There is a comment to a review somewhere that begins “anyone who says they drink this rum neat is a lieing sack of…. “. No need to complete the sentence this being a family forum and all…
But I’m here to tell you that it ain’t so! Not only do I drink this rum neat, it is actually best that way. I expected something harsh. That is not what I get here… But let’s take things in order.
Bottled at 57% ABV there is going to be some fire here. The back label says it is a mix of Plummer and Wedderburn pot still rums. It is 100% pot still. “Plummer” and “Wedderburn” turn out to be names in a classification system used (perhaps) by the British admiralty and I cannot find much else about this particular system, but I’ll keep looking. Smith & Cross is a 50/50 mix of Wedderburn aged less than 1 year, and Plummer aged from 18 months to 3 years. It seems to me that these age ranges leave a lot of room for flavor and texture differences from batch to batch. I imagine each rum might be blended with various barrels of itself before the two types are mixed. In any case this is a young rum compared to most of what I’ve been drinking lately.
I did learn that this is a “high ester” rum (you can taste that) and that these esters come from the distillery’s use of dunder. Esters are molecules formed from combination of various alcohols and acids. Our nose happens to be sensitive to esters. That is, we smell them, they are an important part of what we call flavor, and their aromas are like all kinds of ripe fruit. If I recall my chemistry years butyric acid and ethyl alcohol form a banana smelling ester. Esters come from a few places in the production chain, notably fermentation. They are volatile molecules and so come over from the finished mash to the distillate. Some also develop in aging depending on the barrels. Ester production is greatly enhanced if the distiller uses dunder.
A dunder is what is left over from a previous fermentation run. It tends to be pretty disgusting, and often some of this stuff is left to age in pits for a while where it gets even more disgusting. I’ve never been there but I’m told the smell of ripe dunder will make you sick. If true it’s because of all the esters, an extraordinary number and density of esters! It turns out that if you take a little bit of this stuff and mix it into the still along with a fresh batch of sugars and yeasts (Smith & Cross use natural yeasts native to Jamaica), those esters get into the distillate and from there into the barrels where they end up producing an incredibly rich and usually fruity rum. Let’s get to the rum!
Color: Pale light amber, almost yellow
Legs: The rum forms tiny droplets that take forever to form into legs and run thick and slowly down the glass
The nose is full of ripe fruit. Pineapple dominates and there is grape, banana, and rich brown sugar. There is alcohol on the nose but not as much as I expected from a young 57% ABV, and there is also a little of that Jamaican funk but not a lot.
Flavors reflect the nose well. Pineapple comes first followed by other ripe fruits, dark fruit, brown sugar, molasses, and caramel. This rum is creamy from the first sip. I don’t know how they do that without any additives but it’s amazing. On the swallow there is fire, but it quickly transforms into a smooth and sweet medium finish. The funk is there too, but not overmuch and the fruit definitely dominates over the funk. I tried adding a little water. That brings out the funk a bit more but at the cost of diluting the fruit. I prefer this rum neat despite its ABV.
This is the second fruity rum I’ve come across lately, the other being the Mezan Jamaican. The flavors seem related. The Mezan also smacks of pineapple and other tropical fruits, but in the Mezan they are fresh fruit flavors while in the Smith & Cross they come across very ripe. There isn’t any dark fruit in the Mezan and the funk while present there is lighter, but the up-front pineapple definitely ties the two rums together.
At $40 locally I will surely be buying more Smith & Cross.