Saturday, 26 December 2015

Review 70 - Velier Port Mourant 1997 UPM 15 year old

Photo copyright © H.Kristoffersen
Bring your vorpal sword. This Jabberwocky needs to be slain.

First of all, a merry Christmas to you all. Since it is the season of love, giving and hi-fat, delicious foods, I thought I would involve you in a little love story of mine.

Sometimes you just fall in love with something (or someone) without a single rational reason to do so. The Velier Port Mourant 1997 was such a product for me.

When I first started out on my never ending rum journey, this bottle was one of the first Veliers I laid eyes on. Having read only a few reviews of their products at that time (the PM97 not being one of them), I was intrigued by the majestic aura and very simple presentation.

I have no idea why the PM97 enticed me so much – and I still don’t. However fate didn’t turn out in a way, that allowed me to source a bottle of it until a while down the road. When I finally got it into my hands it was like coming home – and I hadn’t even tasted it or read much about it yet.

The only things I knew about it was, that it as a 15 year old distillate from the legendary Port Mourant double wooden pot still, that it had been bottled by Velier, that only 1094 bottles were made and that it was bottled at a mind blowing 65,7% ABV.

I later read a single review of it which didn’t impress me much, I had only tried a couple of other Port Mourants, so I didn’t know how to properly relate to said review.

But I was happy holding it – and I was equally happy when I tasted it. More on that later.

Less than 25% of the initial distillate was left after the angels claimed their share, and the barrels bore the mark UPM.

Photo copyright © H.Kristoffersen
I am not entirely sure what this mark means. The PM will probably indicate that we are talking about a Port Mourant rum (still, not estate). The U is less obvious, but according to both Marco of Barrel Aged Mind and Cyril from Du Rhum, it might stand for "Uitvlugt", as the Port Mourant still was actually located at the Uitvlugt estate in 1997. Since I haven't been able to come up with a better idea, I will join their guesswork on this one.

Please comment if you have available documentation or a better guess.

The looks are a typical Velier expression. A simple dark blue cardboard box with white details. 

Every relevant detail about the rum is visible in the info fields on the box – coincidently these details are the same as the ones which were ”the only things I knew” before buying it.

Inside the box is the standard Velier type bottle. A chubby black thing with a label identical to the info field on the box. Classy stuff.

At this point it seems redundant to state how much I love this simple expression, so I won’t. Please refer to my older Velier reviews to read my ”statement of love”. 

The rum it self displays a beautiful golden colour and when set in motion, it creates a thin ring and an oily layer inside the glass. The ring slowly transforms into a gazillion tiny droplet soldiers which start marching slowly and tirelessly towards the surface of the rum.

The first whiff revealed some seriously heavy stuff. Ten tonnes of rum in a glass, with a typical Port Mourant feel. The alcohol came leaping out to slap me in the face.

Initial scents were dominated by massive glue stick, ripe bananas and burnt brown sugar.

After the intro came a lot of wooden notes. Not just oaks, but also other types of wood. Unfortunately I’m not crafty enough to know many different wood types apart from each other, so ”non oak” is unfortunately as close as I’m going to get.

After the oak and other unidentified woods, came the classic nail polish and notes of heavy red winy. 

In the end there were even room for some dried fruits in the form of dried apricots and figs.

Very wonderful nose and typical Port Mourant in nature. Great stuff, but also very aggressive.

Adding a little water dulled things down a bit, but everything was still there. Perhaps it even became a little softer to sniff. I also had a feeling of staring down an empty jug of raspberry marmelade.

Oh my! I feel surprised in a way that I can only describe like when you have a bite of food and it turns out insanely more hot than you expected.

BOOM! And out came the 65,7% ABV along with the ten tonnes heavy profile, which was also indicated by the nose.

After the first waves of gentle napalm death and horror subsided, I was able to detect oaks, fat red wine, and vanilla. Those flavours got to grow some, before it was overtaken by anise and wet tobacco.

Then came the usual fruity suspects; dried apricots, figs and prunes.

Even though it started out with a heat bomb, everthing was so well put together and so complex. Insanely intense but also patient enough to let me devour the flavour bomb at my own pace... almost... perhaps not quite... perhaps it did force itself onto me a little bit... 

The ABV turns up the heat until you are close to extinction, but then it rolls off and lets you claw your way back to sanity – if you are big and hairy man enough.

For me it was perhaps a bit too much and I consider myself quite big and hairy and manly!

With water it softened up quite a bit and dulled some of the softer notes. I was left with a smaller heat bomb with lots of now softer oaks and a bit sharper tannins. Easier to handle, but not as exciting.

Luckily I got to enjoy everthing for quite a while. The finish took its time to unfold, and a sweet and spicy coating on the tongue seemed to want to stay for ever. 

In the end the drying, winey character took over and cleaned everything up quite nicely, and left you with only the remaining heat and a tiny bit of raisins.

With water added the finish shortened substantially. Otherwise it displayed the same features as the full strength beast.

Rating and final thoughts
If 15 year olds like this one are going to be the future of rums, we will be fine. Never mind that the ancient 25+ year olds will be long gone. Rums like this one will easily carry the world on its shoulders.

Beyond a doubt one of the very best PM I have had yet.

Perhaps a bit too strong. Yes, I know, I have been bashing other rums for being too weak. But this one might actually be too strong. Perhaps I’m just a crying wuss-boy. 

Being insanely powerful and demanding, it requires your full attention to be appreciated. Like so many other full proof rums, this is not a casual drink. Not even close.

Value for money doesn’t make much sense to discuss. This particular bottle is practically sold out everywhere, and if you manage to find a bottle from a store it will quickly cost you €130-150, on eBay it might be even more expensive. For a Velier that is okay in my book. And since I rate Velier among the very best bottlers in the world, of course this rum is worth it. Even if you are not a frantic fanboy like me, you can do a lot worse in this price range.

Except from the overpowering force, this rum is close to perfect in my opinion. However I feel that the awesome scents and flavour are only there because of said force. I got this theory confirmed when I tried adding a couple of drops of water. It took the heat level down a notch, but also dulled some of the otherwise wonderfully full and vibrant flavour expressions.
And that posses a bit of a dilemma for me. Do I accept the full force and struggle with it to enjoy the flavours, or do I settle for a weaker and more bland spirit to make it smoother?

Even though I will choose to fight the full proof Jabberwocky any day of the week, that dilemma and the fact that the full strength is probably a little over the top, is why I will have to award it with a slightly less than perfect...

Rating: 86/100


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