Let’s start this colourful session with a couple of rhum’s made in Madagascar by Vidzar. Serge writes: “Dzama is said to be the best African rum”.
Dzama 6yo Rhum Ob. 45%
- N: Initially with a soft yet permeating ‘je ne sais quoi’, like when looking at a faint star, it’s there and not there. Opens out light & sugary with a touch of vegetal oakiness & resinous bubblegum, one washed cockle, cactus fruit juice & the fruit’s fleshy seeds [the essence of sugar cane talking here], wax capacitors, stationary rubber and loads of Himalayan salt.
- T: Largely sugary-sweet with a velvety-soft mouthfeel. Tasty but too sweet and rather simple however.
- F: Heat gently builds unassumingly whilst soft oaky-vanilla sugars conclude.
- C: Lets not over complicate this juice. It’s a high quality spirit that is as drinkable as beer [neat!], but would work just as well as an excellent mixer.
Scores 78 points
Serge wrote: ‘From the north of the island. La Maison du Whisky says that its floral notes come from the fact that there are ylang-ylang plants next to the canes. Let’s check that… (but what the hell do ylang-ylang flowers smell like?)’
Dzama 1998 Rhum Vieux Ob. 45% WF78
Vieux translates as old, but I’m not sure when this was bottled. Pronounced ‘Zama’, this rhum vieux was aged in French Limousin casks.
- N: Presented with a disguised strength, I detect resinous sugary rum but very little else. With less potency than the 6yo, it’s also less salty though more woody with carious types of leather and firm whiffs of rabbit cages/hair. Couldn’t get much more and we tried.
- T: Very much on a runny toffee-sweetness, the extra age (and/or added sugars) is telling. With plenty of dark bitter-sweet caramel in the mix, there’s more than a passing resemblance to [5yo] Havana Club.
- F: More of the same, somewhat sustained.
- C: Frankly, I prefer the 6yo.
Scores 76 points
Genever, a first for me.
abarabove.com says: ‘Genever is a predecessor to the style of gin that we know as London Dry Gin. Traditionally the base of Genever had a high percentage of Malt Wine (15%-50%), resulting in a spirit that had similar weight on the palate and malty notes like whiskey, and an herbal component that is common with gin. This is the style of Genever that we know as Oude or Old, meaning that it is made in the old style’.
Zuidam Zeer Oude Genever 3yo  Ob. Batch #2 vats: 1730-35 & 1755-58 38% [50cl]
TWE says: ‘From Dutch distiller Zuidam, made in the old-fashioned zeer oude style. The botanicals include juniper, liquorice root and aniseed. This is produced in small batches, each of which is from a single barrel.’
- N: With a traditionally high percentage base of malt wine, it’s of no surprise that there’s a grain-like aroma – albeit a very sweet one. It’s a most accommodating young spirit in comparison say to an equivalently aged grain whisky, and thankfully the juniper is subtlety incorporated. Whilst a creamy>[white] buttery pong suggests croissants, additional notes include diesel oil, toasted botanicals, burning [road] rubber, sweet water cress, mustard cress, newspapers, polenta, decaying cucumber,…. yet it’s the vanilla sweet grain that resides.
- T: Reminds me of Koval’s Small Batch Millet with it’s sweet, grain-like/malty-light<sugary arrival and subsequent travel. Becomes even sweeter and creamy before turning slightly sour – think sugared Farley’s rusks soaking in vanilla milk with a spirity/botanical/metallic edge.
- F: There’s another clear newspaper note, more apparent initially before the sweet vanilla digs it’s heels in once again. The juniper finally manages some bitter<sweet interplay but the sweet vanilla grain is impervious.
- C: I’m no great fan of gin per se, but maybe I could be swayed by genever. Though this one is decidedly too sweet for me, the complexities on the nose indicate this spirit’s potential. I wouldn’t know how to score it though – for now. [Courtesy of Nick].
Another first, Chacha! – [a Ralfy recommendation, I think?]
- In Georgia, chacha refers to grape-based spirit, though other herbs & fruits can also be used.
- This Georgian brandy/grappa/vine vodka is made from pomace.
- Pomace is what’s left over from [a variety of local] grapes after pressing them for wine.
- The pomace juice is double distilled in a Charentais or Alembic still.
- Typically bottled at around 40%+, local chacha can range between 50-60%+ abv.
Watch Georgian’s making chacha at home, complete with cotton wool filtration:
Chateau Mukhrani Chacha 2007/ The Paulsen Collection [4290 bts] 43%
*** TITLE UPDATED *** [See below]
- N: Ho ho, thats fun. In a similar vein to the genever and the odd dubious apple brandy tipple I’ve enjoyed in the past, most notably in Nepal. A soft & hazy fruity musk envelops with a strange/unfamiliar medicinal/candy honey & confectionary bubblegum-like sweetness and a drop of grapey/apple flavoured detergent/window cleaner. Bizarrely more rum-like than the Dzama’s.
- T: With the softest 43% arrival I’ve ever known, it begins with an unusual/unfamiliar apple juice>rhubarb<peach crumble with peach scented candles, apricot ice-cream and a hint of chlorine. These fruity notes appear organic and yet equally synthetic.
- F: Only now do we get the actual crumble topping. With a swift yet gentle fade, we’ve a waxy finish, more bubblegum tutti-fruity and vanilla.
- C: The most agreeable and congenial digestif you could ask for to warm your cockles on these cold winter nights. Let’s put this on the scoreboard for its complexity and form as well as deliciousness – and as a marker for future chacha’s. There’s not much chacha around outside of Georgia, but if you search really hard you may still be able to find this bottle in some of the smaller wine proprietors.
Scores 84 points
*** UPDATE *** [14/03/18]
I’ve got more information regarding this particular chacha since acquiring a bottle, bottled under the [Frederik] Paulsen Collection. Firstly, it’s a 2007 vintage. The labelling also states:
- Distillation: Twice in Charente batch distillation pots with purification from heads & tails.
- Grape: Rkatsiteli, Saperavi, Sauvignon blanc, Cabernet Sauvignon & Nero d’Avola.
One more weird & wonderful spirit for the road?
Bronte Yorkshire Liqueur Ob. 60 proof [4-5cl]
We finish with an identical pair of ceramic sample bottles with honeyed French brandy inside.
- N: Smells like Drambuie with squirty cream, aloe vera, [Manfood] spiced dried fruit chutney, really smelly hot feet [yep], clove, mint sauce, bergamot-infused caramel, rose water, a small piece of strudel and a pecan maple pastry. [Aside from those feet], this syrup really talks.
- T: With a thicker more focused body & direction than Drambuie [blog], more aloe vera [shaving foam] joins the party. Lots of chocolate flavours come through later, fruity ones – all rather controlled. The honey integrated well.
- F: Synthetic-ish Jaffa cake, hints of marmalade<bergamot, bitter-sweet sandal wood, dried basil, a touch of dill, Terry’s orange/easter egg chocolate and even a hint of After Eight/menthol.
- C: A sweet, solid and well grounded honey liqueur with no weirdness – and even scoreable, if I scored these types of drinks.