What is it? Molasses based Rum (multi-column at over 95%), produced at The Antigua Distillery in St John’s, Antigua and bottled under the English Harbour brand. The Antigua Distillery use a copper 3-column still and distil the spirit to a whopping 95.5% abv – this is basically making a neutral spirit so wont be carrying much in the way of flavour at all, nearly all of the flavour is going to come from the cask maturation here. Once distilled the rum is matured, in the tropics, for at least 10 years. I seen in various places that the rums in the blend that make up this rum can be up to 25 years old, how much of that older rum is in here we can’t be sure, but it’s being labelled as a 10 year old as that is the youngest rum present, there is older stuff in here too.
The distillery take the spirit (95.5% abv) and dilute it down to 70% abv before it’s filled into casks. This is quite interesting as cask fill strength is something that is very often overlooked by consumers (mainly because we’re not told about it) and actually has quite an impact on the resulting product. Many distilleries cask fill at 65% abv, and there is a good reason for this; below 60% you get more water soluble compounds extracted from the cask, such as sugars in the form of hemicellulose – a spirit at 55% abv will extract twice the sugars from the cask than a spirit casked at 70% abv. Above 65% abv and you get more ethanol soluble compounds extracted from the cask, such as lignin (wood notes). So that fact that this is being casked at 70% explains how such a high abv distillation is able to get a more intense flavour into the rum at the end. It may only be a little difference in fill abv but the end result over those years maturing makes a big difference.
Chill filtered, coloured and bottled at 40% abv.
Nose: Sweet at first, with caramel, toffee and vanilla fudge. Some cask spices, certainly, with cinnamon, nutmeg and clove, a touch of marmalade and bags of nuts – all kinds; almonds, cashews, pecans and hazelnuts. There is a touch of dried fruit in here too, maybe raisin, and some rolling tobacco. A little bit of engine oil appears later on with some nail varnish remover, just to add in a little savoury note.
Palate: Full mouth, oily. Slightly sweet at first, but not sticky, with fudge, caramel, butter toffee (Werthers Original candy), sweet breakfast tea and vanilla. The spices kick in and its warm with nutmeg, cinnamon, clove and white pepper – very much in line with the nose. There’s a really nice taste of smoked orange that comes out near the end and an ever so slight brine’y tang as it finishes.
Finish: Medium. As the nose and palate really, there isn’t that much more to add. What’s nice is that it seems very cask influenced (as you’d expect) but at no point does it get bitter, only a little tannic with the breakfast tea on the palate and again at the end of the finish.
Thoughts? It’s a nice and very easy drinking rum. It’s not the most complex, but it’s better than average. The problem for this rum is it’s price; it usually sits around the £75-£80 mark, which I find quite extortionate really. I managed to pick mine up for £50 delivered, which is much more like it – although I still think that is quite expensive for what you get. It’s not a rum I’ll be buying again at the price I paid, and at £80 it’s madness for “just above average”, sorry.