In the presentation department, the Botran takes the prize over the Barbancourt. Its teardrop-shaped bottle and large cork stopper are designed to be displayed prominently in any collector’s shelf, which is almost a shame because its box is quite nicely designed as well, and it makes it tough to decide whether to keep it in the box or not. The Barbancourt, on the other hand, comes in a classic (i.e. generic) bottle, that is dressed up with gold labels to let you know there’s good stuff inside. Where it does get some extra points is in the fact that they used a dark brown glass bottle, which means they really care about protecting the rum inside from light, a nice touch. However, they lose most of those points by capping the bottle with an aluminum stopper. I’m not really all gung-ho about cork stoppers; in fact, I prefer a good solid plastic cap with an airtight seal to an ill-fitting cork, but I do tend to frown upon aluminum closures. They deform to easily and fail to keep air out all that well. But, who knows? Maybe Barbancourt figured their rum is SO good that you’ll never even close the bottle again after you start drinking it… Anyways, on to the battle.
I poured the rums and set up the blind tasting in the usual manner: two glasses labeled “A” and “B” on the bottom (where I can’t see it), each rum poured into one of the glasses (noting which rum is in which glass), and the glasses scrambled around the table until I don’t know which is which. Then it’s time to taste.
The first glass opened with a nice and strong vanilla scent mixed with caramel, which was confirmed with the first taste as well, but I detected a little bit of an almost grassy quality to the flavor along with the taste of oak. This made me think of Barbancourt right away. The feel was buttery at first and very smooth, with flavors of orange and some other fruit, maybe apricot, rising. Then the rum began to warm up in the mouth to close with a nice and hot finish that lingered for a while. I took another sip before moving on to the second glass. This stuff was good.
The second glass had a smooth caramel aroma with a hint of nuts, like walnut or pecan, and a little spice. There wasn’t much of the alcohol smell in there so I could sniff freely without my nose burning. The first sip opened with a very balanced wave of sweetness. I do tend to like my rums slightly on the sweeter side, but often feel that they go too far. This one seemed to get it right, with enough oak and spice to tone down the sweetness of the caramel and dried fruit without covering their flavor. Like the first glass, this one also built up to a hotter finish (though not quite as fiery), but then it kind of smoothed away, lingering as a pleasant aftertaste in the throat for a while.
I had pretty much figured out that Barbancourt was the first glass and Botran the second kind of early in the tasting, but I couldn’t quite choose a clear winner. My preference for slightly sweeter rums was making me lean toward the Botran, but the finish on the Barbancourt was so good it always left me wanting to have another sip. I would need another tasting before I could decide. Without calling the winner I turned the glasses over and confirmed which rum was which, then I poured another tasting of each, and went at it again.
I actually went back and forth a few times, re-tasting each rum over and over again. I ended up picking up more of the sweet flavors of the Barbancourt (oranges and maybe even pineapples), and more of the spice in the Botran (ginger and cloves), which wasn’t making the situation easier, but in the end I chose the Botran. While the Barbancourt had that great finish, the Botran had an amazing opening that was sweet without being syrupy or overwhelming. I felt that its progression from that tempered sweetness to spicy finish to lingering aftertaste was just better attuned to my palate. The winner was Botran Solera 1893.
Next up: Group B Battle – R.L. Seale’s Finest 10 Year Old vs. Khukri