Smith & Cross

Smith & Cross

Product of:  Distilled on Jamaica, produced in the UK.
Aged:  Blend of two rums, the first is aged for less than one year, the second is split between 1 1/2 and 3 years.
Price: $30
Alcohol: 57% ABV
Context: Overproof Rum
RG Rating:  9

Tasting Notes 
Smooth.  Smith and Cross Traditional Jamaica rum displays an attractively light mahogany amber color and is highly aromatic, flavorful and fully characteristic of 100% pot still rums with all of the associated heaviness (admittedly acquired tastes for many people).  Tropical fruits (pineapple, papaya, orange peel) are clearly evident, as are mild spices like clove, cinnamon, coriandercand saffron.  Dried tobacco, damp musty leather, a subdued brown sugar sweetness and mild vanilla add complexity and need only a little effort to discern.  Considerable alcohol is also sensed on the nose as claimed (warned?), but isn’t objectionable.  The initial taste is sweet on the lips, with a twinge on the tip of the tongue from the overproof alcohol and other elements normally associated with pot distillation, then more vanilla and caramel than were hinted at by the aromas, and dates flavors arrive later toward the back of the palate. A medium body leads quickly enough to a finish that’s as throaty as you’d expect from a rum that’s 57% ABV - but that also means the heat should come as no surprise.  The finish is nice, dry, and lingers only briefly before leaving a more lengthy residual sweetness.

Smith & Cross Traditional Jamaica Rum is distilled from molasses fermented from airborne wild yeasts, and contains only Wedderburn and Plummer pot still spirits.  The rum is a blend of roughly equal parts rum from two distilleries.  The Wedderburn rum is aged for less than a year, whereas the Plummer spirits are aged between 18 months and 3 years in white oak. Smith & Cross claims this style of rum doesn’t necessarily benefit from prolonged aging, saying the oak can “dominate the fruit and spice notes within and in time dampen the aromas.”  Fair enough; it is flavorful, aromatic, and tastes exactly as if it’s been exposed for a relatively short time to charcoaled oak.

“Navy Strength” refers to the Royal Navy’s requirement that shipboard rum be bottled to a strength of at least 57% alcohol by volume.  If the ship’s magazine were to have rum sloshed onto it, the gunpowder would still be able to be ignited.  Of course I ran the experiment and yes, it works.  Trust me – this rum is what RnD calls “getting lit”!

Packaging is attractive too.  A conservatively styled blue label with gold lettering adorns a traditionally shaped bottle topped by a natural cork stopper – all consistent with the producer’s concept for the rum inside.

While specifically intended for mixing into strong cocktails and not necessarily for sipping, I found Smith & Cross Traditional Jamaica Rum to be completely honest – it is a little too boldly flavored for refined sipping but certainly adept at flavoring traditional rum drinks.  Often, you want an element of bittersweet in a rum punch to provide dichotomous complexity against the sweet fruit juices, and Smith and Cross is fully up to the task.  If you’re looking for an overproof rum with that real old world flavor to jack up your rum drinks, stop when you’ve found Smith & Cross.

Reviewed: July 2010 at the Rum Gallery, USA.

© Dave Russell 2017