I have been questioning myself a lot whether to review this rum or not. In the end I decided in favour of it since it nicely fits the theme of “odd” Long Ponds that ran like a golden thread through the last couple of reviews. It is the Plantation Jamaica (Long Pond) 1986 25YO.
Why have I been having this debate you might ask. Plantation has sweetened this rum, which smoothed it out considerably. This is pretty obvious even without knowing any measurements, especially when comparing it with other 1986 Long Ponds. None of the other candidates I know come close to being this sweet and smooth. I didn’t really want to address the sugaring-debate on this blog but doing so once probably does not hurt. It might even be helpful to you, dear reader, by putting my reviews into perspective. By the way, it did not necessarily have to be a in a Plantation review but I felt I should at least mix it up with what is actually a good rum.
For quite some time rum connoisseurs were inclined to believe that the extra sweetness in Plantation’s rums comes from the Cognac finishes. With the releases of measurements by what have become quite a few people (e.g. Marcus Stock, The Fat Rum Pirat, Johnny Drejer and even ALKO, the Finish national alcoholic beverage retailing institute; unfortunately the last two sites seem to be down at least temporarily) we now know better. While Plantation has been pretty open on the topic (what you make of these arguments is up to you) after the numbers came out -but what other choice did they really have-, they still do not mention the added sugar on the label, implicitly cheating on their customers who do not know better. I don’t really want to hate on Plantation since I believe that they serve (what is still) an important segment of the rum market but I had to smile quite a bit as I have been gathering background information on the bottler for this review. On their homepage, Alexandre Gabriel, the father of Plantation, is quoted as follows:
“I love authentic products that express the personality of the land that grew them.”
Perhaps my definition of “authentic” is just different but altering a rum by adding sugar without declaring it is clearly not how I understand the term. Perhaps even worse, sugar takes away many of the rough spots and edges in a rum, also those that are responsible for the unique traits, characteristics and the “personality of the land that grew them”.
I don’t mind the presence of sweetened rums per se. Personally, I do not like them a lot but I also know that there are many other people who do. Hence I believe that there is a raison d’être for such products. All I want is producers and bottlers to declare any adulterations of the rum on the bottle, or to call it something else even. To me, failing to do so is cheating on the customer by making him misperceive the product he is buying. I don’t really want to annoy you with this jabbering but I feel that it is important to state my position on the debate. I am pretty sure that this will remain the only sweetened rum that you will find on this blog, unless something exceptionally good magically finds its way into my tasting-glass. But now on with the tasting!
Dégustation “Plantation Jamaica (Long Pond) 1986 25YO”
Key facts: This single cask rum has been distilled at Long Pond Distillery in Jamaica in 1986 (word is it comes from their column still). After 25 years of ageing, it has been bottled at 42%. A finish is not mentioned on the label but since this is Plantation, a Cognac finish is always a possibility. My sample comes from a bottle-split initiated by Malte. Many thanks!
Colour and viscosity: Auburn/ polished mahogany. Exceedingly thick streaks stick to the rim of the glass. The rum is incredibly oily but the added sugar surely contributed to this.
Nose: At first a pleasant hint of alcohol, then slightly bitter orange zest and dark chocolate enter my nostrils. Fresh mint dominantly shapes the rums profile. A few walnuts are also in the mix. The aromas are elegant but not very abundant and I have difficulties in pointing out specific associations. I would describe its general character as floral.
Palate: Mmhh, I sense a good portion of sweetness as I spread the rum across my tongue. Compared to other Long Ponds, this rum is a real flatterer and not really demanding. I can immediately recognise the aromas that I have been smelling before: Orange zest, bittersweet chocolate and fresh mint, perhaps After Eight. Sweet pineapple, flambéed banana, mellow nuts, cardamom and cinnamon are among the flavours I can also recognise. The rum has a Christmas touch to it but it is not too intrusive. Only with the third sip do I get some of the esters but they are unmistakably present. My guess is that the sugar masquerades them to some extent as they have been featured slightly more prominently in the other 1986 Long Ponds I know but the differences are not too extreme.
Finish: Short and drier than expected. Orange peel, oily walnuts and cinnamon are present throughout the finish. Other flavours are more short-lived. Mint leaves and sour apples are other lasting impressions I get.
The Plantation Jamaica 1986 is a lovely, easy sipper that might be attractive for people who are making their first tentative steps into the world of independent bottlers. That said, this rum only gives you an idea of how great it could have been. It surely is not bad but it makes you wonder what we have been missing out on had the rum not been sweetened. In comparison with other Long Ponds from this vintage it just is not as complex. The sugar smoothed out the rum’s edges, making it a bit more dull but also more easily drinkable. It is a good rum but it probably would have been a truly great one had it not been adulterated. In the end, it is still among the best Plantation’s I have tried but the bitter aftertaste of knowing that it could have been that much better prevails… Have a nice rest of the week!