Habitation Velier: Privateer

I am excited to be trying this one. Privateer rums in Massachusetts has gained something of a cult following in the US with their unfiltered, unadulterated rums – particularly for their Distiller’s Drawer, single cask offerings, of which they now have 105 listed on their website and I’ve been able to get ahold of precisely….none. I’m not jealous, you are.
Enter Velier. February of this year they selected some casks and have just released them under their Habitation label. Some luck on my part meant that I was able to get a bottle on release day from LMDW for just over £90 and it turned up last week.
President and Head Distiller of Privateer, Maggie Campbell has an awe-inspiring resume; aside from previously working as the assistant distiller at Germain-Robin (a Californian brandy distillery), she also serves on the Board of Directors of the American Craft Spirit Association and has the role of Judging Director for their annual spirits competition. She’s well worth a follow on Instagram under her superhero name, @halfpintmaggie.

The rum:

Privateer use Guatemalan molasses and a 6 day fermentation (as opposed to the more common 24 hours in the warmer Carribbean), before undergoing a double distillation; first in a Vendome pot still, then a second distillation using a more labour intensive batch process in what would appear to be a pot/column hybrid – I’m not sure what the breakdown is for this product. Their New England white rum is then rested in stainless steel tanks for 2 months whilst being brought slowly down to 50% ABV, before being bottled unfiltered at 40% ABV.
I’m still trying to find out some more about the aging of the Velier outturn. Will add that when I know. Edit (20/7/20): So, Maggie kindly took the time out to respond to my enquiries – she confirmed the double distillation, first in a Vendome pot still and then in a batch still sourced from CARL in Germany and aged in New American Oak #3 char (about 35 seconds of flame charring the barrel). She also sent me an AMAZING slideshow of the Privateer distillery basic setup and manufacturing process, which I will be putting on the site as part of a long term work-in-progress looking in-depth at several key distilleries worldwide.

On to the fun part:

Presentation – A sturdy parchment coloured box encloses a solid, stubby dark bottle with a good quality synthetic stopper, this product is in keeping with the Habitation Velier products. I’m a big fan of their labels, not only for the wealth of information, but also of those brilliant renderings of each distilleries still. As for that information, we can see that this is a New England Pure Single Rum (as per the Gargano classification), 100% batch distillation, distilled in 2017 and aged for 3 years entirely at the distillery – would the New England climate lean more towards continental or tropical aging I wonder; or somewhere in between? Angels share was not very greedy at all at 11%, with congeners at 150.6gr/hlaa and bottled at barrel proof, which in this case was 55.6%.

Nose – Smoke, menthol and maple syrup dominate. An unusual and lovely combination; I don’t think I’ve had a rum make me hungry before! Like just burnt French toast with maple syrup and whipped cream – a bit of vanilla there. Some toasted hazelnuts too, then fleeting raspberries and blueberries.

Palate – It teeters on the right side of too hot – I’m glad this isn’t any stronger to be honest. First taste is of peppermint and pine, followed by vanilla and tobacco in the middle and a nutty, woody finish, like roasted almonds.

Finish – Medium length and some of that fruit cuts across finally, ever so lightly.

Scores on the door:

Presentation: 5/5
Nose: 9/10
Taste: 16/20
Finish: 8/10
Value for money: 4/5

Total: 42/50

Notes: I think this is a strong showing from a younger distillery that has a huge amount of potential, even taking into account their already stellar reviews. I LOVE the smell of it, even emanating from the empty glass the next morning. This bottling has only increased my desire to try the distillery’s own offerings, particularly that Distiller’s Drawer. I’m well aware not everyone will feel happy spending this kind of money on a rum but I think it’s worth it in this case, particularly if you enjoy richer, sweeter (NOT sweetened) rums and want to start exploring the category in greater depth.

How the rating system works:
It’s entirely arbitrary but I’ve weighted it towards the things that matter most to me when looking to buy a new bottle. Hence, the greater emphasis on taste say, compared with presentation.

Author: Mr RumLondon

Doc by day (sometimes night), rum drinker by night (sometimes day). I'm a shift worker, not a lush. Other opinions are also available.

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