Today a pair of [not so stella, according to various online resources], 1998 vintage Caroni from Bristol Spirits – still available from a few online retailers i see.
Caroni 1998/2013 Bristol Spirits 40% [RR]6.2
- N: Ive smelled similar Cognacs [which is no bad thing], but its bourbon that smells strongest. Here we have a glassy-clean rum with aromatic notes of tinned apricot and a tidy honeyed cask action. On opening, things get a touch murky, vague and worryingly off-key – an omen perhaps?
- T: Really bite-y, especially for a 40%er. Water takes care of the arrival but either way, it heads directly towards a sour=sweet, medicinal=aniseed heat and bitter-bourbon-vanilla-woodiness – all very rushed and congested.
- F: Still troubled a while longer before improving a tad with savoury=sour, spirity=soda, creamy bourbon oak alongside a mildly sweet, vanilla-flavoured milk of magnesia further down the line. At the death, a deep bitter-sweet<sour mouldy [dunnage] woodiness evokes images of damp casks ageing in shacks the tropics.
- C: Rather disappointing overall [much of that against my perceived expectations], but the head & tail hint at those Caroni masterpieces.
Scores 81 points
Caroni 1998/2015 Bristol Spirits 40% [RR]6.2
- N: Two years on and the herbal element is stronger. Its bready-er also. Otherwise it retains the family resemblance to its younger sibling with that glassy-clean cognac-y bourbon profile, herbal & honeyed tinned fruit, and a [spelt] sponge sweetness – albeit with some hints of washing powder and bastard files. On opening, vanilla and cream soda become prominent with yet more aromatic fruits, [candy] banana, a little pineapple and more integrated woody sugars – its/im beginning to get into the Trinidad spirit now. Also, little rubber tyre, faintly mothballed fabrics, damp flannel, bleeding radiators, lime=pineapple bark=zest, mint, peas=sprouts,…..
- T: Not a joyous beginning, especially neat. Aside from the heat from plain white spirit, im getting selected parts of a roast dinner! With water brings focus and a default setting to a savoury=sweet<firm bitter woody vanilla dryness. Whilst theres only a suggestion of washing powder in the background, theres something more from those bastard files and kitchen ‘white goods’ in the mix – por quo? Theres another loss of focus before some bourbon=Cognac sugars bob to the surface. Whilst more manageable when fully opened, its forever curious stuff, a strange brew.
- F: Not unpleasant but slightly vague light/hollow end. Those soapy hints keep hinting.
- C: Like the 13yo, its a mixed bag and the palate on both the weakest link. Overall however, still far more fascinating than plenty of current mainstream fayre. Worth a look if you havent tried any Caroni before.
Scores 79 points
Talking of mainstream fayre, heres a rum on the opposite side of the spectrum, for half the price of those Caroni – available everywhere so it seems.
- N: Initially theres a funky/odd, synthetic-y rubbery/petroleum vibe, but it soon gets down to its ‘sugar [>and spice] and everything nice’ duties. Namely: vanilla, toffee, creamy caramel, coconut ice, Coco Lopez, sweet molasses=black treacle, coconut sugar, petite bananas, pancake & donut references, caramelised nuts,…….. just think Viennetta ice-cream with molasses & corn syrup poured on top and youre half way there. It seems the more interesting/challenging, fresher-herbal-savoury, rubbery-putty side and even the oaky-er spices have been decidedly resigned to the sidelines.
- T: Technically rum but in reality a liqueur based cocktail shot, it glides in effortlessly and delivers a sweet & syrup-y toffee-coffee, Martini espresso and banana liqueur cocktail medley.
- F: And its all over like a shot with its sickly & sticky toffee/banana/coffee profile now effectively stuck to glass and palate. Glad i had this last.
- C: Context is everything with drinks like this, a deliciously sweet yet ghastly, undemanding and desperate to please/appease, ready-made rum cocktail – so of course, its very popular. If you follow the ‘rum is fun’ motto, this firmly ticks that box. According to the ‘blurb’, this was distilled from molasses [no shit!], in a pot still and aged for 12 years. Serge Valentin on the younger Diplomatico Reserva [non exclusiva] comments: ‘it seems impossible that somebody could make this by putting straight spirit into regular oak. Somebody else must have added ‘something’ WF. According to Robert Burr info, ‘Diplomatico Exclusiva contains a bit of sweet cane liqueur [Hacienda Saruro], which contributes to the profile’. But whilst whisky and bourbon enjoy strict rules regarding their unadulterated spirits, rum has to be taken ‘as is’ regardless of additives/doctoring and the like – and aside from my subjective likes/dislikes, this is very well executed rum. In Dave Broom’s ‘Rum: The Manual’, he recommends [for the younger, non-exclusiva version], coconut water, or Clementine juice as favoured mixers.
Scores 77 points