English Harbour 5 Year Aged

English Harbour 5 year old

Product of:  Antigua
Aged:  5 years
Price: $14 Antigua, $26 USA
Alcohol: 40% ABV 
Sugar: 0 g/L
Context:  Premium Aged Rum
RG Rating: 8.5

Tasting Notes
Very Smooth.  English Harbour Aged 5 year old rum is distilled in copper column stills and aged in small oaken casks to produce a beautiful, golden copper color, and a generous light bodied, full flavored rum. Aromas are light, slightly oaky sweet, with overtures of brown sugar, caramel, hints of cinnamon, nutmeg, and delicate mango-citrus fruit. There is no recoil on the nose, indicating a mature rum that has been well aged and purified by the charred interior of the oaken casks.  Since each aging barrel imparts its unique characteristics, the rums are blended and married for up to four weeks in a large oak vessel before bottling to ensure flavor consistency. Tasting brings out more wonderful flavors, completely consistent with the aromas, and adding a bit of vanilla, cream soda, golden raisin, maple flavors and a copper texture (from the still), in a nicely rounded body. The finish swarm, with an intentionally mild burn that stops mid-throat, then 
sweet and lingering for awhile before fading. 

Anecdotes
The island of Antigua is beautiful, with 365 glorious sandy beaches, friendly people, and some of the best tasting aged rum in the West Indies.  English Harbour rum begins with molasses imported from the Dominican Republic and Guyana, while the DR source is preferred for it’s  higher sugar content (55-58%).  Baker’s yeast is used to initiate fermentation.  Anthony Bento, Managing Director of Antigua Distillers Ltd’s explains this is why English Harbour rums have their wonderful bready flavor.  Some airborne wild yeast also enters the open-top fermentation tanks, potentially giving an additional random complexity. 

ADL’s continuous, copper three-column still is located near St. John’s harbour on the ruins of an old fort called the Citadel, kissing the Caribbean Sea.  Mr. Bento claims this location imparts the slightest hint of sea and salt notes to the rum, and I wouldn’t argue with him. 

Why the Sad Face? Delicious Rum is Distilled Inside this Copper Coumn Still at ADL

The fermented wash is distilled in a copper, three-column continuous still that was refurbished in 1991, making it the youngest of it’s type in the Caribbean.  (see the closeup phot at right.)  Spirit comes off the still at 95.7-96% ABV, with a rather low, less pungent ester count of about 12 grams per 100 liters, as described by Technical Manager Moya.  She should know, having begun her career producing very high-ester rums on Jamaica prior to joining the ADL team.  The spirit is usually aged at 70% ABV, although ADL is slowly reducing this to between 62-65% ABV.  

English Harbour 5 Year Old is aged for a minimum of five years in used, ex-Jack Daniels barrels.  About two pounds of oak chips are added to each barrel of rum to provide natural color and flavor.  Barrels see no more than three rounds of aging for the 5 Year Old rum, and the Angels take their share of 40% during that time.  Blending the 5 Year Old product endures about four weeks of Master Blender Kevin Semple’s patient tending, and the rum is diluted with water produced through reverse osmosis prior to bottling. 

Opinion
Antiguan rums set a standard for what many other old-world flavor rums should aspire too. Like its more mature and expensive siblings (the 10 Year Old Reserve and 25 year old 1981 vintage rum), the 5 year Aged is special.  It’s uniquely light, moderately spicy, highly aromatic and flavorful.  It is rare to find a rum so pleasant to sip, mixes well and is inexpensive.  Sure, the Rum Gallery proudly serves the older versions on special occasions, but the 5 year old is nearly as good, delivers similar flavors with just a little less complexity, and it's available in the USA. The Gallery’s advice: Buy English Harbour rum whenever and wherever you can; it never ceases to please. 

Reviewed: October 2012  while visiting the Antigua distillery, and  June, 2007 at the Rum Gallery, USA.

© Dave Russell 2017