The Kill-Devil Spirit Tasting Sessions: Rum
Thursday 24 May at Arcadia Bar, Leeds
Article by Craig Heap
Photos by Minal Supri
This may well be my final coverage of the Kill-Devil Spirit Tasting sessions. The event remains as awesome as ever, and I would happily hit up each and every one were it not for the daunting 400-mile round trip I would have to conduct in the future. So, the good news is that if you have been trying to attend the Kill-Devil sessions for some time but haven’t been able to get a ticket then my usual seat up front will be available. Tell Jake Rum & Reviews Magazine sent you.
To business, then. Once again, at the risk of being branded a lazy journalist, I would refer you to my first article if you’re unfamiliar with Kill-Devil and want to know more. This event covered rum, and took a back step from the recent spate of staggering, epic booze tasting, meaning the ticket price was back down to £15.
The timing was apt: that week was practically the hottest in Britain since the sun began, so rum was a fine choice. The room was packed, as ever, and Jake quickly recognised that those in attendance were the ‘core crowd’ so he more or less went straight into the rums themselves without too much preamble about rum’s history or creation.
Notes: This was covered by R&R at the 2011 RumFest, so you can find more here. In short, it’s Panamanian rum marketed with the use of puns based on Ron Jeremy, the former male porn star (you know: it’s long and smooth with a creamy finish etc). Aged for 7 years in bourbon and possibly sherry casks, I was advised it goes well in a Cuba Libre. 40% ABV and approximate cost is £32.
Appearance: Light, bright gold.
Nose: Syrupy sweet, rich and smooth, with a very light hint of cinnamon, vanilla and floral notes. No discernible woodiness.
Taste: Light to medium body, smooth with a spicy tingle of clove and vanilla bordering on too much vanilla, balanced by honey sweetness and a floral quality. Some burn in the finish.
Verdict: Pleasant, but not exceptional. It’s more than the gimmick it initially seems, but not much more. Not very well received by the crowd.
Notes: Aged in bourbon and sherry casks, before being finished off in pineau des charentes casks (a French sweet aperitif). Single cask. The bottle has a Brugal-esque grass netting. 40% ABV and approximate cost is £40.
Appearance: Medium to dark gold.
Nose: Warm, rich, deep and sweet with a hint of chocolate and honeycomb which combine to give the impression of a Crunchie bar. Also stewed fruit notes; no burn or woodiness.
Taste: Supremely light and smooth without any burn, somewhat akin to a cognac. The flavour blossoms out into floral notes backed by honey and chocolate. The finale is gentle and liqueur-esque in its sweet smoothness, before ending on a slightly dry finish.
Verdict: Subtle, a definite sipping rum; very much an unexpected treat which should lurk at the back of any liquor cabinet and surprise you with its classy bottle appearance and taste from time to time.
Notes: The people at the St. Lucia distillery used to stick their rum casks any old place while they aged – under the stairs, behind the fridge, underneath the sofa cushions. Then, they had a terrible fire and lost all of the treasure maps which marked where they had hidden all these casks. One day in 2011, a new distillery worker looked inside a biscuit tin and found loads of old, ‘forgotten’ casks. Well, there was a fire, and they did forget about some barrels for a time. These casks are now available for your pleasure. ABV 40% and approximate price is £35.
Appearance: Dark golden brown.
Nose: Sugar and molasses, mainly; caramelised sugar, burnt sugar, sugary sugar etc.
Taste: Light and airy foretaste; sweet, sugary middle; quick finish laced with clove, anise and a couple of other floral/spicy notes. The wood is balanced and not too intrusive. Smoky peatiness evident.
Verdict: Everyone picked up on the curious, whisky-like peatiness. Oddly enough it wasn’t unpleasant, though not what I expect from rum. The consensus put the flavour down to the effect of the fire smoke at the distillery altering the rum. Liked by most, but fell short at the last hurdle for me.
Notes: This was covered by an R&R panel review, so for more go here. My notes are somewhat lacking here. 40% ABV and the price is approximately £40. Interestingly, Jake told the people at Brugal he detected a fungal note in their Brugal range. They rebuffed this until some big whisky czar from Macallan (you can tell my note taking was beginning to suffer at this point) bought into the Brugal range and inspected their stock only to find the Brugal barrels had gone rotten, hence the fungal note. They’ve since rectified this by selling off their barrels to Doorly’s, so Brugal should improve in the future while Doorly’s might take on a mushroom note.
Appearance: Deep red in the bottle, amber in the glass.
Nose: Sherry and spice with a woody burn.
Taste: Smooth and light with a slightly fungal note, backed by an oaky woodiness.
Verdict: Overpriced and underfed. Aims to be the premium in the Brugal range, but lacks in this regard. For the same price, and in this tasting range alone, I would rather pick up the Barbados Plantation.
Notes: At £205 per bottle, the Ambassadors Reserve is out of my league, which is a shame as Diplomatico is one of my favourite premium rum ranges. Of course, this is what I love about Kill-Devil – I get to try things like this. Released at the back end of 2011, it is presented in its own cupboard. Made using low-mineral water, without additives or preservatives, and in the vicinity of five sugar plantations. Aged for 12 years in American white oak and then 2 more years in Pedro ximinez sherry casks. 46% ABV and approximate price is £205.
Appearance: Deep, dark brown.
Nose: Rich, dark fruits, spices, treacle, molasses, muscovado and biscuit combine a Christmas cake aroma. I would like to stress that, somehow, one gains the sense that these are high quality ingredients (in the “this isn’t just muscovado, this is M&S muscovado sense”). Interestingly, my very first note in the nose category was: “This. Is. Rum.”
Taste: Initial sugar sweet taste, opening up to a gentle, almost whisky burn of wood notes, followed by treacle, maple syrup, Christmas cake, spice and fruits, particularly dates and dried red berries.
Verdict: Amazing – an excellent extension of the Diplomatico range.
Notes: I fucking hate Jamaican rum, so disregard this final tasting if you wish. Smith and Cross was established on Thames Street in Jamaica in 1788, so it has a fine tradition. 57% ABV and the approximate price is £32.
Appearance: Medium gold.
Nose: Grassy, slightly herbaceous notes mingle with the aroma of honeycomb and dead sheep.
Taste: It tastes like old mutton which has been marinated overnight in glue, then burnt black on the outside over a barbecue but left raw on the inside.
Verdict: Interesting but not admirable.