I just came back from a trip to Barbados, the home of the most important rum house on the planet, Mount Gay. It dates back to 1703. There was plenty of sun, sand, sea and other stuff there, but thoughts of whisky were coursing through my mind whilst there and since I’ve come back.
Three whiskies, all with a Caribbean twist, were begging to be tasted. I wondered: Does sipping on a rum finished single malt with the waves gently rolling on shore make it taste different? Does sipping a Mount Gay rum punch in the pool give me a different vocabulary to use in my tasting notes? How does rum influence the taste of whisky? I just had to find out! I know it’s tough work, but someone has to do it. Here is what I discovered.
The second batch of this very special, totally unique, and already sought after rye whisky is soon to be released. It’s a rye whisky, so it has had its legal requirement of being aged in new American oak barrels for around four to six years. It then spends about eighteen months of further maturation in very special casks. Casks that were originally used in France to age cognac that then went on to age Plantation XO Rum made in Barbados. The link here is that Pierre Ferrand (famed cognac producer) owns and markets rum under the Plantation label. This unique maturation regiment creates a very special complexed whisky that tastes so so good. The Nose: spiced ginger cake (brought back a childhood memory of McVities, the Original Jamaica Ginger Cake), sweet grains, bananas foster. A drop of water showed a floral honeysuckle note. The Palate: banana and brown sugar glazed pancakes, loads of rich caramel, deep vanillas and a touch of syrup maple and caramel sauce. The water changed the texture creating more viscous layers and highlighted more peppery elements. The Finish: buttery and rye spiced. After finishing this I had an irresistible urge to pour what I had left over Rum & Raisin ice cream!
This is a very special bottling that has been aged six years in ex-bourbon barrels and a further six years in rum casks. It is produced on a very small batch and I have only managed to find it on UK websites. The Nose: smoked toffee, spicy cane, BBQ baked banana, sweet grain. Water really highlighted more tropical fruit mango and a papaya sprinkled in brown sugar. The Palate: upfront spiciness, richly textured grains, smoked tropical fruit. A little dilution again brings out softer creamy notes of salted tropical fruits. The Finish: long, rich and creamy with a peaty tail.
More readily available than the Springbank, this Speyside single malt from Benriach, The Speckled Mountain, has always been one of my favourite rum finished whiskies. Sometimes rum finisjing can be considered to over power, but it works very well in this example. The Nose: toffee, dried vine fruit – raisins and a nicely balanced dollop of rum. Some notes also refer to lots of Christmas type spices I certainly got cinnamon. The Palate: good amounts of brown sugars and toffee, lots of that dried fruit. The Finish: Rich milk chocolate and sultanas.
Three great whiskies, something for everyone here. Meeting rum people and talking rum certainly helped me understand more about rum favours and that I think shows in my tasting experience. I understand we can’t all drink these in the Caribbean, but don’t worry. Just pour a dram, close your eyes, take a sip and you’ll soon be whisked off on a journey of discovery.