As some of you that know me in reality or just on social media, one month ago I just moved to London and a few days later I started bartending at The Beachcomber – an agricole and tiki bar. The reason I mention this is that in my very first day working there, Dawn Davies of TWE and Mitch Wilson of Black Tot came in for a few drinks. It’s pointless to mention that it was a legendary way to kick off my time there, but it was also the first time I got to try the Black Tot Master Blender’s Reserve – spoiler alert, I loved it!
Black Tot Master Blender’s Reserve (BTMBR for convenience) is part of an annual release from Elixir Distillers that started with the Black Tot 50th Anniversary last year. The 50th Anniversary was made in order to celebrate the Black Tot Day, 31st July 1970, when rum stopped being issues in the British Royal Navy. Because of an unfortunate, yet fortunate blending error, there was some extra 50th Anniversary rum which was kept in sherry casks to be used in future releases such as the current BTMBR – you can read about the whole story on my BT 50th review.
Conveniently I got my hands on a tasting set like the one that was released for the Virtual Rum Show this year. The set contains a sample of the BTMBR and 4 other samples that are broken down blends of the main blend as it follows:
- Guyana & Trinidad
- Jamaica & Barbados
- 50th Anniversary & Last Consignment
I will go through each component finishing with the final blend which will be the only one that will receive a score, everything else is for reference and because ‘why not?’. In line with the previous release, the back label of the BTMBR is uber-detailed regarding the components and their specifications, so I don’t have to abuse Google in order to try to find a shadow of information I can use when I write my review. Now this might be a long one so I’ll get right on it… oh, and I do apologise for the amount of times you’ll read “blend” from now on.
Guyana & Trinidad – 55.9% of the main blend
The Guyanese component of this smaller blend comes from Demerara Distillers Limited (Diamond Distillery) which is known for rocking an extensive collection of stills, some very unique. This one is distilled using a column still, although not mentioned which one, aged for 2 years in the tropics and 15 years continentaly making up 13.5% of the total blend.
The Trinidad component comes from Trinidad Distillers and it also breaks down into 3 other components, all column distilled, aged as it follows:
- 10 years tropically and 1 year continentally – 21.1% of the total blend;
- 5 years tropically and 5 years continentally – 18.5% of the total blend;
- 24 years continentally – 2.8% of the total blend.
It already started a bit complicated, but that’s what we get as rum geeks. Bottled at 54.5% ABV and free of additions.
On the nose the Trinidad part seems to cover any Guyanese scent. Dusty old books, stone fruits, rose water and nail varnish. Fairly sharp and floral, it has a slight aged-agricole profile. Melon, fresh pineapple and red apples. Some caramel, cacao and smoked almonds. Not as mellow as I was expecting from an all-column blend.
On the palate there’s more sweetness coming through paired with an aromatic-medicinal profile. Vanilla, caramel, menthol, milk chocolate and floral honey. Nutmeg, mothballs, pink pepper, cayenne pepper and sea salt. Unripe stone fruits, prunes, grapefruit peel and aspirin (yes, I know!). The finish is medium with citric acid and honey.
This is interesting, I know it’s mostly column from Angustora Distillers, but it feels like a more mellow Caroni – it’s weird, but I like it.
Jamaica & Barbados – 23% of the main blend
The Jamaican component comes from Hampden Distillery which is known from pungent and fruity rums. Pot still distilled and aged for 8 years in the tropics and 1 year continentally making up 5.3% of the total blend.
The Barbadian component comes from Foursquare Distillery and is a blend of pot and column distillates aged for 5 years in the tropics and 5 years continentally making up 17.7% of the total blend.
Feels natural to have Jamaica and Barbados together in a glass, so I’m curios what this combo has to offer here. Bottled at 54.5% ABV without any additions.
On the nose the Hampden jumps right out of the glass with an explosion of flavours. Rotten pineapple, banana flambe, glue, nail varnish, fresh raspberries and pine tree flavour. Some red apple and strawberries. There’s a bourbon-like profile underneath the high-ester layer. Green chilli and pear as well.
On the palate the Foursquare juice shines more. Red apples, oak spices, glue, pear juice and cacao nibs. There’s a slight smokiness, tropical fruit juices and coconut. Some tobacco and black pepper. The finish is long with charred oak and glue.
It’s amazing how much a funky Hampden component can come through even though is was 3 times less than the Foursquare part. This as a separate expression wouldn’t work very well as there are 2 extremes, one of funk-tropical fruits and the other of wood-spices & the balance seems a bit off. Glad I could try it though, I know it works better in the overall blend.
Australia – 6.7% of the main blend
Adding the Australia component it’s a nod to their own “Black Tot Day” – Australian Navy stopped issuing rum to their crew after separating from the Royal Navy, although Australians serving on British ships could still receive rum. In 1921, which is 100 years ago, this was also officially forbidden. The Australian rum was distilled at the Beenleigh Distillery in a pot still and aged for 10 years tropically (well in Australia) and 4 years continentally.
I previously reviewed an Australian pot still from the same distillery offering here and it remains one of my favourites, so I’m really intrigued about this one. Bottled at 54.5% ABV and without any additions.
On the nose there’s that lovely pot still flavour I’ve tried before. Stone fruits, a lot of that, cocoa, coconut, wasabi, sweet bananas and sandalwood. Cinnamon, new furniture and roses. Pink pepper and vanilla. I love this!
On the palate there’s a lot going on. Tobacco, peppermint, sandalwood, vanilla, peaches, apricots and dark chocolate. Wasabi, white pepper, parma violets and grapefruit zest. Some toffee and anise too. The palate didn’t disappoint either. The finish is long with sandalwood and unripe peaches.
Now this I could drink all day, or all week, it’s absolutely delicious, layered and fairly balanced for a pot still.
50th Anniversary & Last Consignment – 14.4% of the main blend
This is where things get interesting as this is a blend of new and old. This contains the extra 50th Anniversary I talked about, used as a base to make a perpetual blend every year. It has been aged for 6 months in sherry casks before blending and it’s 14.1% of the total juice.
The Last Consignment is the rum that was given to the Navy before they stopped issuing it on the Black Tot Day. Not much information available on this besides the fact that it’s also a fairly convoluted combo of rums. The amount is pretty insignificant, making up only 0.3% of the whole bottle, so it does seem more of a marketing point – interesting nonetheless.
Bottled at 54.5% and probably with a drop of caramel from the Last Consignment.
On the nose it’s unlike any o the previous ones. Black olives, cocoa butter, charred oak, liquorice, intense tobacco and black coffee. Dark chocolate, Earl Grey tea and black pepper. Canned plums, raisins, cloves and allspice. Pencil shavings, stout and vanilla. This is so good!
On the palate it just feels dark – in a good way. Caramel, raisins, ground coffee, liquorice and sawdust. A touch of glue, hot chocolate, cloves and cinnamon. Raw cocoa nibs, walnuts, coconut, ripe banana and cola. Some dusty furniture, black olives and nutmeg. The finish is long with liquorice and maple syrup.
This is hands down my favourite component, no wonder, given the 50th Anniversary was one of the highlights for me last year.
Black Tot Master Blender’s Reserve
Finally to the final product, there’s not much more to talk about here since everything was covered previously, but it’s important to note that this rum will be used in the blend for next year just like the 50th Anniversary was used for this one. It was released in a limited amount of 6000 bottles and it was bottled, without chill filtering, at navy strength – 54.5% ABV, free of sweeteners.
On the nose all those stone fruits from the Australian and Trinidadian rums come through strong. Peaches, apricots, plums, wasabi, mothballs, white vinegar, olive brine, car tires and blackcurrant. Liquorice, black pepper, burnt orange oils, aromatic tobacco, cinnamon and black coffee. Sandalwood, dusty cardboard, toffee, melon, unripe pineapple and passion fruit. So many layers, but you’d expect that has at least 9 components.
On the palate once again it feels fruity with layers of darker, chocolaty flavours. Cocoa powdered stone fruits with a measure of maple syrup, pinch of salt and some tobacco – that’s it, review done! Has a nice, vanillary bourbon-like layer. Molasses, peppermint, liquorice, kiwi, nuts, pineapple juice, prunes and apples. Cinnamon bark, charred oak, whipped cream and black pepper. It really is an amalgam of flavours, I can see how each component from above are playing their role in this. The finish is long with molasses and stone fruits.
This is absolutely delicious. Now if you’re expecting a classic navy profile, don’t. It has been described by Mitch Wilson as a fruit bomb and I do agree, it is a fruit bomb for a Black Tot offering. It’s less navy-ish than the 50th Anniversary and some people were a bit upset that even that one wasn’t too close to the classic dark, navy profile. It still has the rich flavours of the 50th, but with more acidity and fruity flavours coming from the Trinidadian and Australian components. Personally I prefer the Black Tot 50th Anniversary, but just barely.
Fun fact: According to Mitch, one of the sherry casks holding the 50th Anniversary was put aside because, apparently, it tasted outstanding. Curious to see what they’ll do with that!
Thank you if you made it reading the whole review! Greatly appreciated!
Black Tot Master Blender’s Reserve score:
Value for money: 14/15