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Angostura Rum Tasting - FCC Review #004

When I was a child, I remember seeing a family member mixing some odd brown concoction in a glass of orange juice, and then drinking it down. Later, he exclaimed that it had made his stomach feel better. This mysterious brown bottle with an odd leaf thin paper label and yellow twist of cap sat on the shelf for years. This was my first memory of Angostura Bitters. They now come in flavours, and the cocktail game has forever changed.

Prohibition-era cocktails are my favourite doesn’t matter which one, I enjoy them all. In particular, I enjoy cocktails with bitters. This was where my true appreciation for Angostura bitters came from. I knew they were a Trinidadian company, I also knew that they made rum.

I did not know that they made some of the best f*cking rum I have had in a very long time.

This past Saturday, I had the pleasure of attending a rum tasting session at Caribbean Wines and Spirits, hosted by Chris Duncombe. It was an introduction, for me, to a line of rums that I previously didn’t know existed. It has also given me yet another reason to plan a trip to Trinidad.

We started light, and then went heavy. White Oak is a Trini-carnival fete favourite, and would probably be good in a rum punch, or even with some lemonade. We also sampled a single-barrel rum aged in bourbon oak casks that had a taste similar to Dewar’s Doublewood Scotch Whisky with a little pinch of molasses on the finish. You can sip it, or make an exquisite cocktail (I’m thinking a rum old fashioned, or Manhattan).

There was a 5-year-old rum which had a very oak-fresh flavour, and the 7-year-old had the same hallmarks but with more spice. Unfortunately, I do not like cinnamon and so I didn’t enjoy the 7-year-old rum as much. This isn’t an indictment against the rum of course, more so a matter of personal taste. The 5-year-old rum really brought the most balanced rum profile of the two. Compared to each other, the younger rum wins but compared to a few other brands’ equivalent rums, they take the gold and are far superior.

Not to downplay the experience, but I couldn’t wait to get that part out of the way to talk about the heavy-weight trio that finished off the tasting. This was a progressive journey into the history of Angostura; and there is nothing better than good rum, except good rum with a story.

1824 represents the founding of Angostura. This is the year they first opened their doors and their famous bitters came to market. If the flavour of the 1824 rum is to pay homage to Angostura’s beginnings, then it does so magnificently with an unapologetic boldness. It is dark, and robust with every element of the oak casks showing through. The sensory flavour path walks you down a path of vanilla beans, through a mahogany grove and into the taste of lightly burnt brown sugar.

1919 was marred with destruction as the Angostura plant caught fire and burned to the ground. The mythical phoenix is said to rise from the ashes. In sifting through the damage, 1919 arose. Casks of rum left unscathed by the blaze heralded the introduction of beautifully balanced rum. You’ll get soft notes of toasted nuts, light hints of banana and vanilla and it finishes off neatly with burnt vanilla at the end with a warming feeling behind it.

There is a reason I saved 1787 rum for last. I did a little research and discovered that the next level above this in the Angostura Caribbean Rum family is the No.1 Cask, first and second edition. I cannot imagine what the jump is from 1787 to No. 1 cask because I found the 1787 to be sublime and immaculate. A lot of dark fruit flavours like dates and prunes are layered on top of a smoked oak barrel mixed with bourbon cask profile interposed. The toffee and caramel flavours finish off this exquisite rum like the end of the perfect taste symphony.

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