A rabbit hole of Jamaican rum, not for the faint of taste bud.
A new arrival for The Oak Barrel, the National Rums Of Jamaica series has been developed to highlight traditional Jamaican rum styles. These styles have always previously been mixed with other styles to create the robust Jamaican house style we know today. Here, however, they are presented in their rawest form – overproof, without addition and with intense, challenging, but ultimately rewarding flavour cascades.
Each Jamaican distillery produces a number of rum styles, which are categorised into ‘marques’. Typically ranging from very light to very heavy, the different styles are used to craft various flavours by blending the different styles. The marques are classified by ester levels and each distillery will register their marques with the domestic peak body.
Esters are chemical compounds that manifest themselves as flavours and aromas and these are measured at distillation. For a visual example of ester flavours, Melbourne-based chemistry teacher James Kennedy produced an excellent infographic a while ago .
In rum we are often experiencing and measuring ethyl acetate, the dominant ester in rum, which has a sweet, fruity aroma. In high quantities, though, it’s incredibly intense (think nail polish remover). Ester levels from 80 to 300 g/hl AA (grams per hector litre of absolute alcohol) are the norm – the lower level being lighter and cleaner, the higher fuller and richer. High level ester rums are known for being very fruity and ‘funky’.
While ester levels of 300 g/hl AA are considered high, Jamaican rums have been produced to ester levels as high as 1,600 g/hl AA – a seriously high level of funk.
These ultra-ester rums are understood to date back to a European period of high taxation on Jamiacan rums. To get around the issue, 700-1600 g/hl AA rums were produced and exported as ‘rum flavouring’. That is, to be mixed with other rums or local spirits to make palatable. They’ve also been used as food flavouring.
These ‘rum flavourings’ or ‘continental’ marques have remained behind the rum curtain for decades, only sampled by distillers and rum nerds who sourced them during distillery visits. That was until the National Rums Of Jamaica series, a world premiere of pure, naked rum marques from the Velier/LMDW rum creations portfolio. The Italian importer and French spirit giant have brought us a number of rum expressions in recent years, which we’ve never had the joy to taste before. Transcontinental and Habitation are two of their other series.
Working with the Long Pond distillery, National Rums showcase ultra-high ester levels like TECA (1,200-1,300 g/hl AA) and TECC (1,500-1,700 g/hl AA) while recreating marques from lost and closed distilleries like Cambridge and Vale Royal for the first time.
We’ve very limited quantities, but please be aware that these are rums unlike anything you’ve tried before and in some cases were distilled without the intention that we’d drink them.