Depaz Blue Cane Rhum Agricole is a cane-juice based rhum from Martinique, following the strict guidelines that allow it an AOC designation as a Martinique Rhum Agricole. The Depaz estate was founded in 1651, though when it started producing rhum is a good question. The Depaz Blue Cane began its introduction to the U.S. market around 2006.
I had purchased this a year or so back for curiosity’s sake, and to put a bit of a bigger bump to my collection of Rhum. I am fairly unsure I had tasted a drop (my bottle remained unopened until recently) until Ed Hamilton came to town, sampling some local bartenders on about 28 different rums… that was a fun lunch indeed. Upon tasting this, I knew I had made a mistake having not opened that bottle, and oh how quickly it would be drained.
Appearance: The color is a pale straw yellow, with an almost golden sheen in the glass. Very nice clarity with no particulate in the bottle. Strong legs stick to the glass, only after a few agonizing seconds giving way to gravity.
Nosing: There is an immediate grassy funk to the nose, almost rising out of the glass. Like its fresh cane juice cousin CachaÃ§a, it’s a note that’s inescapable, and can vary between marvelous and disgusting, depending on the quality of the distillate. Once that smell has passed, there is a brief note of cinnamon and a bit of honey. The aroma is lovely, with a nice floral quality to it, and that 90 proof really helps it leap through the nose. Don’t sniff too hard, there are demons lurking under the loveliness.
Tasting: Mildly sweet and smooth, moving to a burn at a nice even pace, not all-at-once in the back of the throat like some might do. There is a lot going on in this, with some smoke, some sweetness, a bit of baked goods, bacon fat, some fruit… this is either a master blender’s dream to pull flavors from, or nightmare to have to recreate. There’s even the mildest flavor of a smoked gouda. As a sipper, this is enjoyable and even refreshing, but left on the tongue, gives you plenty to think about.
On Mixing: I’ve found that the higher proof funkier rums have a very easy time standing out in drinks, and this is no different. With its high proof and distinctive Martinique notes, it’ll power through in a Mai Tai (highly recommended) when paired with, say, an Aged Barbados or Jamaica Rum. I wouldn’t muddy it too much with anything over 5 ingredients, but a Donga Punch or Last Rites suits it fine, dandy, and then some. Of course, if you want simple and authentic, there’s always Ti’ Punch!
Score: 5 Ti’PONSCHes out of 5. It’s an outstanding savory and thoughtful sipper, and shines through postively in mixed drinks. Depaz Blue Cane is a Rhum any rum lover should have on their shelf, and on their breath.
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Mount Gay Extra Old is a 86 proof rum originating from Barbados, often considered the birthplace of rum (albeit with some others who would contest that), and proven as one of the oldest distilleries in the Americas, having started in 1703. It is a blend of copper-pot and column distilled rums aged for 8-12 years (according to Chester, others note 12-17 years) in former Bourbon barrels, and mixed to proof with coral filtered spring water. It is certainly the pride of the distillery, if you’ve ever met Chesterfield Brown, Mount Gay’s mixologist and brand ambassador, he will tell you all about it, for as long as you care to hear it. Here’s an example of Chester talking at Tales of the Cocktail from 2008…
I’ve had a few bottles of this in my private collection ever since I had a private collection. I just remember it as being recommended by a rum-loving friend, and thought the box looked nifty. Many moons have passed since then, and that original bottle has been replaced again and again. So is there a reason I now keep a bottle in my Emergency Preparedness Kit? Read on.
Appearance: In the bottle and glass, a rich red and brown oaky color, wonderfully translucent and almost shimmering. In the glass, the legs give way quickly to dimpling.
Nosing: A great warmth fills the glass, with touches of banana, roasted coconut, touches of sea salt and even a hint of a wood fire. Lots of the expected rum notes, with plenty of vanilla and caramel.
Tasting: One of the first things I notice is the extremely buttery texture. Go ahead, melt some butter and take a sip, then take a sip of the Mount Gay XO, you’ll see where I’m going with this. The wood and heat continue, as though you’re sipping the experience of a barbecue on the beach with good friends, anticipating the cool of night as the fire keeps you warm. Lots of coconut and wood notes in this, without getting bitter or harsh, a sign of masterful aging and blending! I’m almost tempted to say it’s like drinking smoked honey, but not having drank smoked honey… well, it sounds like an experiment for a later time. Hints of spice stay on the tongue long after the last taste.
On Mixing: For all of its sippability, it’s a powerhouse mixer too. The woody-sweet characteristics give it the ability to play classy or exotic, lending itself as easily to an Old Fashioned or Manhattan variant as it does to being used like an Aged Jamaican in your favorite Tropical Libation. I’ve even made a few nifty potables, the Bimbolada and the Pride of Barbados, specifically featuring Mount Gay XO, playing up the fruitier notes in the rum, while holding strong to the aged rum characteristics.
Score: As a sipper it’s top notch, and as a mixer it’s liquid gold. How could I not give this rum the love it deserves with all 5 guns a-blazin’. My favorite Barbados rum… for now. I’m definitely hoping to get my hands on its older brother, the 1703. Someday… a rum lover can hope!
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English Harbour is a rum hailing from the island of Antigua, named for the town of English Harbour, a town and port used heavily by the British Navy during the time of Admiral Nelson. The rum is molasses based, distilled in copper, and aged 5 years in used Bourbon barrels.
Antigua Distillery is the only distillery on the island, having been started by a group of plucky Portuguese (as my dad would say, “Port-a-/É¡/ees”) in the early 1930s. Here in the U.S., it may be hard to get your hands on a bottle of anything other than the 5 year, which seems a darned shame, as the 5 year is, well… I suppose you should continue reading to find out!
Appearance: A lovely pale golden in the glass, with the usual firm sticky legs that a good aged rum should have.
Nosing: It’s a powerful nose that can be detected from a good distance away, making sure you know there’s an open glass nearby. There’s a bit of dust (smells like old!), a good amount of burnt wood, and something that really had me confused for a bit, but I finally keyed in to… Banana Bread! That is, with nuts, of course. It’s very obvious even from the nosing that I’m going to really like this one.
Tasting: The nose runs into the flavor with ease. Not the heaviest rum in texture, sitting on the tongue the initial tastes are of vanilla and honey. There is a bit of a creaminess, almost akin to carrot juice. It can be quite sweet on top of the tongue, but on the sides shows a bit of bitter tannin, a lovely blend of youthful vigor and aged calm. It’s overall quite a smooth rum, that gives its heat only at the end of the experience, with quite a bit of fruit and nut flavors to it.
On Mixing: For all its flavor, this is not a killer diller of a mixing rum, with flavors being easily lost amongst the other ingredients. This is best served, for my taste, with just a spot of spiced syrup, lime, and a few ice cubes for Maximum pleasure. For classic tiki drinks, keep it to the simple side of things (Donga Punch, Jasper’s Jamaican) to really let this rum shine through.
Score: It’s a lovely little sipper, but not of much use in mixology. For scoring it as a sipper, it’s got quite a bit going for it, but there’s just a certain wowee-zowee that I’m not feeling with it. An exceptional rum, and highly recommended, but there’s just something that won’t let me give it that fifth star… barrel… okay, it’s a Trader Tiki head.
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Angostura 1919 is a rum from Trinidad and Tobago. As you may have guessed, it is distilled by Angostura, one of two distilleries there, the other being Caroni, which makes the Scarlet Ibis.. This molasses based rum is a blend of light and dark rums aged American Bourbon Barrels for a minimum of 8 years, and bottled at 80 proof.
Angostura may be a name you’ve heard before, and you’d be correct in recalling their infamous and ubiquitous brand of aromatic bitters, now including a fantastic Orange bitters. Angostura has been in the rum game for well over a few decades now, but has only recently been releasing their branded products, the 1919 and 1824. Most of its former products were distributed only in the Caribbean, or exported as a bulk product. Not satisfied with releasing their local product for international tastes, they decided to go branded, and with such a recognizable name, it was quite the wise business decision.
But does this rum truly stand up to the legacy of Dr. Johann Siegert? Let’s see what’s going on in the bottle.
Appearance: I don’t always like making a statement about the bottle, but on the shelf, this one really stands out. It’s short and squat, but not overly intrusive, with distinctive rounded shoulders and a big fat cork. But what really makes me happy is the bottle numbering. This review comes from bottle 169916, a fine bottle if ever I’ve seen one. I love batch/bottle labeling, as it allows for comparison, quality control, and damn right I’ll say it, even one-upsmanship. Even what’s in the bottle stands out though, as a beautiful orange-copper hue shines out from within. With that color, it still has some of the best clarity I’ve ever seen, and in the glass I swore I saw something floating, but it was just a reflection of sunlight in the rum.
Nosing: The nose is lovely, with marshmallow and butter and hints of orange blossom water and toffee, even an oddly appealing touch of warmed plastic. This nose definitely feels like I could pick it out of a lineup. The legs in the glass are quite gummy, indicating a potentially lovely texture.
Tasting: Oh my Dr. Siegert, if only you knew how smooth this would come out. The rum on the nose and rum on the tongue are truly one in the same, as a smooth marshmallow/butter flavor starts in, leading into a savory spice, with a big smokey finish on the end, even a bit of gingerbread. The heat is minimal at best, and almost has to be searched for to find it. As a sipper, this is both enjoyable and thoughtful. It’s like a puzzle putting together all the flavors, one I just can’t draw myself away from.
On Mixing: Rum is often an excellent mixer, whether it be with just a splash of tonic, or with 3 other rums and a range of fruits from remote jungles and islands. This rum, however, takes the cake in its versatility and flavor. One of the best drinks I’ve had with this is Martin Cate’s 2070 Swizzle, a tall and potent combination of Angostura 1919, Overproof Demerara Rum, allspice, honey, and a few other bits. It’s tall, satisfying, a bit savory, and wonderfully complex. Another style of drink I’ve had this in was at Beaker and Flask, where bartender Tim set me up with a combination of Angostura 1919, Benedictine, and Cream Sherry. It was a bit like the rum had jumped into an old New Orleans drinking book, and decided it would be the forerunner for a number of cocktails intrinsic to the city’s history. The drink tasted a lot like wet brown sugar, and oh my was that good.
Score: With its versatile use in mixology, unique character, and as a thoughtful sipper, I have to give Angostura 1919 a 5 out of 5. This is a rum any rum connoisseur should be proud to have in their collection, and even better, in their glass.
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St. James Royal Ambre has been readily available on the shelves for the past few months here in Oregon. After drinking my dear departed bottle of Hors D’Age until it was no more, I was happy to see its younger brother on the shelf of my favorite liquor store. Not every Donn drink calling for Martinique requires long-aged rhum, so I was hoping this would add a bit of that fiery Martinique kick some drinks, and maybe provide a rather spirited sipper. At 45%, this definitely has a bit of punch to it, but I’ll get to that in a moment.
The Royal Ambre, one of a damned decent product line from St. James, is the second blend out of the Limousin Oak barrel, having an aging of 18 months to two years. This Rhum is distilled as an agricole, and follows the strict regulations required to approve its A.O.C. labelling under French law. The cane in Sainte Marie is grown exclusively for the use of the distillery, as is most cane on Martinique. Once the homeland French found out how to make sugar from locally grown beets instead of island grown cane, sugar refining on the island became a much less profitable enterprise.
And what an enterprise it has been, with some of the finest and most unique rums on the market (including what may just be my all time favorite of all time ever) being produced on the island. So, what does this bottle hold in store?
Appearance: It’s a lovely golden amber color, with lots of oak color in it, but hints that it is still a bit young. A light hue of copper on the inside makes it quite a pretty rhum. It leaves a strong residue after spinning it in the glass a bit, definitely potent.
Nosing: Strong alcohol on the nose, with a bit of a scent like you’d imagine a burning cane field, grassy, light amber caramel, and that touch of oak tannin. The ethanol can be a bit overpowering, so it’s good to let it sit a few minutes to let it air out. After it calms down, there’s actually a lovely lilting flowery scent to it. Don’t sniff too deeply though, that high proof is still ready to knock the wind out of your sails.
Tasting: This has a good fatty viscous texture, and combined with the brick oven tasting notes almost gives it an animal skin feel going on. Go ahead, sit it in your mouth for a few seconds, you’ll see what I’m getting at. There’s a bit of sage in there, plenty of char, and only the lightest bit of honey sweetness. The declared fruitiness of the rhum is missing for my non-taster palate. The aftertaste has plenty of burn, and leaves a bit of a bittersweet chocolate chalkiness on the palate. It’s interesting to be sure, but not something I find myself wanting as a sipper.
On Mixing: The Bottle notes “Saint James Royal Amber can be sipped by itself, but is the special secret of a true Planter’s Punch: 1/3 Saint James Amber [sic], 1/3 orange juice, 1/3 pineapple juice, a dash of grenadine.” Well, I gave this a shot and found it.. pretty damned sippable. A bit of a sweet and modern take, but the rum still shone through the sweet flavors, not shabby. I have also used this as the Aged Martinique in Donn Beach’s Donga Punch, where it works fairly well with a bit of spice and citrus from the Don’s Mix and Lime Juice, though honestly, using the Hors d’age knocks this drink really out of the park.
Score: The St. James Royal Ambre is, for my palate, not much of a sipper. It’s interesting, but has a bit much burn and not enough flavors for me to reach for just to sip. For mixing though, it can add a bit of that unique martinique cane flavor and a bit of punch to your potion, which for me is its saving grace to give it a 3 out of 5.
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