mature tropical fruits, hint of banana peel, old wood, whiffs of caramel and slight hints of dark dark coffee…it´s a “dark” rum and I`m not talking about the color now but dark fruits and dark “stuff” and the nose is very very deep…

Taste – Hands down unbelievable, an explosion of flavors going out in all directions, but it`s balanced, complex and multi layered, so several tastings is needed. There´s charred wood, mashed tropical fruits, prunes and dark plums…liqorice, tobacco, tar and leather, black cherries…absolutely incredible and so deep and rich and full! It has kick but no burn…there is nothing that is unpleasant, nothing at all, it´s like a fine orchestra handling even the wildest and heaviest notes in full balance with both elegance, attitude and originality, it´s that exquisite.

It´s a heavy rum and strong, but the high proof is not difficult to handle.

Finsh – One thing surprised me, the long finish! it´s epic….!!! After I took my first small sips I decided to check the clock and see how long the finish stayed. After 30 minutes I said to myself, ok, this is long….and I`m impressed….but my dinner was ready so I decided to cut it and have my meal. I could always take the time again at the next session. After the meal and a lot of water – hints of the aftertaste was STILL there! incredible! and that has never happened to me before.

I also decided to do a glass-smell-test, by leaving the tasting glass unwashed and see for how long the smell of the rum stayed in it…something only a geek would do…well, it`s been three days and the smell or shall we say fragrance? is still there but today all of a sudden, I detect more buttery notes of caramel…

What a rum! it shows how a really excellent rum can be…and what the potential is…between two rums there can not only be “another world” it can truly be a whole other universe! in my opinion, this kind of rum can rival or equal anything of the best of anything in the spirits world. And the best thing is, there is nothing added to it, it`s just pure rum!

And last I want to thank the opportunity to officially thank my friend Lance for making it possible for me to try this wonder of a rum and also providing the pics of the big bottle and the pic of the back of the label. I want to add that he has what to me is the very best of all rum blogs, the “Lone Caner” containing an incredible amount of excellent reviews.

Another excellent source which is the most complete and in-detail writing on the history of the rums, sugar plantations and stills of Guyana where I have found lots of valuable information is the Barrel Aged Mind.

skeldon-1973-glass-4

TOTC 2015 – RUM – A Taste of 10 Rare Single Casks

plantation single casks rums

Rum is much more than a liquor in a bottle – it`s a lifestyle and the spirit of a people.

Here is a rare opportunity to experience some fine aged rums from a private collection, never before seen in the United States. Originally sourced in Caribbean casks, these select aged rums were further aged in special barrels in Europe over many years. This exclusive tasting event will be available for only twenty serious rum enthusiasts, featuring vintage rums from Guadeloupe, Belize, Guyana and Haiti, lovingly triple matured and rested in barrels from rare Sauternes, Pineau des Charentes and even Sherry casks.

At the Tales there are a few of these rare tastings and if you get the chance go to some, you will probably never get the chance to taste some of these spirits again. At this tasting there were 10 very rare single cask rums from Plantation rums and it was a privilege to be able to taste them.

Presented by Robert Burr, Paul McFadyen and Alexandre Gabriel and sponsored by Plantation rum and DrinkUpNY.com we were presented the philosphy and vision behind the Plantation rums, followed by tasting samples of these 10 rare single casks:

PLANTATION RUM SEMINAR

Cuba 1998 –  This rum was aged in Cuba. It has a sweet nose with hints of vanilla. A bit lighter rum, Cuban style with a bone structure of spicy cask. Notes of fruity apricot and vanilla with some spice. I found it to be an elegant and fresh rum.

plantation single casks cuba

Trinidad 1989 – This rum doesn´t exist anymore and is a blend of pot and column stills. It`s fruity and spicy, rounded and rich. A glimpse of the past….

Nicaragua 1998 – It has a faint nose, almost nothing but there´s slight notes of fruit. The taste is dry with a pleasant touch of wood. Not sure if I picked up a hint of cherry? I liked this rum a lot.

Barbados 1991 – Sweet, fruity, mellow and balanced made with 40% pot and 60% column stills with vanilla notes and french oak. A nice pleasant balanced rum.

Belize 9 yo – This rum is 100% column still rum. It has a very distinct coconut flavor, some hints of vanilla, it´s a very tropical rum.

Navy blend, Barbados, Trinidad, Belize – This was a very spicy strong bodied rum, woody, complex and rich! with a slightly fruity nose and of course one of my favorites…

Barbados 20 yo – Rare, only a few barrels are left. Spicy wood, smooth and balanced.

Guadeloupe 1998 –  One of my top favorites! incredible rum!! Rich, flavorful and outstanding! complex, wild and warm. Oh yeah……….

Jamaica 1998/Guyana 1988 –  My notes says “Flavor! Funky! Heavy! 🙂

St Lucia 15 yo – Sweet and woody…..

plantation single cask collage

Then there was also a surprise rum, a very rare 1983 Jamaican, which was VERY flavorful and funky….a high ester bomb! tropical bananas, wood, raisin, tropical fruit….

The vision of Plantation rums is to capture the essence of what rum used to be, how it used to taste and roll upstream against the tide of column still, and to reflect the style of each island. The rums are double aged, first in their tropical climate and then in limousine and oak casks in France.

According to Plantation rums double ageing is the key to refinement in combination with “elevage” which means to nurture the rum like you would nurture a plant or a baby. If distillation is a science then ageing is an art and the blender works the symphony…

We were tasting the “treasure chest” of Plantation rums, rums that are not available to the public for various reasons, for example the Trinidad 1989 which doesn`t exist anymore in the way it was made. Every single barrel is unique and whether the rum is aged in humid or dry cellars affects the rum, for example you get a smoother rum in a humid cellar since there the alcohol evaporates first and in a drier cellar you will get a spicier rum.

Every rum has it´s own “sweet spot” which is the proof at which the rum shines the most.

This and a lot of other things we learnt at this tasting/seminar which I think was outstanding and very interesting! I`m happy I was there!

I´m sure we will see more of Plantation rums at the Tales next year! don´t miss it……..

plantation single casks 5

Paul McFadyen and Alexandre Gabriel, photos Laura Godel

Gunroom Navy Rum!

GunRoom label

When I went to a rum tasting at Renbjer & Magnusson recently, there was one that kicked it and stood out…. and the star of the show was the Gunroom Navy rum! – it`s their own creation/brand – gunpowder proof, strong and bold in the flavor, it`s a blend of rums from Guyana, Jamaica, Trinidad and Barbados.

Navy Rum

Known as “Nelson’s Blood” rum was introduced to the service in the West Indies as a substitute for beer and brandy. There are two things to remember about navy rums. One is the strength. Navy strength is a spirit that has to be of high strength, over 57% alcohol.

There is also gunpowder strength which became the new navy strength at 54.5% and there is navy rum which traditionally was made from any rum bought from a distillery then blended back in the UK for sale to the navy. The rums could be from a single island, or blends. Because Guyana and Jamaica supplied most rums to the UK most navy rums had their country on the label.

The GunRoom Navy Rum is 65% ABV or 130 proof, which is a bit above what is defined as navy strength. It is said that in the old navy days sailors would “prove” the strength of their rum rations by checking that gunpowder doused with rum would still burn (thus verifying that rum was at least 57% ABV.)

This rum was distributed to sailors with one serving around midday and one late afternoon – called a tot. While rations were later cut several times over a period of time, before finally being abolished in the 1970s, (known as the “black tot day” that original proof test defined what we know today as Navy Strength rum—strong, potent overproof and powerful.

GunRoom Navy Rum

GunRoom tasting

GunRoom Navy Rum is still hand bottled in small square shaped bottles with a simple label. If i was french i`d say “trés sympa” (very nice) and indeed these bottles are cute, but don`t let that fool you, the content is not “cute” – it´s bold…with rums from Guyana, Jamaica, Trinidad and Barbados in the blend you get a full flavored product packing a punch.

Nose: Wood, leather, raisin and sugarcane…dried tropical fruit peel, vanilla, toffee and spice.

In the mouth: It`s a strong and robust rum with quite a bit of wood, smoke, molasses and banana, tropical fruit, dark fruits and spices. It reminds me of a darker version of Smith and Cross. It`s bordering to rough but not in a bad way, it´s not harsh. If you like strong rum you`ll like this.

It feels like this rum could kick any cold to the moon…..and it really warms the chest.

A few drops of water opens up more fruitiness and mellows it down a bit. It´s a great rum for mixed drinks and especially well suited for tiki drinks, i think it can stand up to most mixers and juices. It´s ok to drink neat as well but it´s not for the faint of heart (or mouth) this is a rum for lovers of rums with attitude!

Navy Grog  (my version for GunRoom of Trader Vic`s from Martin Cate)

GunRoom Navy Grog

0.5 oz fresh lime juice

0.75 oz grapefruit juice (white)

0.5 oz sugarcane syrup

1/3 oz grog concentrate (if you have it) or 0.5 oz allspice/pimento dram (like St Elisabeth or Bitter Truth brands) or you can make it yourself.

1 oz gold rum (such as Appleton VX)

1.5 oz GunRoom Navy Rum

Shake together and strain into a rock`s glass with crushed ice, garnish with either a lime shell, a sugar swizzle stick or a ice cone and maybe a tropical orchid…

Potent drink!

The ice cone is made with Beachbum Berry`s ice cone mold the Navy Grog Cone Kit and it works just fine! easier than the old way of doing it by using a pilsener glass! it can be purchased at Cocktal Kingdom.

The next is the classic Trader Vic`s Mai Tai which with rums like this one can become strong and wild…

Traditionally since the 17 year old Wray and Nephew rum was gone the Mai Tai has been mixed with two rums but i also like Mai Tais mixed with just one rum, if that rum has full potential and the rum has some Demerara or Jamaican pot still rum in itself or in the blend.

In this blend i get four different rums in my Mai Tai.

GunRoom Mai Tai

GunRoom Mai Tai

2 oz  GunRoom Navy Rum

1 oz fresh lime juice

0.5 oz Pierre Ferrand Dry Curacao

0.25 oz sugarcane syrup

0.25 oz orgeat

OR you can use 0.5 oz orgeat and omit the syrup, it`s tasty too…

Add 5 dl/2 cups of crushed ice, and shake 10 seconds.  Pour unstrained into a double old-fashioned glass. Sink your spent lime shell in the drink, and garnish with a mint sprig.

Final thoughts: If you can get the GunRoom Navy Rum and like strong rums and/or Tiki and tropical rum drinks, you should get yourself a bottle!

GunRoom bottle

St Nicholas Abbey 5 Year and White Rums

St Abbey Rums 2

The St Nicholas Abbey Distillery in Barbados operated by the Warren family is one of those gems in the rum world that you know always stand for impeccable quality and that will bring smiles to your face when you try their amazing rums which uses traditional distillation.

The St Nicholas Abbey plantation was purchased by the Warren family in 2006 who restored the property to it´s original state and it´s one of the last surviving 17th century plantations on the island. Their mission is to make it self supporting and it also contains a cottage industry of sugar cane related products such as tasty brown sugars, molasses, sugar honey and rum cakes to name a few of the lovely products they make on the estate.

My first experience with their rums was at the UK Rumfest 2011 (and later in 2013) when i tried their range of rums and got totally blown away and among them was one peculiar rum that not yet had a name, an unaged white rum called the “see through”

The-see-through-768x1024

The unaged “see through” was made with estate grown cane, crushed in a traditional steam press and then made into sugar cane honey and fermented before being transferred into a pot/column hybrid still named Annabelle for a double distillation. And then after distillation only water is added and there`s no chill-filtration used. It was a rum with a rich fruit and vanilla finish.

This lovely white rum later got a name – simply St Nicholas Abbey White Rum – and became the winner of the Bronze Medal at the 2012 International Wine and Spirits Competition in London and in 2014 it won the Premium White Rum Category at the Bartender’s Best Awards.

Now at this past years UK Rumfest was out for tasting a portion of this white rum that was laid to rest and aged for five years and thus creating their first estate produced 5 Year Old Rum.. It`s their first rum distilled and aged entirely on the estate (the previous rums were made exclusively for the plantation by master Distiller Richard Seale from R.L Seale and Foursquare) and was ready in 2014.

The St Nicholas Abbey Rum 5 Year Old is a beautiful Rum and commemorates a beautiful story – not least, the first generation of Warren’s, Arthur and Henry, born into St. Nicholas Abbey 21st May 2014. I believe the 5 Year Old Rum will be released soon during this year.

Fermented sugar cane juice

Sugarcane honey

Interesting also with St Nicholas Abbey rums is that these are not molasses rums! but neither are they rhum agricoles – they are made from fermented sugar cane juice, called “sugarcane honey”. Rhum agricole is made from fresh sugar cane juice and tastes totally different.

The fermented sugar cane juice is thick, syrupy and very dark brown in color, almost black – it looks like molasses but it is not and it doesn`t taste very much like molasses either. It has a sort of funny smell, i cannot really describe it, it´s like a mix of earth, dirt, molasses, old sugarcane syrup, yeast and overripe purple plums.

The taste is somewhat like that too, like a mix of  Steen`s sugarcane syrup, earth, dirt, yeast and overripe plums…it´s not very sweet, rather semi-sweet. It has that kind of earhtiness (not heat) as say, chipotle peppers. Could be used for a earhty ti-punch…

Interesting how it can bring forth such rums as these!

Here´s a short description of my impressions of these two wonderful rums:

St Nicholas Abbey White Rum:

St Nicholas Abbey White

The nose is intense with fruity and sugar cane notes and somewhat slight peppery, this is a rum that got both attitude, complexity and flavor.

In the mouth it`s rich, a bit fiery with white pepper notes, tropical fruits and vanilla. It has the same sort of intensity as a rhum agricole but lacks the agricole`s pronounced grassiness, instead it has a mellow fruity and slightly green vegetal note. And it has a little “bite” but in a good way, it´s not at all harsh, it`s round and very very nice.

The bottle is simple, tall and elegant.

Very pleasant rum and for mixing it`s perfect but it`s just as good for sipping. I would say it´s a very good all-round white rum that got it´s own personality with a slightly peppery attitude.

Try it in a refreshing daiquiri!

Now let´s move on the five year old version of the former “see through”:

St Nicholas Abbey 5 Year Old Rum:

St Nicholas Abbey 5

In the nose: It has a brilliant golden amber color and when opening the bottle and pouring a little of the golden goodness into a tasting glass the velvety rich nose is filling the air with sweet, toffee-like notes that are totally addictive. I smell depth here too, not just toffee-like sweetness, there`s a hint of wood from the barrel it has been resting in adding some depth and character.

The taste: Here you can feel the rum is young but it´s exceptionally well balanced and the same soft velvety character that was in the nose comes forth here too. It`s rich, warm, welcoming with notes of toffee, vanilla, orange peel and tropical fruit backed up by some spicier woody notes.

The slightly peppery notes from the unaged white rum is not present, instead it´s mellow and soft but does have a lively character.

I have tried their 12 and 15 year olds and they are both incredible rums, especially the 15 year, and this one is like their little sister. It has the richness of what i have got to know as the trademark of the St Nicholas Abbey rums but it lacks the extreme depth and complexity that the 12 and 15 year olds have and of course, it´s a lot younger! that said, it´s a very good rum and you can safely go and purchase a bottle without any hesitation, this is good stuff.

I would actually use this as both sipper and mixer and leave the older rums entirely for the sipping glasses.

The decanter bottle is a masterpiece of beauty, simple and yet distinctive, elegant and with a personal touch with the beautiful engravings of the St Nicholas Abbey estate mansion and palmtrees (they do personal engravings too with for example your name on the bottle when you purchase directly at the plantation) hand applied labels and the mahogany cork topped with embossed leather which is symbolic of the islands first mahogany trees, planted 250 years ago on Cherry Hill.

It`s really a thing of beauty!

St Nicholas Abbey cork top

Final thoughts:

I cannot enough say how good the rums from St Nicholas Abbey are, everyone of them! this is quality at it´s best! and there are of course no extra sugar or additives in this rum. Go get a bottle of these and their other expressions and you will have treasures in your house.

They are on the higher price level yes but you will get really good value for the money.

Everyone knows i`m in love with the tropics, so let`s make a daiquiri dressed up in tropical attire:

Bajan Daiquiri

Bajan Daiquiri

2 oz St Nicholas Abbey White Rum

0.5-0.75 oz fresh lime juice

0.5 oz sugarcane syrup

Shake and strain into a chilled cocktail coupe or glass and garnish with something tropical….i used speared pink bougainvillea, braided palm leaves and a lime slice.

Enjoy!

 

Bajan Daiquiri collage

 

 

See other St Nicholas White rum reviews on RumRatings

See other St Nicholas 5 Year Old rum reviews on RumRatings

Real McCoy 5 year old Rum – A Premium Rum with Interesting History

Real McCoy bottle

Here´s a very interesting rum produced by the legendary Foursquare distillery that have an interesting and colorful history.

It´s an authentic, handcrafted excellent sipping rum from Barbados bringing that genuine Bajan flavor to your glass.

The Real McCoy rum is based on the story of  William “Bill” McCoy, the pioneer rum runner of the prohibition era, who fueled the Roaring Twenties by delivering over 2 million bottles of rum to the speakeasies of New York back in 1920.

McCoy took pride in the fact that he never paid a cent to organized crime, politicians, or law enforcement for protection and unlike many others that illegally produced and smuggled alcohol for consumption during prohibition, McCoy sold his merchandise unadulterated, uncut and clean,

He never came ashore but instead anchored 3 miles off-shore, which back then was international waters, acting as a floating liquor store within sight of the metropolis of New York.

People went out to McCoy, bought the rum and returned hoping to escape the Coast Guard on the way back in.

An interesting fact about him is that he himself never touched alcohol…(!)

It’s a great story and the rum absolutely lives up to the name. It’s only been in the US for a few months, but it has already received the following accolades:

Silver Medal – San Fransisco World Spirits Competition
“Best in Category”, Aged Rum – The American Distilling Institute
Score 91 – The Tasting Panel Magazine, Anthony Dias Blue
Score 92 – The Ultimate Spirits Challenge, F. Paul Pacult

While researching the life and legend of William McCoy, a Connecticut man became interested in developing a rum in remembrance of McCoy.

So he contracted Richard Seale of Four Square distillery in Barbados, to craft an authentic rum blend and the final result the Real McCoy Rum is nothing but excellent!

Now i sit here with a bottle of the Real McCoy rum – aged for 5 years in American oak bourbon barrels. It´s a  blend of column and pot still rum and what i have here is plain good old-fashioned rum!

I like that…

This is a sipping rum but i`m gonna make a few cocktails with it too – real good quality rums makes real good quality cocktails too – provided that you carefully chose what to mix the rum with. Don´t waste the drinks with ready-made commercial or chemical mixers! use fresh!

 Nose

In the nose i find dried tropical fruits, baked spices, vanilla, caramel and honey – it´s very pleasant…a promising hint of what to come…

The taste

To me it has a distinct aroma of a well aged rum with hints of oak, vanilla, dried tropical fruit, sugarcane and maybe of dried orange peel. It`s a bit on the dry side but has some sweetness. It`s a warm welcoming rum.

The rum also have a long pleasant finish.

I see an image of someone sitting in a comfy sofa in front of a fire in the fall with a sipping glass in hand – or someone on the porch watching a tropical island sunset…

My final conclusion is that i like this rum- it´s of excellent quality but i didn`t expect anything less, seeing to where it´s coming from.

Cocktails

I made two daiquiris with it, one classic with just rum, sugarcane syrup and fresh lime and another with chocolate bitters and pineapple gomme syrup, both were very good.

Then i made a tropical tiki style drink with pineapple juice and coffee that turned out spicy and tasty.

The Real McCoy Rum is excellent for sipping and can be used in classic cocktails as well as well crafted tiki drinks but should not be wasted in drinks like rum and coke.

 Real McCoy Daiquiri

Real McCoy daiquiri

2 oz  Real McCoy Rum

0.75 oz fresh lime juice

0.5 oz brown sugarcane syrup

Stir together in a shaker and strain into a chilled cocktail coupe.

 Back to the Tropics

Real McCoy Back to the Tropics

2 oz Real McCoy Rum

2 oz fresh pineapple juice

0.5 oz fresh lime juice

0.5 oz coffee liqueur ( Fair Cafè or Tia Maria)

Shake with ice and strain into a tiki mug or glass filled with crushed ice. Garnish with a pineapple leaf and pineapple chunk or tropical flower.

McCoy Cocoa Daiquiri

Real McCoy Cocoa daiqiri

2 oz  Real McCoy Rum

0.75 oz fresh lime juice

0.5 oz pineapple gomme syrup (or use simple syrup)

2-3 dashes Mozart chocolate bitters

Stir together in a shaker and strain into a chilled cocktail coupe. Garnish with a cinnamon stick.

The Real McCoy Rum website is here.