Fires at Long Pond & Rum Nation Jamaica 30YO

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Long Pond Sugar Factory. © The Gleaner

Actually I wanted to talk about another rum today but the recent catastrophe at Jamaica‘s Long Pond distillery made me change my mind. Three days ago, on Monday 16.7.2018, fires on a sugar cane field nearby the Long Pond sugar factory spread to a pile of bagasse, a residual product of sugar cane crushing, and quickly also to the distillery. Fortunately, no one has been injured and local firefighters managed to confine the fire to one area, the main storage area. At Long Pond, the storage area consists of two sections, one containing alcohol and fresh rum, the other mostly raw materials for production. Over 60,000 litres of new make rum have been destroyed but later we’ve also learned that only production materials and buildings were damaged. Aged rum has not been destroyed since Long Pond doesn’t store it at the facility. Likewise, the stills survived unscathed. The fire was contained on the morning of the following day, except for the bagasse dump. All of this makes it sound as if operations will be able to resume shortly and indeed, the heart of the distillery, the historic stills, is still intact. However, frequent readers of this blog and mostly everyone who has ever participated in the production of wines and/ or spirits knows that fermentations are at least as important as distillation. It is in this step that flavour groups and compounds are created – distillation merely extracts these flavours by separating them from water. While the design, size, shape and handling of the stills are no doubt among the decisive factors in rum production, stills or parts of them are in many instances replaceable. At least you could in theory easily mimic a still. Depending on your point of view and I know that some may disagree, there is no (or barely any) ‘terroir’ in the stills. While they are way less pricy and theoretically easier to replace, in practice the wooden vats and muck pit cannot be replaced as easily without changing the true character of a distillery and its rum. Numerous years of information reside in them in the form of different bacteria which affect all future fermentations. Some employees even claim that they have never ever seen the bottom of the muck pit and we can only imagine how much terroir due to the specific environmental factors is embodied within. So while all of this sounds very negative, it does not have to be. Sure, it will be difficult to “rebuild” these characteristics but given time the Long Pond terroir will find its way back. It probably won’t be exactly the same but who knows, it does not have to be ‘worse’ and given that the distillery resumed operations just last year, I am not sure how many thoughts we should really spend on this anyway. The good news is that Long Pond is already committed to distill again as soon as possible! So let’s move on to nicer things.

The Bottling

Last year, after discontinuing the Jamaican Supreme Lord series, Rum Nation released a special 30 year old Jamaica rum as part of their Small Batch Rare Rums (SBRR) series. Being a somewhat special release, the design differs from that of the other SBRRs and the rum has been bottled in 0,5l bottles, contrary to the standard 0,7l. The Rum is a blend of the Long Pond vintages 1985 and 1986, as well as a Jamaican blend from 1977. Now 1977 is a well-known Long Pond vintage so I’ve inquired with Rum Nation regarding the blend of this vintage and apparently they just labeled it Jamaica blend to be on the safe side since they weren’t sure if it is only Long Pond in the ’77 barrel or other Jamaican rum as well. My guess is solely Long Pond but who knows, we’ve had plenty of Monymusks from that year as well and Moon Import even bottled a Jamaica blend from 1977 with rums from Long Pond, Monymusk, New Yarmouth and Innswood(!). The cuvée has then been blended in a Sherry cask which previously contained Whisky (Benromach is my guess here) and got to marry for six full years.

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Dégustation “Rum Nation Jamaica 30YO”

Key Facts: The rum is a cuvée of the Long Pond vintages 1985 and 1986 as well as Jamaican rum from 1977. Six years before bottling it in 2017, Rum Nation blended these vintages in a former Sherry cask, which previously contained Whisky. 800 0,5l bottles have been bottled at 48,7%.

Colour and viscosity: Tawny. A crown of tiny pearls regroup to many, very thick streaks, which flow back down rather quickly. It’s an uncommon aspect but the oiliness seems appropriate.

Nose: Good old Jamaica! The fresh, fruity esters mix and mingle with the dried fruits from the sherry cask. A very nice combination! This is Long Pond as I like it, the perfect Wedderburn! I get plums, fresh leafs, dried apricots and raisins, some milk chocolate, a subtle herbal touch and bananas. Lovely. This is exactly what I have been looking for in the Old Jamaica Blind Tasting! In the background I believe to find some grains as well.

Palate: Not what I expected! This is sweet with more Sherry than I expected after nosing. The cask cannot have been wet and Rum Nation stopped adding sugar with the SBRR series, which leaves me a bit puzzled. Private measurements have detected ~15g of added sugar but they have neither been confirmed nor denied from official sides. We shall just leave it as that. But oh dear, it is nice stuff! Sweet notes of sherry put themselves on top of the fresh fruit basket consisting of bananas, cherries and more exotic fruits. Then spices, leather, milk chocolate and again the fortified wine. The six years in the Sherry cask really left their mark, without destroying the distillate. Personally, I would have prefered just a bit less Sherry here but I certainly understand why you want to have the big “30” on the label ;).

Finish: Long with oaky and Sherry notes. I can further detect cherries and chocolate. An awesome finish.


Verdict

Yes, I like these kind of rums. As if they have been made for my palate. However, I also know a few connoisseurs which thought that it is a nice rum but nothing special and I can see where they are coming from. In a sense, this really isn’t too special as we’ve had plenty of similar rums over the years. However, this rum does not have many flaws. The only problem I have here is the long time in the Sherry cask which surely isn’t to everyone’s liking and it does make the rum a bit generic in fact. Nevertheless, I am very thankful that Rum Nation is still doing these kind of experiments, even though I think the rum might have been better with 1-2 fewer years in the Sherry butt. That said, this rum may very well find its place on my personal Long Pond ‘top 5’ list. Well done!

Other impressions: Lance seems to be the only one who has reviewed it so far.

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