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Rum Nation Demerara 23 Year Old

Review: Rum Nation Demerara 23 Year Old     (93.5/100)
a review by Chip Dykstra (Aka Arctic Wolf)
Posted February 10, 2013

Rum Nation is an Italian company created by Fabio Rossi, who began his life in the spirits trade as a Oenologist (one who has studied winemaking). After his studies, Mr. Rossi left the wine business and started up a whisky company in Edinburgh (Wilson and Morgan) acting as an independent bottler of Single Malt Scotch Whisky. His interest turned to rum and in 1999 Fabio Rossi founded Rum Nation. His company is headquartered in Italy; but 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.

One such bottling is Rum Nation Demerara 23 Year Old.

casksThis is quite an interesting rum. According to my correspondence with Mr. Rossi he purchased 3 casks of this rum from a vendor in the United Kingdom in 2002. The barrels bore the marque from the famous Double Wooden Pot still of the Port Maurant Estate (PM). These ex bourbon casks were transferred into a Sherry Butt (Oloroso N. 61)  in 2004 and were left to age in an underground cellar in Bristol, England where “early landed cognac” (Hine and Delamain) was also aged. The cellar in Bristol was closed in 2007, and the rum was brought to the Piedmont area of Italy (famous for the nebbiolo grape varietal) where it continued to age until 2012 when it was bottled in Italy.

The  age statement on the rum is based upon certification in the United Kingdom (I note that the UK customs system is very stringent). Unfortunately there is no record of when the rum was shipped from Guyana to the UK, but my speculation is that it was probably meant to be part of the blend of a ‘navy style’ rum as Port Mourant Rum (from the Double Wooden Still) is one of the key ingredients in those British Navy Rums.

Mr. Rossi provided me a 200 ml sample of this rum for review here on my website. (The rum was bottled at 45 % abv.)

A Note about the Port Mourant Still: The Port Mourant Sugar Factory was founded in 1753.  The original wooden pot still (the PM), is the only production still of its kind left in the entire world.  If one was to make a list of the Seven Wonders of the Rum World, the Port Mourant Wooden Double Pot Still would surely be upon that list as this ancient still produces Demerara Rum for DDL Distilleries to this day.

(You can read about this marvelous ancient still here: Demerara Distillers’ Diamond Distillery Tour.)

Demerara 23 1989In the Bottle 4.5/5

The Bottle presentation for the Rum Nation Demerara 23 Year Old is pictured to the left. It is a pretty standard presentation which has me neither overly pleased, nor displeased. If I saw the bottle in a liquor store I would be intrigued by the age statement on the neck of the bottle, and this alone might entice me to by it.  Unfortunately that age statement is not apparent on the grey wooden box which houses the spirit.

In the Glass 9/10

Once poured into the glass, the rum displays a rich dark coppery brown colour similar in hue to a well used penny. When I tilt and twirl my glass, the rum lays down thick lazy legs which droop slowly down the inside of my glass as if reluctant to return. The initial aroma is perhaps a little daunting as rising from the glass are rich caramel scents laced with the smells of wood sap and resin. Felled poplar trees, spruce wood chips, and fresh unstained oak all seem to be part of that wood filled onslaught in the breezes above the glass. Wisps of dry fruit and licorice mingle within the breezes as does a faintly sappy, mildly acrid, vaguely rubbery tar-like scent. Within this ester filled plume above the glass I also I detect coarse brown sugar, lots of tobacco and toffee, baking spices, coffee and an almost penetrating impression of vanilla and stewed apricots.

This is very unusual, although it is much more lush and inviting than it sounds.

In the Mouth 56/60

The entry into the mouth contains all of the above and even more. A sweetness of rich brown sugar permeates the unusual flavours binding them into a wonderful rum flavour. This reminds me very much of the El Dorado Single Barrel PM, which I reviewed about two years ago. However, the flavour is much fuller and more inviting. Whereas in that Single Barrel expression the flavours of vanilla, cinnamon, caramel and toffee struggled to survive against the onlslaught of woody flavour and sap; here those same characteristics have found expression and thrive within the framework of sap and resin. That mildy acrid, tar-like aroma which was in the breezes has found expression in the rum as well, and it seems to be part of the woody sap filled flavour which provides the rum’s foundation. Flavours of rich tobacco abound, as do flavours of licorice and dry fruit.

This is surely one of the most complex rums I have ever encountered with even a touch of briny seawater and iodine finding they way onto my tastebuds. I like the overall complexity, and the balance between the familiar and the strange. Although some of my taste descriptors surely sound more like they belong to an Islay whisky, I assure you that this is 100 % rum through and through.

In the Throat 14.5/15

I think what makes this rum so brilliant is the sweetness of the finish which acts as a perfect counterbalance to all those strange flavours within. Dark brown sugar and delicious baking spices seem to break free from the rum at just the right instant providing a sweet landing. All those other strange flavours are tamed and the ebbing sweetness is intoxicating.

The Afterburn 9.5/10

The pity here is that only 3 barrels of 1989 Port Maurant Rum were purchased by Fabio Rossi and thus this spectacular rum is destined to have a very short life in the retail market. Fortunately for me, the Rum Nation Demerara 23 Year Old is available here in Alberta, and I am glad that I sourced a little more prior to publishing this review.

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


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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