SMWS R1.4 “Gets the Juices Flowing”
“Pure Single Rum” – 100% Pot Still
ABV Hydrometer Test: 66.50% ABV @ 20°
I have recently purchased three rums from The Scotch Malt Whisky Society (SMWS). For background info on SMWS, please see my previous reviews for SMWS R6.1 “Spice at the Races” (Foursquare, Barbados), SMWS R9.2 “Paddington Bear’s First Sip” (Varela-Hermanos who produce Ron Abuelo, Panama) and SMWS R8.3 “Fruit and Nut Case” (Nicaragua).
This therefore seemed like a good time to review one of my previous SMWS purchases of a high proof Jamaican rum that I believe is from Monymusk distillery. At 66.2% ABV and aged 21 years, this is a “single cask rum.” I purchased this in September 2015 for a very reasonable £46.
Under Richard Seale’s/Luca Gargano’s proposed rum categorisation, this would most-likely be classed as a “Pure Single Rum” – 100% Pot Still.
The ABV when measured with my hydrometer shows around 66.5%.
The SMWS bottles are quite distinctive, presented in a traditional dark ‘bottle’ green colour, with an unusual shape. The newer bottles have a slightly revamped label compared to this one from 2015.
The labelling is interesting as SMWS have their own extremely unique way of describing their spirits, which is quite flowery and obscure. As they do not present a spirit as being from a distillery, that info is absent as is the types of still, but what is present is the date of distillation (1st January 1991), the type of cask (refill ex-Sherry butt), region (Jamaica), number of bottles (696) and ABV, which is 66.2%.
The rum is a medium-deep amber colour. In keeping with SMWS’s policy, it is all natural colouring, coming from the 21 years of cask ageing.
Swirling the rum around the glass reveals very fine, dotted legs with small tears, slow to slide down the sides of the glass.
Inevitably, with such a high ABV, the first nosing is overpowering. Get too close to this when it has just been poured and it leaves you breathless. But with time in the glass, the aromas come out to play. There are plenty of raisins, a touch of green banana and some orange notes. Further nosings lead to me detecting a touch of aniseed along with some charred oak and a petrol-like industrial aroma. I do find that using my Neat glass assists when nosing high ABV spirits as it hides some of the alcoholic aromas and allows one to detect more aromas.
Adding a touch of water also reveals a hint of caramel sweetness and some plums.
Taste, Initial-middle 23/40
As with the initial nosing, the entry is very over-powering. The alcohol dominates way too much and makes for a very harsh entry offering little flavour.
Reducing the ABV helps to open out the flavours. I tried reducing the rum to 60%, 54% and 48% and found the latter to offer the best tasting experience. At 48% the rum has a buttery texture to it along with a caramel-like taste. But it is still quite a harsh and fiery tasting.
Taste, Middle/Throat 30/40
By the time the rum reaches the mid-palate, it becomes very dry and peppery. There is a distinct astringent mouthfeel that gets drier and drier. Simultaneously, the spice levels increase with every taste leading to a numbing sensation on the roof of your mouth. The fire is still present, but after reducing the ABV to 48%, some further fruit notes are present, notably some bitter orange, dark cocoa and a touch of citrus, but there is still loads of black pepper dominating.
Dry is the way to describe the finish. The more you taste, the drier the finish. It lingers long after swallowing and is far more enjoyable if you reduce the ABV.
I am not fan of SMWS’s descriptions of drinks – I find their descriptions are generally too obscure and this one has some real oddities. The official description on SMWS’s web site is more elaborate than what it says on the bottle. “The first nose was that of fragrant hairspray, perfumed and quite intense, followed by soft aromas of toffee and boiled orange sweets. With time deeper notes appear like very thick cut piece orange marmalade and a slightly smoky note of burnt oranges. To taste neat, hot and sweet like burnt brown sugar or a crème brulee torched with the naked flame of a bunsen burner. Very juicy but then a surprisingly mouth drying finish – orange crème dark bitter chocolate. With water, childhood memories of empty crisp packets warming up in the oven, next to charred peppered steak and toffee caramel. The taste, from one of the oldest plantations in Jamaica, is that of a Rumtopf with an overall wonderfully juicy mouth feel.” Empty crisp packets warming up in the oven? Seriously?
When I purchased this rum, I was really excited. I love Jamaican rum and with 21 years of ageing, I was expecting something amazing. Sadly, whilst the rum may be good quality distillate, it is way too harsh to enjoy at full strength and even with water, it is a challenge to enjoy drinking it. But I do like having a rum presented at full strength as it gives the taster the option to reduce the alcohol if desired.
P Denotes the rum contains POT still distillate.
C Denotes the rum contains traditional/Coffey COLUMN still distillate.
B Denotes the rum contains a BLEND of POT and COLUMN still distillate.
M Denotes the rum contains MULTI-COLUMN still distillate or is a MODERN rum.
A Denotes the rum is an AGRICOLE i.e. from Cane Juice.
S Denotes the rum is presented in a SWEETENED style.
Bottle/Presentation Out of 3
Glass/Aroma Out of 10
Taste, Initial-middle Out of 40
Taste, Middle/Throat Out of 40
Afterburn Out of 7