Rum Nation Jamaica White Pot Still Rum (57%)
Review: Rum Nation Jamaica White Pot Still Rum (Bottled in 2014 @ 57%) 91/100
a review by Chip Dykstra (Aka Arctic Wolf)
Posted on February 05, 2015
Rum Nation has been delighting me over the past few years with their fresh approach to the spirit we enjoy as rum. Fabio Rossi, who owns and manages the company, purchases select rums from various distillers in the Caribbean and the Americas, and provides a rather unique assortment of rare limited edition rum bottlings to both the European, and the North American market. Up until recently, all of Fabio’s rums have been well aged wonders. Some are aged solely in their country of origin where tropical aging increases the rate of interaction between the oak and the wood, and some have also seen a second period of aging in Europe where the more moderate climate allows for a more delicate interaction and additionally refines the spirit in a more subtle way. Sampling these well aged marvels has given me a greater appreciation of how both the dimensions of time and location affect the outcomes of maturity and taste with respect to aged spirits.
Last year, Fabio went in a different direction entirely with his Rum Nation Jamaica White Pot Still Rum. In the case of this spirit, the dimensions of time and location with respect to maturity are rendered irrelevant. Instead, the dimension Fabio chose to explore within this rum monster, was flavour! While other rum companies are experimenting with 3, 4, 5 and 6-year-old barrel aged rums which are then refined and filtered with charcoal to achieve their smooth color free state as ultra premium white rums, Rum Nation’s new Jamaican White Rum is instead produced entirely without age. And rather than giving us a smooth refined ultra premium white rum, Fabio’s new rum revels in its brutish, concentrated (bottled at 57 % alcohol) Jamaican pot still flavour, and is anything but smooth and refined.
This is a new direction for white rum, and it is frankly a direction which flies in the face of current regulation in my home country which decrees that even clear white rum must see the inside of an oak barrel for one year. With Rum Nation’s new Jamaican White rum, it is the Jamaican Pot Still which is placed under the microscope for better or for worse. The result is a bold new style of white rum which has traveled in a direction which I am eager to explore.
My sample bottle was given to me by Fabio Rossi who asked me to subject his new rum to my review process and to publish the results. Here they are:
In the Bottle 4.5/5
As you can see the bottle presentation for this new Rum Nation offering follows the same path as for the previously reviewed Rum Nation Caroni 1998. The short squat bottle has a look and feel which implies ‘substance’. I also like the postage stamp label which brings some Jamaican heritage to the bottle presentation. A wooden topped natural cork stopper seals the bottle. Although I prefer corked closures to screw cap toppers, I have noticed that in my somewhat dry climate, cork stoppers tend to become brittle quite quickly, and when they do, they break rather easily. Unfortunately this happened to my Caroni bottle after it had sat on the shelf for a few months, and I was forced to take that into account in my presentation score. (I have found that my climate seems to favour synthetic cork stoppers.)
In the Glass 9/10
When I poured a small sample of the white rum into my Glencairn glass I saw that the spirit is crystal clear just as it should be coming directly from the still. Although it is clear, it did seem sort of ‘slick and shiny’, making me wonder if the spirit were subjected to some sort of ultra-fine filtration or polishing process prior to bottling. (This would not be unusual as many distilled spirits undergo such a process to improve the look of the spirit.)
When I tilt and twirl my glencairn, I saw that the film of spirit which formed on the inside of that glass had a well-defined crest which began to drop small stubborn drooplets that formed slender legs which trailed back into the rum. This is an indication of a light buttery texture which is consistent with both the character of a pot distilled spirit and the high alcohol content of that spirit. (According to the information sent to me the rum contains no residual sugar content.)
When I took my first cautious sniff from the glass, I was struck by the depth and the intensity of the bouquet. This rum will not be for those who fear adventure in their glass. There is an omnipresent resin-like aroma similar to model airplane glue which dominates the breezes above the glass along with a grassy (chlorophyll like) scent which rides at the edges of that resin. An intense fruity smell reminiscent of green banana peel seemed to well up from underneath. There is an overt spiciness similar to white pepper and tart sour notes of fermenting citrus fruit.
While any of these descriptors by themselves may be enough put one off, the combined effect of all of them was perhaps terrifying. (What in the world is this going to taste like?) However, rather than being dismayed, I noticed that the aroma was strangely enticing. As well I noticed that as I sniffed the breezes above the glass there appeared other scents and smells which added to that strange enticement. There was a winding aroma of menthol which had previously been unnoticed, and bits of lemon balm and orange peel were giving the rum a character which was more familiar to me. I also sensed an overt herbaceousness which I likened to the smell of willow and birch buds, and there were also beguiling notes of iodine and sea salt which all beckoned me to sip … if I dared.
In the Mouth 54.5/100
The Jamaican White Pot Still Rum is everything the nose promised; it is gloriously complex and absolutely intimidating. I had to sip in very small doses to keep my mouth and throat from being overwhelmed.
Although the information sent to me about the spirit indicated that it contained no residual sugar, I did nonetheless taste a mildly sweet butterscotch flavour leading out as I sipped the upon the white rum. There followed an intensity of alcohol heat that numbed my tongue and rendered more sampling fruitless from the point of view of taste descriptors (at least for a short while).
As my palate adjusted, I noticed a light saltiness within the mildly sweet butterscotch. An impression of menthol cooled my palate, and although I know the spirit has never seen the inside of an oak barrel, I nevertheless could not shake impressions within the spirit of fresh leather, sandalwood, sanded birch and bitter willow bark (almost like aspirin). Bits of tea and chocolate appeared, along with impressions asphalt tar, and piny juniper.
The question becomes, what do we do with a rum which has so much flavour to offer; but one which also promises to do so much damage if you try to take more than a mere sip. The rum is simply too intense to sip neat, yet too marvelously complex to refrain from indulging. What I settled upon was a compromise, I decided would mix the rum into a cocktail; but I would follow the path of the daiquiri, rather than of the Cuba Libre (see recipe below). I was well pleased with the results, although as you will see, I had to make sure I adjusted my cocktail ratios to account for the sheer volume of flavour the rum possesses.
In the Throat 13.5/15
As a person of Dutch heritage, I would often be given dark salted liquorice candies by my parents as a method of keeping me quiet when I was a youngster attending church. These candies would dry my mouth while at the same time filled it with flavours of lightly salty dark licorice and cool menthol. And that is the best description I can give you for the dominant flavours I tasted as the rum exited my mouth and traversed through my throat. Those flavours lingered for quite some time after each sip before finally being chased away at the end by a reappearance of the resin-like airplane glue I sensed on the nose and its counterpart, that grassy green chlorophyll.
I found the rum, even in the finish, strangely enticing and wonderfully intimidating right to the very end.
The Afterburn 9.5/10
One thing to consider with respect to the Rum Nation Jamaica White Pot Still Rum is that a little bit of its monstrous goodness will go a long way when mixing a bar drink. It is not the high alcohol content that can douse your cocktail, it is the full robust flavour which is given by the Jamaican pot still. Down below is a cocktail which I devised (based loosely upon the tequila based Margarita). It uses a combination of fruit juice and ice to help hold the monster at bay. And even with all that ice left in the cocktail, merely one ounce of rum was enough to push that pot still flavour throughout the cocktail.
My final score of 91/100 usually represents a spirit which I would consider to be a fine sipper. In this case however, my rating represents a stellar score for a spirit which breaks new ground and takes white rum in an unexpected direction which will delight most rum enthusiasts (and perhaps terrify a few as well).
If you are interested in comparing more scores, here is a link to my other published Rum Reviews.
Jamaican Pot Still Cocktail
1 oz Rum Nation Jamaica White Pot Still Rum
3/4 oz Orange Curacao
3/4 oz fresh lime juice
1/4 oz sugar syrup
Add several cubes of ice to a small rocks glass
Add the rest of the ingredients into a metal shaker with more ice
Shake until the outside of the shaker frosts
Strain into the ice filled rocks glass
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!
Suggested Chocolate Pairing
Fabio Rossi (the owner of Rum Nation), asked me to find a chocolate pairing for his rum, and to that end he send me a selection of Rum Nation – Valrhona Chocolate samples to nibble and taste as I sampled his rum. Valrhona is a chocolate maker in much the same vein as Fabio Rossi is a rum producer. Since 1922, Valrhona has been creating special chocolate from selected rare cocoas from around the world. As each selected cacao has its own unique taste characteristic, Valrhona is able to create a variety of special chocolates to choose from depending upon your mood and food selections.
For the Rum Nation White Pot Still Rum, I selected the Valrhona Tainori, which is a Pure Dominican Republic Bittersweet Dark Chocolate. Its cocoa content is a full 64 % and it (at least to my palate) seemed to carry hints of fruit (as well as intense dry chocolate) in its flavour profile. Just as I mixed the Jamaican Rum with a few fruit flavours in my suggested cocktail, I found the light fruit flavour within the intense dry chocolate went very well with the Pot Still Rum, both when I sipped it over ice, and when I mixed the rum in my suggested cocktail.
I would suggest that (although I had no such sample of chocolate to compare) bittersweet chocolate and mint would also be a very good pairing for this particular rum. Perhaps this summer when my mint plants are growing again, I will make a mojito and find out if I am right.
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.