The Lone Caner – Lance Surujbally
In his own words Lance is not a judge, bartender, promoter, evangelist, cocktail guru, distiller, producer or in any way commercially involved with the industry. He is a man who is fortunate enough to have travelled the world and loves reading and writing, especially about rum. Being amongst the first people to write about some of the most sought after rums such as Velier, Rum Nation and Compagnie des Indes, he is definitely somebody you need in your rum life!
2017 was a banner year for rums, following on from an equally impressive 2016. More new distilleries opened, some old ones were brought back from the brink, Velier celebrated its 70th Anniversary, Foursquare went big guns and interest in Caronis and Jamaicans hit a fever pitch. Writers and bloggers and FB rum clubs also proliferated, and as a consequence a lot of really good rums from companies not always in the headlines received great word of mouth and publicity in a way that elevated the profile of the entire rum category.
Having written over a hundred reviews in 2017, it’s hard to pick out only three spectacular rums (my “best of” list would have many more entries than a mere trio); and many rums which I tried that year were made earlier and only came into general release in the period. Still, when it comes to the intersection of rums that enthused me, made me think and took me in directions not previously considered, here are three I felt were standouts: representative of a new wave in their own right, and which summarized the wide variety of rums that were sampled in 2017.
Savanna Lontan Grand Arome Vieux
The Savanna Lontan 12 Year Old 2004 64.2% was an incredible rum that in one fell swoop put Reunion on the map (as if it wasn’t already marking its territory there). The Savanna HERR got better press for being ultra-high in esters yet I felt that the Lontan 12 was better, more nuanced, perhaps even a smidgen richer….it balanced things off without sharpness, and its plush aromas of honey, stuffy attics, fruits, flowers and spices were only equalled by the way the tastes took those same flavours and ran with the, making a melange without a mess.
Neisson’s L’Espirit Blanc
Neisson’s L’Espirit 70⁰ Blanc Rum was a rum that got me enthusiastic about white rums that were more cultured than the oft-raw and uncivilized clairins from Haiti, yet which still displayed some of that youthful, brash, joyous off-the-reservation craziness of a newly minted modern-day rock star (complete with leather pants). It was raw, fierce, uncompromising and unaged – but aromatic and tasty too. Powerful almost beyond belief – but with herbal notes, grasses, spices, citrus, cherries, mangoes…a list that just kept on going. It was a massive taste bomb like few others and totally drinkable in any combination – neat, mixed, rocks, diluted, whatever. It was this rum that made me want to write the list of “21 Great Whites”, and I think it points to a resurgence and a greater appreciation of white unaged rums in the years to come.
Worthy Park Releases
Lastly I wanted to draw some attention to Worthy Park’s Pot Still 45%, Special Cask 59% Oloroso Finish and the Special Cask 60% Marsala Finish, all of which I tried in late 2017 (three times each, I was that enthralled). Like Reunion’s Savanna distillery (and even some agricoles) they combined a crisp herbal snap and light profile with heavier, duskier flavours of spices, funk, heavier fruits, burnt brown sugar and whipped cream – and all this assembled into a balance that was remarkably consistent and well behaved, at any strength. Jamaican rums have laboured under Appleton’s shadow for years now, and it took this trip to make me understand that other distilleries from there are coming out and making waves big time and are part of the wave of the Caribbean’s whole rum future..
I can never stop with just a number, so here are some extras for the curious: Honourable Mention should go to the Criterion and the Triptych of Foursquare out of Barbados; St. Aubin’s amazingly tasty rums out of Mauritius (especially the unaged white 50%); Nine Leaves Encrypted II from Japan; Toucan’s No. 4, an understated and unpretentious new rum from French Guiana; and Rum Nation’s most recent rare rum, the Jamaica 1986 30 Year Old blend (some of which comes from Longpond) should come in for mention as well.
It was and remains these rums and many others, which demonstrate (as if this were necessary) that the Rumiverse remains a dynamic and exciting one with developments from all point of the compass, in both traditional and new directions. It makes one wonder what on earth they’ll come up with this year.