“This ain’t it chief”
After 5 reviews that I was looking forward to writing, I really do have to make one I’m not really looking forward to writing.
Since the last 5 rums I’ve reviewed were and are some of my favourites at the moment I’ve been shitting rainbows and praising most of them as nectars of the gods. This is what I like to do; write positive reviews about things that I love. At one moment I have to be critical and write something less favourable about a certain rum and I have found that rum.
When I looked at my selection of open rum bottles I really wanted to drink something else than my go-to Jamaican rums, so I grabbed a bottle of Plantation Grand Reserve that’s been standing idly for a couple of months now. And well… let’s say it wasn’t the best experience.
But before we go into the tasting let’s first get familiarized with the rum and the much debated Plantation brand which some of the more outspoken rum writers love to hate.
Plantation is one of the more widely-known rum brands out there. For me, they came into my periphery with their pineapple rum, which (to be honest) is pretty darn good for what it is; a spiced/infused rum.
The tastes in this flavoured rum are quite natural and it makes for a great pineapple daiquiri. They really came into my mainstream when I tried their OFTD, well… when I tried it multiple times in small quantities taken in a fast way (you know, shots). This also was a good and rather fun experience.
After drinking and enjoying both these rums, I naturally bought a plantation rum for myself. This was in the good old days when I was not yet tainted by the amazing tipples of Jamaican rums, Foursquare and rhum agricoles.
So naïve little me went to the grocery store and bought myself an impressive bottle of the “Plantation Grande Reserve”. The bottle itself has a solid look. Nice, classy bottle with straw wrappings that’ll impress any first-time rum buyer. I then went home and actually really enjoyed it (oh what an inexperienced taste palate I had). After a while I bought more rum and I actually never returned to it… Until now.
Yes! What a man wouldn’t do to pass time in a lockdown. At the time of writing the whole world is in lockdown because of the COVID-19 crisis (if you’re reading this in 2050, look it up. It was a whole thing, people hoarding toilet paper and so on… crazy times). It was day 7 of the lockdown in Belgium and I was bored out of my mind (day 9 and I still am) so I decided to drink some rum. When I looked at my bottles I saw this little thing shimmering and I decided it was a good time to get nostalgic. Boy was I wrong.
Before we get to tasting, let’s quickly glance over the specs. This rum was distilled in Barbados using column and pot stills after being fermented for 3 days. It was aged tropically for 1-3 years in bourbon casks and was then shipped to France for another aging of approximately 1 year in Ferrand casks. After this sugar is added. HUH?!?!?! DUM DUM DUUUUUUM!!!! Yes, plantation adds sugar to their rum. They call it dosage (a technique used in cognac) and they’re really open about it, as they say it improves the flavour of the rum. The ‘dosage’ here is a whopping 16g/L. and finally they top it of with between 0% and 0.1% of E150a caramel to colour the rum to their liking.
Light yellow-gold. It is of course coloured, but I guess there really is just a minute amount of caramel added.
Ooooh, that’s rough. Not a very enjoyable smell, although this rum is only 40% it smells like it’s bottle at a heart- & flavourless 90-something percent. The noses gives a lot of sharp unpleasant hints and I can’t really force myself to nose it for longer than a couple of seconds. The closest comparison I can give is vodka with sugar and a couple of drops of rum, because damn, you can already smell the sugar. It’s like hanging over a freshly made batch of simple syrup.
Nose, no is good. Let’s see what it tastes like
The first thing I notice is the sugar, again. The consistency is just very thick and weird, especially after I’ve grown accustomed to non-sugared rum.
Taste-wise the sharpness continues alongside with a very alcoholic flavour. At 40% this is one of the most alcohol-forward tasting rums I’ve reviewed. There really isn’t much to this, the same vodka-mixed-with-some-rum notes come back. It’s a very one-dimensional rum and not a delight to drink… whatsoever.
There is a bit of a peppery note on the sides of my tongue, but that’s about it. I think the added ‘dosage’ just mutes away any flavour there might have been. I also think that the amount of pot still distilling in this rum is at best minimal, this rum leaves a mostly flavourless and characterless impression.
The finish is short, which in this case isn’t a bad thing. That peppery note sticks around for a little while, but the fades after a couple of seconds. There isn’t much more to say about it.
This wasn’t a pleasant experience, for four reasons. The first one is that I hate writing or saying bad things about something people have put work into. There is a certain pride and anxiousness in making a product and putting it out there, and people ought to respect that. That’s why I hate breaking people or their product down.
Secondly, I’ve met Alexandre Gabriel (the owner and master blender of Plantation) and he is an amazing man. Very passionate and charismatic, this man can really make you fall in love with his product just by talking. I love some of the things (definitely not everything) he does with his company: the experimentation with wild cask finishes, the barrel exchange program with other spirit distilleries such as Teeling Whiskey and Kyrö.
This brings me to point 3: Plantation has a lot of rums that I do like, a lot. Take for example their extreme line, and some of the single casks they bring every year (I especially like the Clarendon aged in Arran casks).
and reason four is that despite of my general liking towards plantation and Mr. Gabriel, this just isn’t a good rum
So to give this rum a bad review isn’t something I do for fun (nor will I for any rum). But this specific one is just bad. It’s a rum not to be drunk neat at all, it may provide some alcohol in a rum & coke or a cocktail, but that’s it. I’ll give this rum 1.5 stars since there are far worse rums out there.