Continually refining their craft, Holmes Cay, the boutique rum blenders/bottlers, are seeking to diversify their offerings. Not only are they working on making more affordable blended expressions and single origin rums from exotic locations, but they remain true to their core, centering around their initial focus of single cask rums. A testament to their persistence in generating brilliant bottles routinely, the Holmes Cay Barbados 2009 Premier Cru emerges as one of their most intriguing and extraordinary expressions to date, a standard we’ve now come to expect from the brand.
A single cask release, the Holmes Cay Barbados 2009 Premier Cru boasts a traceable lineage – distilled by Foursquare in Barbados, and later bottled by Holmes Cay. The distillate was a blend of copper pot still rum and Coffey column still rum from 100% molasses, aged tropically for 8 years in Barbados within ex-bourbon casks, then matured for an additional 4 years in the UK in ex-bourbon casks. Its final two years of aging occurred in New York within a unique finishing cask – a Premier Cru (First Growth) Bordeaux wine cask from France. The final product, unfiltered and bottled at cask strength of 55% ABV (110 proof), is nothing short of exquisite.
Sourcing such a rare barrel for a fairly long finishing period escalates the product’s cost, resulting in a hefty MSRP of $170, consistent with other single cask offerings from Holmes Cay.
I was eager to sample this, mainly due to my limited experience with rum finished in red wine casks. While we regularly encounter rum that has been in contact with a variety of fortified wines such as sherry, port, and madeira, I’m interested in the impact this particular cask has on an already well-aged Bajan rum. With that in mind, let the tasting commence.
The aromatic profile of the Holmes Cay Barbados 2009 Premier Cru is characterized by a complex blend of spices and wood, with an undercurrent of savory and earthy tones. A detectable hint of butterscotch gives it a quirky edge, transitioning to the smell of earth and red fruits. There are nuances of currant combined with dominant spices like cinnamon and allspice, all brought together by the French oak which adds a rich layer of spice to the nose.
The taste is a repetition of the spice, a medley of baking spices, particularly allspice, complemented by a fruity pepperiness and some toasted oak. Concurrently, one can detect dark stone fruits like plums and darker jammy flavors, coupled with nutty cocoa and a chocolate-pecan bar. This combination might paint the picture of a dessert-like spirit, but as the sips continue, it leans more toward the dry side, with the oak becoming more pronounced as the drying tannin increases in potency. The elusive earthy tones make it intriguing but challenging to decipher, hinting at still undiscovered flavors.
Summarily, this is among the most intriguing and intellectually stimulating rums I’ve had lately. The wine casks have guided this rum on an intricate journey, resulting in a final product that stands out for its uniqueness.
Distillery: Holmes Cay (Foursquare)
Type: Single cask rum
Alcohol Content: 55% (110 proof)
Availability: Limited, 750 ml bottles, priced at $170
Jim Vorel is a Paste staff writer and resident beer and liquor geek. You can follow him on Twitter for more drink writing.
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