As any self-respecting whisky geek knows, ageing whisky in wooden casks profoundly affects its flavour, for better or worse. Tasting the 12 Year Old and 23 Year Old Pappy Van Winkles side-by-side shows just how magical an affect ageing can have. The new Balvenie DCS Chapter 2 release ‘The Influence of Oak’ takes this concept to the next level by exploring the diversity of flavours that whiskies can take on when aged in different types of oak casks for varying periods of time (full write up of this exciting release coming soon!)
But do other spirits benefit from wood ageing? About a year ago, an enthusiastic barman at East London Liquor Co introduced me to a Velier bottling of Caroni 20 Year Old Full Proof rum. Despite never having been a rum drinker (too sweet, too sickly I thought), I was instantly hooked. Twenty years of ageing in tropical weather, first in Trinidad and then Guyana, had produced a phenomenal spirit. Several months of hunting followed until I was able to track down a bottle of 17 Year Old Full Proof Caroni that proved to be every bit as spectacular as its older sibling. A few trips to PortSide Parlour rum bar have followed where I’ve gradually explored a few other rum offerings.
That’s all a convoluted way of explaining why I found myself joining several thousand other excited rum lovers at Earls Court on 23 October 2016 for Rum Fest 2016. First stop was the Berry Bros’ stand for a whistle stop tour of their impressive Penny Blue rum range, ably guided by Eleanor. The Velier stand then beckoned with a full line-up of Caronis on display.
As Angelo, the Velier representative, explained the sad demise of the Caroni distillery in 2002, we gradually tasted our way through each Caroni. Needless to say, the Caroni 1996 Full Proof Heavy Trinidad, weighing in at a mighty 140.2 proof, was the star of the show. A phenomenal rum that you simply must try in the (unlikely) event you ever see one for sale.
Last but not no means least, we joined Su-Lin at the Angostura stand to try the 1787 15 Year Old. By this point, my palate was slightly fried from so many cask strength Caronis but it nevertheless stood out as an impressively complex and interesting pour.
So, Rum Fest 2016 was a great success. If you are a whisky drinker who’s never taken much of an interest in rums, head down next year and you might well be surprised. If you can’t wait that long, East London Liquor Co still has a tiny amount of Caroni 20 Year Old behind the bar …