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.
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.