Rum Review: Berrys’ Guadeloupe 12
Berry Brothers & Rudd Guadeloupe Rum Review
Berry Brothers & Rudd started as a London grocery store in 1698. Over time, they expanded into wine and spirits, and today select and bottle some of their favorite spirits under the house label “Berrys’ Own”.
For the uninitiated, one might look at a Berrys’ bottle on the shelf and wonder why it’s priced so high. The simple answer is because it’s special. As with small bottlings of Caribbean rum from Italy and Scotland, the Berry Bros. & Rudd selections are made from the finest barrels in sleepy tropical warehouses located on island paradises that most of us can only dream of visiting. And in this case, it’s the only way to get rum from this particular distillery (in the U.S., anyway).
I learned from Dave Russel that the Berry’s Guadeloupe 12-Year was distilled at the Domaine de Bellevue distillery on the island of Marie Galante, a dependent of Guadeloupe in the French West Indies. The island of 12,000 inhabitants is just 61 square miles, and enjoys limited tourism compared to Guadeloupe’s main island pair of Basse-Terre and Grande-Terre. The Bellevue distillery was founded in 1769, and produces 850,000 liters of their Domaine de Belleville rhum, a tiny portion of which sits in the bottle before me. Let’s take a look.
Berry’s Guadeloupe 12 is bottled at a hearty 46% ABV and retails for around $125. Coming from Guadeloupe, it’s made in the French style, but the distillery isn’t beholden to the strict rules of the AOC found on Martinique.
Like all Berry’s rum, the bottle is a tall stately clear bottle with a thick base layer and an easily-grasped neck. The elegant label may appear a bit busy at first, but the information relayed thereupon is all quite useful; the navy blue and gold provide a lovely counterpoint to the parchment and black ink. The bottle is fixed with a wooded-topped natural cork closure. Let’s get some in a glass and see what we have here.
In the glass, the rum is a dark mahogany with copper highlights. A swirl of the glass produces a thin ring atop the glass from which a set of liberal droplets form and descend—some rapidly, some less so. A bit of the ring remains after a minute or two.
On nosing, a host of aromas bursts forth that delight and tantalize. A dose of grassy phenolics and a hint of natural rubber combine with a deep oak note calling to mind the twelve years this rum spent on Marie-Galante. After the oak, there is caramel and burnt cream, then comes an entire bowl of fruit: melon, kiwi, pineapple and ripe grapes. I can’t wait any longer, let’s have a taste.
As the rum enters, the oaky tannins quickly coat the palate—especially toward the rear. The rum has an undeniably smoky, spicy bite that is represented by black pepper, cinnamon and allspice. After the spice, there is a meaty, briny umami quality that makes me want to chew the liquid. As my palate becomes conditioned to the rum and a bit of the ethanol evaporates, the tasting experience continues to improve. As additional flavors emerge, the fruit reappears now with a pronounced note of ripe peaches, followed by pineapple and kiwi. There is a bitter tart quality suggesting freshly grated lemon zest. Beyond the zest is freshly ground coffee with a bit of leather and hint of tobacco. The exceedingly long finish is dominated by the tannins, smoke and spices.
At some point along your rum journey (shout out to my friend Paul Senft who coined the term) you find yourself seeking rums that make you sit straight up in your chair. Not just another sweet oaky amalgam of caramel and vanilla, but a special mix of offbeat qualities that is immediately striking, but requires some contemplation to fully appreciate. Berry Brothers Guadeloupe 12-year is such a rum, and I highly recommend it.
On to the scores:
- Appearance 1/1
- Aroma 2/2
- Mouth feel 1/1
- Taste 3.75/4
- Aftertaste 2/2
- Total 9.75/10
Have you tried this rum? Please share your comments below.