Though not to the point of biased and unwise disregard for other liquor products, I’ve always had a fascination with independent bottlings.
Back in late 2019, a few months after I started getting interested in whisky, I took the opportunity to find out what independent bottlings (IBs) were like, so I blindly bought a bottle of Compass Box’s Spice Tree from a local off-trade. While it wasn’t difficult to be blown away by the whisky, it was the process of learning about IBs that enthralled me with that side of the whisky industry.
Having an email conversation with Jill Boyd, one of Compass Box’s whiskymakers, was the one of the first impetuses. She accommodated my questions about the bottle that I had bought and shared with me the recipe for that specific blend. Though granted that Compass Box is somewhat distinct in its outspoken advocacy for transparency, the amount of information launched me into learning about IBs and how they compared to original bottlings (OBs).
Today, much of that allure has calmed down. Angus MacRaild, a drinks writer who had also started his own Scotch IB brand, explains that there’s an “ocean of dullness” among today’s whiskies and that the IB sector is experiencing a painful and disheartening issue of rising prices that make it all the more difficult to release exciting bottlings at lower price points. Those factors, along with other small moments of disillusionment related to quality, have tamed my enthusiasm for whisky. Don’t get me wrong; I still very much enjoy this precious hobby of mine, but I’ve been learning to better recognize the nuances of its luster.
Rum, however, has gotten me to experience a renaissance, especially because of the higher quality-price ratio that I’ve come to realize many rums have. While now might not be the best time to further detail the context of this (slight) change in direction, I’m sure you can imagine how I must’ve felt when I first had the opportunity to try out IBs of rum.
Enter: Transcontinental Rum Line (TCRL). Launched in 2016 to celebrate the 60th anniversary of La Maison du Whisky (LMDW), TCRL is one of LMDW’s IB brands and is specifically focused on sourcing and releasing rum. TCRL aims to primarily showcase rum’s variety and the level of quality in those variations, a goal that conveys their educational ethos.
I recently had the pleasure of privilege of speaking with Johann Jobello, the current product manager of TCRL. During out chat, Johann provided a wealth of information and insights on TCRL’s production process, so I’d like to share that conversation with you. Similar to a previous set of articles I’ve written, instead of abbreviating his answers, I’ll present the entirety of our talk in three parts, each with a review of a TCRL bottling. This piece constitutes the first part.
Malt: What role do you have in relation to Transcontinental Rum Line (TCRL), and what functions come from that role?
Johann: As of January 2021, I’ve been the brand manager of TCRL, which means that I manage every step of product development. Before taking over the brand, I was already responsible for the rum sourcing for this range, and now, I also manage the packaging development, the bottling, and the marketing tools development. I’m there at every step.
Malt: I listened to a podcast that interviewed you as their guest, and in that podcast, you explained that one of TCRL’s goals is to showcase the variety of rum. Tell me about TCRL has been performing toward that goal; how would you evaluate your progress so far?
Johann: The motto of TCRL is that it’s been developed to show to the people the great diversity that can be found around the world of rum. Our single casks represent the best of our selection.
I took over the range a year and a half ago; before that, Arthur Morbois used to manage this brand – he created the brand in 2016 to celebrate the 60th anniversary of La Maison du Whisky (LMDW). Since LMDW was really known for their single malt Scotch bottlings, like those released in our Artist Collective range, the idea was to have the same kind of selection for rum.
At that time, Arthur started to bottle rum from Jamaica, Barbados, and even Belize, too. The idea was to release a range full of different types of rum from different regions or areas and made using different raw materials, distillation techniques, barrels, and ageing conditions.
We’ve done quite well so far. We wanted to have permanent SKUs (stock-keeping units), and a few years ago, we’ve secured rum from countries like Panama, Jamaica, and Australia. I recently added West Indies rum because I really wanted the range to have an agricole rum. We also added rums from Barbados and Mauritius.
When it comes to single cask, it’s even more exciting because I’ve been able to source from many places. This year, I was able to buy a rum cask from Cambodia. Of course, there are classic rums from rum-producing countries like those in the Caribbean and South America, but when it comes to Asia or Oceana – places that people don’t have in mind when talking about rum – we’re happy to say that we plan to release rums from them in the near future.
Stay tuned for parts two and three of this series of pieces on Transcontinental Rum Line.
This release is a molasses-based single traditional rum (using the Gargano classification) or a single traditional column rum (using The Whisky Exchange’s classification) distilled in 2006 by Angostura Distillery, in Trinidad and Tobago. Bottled from a fourth batch of casks, this was first aged for seven years in Trinidad and Tobago before aged in Liverpool, UK, for under five years. It is bottled at 56.5% ABV strength.
Transcontinental Rum Line Trinidad 2006 – Review
Color: Dirty copper.
On the nose: A refreshingly novel first impression of almonds and think peanut sauce used to cook kare-kare, a kind of Filipino stew. Mocha sneaks in, bringing with it cacao nibs, toasted whole wheat pandesal, and sweet tonkatsu sauce mixed with toasted sesame seeds. Brief highlights of sesame oil. There are also elusive touches of cumin, eucalyptus, and oak. However, these different aromas don’t jump out that easily.
In the mouth: Mocha and tira-tira, chewy Filipino candy akin to honeycomb. The progression is slow, moving into the same tonkatsu sauce, chocolate-covered peanuts, and touches of nutmeg. Medium-roasted liberica coffee beans. Overall, the palate is definitely more homogeneous than the nose. The finish is medium in length and has a familiar subtle nuttiness… a pretty plain ending.
The fairly unique first impression was a nice surprise. It’s always a plus when liquor so easily reminds me of my culture’s cuisine. However, I do wish the flavor development followed through further; I feel that I would’ve enjoyed this more if it the striation among its flavors was a little more distinct and if the finish had more than just the nuttiness. I bought this bottle for around $84, and I think I’ll be fine with not buying another bottle of this one. With that said, I quite easily went through this bottle, and while that might indicate that it isn’t one of those very special rums that I want to drink slowly in order to savor it over the years, it’s certainly a rum that, in a pinch, is a good and steady choice to reach for. It’s worth trying if you’re interested in giving rum IBs a try, too.
Transcontinental come out with a lot of ordinary stuff but a few really good ones get through. I’ve been in love with their Worthy Park 2013 (57%) for a number of years and still have a couple of bottles. I think they did one from Fiji that slipped through my hands too. Rum really does improve when it’s bottled at a good strength and Transcontinental’s weakness is the low strength of what ought to be good stuff. They lower the proof of so much of their bottlings that it’s just not interesting.
I agree that there is a lot of potential in rum far from the Caribbean and Latin America. I have a wonderful bottle of Habitation Vellier ‘Savanna’ from Reunion. A white rum with tremendous personality. It’s bottled at 62.5% and tastes nothing like the traditional rum regions. It’s made with molasses in a beaten up pot still and has the power of a good Jamaican but a different flavour profile.
Thanks for the comment. Would you have an idea of how many releases from TCRL you’ve tried? I’m curious to know how rare the good ones are for you. I haven’t had any low-strength bottlings from TCRL that aren’t meant for mixing. Why do you think their rum isn’t as interesting if bottled at at lower strength?
Not surprised at all with your experience with that HV bottle; all the releases, albeit few, that I’ve had from them have hit the mark for me.
Hi Jigs, I just think rum below 46% is very compromised. It can taste nice alright but why spend your money on it? I have a very solid test with spirits. I love fruit juice and it’s far cheaper but tastes just as good as mediocre spirit. My conclusion is that mediocre spirit just isn’t worth it and that includes rum at 40-43%. It’s either too expensive or weak stuff so I’m not interested. I want strong, bold, flavour when it comes to rum. WT