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Rum Reviews

Two 1997 Caronis: Caroni Rum jointly bottled by The Whisky Agency and The Nectar, 1997-2012 (15 years) & Private Reserve Caroni Rum by Sansibar, cask #78, 1997-2020 (23 years)


Background: Master’s thesis has been a bitch. Time to unwind with some rum reviews, especially since my study cabinet is overcrowded with rum samples. I will be doing a series of head-to-head reviews so that I have an excuse to quickly clear the samples. First up, two Caronis of the 1997 vintage. Most of the 1997 Caronis I know are “heavy” rums (HTR), and these should be no exception, though details on the bottles are scarce.

Name: Caroni Rum jointly bottled by The Whisky Agency and The Nectar, 1997-2012 (15 years)

Nose: the top notes are sweet and in the vein of confectionaries -- butterscotch, bundt cake, orange cake; then come the more savoury notes, hand-in-hand with the earthiness made me fall in love with Caroni rums; buttery brioche; salted caramel; salty liquorice; porcini mushroom; even a hint of white truffle; with time, the fruits and the industrial elements come to the fore; apple candies; grape bubblegum; rubber balloons; the standard tar and diesel associations; it develops over 2 hours to gain a briny smokiness resembling a Rockley still rum, conjuring the image of roasting and smoking sunflower seed next to the sea.

Palate: it starts with the darker stuff; liquorice and toffee; root beer; cane syrup; caramel and cream; the mid-palate sees more fruits and brightness; purple grapes with skin intact; crystallised pineapple; dried apricot; apple-flavoured mint sweets; towards the back-palate, I am treated with bags of liquorice and herbs mixed with some fresh soil.

Finish: medium in length; liquorice; chocolate and christmas spices; the root beer comes back, this time with some tar accents; more roots and more earth; grass jelly in wheatgrass juice; an aftertaste of creamy grassiness.

Conclusion: it is a pity the smoke and brine promised by the nose are not cashed on the tongue; otherwise, this would have cracked 90. Still, it is a very good Caroni with a strong personality. There are many fans of the distillery who judge a Caroni based on certain benchmarks of purity of the archetypal “Caroni funk”; if you are one of them, you might be disappointed with this rum. I have always preferred my rums to have a fresher, brighter side, so this is right up my alley.

Score (assuming a normal distribution with mean 50): 86/100


Name: Private Reserve Caroni Rum by Sansibar, cask #78, 1997-2020 (23 years)

Nose: cut from the same cloth as the TWA Caroni, but more intense in almost every way; the confectionaries are sweeter here, more in the vein of nougats and baklavas; the earthiness is dialled to eleven, with more petrichor and fresh compost than I have experienced in a Caroni; the industrial notes integrate very well with the earthiness, making it difficult to tease apart the soil and the tar; sweet-smelling coolant mixed with car exhaust; the fruits are brighter too; I get some orange juice concentrate, a great deal of crystallised pineapple and jackfruit, and even some hints of sugarcane juice; additionally, there is an dried fruits aspect to this -- think dried prunes and figs and Corinthian raisins; the only things the TWA Caroni has over this are the smoke and brine.

Palate: a melange of dark fruits on the front-palate, almost like an old cognac; prune juice; Pedro Ximenez sherry; blackforest cake; gingerbread; like the TWA Caroni, the mid-palate is mentholated and redolent of dried fruits; however, there are more candied fruits here, in the forms of apple, orange, mango and jackfruit; almond paste; roasted sesame; it eventually settles into an green and earthy back-palate, with notes of salty liquorice, gan cao, root beer, buah keluak, pan-fried tapioca cake, betel nut and anise.

Finish: long; waxy and plasticky and burnt; burnt rice crisps; freshly baked clay; cling wrap; tar and engine grease finally make an appearance; the fruits return for an encore -- particularly the apple and the orange, this time accompanied by citrus zest and a good deal of liquorice; more liquorice and plastic, almost to the extent of liquorice-flavoured plasticine; an aftertaste of grass jelly and fresh green herbs like coriander, coated in a thin layers of rubber and plastic.

Conclusion: the flavours are much more distinct and intense here than in the TWA Caroni. This is also playing at a different level with regards to complexity. Like the TWA though, the dirty industrial notes are rather subdued here on the tongue; I wish there were a little more grease on metal to match the earthiness. I noticed that Caronis partially aged in continental climate tend to take a softer approach to the typical Caroni dirtiness, so maybe the same explanation can be used here. All in all, this is not the quasi-religious experience that was “The Last” -- with its minerality and saline brine providing a wee bit more depth -- but it comes close. A great Caroni, no doubt.

Score (assuming a normal distribution with mean 50): 92/100



Image Courtesy of u/zoorado