Aged Madeira Rums - quick-fire reviews
Updated: Dec 20, 2022
Following my recent Maderia unaged head-to-head (here), it's time for (a lot of) aged Madeira rums!
This being the fourth, and final chapter in our Madeira series. The first provided an overview to rum travel and the fascinating rum history in Madeira (here). Second was an in-depth guide to the island's distilleries and rum bars (here).
For those concerned about my health (Mum) - no, I didn't try all these in one sitting!! :-)
15ml of each, left to breath for 20 mins, nosed first, then tasted (in distillery clusters) in increasing abv order. Assisted, over the tastings, by James Lidell, Macy Gray and some pretty cool tunes from Chris Botti.
Engenho da Calheta
Column stilled rums, fully aged at the distillery.
Calheta Rum 2009, 40% - thin, disappointing, a touch of fruit, a lot of barrel influence - not great barrel influence at that. Not bad, but definitely not good [74pts]
Calheta Rum 1999, 40% - a veritable antique, best left in the bottle [75pts]
Engenhos do Norte
Column stilled rums, fully aged at the distillery
Rum 970, 2006, 15yr, 49.6%, 1323btls - appropriately festive, lots of dried fruit and spice. Burnt biscuits, splashes of anise, furniture polish. Heavily raisin'd. An over-aged, slightly musty but not unpleasant old rum. [80pts]
Rum 970, 2015, 5yr, 49.9%, 277btls - Yum. This has a tasty and inviting nose. The madeira cask has provided good colour and lovely deep fruit. Fresh cane notes are nicely balanced with oak, cherry and anise. Enjoyable. [85pts]
Rum 970, 2004, 15yr, 50.9%, 1396btls - Super dark. At first I'm treated to a complex melee of spices, orange peel, wood, juniper, menthol. With the freshness of the cane juice just about hanging on by its fingernails. However, over a short time much of this is lost and we're left with a heavily raisin'd, deep prune, almost Armagnac nose. Super dry, heavy, with some mustiness. A little menthol and anise are the only remaining signs of life in this heavily oaked antique. Some bitter walnuts. The old varnish and the musty oak leave you thinking you've walking into a seldom visited antique furniture shop. A great experience to try a rum of this age. It's not unpleasant, just feels like it lost too much vibrance for me. [83pts]
Rum 970, 2006, 14yr, 52.3%, 279btls - rotten old wood. Rotten old wet wood. Zero fruit. This hasn't interacted well with the barrel. A little fruit if you persist past the rotten old wood. A quite dull and generally unpleasant nose. Dry, bitter, off tasting. Yuck! [65pts]
Rum 970, 2007, 11yr, 55%, 226btls - Another dark, dark rum. A more enjoyable nose on this one. Spice, vanilla, madeira, lots of oak but this time working quite well. A little mustiness but not overpowering. Orange peel, burnt sugar, old leather. cinnamon. even a bit of watermelon if you search. The old leather is playing well with the dark fruit here. Deep vanilla spice, thick treacly caramel. Dark fruit. Lovely rich madeira barrel influence. Dried fruit. Maple syrup. Clearly well aged but this one is still very much alive and tastes well balanced. [85pts]
Rum 970, 2010, 11yr, 56.3%, 228btls - Another decent barrel pick. Well integrated vanilla spice, fruit is still alive and the madeira influence is divine. When these work, they work very well. Some of the barrels (or barrel management) appear to be poor - which is particularly important when you're aging rum for such a long time in warm tropical conditions. [84pts]
Column stilled rums, fully aged at the distillery
Barikenn Port Cask aged, 2016, 6yr, 53.4%, 284btls - Absolutely bursting with dark fruit. Macerated cherries & prunes. Toasted vanilla caramel. Rich and sweet. Like you're getting a fruit desert blended into your digestif. A touch of bitterness in the mid-length finish keeps things nicely in focus. Quality stuff. [86pts]
TBRC Amarone Cask aged, 3yr, 53.5%, 238btls - a drier, deeper profile. The cane juice is more present, more evenly matched to the dark fruit. The rich, dry red wine is working perfectly with the fresh cane juice. A little cherry marzipan. Toasted nuts. Lovely drying tannin providing backbone. Right up my street. More moorish, more complex than the Barikenn. Beautifully boozy - the alcohol is very well integrated. [87pts]
Master of Malt Amarone Cask aged, 2016, 3yr, 58.3%, 177btls - very similar to the TBRC (I suspect they were two halves of one cask). The TBRC feels a tiny touch more open, more complex and more dry fruit forward. Amarone cask - winner! Delicious and a veritable bargain to boot [86+pts]
O Reizinho Distillery
Copper pot stilled rums, fully aged at the distillery
TBRC Maderia Cask aged, 3yr, 52.6%, 1936btls - immediately obvious this is a more complex rum. Impressive oak influence for just 3 years -and absolutely bursting with flavour. Earthy, a tiny touch bitter and yet fresh, fruity and grassy at the same time. A lively and really fun offering with a long banana & brine finish. [86pts]
Estate bottling Madeira Cask aged, 6yr, 52.6%, 900btls - The same, but so much more! Incredibly moorish. Incredibly balanced. A milestone rum. 6 years for this pot still monster feels like the sweet spot to me. Offering a perfect contrast of the madeira, the oak and the funky signature super dry, brine & fruit. [88+pts]
TBRC Madeira Cask aged, 9mth, 57%, 425btls - an imposter! A massive punchy, fresh, pot-stilled cane juice rum with a just a hint of oak offering a vanilla tinge and generally calming things down a tiny bit. I really love it. 9 months has worked, keeping the freshness and simply adding a side order of custard. I marginally prefer the unaged version of this rum, but it adds something different and very good to the line-up. [83pts]
Estate bottling Madeira Cask aged, 3yr, 61.2%, 600btls - rich, slightly medicinal, a big pile of foam banana sweets, what a mouthful (noseful at this stage actually). Burnt salty popcorn!! Heavily saline on the palate. A dry, vegetal rum. The super dry, quite bitter herbaceous almost Vegemite saltiness is not going to be for everyone. I'm not everyone! And in my hunt for new, exciting, unique and tasty rums - this is a winner! [85+pts]
No aged rums to review from these guys, but I was fortunate to have an early taste of their inaugural release, double pot distilled rum after just a year or so in a very special ex-madeira cask ... this is going to be very special!
Conclusion - get out there, visit Madeira, buy their rums. Standouts for me are the unique offerings from O Reizinho and the delicious wine cask rums from Engenho Novo. Outstanding stuff!