Friday, 29 May 2015

Review 45 - Velier Caroni 1996 17 year old full proof

Photo copyright © H.Kristoffersen
Caroni the way it is supposed to be done.

Time for another Caroni – and hopefully it will turn out a little more interesting than the last one.
So this time I have combined Caroni with my favourite bottler, Velier.

Velier has their own series of Caronis. Mostly single vintages and mostly at strengths of 50-65%.
During my last Caroni review I wrote about the Velier takeover of the last remnants of the Caroni stock. There was some confusion about wether it was true or not.

Since then Mr. Luca Gargano has repeated in a discussion on facebook, that he did indeed purchase every single Trinidad-remaining barrel of Caroni rum back in 2005 I think. He also revealed that since then he has not sold off a single barrel to other distributors or bottlers.

That means, that every non-Velier Caroni comes from other bulk traders and those traders obtained their barrels of Caroni before the Velier takeover.

Update, mar28th2016: In a comment left on the review, JaMiRi, was so kind, as to clear up, that Mr. Gargano did indeed NOT buy up the last remaining Caroni stock. Apparently the last remaining casks were sold in 2008 - the buyer remains a mystery (so far).

The Velier Caroni series is a bit extraordinary, as they are decorated with Mr. Gargano’s own photos from his travels. Mr. Gargano himself revealed this at a tasting session in november 2014.

Most of the Velier Caronis are single vintages and bottled at strengths between 50 and 65%. This is part of Mr. Garganos philosophy around the Caronis. He thinks that they are best presented at these strengths, and that anything below 50% is less than optimal, as some of the unique Caroni characteristics are mellowing out or even lost at the lesser strength.

This particular Caroni was distilled on a copper column still in 1996 and aged for 17 years in Trinidad, before 1460 bottles of this full proof beast were made in 2013. Mine is number 263 (and I wish I had more! More on that later). It also has a lower proof sibling (bottled at 55% I think).

It has a typical Velier expression with the sturdy, white card board box and the minimal details.

The only details are the photograph, the Caroni name, the year distilled and the age. Nothing more.

All 4 sides are identical. It is so simple and minimalistic I think I’m going to cry with joy. Just a little bit.

The bottle is the standard Velier bottle. Black barroom bottle with a natural cork and faux wood stopper.

The label is as simple as the box. White with simple lettering and the photo from the box.

A bit more information on the label though. Here we get information about the distillery, some information about the specific bottle numbers, and last but not least, this is the first time we see the infernal 63% ABV.

Up until now the only hint of a brute of this size was the phrase ”Full proof” on the box.

The back label tells a little tale about the rum, as well as informing us, that the Angels Share on this rum has been more than 80%.

The rum it self is a light bronze colour with an orange glow and it leaves a thick film on the inside of the glass. When twirled it creates a nice clear ring, which results in a lot of slim legs containing slow moving droplets.

Almost jumping out of the glass, it has an extremely heavy and pungent nose. The alcohol does pull your nose hairs and brings a little tears to your eyes.

The first notes were dominated a lot by plasticine and rubber, backed up by oak and an underlying brown sugar sweetness, taking the edge off the pungency.

It even has a fruity side of bitter orange and apricot marmelade.

After it spent some minutes opening up it starts to display scents of marzipan and nail polish.

Not the most complex nose, but it is insanely well balanced, and there is no getting away from, that your digestive system is in for one hell of a ride. Which will happen momentarily.

It wasn’t just a brutal brawler on the nose. Sipping it you are presented with a heavy, savage, brutal, mind blowing entry. This is borderline insane.
Intense heat at first, which spreads and expands to a point where it covers your entire mouth, and starts to climb to your nose from within.

The flavours are few and muted in the beginning, but as some of the heat starts evaporate, you are treated with tasty, hot brown sugar and liquorice.

Then some huge, but soft, rubber and tar notes kick in, delivering the true Caroni experience.

The fruity marmelades from the nose are back and deliver something very soothing to the whole ass-kicking experience.

During the super heated inferno oaks and spices are evident but stays a little in the background to make room for the rest of the components.

The balance of this rum is impeccable. It takes command of your mouth, palate and throat, and forces it self onto you in a way which is both scary and strangely exhilarating at the same time.

Not much to elaborate on here.

It is long and takes its time to cool down, but when it’s gone, it’s gone.

The oak and spices get a bit more clear after the inferno starts to dial down, but there is nothing new under the sun.

Everything cleans up superbly and after just a few minutes my mouth felt fresh, clean and ready to take on another sip.

Rating and final thoughts
This was one of the first Caroni bottles I ever bought less than a year ago and now it is next to impossible to get hold of another bottle. Sad.

This is by far the best Caroni I have tried so far. Furthermore it holds its own against a lot of other amazing Velier rums.

It does lack complexity and surprise when compared to other liquid pieces of art.
Caronis are simple creatures. But they are loyal and you know what you get. I have yet to taste a Caroni that sticks out. They have similar components and display similar characteristics.
Some are just a bit above the rest. And this is one of them.

Value for money is off the charts in more than one sense. First of all it is a much better rum than the €110 euros I paid for it originally. Second of all, since it is almost impossible to find now, it can get a little stupid. If you are lucky you can find a bottle for €130-140, but I have seen it for as much as €200 on eBay and a Danish store has a single bottle left, for which they charge almost €300.

I am not sure that it is worth €300. In fact I am very much convinced that €300 well buy you a better and more rare rum.

But if you find one for less than €150 and you like the Caroni profile, you have some serious considerations to make.

For me this rum is the pinnacle of Caroni rum until I come across a better one – and if there even is a better one, I will be very eager to find it.

I like the Caroni profile. I don’t care that it is ”only” a column still rum and that it displays a lot of ”off notes”. It is still very much awesome in its own way in my eyes.

There is not much to discuss. This clearly deserves a…

Rating: 80/100

The word "Caroni" is featured 30 times in this review. Title, picture, subtitle and text included.



  1. Some of the Caroni rum was on a failed auction in 2008, so with all respect, Mr. Gargano did not purchase the last stocks in 2005. Trinidad Express reported that "Sale of the rum stocks was advertised on September 16 2008 and included bulk rum casks in various types and aged from three to 19 years old, bulk rum...and 2,860 cases of bottled rum."

    Similarly Mr. Rudy Moore, hired to liquidate the remaining stocks of Caroni rum, sold a fair number of casks to UK in 2008. How do I know? Because I was introducing seller & buyer to each other. Got the emails to prove it, so no confusions here. :-)

    1. Thank you for clearing that up, JaMiRi :) I always appreciate having bad information corrected. So, if Mr. Gargano didn't buy the last casks. Where did the casks go in 2008?