Overproof Rum

Review: Gosling's Black Seal Bermuda Rum 151 Proof by Jason Hambrey

Gosling's Black Seal 2.jpg
ABV
75.5%
Aging
N/A
Recipe
From Molasses
Distiller Gosling's (Bermuda)

Gosling’s is iconic in particular for its part in the Dark N’ Stormy cocktail, a mixture of ginger beer, lime, and rum. The cocktail name, indeed, is trademarked by Gosling’s and the two have become synonimous.

This one packs a punch at 75.5%, but I like it more in a dark and stormy since you only need an oz, instead of two, which means more bubbles from the ginger beer since you aren’t adding as much non-bubbly liquid to it.


Review (2021)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: ~2020

 The nose feels very “generic” from a rum sense: white sugar, molasses, baking spice, orange peel, licorice root, and clove. The palate is clean, lightly sweet and a bit cloying. It is surprisingly light, perhaps so because of the artificially-enhanced colour. The finish is light with molasses and light baking spice.

While I like overproof rums quite a bit, this one doesn’t have the richness to match the proof and I end up just watering it down if I’m drinking it neat. You lose a bit of the finish with water but overall it tastes better. With ice, it narrows a bit on molasses and rich spice with a great spice – perhaps why it shines so well in cocktails.

A pretty flat rum. It isn’t really made for sipping the way I like to analyse spirits – on their own and neat. However, it’s hard to shy away from the fact that there is a reason this is so synonymous with the dark & stormy cocktail: few rums do it better. It marries perfectly with the lime and ginger. And that’s how I’ll drink my bottle of this…

Value: Good if you like dark and stormys or similar rum cocktails. Not much going on though if you drink this one differently…


Not what you might expect: A few Jamaican overproof white rums (Wray & Nephew, Monymusk, Rum-Bar, and Rum Fire) by Jason Hambrey

Overproof White Rums.jpg

Jamaica has been long known for its rums, starting initially as a by-product of sugarcane production which didn’t have a better use than distillation. Jamaica became a huge producer of rums in the 1800s, exporting as much rum to Europe as Britain’s other 14 colonies combined!

Jamaican rums originally were produced in pot-stills, and focused on producing lots of esters – bright flavour compounds also found plentifully in whisky. However, they took it to the extreme – with special yeasts and long fermentation times (a month, compared to the typical Scotch fermentations of 2-4 days!). This extra fermentation results not in the production of more alcohol but rather more flavour compounds, esters in particular. The Jamaican style which developed was distinct from the other styles of rum, like the heavy Guyana style.

 Now, most Jamaican rum is produced in column stills and not as “characteristic” as some of the more intense styles of Jamaican pot-still rum. However, there are still a number of very interesting rums in particular coming from Hampden Estate and Worthy Park which both use pot stills and produce rums with characteristic Jamaican “funk” that can be meaty, vegetal, and briny. Hampden, in particular, still uses the old process of dunder, where the soapy, heavy liquid left in the pot still after the alcohol has been evaporated out is retained and left to fester and interact with local bacteria and funghi. This “muck” is added to the molasses at the start of distillation after it has sat out for some time. The acids in the muck react with alcohol for more ester production. It is similar to sour mash, where the acidic tails of the distillation are added to bourbon fermentation, but this is more intense. The fermentations at the distillery go on for one week to one month, depending on the type of rum produced.

Similar to Canadian whisky and some Irish whisky, the Jamaican distilleries generally produces a variety of different distillates – some as bases, and some as intense flavouring components – for blends or even food flavouring. I was traveling through Jamaica and picked up some overproof white rums in the airport – if you read my tasting notes, you’ll realize these are a different category entirely to the massive brands of Appleton, El Dorado, or Bacardi which tend to have cleaner characteristics, but less interesting (or, perhaps, stinky).


Review: Wray & Nephew White Overproof Rum

Wray+%26+Nephew.jpg
ABV
63%
Aging
N/A
Recipe
From molasses
Distiller New Yarmouth (Clarendon Parish, Jamaica)

Review (2019)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: ~2019

Produced by the company which also makes and owns appleton estate.

This is a very rich nose. Creamed corn, orange, lemon, grapefruit, fresh blueberry, light spice. Somewhat briny and oily. Pickled lemons, crinkly black olives, bananas, young bamboo shoots, and rich earthy notes. Very nice nose. The palate is thick, with baking spices and lots of fruit, pickled red peppers, truffle dried olives – the palate completely stands up to the full strength, but it takes water well. The finish has molasses,  light caramelized sugar, simmered collard greens, jack fruit, and light mixed chemical notes. Slightly sour.

Very good! I’d only want one of these, but I’d enjoy it.

Assessment: Recommended.

Cheap in Jamaica, and great value – about $9/bottle.


Review: Monymusk Overproof White Rum

Monymusk+Overproof+White+Rum.jpg
ABV
63%
Aging
N/A
Recipe
From molasses
Distiller Clarendon Distillery (Kingston, Jamaica)

Review (2019)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: ~2019

Monymusk rums are produced at Clarendon, where most distillates go towards Diageo for the production of their rums. The distillery makes both column and pot distilled products, and produces a light and heavy style of rum.

A fairly clean, lightly sweet nose which opens up with quite a bit of water. Jackfruit, white pepper, dried orange (reminiscent of young Armagnac), rubber, dried blueberry, plantain chips, match sticks, apples, unripe pineapple and light whiffs of molasses, growing with time. The palate is waxy, slightly smoky, light asphalt, light (as opposed to dark) sugar caramel, white pepper, candied mandarin, and a light woodiness like poplar. There is also some marshmallow, vanilla, and jack fruit with time. The finish has clove, light rubber, stale white pepper, dried apple, with a very light earthiness. Interesting notes grow on the finish too, like hot cardboard sitting in the sun and old chocolate which is brittle and bleached.

I prefer this with water, actually. It is much more complex – it grows hotter and cleaner with increased ABV. But, I’d go for other rums over this one.


Review: Rum-Bar Overproof Pot-Still Jamaica Rum

Rum-Bar+Overproof.jpg
ABV
63%
Aging
N/A
Recipe
From molasses
Distiller Worthy Park Estate (Lluidas Vale, Jamaica)

Review (2019)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: 11:01 081118 RB0918

  • Bottling Date: ~2019

A blend of three pot-still rums with no additives, at 63%

What a nice, complex white rum! The nose has olives, pickles – quite briny – with light citrus notes, and some odd notes too – bananas starting to go bad, over-ripe cantelope – but also dried apple, hard apple candies, pineapple (dried, canned, and fresh) and some yoghurt. The palate is waxy again, with young coconut water, white pepper, vanilla, and a rich agricultural note – like drying wet hay and wet, malting barley. The earthiness is great. Very rich. The finish has rich tropical fruit, slight rubber, mixed stale baking spice, and light waxiness. Very complex and intense.

Again, I’d really enjoy one of these but probably wouldn’t reach for a second.

Assessment: Recommended.

Awesome value in Jamaica, about $11/bottle.


Review: Rum Fire White Overproof Rum

Rum+Fire.jpg
ABV
63%
Aging
N/A
Recipe
From molasses
Distiller Hampden Estate (Wakefield, Jamaica)

Review (2019)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: ~2019

Now, this is a rum! It is reminiscent of Smith & Cross. The nose is extremely deep and briny. Green olives, smoke, rubber, capers, Dijon mustard, pickled lemons (in vinegar, like the middle eastern kind) and spiced pickled lemons (like the Indian kind), pickled silverskin onions, unripe green mango, and lots of lemon. Turtles, too – if anyone knows that smell!  It is extremely rich, and lightly rough. The palate follows from the nose, but with a nice bright middle of fresh berry notes. We also have spiced pickled green mango (i.e. Indian or Pakistani mango pickle), baking spice, asphalt, and light bright molasses. There is fresh, ripe pineapple and rum cake also. The finish is rubbery and smokey and very briny – awesome! Tons of analogies to intense Islay whiskies. There is also a malty aftertaste like a clean lager, almond meal, pineapple, and some more capers.

I bought only a 200 ml bottle of this, but I really wish I had gone for a full bottle (only $12).

Assessment: Highly Recommended.

Awesome value in Jamaica, about $12/bottle.


Review: Foursquare 2004 Fine Blended Rum by Jason Hambrey

Foursquare 2004 2.jpg
ABV
59%
Aging
11 years; Ex-bourbon barrels
Recipe
From molasses
Distiller Foursquare Distillery (St. Philip, Barbados)

Foursquare is becoming an exceedingly popular rum brand, offering high proof, quality rums with transparent information (cask type, aging, etc.). Sadly, I've never seen it in Canada but it's not too hard to find in the states. They produce rums from pot and column still, and this is a blend of both distillates bottled as part of their exceptional casks selection.


Review (2018)

  • Batch: Exceptional Cask Selection Mark III

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2015

Bright, earthy, interesting – orange, molasses, sweet oak, butter, brown sugar, nutmeg, cinnamon, coconut – still very sweet and dessert like - some spicy grassy notes balance it out on the backend too. Oak is quite dominant for an ex-bourbon cask – the warm weather must really work on the oak extraction.

Palate starts slightly sweet, with more orange, blueberry, before finishing in a slightly earthy, molasses laden and spicy finish. The oak fits in very nicely – I imagine it’s a rum bourbon whisky drinkers might relate to because of the big oak integration. The finish builds very nicely, seemingly picking up flavor and viscosity as it builds – starting with dried fruit, then adding in dry spice and eventually oak – in the end drying out. Nice dried berries on the finish, too. I really like it at full strength – it swims well but there is a bit of tarry, medicinal notes that seem to be lost as water is added.

Very nice. Stylistically, I like sharper pot still rums (like the Jamaican Smith & Cross, which is sharper and almost smoky) – but this is terrific, complex, balanced, and interesting.

Assessment: Very Highly Recommended.

Value: Average. While it’s hard to find high quality, cask strength rums for this price, it still comes at a decent price (~100 CAD).


Review: Caroni 2000 High Proof Trinidad Rum by Jason Hambrey

Caroni+17+YO.jpg
ABV
55%
Aging
17 Years; Matured in Trinidad
Recipe
From molasses
Distiller Caroni (Trinidad)

Caroni is a legendary rum distillery which shut down in 2002 after the shut down of the sugar refinery which the distillery used as an ingredient source. It was noted for its heavy rum which supplied the British navy, but now it's known for a strong, unique and exceedingly complex rum. This rum was bottled from 7 casks which yielded 2700 bottles - over the 17 years there was an evaporation loss of 80%. But, what remains - remarkable rum.


Review (2018)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: B35L6

  • Bottling Date: 2017

What a fascinating nose. I’m not that exposed to premium and boutique rums, only having explored the largely mass produced and commercial rums. This is exactly what I have been looking for in exploring connoisseur rums – extremely unique. Warm rubber, tar, iodine, black pepper, clove, peat (not peat smoke, but rather peat bogs), dust, orange peel, dried orange, dried apricot, prune, bamboo, tamari – absolutely fascinating. Things become clearer with water, but it’s remarkable how much complexity is maintained at the higher ABV levels.

The palate continues with the medicinal and rubber notes, along with all the spice and citrus – but adding some cacao nibs and vanilla cream. I love the effect – it starts out big, dips down for a second or two, and then the flavor starts to grow and grow – sort of like a „U” in terms of the impact of flavor. The finish is full of almost every note in the nose – fabulous, rich, and enduring – but has maybe even more, with the vanilla cream, cacao, and some milk chocolate and oak coming in as well. Ubelieveable – in my top echelon of spirits.

Assessment: Exceptional. One of the best spirits I’ve ever tasted (inclusive of whisky!).

Value: Low (this goes for around $250 US) – but if you want to spend the money, I would!


Review: Smith and Cross Pure Pot Still Traditional Jamaican Rum by Jason Hambrey

ABV
57%
Aging
N/A
Recipe
From molasses
Distiller Hampden Estate (Wakefield, Jamaica)

I had this rum in a bar in the US and promptly bought a bottle. I've never had high proof rum, and, like bourbon, the sweetness of the spirit balances the powerful flavor of the high proof. It is a brilliant mixer, indeed, it is one of the most revered rums in bartending (subbing it out for gin in a negroni will blow your mind). It is made from Jamaican rums with a mix of two types of rum distillates - Plummer and Wedderburn (defined by the amount of esters in the final spirit) and it is fairly young (<3 years).


Review (2017)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: ~2016

A spicy, medicinal, waxy nose that I love. Molasses, anise, dried blueberry, oak, pencil shavings, candle wax, cinnamon, brown bread...a gorgeous nose. The palate starts with medicinal notes, then merges to dried cranberry and very gently to pumperknickel bread, fancy molasses, candied orange, oak and baking spices. The finish carries the medicinal notes, the oak, and the brown bread and molasses notes to perfection. Oak, and oxidized notes (like vermouth or sherry) on the finish. Balanced, interesting, well delivered, so flavourful, and so rummy. An incredible rum!

The sweetness balances the proof so well – it is a new side of rum to me. This is a bomb in cocktails, I can’t even express that enough. If you mix it in for gin in a negroni, you get a wow cocktail – and there are few of those. Seriously, try it. I bought a bottle in the US just to use in negronis...

Assessment: Highly recommended.

Value: Very high. This often goes for around 30$ usd, and for a very nice nearly cask strength rum!