Rum Nation Jamaica 8 Year

Rum Nation Logo

I’m quite excited about this post as it represents two stages of the same product. You see I had previously written about the Rum Nation Jamaica White Pot Still which is an unaged 100% pot distilled Rum. This expression is also from the same distillery (Worthy Park) in St. Catherine, Jamaica but unlike its younger sibling, this Rum has been matured……twice.

You can read up about the younger sibling and also get a little background on Rum Nation and Fabio Rossi by clicking here

Rum Nation Jamaica 8 Year Old Pot Still – 50% abv

Rum Nation Jamaica 8The Rum was distilled in 2006 and bottled in 2015. It was aged in ex-bourbon barrels in Jamaica for a period of 7 years before being shipped over to Piedmont, Italy, for a second maturation period of 1 year in first fill ex-Oloroso Sherry barrels. The Rum belongs to batch number L 15/020 with 5436 bottles being produced from this batch. I have a lab report in my possession that lists a figure of 1.67 g/l of ‘inverted’ sugar in the Rum. This bottling is not the biggest offender by a long shot and this specific topic in relation to this Rum has been discussed to death on other sites. Rum Nation have been honest enough to share the lab information with me and others and that displays a level of honesty in relation to this Rum……so I’m going to leave this information as just that…..information. Information allows you to make your own informed choices. Back then to the Rum…..

Rum Nation Jamaica 8 StampThe Rum is presented in the same stumpy bottle which all of the latest releases have been. I love the bottle size and shape as my shelves are governed by headroom not width therefore a shorter and wider bottle helps me greatly! That chunky timber topped cork is present along with the postage stamp that has become a sign of a Rum Nation bottling. The same label style as the unaged expression but this time it is presented in a striking gold to compliment the black which also works against the burnished red / mahogany of the liquid in the bottle. As presentation goes its pretty classy stuff. I’ve also been told that the Rum will come in at around £40 a bottle.

Tasting Notes

In the glass: The Rum displays itself as a dark gold with burnished orange flashes. A swirl of the rum in the glass shows an oily slab of liquid that releases reluctant droplets. A pot still character is immediately evident but it is slightly masked by tropical fruits and a subtle oaky undertone. There is a slight sting of astringency initially and a little of the heat from that 50% gives your nose a little bite. Raisins are definitely in there alongside a kind of solvent aroma reminiscent of glue. Once the alcohol dissipates and the Rum warms you are left with a very pleasant fruity and oaky aroma with the slightest whiff of cigar tobacco. Not the beast that I expected, more of a refined prospect than its younger sibling.

In the mouth: Straight out of the gate this Rum is very warming with a pepperiness at the front on your tongue and a slight but not dominant sweetness helps temper this. The pepper is accompanied by a clove like taste before raisins and prunes start to make you salivate………then the oak comes into play and starts to dry the Rum out. It’s not heavy oak but it is apparent. There is also a little burnt sugar in there and you can really sense dark stone fruits. The finish starts with cheek tingling raisins and soon dries into a medium length finish resplendent with pepper, cloves, dried prunes and oak. There is still that feeling of cigar tobacco but not overly so. The whole experience is very pleasant and very approachable given its 50% abv. It in no way feels like it is this strong and can catch you unawares after a few glasses (dependent upon how heavy-handed your pours are). Right at the back of the finish there is a really pleasing liquorice taste that clings on for dear life. It really is a flavourful Rum that always carries with it that strong pot still backbone to which all of the other character traits cling to.

I put this Rum into the obligatory Mai Tai along with its younger counterpart. I had never previously used a sherry finished Rum in this drink but it made for a tasty proposition. Again, the abv of 50% along with the 57% of the unaged expression is apparent but never too dominant….very powerful and very tasty as you’d expect. Very moreish! I would also bet that the facets of this Rum would pair well with a cigar as it carries just a hint of cigar tobacco on the nose. Versatile in cocktails, not overly dominated by the Oloroso finish and more than pleasant to sip neat, this Rum should be a big hit…..if only it were more readily available here in the UK. France is our nearest option for purchase.

As with all of these matters, feel free to pop in if you’re passing by and share a glass with us…

© Steven James and Rum Diaries Blog 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material, both written and photographic without the express and written permission from this blog/sites author and owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Steven James and Rum Diaries Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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Posted by on May 17, 2015 in Rum


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RumFest and Boutique RumFest Return!

*Press Release*


rum experience no date


Boutique RumFest – Friday 16th October, 2015, 3PM-9PM
RumFest – Saturday 17th – 18th October, 2015, 12PM-6PM

London’s Earl’s Court, ILEC Conference Centre

Boutique RumFest, the UK’s leading trade event for new and independent rums and Cachaças, is back for its sixth year after overwhelming support last year on October 16th 2015 at the ILEC in London.  Boasting a mixture of first-look access to some of the most exciting new brands on the market and unmissable talks covering a wide range of issues affecting the industry, Boutique RumFest is the place for industry figures to stay ahead of the curve.  Already confirmed to appear at Boutique RumFest are Ron Tiburon, Le Dom Tom, Japanese distiller, bottler and distributor Nine Leaves and more. For consumers, RumFest has also confirmed its biggest programme to-date, featuring tastings with over 400 rums from around the world, masterclasses, brand experiences, seminars, along with entertainment and mouth-watering cuisine. Registration for those interested in attending Boutique RumFest is open now and can be submitted online here. Tickets for RumFest are on sale and priced at £49.95, available from the RumFest website.

RumfestFounded by Global Rum Ambassador Ian Burrell and The Rum ExperienceBoutique RumFest has gone from strength to strength each year thanks in part to the to the meteoric rise of the rum category and limited opportunities for young and independent brands to showcase their products to those that matter. The trade and press only event attracts wholesalers, distributors, buyers, bar professionals and importers from all over Europe to discover new and exciting rums from around the world. There will also be seminars on current topics such as the controversial levels of sugar that has recently been discovered in certain rums and whether brands should be made to disclose this information.

JET_2763CAlready confirmed for this year’s Boutique RumFest is premium Belizian rum brand Ron TiburonLe Dom Tom, which launched only last year in France and Japanese distiller, bottler and distributor Nine Leaves. From Panama, Panamonte and Panama Red will be appearing along with Juan Santos from Columbia and Ron Esclavo from the Dominican Republic.

For rum-loving consumers, RumFest will be returning this year on the Saturday and Sunday after Boutique RumFest with extended opening times and a new VIP ticket option that allows for earlier entry, two course meal and special RumFest souvenirs. Now in its ninth year the world’s premier rum festival will showcase rums from around the world including over 400 of the rarest and most diverse available on the market. Following last year’s success the Golden Tot is back to give rum lovers the chance to try ultra-premium blends, some of which are not available to buy or drink anywhere else in the world. As well as exhibiting, brands will now have the opportunity to takeover intimate experience rooms to promote new releases and more to RumFest ticket holders. Sampling sessions will also allow small groups of discerning rum enthusiasts to sample handpicked rums from brands around the globe, guided by their representatives. Brands set to feature at RumFest this year include some old favourites and some exciting new additions, all to be announced soon. Better than ever RumFest is set to feature masterclasses, seminars, cocktail making and tastings for both rum newcomers and aficionados, along with the food, music and culture of one of the world’s best-loved spirits.

JET_3588CSpeaking about the return, Global Rum Ambassador Ian Burrell said: “Last year the new ILEC venue provided the perfect setting for rum lovers to delve deeper into the world of rum and we’re excited to be heading back there this year with an even more exciting programme. Expect undiscovered new rums from around the world at Boutique RumFest as well as discussions on key issues affecting the industry, while at RumFest we’ll be taking rum lovers on the UK’s biggest celebration of rum with masterclasses, talks, amazing food and of course – rum!”

Ian Burrell is proud to be bringing The Rum Experience University to RumFest for the second year and the 2015 programme and tickets will be announced soon.

Registration for The Boutique RumFest is now open for members of trade/press and form submissions can be found HERE. Exhibitors looking to get involved in the event can apply by emailing

The RumFest takes place in London at the ILEC, 17th to 18th October 2015. Standard day tickets are now on sale at £49.95, which includes access to all areas of the event and tastings from all of the exhibitors. VIP tickets are on sale from £75 and allow for an extra hour at the event along with a two course Caribbean lunch and RumFest goodie bag.


Some really exciting brands on display this year it seems. We at Rum Diaries Blog are massively keen to get to try a good selection including the much fabled Nine Leaves Rum having had our eye on it for a while! We also can’t wait to see which guest speakers and seminars will be announced so keep an eye on these pages for further updates as and when we get them…..Maybe we’ll even get to attend the Rum University this year! Hopefully we’ll get to see you there!

© Steven James and Rum Diaries Blog 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material, both written and photographic without the express and written permission from this blog/sites author and owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Steven James and Rum Diaries Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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Posted by on May 15, 2015 in Press Release, Rum


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SWIG Hip Flask

SWIG logoA new one on these pages…..its not Rum but it is something that most of us at one time or another will or have used to carry our precious beloved liquid……but what is the story behind the carrying of a hip flask?

Dating back from medieval times, initially ‘personal flasks’ were made of glass or leather with the ‘pilgrim bottle’ being associated with religious pilgrimages….flat on one side and rounded on the other, they often had rings attached to the base of the neck through which you could thread a chain, rope or leather to attach it to your person or to your horse’s saddle. The idea of a hip flask or pocket flask appeared in Georgian times (1714 to 1837) but rose in popularity during the Victorian era (1837 to 1901). Solid silver or pewter were the materials of choice in combination with other materials such as glass (to enable you to see the fill level) or leather. Occasionally they had a screw top that could be used as a vessel. Popular for pursuits such as hunting or fishing, a gentleman would require a flask of his favourite spirit to keep him warm during these pursuits. Ladies of the 18th Century would board docked British warships to smuggle gin in a makeshift flask made of a pigs bladder hidden inside their petticoats. I’d also imagine that flasks have made many trips to see in-laws more bearable…..I know that have improved similar weekends for me! Though they are not to be confused with the tools of alcoholism (such as a bottle in a brown paper bag) as they generally hold only 6-8oz of liquid and in my experience, that liquid is made for sharing.

IMAG1947_1As far as my own experiences go, I am an avid user of hip flasks. I have purchased hip flasks as gifts and have been given hip flasks as gifts. My gifts to my two best men on my wedding day were hip flasks and the gift that I received for my 21st Birthday from my employer at the time was a hip flask….in fact it is this hip flask that has served me so well for the 17 years that I have been using it! It’s a little tatty now but the most important fact is that I has never leaked. Rounds of golf are always better with a warming drop of something on a chilly Sunday morning and I always attend a wedding with a flask of good Rum in my jacket pocket! It’s the most important part of your attire for the day…..along with a cigar of course.

IMAG0437_1I had first encountered SWIG flasks when my friend Scott, the writer of The Whisky Moose posted an image of his new flask via Twitter. Fast forward several months and I was contacted and asked if I would like to trial a SWIG flask, as an avid user of hip flasks, of course I said yes!

SWIG are a fast growing London-based start-up, who produce high-quality hip flasks and pouches.

SWIG as a company is the brainchild of David Galbraith who in 2013 sold up and moved from Northern Ireland to follow his vision of making ‘the worlds most reliable hip flask brand’. SWIG flasks are of a seamless stainless steel construction which can be supplied with a wide range of accessories.

IMAG0432_1I was asked to choose which version I’d like to trial and so to keep personal tastes out of the equation for the purposes of writing, I chose to trial the naked flask in a gift box with the accompanying stainless steel funnel to fill up the flask. The flask itself arrived in a flat two-part red and black box, adorned with a black ribbon and brandishing the SWIG logo in the bottom corner. Once open, the beautiful seamless stainless steel 170ml flask lies upon a patterned black cushion and has a card set on top. This card holds the web address required to access the ‘SWIG Society’. This is a global membership club for owners of SWIG flasks with your status corresponding to your flask number….a little like the hierarchy in The Stonecutters from The Simpsons! Speaking of flask numbers, beautifully engraved on the flask that I am trialing is #03475. You receive a monthly email containing pictures from the community, information, articles and each month a SWIG Society member can win the prize of a bottle of whisky based upon their flask number!

IMAG0424_1The first thing that strikes you is the absence of any seam lines, save for the neck joint and one thing unfamiliar to me is the fact that the screw cap is not connected to the flask by any means. Something that I have never encountered previously. There is the ever-present fear that you could lose the screw cap….a fear that is further confirmed when you notice that spare caps are available for purchase on the SWIG website. There is also that familiar curved shape that enables it to sit comfortably in your jacket / trouser pocket. Everything is suitably chunky and solid feeling with no light metal on metal noise when screwing the cap open or closed. The biggest challenge of any hip flask is the desire to never have the liquid leak. So far in the five weeks that I have trialled the flask it has accompanied me to work, on various trips to visit friends and relatives and it has also made the short hop over to Paris. No leaks as yet and long may this continue. I would definitely advise you to buy a pouch as the flask does mark easily, especially if you intend to carry the flask in a bag of some sort. That said there is no flex in the body of the flask indicating that a suitably robust material thickness has been used. You also don’t get the feeling that this is a brittle piece of kit which is good as it commands a hefty price tag. The funnel which sadly does not fit in the gift box is the most impressive flask filling device that I’ve encountered. A large bowl means that there are no hesitations required when pouring as is the case usually which means that there are no spillages as a result of having to constantly slow pour the bottle. There is a real sense of occasion when receiving and opening the package and as far as gifts go, flasks in particular, you’ll be hard pressed to find a better one. One thing to add is that engraving is also possible so that the flask arrives suitably labelled up with whatever message you choose. Aside from this, I may have found the replacement for my soon to be decommissioned 21st Birthday present. I of course reserve the right to revisit this article based on the performance of the flask and rest assured I will feed back any further observations.

The ‘Naked’ Flask is currently available for £41 with the ‘Naked’ Flask gift set that I have trialled currently available for £61.

© Steven James and Rum Diaries Blog 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material, both written and photographic without the express and written permission from this blog/sites author and owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Steven James and Rum Diaries Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

In the interests of clarity, I was provided with a flask by SWIG to trial for the purposes of this article

Historical us sources: Wikipedia and Hersey


Posted by on May 10, 2015 in Other


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Rum Sixty Six Family Reserve

Rum_Sixty_Six_LabelRum66 Bottle SideThe main thing to get out of the way first is that this Rum is a product of Foursquare Distillery…..I’m a big fan of the Rums produced there and you can read a little about the distillery itself and the Rums produced therein here, here and here. Now that you’re all refreshed we can talk about Rum Sixty Six Family Reserve. So, the Sixty Six of Rum Sixty Six refers to the 30th November 1966 which was a date that saw the Barbados Independence Act 1966 come into effect. The Act also presented the ability for a new constitution to take effect upon independence and this was actioned through the Barbados Independence Order 1966. This effectively made Barbados the fourth English speaking country in the West Indies to achieve full independence from the UK. A coat of arms adorns the bottle with the motto ‘Pride and Industry’. This coat of arms was adopted on the 14th February 1966 by decree of Queen Elizabeth II. The Family Reserve aspect refers to the fact that due to production costs and the effects of evaporation on long aging of Rum in Barbados, the quantities of Rum aged for this time period are reduced and their allocation reserved for family. With an allocation given the the British branch of the family which emigrated in the 1960’s. Up until the launch of Rum Sixty Six, it was only ever exported when members of the family returned home with unmarked bottles after visits to Barbados. That then is the marketing tale behind the Rum….there is a part truth though as Foursquare Distillery do not sell bulk 12-year-old Rum.

Rum Sixty Six Family Reserve – 40% ABV

Rum66 Bottle and GlassThe bottle is tall, quite thin and has straight sides. It has a plastic topped cork stopper. Presentation wise its a unique bottle with memorable look. As stated on these pages before though, there are no prizes for presentation. Rum Sixty Six is a blend of molasses based distillates from both a Pot Still and a Coffey (Column) Still. This is where things become quite unique as I was fortunate enough to get the opportunity to ask Richard Seale a few questions about the Rum and the methods used. I was previously only aware of aged Rums being blended to create the final Rum with the blending taking place prior to bottling. Richard revealed that the distillates are matured as a blend of pot and column, not as individual components. Very unique with the only other Rum that I had heard of using this technique being an experimental Velier release, which is why I had asked the question. Moving on, the distillates are reduced to 65% abv prior to barreling. Richard revealed that this is to get better extraction from the wood contact and also to reduce the losses to evaporation. The barrels still lose around 6% of their contents per year though to evaporation. He also stated that it would be his preference to mature at a lower abv but there is a trade-off due to the number of barrels required and also the space for storage during maturation. The blend of distillates are matured for a period of 8 to 10 years before the barrels are pulled and the most ‘suitable’ barrels are chosen for additional maturation for the final 2 to 4 years. These chosen barrels are then blended, reduced to around 56% abv and re barreled until a minimum maturation time of 12 years has been achieved for each barrel. Richard has been quoted previously as believing that for a relatively light Rum such as Rum Sixty Six, maturation beyond a 12 year period gives diminishing returns. At this point the Rum is reduced to its bottling strength of 40% abv, lightly filtered and bottled. But you’ll now be interested in how the Rum tastes….

Tasting Notes

In the glass: The Rum displays itself as a dark coppery bronze in the glass. A swirl releases long, thin droplets. It is an extremely fragrant Rum. Up front there is a little alcohol that disappears quickly enough to leave a light sweetness and a few oaky aromas. Fruit is also present in the form of apricots, raisins, prunes and dried cranberries. Following on there is a whiff of dark treacle and as the Rum warms in the glass, there are nutty aromas released followed by the lightest hint of coconut and vanilla.

In the mouth: Wow. The entry is almost bitter and sweet in equal measures. The bitterness being akin to treacle and the sweetness being like dried mango. The nose did not prepare me for the oily and all-encompassing mouthfeel of this Rum either. Nowhere is spared in this Rums pursuit to coat every millimetre of your mouth. It is amazingly warming with oak being very apparent but not dominant as it is kept in check by the fruit and the lightest vanilla. At times it can taste like a chewy treacle toffee before you’re left with a beautiful oaky dryness. Further sips reveal apricots working well alongside coconut. To refer back to an earlier point, the mouthfeel is amazing and the Rum has a great medium body to it. It is a very bold Rum. Oaky and fruity yet it retains light coconut and treacle to keep your interest. It has a medium length drying finish with a little warmth from the oak and treacle but right at the end the apricot and coconut come back into play.

In conclusion then, this is my second bottle of Rum Sixty Six. Like most Foursquare bottlings, I rarely wind up not repurchasing. I have only tried this Rum neat….no ice, no cola, just Rum. It just works for me that way. It is another example of why Foursquare Distillery is highly regarded by the vast majority of people. Amazing value mixed with good but not over the top presentation and sublime liquid that sits firmly on the dry end of the spectrum but works so well. You also have an unwritten guarantee that it has not been ‘adjusted’ in any way. It has a bold mouthfeel, a natural sweetness and a warming oaky profile that hits the spot for me every time. It makes me long for the other 12-year-old Foursquare Rum, Doorly’s 12…..hopefully coming to these shores this year…fingers crossed. I picked up my first bottle of Rum Sixty Six for less than £30, my second cost £32 and that is roughly the cost of the cheapest bottle that I can find online. I have no hesitation in recommending this Rum to you….there is nothing not to like!

© Steven James and Rum Diaries Blog 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material, both written and photographic without the express and written permission from this blog/sites author and owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Steven James and Rum Diaries Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.


Posted by on April 26, 2015 in Rum


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Mezan Jamaica XO

mezan-2This will be the first of quite a few posts covering the Mezan bottlings that I own. Mezan Rums are vintage unblended (apart from the XO) Rums from individual islands and countries in the West Indies and South or Central America. They are produced from a single vintage years distillation, are aged in oak Barrique* and are bottled one cask at a time when considered mature enough. The claims / promises made by Mezan are that their Rums are: Unblended (XO aside), Unsweetened, Uncoloured, Filtered through a light gauze with no chill filtration. There has been a statement put out on another site whereby these claims have been confirmed. So what you should have here are bottlings that will vary from barrel to barrel in colour, aroma and taste. The Rums have not been aged in wine casks or finished in casks that have previously held another spirit. They are an expression of each distillery and country of origin.

*A Barrique is also known as a Bordeaux Barrel and is a small but relatively tall 225 litre oak barrel

The range has seen many releases of which I have several. The release list so far comprises: Jamaica XO, Jamaica Monymusk 2003, Jamaica Hampden 2000, Trinidad Caroni 1991, Trinidad Caroni 1999, Guyana Uitvlugt 1998, Guyana Enmore 1990, Panama Don Jose 1995, Panama Don Jose 1999 and Guyana Westerhall 1998. All Rums are reduced to a bottling strength of 40% abv apart from the Panama Don Jose 1999 which has a sticker over the 40% on the label informing you that it is bottled at 42.2% abv.

Mezan Jamaica XO – 40% ABV

This Rum is aged as individual components, then blended and returned back to the barrel to marry prior to bottling. It is a medium ester blend based on a supply of 2 to 3 Rums from the same source with differing ester profiles (I’ve read that the youngest Rum in the blend is 4 years old) and the addition of older Rums dating back to 1983 to allow the blend to really shine. I have two bottles of the Jamaica XO and they are from different batches / release so this will allow me to compare notes on both bottlings to see how / if the blend has changed and I for one find this quite interesting and I hope that you do too. I have also read that the old release was made up of Rums solely from the Hampden Distillery but the new release hints that different distilleries are used in the blend. I will update the article when the information has been received.

Tasting Notes – Earlier Release


In the glass: The Rum displays itself as a very pale straw and a swirl of the glass shows that the Rum appears quite oily. A halo of Rum forms on the glass with small reluctant droplets forming and eventually falling. Aromas of ripe banana appear right away along with a prominent acetone aroma. Plastic aromas are also present and are quite aggressive. Through the plastic comes a pear drop acidity on the nose along with raisins. There are no real oak influences on the nose but very light molasses and citrus aromas are there rounded out with some white wine characteristics.


In the mouth: There is a light oily mouthfeel to the Rum on its very calm entry. Raisins up front give way to a slight sweetness and a spicy tingle. I expected a little more fruit. The oiliness really helps disperse the light flavours throughout the mouth. The finish is relatively short and quite heated, maybe hinting that the split of older and younger Rums favours the younger components. Ripe banana is present on the finish as is that acetone in the vapours and the whole thing is over way too soon.

Tasting Notes – Later Release


In the glass: The Rum is a light straw gold and is perhaps a shade darker than the other release. A swirl of the glass leaves a ring of very lazy and reluctant droplets that take upwards of 3 minutes to move. Very oily and very dense are words that I’d use to describe my initial observations of this Rum. Bananas, dried tropical fruit, raisins and a nice oily citrus peel show up and hint at what could appear when tasted. There is also a more prominent molasses aroma and the plastic and acetone notes are really dialled down making it far more pleasant to sit and smell. It is really well-balanced with just enough astringency to keep things interesting. There are also light caramel and creamy chocolate aromas rounding things out.


In the mouth: The Rum shows itself as being a lot more oily and dense. It really disperses well and completely coats every bit of your mouth. There is a really good balance of sweet and spicy components on entry. There is a peppery tingle up front with citrus oil and a little oak influence showing itself. Overripe bananas, tropical fruit leathers and pleasant molasses play nicely alongside raisins, oak and light smoke. The finish is of a medium length, not too hot and is full of creamy chocolate, warming pepper and ripe banana with what feels like banana skin and citrus peel within the vapours.

So these Rums appear to make good on their promise of no additives, even caramel for colour, and there is a natural variation within the blend to keep things interesting. These are both Rums that were picked up for around the £28 mark and both represent a decent investment and show how blends can differ but still be the same product. Each offers something different with what I believe is the addition of a greater portion of older Rum in the newer release. It just feels more rounded and complete with the spikiness of the young Rums being kept in check by the older component and it benefits from this. The younger Rums are not dulled and they are still spiky but they’ve just had their nails clipped which enables other components to shine through. That pot still funk and ripe banana work so well with cola and they play nicely in a daiquiri, especially the newer release whose oiliness and citrus peel really combine well. The colour is also light enough to not ruin the appearance in the glass. The older release is a little rougher and childlike and distracts somewhat with its heightened plastic and acetone notes. When tried alone it is not as noticeable but don’t take my word for it, feel free to pop in and we’ll taste them side by side.

© Steven James and Rum Diaries Blog 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material, both written and photographic without the express and written permission from this blog/sites author and owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Steven James and Rum Diaries Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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Posted by on April 19, 2015 in Rum


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English Harbour 10

I am a big fan of the other Rums that I’ve tasted by Antigua Distillery Limited including English Harbour and Soldiers Bay. This post however is all about the bigger more mature brother of the young fiery upstart that was English Harbour 5. A little about Rum and Antigua firstly though.

EH10 BottleAt around the middle of the 18th Century around 70,000 acres (about half of the arable land in Antigua) was planted with sugar cane. There were also more than 150 stone built sugar mills on the island with associated boiler houses etc. This led to the Plantation Act of 1793 establishing sugar cane as the principal Antiguan crop. By the 1920’s the Rum Shops on Antigua were importing large quantities of Rum from other Caribbean Islands for blending and aging to create their own brands to sell to customers. Rums with names such as Red Cock, Silver Leaf, White House, Black Cock and Bolanda were all available! As Rum Shops were the inevitable meeting place within the village, they were very popular venues with the majority of the Rum Shop owners being Portuguese immigrants from Madeira. It was in 1929 that a group of 8 local entrepreneurs joined together to bulk buy molasses with the end goal of controlling the process of distilling their own Rum. All but one of the 8 were Rum Shop owners! They had an initial request for land in the St John’s area turned down by the colonial government as they were not keen on a distillery and all of the associated smells that it brings. They were however granted land on the wonderfully named ‘Rat Island’ which sat next to a one time leper colony! In June 1932 the Antigua Distillery Limited company (ADL) was founded. All of the founding members stayed to serve as active directors. Early equipment comprised a 3 column copper Saville still from France. The Rum that this still produced was characterized by a pronounced sweet, sugar cane aroma in conjunction with a medium-bodied dry flavour. Apparently the rectifying section of this still is currently in use to this day! The first Rum produced by ADL was sold by the barrel to local Rum Merchants and was blended and bottled by each Merchant individually under their own private labels. By the 1940’s, the company started producing its own Rum which was initially called Caballero Rum. This was changed in 1947 to Cavalier Muscovado Rum. A lighter version of this Rum is still available today as Cavalier Antigua Rum.

Fast forward to modern-day goings on at Antigua Distillery Limited and they buy molasses in bulk on the world market in conjunction with other Caribbean buyers. I’ve read that Guyana and Dominican Republic are preferred sources. In 1991 the old Saville still was replaced with a *5 column copper still* copper column still sourced in England from John Dore & Co. The spirit is drawn off at a strength of 95% abv and piped into stainless steel holding tanks to be tested by both taste and smell in the hopes of identifying any unwanted trace flavours. The spirit is also lab tested for trace elements that may affect flavour. The Rum is then diluted with pure water to 70% abv. It is at this point that it is laid down into newly charred used 200 litre Bourbon and Tennessee Whiskey barrels. The aging period for Rum on Antigua is never less than 2 years and generally ranges from 2 to 10 years with the occasional batch being held for 25 years…..(an article on the bottle of 1981 that I have will follow as soon as I’m brave enough to open it). With this new still, ADL began to expand its product line and in 1993 English Harbour Rum was introduced named after Antigua’s Navy Heritage. As an aside, the English Harbour Dockyard was restored in the 1950’s and is the only active Georgian dockyard in existence. Currently ADL is managed by descendants of the founding directors. Paul Farara, son of Quin Farara is Chairman of the Board of Directors and Anthony Bento, related to both E.C Farara and Quin Farara is Managing Director. ADL continues the tradition of distilling Rum at the ‘Rat Island’ site.

*EDIT: It appears that my still information is inaccurate, I have requested clarity from ADL and will update once confirmed*

English Harbour Reserve 10 Year Old Rum – 40% abv

EH10 Bottle and GlassSo what we have is a column distilled Rum and the first thing to state is that every drop of Rum in this bottle is a minimum of 10 years old. ADL is quite keen to point that out. The rear bottle label also tells me that some Rums in the blend are up to 25 years old… much is that age is unknown. Also the availability of test data (both amateur and professional) for certain Rums helps identify any additional ‘tampering’. The result found for this Rum is based on Dave Russell’s excellent Rum Gallery site and the estimated sugar content (undissolved solids) is 0 g/L. I state this as if you have previously read my English Harbour 5 article, Anthony Bento stated that guidelines forbid the addition of ‘extras’ apart from caramel which should be tasteless and for colour only. But there was a random test result verified between two sources on the 25-year-old 1981 bottling giving a reading that would mean added sugar……this was however a proofing error at ADL in the actual product it seems so the panic is over! The bottle is a nice squat affair that has a low centre of gravity….the Rum is also housed within a presentation box which is a nice touch. To buy in the UK it will set you back upwards of £70 which is a hell of a price….fortunately I purchased from a French website at what I consider to be an absolute steal of £45! I really should’ve purchased in bulk! So here goes nothing……

Tasting Notes

In the glass: The Rum displays itself as a coppery bronze in the glass and a swirl of the Rum leaves a ring of sluggish droplets. The Rum is pretty spiky too with a fair bit of alcohol burn but this calms to leave quite a bit of fruitiness in the form of apples, Victoria plums and a bit of dried fruit. Vanilla, light buttery pastry and croissants follow on. There is a little oak bringing with it toffee and chocolate. There is also a nice freshness to the Rum and a little floral note to round things out. You can smell a few of the toffee and vanilla notes without even going near the glass. It is a really pleasant Rum to sit with.

In the mouth: The Rum is spicier than expected initially with an entry that is driven by oak and black pepper. There follows a sweetness full of cinnamon, vanilla and caramel. This lingers for a while as the Rum has a nice oily medium body that coats every bit of your mouth. It does start to dry a little as the oak comes forward and that reveals some brown sugar and also gives way to the dried fruit and a crisp apple freshness. The finish is quite long and is full of pepper, buttery home-baked cinnamon swirls as the sweetness makes a return. Subsequent sips calm the spicy entry and leave you with what is a very flavourful and moreish Rum.

So what you have here is a Rum that has not been ‘tampered’ with, that is a minimum of 10 years old, and tastes like joy in a bottle. At its £70 price tag I would still buy a bottle just to see what all the fuss is about….I would be careful with it and would not have it on heavy rotation….however, I paid considerably less and will enjoy it on a weekly basis. Is it twice the Rum of its younger sibling? It takes things up a notch for sure but when English Harbour 5 can be picked up for £25, that represents a bargain….this not so much. I love it however and will most certainly be purchasing another bottle from my newly found source! Still to come though is the much fabled English Harbour 1981….a 25 year old bottle from ADL that for want of a better phrase made me fall in love with Rum all over again. But we’ll save that for when I’m brave enough to open my bottle.

As per usual, I’d love to hear your opinions on the Rum and feel free to pop in for a drop.

The eagle eyed amongst you will also note that I’ve been trying out a new tasting glass for this article. It is an absolute peach of a glass and really does encourage generous pouring which suits me down to the ground!

© Steven James and Rum Diaries Blog 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material, both written and photographic without the express and written permission from this blog/sites author and owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Steven James and Rum Diaries Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.


Posted by on April 11, 2015 in Rum


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Rum Nation Panama 21

Rum Nation Logo

This article marks the second Rum Nation release that I have been fortunate enough to cover here. The first was their Jamaica White Pot Still which you can read all about here whilst also getting a little history of the Rum Nation brand and the man behind it, Fabio Rossi.

Lets get down to business then…..

Rum Nation Panama 21 – 40% ABV

RNP21 BoxThe first thing that strikes you about this Rum is the presentation. The box, whilst having a simple matt black lid resplendent with silver text and bottle outline, has a mirrored cardboard base that just oozes quality. Within that base lies one of the most dazzling bottles that I own. Large satisfying silver topped cork? Check. Heavy decanter style bottle? Check. Silver band around the stubby bottle neck bearing the Rum Nation logo and age of the Rum? Check. Spanish text that I can’t understand? Check. Fortunately, the latter is easily resolved. Whilst if the Rum is good enough, it can be presented to me in a cardboard box with a plastic tap, there is something quite ceremonial about removing the bottle from its reflective home, uncorking it with a satisfying ‘pop’ (I’ll wait whilst you insert your finger into your mouth to make a popping sound) and then pouring the mahogany liquid into a suitable vessel whilst the aromas fill the room. The Rum itself is a blend created by Francisco ‘Don Pancho’ Fernandez. It is distilled in a continuous column still and is aged in ex-bourbon American oak barrels for a period of 21 years. From the information that I have uncovered online its origins are based at the Varela Hermanos Plantation and Distillery that also produces Ron Abuelo. RNP21 Inner BoxThe mature distillates are blended in Panama prior to being exported to Italy for bottling, fully certified in terms of both origin and age. The beautiful bottle that carries the liquid is produced in Italy therefore it makes sense take the liquid to the bottles to avoid sending empty bottles from Italy to Panama and then back again. Releases of this Rum are limited. The first release of 3600 bottles was in 2011 with a second release again of 3600 bottles in 2013. The last release of 5436 bottles was in 2014 (Lot Number 14258). I only wish that I were tasting this Rum is sunnier climes, perhaps on a sunny terrace overlooking the beach with the smell of cigars and the saltiness of a retreating tide in the air. Sadly I’m in Cheshire, it’s considerably less than tropical outside and I’m engrossed in the Arnold Bitner book: Scrounging the Islands with the Legendary Don the Beachcomber. Lost in the book and nosing the Rum, taking the occasional sip until it hits me again….that is why I love Rum so much….it has the ability to transport you to these places, no matter your location. It has the ability to paint pictures that are so convincing, they could be memories of a past adventure. But enough waffle, what does the Rum taste like?

RNP21 Bottle Glass

Tasting Notes 

In the glass: The Rum displays itself as a beautiful dark mahogany and a swirl of the glass releases slow reluctant teardops of Rum. The aromas bubble over the glass and the aromas of stone fruits such as prunes and dates start to fill your nose…raisins follow along with a sherry like aroma. Salted caramel sauce, chewy toffee sweets and a little brown sugar all follow the sherried notes and there is the lightest hint of smoke. It reminds me of a holiday that we once took to Newquay where we stuffed local fudge into bananas and put them onto the barbecue to warm through releasing warming smoky caramel aromas into the night air. Leather and tobacco are next to show up and really make me wish that I had a cigar to pair with this Rum….Chocolate and black cherries are also apparent in sort of a liquid Black Forest gateaux. An oaken element and more of that tobacco round out the nose which has been extremely pleasant.

In the mouth: The Rum leads with a little bite which is a nice surprise after its aroma packed easy-going nose. Maybe its a little bit of a dark horse! Smoky sweetness and those sherried notes are the first flavours to fill my mouth carried on its medium body….that’s medium…not the chewy behemoth that I was expecting. Prunes and raisins lead the next flavour assault wave before a beautiful oaky dryness starts to fade in and bring with it a little pepper. It has a bit of an attitude too with the pepper which shakes things up a little. Brown sugar, chocolate sponge cake with amarena cherries and cream is hitting me in a big way along with apricot before light dry orange peel appears….very much like a dry curacao. The finish is of a medium length and is medium dry with a heavy leather and tobacco influence. Oak and sherry are also there before the fade into a last peppery kick. Again…I wish that I had a cigar to pair with it as the leather influence is amazing with the tobacco leaving the same feeling in your mouth as when you are sitting out in the last of the evening sun finishing a cigar. It’s a strange one for sure in the fact that it appears on the surface to be a soft and playful puppy dog that eventually nips you with those needle like teeth…that’s what that little peppery kick feels like. At times it feels a lot stronger than 40% abv due to the little bites it keeps taking out of you but you need that little bit of attitude. It’s not the lazy old man of the Rum world given its 21 years…its grown old gracefully but retains its reckless teenage streak as the oak has not over influenced it.

The Rum itself retails for around £75 to £92 and when picked up at the lower end of the bracket is in the same price bracket as El Dorado 21…and although they are totally differing styles, this maybe has a shade more going on given its attitude….both warrant purchase though. I’d gladly extol this Rums virtues to anyone who would like to listen….pop around and be sure to bring a few cigars…Montecristo Open Masters maybe…nothing too heavy. Better still, fly me to that terrace overlooking the beach…I’ll bring the Rum.

© Steven James and Rum Diaries Blog 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material, both written and photographic without the express and written permission from this blog/sites author and owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Steven James and Rum Diaries Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.


Posted by on April 6, 2015 in Rum


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