Another first: My first Caroni review. And why is that special? Because Caroni is the Port Ellen of rum. A distillery which has been closed for many years after producing a lot of very good rum.
Now several independent bottlers from every corner of the world wants to issue their own Caroni.
The Caroni distillery came from the island of Trinidad, and was renowned for producing one of the finest, heavy rums in the world, which won acclaim from e.g. the British Navy.
It operated on the molasses created by a nearby state owned sugar refinery. So when the state owned refinery closed the Caroni distillery’s days were numbered, and ultimately it managed to survive until 2002.
Bristol Classic has had a few spins at my place, and for some reason I have a soft spot for them. So far they haven’t delivered top shelf quality on the few I have tasted so far, but I seem to keep dishing out second chances.
Perhaps because I love their relatively simple presentation, perhaps I like the philosophy of Mr. Barrett: Minimal tampering with the product (“minimal”, not “no” … I’ll let that go uncommented). I don’t know why, but I have a craving for his products.
This particular product is a 17 year old Caroni distilled in 1996 on a copper column still and bottled in 2013 at a strength of 43% ABV after 12 years of maturation on the island of Trinidad, and then 5 years in the UK.
Not that strong, but fortunately still a bit above the boring 40%.
Fun fact: During a visit to the Caroni distillery some years after its closure, owner of Velier, Luca Gargano bought up the last remaining stock of Caroni, However before that point in time, several other indie bottlers had bought up their own stock.
One of the those were Mr. Barrett of Bristol Classic, which has a substancial stock of Caroni in his own cellars waiting to be bottled. So it might take some time before the stocks are depleted.
The rum comes in a nice, black protective tube made of sturdy cardboard with metal lids.
On the tube the label later found on the bottle, is present and tells us a lot of what is inside. But what takes up the most real estate on the tube is the Bristol Classic Rum branding.
Made in silver print it just looks awesome and gives it all a very nice quality feel. On the back we find a ”mission statement” from Mr. Barrett which tells us a bit about what he has set out to achieve.
Inside the tube we find the bottle. A nice wide and semi-tall thing topped off by a natural cork with a plastic stopper. Nothing extravagant about it.
The rum is amber coloured and when twirled it leaves a nice, oily film on the inside of the glass. Legs are thick and slow moving indicating a heavy profile.
Classic Caroni character with lots of rubber and acetone, but there is also some pleasant sweet notes of marzipan and caramel.
Underneath the heavy rubber and acetone, I found some more fruity notes of very ripe pineapple and peaches.
The alcohol tickles a bit and exhibits a sharpness, which is something to improve on for the next edition.
Not nearly as heavy as I expected.
It starts off with lost of rubber, oak and spices. After a couple of seconds a massive wave of heat blasted my mouth and my throat.
After that those fruity aromas from the nose materialised into flavours as well. And shortly after both cinnamon and caramel joined in.
A bit disappointed about the body of flavour. It was quite narrow and just hot.
A quite long finish. But it starts out very voluminous at first, and then quickly fades to almost nothing. A tiny and barely noticeable ember gives of warmth for a very long time after that.
I would have wished for a more even fade and a bit more flavour. Only rubber, oak and warmth kept going for more than a tiny blink of an eye.
Rating and final thoughts
An over all nice sipping rum. Even a nice example of a Caroni.
However the nose was a bit sharp, the palate was too narrow and the finish faded way to fast.
All in all I think it was a little weak.
At a Velier tasting session with Mr. Luca Gargano a few Caronis made the bill. And Mr. Gargano mentioned that a Caroni doesn’t show off its true nature before you get well above 50% ABV.
If I hadn’t already tried a full proof Caroni, I wouldn’t have thought much of it.
The Bristol Caroni at its 43% is a nice rum, and even though I feel that almost any sub 45% ABV rum would benefit from a higher proof, that wasn’t my first thought with the Bristol Caroni 1996.
But knowing what I know, and remembering a full proof Caroni beast (which will most certainly make it onto this site later on), I can’t help but feel that this Bristol 1996 is a bit amputated.
It does show off some of the Caroni goodness, but it doesn’t do it enough. Caronis need to be high proof, tonsil kicking, napalm dropping beast of horror. Why? Because they have the ability to be! And because it makes them better.
It takes a certain kind of rum to wield 50% or more without killing anyone. But Caronis can. Perhaps better than any other rum out there.
Well, enough talk about what this rum isn’t.
The Bristol Classic Caroni 1996 is not a bad buy per say.
I found it for €65, and in that price range it isn’t the best available Caroni. ”Unfortunately” Velier has issued both a 12 year old and a 15 year old Caroni at this price or less. Both in the +50% ABV range.
(Unless you live in Denmark, then you have to shell out €15-25 more for the Velier offerings).
So if you are looking to try your first Caroni, my advice would be to go for the two Veliers first, as they are better in my opinion. But is you are a seasoned Caroni drinker wanting to try something a bit less hard hitting (or live in Denmark or anywhere else where the Veliers are more expensive), this is definitely a good choice.
Let me finish off by saying that this is not a bad rum. It is actually very much alright – but nothing more. Hence I have to dig deep into my bag of ratings, and find a…