Rum, Tequila, Bourbon
95 Rockley Still 13-year-old Classic Rum (Barbados) (CVI Brands, CA) 46% abv, $53. Medium gold in color; the nose bears sweet caramel notes, and a hint of violets in the backdrop. The body is big, and the palate drier than expected, bearing notes of roasted chili peppers mingling nicely with somewhat sweeter herbal notes. The finish is long and fairly sweet. This is one of those chameleon rums that changes character from the nose, to the palate, to the finish, and we like that in a spirit. Amazingly well constructed.
93 Appleton Estate 21-year-old Jamaica Rum (J. Wray & Nephew, Ltd., NY) 43% abv, $55. Deep amber; the nose is dry and peppery with traces of licorice lingering in the backdrop. The big buttery body bears a sophisticatedly dry palate that's almost reminiscent of Armagnac; some pleasant medicinal notes mingle well with a dry fruitiness. The finish is long and dry.
92 Appleton Estate Extra Jamaica Rum (J. Wray & Nephew, Ltd., NY) 43% abv, $23. Medium amber in color; the nose is soft and honeyed, with some leather notes and a hint of dark berries. The big, lush body bears an incredibly well-balanced palate that's rich with fruits, nuts and spices, all brought together in a honeyed blanket. The finish is medium.
90 Port Morant 18-year-old Classic Demerara Rum (Guyana) (CVI Brands, CA) 46% abv, $74. This mahogany rum bears a subtle, fruity nose, with hints of dried cherries and raisins. The body is big, and the palate shows a nice balance between licorice sweetness and spices such as cinnamon and nutmeg, but there's also an oakiness that adds an extra dimension. The finish is warm, soothing, and just a tad spicy.
88 Appleton Estate VX Jamaica Rum (J. Wray & Nephew, Ltd., NY) 40% abv, $14. Medium gold in color; the nose is herbal with notes of sweet butter just peeking through. The body is medium, and on the palate, the butter shines through, mingling with light molasses notes and a barely discernible spiciness. The finish is medium.
88 Monymust 8-year-old Classic Rum (Jamaica) (CVI Brands, CA) 46% abv, $43. Very pale straw in color; the nose is spicy, fruity, and shows some old leather. The body is medium, and the palate follows the nose almost directly, but here we also find highly desirable paraffin notes. The finish is long—very long—and spicy. This is like no other rum we've ever tasted, which isn't to say that you'll love it, but it has a character unlike what one expects in this category.
88 Versailles 15-year-old Classic Demerara Rum (Guyana) (CVI Brands, CA) 46% abv, $65. Pale gold in color; the nose is nicely balanced between a toffee sweetness with hints of anise and a deep earthiness that verges on damp forest floor. The body is big and buttery, and the palate is incredibly spicy with licorice notes playing nicely off some rich sweet-butter tones. The finish is medium, spicy and warm.
86 Port Morant 10-year-old Classic Demerara Rum (Guyana) (CVI Brands, CA) 46% abv, $50. Pale straw in color; the nose is molasses-sweet with a nice earthy backdrop. The medium body yields a palate that initially is predominant with licorice, but then spices burst through, and there's even a mango/papaya fruitiness there. The finish is long and fairly spicy.
86 Ypioco Cachaça (Preiss Imports, CA) 40% abv, $22. This clear Brazilian rum has a fruity nose that also displays paraffin notes. The body is medium, and the palate bears a peppery quality that interplays well with the almost grape-like fruitiness. The finish is medium.
In this country, Cachaça is rarely sipped neat; see the introduction to these notes.
91 Reserva de Don Julio Añejo Tequila (Seagram Americas, NY) 40% abv, $43. Very pale straw in color; the nose is initially caramel sweet, but clean vegetal aromas soon rise from the glass, strangely reminiscent of peas in a pod, and there's a nice earthy backdrop present. The body is somewhat light, and the palate, though gingery and peppery, carries the green pea flavor found in the nose as a signature trait. The finish is soft, warm, and of medium length.
This is a very idiosyncratic tequila that we found to be wonderful. It's definitely an after-dinner spirit to be sipped neat.
95 Pappy Van Winkle's Family Reserve Bourbon, 23 years old (Old Rip Van Winkle Distillery, KY) 47.8% abv, $170. Deep walnut in color; the nose is surprisingly light and fruity at first, but then a camphor-l