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English Harbour 10 Year Reserve

Review: English Harbour 10 Year Reserve Rum  88.5/100
a review by Chip Dykstra (Aka Arctic Wolf)
March 23, 2018

English Harbour Rum is a genuine Caribbean spirit produced by Antigua Distillery Limited (ADL). The rum is named for the Antiguan naval port of English Harbour which was the site of naval confrontations between the English and the French who were the two major naval powers of the 18th Century.

When I contacted ADL several years ago with respect to their rums they indicated to me that the special character of their molasses based rum begins with the fermentation process. They use baker’s yeast during their fermentation and allow it to interact with the wild yeast present in the distillery. The use of open top fermenters aids and encourages the marriage of the different yeasts. After fermentation, the English Harbour rum is distilled upon an all copper continuous still. (The Antigua Distillery operates one of the few remaining all-copper continuous stills in the Caribbean.)

According to the ADL website all English Harbour Rum is aged in used American bourbon barrels which are charred on the inside. Interestingly, as each barrel is filled a handful of oak chips is added to enhance the interaction of oak and rum.

The subject of this review is the English Harbour 10 Year Reserve Rum.

In the Bottle 4/5

For this review, I relied upon a poured off sample from one of my many rum friends. This means that I did not my own bottle to snap a picture of, so I have used the bottle shot I found on the producer’s website.

I like the short stubby bottle which houses the English Harbour 10 Year Old. The label is easy to read, and its low center of gravity means it will handle a little jostling without tipping over. The mid-sized neck is just long enough to make pouring the rum easy and the corked closure gives me that nice satisfying ‘pop’ when I open it.

My only quibble is that the bottle doesn’t reflect its price point very well. This is a rather expensive rum in my local, yet the bottle and label seem to reflect a more modest spirit.

In the Glass 9/10

When poured into my glencairn, the rum displays itself as a copper coloured spirit. When I tilt and twirl my glass I see a slightly thickened liquid sheen on the inside which slowly releases stubborn leglets which turn to midsized legs which run back down to the whisky at the bottom of the glass.

When I did my tasting sessions for the 10-year-old, it was bitterly cold outside and even my tasting room seemed colder than usual as the furnace in my house was struggling to keep up. I mention this because when I began to nose the rum, the breezes were not bringing me much except light oak and baking spices which made the spirit seem more like whisky than rum at first. The cooler temperature may have at first restrained the nose.

However, when I gave the glass time the nose soon began to reflect a much different character much more in line with an aged rum with aromas of dark brown sugar, vanilla and orange peel. Baking spices in the form of cinnamon and nutmeg seem to gather in the breezes along with some tropical banana and melon notes. There was a  smokey quality with smells of charred toast and roasted coconut. As the glass continues to evolve I started to notice a mixture treacle and coffee with perhaps a few indications of cocoa as well.

The rum seems very nice with a better balance of complimentary aromas than the younger 5-year-old.

In the Mouth 52/60

The ten year old rum enters the mouth with a combination of dark (almost burnt) brown sugar with oak and baking spices (vanilla and cinnamon primarily) following quickly behind. I can taste hints of coconut and a light winding of orange peel in the background. The rum is lightly creamy which helps coat the palate allowing the flavours to mingle and linger which is very pleasant. A smokey quality with dry fruit and oak tannin seems to rest underneath along with impressions of roasted walnuts and (I might be imagining this) baked apples. I like sipping the rum, although I think perhaps its better destiny is to be mixed into a Rum Old-Fashioned (see recipe below) where a touch of added sweetness and my Angostura bitters could play with the smokey flavours which are becoming more prominent as I sip.

In the Throat 13/15

As indicated above, the rum has a light creamy quality which allows the flavours to linger giving the spirit a longer finish than I first suspected. The oakiness of the spirit reveals itself in the finish with bits of sap and cedar and hints of ginger. When I add ice, I notice firm flavours of cocoa which seem to morph into a combination of coffee and cola after the swallow. A nice sweep of menthol keeps the palate cool beckoning another sip.

The Afterburn 9/10

I first tasted the English Harbour 10 Year Old first about seven years ago and I remember being underwhelmed by the flavour especially as this was an expensive rum in my locale (about $80.00 per bottle). I enjoyed the spiritt much more the second time around, although the price point is still problematic for me. Setting price aside, the spirit has much to offer. The rum is complex and well-balanced, and I can say with conviction, that it does indeed make a splendid Rum Old-Fashioned.

If you are interested in comparing more scores, here is a link to my other published Rum Reviews.


Suggested Recipe:

SAM_0872Rum Old Fashioned

2 oz Aged Rum
1 tsp simple syrup
1 dash Angostura Bitters
3 large ice cubes
1 twist of orange peel

Add the first three ingredients to a rocks glass over the ice cubes
Rub the cut edge of the orange peel over the rim of the glass and twist it over the drink. (This will release the oil from the orange zest into the drink)
Drop the peel into the cocktail if desired.

Please Enjoy Responsibly!

Note: If  you are interested in more of my original cocktail recipes, please click this link (Cocktails and Recipes) for more of my mixed drink recipes!


My Final Score is out of 100 and you may (loosely) interpret the score as follows:

0-25     A spirit with a rating this low would actually kill you.
26-49   Depending upon your fortitude you might actually survive this.
50 -59  You are safe to drink this…but you shouldn’t.
60-69   Substandard swill which you may offer to people you do not want to see again.
70-74    Now we have a fair mixing rum or whisky.  Accept this but make sure it is mixed into a cocktail.
75-79    You may begin to serve this to friends, again probably still cocktail territory.
80-84    We begin to enjoy this spirit neat or on the rocks. (I will still primarily mix cocktails)
85-89    Excellent for sipping or for mixing!
90-94    Definitely a primary sipping spirit, in fact you may want to hoard this for yourself.
95-97.5 The Cream of the Crop
98+       I haven’t met this bottle yet…but I want to.

Very loosely we may put my scores into terms that you may be familiar with on a Gold, Silver, and  Bronze medal  scale as follows:

70 – 79.5    Bronze Medal (Recommended only as a mixer)
80 – 89.5     Silver Medal (Recommended for sipping and or a high quality mixer)
90 – 95         Gold Medal (Highly recommended for sipping and for sublime cocktails.)
95.5+            Platinum Award (Highest Recommendation)

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