Old Jamaica Blind Tasting

After last year’s Rarity/ Antiquity/ Obscurity Blind-Tasting by Niki it was time for part II. This time he sent us solely old Jamaican rums which you cannot buy regularly anymore. All he told us this time was that we wouldn’t be getting any ‘Rumverschnitt’ and no DDR products. By the way, he once told us where he is getting all these rums from… whenever he’s sitting drunk at home he’s browsing through ebay making seemingly random purchases. So now you know.

WhatsApp Image 2018-05-01 at 11.50.10Bristol Monymusk 1977 21YO (46%): Sniffing around the glass I get bananas, pears, limes, fuel and vanilla. It’s actually quite nice. Then Indian fig (the green Pfanner Ice Tea). The first sip is really thin and rather sour with notes of white wine, Riesling, say. Then grapes and vanilla as well as more soapy notes and the Indian fig ice tea again. Sure, why not. It’s not great but not too bad either. The finish is long and (too) sour. The rum should be relatively young (about twelve years) and comes closest to some Long Ponds, without reminding me of any particular ones however. The only other option might be Monymusk but I am completely missing the distillery characteristic notes here.
I’ll add my comments from after the solution in a new paragraph. With hindsight, Monymusk is obvious and while I gave it a thought I was pretty sure about Long Pond here. It’s a solid rum, but definitely not for what it is selling for.

WhatsApp Image 2018-05-02 at 19.15.16Jamaica Rum Ltd. Feiner Alter Echter Jamaica Rum (40%): The nose is not too bad. I get banana, citrus and pears. It’s very fruity with almost no spices. Well, actually it is quite thin. Later a minimum amount of varnish. At the palate, the rum is sweet and bitter at the same time and has a pronounced herbal character. Very weird. Then Angostura Bitters, cough syrup and more bitters. Frankly, it’s awful. Oh my, what is this? Everything here is just so disturbing. Niki, what have you done??? After about 20 minutes it is getting slightly better. The disgusting notes vanish and we are getting more and more vanilla. The finish comes with bitter cough syrup and Angostura Bitters again. It’s quite long. Way too long unfortunately. Even though it is rather aromatic with a heavy body I’d say this is some NAS column still rum. W&N from the ’70s probably. Yuck.
When I tried the rum again after we got the solution it wasn’t quite as bad my notes here suggest but we shall stick with it. Well, let’s just say it is not good.

WhatsApp Image 2018-05-10 at 21.14.49Burke’s Fine Old Original Jamaica Rum (75%): Wow. Finally some esters. This is Jamaica straight in your face. Unfussy and straightforward. In fact, there are plenty of esters, as well as pear, glue and nail polish remover. It’s quite sharp and should probably have >70%. The palate doesn’t fall short of the very aromatic nose. Even though the abv has to be extremely high, the rum is actually quite smooth. That was a surprise! Then pears, esters, lime, chilies, brine, olives and nail lacquer. I like it. The finish is looong with mild chilies and gets exceedingly dry after some time. What leaves me slightly puzzled here is that the rum is quite “clean” and tastes like it might have been produced today. This is not how old rums taste like, which says a lot about the distillery. New Yarmouth perhaps? But it could really be anything.
The rum comes from Rum Albrecht, which is known as Rum Artesanal today. According to official information, it has been produced in 1994 for the last time. The assumption suggests that this comes from Long Pond since the company is known for having imported from the distillery in the past.

WhatsApp Image 2018-05-10 at 22.05.52Pott Privat Rum (42%): At first I get dusty bandages and not much more. Let’s give it some time. After 15-20 minutes the rum has opened up much more. I now get limes, bitter oranges, unidentifiable herbs and some more botanical notes. It’s slightly sweet and the alcohol is more present than I think it should be given the rum’s abv. The rum is relatively thin with the first sip. Sweet and sour notes shape a generally herbal profile that is not very aromatic. It’s a bit like diluted neutral alcohol flavoured by a hint of exotic fruits and some wood. It’s not very likeable but it isn’t extremely bad either. It’s just not flavourful enough to be even considered remotely solid. A rum to forget about, basically. With the third sip I also get extremely salty notes towards the end, which carry out throughout a finish that is way longer than expected. Probably my least favorite rum of the session so far.
The legend goes that Pott bought the very best barrels for their anniversary that W&N had at that point. I think it is save to say that they’ve been ripped off.

WhatsApp Image 2018-05-14 at 20.45.22Hudson’s Bay Jamaica Rum: Uh, this is smelly. There’s plenty of Maggi, lovage and heather. I am not quite sure whether I should be disgusted, puzzled, or simply require getting used to it. After about an hour, it doesn’t get much better. And it doesn’t really gain any additional aromas, the Maggi is just too dominant. What a pity. The palate is not quite as bad but well… it’s not any good either. I even have a hard time finishing this and I really don’t know why I should. It’s better than the Pott Private Rum but that’s it. Definitely one of the losers of the tasting. Another one to forget about. The secret hope of our tasting group is that this is one of the old Delva Rommel Schnapps ;).
This was the most expensive bottle of the session and it sure didn’t taste like it. The label reads: “This Rum is of the same high standard of quality as exported since A.D. 1775”. Oh those poor guys back then. I’ve checked with Rene van Hoven and judged by the cap and label he believes that this dates back to the 1960s or ’70s. The abv is unknown but I think it should be around 43-45%.

WhatsApp Image 2018-05-16 at 21.37.10Sangster’s Conquering Lion (64%): Another white one. The nose is… oh my sweetness! Sugar, sweetener and lime. Readymade Daiquiri perhaps? There’s some alcohol and probably even some cask influence!? I don’t know but judged by the nose I think it is filtered and not completely unaged. Now also something like passion fruit syrup. Anyways, it is way too artificial for my liking. The rum tastes exactly as it smells. Even though it is futile let’s repeat the exercise: Sugar, passion fruit, lime and artificial sweetener. In all seriousness, a (Passionfruit) Daiquiri is most likely the only imaginable way to enjoy this rum. I am not even going to contemplate on a distillery here.
Nice one I must say, I always wanted to try it. Funnily, the label reads “Out of Sweetness Came Forth Strength”. Fitting. All I’ve found out about it is the following (click for source): “Five miles from Gordon Town is World’s End home of Sangster’s liqueurs. The hillside distillery has recently been expanded to satisfy a growing international demand, but still retains a charming Heath Robinsonish atmosphere. Free factory tours are available and you can sample the liqueurs sitting on a small paved patio, complete with an ancient cannon and a fine view of Newcastle.”

WhatsApp Image 2018-05-21 at 17.25.45A.D. Rattray Monymusk (Long Pond) 1986 25YO (46%): The nose is promising and kinda familiar. Dark fruits such as plums or tangerines, weak esters, solid spicy/ nutty notes from the cask and a pleasant herbal touch scream that this is a very balanced and harmonious rum as only Long Pond can produce it. Let’s just hope the assessment wasn’t too quick here. The palate is a little bit less fruity and comes with more nuts, dry cheese, and heather. The finish isn’t special but as I like to say, it supports the rum and nicely bridges the time to the next sip. I definitely like this one quite a bit. It’s easily the best one so far!
Flo from BAT and me are quite sure that this rum has not been labeled correctly and that it is actually from Long Pond. There are two reasons for this. Firstly, there is no other rum from Monymusk from 1986, which is quite odd. Secondly, it is extremely similar to the other rums we’ve got from the 1986 Long Pond batch.

WhatsApp Image 2018-05-21 at 17.46.51
The full line-up. Well, almost.

Here we’re making a cut. This was the “official” blind tasting. However, Niki gave us another bonus blind sample.

WhatsApp Image 2018-05-28 at 08.23.33Lamb’s Navy Rum (43%): The nose has a rather pleasant sweetness. Somehow the rum is very balanced on the one hand but also quite flat on the other. I get sugar, caramel, different herbs and after some time also more fruity notes, together with sulphates. The first sip is relatively sweet, slightly bitter and comes with quite some lovage. It’s not extremely bad but I don’t really like it. The finish is short and by far the worst part of the rum with notes of lovage, wet wood and some tannic elements.
The rum isn’t anything special but what’s special is that this is solely Jamaican rum. The rough period of the rum is unknown to us. Usually Lamb’s is a mutlicountry blend, which I have liked a bit more from my memories.

And, because it fits in here nicely, Johannes provided me with a sample of the following rum:

WhatsApp Image 2018-05-17 at 19.51.34Modin Rhum Jamaica (44%): Relatively faint esters, nutty notes and alcoholic vapour slowly come out of the glass. After a while more fruity aromas reveal themselves but all in all, the nose is quite flat. The taste is way fuller, ticker and infinitely better than the aromas. A mixed fruit basket, nuts, branches and scrub is what I am picking up. It is a lovely mix of sweet and sour elements together with a nice woody support which makes for a very nice, yet easily sippable rum. The dilution is only really a problem in the nose and if such a rum were permanently available at a decent price I’d be quite happy. In the Jamaica Blind Tasting, this would be a solid third place. The finish is also rather pleasant with more citrussy note and exactly the right amount of support from the cask. My guess is that this is another Long Pond. Right now I am liking this a lot, even though the alcohol could be integrated a bit better.


Verdict

With these old rums you never know what you get. The Blind Tasting definitely demonstrated once again that old isn’t always better and that there were way fewer gems back then. The overall quality of rum certainly increased. Nevertheless, the hits from back in the days are simply fantastic, unfortunately they weren’t very high in number this time. If I had to do a ranking, it would be A.D. Rattray > Bristol > Modin > Burke’s > Jamaica Rum Ltd. > Lamb’s > Conquering Lion > Hudson’s Bay >  Pott.
In words: The A.D. Rattray is simply excellent and was by far my favorite rum of the session. Bristol and Modin were both solid but not great, while the unaged Burke’s is very aromatic but lacks the support from the barrel and the complexity and smoothness the previous rums possess. Then the gap gets quite large. The Jamaica Rum Ltd. was drinkable but not really to my liking while the Lamb’s was okayish as well but way too flat. If Conquering Lion really is a natural product we might actually be ranking it higher since it is so different and distinct. Definitely an interesting rum and worth a shot if you get the chance. The next two fellas don’t deserve many words. The Hudson’s Bay has a disgusting nose. The taste is okay but doesn’t make up for the pain you are going through before taking a sip. And Pott is… well…, at least not as bad as the standard expression but that doesn’t really mean anything.

Finally and before I forget it again, thanks a lot Niki for the experience… and for some of the rums :p

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