Rum Notes: Tasting the Jamaican Difference

There definitely some sort of sorcery in Jamaican rum. Anyone who drinks it becomes a lifelong devotee, and an advocate of that full-bodied, high-spirited, fruity flavour that takes over the senses.

So what is it about the Jamaican variety of rum that appeals to accionados and those with an adventurous palate? Most of them swear by the flavour profile of Jamaican rum, which is unlike any they have tasted before. It comes on strong, as though unafraid of getting you mixed up in mischief.

What creates this strong flavour profile? Esters. Esters are often considered impurities, which you won’t find at all in a vodka, but which is what makes a rum, especially Jamaican rum, so distinctive. The esters in the mix create that funky taste, haut goût or hogo, which reminds you of tropical fruit ripening under the Carribean sun.

How do Jamaican rum-makers get these esters going better than others? There are a variety of traditional techniques used across the island to get those flavours, and these are just a few of them:

Longer fermentation: In Jamaica, lovers of hogo keep the molasses fermenting for much longer that the usual one to two days. They often keep it for weeks, and some of them even keep it fermenting in open vats to get the yeasts in the air to interact freely with the wash.

Dunder and muck: Dunder is what remains in the pot stills after a round of distillation. Muck is made of a distiller’s mix of carboxylic acids that react with ethanol to create some really robust esters. While not all distillers like to use dunder and muck, those than do swear on Blackbeard that this stuff really works.

Pot stills: Unlike column stills that remove most of the ‘impurities’ in rum, leading to less esters, traditional Jamaican pot stills retain the esters for the robust flavour that we associate with Jamaican rum. And guess what, there are more pot stills in Jamaica than in any other Caribbean island, so no wonder the flavours are so much stronger! That’s what we like to use at the Worthy Park Distillery to get the rum tasting like it should in a bottle of Wise Monkey.

Aging: In Jamaica’s tropical climate rum ages three times faster than Scotch. So that 5-year-old Wise Monkey has the aged finish of a comparable 15-year-old whisky. This is because the high temperatures in Jamaica causes the wood of the barrels to expand and contract, letting the rum permeate through the wood completely before squeezing it back out. This makes for a flavour-filled rum.

Of course, the Wise Monkey doesn’t like to reveal his methods, but let’s just say that his version of Jamaican magic definitely has hogo! He tempers it with age and wisdom of course, to create a smooth yet heady mix that’s fit for the obeah, and for you!

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