I was watching some episodes of Parts Unknown the day I started writing this review. I’ve always had a soft spot for Anthony Bourdain, ever since I saw my first No Reservations episode over a decade ago. Hearing Tony makes it easy for me to invoke my more sentimental side. He was my red pill for food. He made street food look more enticing. He encouraged me to be more curious. It’s safe to say that the curiosity he invoked in me led to my eventual curiosity about booze. While I’m in a sentimental mood, I guess it’s a good time to talk about a rum that has rewarded my curiosity. I noticed that the rum reviews need to catch up to the amount of whisky reviews, so this is the perfect time for me to submit my first.
I call this Habitation Velier Port Mourant White my red pill for spirits because it’s what made me realize what the raw material, fermentation and stills alone can do! Not just for rum, but for all spirits. This UN-AGED rum blew my mind. It was like having my first taste of Mastusaka beef or that first-ever serving of an aged otoro sashimi with the right amount of soy sauce and wasabi. It made me stare silently in complete disregard as to what was in view, my mouth gaping, contemplating how much I’ve missing out on and how much I’ve been wrong about spirits this whole time.
Being a whisk(e)y geek initially offered very little opportunities to try new makes. I assume you’d have to be Serge level to get access to the distilleries’ white dogs. Thus, most of us have no idea what new makes are like. I guess it’s safe to say we are conditioned to believe that the new makes/distillates have to heavily rely on the casks to attain flavor. Oh boy, I was so glad to be wrong.
I bought this rum back in 2017 when I was just starting to geek out on rum. I was introduced to Velier through various online FB rum groups. I should point out that I had already been dabbling in rum, mostly sweetened stuff (as I discovered later) a year prior. Up till then, I had tried more accessible aged types like Ron Zacapa 23, Diplomatico, Havana Club and El Dorado. Knowing close to nothing about fermentation and distillation back then, all I could ask myself was how much magic casks can do to make such varied spirits, despite most of them being aged in ex-bourbon casks. Trying this “white” rum made me wonder how an un-aged rum had so much flavor. (I’m trying to avoid using “white rum” here because 1. The rum color classification is lazy BS by the big boys and 2. Some “white” rum are aged). I always thought all whites spirits taste like vodka, because up until this point, the only white non-flavored white spirits I’d had were Bacardi Carta Blanca and vodka, and that Carta Blanca tastes very neutral, close to vodka. Thanks to rum personalities like Richard Seale of Foursquare, Maggie Campbell of Privateer and Matt Pietrek, I found out later that the length of fermentation, type of yeast, and type of still heavily affects the character of the distillate. Oh, how deep I went into the rabbit hole! I geeked out to the point where I could understand what I could despite being a dimwit in chemistry and not having a distilling outfit.
TL;DR conclusions included:
Longer fermentation times leading to more esters, leading to more flavors.
Yeast meant for turbo-charging fermentation for higher ABV and lesser time (AKA efficiency vs yeast that takes its time) yielding a more flavorful mash.
Knowledge of pot stills (batch distilling) vs. traditional column stills (continuous distillation), which can also do batch distilling vs multi-column stills (continuous distillation)
That is when I began looking at the whisk(e)y industry with more disappointment. Why not try other grains for a different result in fermentation and distillation? Why not try using less turbo-charging yeast? Why not try wild fermentation? Is it all just about the numbers? I also began to ask more about each distillery’s fermentation time and which kind of grain they use most often.
Whisk(e)y was my Matrix. The rum geeks who helped me geek out are my Morpheus.
This was purchased in: La Maison Du Whisky Singapore for about $200 SGD (if memory serves me well), distilled in Port Mourant wooden double retort pot still and bottled 59% strength. The style of rum is a Pure Single Rum (pure for all pot still, single for coming from one distillery).
Habitation Velier Port Mourant White – review
On the nose: an initial dry sensation of nutmeg, cherry syrup, dark chocolate, coffee candy and hints of leather. Followed by hints of lime peel, phosphorus sulfides and burnt orange. Imagine having a Black Forest cake in front of you waiting to be pounced on.
In the mouth: very similar to the nose. Lots of nutmeg, cherries and dark chocolate. Followed by burnt citrus peels, hints of cappuccino and cinnamon. This really makes me think I’m having a Black Forest cake with extras on the side.
A very wonderful sipping rum despite being bottled at 59% and unaged.
This rum really opened my eyes to how much I’ve misunderstood spirits. This made me see how varied distilling can be.
The friends who have tried this didn’t know what to make of it initially. I’m guessing because it’s their first time to try a funky estery rum like this. When they got to try this on a different day, they could make sense of it more. I’m guessing their palates adjusted.
Sadly, this is a limited run, distilled in The Diamond Distillery in Guyana, bottled by Velier’s Independent bottler arm Habitation Velier.
Great review John. I bought a bottle of this on release and I’ve been kicking myself ever since for not getting another. It’s wasn’t cheap but well worth it. My initial fascination was twofold. First, it’s Habitation Vellier and their rums have transformed what I think of rum. They are top quality and I’m very happy to spend my time and money on them instead of overpriced unicorn whiskies like Ardbeg Committee, Springbank Local Barley, Macallan…..the list goes on and on. Second, I was fascinated to try something from the famous Port Mourant double wooden pot still (which is over 250 years old!!!) without any additional barrel influence.
Classic Guyana funk on the nose and confirmed on the palate. This is epic distillate from a unique distillation process. Fruity but with that overripe, even rotting, tropical fruit element, especially pineapple and banana plus preserved lemon and olive brine with a bit of treacle. Serge did review this and gave it a 90. It was Guyana rum that supplied the British Navy which they did, until recently, through Pusser’s and anyone wanting to taste something like this spirit should give Pusser’s Gunpowder Proof a go. It’s very good value and 50% abv. I think I taste Port Mourant in it with a lot of molasses. I would also encourage people to check out Demerara Distillers website https://www.demeraradistillers.com/our-stills to check out the history of the stills and rum production in Guyana.
Hi Welsh, thank you for the comment.
I , too, hate that I didn’t get a 2nd bottle of this. So But luckily I was able to buy 2 bottles of the HV WP 151. Yes, Habitation Velier is so much more worth it.
I’m working on a Demerara rum series review. You’re gonna like that if you liked this for it’s being Demerara rum.
To geek out more on Demerara rum, I was pointed to this blog also. https://barrel-aged-mind.blogspot.com/
I used it a lot for the DDL series I am about to finish writing up
Thanks John. I appreciate the super-geek. It takes one to know one. The world of rum is fascinating both for it’s end product but also the mind blowing history which is far interesting than whisky. Cheers. WT
The history of rum does seem richer than most spirits. Partially because there are more places making rum or some form of cane spirit and it’s been around longer. Where there is booze, there is usually politics and war. It’ a fun way to connect the dots of the past.