Nov 032016


We should be grateful that some makers still have sufficient stocks to permit the issuance of rums old enough to vote – we sure won’t see many of them much longer.  This one does fans of the Jamaican rums no dishonour – it’s great.


With the recent 2016 release of the 1991 Jamaica SL VIII, which really is just about as good as they say and maybe even better than this one, I rummaged around my bag of tasting notes and remembered I had a bottle from that island from a year or two back knocking about and gathering dust (would you believe I actually forgot about it?) … so I brought it upstairs, re-tasted, updated the notes, and decided to jump it to the front of the queue. ‘Cause those Supreme Lords man, they’re pretty amazing, and we don’t see many rums this old from the indie bottlers all that often.

By now, after recommending them for many years, there is nothing new I can really add to Rum Nation’s company bio that isn’t already there. They’re not innovative – or “limited edition” – in the same sense that CDI or Velier or even EKTE is, but they are very consistent in their own way and according to their own philosophy, and I’ve liked them enormously since 2011 when I first ran across their products and bought just about the entire 2010 release line at once.  Almost always good, always adding a little bit here and a little bit there to tweak things a bit (like the Panama being changed to an 18 year solera, the new bottle design from 2014), and incrementally improving every year (moving slowly to higher proof points, the Jamaican 57% white and those amazing twenty-plus-year-old Demerara and Jamaica rums). They catch a lot of heat for their practise of adding sugar (sometimes it’s actually caramel but never mind) to their lower- and mid-level rums (the Millonario XO in particular comes in for serious hate mail).  However this Jamaican SL VII has no such inclusions and is pretty much unmessed with, so rest easy ye puritans, and on we go.

Some details: this is a pot still rum, from Hampden estate, which is rapidly turning into one of my favourite Jamaican estates, like PM is for the Demeraras.  It was distilled in 1990 and poured into 822 bottles in 2013 at a not-quite-so-spectacular 45%, after slumbering for almost twelve years in Jamaica (in ex-bourbon American oak barrels), before finishing the ageing regime in the UK.

rn-j-1990-2It’s always a toss-up for me whether I’m in a Jamaican or Guyana mood, and this orangey-amber rum showed why – deep rich licorice and honey started the nose off, billowing strongly out of the glass; the funk took its place, oak joined in, to which was added easier notes of mead, grasses (grasses? I wondered, but yeah, there it was), and some orange zest. Deeper, muskier and earthier tones took their turn, before fading off into fruity hints (unripe peaches and a half ripe mango or two). I was impressed as all get out to note a hint of fresh honeycomb (complete with waxy notes) with a clear, light floral undercurrent that all combined really well.

There was no divergence on the taste, as I’ve sometimes noted with Jamaicans, and the palate followed smoothly on from what was smelled. Smooth and warm – yes, 45% could be improved on, but I can find little fault with what has been accomplished here.  Quite fruity, acetone-like and estery, but also competing briny notes were in the mix.  Citrus, sherry, the glue of an UHU stick, then cherries and very ripe apples on the verge of going bad.  It tasted remarkably clear and crisp, with the funk being held at bay while never entirely disappearing.  That might actually be to its detriment, because we look for a Jamaican profile, and it’s there, just not as in-your-face as we are led to expect by other independent bottlers who have no time for subtlety and smack you in the head with it. Finish is warm, remarkably long for that strength, with closing aromas of glue, sweet soya, a sort of mash-up of fleshy fruits, all leavened with a sly, crisp citrusy note that brings it all to a lovely close.  Overall, it’s a lovely and approachable rum that many, beginners and aficionados alike, will savour, I think.

Rum Nation’s marketing is quite canny.  Unlike the smaller independent bottlers, they don’t just do a single barrel – for them that’s too limiting.  They do two and three and four or more at a time, which permits correspondingly greater volumes (usually in the low thousands of bottles, sometimes more, sometimes less).  And they issue their high-end rums — of which this is assuredly one — at an ABV that’s more than the 40% which is practically a North American standard, but less than some raging full proof number that alienates (scares off?) all but the hard core.  What that leaves us with is a relatively affordable, very accessible 23 year old rum of just under a thousand bottles, issued at a decent strength, and quality not to be sneezed at. For ensuring that sales and availability and appreciation go hand in hand, that four-way combo is a tough one to beat. This is a rum worth getting, and the great thing is, you still can..


Other notes

Bottle provided by Fabio Rossi – every time we meet we argue over the cheque, whether it’s for a dinner we share or a bottle he’s provided. Sometimes I win, sometimes he does. I still owe him for this one, which I’ve had since early 2015.

The wooden box with its jute sacking which I so loved has been discontinued, but postage stamp pictures blessedly remain as part of the overall presentation.

Jul 152014



Rich sipping rum of remarkable complexity and flavour, one of the best I’ve ever had out of Jamaica.

(#182. 90/100)

Rum Nation’s Supreme Lord VI (the Jamaican 26 year old 2012 edition by any other name) is as good as its 2010 brother, if not actually surpassing it. It shows what can be done with an aged rum if time and care and patience – and some artistry – is brought to bear.  I loved the Supreme Lord V, which I reviewed a while back – and I must say, the VI does dial it up a few notches.  (Full disclosure – Fabio Rossi, the man behind Rum Nation, was having so many troubles working out the complications of me buying a single bottle from him, that he finally just lost patience, sent me the one, and said it was on the house.  So this one was a freebie, which happens rarely enough these days).

Like its predecessor, this rum was dark red-amber in hue, and gave evidence of good viscocity, what with its chubby legs slowly draining back into the glass.  It was also richly pungent to a fault: when I opened that bottle and decanted into my glass the aromas were all over the room in no time: a fragrant nuttiness with a faint tawny, perhaps herbal tinge, and cloves and nutmeg, a little pepper, vanilla, cherries.  I noted in my review of the 2011 edition that there was that slight turpentine, plastic tinge to it – none of that was in evidence here.  This rum has esters flexing their biceps all over the place.

The feel and taste on the palate was similarly excellent.  There was a sense of fruit teetering on the edge of over-ripeness, without actually falling over.  Leather, and the dry mustiness of a closed stable full of tack.  Aromatic tobaccos mixed it up with (I kid you not) a freshly opened packet of loose black tea. Even at 45%, it was smooth and easy, with a peaches and cream texture on the tongue that quite subdued the normally sharp citrus tinge Jamaican rums have.  And after adding a smidgen of water and waiting a while, there was even a tease of unsweetened dark chocolate and molasses winding its way through there – I just loved this rum, honestly.

And like the nose and the arrival, the exit was warm, a little aggressive, not too long, not too sharp and quite satisfying – one might even say it was chirpily easy-going, sauntering out the door with the casual insouciance of a person who knows he doesn’t have to tout his ability.  That last twitch of molasses, orange zest and nutmeg was just heavenly.  The Supreme Lord VI was quite a step up the evolutionary ladder from the last one I tried, I think (though I still love that one as well, don’t get me wrong – it had an aggro I found pleasing, in its own way).  All in all, this may have been one of the best Jamaican rums I’ve ever tried, and speaks volumes about why I’m a fanboy of Rum Nation.

When asked, Fabio noted to me that he produced 760 bottles of this nectar.  It was distilled in a pot still out of Long Pond (home of the rampaging rhino that is the SMWS 81.3%) back in 1986, aged in ex-Bourbon american oak barrels, but also finished for another eight years in Oloroso sherry butts – that would be where the amazing panoply of flavours got a helping hand, I’d say.  Rums like this one explain something of why I am prepared pay the extra coin for small batch creations – it’s a bit hit and miss, I concede…but not here.

Occasionally I go on a real multi-hour bender (usually out of boredom) – these days somewhat more rarely, of course. Still, with most rums I polished off a standard bottle in a few hours…this one is so smooth, so tasty, so complex — so good — that the experience (were I ever to perpetrate such a discourtesy with such a gem) would take half the night, yet feel like it’s over in five minutes.  There are some words I always hesitate to use in a review because it sounds so much like mindless genuflection or commercial shilling, but here I have to be honest and say, from the heart, that I think this rum is exquisite.


Mar 272013


An Italian outfit takes on the big boys from Scotland in grand style with a 25 year old of stunning originality and quality.

(#103. 88/100)


The Rum Nation Specially Selected Jamaica 1985 25 year old (also known as the Supreme Lord V) is a limited bottling rum that is a big vaffanculo to the commercial establishment and hoi polloi of drinkers. No Model T of rums, not meant for the masses of drinkers and cocktail mixers, it’s a rapier, not a club. This rum was meant for people who really like ‘em, and especially appreciate rums that are rare, unique and as different from the standards as, oh, 2011’s “The Artist” is from 1927’s “Wings”. When Rum Nation said this is a single domain rum, they were serious, and they didn’t give a damn if the rest of the West didn’t get it (not surprisingly, they’re almost unknown here).

Everything about the presentation of this $165 (2012 price) rum from Long Pond distillery had that old fashioned genteel-ness about it. It was packed in a stenciled wooden box with a sliding panel; the box itself was lined with jute sacking. The bottle was cork tipped and unpretentious, and sported a Jamaican stamp from empire days on the label (the Demerara 23 has a similar motif). If you’re sniffing and asking “so what?” well, consider that the St Nicholas Abbey 12 year old is half the age, and a quarter again the price, and while absolutely excellent itself, is nowhere near as unique (though the etching is admittedly prettier).

You think I jest when I say “unique”? Consider the nose. Tire rubber as thick as a black strip laid down at the Boulevard in Georgetown by a rich kid’s Mercedes braking too fast assaulted me right away. Plasticine coiled right behind it. What the hell? And yet that faded, replaced by the damp smells of wet autumn leaves. Rich earth and a nip to it that recalled memories of my younger professional days when I rested up in Europe and went for long walks on cobbled, windswept streets in old cities. And then that was replaced by fleshy fruits and heavier floral hints (apples and green grapes), all mixed up with a hint of tobacco.

On the palate, things got a lot better…. caramel and lighter fruits (apples and green grapes), merging with rich, aromatic pipe tobacco and more leather than you’d find on a well-outfitted Bentley. Not overpoweringly sweet. No citrus notes of the sort Appleton has taught us to expect in Jamaican products, though perhaps a little oaky (not enough to dissuade me from having more, mind you). And smooth, very smooth – that inauspicious start merged into a really lovely sipping rum – top class all the way, no matter how odd it sometimes became. And the fade was smooth and long lasting, with a background of burnt sugar, nuts and cherries and even here, a bite of that crazy rubbery note that seemed to want to stay there just to piss me off a little. My personal take was that whisky drinkers are gonna love it.

A comprehensive take on Rum Nation will wait until I have both more details and all the reviews of their products up on the site. In brief, this Italian outfit has brought out a stable of current releases that I found so intriguing that not only did I buy the entire 2010 line in one go, but in my estimation they should be thought of in the same breath as the better known Cadenhead, Gordon & MacPhail, AD Rattray and Bruichladdich. They take stocks from various Caribbean island nations (this pot/column still rum was sourced fifteen years ago) and then mature them for however long they feel like in ex-bourbon casks, with a finishing in ex-sherry casks, and then they bottle it without adding anything further…well, no wonder they taste so distinctive.

Now, I’m not going to tell you flat out that you’ll like this rum. It certainly will have rubbery notes and feinty tastes to it which many will despise with all the hot-eyed zealotry (and lust) of a Roman eyeing a vestal virgin. I was hoping I’d never have to write these words, but for sure this is an acquired taste for you as an individual – I don’t think I myself could have given it a fair shake as recently as a year ago. All I can say as a reviewer is that I thought it as crazy and offbeat as a modern-day Jeff Spicoli; smooth and strong and well put together, and maybe a little stoned — and if Rum Nation has not, perhaps, made a Model T like the Bacardi Black, or a souped up Bentley like the English Harbour 25, then believe me when I tell you that they have made a beautifully jazzed-up Aston Martin DB9 with as much leather as Judas Priest and more rubber than Janet Jameson’s boudoir…and maybe just forgot to fumigate a little.

Other Notes

A full biography of Rum Nation is available for those interested in the historical background of the company.