Brand: Down Island Spirits
Origin: Epris Distillery, São Roque, São Paulo, Brazil
Age: 12 years
Finish: Amburana & ex-Bourbon
For the second review in a row, Down Island Spirits' Summer 2023 release takes center stage. In my opinion, this is the more interesting of the two, when considering the facts around its production.
Down Island Spirits Brazil 2011 is less secretive than its sister release, indicating that it was distilled at Epris Distillery in Sao Roque, Brazil. Try as I may, I did not find much information about Epris online, and cannot find details on its location or current status; the best info I got was from a Lone Caner post that indicated the Brazilian distillery produced distillate for Bacardi at one point.
Despite its reculsiveness, Epris has provided rums to a number of independent bottlers such as Duncan Taylor, Compagnie des Indes, Cadenheads, and perhaps most recently, Single Cask Nation. Interestingly, most of the vintages seem to be either 1999 or 2011, according to RumX.
Down Island's release is from that 2011 lot, specifically cask no. VX4-05 A (unsure if this is the cask numbering scheme from Down Island, Epris, or a third party broker), and selected by the fine folks in the Florida Rum Society. It started its journey as a split base of 80% cane juice and 20% molasses raw materials, which were either combined before distillation in Epris' column still, or afterwards.
The resulting rum was first stored in a Brazilian Amburana wood cask– which is having a moment in bourbon right now– for 6 years in Brazil. Then, it was transferred to Europe where it spent another 6 years in an American Oak (ex-Bourbon) cask. Finally, the rum was bottled in Florida at a strength of 55.1% ABV.
This is my first Brazilian rum, as well as one of the few split-base rums that I've heard of, let alone tried (the only other one is Chairman's Reserve Legacy), so I'm excited to dive into this dram.
Gold, high clarity, low viscosity
Butterscotch, vinegar, boiled hot dogs, vanilla, burnt sugarcane, toasted cinnamon sticks, fresh cut grass
Black licorice, star anise, cinnamon bark, vanilla, burnt sugarcane, nutmeg, cardemom, allspice
Long, warming, enjoyably bitter; black licorice, cinnamon rolls, sugarcane, oak, motor oil
The blend makeup of Brazil 2011 provides some quintessential notes that can be found in both cane juice and molasses distillate, but the sum of both parts creates a unique experience that doesn't quite fit into either camp.
The nose's vinegar and boiled hot dog aromas are bizarre but join some familiar burnt sugarcane and grassy notes found in cane juice rums. The palate's star anise, cinnamon, and other baking spice flavors echo the Amburana maturation, which provides a lovely, complex, and distinct cask profile.
With Brazil 2011, Down Island Spirits brings us a rum that is truly one-of-a-kind. We don't get many Brazilian rums, so hats off to Mike and the Down Island team for taking a leap of faith on this one. The innovative blend and dual maturation make this a bottle that I'd say won't be replicated elsewhere.