Saturday, September 23, 2023

Review: Ron Zacapa Centenario 23 Solera Rum

Color (5%):  Very deep dark amber. Dark caramel. thinning to hay yellow at the edges. 3/5

Nose (10%): Nice brown sugary molasses sweetness. Nice purple dried fruits come through from those PX sherry casks, raisins, dates, and prunes. Faint spices come through, nutmeg and allspice. Mild oak comes through.  8/10

Palate (20%): Lots of sweetness, very sugary for an aged rum. I don't mean sugar flavor, I mean this is not dry, it is sweet. Artificial additives are allowed in rums and I suspect this is the case here. It's a dark caramel treacle sweetness. The fruit is less dried and more ripe or fermented. Notes of banana peel, powdered cocoa mix, walnut, dried orange peel, and bergamot. Not very much oak character. This is certainly used wood and it's not giving much fresh oak flavor. That bourbon doesn't present forward much at all. Fake caramel flavor and vanilla come through but toasted oak does not. 14/20

Finish (10%): Lots of nuts and dried fruit. Lingering molasses. The booziness does linger in the throat for quite a while. It's not overly harsh it just sticks around for ages. 8/10

Overall Impression and Harmony (30%): This is a pretty complex rum. Waves of flavors come and go washing over you. This is a bit sweet for my own taste. I could see it mixing incredibly well in daiquiris and tiki drinks. This is okay to sip neat but it is just too sweet for a typical whiskey drinker like me. I can't give it full marks but it is pretty good. I prefer unadulterated rums typically. 25/30

Retry on Ice (25%): That fake brown sugar flavor comes out even more over ice. Arguably worse than neat. I could see this rum in spirit-forward cocktails as a part of a split base with cognac or whiskey. That with some bitters could be nice. But when I don't like the sweetness and then the sweetness gets stronger. I feel like I'm going to get a headache from this. 17/25

Total Ranking: 75% Legendary, AmazingGreatGood, Fair, Average, Tolerable, Swill

Estimated Fair Price: $38
Actual Price: $45

Conclusion:  Unfortunately this rum has been sweetened and has a misleading age statement. This is a solera-style aged rum so there is a tiny bit of 23-year-old aged rum in the bottle but it's not all 23 years old. Most of this rum is about 6 years old from what I gather, which is fine. Rum doesn't have the same legal restrictions on age statements as scotch so they are often misleading. If you do your research on the product or innately know what solera means you might not be fooled but when someone sees the number 23 on a bottle they get excited, especially when it's reasonably priced. This is a solid C. It's not impressive or top-tier in the rum world but it's not a failure. 

Fact Sheet:
Company: Diageo
Distillery Location: Guatemala
Aged in American Whiskey and various sherry casks
ABV: 40%

Wednesday, September 13, 2023

Review: Smoke Wagon Malted Straight Rye Whiskey (Batch no. 11G)

Color (5%): Medium thinning. Hay and faint copper. 4/5

Nose (10%): That does have that beautiful single malt nose that I missed from Red Brick. Awesome chocolatey notes over the freshly cooked barley. A bit of pepperiness from the rye comes around, but it's mainly chocolate-forward, which I love. The alcohol doesn't burn as much as expected from something so high-proof. There is a nice creaminess through it. 9/10

Palate (20%): Wow, that is a lot of chocolate and overproof. There are better ideas for the day's first sip, but I'll adjust. Nice light caramel sweetness. There is a great creamy body. This is well-refined. The barley is definitely taking over from the rye side of this. I wouldn't guess this was a rye if I tasted this blind. But I love American single malts. 18/20

Finish (10%): That burn hits you first and last, but in the middle, there is a sweet, creamy milk chocolate. I want to pair this with a salty dessert. That would really make this shine. There's a slight undertone of spice of cinnamon and pepper. Medium long duration. Nice and clean relative to the heat. 8/10

Overall Impression and Harmony (30%): This is quality stuff. It's been very well distilled. There's a great flavor coming from quality grains. I'm not getting a ton of aged character, but it obviously hung out in some wood with a decent char level but reasonable. They didn't overage it, and it's young enough. They landed in the sweet spot. This works great as an end-of-the-night slow sipper with some salted caramel chocolates on the side. I will be drinking this again. I promise you that. 27/30

Retry on Ice (25%): Ice really mutes the nose. The chocolate fades away, and some peppered honey pops out. The rye starts showing its face once those roasted flavors shrink. A lovely creamy finish is still mixed with soft milk chocolate, but that roasted bitter cocoa is gone. I want to try this on a big rock and watch it transform as I go. 23/25

Total Ranking: 89% Legendary, Amazing, Great, Good, Fair, Average, Tolerable, Swill

Estimated Fair Price: $74
Actual Price: $79

Conclusion: That 51:49 ratio confuses me. What's so important about being classified as a rye when you barely qualify. I can see a few rye elements coming through this whiskey, but it tastes like a single malt. It's quality stuff, misnamed. If you love porters, you will love this whiskey, so long as you can handle the strong stuff. I'm going to keep this bottle and share it with close friends. This is a special occasion sipper for me, and it likely merits discussion among enthusiasts. It's way better than the Uncut the Younger and arguably one of my favorite whiskeys I've tried so far this year. Definitely buy yourself a pour, or if you trust me, just grab a bottle. 

Fact Sheet:
51% Rye, 49% Barley
Distillery Location: Las Vegas, Nevada H&C Distilling Co
Bottled May 18, 2023
ABV: 57.92%