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Penny Blue XO Single Estate Mauritius Rum (Batch #004)

Review: Penny Blue XO Single Estate Mauritius Rum (Batch #004)    90.5/100
a review by Chip Dykstra (Aka Arctic Wolf)
Published February 10, 2017

Berry Bros. & Rudd is one of London’s oldest Wine and Spirits Merchants with over 300 years of experience and tradition from which to draw upon. The company began its operation at 3 – St. James’s Street (in London, UK) in 1698, and still operates from that same location today. Although they are primarily merchants of wine, the company has a strong presence in the sale of distilled spirits as well. And in fact, this presence within the spirits industry had its beginnings approximately 100 years ago. (The Cutty Sark brand was developed by Berry Bros & Rudd in 1923.)

Penny Blue XO Single Estate Mauritius Rum is produced by the Indian Ocean Rum Company which is a partnership between the local Medine Distillery on the Island of Mauritius and the aforementioned Berry Bros. & Rudd Spirits. Penny Blue is a true Mauritian Rum, distilled from the locally produced molasses from the Medine Distillery’s home-grown sugar cane.

According to the information provided to me, only 10,000 bottles of Batch #004 were produced. Thirty-four percent of the blended rum was matured in ex-bourbon casks, and sixty-six percent in ex-Whisky casks. The ages of those rums varied with the oldest being 11 years old. After blending, the rum is bottled at the Medine Estate. (Batch #004 was bottled at 43.3% alcohol by volume.)

penny-blue-004In the Bottle 5/5

Penny Blue’ in case you did not know, refers to the postage stamp which you can see on the front label of the rum. This happens to be a postage stamp with its own story which began in 1847 when Sir William Gomm became Governor of Mauritius. The Governor, who wanted the Island to produce their own Postage stamps, commissioned a local engraver to produce 500 one penny and 500 two pence postage stamps (the famous Penny Blue). A printing error upon the two pence stamp was spotted, but not before Lady Gomm had used the new stamps to send out invitation cards to a fancy ball the Gomms were hosting. Of the 500 Penny Blues which were made, only 12 are known to have survived to the present day, and in 1993, one of those stamps sold at auction for $1.4 million dollars. This makes the Penny Blue one of the world’s most expensive stamps and one of Mauritius most iconic symbols.

The name and the label of the Mauritian Rum honors the Penny Blue stamp and serves to tie the rum firmly to its Mauritian identity. I love the bottle, the label and everything I see with respect to how this rum is presented.

In the Glass 9/10

According to the information I have received (and according to the label) the colour we see in the glass is the natural colour of the rum with no additives, and when I poured myself a small sample in my glencairn, I found this colour is a pleasing amber/copper with a light orange tint. I took a little time to tilt my glass and give it a slow swirl. A moderately thick oily sheen was apparent which held back for a moment, but then released a multitude of medium-sized droplets which ambled slowly back into the rum.

The initial breezes bring a yummy combination of butterscotch, vanilla, orange peel, oak spice, almond and leather. It is really quite nice especially as neither the sweetness of the butterscotch and vanilla, nor the sharpness of the oak and orange peel spice, nor the almond or leather dominate the breezes above the glass. Instead each acts in unison with the others resulting in a complex mixture of scents which is very enticing.

I allowed the glass to breathe and was rewarded as the oak and leather began to grow in the glass. The butterscotch and vanilla seemed to meld with the orange peel and almond bringing me luscious impressions of caramel toffee, marmalade and marzipan. There are hints of cinnamon and a welling up of more leather and tobacco. The rum is a pleasure to nose!

In the Glass  54.5/60

The rum tastes as good as its nose promised. There is a touch more oak sap and dry tobacco spice than the nose indicated; but these dry flavours are offset by that the lightly sweet butterscotch and vanilla. There is just a touch of orange peel sharpness which is probably a reflection of the higher than normal alcohol content of the rum. There is also a firm nuttiness of almond (moving to marzipan as the rum breathes) and a firm (lightly grassy) tobacco flavour which sits underneath. I taste light impressions of banana and coconut, an ever so light indication of menthol and camphor, a few hints of cinnamon spice, and fresh leather as well. Despite the complexity, the rum is easy (and most pleasurable) to sip.

I added a bit of ice to my glass and found that it brought forward a light creaminess. Baking spices (vanilla, cinnamon and nutmeg) were more prominent and a light flavour of milk chocolate revealed itself as well. (Very nice!)

In the Throat 13/15

The Mauritian Penny Blue Rum is a light to medium bodied rum with a smooth although somewhat short finish. This exit is perhaps a little heated with orange peel coming on firmly at the end of the swallow. However this orange peel is tempered by a touch of soothing menthol and lightly sweet butterscotch and vanilla. With ice added, milk chocolate is more fully revealed in the exit.

The Afterburn 9/10

Two years ago I reviewed the Penny Blue Batch 002. This year when tasting Batch 004, I found that the two rums, although sharing a similar heritage of craftsmanship, did not share the same overall taste profile. Batch 004 has a more developed oaky character which brings a further level of depth and balance to the sipping experience. The rum from Batch 002 found its way onto my premium rum sipping shelf. Batch 004 will certainly do the same; although it will be a rum I will be reluctant to share. (I can be greedy once in a while can’t I?)

If you are interested in comparing more scores, here is a link to my other published Rum Reviews.

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Suggested Recipe:

penny-blue-old-fashioned-sam_2973Penny Blue Old Fashioned

2 oz Penny Blue XO Rum
1 tsp Sugar Syrup (1:1 ratio)
1 dash Angostura Orange Bitters
3 large Ice Cubes
1 twist of Orange Peel

Add the first three ingredients to a rocks glass over the ice cubes
Rub the cut edge of the orange peel over the rim of the glass and twist it over the drink. (This will release the oil from the orange zest into the drink)
Drop the peel into the cocktail if desired.

Please Enjoy Responsibly!

Note: If  you are interested in more of my original cocktail recipes, please click this link (Cocktails and Recipes) for more of my mixed drink recipes!

 

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My Final Score is out of 100 and you may (loosely) interpret the score as follows:

0-25     A spirit with a rating this low would actually kill you.
26-49   Depending upon your fortitude you might actually survive this.
50 -59  You are safe to drink this…but you shouldn’t.
60-69   Substandard swill which you may offer to people you do not want to see again.
70-74    Now we have a fair mixing rum or whisky.  Accept this but make sure it is mixed into a cocktail.
75-79    You may begin to serve this to friends, again probably still cocktail territory.
80-84    We begin to enjoy this spirit neat or on the rocks. (I will still primarily mix cocktails)
85-89    Excellent for sipping or for mixing!
90-94    Definitely a primary sipping spirit, in fact you may want to hoard this for yourself.
95-97.5 The Cream of the Crop
98+       I haven’t met this bottle yet…but I want to.

Very loosely we may put my scores into terms that you may be familiar with on a Gold, Silver, and  Bronze medal  scale as follows:

70 – 79.5    Bronze Medal (Recommended only as a mixer)
80 – 89.5     Silver Medal (Recommended for sipping and or a high quality mixer)
90 – 95         Gold Medal (Highly recommended for sipping and for sublime cocktails.)
95.5+            Platinum Award (Highest Recommendation)

 

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