Back after a summer break with a review of Worthy Parks latest flagship Rum. The Worthy Park Single Estate 2006 12 Year Old. The first vintage release from Worthy Park under their own label since recommencing production in 2005 following an absence of over 40 years. Excluding mixed maturation independent bottlings with a vintage we have only seen fully distillery matured vintages under the Habitation Velier label including the 2005, the quite excellent 2006 WPM and 2007. A little background information can be found on the distillery by clicking here. You will also see just how much I enjoyed the Habitation Velier 2006 by clicking here.
A brief account of the history of Worthy Park Estate and their rum production first….The Worthy Park Estate is located at the geographical centre of Jamaica in the Parish of St. Catherine which is in a valley known as Vale of Lluidas. The Worthy Park Estate was founded in 1670 and commercial cultivation of sugarcane began in 1720 and has continued unabated to this day. Rum production at Worthy Park has been recorded from as early as 1741, which makes it the oldest producer still in existence in Jamaica. Post World War 2 there was an over-supply of Jamaican Rum in the marketplace and as you would imagine, this drove prices down. Because of this reduced value, the Spirits Pool of Jamaica met with the islands distillers and between them an agreement was made to stop Rum production at the facility in the 1960’s. In 2004 a decision was made by Gordon Clarke to begin Worthy Park Rum production again. Worthy Park Estate re-entered the Rum market in 2005.
Worthy Park have in excess of 20 varieties of sugarcane that are harvested with the majority of the fields being dedicated to 3 varieties. They also utilise 3 different yeasts within their fermentation. An activated dry yeast, an isolated proprietary yeast ( taken from one of their sugarcane varieties) and a wild yeast. This wild yeast is cultivated in 4 american white oak pre-fermentation vats. This yeast is developed in a 3 month process which involves molasses, crushed cane stalks, cane juice and ‘special’ ingredients. The yeast is then allowed to develop on its own in these open tanks which are devoid of any temperature control. Worthy Park have 6 fermentation tanks, of which 4 are temperature controlled via a heat exchanger in order to create the ideal temperature for fermentation. The 2 non-temperature controlled tanks are dedicated to the wild yeast fermentation for their high ester distillate and this is a process that can last for between 2 to 3 weeks. So, these various yeast strains and fermentation methods allow Worthy Park to produce a varying number of marques that each has its own code based upon ester count.
WPEL – <60 gr/laa
WPL – 60-119 gr/laa
WPM- 120-239 gr/laa
WPH – 240-360 gr/laa
WPE – Up to 800 gr/laa
Distillation is undertaken on a magnificent Forsyths Double Retort pot still.
Worthy Park Single Estate 2006 – 12 Year – 56% abv – Pure single Rum
With all of that said, lets have a look at the bottle in question. A limited release of 8000 bottles globally (4000 for the EU / 4000 for the US & Jamaica), this bottling, which carries a guaranteed minimum age statement of 12 years was distilled in 2006. It is made from estate molasses, is the WPL marque (refer to breakdown above) and is matured at the distillery in Jamaica for 12 years in ex-bourbon barrels prior to bottling in 2018 at its cask strength of 56%. No chill filtering. No additions. No bullshit. I first tried this at the UK Rumfest in October 2018 in the VIP Rum Room and I was not the only one with a huge smile on my face after tasting it.
Nose: Very interesting from the get go……the mildest hint of peppermint and dark chocolate….think Fry’s Mint Chocolate Cream for those of you old enough to remember it. The fun doesn’t stop there though. The trademark, clear as day Worthy Park Banana is here by the fruit bowl full…..both overripe…..warmed…caramelised and baked…in a lightly spiced loaf. Perhaps a little buttered Spice Bun. Sitting alongside it is a cup of strong tea. There is a growing salty olive tapenade note from the pot still that is bringing with it preserved lemons. Let’s not shy away from the huge slab of oak running through the middle of the nose either….big musty damp oak flexing its muscles but being kept in check by the banana, a hefty dose of molasses and a little acetone allowing a growing menthol influence to announce itself. The bitter sweetness of bonfire toffee and dark chocolate. This all harmonises and ties itself together with a little barrel spice and the block of pipe tobacco that my grandad used to cut with a small penknife on a tray on his knee.
Startlingly complex, assertive and well defined nose that really exhibits each element at its best.
Mouth: The big, oily mouthfeel allows the initial entry to carry a little honeyed sweetness……along come freshly cut pears too. There is a fleeting appearance made by our good friend warm, overripe banana. It carries a sticky, malty note too. Maybe the merest hint of candyfloss being spun at a fairground. That sweetness is relatively short lived due to the force of a growing oaken influence. It is the spice that asserts itself initially before the dryness creeps in bringing with it light menthol, dark chocolate and a slight hint of leather. The oak is warm….it blankets your tongue with just enough heat to at least hint at the fact that the Rum is 56%. The mid palate takes the oak and slowly begins to unwrap it allowing baking spices, warm buttered banana loaf, chocolate coated banana chips and creme caramel to develop…..this is joined by little flashes of sweet / sour citrus and kola kube sweets. Burnt raisins, molasses, liquorice bring light bitterness which leads the oak into a long, warming finish resplendent with a little menthol, those tobacco notes found on the nose, buttery fudge and cocoa. Little spots of sweetness appear at the back end with the heavy pot still character carrying through until the death allowing the molasses to linger.
The palate of this rum really does continue the good work and foundations laid down by the nose to build layer upon layer of complexity. It remains entirely consistent throughout the transition from initial nose to the final dying embers of the finish. It never bares its 56% teeth either aside from a little heat into the mid-palate.
In Conclusion: Complexity by the bucket load. Such a well balanced presentation of the distillate too. Nothing is too aggressive or ramped up, everything is in perfect harmony. Each element has its part to play, no matter how big or small and as an experience it just sings. I can’t help thinking that we’re witnessing something really special here. Maybe a coming of age for a distillery, now back producing its own estate bottlings, using its own estate molasses following a hiatus of over 40 years. It displays huge confidence and the self assurance of a distillery that is really beginning to stretch its legs and I’m so excited for what is to come from them.
It is fully compliant with the Jamaican GI, is devoid of any kind of shenanigans, is as honest as the day is long and (I don’t say this lightly as I’m a HUGE fan of the Habitation Velier 2006 WPM and the Single Estate 57% release) this could be just about as close to Worthy Park perfection as I could’ve hoped for.
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