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Rum Nation Caroni 1998

Review: Rum Nation Caroni 1998 (Bottled in 2014 @ 55%)   93/100
a review by Chip Dykstra (Aka Arctic Wolf)
Posted on November 6, 2014

The Caroni Distillery in Trinidad and Tobago was established in 1918, and was operated at near full capacity until 1993. Unfortunately, due to industry consolidation, rum production at the facility began to decline late in the 20th century and the distillery was closed in 2002. As a matter of interest, the consolidation of the rum industry during the last two centuries is amply illustrated in Trinidad and Tobago where there this small country featured 50 distilleries at the turn of the 19th century. One hundred and fifty years later (in 1950) only 8 had survived, and today there is but one, Angostura. It seems a pity that so much tradition and history has vanished. Although I guess we can count ourselves lucky that some of the rum barrels from the Caroni distillery are still finding their way into the market place.

The Rum Nation Caroni 1998 is one such offering from the folks at Rum Nation. This is an old-style heavy column still rum which was distilled in 1998 and aged for nine years in American Oak casks on the Caribbean Island of Trinidad. From this tropical locale, the rum was transported to Europe for further aging in  refill American Oak (bourbon) casks which had been also previously used to age Rum Peruno (8YO). The resulting Rum Nation Caroni 1998 rum was bottled at cask strength (55 % alcohol by volume).

My sample bottle was provided courtesy, Fabio Rossi, who owns and manages Rum Nation. Fabio purchases select rums from various distillers in the Caribbean and the Americas. As a result Rum Nation provides a rather unique assortment of rare limited edition rum bottlings to both the European, and the North American market..

Rum Nation Caroni 1998-2014In the Bottle 4/5

As you can see the bottle presentation for the Rum Nation Caroni 1998 is solid. The short squat bottle has a look and feel which implies ‘substance’. I also like the postage stamp label which brings some Trinidadian heritage to the bottle presentation. A wooden topped natural cork stopper seals the bottle. Although I prefer corked toppers to screw cap toppers, I have noticed that in my somewhat dry climate, these stoppers tend to become brittle quite quickly, and when they do they break rather easily. Unfortunately this happened to my bottle after it had sat on the shelf for a few months, and I was forced to take that into account in my presentation score. (I have found that my climate seems to favour synthetic cork stoppers.)

Note: The labeling on the bottle makes it clear the rum was distilled in 1998, underneath that particular statement is another small statement in red lettering indicating that the rum was released in 2014. I confirmed with the producer that the rum was in fact bottled in 2014 which (by my math) makes this expression of Caroni Rum somewhere between 15 and 16 years old.

In the Glass 9.5/10

The 1998 Caroni Rum displays itself as a dark ruddy copper colour similar in hue to that of a tarnished penny. A tilt and slow swirl of my glencairn glass showed me that the rum has a lightly thickened look as it dropped a few medium-fat sized legs down the inside of the glass. These leggy drooplets fell slowly back into the rum at bottom of the glass.

When I brought my glass up to my nose I noticed firm oak firm oak scents drifting upwards alongside equally firm notes of baking spice (vanilla, cloves, nutmeg, and a touch of cinnamon) and molasses/licorice stained caramel toffee. I left the glass to sit and breathe and noticed that the oak I had sensed in the breezes grew stronger demonstrating scents of freshly cut wooden planks which were dripping with wood sap. I could also sense fresh tar-like aromas, more dark licorice and light smells of camphor winding through the air.

I like the assertive, robust aroma, and I spent more than a few minutes enjoying those aromatic breezes I found above the glass.

In the Mouth 56.5/60

In my initial tasting sessions, I noticed that the flavour profile of the Caroni Rum carried an impression within it which reminded me of Angostura bitters. There was a firm underlying presence of cloves and some accompanying bitterness which tasted of sap and fresh-cut cedar and oak planks. It was the combination of cloves and bitter spicy sap which seemed to remind me of the flavour of Angostura bitters. The spirit also brings forward some indications of sweet caramel toffee, dollops of vanilla, baking spice (nutmeg and cinnamon) and hints of rich dark brown sugar. These sweet flavour impressions are counterbalanced by bitter impressions of treacle, a touch of tar and licorice stained molasses. The bitter and the sweet appear to be melded together nicely and they each compliment the aforementioned flavour that reminded me of Angostura bitters. The rum also brings a fair amount of heat to the palate reflected in flavours of peppery spice and zesty orange peel.

The overall effect is a rum which is quite different from a typical Trinidadian rum, it leans more to the bitter than to the sweet; but it is a rum which I found extremely pleasing to sip, especially as the days (and the nights) here in Edmonton grow colder.

In the Throat 13.5/15

The rum finishes with a bevy of spicy heat which warms both the palate and the throat and leaves hot trails of spicy cloves and wood sap behind. The dryness of the spirit seems to pucker the mouth which induces me to reach for another sip. Exit flavours of coffee and cola seem to linger within the spicy bitter heat which prolongs the enjoyment of the finish.

The Afterburn 9.5/10

This Rum Nation Caroni 1998 rum is very pleasing indulgence with an original, albeit somewhat dry and bitter flavour profile. Fortunately there is just the right amount of sweetness present to offset the bitter and I found myself quite smitten with the overall result. The rum is bottled at 55 % alcohol which means that it packs a quite a punch of flavour which can batter the tonsils somewhat; but to my delight, this robust spicy flavour did not diminish significantly when I added ice to quell the heat. With the warm days of summer far behind me, I seem to have sampled this full strength Caroni Rum at an ideal time.

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


Suggested Recipe

Although it may seem a sacrilege to some, I did a fair bit of experimentation in the cocktail realm with this particular spirit, and I found this Caroni Rum tasted extremely good when I poured a couple of ounces of the spirit over a few cubes of ice (in my rocks glass) and then added a small splash of cola and lime. A sipping Cuba Libre’ if you will. I added this Caroni Cocktail at the conclusion of my review for those who do not mind the occasional sacrilege of mixing great rum into an equally great bar drink.

SAM_1336Caroni Cocktail
(A Cuba Libre’ meant for sipping)

4 ice-cubes
2 oz Rum Nation Caroni 1998
splash cola (about 1/4 of an ounce)
wedge of lime

Pour the rum over the ice-cubes in a suitable rocks glass
Add the cola slowly so that it does not fizz
Squeeze in a hint of lime from the lime wedge
Stir slowly, sip even more slowly and 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!


My Scores are out of 100 and you may (loosely) interpret them 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 spirit.  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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