Baur au Lac Llandovery Estate Old Jamaica Rum

Today we shall taste a very special bottling that likely dates back to the early or mid 20th century. It’s a piece of rum history if you will and comes from the long closed Llandovery Estate.

The Bottling

llandoveryca1890byJames Johnston (2)
Llandovery Estate ~1890. Photo by James Johnston.

Llandovery was a sugar estate located on the north coast of Jamaica‘s St Ann parish. Named after a place in Wales, the first ownership entry I have found dates back to 1770, when a certain Samuel Whitehorn deceased and the estate has been passed on to James Rigby Whitehorn. Back then, they were mostly planting sugar but already distilled rum as a byproduct. It seems likely that the estate has been founded somewhat earlier though. From an academic slave register, which unfortunately doesn’t go beyond the end of the 19th century, we know that the estate, as pretty much all other Jamaican sugar factories back then, has constantly been distilling rum. In 1952, Llandovery has been merged with the adjoining Richmond Sugar Estate owned by the Dougall family and was henceforth known as “Richmond-Llandovery”. In 1970, the estate was one of the last to shut down in St Ann, putting an end to the almost 300 years of sugar production in the parish. According to another source, Richmond-Llandovery has been sold to the Jamaican government in the 1970s, who later resold Richmond Estate to the Brooks family. The family abandoned the cultivation of sugar to focus on citrus and cattle instead. Parts of Llandovery estate were destroyed by Hurricane Gilbert in 1988 but today you might still see a few remnants such as a waterwheel and a former storehouse. Anyways, it seems very plausible that they kept on distilling rum at least until the 1960s.

llandovery
Llandovery sugar factory. Photo by The Gleaner

Baur au Lac is a 5-star luxury hotel and wine shop in Zürich. In 1838, the hotel pioneer Johannes Baur founded the Hotel Baur at the Paradeplatz, the contemporary Savoy Baur en Ville. Six years later, he opened a second one at the Zürichsee, which he fittingly called Baur au Lac. Since almost 175 years now, they have been active in selling high quality wines but apparently also the occasional spirit. Concerning this bottling, the following is stated on the bottle without further information: “Rum Company Ltd. Kingston – Jamaica B.W.1”. In 1929, The Rum Company Kingston has been founded as a subsidiary of the Swiss Compagnie Rhumière de Bâle under the direction of Rudolf Waeckerlin-Fiechter to guarantee the quality in the selection of the raw materials and production of rum on Jamaica. Dating back to 1889, the Basel Rum Company is known for the brand Coruba (Compagnie Rhumière de le), which was designed to bring true and honest rum to the people in Europe. In 1962, the year of Jamaica’s independence, The Rum Company Kingston has been acquired by Wray & Nephew (Appleton) who started to produce for Coruba, which is still blended in Switzerland. I know it’s all a bit complicated but depending on what we believe in concerning the rum’s date of distillation it might also be from Appleton. While I personally have no reason to doubt that this rum actually originates from Llandovery, the possibility exists and some of the people I’ve talked to (and René van Hoven whom Johannes sent a picture of the bottle) seem to believe so as well. I hope the additional information I have gathered can convince some of the nay-sayers but in the end no-one will know for sure. Perhaps the tasting can shed more light on the issue.

Addendum

Jamaicaoutput1967ca
Jamaican output table (~1967).

The table above shows, among others, the Jamaican Rum output for by distillery for the year ~1967. While the table is interesting in itself, it proves that Richmond-Llandovery produced rum at least until this point in time.


Dégustation “Baur au Lac Llandovery Estate Old Jamaica Rum”

Key Facts: Not much is known about this rum. Coming from Jamaica’s Llandovery estate, it has most likely been distilled in the early or mid 20th century. It has been imported and bottled by the Swiss Baur au Lac.

Colour and viscosity: Mahogany. A thick crown at the top. The rum slowly flows back down. It is incredibly oily.

Nose: There isn’t a lot of alcohol here but nevertheless it is quite intense – and lovely. I get plenty of dried fruits such as apricots, mangos, coconut grates and banana chips. The rum is very fruity but in a very adult and elegant kind of way. Then wood, cocoa, and some more coconut. It’s relatively complex and delicate yet so compact at the same time. I think we are in for a real treat!

Palate: Oh my. This is everything the nose promised. Even though the abv isn’t very high, this is very full-bodied and flavourful. The rum is very sweet with the full dose of stone fruits and a decent amount of oak in the background. I tastes like it has been ageing in a barrel which previously contained fortified wine but that seems rather unlikely. We get all the fruits from the nose (dried apricots, mangos and coconut grates), leather and just a touch of spices such as cinnamon or cloves at the back-end. Really, this has to be an ex-Sherry cask or something similar.

Finish: Very short, unfortunately. I get notes of dry Sherry and cherry-like associations but these fly away rather quickly.


Verdict

What a beauty this piece of rum history is! I wish there were more of this. Typically I am not one of those who mourn ancient times and old rums from the past but these days we just don’t get rums like the Llandovery Estate Old Jamaica Rum anymore. Sure, the abv could have been higher to get an even more intense tasting experience but the rum doesn’t feel to be excessively diluted. Only the finish is a bit disappointing. Moreover, you have to like the Sherry notes in order to appreciate this rum but any recommendations would obviously be quite futile anyways.
Now where is this rum coming from? I have compared it to the two Appletons I have reviewed here and a few old Long Ponds and I’d say that it has parallels with both distilleries; but also pronounced differences. That said, I don’t see why it shouldn’t come from Llandovery Estate. Unfortunately I have never tasted the Appleton 1962 50YO but I guess that it might actually be closer to this rum, at least if we consider the rums age and its time of distillation but who knows.
Thanks a lot Sebastian for splitting this bottle.

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