deliberately misleading age "statements"

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Charles M πŸ‡¬πŸ‡§ | 149 ratings Author Posted 11 Nov '22

Not sure about others, but I am getting increasingly bored of labels being deliberately misleading over age "statements". The last 2 that I have come across were called Reserve Blend 12 and XO Blend 23. They are not a 12yo/23yo yet the use of those numbers is IMO designed to suggest that. OK, price will tell you that XO Blend 23 is very unlikely to be a 23yo, but the Reserve Blend 12 isn't quite so clear cut. It might I suppose have a bit of 12/23yo rum in the blend, but the blend is only as old as it's youngest component. With Scotch it is called AYS - age of youngest spirit.

Kirk & Sweeney did the same thing. They changed their crowd pleaser K&S 12yo to K&S 12 Reserva - it clearly was a retrograde step in the quality and I highly suspect a lot younger. Some seem to call it K&S Reserva (as they do seem to have now dropped 12) while I not others, like my supermarket, call it K&S 12yo Reserva. Zacapa is another with their 23 Sistema Solera. And there are plenty more......

I know that there are calls for labelling regulations to be brought into being, and I really think it can't come soon enough. As a consumer, I just want to know what's what. I guess it never really bothered me that much, but with ever more independents coming on to the market and established players changing things up, it seems to get to me more and more, and more and more common.

I bottle Scotch whisky, and they're very tight on labelling regs and making sure that there is nothing misleading there. If I put 23 on a label, it 100% means the AYS is at least 23 years old, and would have to be accompanied by "years old"

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Mr. Rumantic πŸ‡©πŸ‡ͺ | 296 ratings Replied 13 Nov '22

I am totaly with you and that is why i buy mostly rums from independent bottlers or Rhum Agricole. A lot of bottlers, especially from the DR or Panama just write on there label what ever they want. Anybody really belive that Zafra 21 or Malecon 25 are really that old? For 50-60€? Than please explaine that to me how they do it and where all the old rum is coming from. And i know they have very big stocks in Panama. Also i hate the 20 or 30 Anniversary on the label, just to have a high number. A shame. The Same with the whole Solera labels. All just marketing.

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Paul B πŸ‡ΊπŸ‡Έ | 473 ratings Replied 14 Nov '22

The Caribbean is not Scotland and each island or location always marches to the beat of a different drummer. Since there is absolutely nothing that we can all do about this, I simply put the worst offenders like Zacapa on my shit list to never buy anything from them again. And now Kirk & Sweeney along with Dictador 20 have been added to my list. Brugal has been on my shit list for years and not because of misleading age statements. They are just awful.

The Spanish locations seem to be the worst offenders. However, there is something to be said for rums aged in a solera system. The taste will be consistent from year to year. The English locations tend to be more strict, but there are bad sides to this as well. I no longer buy any of the Foursquare ECS rums because they are clearly created for bourbon drinkers who are slowly moving into rums. This is not me, so when I try a new one from them, there is a very high probability that it will have the bourbon notes that I hate.Β  And in very rare cases where there are no bourbon notes like Shibboleth, good luck finding another bottle because the dirty rotten investors have bought out all of the bottles to sell at auction. I do not play that game, so no more of these rums at all for me. I still buy Mr. Seale's line of Doorly's rums, which are consistent with each bottle (and cheap!).

Charles M πŸ‡¬πŸ‡§ | 149 ratings Author Replied 14 Nov '22

While Scotland isn't the Caribbean, the labelling regulations were actually an EU thing, and still carried on with now that we've left EU. EC regulation 110/2208 probably covers it.

But it doesn't need international agreement. If someone could ever be bothered (which of course is the elephant in the room), producers could apply to a private organisation for certification. Those that were certified would have to meet labelling regs, those without could then be approached with more caution. Whether anyone would ever do it is another matter. I know Richard Seale was pushing for something, but.......As for the Foursquare, it seemed easy to buy when the Zinfandel and Port Cask offerings were there, but now far too much effort. I've still got a bit of Zinfandel and Port left - had an open bottle so thought I better get to it, looked up on line and saw the price was GBP350 a bottle - ridiculous.Β 

But I guess, like you, one just has to have a "shit list" not that that helps the average consumer. I was speaking to one recently about a Diplomatico, which he was extolling it's virtues. I said 40g/l of added sugar was too much for me, and he didn't know that that was really an "issue".

The labelling/classification would have to be kept relatively simple with the main basic info. The 2 things I primarily want to know are age and how much sugar has been added. I guess that is why I like Mezan rums. Apart from the XO, age is clearly stated in years, and they do not add any sugar/colour.

Toni πŸ‡©πŸ‡ͺ | 36 ratings Replied 28 Nov '22

@mr. rumantic Appletons 12 year old was available for 20-25 € for a long time. And you dont ask themΒ  for proof (because it is not a spanish styled rum)? Look i get your point. You are kind of suspicious. My point is Zafra 21 years old is clearly written on the bottle. It is not a misleading hint unlike the "Zacapa 23". And we do not know what 23 means. Malecon is the same,Β  there is a clear age statement on the bottle. Neither Zafra nor Malecon do refer to solera production method on their bottles. So i assume the age statement is the age of the rum. Do you have any proof to tell us otherwise besides "price to good"? No? Then you are just speculating very hard.

Charles M πŸ‡¬πŸ‡§ | 149 ratings Author Replied 28 Nov '22

Fine Toni, you're OK with misleading labelling. I'm not and I'll carry on "speculating" about random numbers used on labels while thinking it is being disingenous at best and that consumers deserve a lot better. As for solera systems & age statements, the AYS is the AYS hence why I suspect producers are are a bit coy over things.

But each to their own I guess.Β 

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Mr. Rumantic πŸ‡©πŸ‡ͺ | 296 ratings Replied 29 Nov '22


1. Countrys like Jamaica, Barbados or even Portugal Madeira have rules, regulations and controls. So yeah... i trust Appleton more.

2. I am sorry... there is a big difference between 12 and 21 years of storage. The Appleton 21 costs around 100€. So almost douple the price of the Zafra 21. Almost same ABV. And in Jamaca for axample the Number on the Label must be the youngest rum in the blend. Don't forget that most rums are blends from different barrels, so that the taste is always the same. Even Limited Edition or Anniversary Bottles are blends from barrels of the one year.

3. Many bottlers like Kirk and Sweeney change there labels at the moment from "years" to "reserva". Guess why. They only produce blends with many different aged barrels. The oldest is mostly the smalles part. I think same would happen if the solera name would be more protected. Most solera rums are just simple blends. Older barrels with a lot of angel share get filled up with younger rum. A real solera uses very old barrels cause they don't want barrel flavors. Solera is used for making Sherry by the way.

4. I read a lot of articals and talked to people who i would call "experts" and travelled to Panama and make business there (with rum). They all say that the market in Panama for example is a magic box. Every can do what ever he wants.

5. I have no problem with spanish style rum. When you look at my cabinet you see that i love El Ron del Artesano. Rum from Panama. I would say the best rum from Panama. And i finished my bottle Zafra 21 and it was a good daily sipper.

6. I had real 24years old Panama Rum in my glas. An man... so good. And you can tell the difference and why it costs over 200€. Damn good.

7. I think it is not wise to simply trust labels. That there are almost no rules how to make rum is a blessing and curse at the same time. That is why we have so many different Styles but also so many black sheeps.

8. I think the Malecon Rare Proof 20y 1996 is a very good spanish style rum. Love it.

9. I think i am allowed to speculate as much as i want. What i write here are open secrets. And i think that i have some good points. The low ABV may help to make the rum cheaper. But still... i don't know.

10. I love some good discussion. Please don't take that stuff personal.

Toni πŸ‡©πŸ‡ͺ | 36 ratings Replied 30 Nov '22

First of all thank you for sharing your point of view. There are many useful insights and informations, some i did not have yet. And of course you are allowed to speculate, i just labelled your statements as such. I still tend to believe the age statement of Zafra and Malecon until someone proves otherwise. There is still a difference between "speculation" and "open secret". If we see a rum from Jamaica with "HD" or "HMDN" label then it is an open secret that this rum is distilled at Hampden. You telling us Zafra cant be 21 yo is speculation on thin ice.

Of course i understand there are more trust issues at a market with LESS regulation. But , without knowing it, my common sense tells me that it cant be legal to put obviosly wrong information on bottles in almost any country.Β  Any country has some legal regulation. Especially in the EU where Zafra and Malecon are marketed also. That means there is a probability that someone with criminal energy will put cheap stuff in bottles and sell them as premium products. But the higher probability is that Zafra 21yo is actually 21 years old. And Malecon 1996 is actually distilled in 1996.

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Jagsroy (PREMIUM) πŸ‡¨πŸ‡¦ | 295 ratings Replied 30 Nov '22

Charles. I totally agree with what you are saying. As far as I'm concerned the brands that do not clearly state the age of their products are simply misleading their customers and selling them an inferior product for an inflated price. I wish th3 regulations for rum producers were strict. After all there is nothing wrong with stating the true age of a rum, along with the list of additives. Those who enjoy the adulterated products will continue to purchase the same products. But be transparent! I enjoy unsweetened rum and it really annoyed me when I started into my rum journey to dish out money for an inferior product. I felt cheated and never bought anything from those companies again. BE TRANSPARENT!

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Jagsroy (PREMIUM) πŸ‡¨πŸ‡¦ | 295 ratings Replied 30 Nov '22

On the same vein I admire what "Plantation" does. Years ago I purchased a Plantation 20th anniversary rum and was really disappointed as it was laced with added sugar. I did not buy another Plantation product until I found out from their website that they provide details on the dosage (added sugar) oneach and every offreings. I subsequently discovered several of their Single Cask offerings were dry andhad 0 suger added. I found a number of those products that I enjoy. Transparency is all we want and Plantation has done a great job of it.

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Mr. Rumantic πŸ‡©πŸ‡ͺ | 296 ratings Replied 30 Nov '22


Do you really think anybody in the EU controls if the age of the rum is right? How? That is not possible. I think we miss the point. I just wanted to explain, why i feel better buying from independend bottlers or coutrys with regulations and why i think trusting a label is difficult. Of course I think you are totally right to say not guilty until proven otherwise. But to prove something that is happening almost on the other side of the globe is nearly impossible. But the signs are there. Be sure... If i had prove i would lower my ratings : ). In the end it matters if you like the rum or not and if you feel happy buying and drinking it.

For me... i like Malecon for example. I think it is good rum for a fair price. But do i belive that the rum is 100% 25years old? No. I think it is a blend with different aged barrels from which some are 25 years old and some are not. And there is no criminal minded stuff going on. Just the way things work on the rum market for many years. Thinks start to change slowly. Again... there are reasons that the labels change so fast at the moment. And now please let's stop with Malecon or Zafra. They were just the first i could think of. There are so many rums that are far worse. Like the Oliver & Oliver rums or Don Papa ... but please... don't ask me if i have prove. ; P or if i hate them. I don't. I just think they do things there own way...Β  : D

Kevin πŸ‡ΊπŸ‡Έ | 80 ratings Replied 6 Dec '22

My understanding is that spanish style rum age statements are the oldest rum blended into the product and English style rums are the youngest. So, a spanish rum could state 23yrs even though they only blend a drop into the product. With English rums they can add a drop of 23yr old into a 12yr old to bring out the 12yr old potential and the youngest rum used is the age on the bottle. So a bottle of english rum stated at 4yrs old may not sell at a profitable price and adding a drop or two of a more aged rum brings the possibility of being profitable into play. Disclaimer, I'm not a professional rum scientist, just a pirate. This is only what I've read.

rumtrinker πŸ‡©πŸ‡ͺ | 45 ratings Replied 9 Dec '22

I think the point is that we want clarity of information.

If a rum states "two drops of 23 year old rum added to 2 year old rum, aged in steel tanks" that is fine. If the same rum states "23 year old rum" that is useless at best, intentionally misleading at not so best. And knowing mankind in general, especially the profit-making sort, I tend to judge for the second option: Intentionally misleading.