Review 2. Woohoo! I decided to review the other end of the spectrum of rum for my second review. This way I establish a scope in which I’ll be reviewing. From sweeter more “broad public” rums to niche and special flavour bombs like today’s rum.
So today we have the ‘Velier Royal Navy Very Old Rum’. As the very catchy name says, this is a royal navy rum. It’s a blend created by rum demi-god Luca Gargano as an attempt (and a very tasty one at that) to recreate the rum that was given to sailors of the British Royal Navy from as early as 1655 until the rum ration ended on july 31st 1970 (1 minute of silence please).
The original navy blend consisted mainly of (you guessed it) rums made in British colonies. BUT it wasn’t limited to only these colonies. Matt Pietrek from Cocktailwonk also shows that rum from Martinique and Cuba was at one time blended into the rum sailors got as a daily ration. There wasn’t really one singular recipe, it was more like a certain flavour profile.
This is a blend of 3 of the most significant rum producing former colonies that were blended into the original navy rum at one time or another.
The first is Trinidad & Tobago, well presented by Caroni with a tropical aging of over 20 years. This is a fiery, extremely flavourful rum with notes of tar, rubber and petrol from the legendary closed distillery which bares the same name.
The second part is rum from Guyana that’s been aged in Europe for over 15 years. Rum mostly known for its sweeter taste palette and notes such as raisins, brown sugar and plums.
And the third part of this holy trinity is Jamaican rum aged in the tropics for over 12 years. This is rum is mostly known for its high ester flavour with notes of overripe fruits, pineapple, black tea,…
This is all blended together to form a rum with (as a rum geek I absolutely love this part) a weighted average age of 17.42 years and a very specific ABV of 57.14% which, to be clear, isn’t navy strength but proof strength (for more explanation I’ll refer to cocktailwonk again).
The presentation of this rum is as we’re used to with Velier releases: a stately bottle, the classic informative cardboard box and a simple yet very clear label with everything mentioned one would want to know.
At the time of writing this rum is hard to find, it’s still available at some (online) stores, but mostly it can be found on online auctions. Expect to pay somewhere around €150 and up.
Now onto how it tastes, because all this talking only matters if the rum tastes good.
Lovely orange bronze-ish colour, very natural colour with a golden hue.
The first thing I get from smelling this rum is the warmer, heavier Caroni notes: tar, rubber, and oil. With just the tiniest bit of Jamaican esters/fruitiness. Some lovely pineapple, a smidge of coconut and overripe banana. But these fade quite quickly, to a bit of the Guyanese rum: some raisins and brown sugar mainly. Which plays nice with the heavier Caroni notes. Underneath all this some woody smells and the accompanying tannic bitterness also pop up.
Honestly, I could just sit for hours sniffing this beauty. It keeps on evolving and surprising me. After some time the Jamaican part even returns for a second act.
Oh boy, that’ll kick you in the teeth. As the rum goes into my mouth I feel a little spiciness on my lips. The first sip will warm you up like a roaring fire (somewhat fuelled by petrol and maybe a bike tyre) after you’ve come home from a winter day of throwing snowballs and catching some snow in the back of your neck. You know what I mean? Like REALLY warm you up.
That first sip can and probably will give you a punch in the face. But to be honest… I kind of like that (I found out I’m a bit of a rum masochist). The Caroni notes are very powerful and you can barely taste the otherwise very prominent Jamaican funkiness. There is however some subtle substance given by the Guyana part.
I was a bit disappointed about the lack of funk in the rum. I mean, it’s there but has to be looked for, hard. When I nip the tiniest amount, and swirl it around in my mouth I do get the familiar Jamaican funkiness of pineapple, overripe bananas and just the tiniest bit of varnish (as always in Jamaican rum: I mean varnish in the best possible way)
Due to this last sip and reading some other reviews I decided to add some water in the glass to hopefully open the rum up a bit more.
This made a huge difference. The Caroni takes a step back and Jamaica moves forward. I still get the warmer darker notes of the Caroni, but they are evenly matched with the high ester, fruity notes of Jamaica. Eventually I also get just a miniscule (but noticeable) amount of red fruit.
Due to lightening, this rum the woody flavour also pops up more.
Still, the Guyanese sweetness in the form of raisins and brown sugar with a bit of dark chocolate (thanks to the water) remains as a nice undertone.
With all that happening in the mouth, I’d almost forget what happens after I swallow it. I would have to say the finish is medium-long. It is a bit shorter than I would expect it to be. Don’t get me wrong, it’s still quite long. But given the rums in this blend I expected the finish to be an hourlong experience. Although it isn’t, the flavours remaining are still good enough to make you want to keep drinking.
So to conclude. If the royal navy would still give out their rum rations and the ration would be this… well, I would enroll immediately. But seriously, this is a great rum. It’s a bit much when drunk neat, but add some water and it’s an amazingly high flavoured yet nicely balanced rum. Mr Gargano, you did one hell of a job on this one. Can’t wait to try the successor to this one: the “Tiger Shark” (some good work was already done on the catchy name). because of the initial imbalance of the rums I must only give it 4 stars