More Long Pond “oddities”. As far as I am aware, this is the first and only 2003 Long Pond on the market. Tasting new vintages of beloved distilleries is always exciting. Today’s rum is the Compagnie des Indes Long Pond 2003 12YO.
Founded in 1753, Long Pond is a sugar estate and distillery in the Jamaican Parish of Trelawny, which is also home to Hampden Estate. Back then, Long Pond was just one of many sugar estates, the majority of which have been shut down or consolidated over the course of history due to falling sugar prices. These consolidations led to larger and larger areas of sugar cane owned by the surviving sugar estates. Today, Long Pond Distillers Limited is part of National Rums of Jamaica (NRJ) while the Long Pond Sugar Estate, together with Hampden Estate, has been bought by the Hussey family in 2009. The Long Pond distillery had to close in 2012 due to leakages at their dunder storage tanks. Pictures of the distillery suggest that commencing production would require massive repairs and investments. While the word is that NRJ is debating a reopening of the distillery, it is not clear if and when this will actually take place. Hampden, which has been closed in 2002, was eventually reopened after the Hussey family bought the estate. Whether Long Pond might follow the same path is unclear, however. As it stands right now, we seem to have lost another important piece of rum history. Let’s hope for the best.
I shared this bottle with the members of the forum Der Rum Club. The interest in this rum was not overwhelming. Perhaps the other members knew more than I did or had a premonition (probably because of the drinking strength of only 44%). Personally, I was very curious to taste a Long Pond from 2003. As stated in the introduction, this is the first and only 2003 bottling from the distillery that I am aware of and I just had to try it.
In my short article on the bottler Compagnie des Indes I claimed that their bottlings are a bit hit and miss but that you can find a few gems among them. I was hoping that this might be one of the latter. What are the reasons that we haven’t gotten another 2003 Long Pond so far? I came up with a few ideas:
- Long Pond simply did not sell a lot to brokers (and hence bottlers) that year.
- Other bottlers are still holding back their rum for further ageing.
- Other bottlers weren’t impressed by the rum’s quality.
At this point all we can do is guess but I believe that the first point might be closest to the truth. Even if other bottlers didn’t like the rum too much, the increasing demand in the product is putting upward pressure on the availability and the price of rum. This is also the reason why we are currently getting both, many high end and low quality rums. Bottlers seem to be happy with just getting anything these days. For connoisseurs this means that you can now grab more gems than ever before, but these are hidden in the even bigger mass of average and subpar bottlings. This is why I rarely ever buy a bottle without getting a sample beforehand. Of course that’s not always possible but you can always share the bottle yourself. That’s the story for another review, however. Let’s carry on with the rum, shall we!?
Dégustation “Compagnie des Indes Long Pond 2003 12YO”
Key Facts: The rum has been distilled at Long Pond in December 2003 and bottled after twelve years in France in April 2016. The mark on the barrel of this single cask rum is JLP6, which yielded 394 bottles at 44%. The mark probably stands for Jamaica Long Pond barrel #6 (2003). Hence there have to be at least five more barrels, one of which has also been bottled by Compagnie des Indes.
Colour and viscosity: Pale staw/ pale gold. Plenty of drops stick to the rim of the glass. The rum slowly flows back in somewhat thick streaks. The rum is quite oily for a twelve year old but the colour hints at an inactive cask.
Nose: My first impression are weak esters and banana. The aromas don’t really want to reveal themselves and you actively have to look for them. This rum is the exact opposite of the very flavourful Long Ponds from the 1993 batch. I get an idea of apples and citrus. Deeper in the glass I can smell vanilla and toffee as well as light oak. Then a few pecan nuts and pistachios. Frankly, the nose is quite sobering and it seems that the rum has been diluted too much.
Palate: Initially I can taste bananas and a mix of nuts. Then a timid whiff of esters but their concentration is very low. Perhaps some unripe persimmon. I can now also taste old cheese, nougat and toffee. The rum’s profile is quite creamy but the flavours are not very powerful. Now I get a good amount of grounded pepper and nutmeg. The rum is increasingly more on the spice-side for me. I can further detect cinnamon, vanilla and curry-marinated chicken breast. The cask was more active than I initially feared.
Finish: Some of the spices and the marinated chicken breast. The banana comes and goes. Later some of the nuts. The finish is not very long.
The Compagnie des Indes Long Pond 2003 12YO has been diluted a bit too much beyond what the rum could have absorbed. While many other aroma bombs from Long Pond demonstrated a relatively high tolerance to water, 2003 does not seem to be such a candidate. Of course there are some more factors involved but I don’t think they are decisive. Even though the rum is very faint, the typical cask aromas are there and I wouldn’t really blame it on the barrel. However, I am also not sure whether the rum would really have been that much better at a higher abv. The flavours emerge during the fermentation process. If the wash isn’t on the point even the best barrels and distillation methods cannot improve the product.
It clearly is no substitute for the recent Long Ponds from 2000. All expressions from that vintage I know were just more profound and aromatic. The vintage that comes closest to this is probably 1985 but even that one was a bit better in my opinion.