I love rum. Absolutely love it. Hands down, the best fun you can have with a spirit. But there are rums and rums. White rum (not mentioning any names) leaves me fairly cold; the rough heat in the back of the throat allied with the paint-stripper nose make for a fairly unhappy man. It is through the aging process that we begin to see the potential fulfilled and the finesse which can be achieved.
I am a lucky sod, and through our travels, Mrs W-J and I have had the opportunity to visit some rum distilleries in the Caribbean. Through these trips we have had the chance to see the differences which can be achieved through various aging processes and indeed the wood in which the rum is eventually aged.
At Plumpton College (East Sussex - www.plumpton.ac.uk - OK Chris?) we study wood and its effect on wine maturation, the type of wood, time spent in barrel etc. In fact this is a key bit of info for WSET exams, particularly in relation to Rioja. More on that another time.
A good example of this is Bruichladdich Premier Cru series (available all over, including Majestic if I didn't drink them out of it) where the scotch is aged in a variety of different barrels whose former life was as housing for permier cru French wine. The differences between each of the series (Lafite-Rothschild, Latour, Margaux, Haut-Brion, D'Yquem, Lafleur) is absolutely apparent. The sweet, honeyed d'Yquem is a different animal entirely to the more robust smoky Haut-Brion. I would recommend buying and tasting the whole range but at around 56 quid a shout, you'd be better off just drinking the d'Yquem (trust me).
Which brings me back around the the rum which landed on my doorstep the other day
The Dos Maderas PX 5+5
And what a little ripper she is too! Courtesy of Harrods (yes I know) this rum is truly sensational. The rum is a blend of rums from Guyana and Barbados which undergo 5 years aging in the Caribbean in oak barrels. The rum is then shipped to Jerez where a second maturation of 5 years is undertaken in both Palo Cortado (light sherry - 3 years) and finally 2 years in sweet sticky Pedro Ximenez barrels. If you are not familiar with PX then it is an extremely sweet sherry style which you can practically spread with a knife.
The resulting product is fantastic! Sweet, smooth, smoky and dark, this rum has all the warmth with none of the burn. The nose is honey and caramel with a dark stately-home-on-fire rich smokiness. On the palate, as I said, it is smooth beyond belief with a caramel spice which goes on for miles. Buy it. Don't worry about the price. (It's about 45 quid)
Another premium rum well worth a look is the gorgeous:
I had the pleasure of visiting the St Lucia distillery where this is made, and what an operation it is! The Island no longer produces cane for the rum, as such molasses are imported from Guyana but the final product is pure St Lucia, luxury with a bit of mystery thrown in. The Admiral Rodney is one of the top rums produced at the site, and is a blend which averages out to 12 years in style. The aging is carried out in ex bourbon barrels which are heavily charred on the inside which gives this rum it's smoky character. The nose of this wine is full of dried fruit. Think figs and raisins. The palate is warm, indulgent and rich, with an elegant burn on the back which reminds you you're drinking something. I buy this rum whenever I can (s'not cheap), and recommend you to do so. If you ever need a refined drinking rum, then this is the one to go for.
From the same distillery as the Admiral Rodney comes one of the best all round rums on the market, Chairman's Reserve. The standard is absolutely perfect for your day-to-day rum needs, lovely on its own, with some lime and sugar, or in cocktails. The colour is appealing, lighter than the two above, more of a golden hue. On the palate it is light, rich with complexity and long. The flavours hint a little at what can be seen in the Admiral Rodney but come across cleaner and a little rougher (which is no bad thing).
I did come across a little beauty at the airport coming home last time, and the story is fabulous. It also serves as a good example of what I was saying earlier - more wood = different tastes.
The Forgotten Casks
In 2007, a fire ripped through the distillery offices at the St Lucia site, it missed the still and most of the stock (phew), but did cause a lot of the barrels to be moved around, just to be on the safe side. This ended up in some of the casks being put in "unusual" places, and subsequently....misplaced. What came out, however is a testament to wood aging. The smoke is intense, and the palate almost tannic. This is a rum for people who drink Madiran and stand-your-fork-in-it malbec. The rum is full of structure and length. A fine tribute to a happy mistake.
On to Barbados, the happiest island I ever did see.
You've heard of Mount Gay rum. It's probably to most well known of the "not Lambs or Bacardi" rums readily available in the UK. The standard Mount Gay is a go-to drink for most of my friends, almost interchangeable in terms of quality and drinkability with Chairman's Reserve, the bottle of Mount Gay brought to a party is always welcome. I drink it with lime and sugar until I start to talk like a pirate, then I put soda in it. Pure bottle joy.
And like the St Lucia distillers, Mount Gay make a series of rums in different styles, I missed out on drinking the super premium (by a matter of hours it was that good apparently) so unfortunately I can't talk about it here but I did extensively test the
Mount Gay Extra Old
With utter joy. This rum is perfect. The added age gives it subtleties and complexity of flavour. Nutty almost biscuitty (gingerbread) notes on the nose and a warm toasty oakiness on the palate. I should really have written down what I was thinking at the time, but I was having too much fun. Drink it neat. On ice. DO NOT MIX IT WITH VODKA AND CALL IT A RUMTINI THAT IS NOT A THING.
over and out.