Bristol Classic Rum – Caroni 1997

Bristol Classic Rum Trinidad 1997 rum review by the fat rum pirateThe latest release from Bristol is this (near) Cask Strength effort from the Caroni Distillery.  Bristol have released a good few Caroni rums over the past few years.  Including their 1974 effort, which I have sadly yet to review.

Amongst these I seem to remember a Cask Strength Caroni which was possibly released for the Danish or European market only?

John Barrett has wavered to popular opinion and has decided to offer this 1997 Caroni at near to Cask Strength.  As a result there are less bottles of this than there would normally have been.  John prefers to bottle at around 43-46% ABV.

At around £140 this is not cheap but bare in mind this is a 18 year old rum.  It was distilled in 1997 bottled in 2015 and released in late 2016/early 2017.  The ABV is a fiery 61.5%

Unlike the Providence Estate Caroni I reviewed last year this has been aged entirely in ex Bourbon Barrels.  It has had no finish or second maturation.  It is noted on the rear of the bottle that this is small batch.  A one off release

It is also noted that this is a HTR (Heavy Type Rum) from column distillation,  which Caroni have become most famous for. 

Presentation wise you get the usual stubby Bristol bottle complete with cork enclosure and silver wrapping over the cork and neck.  A storage tube is provided and the label is a slight departure from the usual Bristol presentation with a couple of graphics of sugar canes and the skyline of the City of Bristol is depicted.

I first tried this at the Boutique Rum Fest in London back in October 2016.

Bristol Classic Rum Trinidad 1997 rum review by the fat rum pirateThe first thing I noticed about this rum was how dark it was.  Much like the Velier “Heavy” Caroni’s.  It is a very dark reddish brown.

The nose is strong and pungent yet sweet and fruity.  It’s very complex.

Rich sweet raisins, banana, that familiar Caroni twang of petrol and tar are present but do not dominate.  There is a lovely balanced oak which envelops the nose making it warming and very inviting.

The rum just keeps giving you more the more you nose – toffee, dark chocolate, a hint of olives, some strong tannic red wine like notes.

This is a big rum.  No mistaking.  At 61.5% ABV I was expecting something a lot more “boozy”.  However on the nose at least it seems very nicely balanced and is showing complexity rather than out and out strong alcohol fumes – -which I was kind of expecting to some degree.

Sipped it surprisingly doesn’t need much water.  A few drops will do maybe bring it down to around 55%.  Everything that was promised on the nose is delivered on the palate.

Again it has a sweetness which compliments the more aggressive or polarising aspects of Caroni rums in general.  The petrol and tar which is so common in Caroni’s is playing alongside rich fruity red wine notes, raisins and sultanas.  Each sip is sweet, rich and warming – it is still quite challenging (this is not your Barceló style column distillation).  It reminds me of Pussers in terms of its sweet yet aggressive nature.

Now when I am talking sweet in terms of this review please note we are not in El Dorado 12 or 15 Year Old territory.  It is still a Heavy Caroni Rum – similar to the Velier 15 Year Old if you want an obvious reference point.

Bristol Classic Rum Trinidad 1997 rum review by the fat rum pirateThere is so much going on with this rum I am not surprised John has left quite vague tasting notes on the bottle “fruit and wood on the palate the high spirit carries you to a long finish”. 

The finish on this rum is exceptional – it is very long and very complex.  Oak, fruit, a nice warming burn a touch of tobacco and smoke.  It’s pretty much got everything you would want from a “heavy” rum.

Despite the length of time since the distillery closed there is still a lot of rum being released.  From what I understand John was one of the first people (before Luca Gargano, I have read) to get his hands on stocks of Caroni.  He certainly got a winner with this 1997 vintage.

If you like your Caroni the I can’t recommend this enough.

A classic from Bristol Classic.   


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