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Rum Reviews

Renaissance White Alligator 2018 Single Rum

 

I really am kicking myself that I did not pen this review sooner, having sat on the tasting notes from quite some time ago back in 2022 when I was very graciously offered the chance to try one of the more exciting rums coming to the fore of the scene - now you might've guessed it, it's Taiwan's Renaissance Rum.

Renaissance Rum has done quite a good job for itself at fanning the flames of passion from the rum community - they’ve pretty much aced it as far as giving a rum geek everything they could possible want. What appears to be a deceptively minimalist front label is a stark contrast to the information stacked back label.

The Taiwanese rum distillery whilst only officially established in 2017, has actually been a decades long effort by husband and wife duo Olivier Caen and Linya Chiou. The pair had years earlier in 2006 started a wine and spirits importer in Taiwan, and quickly recognised the potential to be Taiwan’s first proper rum amidst a fast growing demand for rums as a category itself.

 

Olivier Caen and Linya Chiou.

 

| Read: Taiwan Is Not Known For Its Rums, Renaissance Is About To Change That

 

Early on, they had begun with just a pot still that they were able to procure, and would grow their own sugarcane, testing the viability of producing both molasses and sugarcane juice rums. This would go on for some 4 plus years until they were convinced that their idea had firm merits. From the get go, the duo have been highly committed to producing their rums at the highest standards - believing that the entire process ought to be 100% handled by them in order to ensure quality. As a result you won’t find independently bottled Renaissance rums (at least just yet) or any of their rums matured off Taiwan’s shores - this conviction is also the reason for the incredibly detailed back label which they believe is what a distillery owes its fans. Isn’t that just music to every rum aficionado’s ears?

Another rather peculiar aspect about what Renaissance has done is to focus entirely on producing small batches of rums, most of which are bottled single cask and at cask strength, but also each batch typically features the use of a unique cask type. While the distillery certainly had an affinity for wine casks, the spectrum of wine types previously filling the casks used by Renaissance has been incredibly varied. While that does mean each expression is incredibly singular and highly scarce, it also does result in some interesting consequences - like the high price tag and the absence of a single classic expression that defines the brand and distillery.

 

  

And while we’re talking Renaissance, we undoubtedly have to also talk about what it means to be a Taiwanese rum - a responsibility that the distillery shoulders whether they want to to or not. Given that the world has up till now not had anything from Taiwan, Renaissance by default will simply have to bear representation for the island itself. The terrain - historically, geographically and as a matter of social preference - does in fact hold some advantages.

For one, Taiwan already has a well-developed palate where it comes to alcohol when you consider its place as one of the largest whisky and beer markets. Geographically, it is also actually incredibly comparable in latitude to the Caribbean islands which are of course the most prized when it comes to rums - thus it has a somewhat comparable climate, which bears the next point about historical factors supporting rum making. Given the Taiwanese climate, the island was actually well known at one point for sugar production which proved to be a sizeable contributor to the local economy - the island has over 400 varietals of sugarcane! Nevertheless, as a result of geopolitical reasons, the industry was never given sufficient room to grow. All of these positive factors certainly outweigh the current local absence of a taste for rums, as well as regulations that may at times be tricky to starting a rum distillery.

 

 

All in, the rum is here and we'll just have to see if it takes off. 

We're going to review the Renaissance 2018 Single Rum that was aged in a White Alligator Single Cask #18256 - "White Alligator" being a Level 4 heavily charred white oak cask.

This will go back to our first experience with Renaissance. Onward! 

Renaissance White Alligator 2018 Single Rum, Single Cask #18256, 65% ABV - Review

 

Tasting Notes

Aroma: Densely sweet, quite decadent, raisins, caramel, cinnamon and clove spices, a couple drops of fish sauce - I know right? Toss in some oyster sauce too. Plum juice, port wine, blackberry jam, cacao nibs, alittle bit of balsamic vinegar too. Very unusual to say the least.

Taste: Still really thick on the caramel, raisins and plum juice. Rum soaked raisins, in fact. Brandy soaked cherries too. Umeshu. It’s this dense fruit-steeped-in-liqueur quality. Cacao nibs, blackberry jam, alittle bit of rosewater, butterscotch. Still can’t shake off that incredibly umami hit of oyster sauce, teriyaki sauce even. Drops of vinegar still, parsley too. It’s really thick and it’s a mix of heavy caramelised sweet notes alongside a super rich umami flavour. Some cloves.

Finish: Lingering teriyaki sauce, alittle bit of rancio notes here, charred teriyaki meats, sweet but really umami. Some remaining herbaceousness of parsley and some white pepper.

 

My Thoughts

This is really a headscratcher - it simultaneously reminds me of confectionaries like churros and Cinnabons but also oyster sauce tossed around with parsley - more specifically it remains me of a popular dish in Singapore / Malaysia called Lor Mee (egg noodles served with braised meat, vinegar, parsley, in a thick gooey, almost gelatinous sauce made of Chinese five-spice, anise, dark soy sauce, soy sauce, oyster sauce and thickened with starch). Perhaps the closest comparison I could make for those outside of the Malayan Peninsula would be teriyaki sauce.

And with this clash of two incredibly rich and strong flavour profiles - I truly can’t decide if I like it or not. Now, I should state in no uncertain terms - this was a well-made rum. Nothing about it would indicate otherwise - it was incredibly big on flavour, expressed its aromas and flavours well, good rounded body, honestly all of it was very well done. I just can’t quite call it when it comes to the combination of the two flavour profiles. 

Maybe that’s another definition of a good rum? One that challenges you and makes you ponder - if that was a qualifier, this Renaissance would nail it.

Eccentric would probably best describe this.

 

 

PS: I would later try a whole range of Renaissance Rums at a casual tasting during the launch of Samsu Huaykuan Bar in Singapore (likely the largest collection of Renaissance Rums out there) - this ranged from the 2018 Cognac Cask, 2018 Fino Cask, 2019 Pine Rouge, 2019 Noble Rot, 2018 Bas-Armagnac Cask, amongst others. And I have to say that the Amarone Cask 2019 was by far one of the most spectacular rums I’ve tasted.

 

Kanpai!

 

@111hotpot