Rumaniacs Review 019 | 0419
So this is a rum from British Guiana in pre-Independence days, distilled for E.H. Keeling & Son in London. These days such rums are not strictly unicorns, because that would suppose we know something about them – here, their makers have long since been forgotten, the bottles drained, the labels faded, and they were not made for a discerning audience. Yet the rums still turn up here and there like old-fashioned, tarnished gems in your late Grandmother’s Edwardian jewellry box, whose story and origin have been lost because no-one ever thought to remember. Sad really. Perhaps here we can recall their memories from the days of receding empire.
E.H. Keeling was a spirits broker and merchant who sold rums under their own labels – this one is supposedly from around 1955. Records show Edward Keeling starting his business in 1825 in partnership with Matthew Clark but when he retired in 1844 his inheritors formed their own company. During WW2, the premises (close by those of Alfred Lamb) was destroyed in the Blitz. Rum importers Portal, Dingwall & Norris offered them space in their premises to continue their business. Subsequently a partnership was formed and, after the war, Booker McConnell (who ran Guyana’s sugar estates for a while) merged with them, giving birth to a new company – United Rum Merchants Ltd, now part of Allied Domecq Spirits & Wine (UK) Ltd.
Colour – Dark Amber
Strength – 45%
Nose – Something of a wooden still wafts through here, soft, not sharp, quite deep. Licorice, bananas, citrus, apricots. Also (get this!) new leather shoes still squeaking, and a sort of bitter cooking chocolate. So…PM, EHP, VSG? Who knows. At that time there were still so many of the old stills in Guyana, and DDL wasn’t even a thought in anyone’s mind.
Palate – Thick, heavy, dark, heated, rich. Vanilla starts the party, then oak and tannins (too much again); dusty hay notes, then dark rye bread, prunes, pears, blackcurrants and figs, with very little spice or anise coming through (some does, just not much). It was lusciously made, reminds me of the mid range full proofs like Cabot Tower, Woods, or Watsons. Then at last comes the dark burnt sugar and some caramel notes, black cake and fruit, to swell the taste buds.
Finish – Warm, fruity, with salt and that squeaky new leather of a pair of not-quite-broken-in Grenson Albert brogues. Tannins again, a little bitter, followed by the aromatic smoke of port infused cigarillos.
Thoughts – Did they really make rums that different sixty years ago? Yeah, I think so. Still, that oak is too dominant, it distracts from the core flavours — and those were lovely. Mouthfeel was excellent. Might only be six to ten years old (I don’t think massive ageing was in vogue in dem dere ole days) but damn, it’s still quite fine.
Rest easy and be comforted, Keelings. Your rum is not forgotten after all.