Rum Review: Mezan Jamaica & Panama
Mezan Rum Review
Just when you thought overly processed, adulterated rums were destined to control the market, a rum line like Mezan comes along. Bottled from “honey barrels” found throughout the Caribbean, Mezan’s rums contain nothing but rum and water. No color, no sugar, no glycol. A real rum nerd might question the 40% strength (why not cask strength?) but let’s table that for now and see what we have here. Three expressions recently became available in the California market: Panama 2004, Jamaica 2000, and Jamaica XO. Let’s taste all three.
Mezan Panama 2004
Interestingly enough, these rums bear vintages, but not age statements. A rather curious choice to this consumer. The calendar would suggest it’s a 10-year rum, but we are left to wonder. The Mezan Web site is of no assistance. What the bottle does tell us is that this producer makes “distinctive soft molasses based rums distilled in modern multi-column stills.”
The simple short bottle is the same for the entire line. Topped with a plastic srew top closure, the glass is clear to show the juice for what it is. In this case, it’s a light mohagonay that lightens up in the glass without benefit of more volume. The nose is a bit hot and astringent for a 40% rum, so I let it sit for a bit to off-gas. After sitting a bit and with some agitation, the astringency dies down slightly and allows the fruit to come to the fore: banana, cantaloupe, and ripe papaya. Just beyond the ample fruit is a dusty characteristic that is not entirely pleasant. After these aromas, there is a banana bread quality that appears suggesting over-ripe bananas, and baking spices along with a bit of vanilla. Let’s taste…
As the rum enters, the fruit is nearly overwhelming, but in a good way. In addition to the ripe banana and papaya, there is green apple and raspberries now along with the melon. There is a tannic quality that accompanies the oaky flavor which is evocative of its tropical aging. The mouthfeel is a bit thin and slightly hot for a 40% spirit, but it’s not unpleasant. The dustiness is still present on the palate, but the fruits end up winning out handily.
The subsequent sips bring more of the same: tons of fresh tropical fruit and banana bread. There is a bit of a bottom end missing here—something made more obvious by the brightness of the fruit—but I must admit that I enjoy it more with each sip. The finish is not terribly long, and is dominated by the fruits and oak ($45).
From batch 8146, this is one of 500 bottles in the lot. Blended from several Jamaican distilleries, this expression is re-aged after blending in ex-Bourbon barrels and bottled at 40% ($35).
In the glass, the color is dark straw to golden. There is an overwhelming astringency after pouring, so I let it sit for a few minutes. After the heat dies down a bit, I move in for a nosing and get pear, dried apricot, banana, butter cream and black pepper.
The rum enters with the butter cream and fruit, backed by the dry black pepper and oak. The rum fades really quickly and disappears, which is a bit jarring. Subsequent sips yield some cinnamon and a bit of nutmeg, and then a hint of lemon peel and tobacco. The butter cream and vanilla reappear briefly before the finish ends abruptly. Still good enough for an Old Fashioned, but this one might be destined for mixing.
Hailing from the Long Pond Distillery (famous for the Wedderbrun rum style) this rum is double distilled through a single pot/double retort still. I have a good feeling about this one.
As it’s poured, a veritable fruit basket launches out of the glass: orange, banana, pear, papaya and mango. The fruit is carried on a wave of butter , Chantilly cream and oak. We’re off to a good start.
The rum enters elegantly, but with authority. Leading with the Chantilly cream, one could be lulled into a false sense of security before the ample spice appears with a firm slap to the face. Black pepper, white pepper, cinnamon, and allspice are all present, riding atop an oaken base. There is also Seville orange peel and grapefruit now with rich tobacco and a hint of leather.
Subsequent sips reveal a paradox of flavors vacillating between soft and aggressive: first fruit and cream, then spice and tobacco, and then we do it all over again. This is a rum that keeps you on your toes—in a good way. The medium length finish is a bit thin, but congruent with the overall tasting experience. This is a rum geek’s rum—if it was bottled at cask strength, we would be in for something really special ($55.)
What a treat to see more unadulterated rums entering the marketplace. We kept hearing that the whisk(e)y trends would impact rum marketing, but only now are we seeing the mainstreaming of independent barrel selections. I mean even Bacardi is getting in on the act. Until now, this has been the provenance of folks like Velier, Silver Seal, Samaroli, and the like (few of which ever make it to the shores of the West Coast). I just hope we buy enough to make it worthwhile. Hats off to Niche Imports for taking it on.
With the Mezan line, my main gripe is the ABV. That said, the Panama and the Jamaica XO selections did have plenty of astringency, so it’s hard to argue that those two should have been bottled at higher strength. The other issue is the lack of clarity with the age. Why have a vintage-specific NAS rum? If “realness” is the goal, then give the consumer all the information at-hand. All in all though, these are solid offerings, and I’m thrilled to see them on shelves for what they represent: a return to real rum.