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Blackadder Caroni 12 year old

Yeah, yeah, Caroni is old news: I am late to the show, and you may have read all about Caroni already through many other blogs and reviews. Still, let me say my piece. At least I’m getting a review in before all stocks dry up. I’m never truly late until that happens!

This is more recent news, though. At the moment of writing this review—in fact, my reason for writing—Luca Gargano announced on his Facebook page that Velier will be releasing the last of the classic Caroni ranges soon. True, this isn’t a Velier Caroni, but it’s still a Caroni. According to the announcement, he has transferred the last 23 casks of Caroni stock from the Caribbean into stainless steel tanks in Europe, ending a 14-year journey that started in 2005. (Funny that Rising Sun Blues just started playing on my YouTube playlist as I started this review.)

Caroni used to be a plantation and distillery in Trinidad and Tobago. It is hailed as the Port Ellen of rum due to the state of the distillery, thus lending a hand to its fame… and price. Caroni started operations back in 1918, and they were said to have been making heavy rum, which they then sold to the British Navy. They also made and bottled low-end rum, however, most likely for the island. They ceased operations in 2002 due to political issues. In 2004, the 18,000 plus stock of casks were sold via auction. Velier was one of the buyers and was said to have bought a lot (in the thousands) of these casks. Their releasing of Caroni at full proof, as well as their belief that 100% tropical aged rum is better, helped them gain more attention in the rum world.

Caroni is said to have made two styles of rum: a “heavy” style and a “light” style. In addition, I have read that Caroni only used column copper stills. This was quite surprising, as estery, funky and full-bodied rums are usually only made with pot stills. I can only assume the heavy style was distilled in a single column still with not a lot of plates, while the “light” style went through more stills with more columns and more plates, for more stripping of flavor. Even so, I doubt “light” style is anything as light as the typical multi-column distilled rum from most South American countries. I’d like to take this chance to bring up that Caroni, similar to Armagnac, make a good case that column stills can also produce a full-bodied spirit.

I bought this bottle in Japan late 2017 for what was around $80 USD back then. This bottling does not indicate any mention of heavy or light, so I’m assuming that this is a blend of heavy and light Caroni (but more on the light side). Distilled and barreled in 2000, only 1386 of these were bottled. Coming from a dead distillery, it’s safe to say that younger stocks are harder to find, thus possibly making this somewhat more valuable compared to the older Caronis being bottled. In fact, this is the youngest Caroni I’ve seen in the market. This is as young as the youngest Caroni that Velier used to sell. If the casks used to age the rum in these are said to be sold off in 2004, and this was bottled in 2012, then it’s safe to say that the rum used to make this blend spent four to five years aging in Trinidad and Tobago, and another seven to eight years aging in Europe.

Blackadder Caroni 12 year old – review

Color: Dark amber.

On the nose: Initial feisty scents of petrol, tobacco, nutmeg and cloves, honey, hints of cappuccino, vanilla, hints of oloroso sherry and Saba banana. The second whiff is followed by peppers, burnt rubber, more petrol, hints of seashells and hints of cocoa.

In the mouth: Tobacco, petrol, hints mocha, hints of ground cinnamon, hints of nutmeg and cloves, hints of oloroso sherry, honey, vanilla, Saba banana and hints of burnt rubber, as well as some sort of burnt floral taste.

Side Note: I should point out that the petrol and burnt rubber notes were stronger when this bottle was initially opened. In fact, every Caroni I’ve had, regardless of location or aging, has been like this. Over time, the strong petrol notes turn into more balanced spices and tropical fruits.

Conclusions

This is the kind of spirit I’ve been into lately, wherein the distillate is highlighted more than the cask. In a blind tasting, I would have guessed this spent some time aging in ex-sherry casks, but someone working for the distributor of Blackadder in the US said that this was aged in ex-bourbon casks via a Ministry of Rum group on Facebook.

I believe calling this the Port Ellen of Rum does it justice. Regardless of being aged in the tropics or continentally, I’ve had some outstanding and pretty good Caroni. An opened-up Caroni will more likely be appreciated by anyone, even someone new to rum. The funk is more settled down and welcoming, whereas a newly opened bottle of Caroni would most likely cause an experience similar to smelling a tasting a bottle of Laphroaig for the first time.

Score: 7/10

CategoriesRum
  1. Avatar
    Gav says:

    I love Caroni John! I reckon I have around 20 different bottles all stored, for when there’s none left or secondary market prices are too prohibitive. I intend to enjoy them for many years to come. I was drinking the ‘Boutiquey Rum Company Batch 2 (54.7%)’ last night which is great.
    My favourites are probably The Cadenheads releases, the Thompson Brothers 20 year old (61.9%) and ‘The Duchess’ 21 year old (64. 1%). Although the majority of the Velier releases are really good too.

    1. John
      John says:

      Hi Gav,

      Thank for the comment. You’re buying way ahead of most people I see! I have about 12 right now and some more on the way. Though I wish I started buying more Velier Caronis earlier. I just got myself a bottle of that Boutique-y Caroni Batch 2 also. Peter Holland told me that’s 100% continental aged and is light style Caroni.

        1. John
          John says:

          HA! Yup. “Heavy” rum are like once a week sippers. Though I won’t open my TBRC Caroni for now. I have too much open bottles.

  2. Alex
    Alex says:

    John, great article as usual. Your writing has a certain flow. I also like to hear the number of bottles other people have in their collections. Gives me reason for my own! I’m not (yet) big into rum, but already I’m having a look at Caroni! Need to get in there quick it seems.

    1. John
      John says:

      Hi Alex, thanks for the comment.

      I’m not sure about my writing’s flow. The style and flow is very dependent on my mood. I never paid much attention to other’s writing style. I just tried to soak in the content.

      I suggest you get as much Caroni as you can. Stocks are bound to run out soon! I just recently added 2 Bristol and 1 Cadenheads Caronis to my collection. heh

  3. Avatar
    Alex says:

    Hi John, different Alex here…

    I hope it’s not too late to comment… or ask a question. I was intrigued by your mention of “petrol” in your nosing and tasting notes, typical of Caronis, and that it can through you if you’re not used to it, especially with a newly opened bottle. I remembered reading this after recently acquiring a bottle of TBRC Diamond Distillery, Unconfirmed Still, 18 Year Old (Batch 1), which I opened and …. it smelled and tasted only of petrol, soy sauce gone bad, and rotten bananas, and unfortunately, nothing else. It didn’t improve with time or water. I’ve never had a fake rum bottle before, and didn’t really think indie bottles were prone to being refilled with fake juice, but could mine be a fake? Or am i just not understanding this rum? Also, this bottle didn’t have any sediments at all, wheras my Blackadder Foursquare 12 YO has plenty!

    1. John
      John says:

      Hi Alex, it’s never too late to comment on old reviews.
      I don’t have much experience with TBRC rum so I don’t know their code for unconfirmed still. The characteristics you mentioned don’t sound like you for a faked bottle of rum. Guyanese rum are known for their distinct flavor. The Diamond distillery has a lot of unique stills which produce unique rum. But it sounds like I haven’t had any rum from that still. I recommend you check out Peter Holland’s IG “thefloatingrumshack” and ask him. He is the rum consultant for TBRC.

      Blackadder’s theme is to include some carbon (charred stuff) when they bottle their Raw Cask releases.

      1. Avatar
        Alex says:

        Thanks so much! Yes, i guess it could be something very distinct from one of their unique stills. After further smelling yesterday, I managed to get, in addition, nail varnish and glue… but no fruit, rotten or fresh, whatsoever, so i’m really struggling with this one – if there was at least something, durian, anything to get a foothold. Thanks for pointing me to Peter Holland’s IG!

        Thanks also for the info on Blackadder’s added carbon!

        I’m a whisky drinker exploring rum, so your articles are really a pleasure to read. Being currently based in Japan, your fondness of Japan (and occasional bar recommendations – which I have bookmarked and intend to visit one by one once the pandemic is more under control) makes for even more exciting reading for me.

        1. John
          John says:

          No problem. Lucky you for being based in Japan. Where in Japan are you based? I have bars all over Japan marked on my maps. I’ve had bar owners recommend random bar names to me.

          I can’t say I’ve had anything from that unknown still yet. I’ve mostly focused on Port Morant, Enmore and Versailles distillates.

          cheers

        2. John
          John says:

          And thank you for the kind words. It’s very easy to write about anything Japan. One just becomes a medium for inspiration as the beauty of Japanese culture just writes itself.

          1. Avatar
            Alex says:

            As a half-Japanese, that makes me very happy to hear. Living can prove challenging, but there are always these beautiful cultural heritage to seek refuge in. Cherry blossoms, shrines, onsen, sake, or just watching trains go by.

        3. Avatar
          Alex says:

          I live about 30 min by train north of Tokyo, and work in Tsukuba. Many of the bars you mentioned are in the Kansai area, but I (used to) travel frequently for business in Japan, so everything is (was) within reach. Might not be for a while, but if you’re ever in Tokyo again, let me know!

          I’m starting to think I just have a really badly corked rum. I’ve contacted Peter, though, let’s see what he’ll say.

          I’d love to talk more with you about the whisky scene and malternatives in Japan – perhaps we can continue over email? (…That sounds so old-fashioned.)

          1. John
            John says:

            Check out Bar Lamp in Ginza, Bar Screwdriver in Kichijoji and Tafia in Minato.

            I see your email via your comments. I’ll email you shortly.

  4. Avatar
    Alex says:

    I live about 30 min by train north of Tokyo, and work in Tsukuba. Many of the bars you mentioned are in the Kansai area, but I (used to) travel frequently for business in Japan, so everything is (was) within reach. Might not be for a while, but if you’re ever in Tokyo again, let me know!

    I’m starting to think I just have a really badly corked rum. I’ve contacted Peter, though, let’s see what he’ll say.

    I’d love to talk more with you about the whisky scene and malternatives in Japan – perhaps we can continue over email? (…That sounds so old-fashioned.)

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