Today we have the very first vertical tasting in which we examine the range of one bottler. Usually I prefer horizontal tastings (products of the same distillery or even batch) since they allow us to discern the differences between otherwise very similar Rums but some people also advocate this type of tasting so why not just give it a try.
S.B.S, or Single Barrel Selection (i.e. not Small Batch Series) is the rum line of 1423 World Class Spirits, a Danish independent bottler of all kinds of spirits. As the name suggests, all of these releases are single cask rums so some closer exploration is needed. We have already had the S.B.S Jamaica Worthy Park 2006 10YO which I liked quite a lot. However they are also responsible for the disastrous Ron Esclavo XO. Let’s check out the rest of the range or at least parts of it as they have already released the next flight of rums.
Before I forget about it, my buddies from Rumboom are currently examining the same range plus the Worthy Park mentioned above so check out their page from time to time to see how their opinions differ from mine. I will link you to their article once it’s up.
Barbados W.I.R.D. 2000 16YO (54%): This is a typical Rockley/ Blackrock style W.I.R.D. as we have already reviewed it here or here. If you are familiar with this batch or any of these rums you will know that 54% could very well be cask strength here. Anyway, I must say that this abv suits these rums quite well. The nose is very typical with plenty of medical notes, some fine herbs and a nice dose of beeswax. Then smoky elements which are actually closer to weakly peated Whiskies than to the barbecue notes which we picked up with the Whiskybroker W.I.R.D. 2000 16YO for instance. The alcohol is surprisingly strong with the first sip. The rum is quite raw and a bit metallic, which has two implications. First, it is rather impetuous, something that we aren’t really used to from rums of this age. Second, the medical character is very pronounced and in a way amplified by the relative juvenility of the rum. The lovely honey and beeswax notes are hiding far away in the background and don’t really balance out the flavours of plasters and bandages. It’s a decent rum but not really the most harmonious. The cask just wasn’t the best, at least we have got better Rockleys in the past. If you love Rockley for its medical but not its beeswax notes this one might be for you. For me, it places somewhere in the third quartile of Rockleys from 2000.
Fiji South Pacific Distillery 2003 12YO (46%): It’s a shame that this has only been bottled at 46% but what can you do. As you might know, I wasn’t disappointed by many Fijians at drinking strength though. Nose: Oh yeah, this is Fiji, there’s absolutely no doubt about it. Esters, burnt plastic, rubber, pineapples and limes, it’s all there. A hint of barbecue sauce lurks in the back, together with wood chips and onion rings. The nose doesn’t leave much to be desired. Can the taste keep up with it? Only to some extent. Here the dilution makes its presence felt. The rum is a bit thin and not as aromatic as some of its higher abv brothers but you notice that it’s some good distillate – if you are into this very special rum style that is. The plastic-like mouthfeel sure isn’t to everybody’s liking, neither is its balancing act between the Jamaican and Rockley style. I get honey and beeswax paired with esters and rubber. To me this is a better and more complex version of the Bajan W.I.R.D. above, despite the lower abv.
Guyana Versailles Still 2003 12YO (62,8%): I always have a weakness for bottlers that declare the actual still of a Guyanese rum instead of simply putting “Diamond Distillery” on the label. So this one comes from the Versailles Wooden Pot Still which made its way via Enmore and Uitvlugt to DDL (Diamond Distillery). Before I forget it: The rum has been finished in a Marsala cask! Based on the nose I couldn’t have said for sure that it is a Versailles as I have had similar rums made from the Enmore or Port Mourant still as well. The finish is very faint and I doubt I would have noticed it without the prior knowledge. Then the typical Versailles prunes but at least in the nose I fail to detect any pencil sharpenings. Further I get Christmassy spices (cinnamon, cloves), ginger, brittle and raisins. The first sip isn’t more revelatory. It’s unmistakably from a Wooden Guyanese Still but that’s it. In a sense it falls between the cracks but this is not a bad thing. I’ve had a similar rum from Kill Devil from a different batch which posed the same quandary. The rum is very mild and my impressions are prunes and plums, red berries, the Christmas spice mix, oak and now also grapes. It’s becoming increasingly sweet so I guess this is the finish after all. I really have a hard time pinning this one down. The flavours speak Enmore, the general character screams pot still. A good rum that will have its fans but sadly I am not among them. Finish: I guess this is where the finish comes through the most. I get leather and dried fruits as well as sweet and spicy notes.
Guyana Enmore (Versailles) 1988 27YO (51,8%): Another one of those rums that needs plenty of time to fully reveal its entire potential. But then we are eventually welcomed by the obligatory “dark” Enmore notes of old wood, burnt sugar and caramel. Then lots and lots of sweet Pink Lady apples, dried tomatoes and unripe plums. It actually has a lot of similarities to some column still Enmores (e.g. those with the mark E.H.P.), even more so if it weren’t for the apples. Deeper in the glass I can also find foul bananas and notes of raw coffee beans. At the palate we finally get the typical Versailles pencil sharpenings, paired with roasting flavours (peanuts, cold coffee) and some sweeter but hardly fruity flavours. The finish, as with most Versailles, is very dry and ever so reminiscent of prunes. Add old wood and cold coffee and eventually you just want to take another sip. I was never disappointed by a rum from this vintage but for comparison, I have also poured myself a few drops of another 1988 Enmore (28 years old with 49,4%). That one is way “dirtier” in comparison. At first glance it doesn’t come with the apples and is a bit closer to what I think Versailles should taste like. That said, I think I prefer the more typical ones but if you are bored with that style and are looking for alternatives you might want to give this one a try.
Jamaica Hampden 2000 16YO (58,9%): Hampden from 2000 means LROK. I wasn’t always particularly fond of younger LROKs (well, I still like them) but they get decidedly better with age! Nose: Acetone, nail polish remover, raspberries and a very present touch of oaky aromas. I must say that I don’t like the nose at all, which is strange since 2000 Hampdens typically are rather lovely and fill the room with a pleasant cloud of fragrances. This is not the case with this one. Palate: This is better. Pineapple, the nail polish remover, hazelnuts and thyme are the more dominant flavours. Then red peppers and now also the raspberries from the nose, as well as more herbal flavours. It’s decent booze but something is odd about it and I don’t know what. Finish: Relatively long and increasingly herbal with notes lovage and parsley. If you like other Hampdens from this vintage you will probably also like this one but for me it doesn’t really come close to the excellent Transcontinental Rum Line Hampden 2000 16YO. Or other Hampden vintages for that matter. Nevertheless it’s quite a good rum!
Panama 2001 15YO (55,6%): The distillery of this Panmanian is not disclosed but chances are that it comes from Don José. Nose: Very restrained. The initial alcoholic scents slowly turn into aromas of sugar, caramel, blood oranges and vanilla. More or less your standard Panamanian I’d say, but in a tamed version. I really don’t get much more than this. The first sip is sweet, slightly alcoholic and reveals notes of pomegranate, oranges, cinnamon and oak. It’s okay but absolutely nothing special. I must say that I liked the Our Rum & Spirits Don José 2004 11YO much much more. This one is just too one-dimensional and doesn’t have much to offer. The finish is of medium length but doesn’t leave any noteworthy impressions. Every now and then I am in the mood for these Panamanians but I don’t think I would ever grab this particular one.
Trinidad Caroni 1997 18YO (64,4%): S.B.S released four different single cask Caronis from 1997 and this one comes from cask #53. In the nose we get a mix of familiar and uncommon aromas. I get a floral profile with rosehip and rooibos paired with some tar, rubber and even… old cheese?. Then burnt caramel and inner tube. I think I would have put it below 50% blindly judged by the nose. At the palate it is a bit more spicy but still relatively easy to sip. Quite to my surprise, the rosehip and slightly flowery notes are still present but the dirty and classical Caroni flavours are taking over now. Tyres, tar, burnt rubber, you name it. It is very light on the spices-side. The finish is not really spectacular with the roadwork aromas and slightly herbal aspects here and there. It is very long though. Overal a rather atypical but lovely Caroni! Qualitywise, it probably comes close to the Bristol or Berry’s reviewed here.
Overall these are very solid selections by 1423 World Class Spirits. The obvious trophies are the Enmore Versailles and the Caroni but most connoisseurs will probably have a very good time with the Hampden as well. Their Worthy Park reviewed earlier was great, as is the Fiji as long as your are fine with drinking rums at lower abvs. Again, with Fiji it doesn’t hurt too much! The Rockley style W.I.R.D. was a bit disappointing but I absolutely understand why you want to have one in your portfolio. Let’s hope that this bottler keeps on releasing high quality single cask rums!
Disclaimer: Todays samples have been provided by 1423 World Class Spirits but also partly come from private bottle splits.