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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 March 9, 2018

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.)

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.

In the Bottle 4.5/5

The English Harbour Rum arrives in a squat, smoky green 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 have had this particular bottle for several years.

I  the long neck with the slight bubble in it which makes it easy to grab and hold and also easy to pour.

In the Glass 8.5/10

The liquid presents itself as a nice amber 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. I suspect I am noticing the impact of the oak chips added to the aging barrel which bring stronger oak flavours forward. (Oak chips do not interact with distillate in the same way as the sides of the barrel which bring flavour unto the rum as air passing through them.)

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 also 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 burnt caramel (treacle) and the molasses dominate the rum.

The English Harbour 5 Year Old Rum is a natural mixer with cola. Simple dark rum and cola tastes great. The strong flavours within the rum also work well in fancy cocktails like the Brooklynite (see recipe below) or as the spirit base for a dark 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 flavours continue to haunt me in the finish.

The Afterburn  8/10

English Harbour 5 Year Old Rum is full of flavour and character. However, as it was several years ago when I first reviewed the spirit, I find myself passing over this rum in my cabinet in favour of others, 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 I seem to prefer to pass over rather than return to when given other choices.

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


Suggested Recipe:

Brooklynite SAM_2427The Brooklynite cocktail appears to have arrived on the scene in the 1940s in Brooklyn, New York. It appears in the 1946 edition of the Stork Club Bar Book, and is basically is a daiquiri made with dark rum and honey.


2 oz English Harbour 5 Year Old Rum
1/2 oz Honey syrup (1:1 ratio honey and hot water)
1/2 oz Lime juice
dash of Angostura bitters
twist of lime

Add the four ingredients into a metal shaker with ice
Shake until the outside of the shaker begins to frost
Double Strain into a cocktail glass
Garnish with a twist of lime

If you are interested in more 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)


2 Responses to “English Harbour 5 Year Old Rum”

  1. 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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