Hardcore to the max. This thing eats bats out of hell for lunch. What a great, majestic rum.
“The past is never dead” wrote William Faulkner. “It’s not even past.” Perhaps no rum I’ve ever tried proves that point more than this one. Gordon & MacPhail’s 58 yr old Longpond 1941 is an insane, extravagant orgy of self-indulgence, a freewheeling base-jump from the preponderance of hollow rums that sell by the truckload and whose names everyone knows, to the uncharted realms of uber-expensive spirits which serve no sane purpose. Surely this thousand dollar hooch is one of the wildest products a distillery has ever spoiled itself with – for, who would buy such a thing? And having bought it, who would dare drink it? But I tell you this: G&M have made a rum you might want to try (if you can) just because it exists – until Appleton issues its 75 year old in 2037 (or the 100 in 2062), I seriously doubt that there will ever be another like it.
Consider: in 1941 the world was at war; television was still a technogeek pastime for people with post-doctoral degrees, and radio was king; in spite of the decline of the British Empire, the sun still didn’t set on it; the transistor had not yet been invented and computing power 1/100th the magnitude of today’s iphone fit into several big rooms. Suburbs, discount stores, desegregation, the pill, franchise fast foods – all these had not yet touched the populace. While this barrel slumbered (the rum was taken to the UK in 1946 and then to Elgin where G&M is headquartered, to further age in 1967), the world around it changed – you can truly say, when you sip this, that you are going back in time.
Nosing this golden Rip van Winkle of a rum was, I admit, a fairly kinetic event. At 50% ABV, would you expect anything else? Strong, deep aromas threw me to the ground and assaulted my senses with rich scents of rubber and wood, some kind of Indian spice (samosas? cumin? maybe some turmeric?) and light citrus, minty, grassy notes (I like to believe this is the sugar cane itself, except I know it don’t smell like dat) and a last bash of cedar. All in balance, all strong and absolutely smashing. This was a surprisingly decent nose for something I had feared would be nothing but oak, and when I tried it I was reminded once again of why stronger expressions are fast becoming my preference.
As for the taste, well, it was not the dark and heavy billy-club to the face I was expecting either: a massive arrival, strong and intense, spicy and nicely heated without being obnoxious about it, those cedar notes became more pronounced and acted as the core around which swirled a grassy-like hay flavour, burnt sugar, dried fruits, bananas, prunes and raisins. It exited at last with a long-lasting, dry, smoky-leather flourish, retaining herbal notes of crushed sugar cane juice, and leaving behind a memory of glistening green lawns and wet earth after a warm summer rain. Taste flowed smoothly into fade in a way one cannot help but be impressed by, honestly.
These words are the bare bones – the rum is exceptionally good for its age, and while of course paying four figures for it is kinda insane by itself, I can’t say that it wasn’t a deep, flavourful product, a beefcake of heat and hi-test which could wake up a dead stick. It’s just not made like most other rums, y’know, with colouring, deep brown sugar notes and a “rum” profile (no additives in this baby). In fine, this is a product made without compromise, without affectation, without any attempt to please. It stands proud and defiant, secure in its Olympian awesomeness as perhaps the oldest commercially produced rum, ever. It sneers at El Dorado’s 25, eats Rum Nation’s superb-but-gentle offerings for lunch, smiles pityingly at the Courcelle 37 year old, and casts a merely disdainful eye at the Appleton 50.
Longpond as a distillery still exists in Jamaica, after many changes in ownership; they make the 20 and 25 year old rums to this day (alas, unfound and therefore untried by me), and have shipped much stock to the UK over the decades, hence the independent bottlers’ consistent issuing of new variations with their name. The SMWS 9 year old 81.3%, is a good example of the cheerful manner in which startlingly original variations of its products are made, and all I can say is thank you, because it shows the levels to which rums can seriously aspire, at any age.
Still, at end, there is absolutely no reason for the rum to exist. It is certainly not worth the price I paid for it – if one were to judge on nose and taste alone (although for its geriatricity, it’s right at the cliff edge). But what a rum I did get: a huge, snarling, elderly, cask strength monster from out of the past, with a taste profile that shames today’s timid and vacillating producers whose only criteria is how many cases they can move in a year, how best they can smoothen out bite, calm down unadventurous boozers and soothe unpracticed palates.
“Buy me, buy me…I won’t hurt you,” they cajole and coo to the masses, but G&M ignored ‘em all and went their own way…took a cask aged beyond all reason, waved their magic wands, blessed the barrel with the tears of virgins and the incantations of druids… and issued this one of a kind bottling. In doing so, they reminded us all that we can still produce something utterly off the scale if we just have some courage and are willing to act, after dreaming mad dreams of greatness.