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English Harbour 5 Year Old Rum

Review: English Harbour 5 Year Rum  83.5/100
a review by Chip Dykstra (Aka Arctic Wolf)
Posted July 19, 2012
(Revised in 2016 as part of my 2016 Top 50 Mixing Rum Countdown)

The English Harbour 5 Year Rum is a genuine Caribbean rum produced by Antigua Distillery Limited. 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 the Antigua Distillery regarding my review they indicated to me that the special character of their 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.) The rum is aged in once used Kentucky bourbon barrels, and the Distillery’s wood policy states that they must use no. 1 select barry from the cooperage owned by the famous bourbon company.

In the Bottle 4.5/5

The English Harbour Rum arrives in a squat, smoky green coloured rum bottle. The labeling is nice; it has a bit of a parchment look, giving the impression of tradition and age. The top of the bottle is sealed with a solid cork which has not deteriorated during the rum’s long stay on my rum shelf. I like what I see.

In the Glass 8.5/10

The liquid presents itself as a nice mahogany colour in my glass. When I give the glass a tilt and a twirl, I notice some long slender legs forming which move at a moderate pace down the inside of my glencairn glass.

The initial air above the glass presents a complex aroma of molasses, treacle (burnt caramel), toasted coconut and orange peel. The rum has a smoky quality as well which reminds me of dry fruit (raisins, dates, and prunes). A bit of damp cigar tobacco and some muted almond scents round out the nose. I am tempted to score this a little higher, but I am sensing something wayward as well. The burnt caramel and toasted coconut aromas seem a little strong, and there is a light earthy dankness in the breezes. This dank aroma which is similar to a damp old root cellar is both appealing and unsettling at the same time.

In the Mouth  50/60

The rum leads out with strong flavours of treacle and molasses which are followed quickly with some heat from the wood spices which represent themselves as banana and orange peel. I taste some baking spices (vanilla, cinnamon and cloves), as well as some tobacco and marzipan. There are even some nice hints of dry fruit (especially raisins), although it would be fair to say that the burnt caramel and the molasses dominate the rum.

The English Harbour 5 Year Old Rum is a natural mixer with cola. Simple dark rum and colas taste great, and the strong flavours within the rum work well in fancier daiquiri style cocktails like the Brooklynite. The strong flavours within the spirit also make it an ideal rum to serve as the base for a strongly flavoured rum punch.

In the Throat 12.5/15

The dry fruit which I spoke of earlier seems to find itself in the finish and the result is a medium long smoky finish which not only brings out the dry fruit, but also seems to leave trails of chocolate and coffee in my throat. As good as that sounds, I also note that strong burnt caramel notes continue to haunt me in the finish.

The Afterburn  8/10

This review took me a long time to complete. I cannot deny that the English Harbour 5 Year Rum is full of flavour and character. However, I could not get excited about revisiting the rum, and it took me an inordinate amount of time to complete my tasting regimen. I found myself passing over this rum many times in favour of others to review, and that hesitation to return to the bottle is reflected in my scores.

My score of 83.5/100 represents a rum which can be sipped enjoyably, but it also represents a rum which given my druthers, I would prefer to mix.

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


Suggested Recipe:

English Harbour Punch

2 oz English Harbour 5 Year Old Rum
1/2 oz Amaretto
pineapple juice
chipped ice

Mix in a metal shaker and strain into your serving glass with ice
dust with nutmeg for garnish

Always remember, my aim is not to have you drink more…it is to have you drink better!


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)


4 Responses to “English Harbour 5 Year Old Rum”

  1. Alex Hopper said

    Any idea when you’ll get a chance to review the 10 year? I just wanted to say i’ve found your reviews very helpful in growing my collection of great rums.

    • Hi Alex

      I have asked for a sample of the rum, on a few occasions, but so far have been unsuccessful in my attempts to secure enough for a review. Time will tell.

  2. You summed it up quite nicely. Like you, I thought it was an excellent mixing ingredient, and, in spite of the MoR forum discussion on whether it was a mixer or a sipper, my own preference definitely trends towards the former. It’s a bit too heated and straightforward for me to think of it as a sipping rum.

    • Thanks Lance

      All the elements seem to be in place. I suspect I will like the 10 year old much better, as additional smoothing out from aging I think will be a great benefit.

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