Plantation Xaymaca Special Dry Rum
Pure Rum – 100% Pot Still from multi-distilleries
ABV Hydrometer Test: 43% ABV @ 20°
* Xaymaca: P M&S: P S
One of Plantation’s new range of bottlings released in 2018, the “Xaymaca Special Dry Rum” is from Jamaica, is 43% ABV and is from 100% pot distillations.
Specifically, there is a blend of Vendome pot still from Clarendon created with a one week fermentation and John Dore pot still from Long Pond with a three week fermentation. Some of the Long Pond rum has been aged for nine and 17 years – the specific marques are Long Pond STC and ITP. But there are some very young/unaged rums in the blend too.
There is no official age statement, just that the blend is of rums with between one and three years of tropical ageing in ex-Bourbon casks and then one further year of ageing in ex-Cognac casks at Maison Ferrand in France. For the record, the term “Xaymaca” is the old name for Jamaica in the language of the Arawak who colonised Jamaica over 1,000 years ago. It literally translates as being “the land of wood and water.”
In my recent reviews of Plantation Peru 2004 Rum and Plantation Fiji 2009 Rum I praised Plantation’s new approach to rums both in terms of their labelling and “dosage” aka additives. To demonstrate the contrast, in this review of Plantation’s 2018 Jamaican rum, I am comparing it alongside a Plantation Jamaican rum I purchased in 2017 from M&S – a UK department store.
This M&S rum has a 14 year old age statement and is 42% ABV. It cost £40! There is little or no information about the rum – no reference to the length of tropical and European ageing ratio, no mention of the “dosage” (see below), it references “small batch pot still” but not which distillery was used.
Under Richard Seale’s/Luca Gargano’s proposed rum categorisation, the Xaymaca would most-likely be classed as “Pure Rum” – 100% Pot Still from multi distilleries. As no distillery is disclosed on the M&S bottle it is uncategorisable.
I tested the “Xaymaca” 2018 rum with my hydrometer and it measured 43%, the same as the label indicates, implying that there are no detectable additives in this rum.
I tested the “M&S 14 year old” from 2017 with my hydrometer and found it measured 38.2%, which implies around 16g / litre of added sugars.
To be fair, on the rear label is an ingredient list, which is as follows: Jamaican Aged Rum, Cane Sugar, Colour: Plain Caramel, although it does not mention the quantities.
For this review, there will be two marks – the first will be the new “Xaymaca” from 2018 and the second will be the “M&S 14 year old” from 2017.
Bottle/Presentation Xaymaca: 3/3 M&S: 1/3
The Xaymaca bottle is wrapped in Plantation’s familiar raffia and is a traditional shape, featuring a cork enclosure. The labels have seen a big improvement in disclosure and labelling (see above). In addition to info we want about the rum i.e. how it was made, there are also detailed tasting notes. Full marks for Plantation’s bottling here!
By contrast, the M&S bottle is devoid of most information we want/need (see above), aside from an ingredient list that is. The bottle is a standard type with a natural cork enclosure covered in a wax sealing.
Glass/Aroma Xaymaca: 8/10 M&S: 5/10
The Xaymaca is a pale to medium amber in the glass with medium density legs that are medium paced down the sides of the glass. The aroma is quite powerful…you know instantly that it is a Jamaican pot still rum with those tell-tale aromas of dried fruits, bitter plums and bananas. The nose also reveals orange peel and a touch of pepper.
The M&S rum is almost identical in colour – both will have caramel colouring added so no problem there. The legs in the M&S glass of rum are far more dense and syrupy and are quite quick to descend the sides of the glass. By contrast, it is not immediately apparent that this is a pure pot still rum. My first nosing reveals tons of sweet caramel. Further nosings do reveal some raisins, white pepper and something pastry-like.
Taste, Initial-middle Xaymaca: 29/40 M&S: 25/40
The Xaymaca’s smoothness belies the young age of the rums in this. There is butterscotch and a touch of white pepper on entry.
The entry of the M&S rum is quite smooth but also feels a little cloying – it is actually reminiscent of an Abuelo Ron. There are dried fruits, banana and orange peel.
Taste, Middle/Throat Xaymaca: 30/40 M&S: 20/40
This is where the Xaymaca’s pot still flavour really develops into something superb. It might not have had years of barrel ageing, but the rum’s fresh youthfulness is its most positive attribute at this point. It has a bit of rum fire that pot still Jamaican rums should have – it feels as if I am drinking a Jamaican rum. The initial peppery taste develops further and becomes more spicy. Interestingly, the butterscotch also continues and is joined by cinnamon. Despite there being no “dosage” it does feel as if it has been sweetened. But as the rum touches the rear of the palate that sweetness is nicely balanced by some oak as the rum becomes drier and more astringent.
The M&S rum develops a little spice here but unlike the Xaymaca it is mild and never reaches a proper pot still flavour. I think this is mostly because the rum continues to be way too sweet and syrupy. It also feels watery by comparison to the Xaymaca.
Afterburn Xaymaca: 6/7 M&S: 4/7
The Xaymaca has a long and lingering presence full of tannins and pepper. It is dry and has a generous level of oakiness.
The afterburn of the M&S rum produces a soft but tasty burn at the back of the throat. It is a short finish with a touch of tropical fruit.
TOTAL Xaymaca: 76/100 M&S: 55/100
The reason for me putting these two rums together for a review is not just so that I can take the p*** out of the older bottlings/dosage etc. or have a go at Plantation. But to be positive and highlight the significant improvements and strides made by them in a short period of time. We now have open and voluntary declarations of additives, better still….. rums without additives and labels full of useful information. If you are an ordinary consumer and are not interested in the info, just ignore it, but at least by having it there, us serious consumers know what is in the bottle and therefore if it is worth parting with our hard-earned cash or not.
The Xaymaca is fresh, young and vibrant – like a student going out partying after getting top marks in their exams. It tastes great on its own but will also add a great level of character and flavour to cocktails and makes a really mean rum and coke, too!
Having had my M&S bottle for a year, I have tasted it plenty of times and on each occasion I have been disappointed, hence why I did not write about it sooner. It is reminiscent of having some raisins or sultanas soaked in 2% of rum and then put in a jar and sold at Christmas. It just lacks the flavour and character of a pot still Jamaican rum and this is despite 14 years of ageing.
As I said with my recent review of Plantation Peru 2004 Rum and Plantation Fiji 2009 Rum, well done to Plantation for improving their information on their bottles and labels. The Xaymaca has no “dosage” which is always a big plus and having tested it with my hydrometer I can confirm it has no detectable additives. By contrast the 14 year old M&S rum is full of additives and to be honest does not taste that great, especially by comparison to the Xaymaca.
All of that said, by Jamaican pot still standards, this is quite light in style and is not really what one would expect from a 100% pot still Jamaican rum. But then again, not everyone always wants Jamaican pot still funk, sometimes something lighter is quite tasty. Furthermore, why is the Xaymaca called “dry?” This is the normal sweetness of rum whereas the M&S and most other Plantation rums are artificially sweetened. Therefore, Xaymaca should be called “rum” and other Plantation products should be called “sweetened rums” or better still “rum liqueurs.”
The additive-free Xaymaca costs a very reasonable £33 (albeit, Appleton 12yo “Rare Blend” Rum is about the same price and is much better) whereas the additive-laden M&S bottle cost £40!!! I know which one I prefer and also which one is better value.
Maison Ferrand’s acquisition of one third ownership of the Long Pond and Clarendon distilleries is already reaping dividends for us rum consumers. But let’s hope the next rum has a bit more Jamaican funk in it.
Once again…Well done Plantation – Xaymaca is great bottle of rum!
Review No. 112
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