Rum barrels are one of those “hmmmm” moments in whisky.
Back in the day, when I was a young reviewer and didn’t know any better, the idea of a rum cask excited me. And why shouldn’t it? I had enjoyed port casks with glee, sherry casks with interest, and now had wondered about others. Not to mention I enjoyed a rum in my even younger days, what with all it’s brown sugar and tropical fruits.
So of course I’d want a whisky added to a rum cask. And in some cases it’s created an interesting dram. And in others I haven’t been super happy about it. To be honest, there’s been more misses than hits.
One could point to the sheer amount of heat a rum barrel goes through. Or perhaps it’s like a beer barrel, that after it’s had that, it’s very hard to go back (make your own racial jokes here). Maybe the quality of rum barrels is down after being in countries that don’t have stringent requirements due to, I don’t know, just trying to exist at the moment.
Who really knows. What I do know is when a bottle split of BenRiach 35 1977 Dark Rum Finish Single Cask came up, it hit a bunch of notes I wanted. It was BenRiach, and I am a fanboy of theirs. It was old, and I feel that old. Finally it was finished in rum, and the last very old dram I had in rum was good, and ones before it were even better.
So I went in on the split, as I had some Xmas bonus money that would burn down the bank if I didn’t spend it (proof still needed).
So let’s see if I shopped well or not, shall we?
Price: $452 CAD, now sold out
Bottle No: 69 of 220
Date of Bottling: Mar/13
Aged: 35 years
Cask No: 1892
Cask Type: Dark Rum Barrel
Colour: 5Y 9/8
Nose: Passionfruit, Demerara sugar, sparkling peach cider, green melon, wildflower honey, orange drink, carrot juice, pineapple, leather
Big nose. Lots of flavours here. The rum influence is immediately noticeable with tropical fruits and molasses notes. The dram itself eventually pushes through with well developed earth and honey notes that I’ve come to expect from unpeated BenRiach.
I certainly hope the rest is like this, and do not write that as foreboding or foreshadowing…
Taste: Leather, brown sugar, turnip, papaya, mango
On the plus side, the rum and the older dram have mixed well here, sharing the spotlight versus the nose which was mostly rum, then whisky.
On the negative side? It’s a 35 fucking year old dram people, I’m expecting a papaya pie or a mango lassie or turnip’s broiled in cinnamon, not simple notes. It’s not bad, it’s just… simple. And like the US up until the 1970s, I’m not a fan of simple things (that’s a horrid joke but I stand by it to teach you something).
Finish: Sulphur, macadamia nuts, banana, sea salt, tangerine, straw, rock candy, lemongrass
Finish is better. Initially tastes like this was right from a sherry cask, however given time it grows. The flavours mellow a little, and it’s like an older rum mixed with a moderately aged Speyside.
This is better, though again I demand greater things from older casks. Perhaps BenRiach just needs to be pulled before 30. Which as a former virgin I can agree with.
Conclusion: There are better BenRiachs out there. That’s not to say this is bad. I really, really liked the nose. I think that’s the main argument for having it.
The taste is too simplistic for me. I kept wanting more, and being disappointed, much like most people who have sex with me.
Finally the finish started out brash and then mellowed, but not in a bad way. It has some nice fruit notes, and certainly finishes better than a lot of rum casks I’ve had.
I think this one just never woke up as a dram, and after 35 years, should have. It’s too bad, but I don’t feel too bad about it, as the distillery has done well by me for a long time.
Scotch review #613, Speyside review #187, Whisky Network review #1020