Camikara Rum 12 Year Old Review

Drink Reviews rum
Camikara Rum 12 Year Old Review

I’ve often stated here in the past that of all the major spirits categories, rum is both the most universally present and universally misunderstood, at least when it comes to U.S. customers. Although misconceptions about how rum is made and what it truly is continue to run rampant in our spirits market, the category itself never fails to generate fascination in the true believers and rum geeks. I think on some level this is due to how truly adaptable and cosmopolitan rum really is–anywhere that humans lay hands upon sugar cane, rum is the inevitable result, but they all turn out radically different even when the same techniques are used. In the last few years, this has led to me sampling rums from all over the globe as a spirits writer, be it the island of Réunion, the rain forest of Belize, or nation of South Africa. And so, I wasn’t particularly surprised to learn of the mere existence of India’s Camikara Rum–this is after all potentially the world’s most populous country. But tasting what’s in the bottle? That was indeed surprising.

Camikara Rum is a product of Piccadily Distilleries, best known as the country’s largest producer of malt whiskies, with brands such as Indri and Whistler. On the side, however, the company has also dabbled in the fermentation and distillation of pure sugar cane juice rums, a process that inadvertently led to the creation of Camikara. That the brand started right out of the gate with a 12 year old pot still expression is rather unusual for the rum world, but a factor of the simple fact that the barrels containing this rum were literally forgotten about in Piccadily Distilleries warehouses, only rediscovered when they were practically empty thanks to the heat of tropical aging. What remained, though, was good enough to convince the company to pursue Camikara as a brand, and thus it was born. Oddly, this 12 year old is not technically what the company considers its flagship brand–perhaps this is because they simply don’t have enough of this stock to keep producing it. Rather, a soon-to-arrive 8 year expression (hitting U.S. shelves in the fall) is meant to be the widespread core brand, and this one is something of a tease for its eventual arrival.

There’s no doubt that this is some serious rum, though, with its 12 year age statement and sturdy 50% ABV (100 proof). One wonders if perhaps the cane juice (rather than molasses) base will make for something evocative of the well-aged rhum agricoles of Martinique or Guadeloupe, but we’ll just have to taste and see. So let’s get to it.

On the nose, Camikara 12 Year displays vivacious character that flits between fruit, spice and barrel impressions, with lots of banana bread, slathered in caramel, segueing into clove, ginger and licorice. There is a lot going on here–it is distinctly fruity, spicy and tropical in its shape, with pot still-derived esters and more than a little bit of alcohol heat making the elevated proof more obvious. Surprisingly, though, it doesn’t have a whole lot of fresher cane juice character that is easily identified, lacking the grassy or earthy impressions that are usually found in even well-aged agricole rums. I suspect that it’s because this one has interacted so much with the barrels during that long, hot maturation that it’s instead fully embraced barrel-derived characteristics. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing, just an unexpected thing for cane juice rums. All said, I still do like this nose quite a bit–it’s perfumey and spicy and intriguing, with loads of baking spice but not a ton of overt woodiness.

On the palate, this rum opens up with huge spice notes, wave after wave of oaky spice–although sort of oddly it’s again not a very intense woodiness and pure oak flavor, but more like an infusion of baking spices. I’m getting lots of cinnamon, ginger, allspice and anise, flanked by sweet caramel and flambéed banana. A little heavily charred mocha is another nice touch, rounding things out. The banana is quite pronounced and ripe, supported by peppery heat. This is quite flavorful overall, but again it seems like many of these flavors are derived from the barrel rather than the local terroir of that cane juice. Again, not a bad thing, but it makes this rum arguably drink more like a well-aged molasses rum than most aged agricoles.

All in all, I find this one really engaging even it’s not quite what I was expecting. It has character to spare, and I’m sure it would probably shine through quite brightly in just about any classic rum cocktail or tiki drink. The only consumer I would expect not to necessarily appreciate it is someone who really wants more of those grassy, earthy tones out of the cane juice, but what Camikara has instead given us is a beautifully spicy and fruity aged rum.

Distillery: Camikara Rum
Region: India
Style: Cane juice rum
ABV: 50% (100 proof)
Availability: 750 ml bottles, $90 MSRP

Jim Vorel is a Paste staff writer and resident beer and liquor geek. You can follow him on Twitter for more drink writing.

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Share Tweet Submit Pin