Edwin Charley "Virtue"

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Product of:  Jamaica
Aged:  Single barrle, aged 15 years or more (estimate)
Price:  $100 (varies widely)
Alcohol: 49% ABV
Sugar: 0g/L
Context:  Premium Aged Rum
RG Rating: 10

Tasting Notes
A color of luminous polished copper greets your eyes through the slender Venetian glass bottle, giving perfect hue to the aging barrel figurine inside - arguably the very best presentation of any rum.

Aged Appleton rums typically exhibit a nice tropical fruity bouquet, but Edwin Charley “Virtue” delivers all that in spades before revealing even deeper well-balanced aromas of caramel and oaken vanilla on a soft leather-like texture. That complex fruity bouquet entices your nose before the complex aromas develop their own signature.  Mango, papaya, mandarin orange, dried apricot and candied ginger are the most pronounced, then transitioning to thin new leather, spicy coriander and rosemary blossoms.  The initial taste brings caramel, nut-crusted toffee, butterscotch, and light milk chocolate on a medium body, before an extremely smooth and long finish of semi-sweet caramel and toffee leaves your lips smacking and you begging for more.

Anecdotes
Regarding Virtue, the maker calls it “Edwin Charley’s tribute to aging in oak.”  According to J. Wray & Nephew, Virtue “represents the very essence of aging.  It is a single marque of rum that has been chosen to become a single barrel creation because it is so distinctive and special.  This rum has aged in oak for several years, and during this time it has changed from a young, raw spirit to a mellow and complex masterpiece.”  Fact.

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Edwin Charley Proprietor’s Collection was launched circa 2005 with a series of four rums.  Never produced in large quantities nor intended for mass distribution, they have become eminently collectible due to their exceptional taste and unique bottle design.  Each version is packaged in an individually numbered, hand-blown Venetian glass bottle featuring an exquisite glass figurine inside.  The icons pay homage to the progression of rum; from growing, harvesting, distilling, and culminating in the single-barrel aging of rum.  The figurine inside the Foundation bottle is a sugarcane stalk, honoring the plant itself.  The glass itself is almost laboratory quality in its clarity and thin-walled eggshell-like delicacy.  [Note; the price shown in the sidebar is the amount Rum Gallery paid at airport duty shops in Jamaica, Barbados and Turks & Caicos Islands.  Since the rum series was barely exported, expect to pay 2X or more of the price stated here.]

J. Wray & Nephew produces Jamaica’s top selling overproof rum under it’s namesake brand, as well as a few other fine rum brands at the Appleton Estate, Jamaica's oldest sugar factory and distillery.  Since 1749, rums have been produced from at least six varieties of meticulously cultivated sugar cane grown on the estate.  The Edwin Charley rums are a blend of pot and column still rums, except the Virtue which is a single barrel column still rum.  They are distilled  from a molasses wash fermented with a proprietary strain of yeast propagated from the sugar cane grown on the Estate.  Sure, you can smell and taste the familial resemblance between Edwin Charley and the other offspring in Wray’s portfolio, but they are developed into unique rums. 

Bob “The Rumelier” Davies brought a bottle of Virtue to the 2nd Annual Caribbean Rum blah blah, and I loved it.  But the story gets better.  Appleton was selling all four versions of EC in their booth at the festival, and at discounted prices.  Ever the bargain hunter am I (another reason to go to the Caribbean), two bottles were purchased for $125, roughly 60% of the normal price.  Good fortune is a Virtue.

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Opinion
Rare as it is, some of you may wait a long time for the opportunity to taste Edwin Charley Virtue.  You might wonder how it compares with Appleton’s 21 Year Old, an outstanding rum in the same price range.  Sipping the two rums side-by-side, Edwin Charley Virtue seems slightly sweeter, with more caramel aromas and flavor, a more viscous body and slightly fruitier.  Appleton 21 shows more heady pot still aromas, woodiness, leathery and mineral flavors.  

Ironically, despite it’s eclectic presentation, rarity and exclusivity, Edwin Charley Virtue might be the more appealing rum to mainstream rum aficionados.  It is a massively complex, delicious, and highly aromatic rum that will reset your expectations of what Jamaican rum should be.  

Alas, choices are most difficult when they are dilemmas: which one of two excellent options; the 21 or Virtue?  If it weren’t so rare and difficult to find, I’d more often reach for Edwin Charley.  Apparently, I’ll have to make a Virtue of finding more.

Who was Edwin Charley?
Joy Spence, Master Blender extraordinaire at J. Wray & Nephew tells The Rum Gallery:  "The series is still in production and Edwin Charley ran his own company which was eventually purchased by J. Wray & Nephew Limited."  

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Edwin Charley was a rum and wine producer who made his home in Jamaica from the late 1800’s until at least the 1930‘s.  He was the proprietor of a shop that bore his name in Kingston, Jamaica.   According to J.Wray & Nephew Ltd (who produce this rum),  “Edwin Charley established a reputation as a merchant of the finest selection of rums.  In spite of being surrounded by such a premium selection, he maintained that no one had yet created the perfect rum and therefore made it his life-long quest to create this.  It was not until he had mastered the art that his rums became highly prized collectibles.  These rums were defined by their mellow and subtle but complex character, a unique style of rum for the time, a taste that has endured.”  

Reviewed: October 2011 courtesy of Bob “The Rumelier” Davies while on Barbados.  We first shared Virtue as a prelude to the second annual Caribbean Rum & Beer Festival.  Repeated evaluations at the Rum Gallery, USA from then ‘til late 2014 exposed the same magic elixer.

Note:  the price shown in the sidebar is the amount Rum Gallery paid at airport duty shops in Jamiaca, Barbados and Turks & Caicos Islands.  Since the rum series was barely exported, expect to pay 2X or more of the price stated here.

© Dave Russell 2017