Rum Review: Hamilton Pot Still: Black and Blonde

Rum Review: Hamilton Pot Still: Black and Blonde

Two more rums from Hamilton, both related to the Pot Still Gold I reviewed previously and one also to the Hamilton St. Lucian rum also reviewed — see links below for these reviews. I include both Black and Blonde in the same review here because while related (both rums start from the same stock) they could not be more different. Price on these is moderate, about $35 U.S. for each 750 ml bottle.

Pot Still Black 46.5% ABV

Color: Dark copper reddish. The rum, while not sweetened is colored with what the Ministry of Rum calls a “double strength black sugar-based caramel”.

Legs: Thin fast

Aroma: Some pot still funk, dark fruit raisin, prune, alcohol, burnt caramel.

The label and Ministry of Rum web site says this is a blend of light, very light, and heavy pot still rums aged “up to 5 years”. There is no mention of the sort of barrel (ex bourbon, or something else) used. The feed stock is molasses.

Flavor: raw sugar cane, burnt caramel, black molasses, coffee, tobacco, over-ripe banana and a little sherry-like smokey oak. A bit of fire on a medium and sweet finish,  not bitter. The funk is present but only underneath the sweetness of this rum. This is not a dry rum but distinctly sweet. The funk comes up as a background to the sweetness.

Texture: A little creamy, not very, but there is some body here. Not glassy or crisp or dry. Distinctly brown-sugar or raw sugar sweet.

This rum is delicious and reminds me of the Dos Maderas 5+5 if a more sophisticated (and unsweetened) version of it. Like the Dos Maderas, this is a great cigar pairing rum. I will be buying more of this one!

Pot Still Blonde 45% ABV

Color: very pale yellow tinge, more pale than the Hamilton Pot Still Gold (barely) but not all the way to clear.

Legs: Thin fast

Aroma: Funk of a sort I do not know. Rich rotten pineapple or lychee fruit. There is alcohol on the nose but all of it is overwhelmed by the aroma of rotting fruit which comes out a little like the smell of ether and old airplane glue.

The label and Ministry of Rum website say there is no coloring added to this rum which begins with the same rum stock as the Black (above) and Gold (see review) pot still rums. Then aged 18 months in barrels formerly used for Hamilton’s St. Lucian rum, finally being married for 6 months with a 1-year aged light pot still rum.

Flavor: A watery sort of dryness that fills your mouth with the funk of spoiled grape, way over-ripe pineapple, and lychee fruit. This might be the most awful  funk I’ve ever tasted. Undoubtedly there are some rum aficionados who will relish this, but I’m not one of them. The finish is short and dry but not bitter. There is no dark fruit here, nor coffee or tobacco flavors, nor caramel, molasses, or brown sugar. The over-ripe bright fruit funk dominates everything except the alcohol which is smoothed by the fruits. Possibly the aging in barrels used previously for Hamilton’s St. Lucian, among the funkiest rums I’ve had (see review) explains this strange and unfamiliar kind of funk but yikes, this is way over the top.

Texture: Thin, watery, not creamy. There is body here but it is all in the funk.

Perhaps my taste will evolve or the rum will evolve in the bottle. Right now, having had 3 glasses, I do not much like it at all.

 

Rum Review: Worthy Park Single Estate Reserve

Rum Review: Worthy Park Single Estate Reserve

I am more and more drinking only rums promising no additives. Some of these are the product of ageing in wood other than ex-bourbon, but the wood is dry. There is no mixing of spirits only the influence of their past presence in the wood. I am trying not to be a snob about this. There are still a few rums having a just a little added sugar (English Harbour) or more (El Dorado 15), or maybe a little sherry (Dos Maderas 5+5), that I still like very much. At least I think I would when I get around to having them again.

But more and more there are really good rums with no additives available on the American market, and I can only drink and afford so much. The last ingredient here is a new up-scale brick and mortar store Bitters & Bottles but 10 minutes drive from my home with a spectacular rum (and both whiskeys and whiskies) collection. Consequently, in the last year I’ve bought nothing but these rums from a half-dozen producers, but in particular from Foursquare and Hamilton (many reviews of both lines here). Even now, buying these for a year, there are a few of each producer sitting in my closet not yet tried. There have come to be so many of them.

Yet even among these, perhaps one or two dozen producers out of many hundreds available available in the U.S. there is a huge range of effects and it is good to keep reminding yourself of how much different two rums can be. I found this recently no better illustrated than the difference between the Foursquare PREMISE I reviewed last time and this Worth Park. The PREMISE smacks of sweetness and fresh fruit, although no sugar is added to it. It is aged for 10 years both in ex-bourbon and ex-dry-sherry casks, and comes to us at 46% ABV. The Worthy Park is dry with notes of over-ripe fruit, aged 6-10 years (according to the label) in “once used” ex-bourbon casks, bottled at 45%. But their aromas and flavors could not be more different. I’m guessing, but I suspect the casks are not charred and come from a non-smokey sort of bourbon. There are no charred oak flavors.

The bottle shape stands out a bit. There is a nice synthetic cork stopper. Let’s look at the rum.

Color: Pale amber, light copper.

Legs: Thin legs, fast at first, slow down as they go.

Nose: Ripe dark fruit, deep molasses, alcohol, ripe banana, caramel toffee, coffee. A very rich nose with a promise of Jamaican funk like a Pusser’s or Appleton Estate.

Sip: Crisp, thin body, clear, some fire in a medium slightly bitter finish, dry, thin body, and only the slightest hint of over-ripe ester funk to remind you this is a Jamaican rum. A very clear dry rum. That’s amazing. Given how much ester seems to be present on the nose, the taste has only the slightest (though unmistakeable) hint of it. As I finish the glass the rum stays crisp. Its body doesn’t seem to thicken up as many do.

There is one down side to drinking these. They do tend to be pricey. This Worthy Park was $60, a little steep for me, but it did come highly recommended, I can see why. As goes cigar pairing (the cigar pictured is the last of my Padilla San Andres Reserva, I haven’t found any combination yet as good as everything seems to be with the Premise. But this is a great rum and a great counterpoint to sweeter offerings if you are in the mood for a change.

Review: Foursquare Premise Rum

Review: Foursquare Premise Rum

Another offering from Richard Seale. Premise is one of those special barrel bottlings released in the last few years by Foursquare Rum and available in American brick and mortar stores (with good rum collections) for about $55. A tad more than the earlier “Port Cask” and “Zinfandel Finish” releases. Although it isn’t in the name I’m told to think of this as a “sherry cask” rum. As in all the other releases, these are supposed to be dry ex-sherry casks, and the rum contains no additives.

The rum is a medium amber, not pale, but by no means dark. More brass than copper colored. When swirled in the glass it forms medium thick legs that flow pretty fast. Bottled at 46% ABV a good down the middle strength given the present fashion for “naval strength” rums. Smooth and delicious as it is, it had enough fire going down to convince you there is real alcohol present. The rum is aged 3 years in ex-bourbon wood and then 7 more in ex-sherry wood. More detail can be found here at the fatrumpirate site.

On the nose there is intense Caramel, toffee, brown sugar, raisin, even apple or green grape, and maybe light ripe pineapple. Also enough alcohol to push it all out, I don’t get any petrol or varnish notes. This is one sweet and slightly bright-fruity aroma with a little oak thrown in.

The flavor is surprisingly sweet maybe sweeter than the port and zinfandel bottlings. Lots of brown sugar, light caramel, maybe a little tobacco, sherried oak. The sweetness is a little less up front on subsequent sips. Finish is long and sweet, there is no bitterness here. Not a lot of fruit in the flavor for me, but what there is isn’t dark but light. The body is distinctly creamy, a little thick.

You know I always drink rum paired with a cigar. It so happens that the only wine I really like paired with cigars is sherry. Needless to say a “sherry cask” finished rum from foursquare was going to hit the spot. It does. Goes well with every stick I’ve tried, 5 of them at this point. A little expensive yes, but if you have developed a palate for unadulterated rums lately you’re going to want to try this one.

Happy sipping!

Rum Review: Hamilton Demerara River

Rum Review: Hamilton Demerara River

The label on the back of this bottle says: “The bottle of rum in your hand was blended from carefully selected rums distilled and aged up to five years in Guyana then bottled in the U.S. without adding any sugar or other sweetener. The rich dark fruit, spice, smoky wood, and tobacco notes in this rum add a unique flavor to cocktails and Tiki drinks…”

Looking this up on the web it turns out that this rum is bottled from the same blend as the Hamilton Overproof 151 rum but dialled back to a less eye watering 86 proof (43% ABV). It is, presumably, made from molasses extracted from Demerara River (in Guyana) sugar plantations. Why Demerara sugar is so highly prized for rum I do not know, but it is true that all the “Demerara rums” I’ve tried (like El Dorado) are pretty darn good. As it turns out, according to this interesting essay on Demerara rums there is only ONE DISTILLERY (Diamond) in Guyana now and all Demerara-based rums start there. How do they do this? The key (from the linked article above) is: “The challenge for the Diamond Distillery is to maintain the distinctiveness of the many different brands while having them all under one roof. One way they do this is by using a variety of different stills including the only wood stills left in the world.” Here is a link to the Diamond distillery’s page.

So now you know… Let’s get on to the tasting

Color: medium-dark amber, red, orange. Not the darkest rum but on the dark side
Legs: tiny beads coalesce to thick tear drops and run slowly
Aroma: Heavy hit of prune and raisin, slight alcohol, caramel and treacle, apricot, sweet smoke. Very rich aroma, I could delight in this sensory experience a long time.

Flavor: Mixed-up. Light touches of tobacco, light brown sugar, a little oak, dark fruit. Sweet and rich without a lot of flavor separation. Reminds me of a creamier, sweeter version of English Harbour. Flavors are amalgamated and come forward as one delicious offering. Smooth, long sweet finish, a bit of heat rises slowly after the swallow, and sustains itself quite long, the prune-raisin and tobacco in the aroma coming up at the end on the nose and back of the throat. Nice experience!

It is hard to believe that nothing is added to this rum to smooth it. If the oldest rum in the blend is 5 years this seems rather dark in color and the smoothness in it can only come from the blend . Yes, English Harbour is smooth and only 5 years old, but it does have a little sugar in it. This rum is distinctly richer than English Harbour but reminiscent of it. At $24 at my supplier it also competes with English Harbour on price, and while I love that rum and always have some around, I will be adding this Hamilton to my permanent collection as well.

Highly recommended if you are looking for a smooth and easy-going rum to enjoy neat or in cocktails. For your interest here is a link to Hamilton’s Ministry of Rum

For those living in or around the San Francisco Bay Area, here is a link to Bitters & Bottles, my local (South San Francisco) retailer maintaining a superb rum collection!

Hamilton Navy Strength Rum

Hamilton Navy Strength Rum

I first encountered Hamilton rums late in 2016 when I tried the Saint Lucian 2006, an ester fueled funky rum in the Jamaican style. Since that time I’ve found and tried three others, the ’86, the Pot Still Gold, and now this latest and best of all by far the Navy Strength.

At 57% ABV this is a true “navy strength” rum. This phrase comes from the fact that at 56% and above, a gun powder wet with a little rum will still light (it doesn’t explode, but burns something like a sparkler) while below 56% it will not. Given this much alcohol (and I am assuming there is no added sugar here, an implicit promise of the Hamilton line) I expect some heat. I was not disappointed.

This from the Ministry of Rum website and here is a direct link to the page on this rum. There is a lot of information there about the history of this blend. Would love to do what Ed Hamilton does!

“60% Guyana rum at 154 proof and 40% Jamaican rum at 170 proof are blended together and slowly stirred for 48 hours before dilution to 114 proof with filtered well water at the Five & 20 Distillery in Westfield, NY. “

Color: Medium dark, copper red.
Legs: A few fast thin legs, and a lot of slow thick drops suggests a creamy experience.

Aroma: Dark fruit, prune, raisin, apricot, alcohol, molasses, oak, and burnt caramel (treacle).

Sipping: Lots of heat from the beginning to a long smooth and sweet finish. You get the dark fruit, molasses, burnt brown sugar, strong sherry notes, oak. Very creamy. I put a little water in this (1/4 t-spoon in a dram lowers the ABV from 57% to 55%, not very much) and it stands up well to it. The heat is a little reduced, bringing out coffee and chocolate notes from the rum while all the dark fruit remains. The heat is still there is a little reduced and the rum gets even creamier. The treacle turns into a less burnt brown sugar.

At around $44 this rum is on the expensive side for me, but only one of the Hamiltons I’ve tried (the ’86 at $24) is under $40 anyway. This is a superb rum. Think of Foursquare 2004 (for heat) with the rich flavors of their Port Cask, and more of them. If you like the higher ABV rums, this is one to try, the richest, thickest rum I’ve had with an ABV above the 40s. As far as I know, the Hamilton rums are available only in the U.S. Considering how many great rums we cannot get here are available to Europeans, it’s good to have a line like this on my side of the Atlantic.

Pairing with cigars? Of course! This rum works best with the less sweet cigars bringing out nutty brown sugar sweetness in the smoke. Highly recommended.

Hamilton Pot Still Gold

Hamilton Pot Still Gold

Another rum from the collection of Ed Hamilton.  This one different in that there is no explicit “declaration of honesty” (added sugar?) and looking this up on the Ministry of Rum website doesn’t add much. Here is what it says:

Black rum distilled from fermented molasses. Aged up to five years.

A blend of light, very light and heavy pot still rums from the Worthy Park Estate where rum has been made since 1670. Colored with gold-tint sugar-based caramel, this pot still rum embodies the heavy aroma and flavor of Jamaican rum. Over-ripe bananas dominate the aroma and yield to spice, sugar cane and ripe fruit in the body. The finish is reminiscent of the aroma with ripe bananas and vegetal notes.

I cannot fathom what is “black” about this. As you can see from the photos, it is the palest rum I’ve ever had. Any paler and it would be perfectly clear.

Bottled at 46.5% ABV. There is no age statement on the bottle.

Glass: Thin fast legs at first followed by a thicker, slower wave. Never quite seen anything like this. There are distinctly two different legs. Perhaps the difference between the light and heavy rums in the blend?

Aroma: Nose of alcohol, bright pineapple, ripe banana, and light caramel. Some dark fruit aromas (prune/raisn?) too belying the rum’s color. If you have too many straight hits it starts to take on a varnish quality. Making me dizzy.

Flavor:  Bright pineapple and citrus, a little bit of raw sugar and I get a distinct note of mint and anise! the rum has a hint of Schnapps in it! I can taste youth in the rum but depth at the same time. It is much smoother than I would expect with a “young rum” with something like a minty black cherry cough drop on a surprisingly long aftertaste.

I’m trusting that the Hamilton name means there is no added sugar in here. the label says nothing about it. The bottle has no “batch number” on it either. Obviously a blend and surprisingly (or at least seemingly) the components are distinctly sensible.

This is a little like Smith & Cross (you can also taste two rums there) but smoother, much less “in your face”, and with a mint/anise twist. A good substitute in the rotation. the Smith & Cross was getting a bit overpowering. For $24 Hamilton’s “Jamaica Pot Still Gold” an outstanding find for those times when I feel like a change from dark rums.

 

Hamilton 86 Guyana Rum

Hamilton 86 Guyana Rum

Another from Ed Hamilton creator of the Ministry of Rum. A Guyana Demerara River rum I expect this to be both sweet and smooth. I was not disappointed. The bottle says 43% ABV product of Guyana distilled and aged on the banks of the Demerara river. Who doesn’t like Demerara rums? On the back label: “A blend of rums aged up to five years in Guyana and then bottled in the U.S. without adding any sugar or other sweetener.

Color: Dark mahogany red, rich looking.

Legs: A few fast thin legs descend from a swirl, but many little beads also form and slowly coalesce.

Aroma: Heady molasses, coffee, chocolate, burnt caramel (treacle), prune, strike you along with just a little alcohol. The nose is fantastically rich. There are no “young rum” acetone notes, only delicious darkness. This smells very sweet. No ester funk in the aroma at all.

Flavor: Smooth, dark fruit, less sweet than it smells. Very creamy blended flavors favoring prune, tobacco, and coffee but subtle. No one flavor leaps out and there is something a little different from every swallow. No funk! Warm but not at all hot or sharp. Smooth, smooth, smooth. Medley of aromas disappears in the flavor to a subtle dark fruit sweetness, creamy throughout. Long finish warm creamy rich with just a touch of bitterness at the very end. It reminds me of the Foursquare Port Cask or maybe a richer version of English Harbour.

This is my second “Hamilton Rum”, the first being a very high ester (funky) St. Lucian 2006. Also rich, but very funky. This one is very different. Ed has a good nose for good rum of all kinds. This bottle cost me $42 (the St. Lucian was $60 something)! Fantastic deal for such a well crafted rum! Highly recommended.