My first venture into “investment grade” spirit is not for the purpose of investing, but reporting. Why investment grade? Because the Caroni distillery (Trinidad) shut down in 2002 (or 2004 depending on your source) and there is no more of this being made. This particular bottle cost $100 from a San Francisco retail outlet in late 2016. Was it worth it? Well what have we got…
A.D. Rattray 18 yr old single (bourbon) barrel rum. The A.D. by the way stands for Andrew Dewar who with William Rattray conspired to produce this spirit. This by the way is not the same Dewar (John) of the Scotch brand, but perhaps they are related. The bottle itself is plain, but the label contains real information. There is also a nice cork, a nice touch these days. The label (Notice the English spelling and International date format) on the bottle says:
cask 118, 307 bottles
Uncoloured and unchill filtered
The ABV comes in at 46%, a bit higher than most rums, but not by a lot.
On the back there is a label that gives some tasting notes
Color Burnished Copper
Nose: Coconut, vanilla, and toffee apple
Palate: Pear drops, pineapple, guava, lime alongside lingering toffee with hints of tobacco. A kaleidoscope of tropical flavors.
I’ve had three glasses of this now, and paired it with three cigars (more on that below). Here’s what I get out of it so far…
Color: Medium amber, a little gold, and light copper would be about right.
Legs: Fast medium legs when swirled. I’m always amazed at how much rums differ in this even if it has little bearing on flavors
Aroma: Here it gets interesting. Alcohol distinct but not over powering, there is something like glue here too, but more like over ripe fruit than acetone, perhaps dunder. Plenty of brown sugar, perhaps burnt sugar, and there is ripe banana on the nose, apricot (overripe) orange. There is a hint of funk in all this over-ripeness of the aroma, but it isn’t up front.
Flavors: On the palate the funk is more up front, like Pusser’s blue label, and almost as strong but in some way more crisp, backed by a glassier texture that hides a lot of potential but doesn’t give much away at first. At first I can’t find any fruit in this taste other than the overripe funkiness of what might be spoiled fruit. I do find oak, lots of oak, bourbon-like smokiness, and lots of tobacco. There isn’t any sugar added to this rum so it is dry, but there is a thin brown sugar sweetness to it offsetting the somewhat bitter tobacco notes.
What about the bottle’s own tasting notes? Coconut? Vanilla? Maybe but a stretch for my palate, maybe charred vanilla, but I don’t get any fruit out of it except of the dunder-like overripe sort. If I’ve ever experienced an over-oaked rum though, this would be it. 18 years in a barrel is a long time for a rum. Still some people go for that flavor and my palate is maturing to the point of appreciating the effect of the slightly sweet and bitter together. Toward the bottom of the glass I begin to sense banana and a little more sugar than at the beginning. A little water dials the funk back a bit and brings out more sweetness. I’ll experiment with that a bit more.
Texture: Starts out oily in a strange way I’ve not every noticed before. It looses some of that as you drink it but gets creamier in a sugary way as the glass rests in the air. The rum comes across very smooth for its 46% ABV with no added sugar. Perhaps 18 years adds that. The alcohol does give a very warm cast to the finish, your mouth seems to heat up with it, much more than I’ve noticed with rums at the usual 40%. Other reviews say the finish is medium, but the warming effect lasts a long time and flavors on the back of the tongue fade slowly. Seems like a longish finish to me combining the sweet and the bitter all the way to the end. I know there is more complexity here than my palate can find. I have the remainder of the bottle to find out.
I’ve paired three cigars with glasses of this rum. They were all good, but a Drew Estate Liga (Papas Fritas) stood out. These sticks have a nice nut and dark-chocolate sweetness to them, and the rum brought both out well.
So is it worth $100 a bottle? Not by my palate, though I can appreciate it. Like Pusser’s blue, it is a rum I would drink from time to time to keep my palate honest and remember what a wide variety of flavors can be found in rums. I know a rum drinker who absolutely loves Pusser’s blue and thinks rums lacking its funk are not worth the time. He would want to add this one to his list I am sure. But Pusser’s blue is $25 a bottle, little enough for that reminder. If I’m going to spend this much on a rum, I’d rather it not make me work so hard to find all the flavors. But yes it is good, yes it is complex, and yes its oak and (to me) tobacco notes dominate, but that isn’t all bad. It is definitely unusual, different, and rare. That is sometimes worth a high price.