First posted 30 January 2010 on Liquorature.
Wow! What a surprisingly mellow, well rounded piece of work this was. English Harbour is aged a minimum of five years in whiskey or bourbon barrels, but there was none of the whiskey taste that so characterizes the Renegade product line, which I have gone on record as not really appreciating. This stuff is good for its age and price.
For the gathering of January 2010, it was the nominated rum alongside two whiskeys, and, to everyone’s surprise, this thing held up against older, more expensive drinks and was the first bottle to be drained. Of course, everyone had heard of my sterling review of the English Harbour 25 year old, but to have the five year compete favourably for its price range was unheard of.
The nose was the faintest bit sharp, and there was the same hint of vanilla, caramel and coconut I recall from its more expensive sibling. I seemed to get a slight trace of cherry. Neat it was unprepossessing, sweet in the way rums are, but the flavour was enhanced on the rocks. There was that slight taste of burnt sugar and sweet molasses and fruitiness on the palate that went down very nicely. Strictly speaking, it’s a bit too harsh to be classified as a really good rum, but it’s a damn sight better and smoother than the XM five year I spent so many of my years drinking, and gives the Appleton 12 some serious competition for flavour.
But the thing is, the real kicker comes from what happens when you dilute it about 2:1 (rum: coke). It was unbelievable: suddenly there was this extraordinary burst of fruitiness and caramel flavour, the cherry and woodsmoke hints went nuts, the nose got vibrant with vanilla and a faint nuttiness, and I just drank that down and poured another to make sure the first time hadn’t been a fluke. I saw Bob having a similar reaction, and indeed, it was between the two of us that we polished off most of the bottle. Neat or on the rocks, the finish is reasonably long lasting and keeps the sweetness running around the back of your throat with a little burn that mars it, for me…but not enough to make it a bad rum, just a five year old.
English Harbour hails from Antigua, and this five year old seems to be real value for money, going from the prizes the rum has won in the last decade (Double Gold – San Francisco World Spirits Competition 2004 and 2005, Gold Medal – Beverage Testing Institute 2005, 2006 and Forbes Magazine – Worlds 10 Most Remarkable Rums 2006). Given that it may even have enticed a few of the peat heads and whiskey lovers in our group to reconsider their prime allegiance, I might almost say it is priceless for its low cost (but that’s just me). Whatever their personal experiences with this unprepossessing five-year was, I can honestly say that for the age and price, this has been one of the most pleasant surprises in the rum world I have had thus far, and it makes me intent on hunting out other specimens from this distillery to try in the future.