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Old 10-23-2008, 12:23 PM   #1
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Default Private / Independent bottlers of rum and profiles:

This sort of came from the recent mention of Cadenhead's Green Label rum, but it's something I've wanted to discuss for some time.

I'm not excessively familiar with Private bottled rum. Most of what I have imbibed was bottled by Cadenhead, Murray McDavid and of course Ferrand's Plantation.

That said, I notice each pretty much avoids color & flavor "additives". It is probably just my own palate / taste, but I find most or rather all of the private bottles I've been through to possess a lot of fruit and other subtler nuances. While some of these nuances are common in distillery bottled rum, they tend to not be as bright or come through as clearly when compared to private bottles.

What I'm curious (hopefully Ed has some opinion on this to offer as well) - would it likely be that I find these rums "fruity" (to keep it simple), because of the lack of additives and other distillery processes? Or do these private selectors each tend to pick fruity barrels for future bottling purposes to begin with? Or is there some other potential common denominator?

Note: I realize this doesn't take into account "finishing" or other regiments the bottler may employ upon acquisition or further maturation etc.
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Old 10-23-2008, 03:23 PM   #2
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Great observations and questions Mat. I'm no expert either. I have had the fortune to taste some of these offerings.

I agree with you that the flavor profiles are "brighter" and more "fruity" compared to most of the distillery bottled products. And we know that these "Indie" bottlers are buying and ageing product from the established distillers. So what gives?

One thought I have is that the established brands are all blending at least 2 or more different ages in their premium offerings to achieve a house style. This blending leads to a consistent style, but will also "dumb down" the individual flavor profile of each component.

The "Indies" are hand selecting small lots, sometimes as small as 1 barrel. These are very often Vintage, as in the case of Ferrand and Bristol Spirits. I think this allows the individual flavor profile to show through.

In addition, "additives" such as caramel as well as other proprietary flavorings that many premium rums employ tend to shade the bright fruity aspect that many of the "Indies" display.

Lastly, I believe that most of the "Indie" bottlers tend to filter very lightly or not at all. They may not always look polished in the bottle, but I believe it helps to keep the clarity in the flavor.

Just my 2 cents.
Waylaid in the West Indies

Last edited by Rum Runner; 10-23-2008 at 03:41 PM.
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Old 10-23-2008, 06:29 PM   #3
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Brilliant RR. A lot of my thoughts are with yours.

Still I wonder if we'd come to the conclusion that the addition of coloring / flavoring agents might be the biggest culprit of the distinction.

To give another example, of all the (actually in the grand scheme of things, FEW) private bottles I've tasted, only 1 of the bunch I would describe as somewhat heavy. All the rest were light bright!

Further, it's my thinking that these 3 primary buyers/bottlers that I'm most versed with, didn't all conspire to turn out fruity non-crude oil based rums that taste quite a bit off anything the guestimated distilleries ever offer.

I also realize "different than & unusual" tend to be qualifying points in the private purchasers' interest - so that might play some part here as well.
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Old 10-23-2008, 11:54 PM   #4
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I agree that coloring/flavoring agents may not be the biggest culprits. They do however act as "masking" agents as you know.

I like your term "Crude Oil" in describing how some of the more popular premium come across.

I think you are correct that the independent bottlers are not sitting together in a marketing war room figuring out how to make the same product.

So, where is the common bond amongst these rums?

At first I thought it might be the climate they are aged in...Bristol Spirits ages in England..and Murray McDavid in Scotland...But, Ferrand ages in the Caribbean...So that shoots that down.

That would bring me back to the base distillate that the Indie producers are selecting. My guess is that they are selecting an intermediate run as opposed to a light or heavy run as a choice of which to age and bottle.

They may well be "cherry picking" the distilleries lot for these distinctive styles. The UK guys are especially good at this as are the French and the Italians.
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Last edited by Rum Runner; 10-24-2008 at 12:58 AM.
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Old 10-24-2008, 01:30 AM   #5
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In the case of the Murray McDavid line, I think that, as you both mentioned, their expertise in selection is beyond compare. Their experience and history with second barrel/cask aging Scotch whiskies gives them an edge this way...they let the barrels do the work. I think that they put away the "bag of tricks" and rely on the drinker to study their product in multiple tastings. When I taste the recent multi-cask/barrel aging of some fine whisky, I am stunned by that "light, bright" subtlety which Matusalem mentions. I second Rum Runner's bewilderment for other lines of specialty rums, though.
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Old 10-28-2008, 10:02 PM   #6
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Much of the "magic" in these bottles is a result of the special barrels with unique qualities in which they rest. Since they do not make rum, their expertise is in the maturing of it and the blends. Their creative use of various casks, the blending of these unique marks, and the willingness to experiment outside the bounds of competitors who seek consistency in their approach, is often reflected in their best products. They also are likely to produce duds form time to time, or perhaps quite often.
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Old 10-30-2008, 05:45 AM   #7
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Default It's about the wood

Hi there.
Agree with all that's been said, but here's a couple of addition bits. The independent bottlers tend to bottle single casks (or small parcels of casks) whereas the brand owners will vat together large volumes.
The later want to make a consistent product.. you want your el Dorado 12yo to be the same every time (or as near as dammit). The independents however are looking for the individuality/singularity given by each cask (or simply have to deal with what they are given!) It's two ways of looking at the same thing.
If we take el Dorado 12yo as a case in point. The DDL bottling of 12year old uses a heavy 12yo Port Morant mark in its blend, but balances it with three/four other marks. The independent bottler will simply take that 12yo PM mark and bottle it.
The role played by wood is also more apparent in independent bottlings though in a weird way because it's often the lack of influence of the wood which can make these rums compelling.
Rum tends to be aged in old casks, whether that's in the Caribbean or Europe. This fact means that the influence of the oak on the rum is relatively low, which in turn allows the character of the distillery, or the individual mark, to have the upper hand.. hence the 'light bright' character that you talk about. [high-strength bottling and no sweetening will also enhance this]
It can backfire. Most independents are reliant on buying stock from a single source (by and large it's the same one) and you will get rums where the cask has been too tired to remove the aggressive/oily elements. A brand owner could blend these away, the independent either rejects, or bottles, or tries something like finishing to try and give life (and new flavour) back to the rum.
For me, Rum Nation and Plantation are consistently good. I also like Bristol Spirits, while Cadenhead, Gordon & MacPhail, Berry Bros and Murray McDavid are all worth looking at.
Rum on!
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Old 03-08-2020, 07:33 PM   #8
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Default Independent bottlers

One of my favourite Independent Bottlers is from Italy
Luca Gargano's VELIER which sources the rum from among others R L Seale, Foursquare Distillery, Barbados and surviving stocks from the Caroni Distillery in Trinidad which closed in 2002, in addition from the Diamond Distillery in Guyana, Jamaican rums and Bielle Distillery in Haiti
The Habitation Velier range are all exclusively ‘top-draw’ rums, expensive but really worth it!
The VELIER ROYAL NAVY VERY OLD RUM at 57% is a particularly excellent
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