Three more ‘alternative’ spirits today, two being certain malternatives.
Bache Gabrielsen 1971/2016 Ob. Borderies [btl #1539] 40% [35cl] tOMoh8
Discovered lying in inert/dead casks in an old warehouse, Bache-Gabrielson bought this juice from one of Cognac’s smallest growers. I first tried this at the Cognac Show 2019 [WLP90]. With little experience of cognac, at that time and place, this superbly balanced and constructed 1971 vintage appeared to have all the makings of a superb spirit from start to finish. I subsequently bought a [small] bottle. It only came in small.
- N: Referring back to my previous notes, I’ll elaborate. First up is a fungal-dry elderflower-sweetness. The custard I spotted back then is now more like key lime pie to me. I still concur with the flower nectar honey blossom thing, with sweet lemon, tinned prunes [tOMoH – juice of], tinned clementines, pears > apricots and a touch of pineapple & coconut – Pina Colada alert – it’s very very subtle but it’s there!
- T: One could spend a lifetime describing this one. I’ve never had a spirit quite like it. I still maintain there’s a stylistically-light Speyside-esque element to this singular vintage bottling, but also with a small [fruity] hand in the Tropics. The softness is remarkable/beautiful. After those two words, ‘supermarket’ is not usually the word that follows. Ho-hum! Descriptors include sweet supermarket-prepared fruits – that’s glucose-syrup-ed gala melon, watermelon and not-quite-ripe pineapple, yet on this fantastical occasion the pineapple is ripe. Additionally, there’s a sour citrus note at play and a rogue tangerine on the lose with as well as a butyric element that magically turns sweet & fusty into sour clay dry – Wha?!
- F: Fusty < clay-dry savoury-sweet fruits [the ones previously mentioned], are now joined by ‘vanilla into lychee’ and a touch of rose apple which hints at toffee apple.
- C: I keep thinking of rating this at 89 as if there’s danger at 90! So what’s one more point? On this occasion think this is too special to maintain the air of caution. Not without some quibbles, this Bache rocks!
Scores 90 points
- C: This half bottle didn’t last long. Sure it’s rough around the edges, sure it looks as though caramel colourant has been added [I couldn’t find any information to the contrary], and sure it tastes a little duped. However, on that last point, the company clarify that Pusser’s rum is ‘100% natural using no flavouring agent’. Most importantly, I enjoyed this as much as I did a previous bottle [WLP82]. Expect a molasses-driven, bitter > sweet oaky affair with a firm bitter-herbal side – a touch old-skool [Black Tot-esque WLP] – and with a bolshy yet believably authentic rough-aged Naval character. Furthermore, it’s dead-affordable.
Scores 82 points
[Bellevue] Guadeloupe 18yo [1998/2016] BB&R [cask #65] 46% [WF]92
I bought this on the back of Angus’s review [WF], though he states his bottle is a 1997 vintage. This is the only 18yo BB&R Guadeloupe rum I could find at the time. On their website, BB&R state their 18yo Guadeloupe rum is a 1998 vintage and from single cask #65, though the actual bottle label gives no indication as to the cask, vintage or bottling date – only offering that it’s 18 years old and from Guadeloupe. Hopefully, the nose and palate will indicate whether I have the same bottle as that at WF Towers, or at least, that I have a rum of similar calibre.
- N: If this isn’t a cogna-ternative, I don’t know what is. Aside from the fact that it initially smells like a well-aged cognac, there’s so much here, I almost dare not start the shopping list, maybe just a few key points. Descriptors of note: tropical boozy fruits galore, jelly beans with sesame seeds, something dry and earthy like rice paper and sugars & sultanas that fall off your patisseries and end up staining the brown paper bag. Also, I’m taken back to that phenomenal SMWS rum [n coke] sensation R7.2 Jamaica me Crazy [WLP], of which this could be on par if the form stays true. The nose also talks of beautiful waves of carb sugars from milled flours [chickpea=buckwheat], cherry honey earthy>charcoal-y notes then back to flours, not to mention [again] the perfectly-sweet fruit, burnt coconut, and molasses sugars. Not doing a shopping list went well! Despite how sweet that all reads, I think those without such a sweet tooth will love the considered sugar level.
- T: The strength and power are just right. It doesn’t hang about however. Those tempered sugars see a change towards a dry medicinal-sweetness in nature and a fleeting suggestion of ash underneath. Both spirit and wood are equally attentive, formidable yet relaxed. Alongside the Tiffon Grande Champagne cognac [WLP88], the arrival is so very similar only this is less drying. It’s much closer in likeness to the Tiffon Reserve given its relative – [a mere 40-60 yo only] – youthfulness. Where was this matured I wonder? The tropics, in a controlled environment or perhaps the [European] Northern hemisphere?
- F: The finish is more sustained with affirmative shades of surgical plasters before finding a route back to the fundamental spirit. Cleanest witch hazel at the death, so clean that it suggests a drop of chlorine.
- C: Definitely the same bottle as at WF towers, I reckon -, and yes it is fabulous. Only the palate doesn’t quite set my world on fire [subjective quibbles], though it grows and grows on me. Available at the time for £74 and beautifully presented in BBR’s classic livery.
Scores 91 points