Today we have a rum from the Versailles Wooden Pot Still, which was located at the Enmore Distillery at the time of distillation. Thus, it should not be compared to rums from the Enmore Coffey Still, which we have already encountered with the Whiskybroker Diamond Distillery 2004 12YO, for example. Instead, we will have a closer look at some Versailles in the weeks to come.
It’s time for another history lesson. If you are not interested in it simply skip this part and jump straight to the tasting.
At the time of distillation the Enmore Distillery owned at least two stills, a Wooden Coffey Still (Enmore Still – EHP) as well as the Single Wooden Pot Still (Versailles Still – VSG). This rum, just like the vast majority of rums distilled at Enmore Distillery in or prior to 1990 we have got from IBs over time from comes from the Versailles Pot Still. The mark MEV stands for Main Enmore Versailles. Many of the 1990 Enmores wear this mark, which suggests that the Main Rum Company probably imported or bought a lot of rum at that time.
Versailles was an estate and plantation on the west side of the Demerara river right next to Guyana‘s capital Georgetown. According to Marco, you can find it on a map from 1776 for the first time, when it has been owned by Pierre L’Amirault. They solely planted coffee back than, just like many other plantations at that time. Pierre L’Amirault should have been a co-partner of the Jerusalem plantation on the east side of the river before that. In 1831, the Versailles plantation merged with the nearby Schoon Ord & Meerzorg plantation. Marco also found out how to pronounce the estates in a footnote. Apparently they are called “Ver-sales” and “Skoon-Ord”. Over the years, the owners of the estate changed several times and Versailles absorbed a few of the neighboring plantations, before the Booker Bros. got their hands on it. In light of the multiple mergers, the mark VSG might very well be a combination of Versailles, Schoon Ord and Goed Fortuin. Similarily, SXG might simply stand for the latter two. The sugar factory of Versailles shut for good in 1978 and the story of the distillery will be part of another review before this review degenerates into an essay.
Nevertheless, I’d like to share a small anecdote with you that I’ve had with this bottling. When the rum was released in mid-November we’ve first heard about it from Cadenhead’s London, who offered it for about 145£, a relatively fair price if you consider what these types of rums are usually sold for these days. So I have inquired with my local Cadenhead’s dealer when they will receive their bottles (in Germany we typically receive them a few days later) and went there to pick one up since Cadenhead’s London doesn’t ship to Germany. There I found out that the actual price is apparently 235€, a huge increase from the 145£ in London. I asked why that might since the prices are usually about the same or even slightly cheaper in Germany. A few phone calls between Cadenhead’s Cologne and the main office were necessary to clarify whether something went wrong with this but also plenty of other bottlings of the same delivery batch. I have been sent home since the issue couldn’t be solved but in the end the price turned out to be correct, unfortunately. Since I wanted to split a bottle with a few friends nevertheless, I went again to pick one up only to find out that someone apparently bought up their entire stock. Fortunately Cadenhead’s were sports a withheld a bottle for me. Well done! Now let’s find out whether this is really one of those bottlings where you have to buy up the entire stock.
Dégustation “Cadenhead’s Enmore Distillery “MEV” 1990 26YO”
Key Facts: This has been distilled by the Versailles Single Wooden Pot Still at Enmore Distillery in 1990 and subsequently shipped to Europe. After 26 years of ageing, Cadenhead’s bottled a single cask in October 2017 at 57,2%. Despite several inquiries, we still do not get the number of bottles or more information on the cask.
Colour and viscosity: Old gold/ amber. Thick pearls stick to the rim of the glass.
Nose: The rum is thankful for every single minute you give him to find complete expression. But even then it doesn’t want to reveal too much. Slightly smoky, medical notes, bitter oranges and wood in the form of pencil sharpenings. Then anise, herbs, caraway and a few exotic fruits, mostly papayas. While the pencil sharpenings are the typical Versailles notes for me, I usually associate anise with the Port Mourant still. I have a fondness for these rums but this particular rum doesn’t really want to “open up”, even after a long time in the glass.
Palate: Unusually herbal. Thyme and oregano are the most prominent notes here. At first I was a bit irritated by this but then the more typical flavours such as pencil sharpenings and prunes come through. Subsequently bitter or blood oranges and sweeter, almond-like impressions. Then the (Mediterranean) herbs again. The rum’s age and grace are apparent but somehow it feels like something’s missing here.
Finish: Yes, here we have it. The finish is long and herbal and I can also pick up some faulty sour and bitter notes that I think shouldn’t be there. The finish nicely demonstrates what’s so different about this rum.
I love Versailles but we’ve got better ones in the past. The rum’s potential is obvious but in some sense it is wasted since we know how much more it could have been. Don’t get me wrong, I still like the rum but compared to some other Versailles and especially with the price taken into consideration I was expecting a bit more. But then again, we probably won’t be getting many more Enmore Versailles in the future and the anecdote above already showed that other connoisseurs apparently agree.