SMWS R6.1 “Spice at the Races”
Single Blended Rum – A blend of only pot still and traditional column still.
ABV Hydrometer Test: 57.3% ABV @ 20°
The Scotch Malt Whisky Society (SMWS) occasionally offers something other than fine and rare single cask whiskies. They have recently released a number of single cask rums that follow their whisky criteria of straight from the cask, uncoloured and additive free. Any rums with these criteria immediately tweak my interest and so I had to purchase some for my rum collection. This involved me (re) joining the SMWS again in order to take advantage of the offers and reduced prices and hopefully, there will be more single cask rums to follow from them.
The SMWS has a numbering system for its bottlings aimed at concealing the identity of the distillery with the aim of offering a flavour style and profile instead. This may tempt consumers to try offerings from distilleries less familiar to them, due to the consumer buying a flavour style and profile rather than a brand and also that some of the bottles offered may taste very different to what a consumer expects from a specific distillery. I believe that sometimes the distilleries themselves also request that their identity is not publicised on the bottles. I specifically asked SMWS about the distilleries and was told:
“Many of the rums we purchase are on the condition that we do not use or reveal the brand name.”
The first number on a SMWS bottle is the distillery number and the second is the cask number.
It is an interesting concept and removes brand loyalty or biased opinions although given the nature of the Internet, one can find out the source of the bottles, based on the numbering system used by SMWS.
Today, I am reviewing the first of my recent SMWS purchases – a 14 year old rum from distillery number R6 and from cask 1. R6 is from Foursquare in Barbados. Thank you Richard Seale at Foursquare for confirming this with me, although he was unsure if it is a pot sill or blend. Having tasted it myself (see below), I believe it is a blend of pot and column still rums. It has been entirely aged in Scotland.
Under Richard Seale’s/Luca Gargano’s proposed rum categorisation, this would most-likely be classed as a “Single Blended Rum” – A blend of only pot still and traditional column still. The ABV when measured with my hydrometer is between 57 and 58%.
The SMWS bottles are quite distinctive, presented in a traditional dark ‘bottle’ green colour, with an unusual shape. The labelling is interesting as SMWS have their own extremely unique way of describing their spirits, which is quite flowery and obscure. As they do not present a spirit as being from a distillery, that info is absent as is the types of still, but what is present is the date of distillation (31 October 2002), the type of cask (refill barrel), region (Barbados), number of bottles (210) and ABV, which is 57.3%.
This rum presents itself as a natural and uncoloured pale amber colour. There are fine legs with medium tears that drop down the glass at a medium pace.
Without adding water, the nose is extremely overpowering and alcoholic. I am used to nosing high ABV rums, yet this literally took my breath away. Even with time in the glass, it was still too strong to inhale deeply. But eventually after some time in the glass, whilst inhaling gently, the nose developed to present some bitter plum pot still aromas coupled with a hint of anise. It could almost be a Scotch whisky at this point!
This initial aggressive first nosing does eventually lead to more aromas developing in due course. There is an underlying fruitiness – some mango and peach accompanied by pot still medicinal notes, too. This is hard work though!
Taste, Initial-middle 23/40
The entry is seriously fiery with very medicinal pot still notes dominating the initial flavours. Straight away, this rum bursts into your mouth announcing its presence with a bang. The 57.3% ABV is immediately very noticeable and quite overpowering – there is nothing soft or delicate here at all. There is some peppery spice, cloves and some dry candied fruit notes, too.
With some added water, the rum’s entry is far more agreeable, although it still enters the mouth with a fiery ‘all guns blazing’ attitude that belies the 14 years of ageing.
Taste, Middle/Throat 32/40
At the middle of the mouth, the rum displays more interesting flavours than were present initially. The fire has been replaced by smokey wood and powerful plum flavours. The more one tastes this, the more spicy it becomes although the initial pepper softens in due course and is joined by ginger and more dried fruity notes.
There is a dry texture to this rum, almost a leathery feel, but it is not rough. This does give a very dry mouthfeel with lots of astringency present.
With added water, these fruity notes become far more appealing to the palate, replacing some of the initial fire.
The rum has a persistent fire throughout and the afterburn is no exception. I would say at the back of the throat is where the rum is at its finest, displaying lots more fruit and flavour than initially. It is also where the burn is less fiery and far more enjoyable.
I am not a fan of SMWS’s descriptions of drinks – I find it way too obscure to describe a rum as “moist hay with a touch of spice. Rum bloody mary with smoke and lighter fuel, then scorched leather, rubber from a horse’s saddle and sandalwood.” I mean let’s be honest, does anyone go around sniffing horse’s saddles?
But the end result of this rum is exactly what the SMWS wants to achieve. Take a product from a distillery, hide its origins and encourage you to try it based on the flavour profile as opposed to the brand loyalty of liking a certain region or distillery etc.
Well, I love Bajan rums and I adore Foursquare, yet I find this to be completely different to just about every Foursquare rum I have ever tried (and I have had loads). It may be top quality juice, but the flavours are just not what I have come to expect from Foursquare, hence this must be the lowest mark I have ever given (or will ever give) to a rum from one of my favourite rum producers, and arguably one of the greatest producers in the world.
I think a possible explanation to this could be the fact that although the rum has been aged for 14 years, this is not tropical ageing, but instead it has taken place entirely in the cool, temperate climate of Scotland, thus resulting in a rum that could have had the equivalent of as little as four or five years of tropical ageing. What you have therefore is a rum that fights you as you drink it and it needs water adding to allow you to get near to enjoying it. The rum takes time and several tastings to get the most out of it.
This may well be one of those rums for which I develop a love for over time or it may remain as I find it today…..disappointing.
P Denotes the rum contains POT still distillate.
C Denotes the rum contains traditional/Coffey COLUMN still distillate.
B Denotes the rum contains a BLEND of POT and COLUMN still distillate.
M Denotes the rum contains MULTI-COLUMN still distillate or is a MODERN rum.
A Denotes the rum is an AGRICOLE i.e. from Cane Juice.
S Denotes the rum is presented in a SWEETENED style.
Bottle/Presentation Out of 3
Glass/Aroma Out of 10
Taste, Initial-middle Out of 40
Taste, Middle/Throat Out of 40
Afterburn Out of 7