Review: Penny Blue XO – Batch #5

The Penny Blue was a rare Mauritian stamp which had the inscription ‘Post Office’ on it rather than ‘Post Paid’ due to an engraving mistake. “Created as part of the inaugural postal service, in 1847, under the watchful eye of the Governor of Mauritius, the stamp was to be used for invitations to a fancy dress ball held by the Governor’s wife.”. There are only 500 such ‘error stamps’ made and they are valuable due to their limited number.

The Penny Blue rums are named after the said stamp to reflect their uniqueness.

The Medine Distillery, established in 1926, is the oldest distillery in Mauritius. They produce molasses and, more recently, cane juice rums using sugar cane grown on their Single Estate.
Berry Bros. & Rudd, established in 1698 in London, is “Britain’s oldest wine and spirit merchant” . They are also responsible for some unique rum bottlings that I need to get my hands on somehow.

A collaboration between these two entities started in 2009 and later in 2013 it would bring us Penny Blue XO #1. They released their Penny Blue VSOP in 2017 and a Penny Blue Pure Cane (made from cane juice) in 2018 for the Mauritian market – XO before VSOP seems a bit backward, but I’m not complaining.

Penny Blue XO is molasses based, distilled using a column still “slower and at a lower temperature” (I assume that means it comes out at a lower ABV rather than “pure”) to make a heavier type of rum. It’s released in batches, each one blending rums aged in different casks, with different ages and, naturally, various proportions. Their website is quite informative about what goes in each batch, for example my #5 contains rums aged between 7 and 13 years in ex-Cognac (62%), ex-Whisky (30%) and ex-Whisky and ex-Bourbon (8%) casks. My bottle is lucky number 1780 out of 10290 bottles available for this batch – bottled at 43% ABV, non-chillfiltered, no additives or colour added. Sounds like a good way to start my day.

On the nose it feels fruity. Toffee apples, raspberries, some whisky maltiness with a whiff of smoke, prunes, golden syrup and candy floss. Charred oak, lemon zest and some faint floral and peppery notes. Smells well balanced.

On the palate the spicy and floral aromas take the main stage. Some caramel upfront, but it doesn’t last long. Black pepper and coriander followed by plenty of citrus. Fruity notes in the background with the raspberries and red apples taking the backseat, unripe plums and some mangos. Add pine and a touch of peppermint with a pinch of salt to the mix, savoury and very herbaceous, almost medicinal, I wasn’t expecting this giving that 60% of this rum is aged in ex-Cognac casks. The finish does linger with lemon zest and some salted caramel.

I have to admit, I had to take a step back after the first sip because the difference between the nose and the palate is big. Not off putting though, I am enjoying its savoriness and for the price range (around £40 on Amazon, although I got it for £32 during a Prime deal) it packs quite the complexity. I’m curious now if the other batches are similar or just very different. Regardless this is complex and well balanced.

Penny Blue XO – Batch #5 score:
Flavour/taste: 48/70
Value for money: 13/15
Transparency/purity: 15/15
Overall: 76/100


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