Review: Inner Circle 5 Year Old Black Cask Strength

Inner Circle is a historical rum brand in Australia that initially was meant to be consumed only by Colonial Sugar Refinery’s (CSR) board of directors and some of its prized customers (hence the name). CSR was founded in 1855 and established sugar refineries in Australia, New Zealand and Fiji. In 1901 they set up a distillery in Sydney, started producing pot still rum and in 1950 their Inner Circle Rum brand won its first award and the Sydney agricultural show.

It wasn’t until 1968 when Inner Circle Rum (ICR) was released to the Australian market and it quickly became popular. Unfortunately in 1986 the brand was sold and retired for 25 years until it was resurrected in the 2000s by the VOK Group who also acquired Beenleigh Rum Distillery in 2004. Apparently early versions of the freshly revived brand were actually made at the South Pacific Distillery in Fiji and bottled in Australia.

In the present the rum is made solely at the Beenleigh Distillery making it the second rum distilled by them I am reviewing on the blog. The very first one would be S.B.S Australia 2007 which was one of the best rums I tried last year – you can read the review and more about the distillery here.

Part of the Inner Circle branding were different coloured dots on the label highlighting the difference between their expressions: red for underproof, green for overproof (or Navy Strength) and black for 33% overproof (or Cask Strength). As I can see on their website, only the former two are currently available, something I can’t complain about – the higher the proof the best!

It’s worth mentioning that the bottle I’m reviewing, the Cask Strength, recently won gold medals at the International Spirit Competition and the San Francisco World Spirit Competition, so I’m diving in with high expectations, especially given my previous experience with the pot still juice distilled by Beenleigh.

Inner Circle Cask Strength is molasses based, pot still distilled and aged for 5 years in a limited selection of 200 litre ex-Bourbon barrels. The rum has also added a “dash” of 10 year old rum. Bottled at a palate-whooping 75.9% ABV and, as I’ve been told, without any sweeteners.

On the nose it has a very Demerara/Navy profile to it. Strong caramel and molasses, raisins, prunes, liquorice and cinnamon apple pie. Pencil shavings, cayenne pepper and old leather. If I didn’t know, I would’ve thought this came from Guyana. Dark tobacco notes, dusty furniture, cacao nibs and oak spices. Walnuts, burnt orange zest and some bright stone fruits flavours. Feels rich and “dark”.

On the palate is quite sweet upfront. Molasses, maple syrup, canned plums and raisins. Sweet chilli, black olives, walnuts and black pepper. If I’m being honest it feels almost too sweet/mellow, especially for its ABV so I’m low-key questioning the “no sweeteners” claim, but I’ll still go with it. Dark chocolate, nutmeg, salted caramel, tobacco, cola, apricots and liquorice. The finish is long with cocoa nibs and caramel.

If it wasn’t from a fairly trusted source, I would say this is definitely sweetened so I’m a bit conflicted. If anyone else tasted it and could tell me if my palate is malfunctioning or not please do. Meanwhile I’ll say there’s definitely at least some caramel going on at the very least… and I don’t mean just the colouring one – it has a profile quite similar to Wood’s Navy. Honestly I was expecting more from this!

That being said complexity is still there and it could also potentially be used as a substitute for recipes that ask for a 151 Demerara rum.

I bought this from the Italian online retailer Spirit Academy for about £44 which is a good price, especially considering the ABV, but its value for money was offset by the import/delivery taxes due to Brexit.

Inner Circle 5 Year Old Black Cask Strength score:
Flavour/taste: 50/70
Value for money: 15/15
Transparency/purity: 14/15
Overall: 79/100

Cheers!


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