Hamilton Jamaican Pot Still Black Rum & Gold Rum

Hamilton Jamaica Black Bottle 813-02B-RG1-V2

Product of:  Jamaica, bottled in USA
Aged:  NA
Price: $24.99 (SRP)
Alcohol: 46.1% ABV 
Sugar: 0 g/L
Context:  Premium Dark Rum
RG Rating: 8

Tasting Notes 
RG - There are two rums being reviewed here. Both the Black and Gold Hamilton Jamaican expressions use the same base rum; the difference between the bottled products is the speciifc type of caramel used for coloring.  The Black rum uses a double strength, bitter black caramel that tastes like burnt electrical cord, whereas the Gold rum uses a viscous, grease-like, less bitter caramel.  

The Hamilton Jamaican Pot Still Black Rum shows a dark brown color, the color of finely polished black walnut wood.  The Gold rum is colored by using less  of a slightly different caramel to achieve its pale straw color.  As I swirl the rum of both hues in my tasting glasses, I’m seeing some of the most prolific legs of any rum I have ever sampled.   

 There’s nothing delicate about the smell of Hamilton Jamaican Pot Still Rums.  The characteristic oily Jamaica pot still funk is unmistakable and far too heavy to produce what I'd call a bouquet.  The ester-rich, dundery aromas readily overwhelm anything more delicate.  Give the rum a moment to settle in your senses, and you'll discover pleasant smells of charred wood, molasses dunder, dandelion and copper, with the Gold rum perhaps being a bit brighter smelling than it’s Black sibling.  Or is just my imagination? 

Hamilton Jamaica Gold Masked Label-RG1.020

Flavors of old charred wood, molasses, dark caramel, and smoke appeal of lovers of pot still heavy rums.  There rum delivers a sweetness at the front of your tongue, but the heavyweight body is more bitter mid-palate, and the finish a happy medium of both, leaving an unforgettable oily sensation in your throat.  No wonder Hamilton blends his Black and the Gold rums with lighter rums to add softer flavor – it’s too intense for all but the heartiest rum drinkers.

Anecdotes 
Ed Hamilton’s Jamaican Pot Still Rums from the Ministry of Rum Collection were distilled by Worthy Park Estates in their automated pot still on Jamaica.  Their automated copper pot still (pictured below) is not only a work of art, it also works molasses into art.  

Ed Hamilton is a leader in pushing for transparency among rum producers.  Enter the batch number of one the Hamilton rums in his Ministry of Rum website and you’ll likely be presented with more information than you understand: chemical analysis, bills of lading, production volumes etc.  Inquiring about the Black rum reviewed here reveals: “A blend of extra light, light and heavy pot still rums distilled from fermented molasses from the Worthy Park Estate sugar mill. After dilution, the rums were colored with tiny amounts of Sethness Caramel [0.025%] made from GMO-free sugarcane grown in the USA. Nothing else was added to the rum. Prior to bottling, the blends were filtered with a one micron filter to remove any suspended charcoal, and to prevent malfunctions in the bottling machine.  A total of 490 12-bottle cases were produced.”  The Ministry of Rum site also offers photos of the rum in oak aging barrels, the bottling line operations, etc.   

Ed Hamilton
… 
Is a modern pioneer of rum, the man who singlehandedly discovered and brought countless Caribbean rums to our attention.  His two books published in the 1990’s – Rums of the Eastern Caribbean and The Complete Guide to Rum: A Guide to Rums of the World – were written while Ed was Island hopping throughout the Caribbean, sailing Matahari solo and visiting every distillery.  Many of those old world distilleries are no longer in operation, Hamilton’s books are long out of print, and Matahari sank off Antigua.

Worthy Park's Beautiful Automated Copper Pot Still & Retorts

By the early 21st Century, Ed hauled his second sailboat Triton onto terra firma for repairs and began importing rhums agricole from the French West Indies.  Notable brands including Neisson, La Favorite and Duquesne from Martinique have made progress toward educating Americans on the finer points of this unique style of rum.  in 2013, Hamilton began importing pot-still heavy rums from St. Lucia and Jamaica under his own label.

Some of his explorations survive in writings and photographs at the Ministry of Rum website.  The Rum Gallery is perhaps the closest current equivalent to Hamilton’s books and his discovery of rums by sailing.  Ed has influenced many of us, encouraging us to embark on our careers exploring the art of rum.  Respect and gratitude, Mr. Hamilton.

Opinion 
Ministry of Rum’s Jamaican Pot Still selections are the kind of rums that caused the Spanish government to offer a hefty financial reward to any person who could create a lighter style rum in the mid-19th Century.  Aeneas Coffey won that contest, and column still derivatives of his Coffey Still produce most of the rums we drink today.  But to lovers of expertly crafted traditional pot still rums, the rums reviewed here are a treasure.  

Looking for an updated rum that reminds you of rums from a century ago?  Do you prefer no-compromise high-ester flavor?   Hamilton's Black and Gold rums are so close to unique that they don't fit easily into any common context.  They are unaged, but not white rums.  They are produced solely in an automated copper pot still, and forego the common practice of blending with lighter rums produced by column stills.  Heady stuff. 

Like the man who’s name these rums bear, (Ed) Hamilton Jamaican Pot Still Black and Gold Rums are polarizing; you’ll either love 'em or run away.  If you worship at the alter of the Giant Copper Kettle, then look no further than to Hamilton’s Jamaica rums from Worthy Park Estates.  Their automated copper pot still and blending expertise takes the “Kill” and “Devil” out of pot still rum. 

I suspect Hamilton Jamaica Pot Still Gold Rum will be acquired taste.  Craft bartenders will be the first to understand, as they believe "the bigger the flavor, the better."  The Black Rum in particular is a no-brainer alternative to the market leading “Dark” rums.  For many rum aficionados and spirits tasters, these pot still rums might be misunderstood and under-appreciated however.  Pity, because the rum is unique and real.  If you like pot still funk, or dark rum in your drinks, you owe it to yourself to try Hamilton Jamaica Pot Still rums.

Reviewed:  Rum Gallery sampled Batch No. 13-02B, bottled in August 2013, during January 2014 in the USA.

© Dave Russell 2017