Whilst More Drams Less Drama primarily focuses on whisky, I occasionally venture into reviewing other spirits often referred to as malternatives, such as Cognac, Armagnac, and Rum. These reviews, akin to my whisky evaluations, are driven by personal interest. Many times, I compose these reviews based on samples received or exchanged with friends, or purchases from whisky websites. Today’s review is one of the former—a malternative adventure taking us to Trinidad for an aged rum from the renowned but now lost Caroni distillery.
As is customary with my reviews, and due to the nature of how I acquire these samples (or occasionally bottles I’ve purchased), they may not always be the most up-to-date assessments of recently released products that are readily available. Nevertheless, my motivation is to share insights about specific whiskies or spirits that captivate my interest. If this particular review captures your attention, thank you for reading. However, if it doesn’t, feel free to close the tab—I won’t be bothered, and I won’t even be aware! In previous posts, we’ve explored whiskies from the French independent bottler Swell de Spirits. This time, let’s delve into a rum: a Caroni 1998 Swell de Spirits.
Disclaimer: I’m relatively new to rum reviews, and you won’t find many here. So, take this review with a generous grain of salt. No need to reach for that Tequila shot; it was meant figuratively.
Caroni 1998 Swell de Spirits Review
Let’s pause and take a deep breath before delving into the full name of this release: Swell de Spirits Caroni Private Garden N°3 (Clos des Spiritueux) 1998. This is a Caroni Rum, distilled in 1998 and bottled in 2023, reaching 25 years of age. Swell de Spirits produced this release exclusively for Clos des Spiritueux, marking the third installment in Swell’s Private Garden series. The rum underwent 11 years of tropical aging in Trinidad and an additional 14 years of continental aging in the UK. Limited to just 350 bottles, each filled at 61.9%, some are still available on Clos des Spiritueux’ website at the substantial price of €589 for a 500ml bottle.
According to my research, the bottle label is the artistic creation of Bastien Renard. Renard aimed to showcase a flower that has vanished, symbolizing the distillery’s history—the Belly Flower. The black and copper hues on the label serve as a nod to the typical hydrocarbon notes found in Caroni rums. As this marks one of my first ever encounters with Caroni, I’ve relied on the insights of more seasoned friends to validate the purported presence of hydrocarbon notes in Caroni rums.
Neat: Notable alcohol and esters upfront. Detectable solvent and acetone, along with hints of unripe bananas, a substantial wood presence, subtle thyme and eucalyptus, and a touch of lit menthol cigarette.
With water: It opens up slightly, revealing fruity notes like more banana, roasted pineapple, and dragon fruit. Additionally, notes of shortcrust pastry with a generous buttery quality become apparent.
Neat: The initial sip is intense, with a smoother experience on the second try. Pronounced woodiness persists, accompanied by solvent, sandalwood, bitter herbs, dark caramel. As the mouthfeel evolves to a creamier texture, notes of liquid vanilla extract and cough syrup emerge, followed by a gradual introduction of spices like pepper and chili.
With water: The heat remains, now leaning towards tar and petrol, along with hints of furniture wax and grapefruit. The palate also incorporates more pronounced bitter herbal notes.
Spices linger, accompanied by woody notes and a touch of reduced caramel. However, it swiftly transitions to a warm sensation in the mouth before dissipating.
While I don’t typically indulge in rum, and I wouldn’t usually invest such a sum in a bottle of it, I must acknowledge that trying this Caroni has been a satisfying experience. Initially, I had reservations—it felt too intense for my taste (and I’m accustomed to 60+% ABV whisky). Additionally, my limited familiarity with rum played a role. However, over time, it won me over, particularly as it mellowed with a bit of dilution, revealing additional nuances that transformed it into a truly rich and flavourful rum.
Thank you Maxime!
But Don’t Trust Our Word For It…
As mentioned earlier, I don’t have extensive experience with rum, and I’m certainly not a seasoned rum reviewer. Therefore, I recommend exploring additional reviews before making a purchase—just to ensure I haven’t inadvertently written something misleading! For a reliable perspective, consider checking out Ruben’s review on whiskynotes.be. He’s a highly reputable blogger, in case you haven’t come across his work before.