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Harbour Rum (Yongehurst Distillery)

Review: Harbour Rum (Yongehurst Distillery)     (86/100)
a review by Chip Dykstra (AKA Arctic Wolf)
Posted on August 15, 2016

The Yongehurst Distillery is a brand new Micro-Distillery located at 346 Westmoreland Ave near Dupont and Dovercourt in Toronto, Ontario. The facility is owned by long-time friends, Rocco Panacci and John-Paul Sacco who are making what just might be Toronto’s first micro-distilled rum upon their brand new small pot/column combination still.

Yongehurst Still IMG_4727

The Yongehurst Distillery Combination Pot/Column Still

According to Rocco,

” We liked this system because it’s very modular, so we can configure it to run as a straight pot still, but also as a column still for neutral spirits, and anything in between. Downfall is that there’s no automation to it at all, so so we do a lot of tasting and manual adjusting as go. Tons of control, which we love, it just took us some time to learn it’s nuances perfectly.”

Yongehurst Distillery’s Harbour Rum is produced on their new still from imported (certified organic) South American molasses (from Paraguay according to my secret sources) which has been fermented with wild Ontario yeast. Rocco told me,

” Once the fermentation stops, the wild yeast we use works with natural bacteria to develop a beautiful pellicle over top of the rum/beer to protect it – it smells like heaven! Sweet apple, cranberry and bubble gum …”

Yeast and Molasses IMG_4669

Spider web pellicle over top the Rum/Beer after Fermentation

The rum that Yongehurst is producing is unique (one of the first micro distilled rum produced in Canada) and perhaps the first rum produced in Canada which is completely unaged (in Canada, by law, all rum sold must be aged for a minimum of one year). Rocco explained to me,
“We have some of our rum that’s been in barrel for close to a year now and we tried experimenting with charcoal filtering it to white – it loses almost all of its body and flavour. As well as removing the colour and flavour imparted from the barrel, activated charcoal removes all of the oils and esters that make up the body of a rum. Basically we were left with what was closer to vodka than rum, and we really felt that was cheating the consumer.

If you open any of the original classic cocktail book, white rum was one of the most prevalent cocktail ingredients and somewhere along the line, it fell off map – likely because of its lack of flavour due to filtration to adhere to modified government regulations. We wanted to make a TRUE white rum that would stand up in a classic cocktail recipe that called for white rum. We think we’ve done that successfully, which is why we choose to release it and label it rum …”

After the spirit was tested at the LCBO (Liquor Control Board of Ontario) labs, John-Paul and Rocco were given bottle and label approvals, and they have began to sell the spirit (in 375 ml bottles at 44 % alcohol by volume) at their distillery.

I was recently sent a sample bottle and asked to give an independent review here on my website.

Harbour Rum SAM_2704In the Bottle 4.5/5

The 375 ml bottle of Harbour Rum which was sent to me is shown to the left. I like the small stubby bottle and appreciate that the topper is a nice synthetic cork stopper which seals the product well and gives me that nice ‘pop’ when I open it.

I am perplexed by the tree ring image on the front of the bottle. The image brings to my mind connotations of oak aging, however as indicated earlier this rum has not seen the inside of an oak barrel. Perhaps there is some message I am missing here?

On the whole however, the positives definitely outweigh the negatives, and I suspect the small bottle will be popular especially with new consumers who may appreciate a more economical choice when they first encounter the rum.

In the Glass 8.5/10

The rum is clear in my glass, and when I give that glencairn a slow tilt and a twirl I see a light sheen of rum left upon the inside. The crest of that sheen is somewhat stubborn indicating the rum has a bit of an oily consistency. This is typical of small batch micro stills which seem to have the capacity to produce an abundance of congeners during distillation. In the case of the Harbour Rum, the esters have not been stripped away by filtering allowing the rum to retain its natural buttery nature.

The nose is very pleasant. A light sweetness which reminds me of cotton candy drifts upwards into the breezes with feathery indications of mint and menthol alongside. The breezes indicate that the rum has somewhat firm vegetal nature, and this presents itself beside scents of mushy banana and ripe plantain. There are also intriguing aromas in the air (resin-like esters which remind me of camphor) that resemble the notes I would find in Jamaican pot still rum. The nose is rounded out with hints of lemon and orange zest, banana peel as well as  grassy herbal notes akin to the aroma of freshly mowed hay.

I am impressed.

In the Mouth 51.5/60

The rum is pleasant to sip. There is a firm bite from the higher alcohol proof and the spirit’s lack of age. However this is offset by a pleasing buttery mouthfeel and a gentle cooling menthol which keeps the bite in check. The flavours from the nose translate well to the palate with hints of cotton candy and mint playing in the rum alongside flavours of banana and citrus zest. A light herbaceousness is present with lemongrass and hints of heather manifesting themselves from the grassy aromas I noted earlier.

Of course I wanted to try a few cocktails and working with that mint-like flavour I could sense both on the nose and in the mouth I started with a very short mojito-like cocktail. The result was well worth the effort and I was emboldened to try another serving in the daiquiri style. Both recipes are shown below.

(I am rethinking my appreciation for the small 375 ml configuration, as now I think I would have much preferred a much larger sample.)

In the Throat 13/15

The relative smoothness of this 44% alcohol by volume unaged spirit has me shaking my head in appreciation. Despite that firm bite, I can throw back a full swallow without undo discomfort. The trailing herbaceous (grassy) flavours accompanied by the soothing menthol is very pleasant.

The Afterburn 8.5/10

I have tasted quite a few of the new spirits from small micro-distilleries this year; and the Harbour Rum is one of the best. Yongehurst has produced an unaged rum which is not only a great cocktail spirit, it is also a young rum which can be sipped with pleasure. I plan to keep an eye on the two guys from Toronto, as I certainly want to taste more of their spirits as they come to market.

My score of 86/100 is on the high side of my scores for white rums unaged or otherwise. This score represents a rum which can be enjoyed as a sipper, but which is just as likely to be mixed into delicious cocktails.

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


Suggested Recipes:

Habour Mojito SAM_2705Harbour Mojito

2 oz  Yongehurst Harbour Rum
1/2 oz Fresh Lime Juice
3/8 oz Sugar Syrup
3 Fresh Mint leaves
Mint Sprig for garnish

Muddle first four ingredients vigorously in a mixing glass
Add the muddled ingredients into a metal shaker with ice
Shake until the outside of the shaker begins to frost
Double Strain into suitable rocks glass full of ice
Garnish with a sprig of mint

Enjoy Responsibly!


Yongehurst DaiquiriSAM_2708Yongehurst Daiquiri

2 oz Yongehurst Harbour Rum
3/4 oz Fresh Orange Juice
3/4 oz Fresh Lime Juice
1/2 oz sugar syrup (1:1 ratio)
Lime Zest

Add the first four ingredients with ice into a metal shaker
Shake until the outside of the shaker begins to frost
Strain into a chilled cocktail glass
Garnish with a strip of lime zest

(Please enjoy Responsibly!)

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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