It’s time for another duel! Today we have two Port Mourants from Rum Nation‘s Small Batch Rare Rums series, namely the 21 year old from 1995 and the 17 year old from 1999.
According to Demerara Distillers Ltd (DDL), the Port Mourant Sugar Estate has been founded in 1732. As Marco uncovers in his essay on Guyana, it seems highly unlikely that that this is correct. According to a map from 1802, the entire region around said estate solely planted cotton at that time. Moreover, no source until 1813 mentions the name Port Mourant, which we now know must have been a cotton plantation founded by Stephen Mourant along the Berbice river between 1802-1813. Cotton quickly went out of fashion and at some point between 1813 and 1821 the estate must have shifted towards growing coffee and sugar instead. Consequently, it doesn’t make much sense that a distillery might have been at work before that period. The Port Mourant Distillery operated at least until 1954 but reports do not mention any further rum output after 1958. According to production lists, the last active years seems to have been 1955; it was hence just another victim of rationalization measures by the Booker’s group. The Double Vat Still has then been brought to Albion and later, after Albion’s closure (1967-1969), to Uitvlugt, Booker’s main distillery. All available Port Mourant rums until 1999 have thus been distilled at Uitvlugt Distillery, before some of the remaining stills have finally been consolidated at DDL.
Concerning the year stated by DDL (1732), Marco also has an interesting theory. If this number is/was engraved in the copper parts of the Port Mourant still, it is somehow understandable why DDL might have mistaken it as the founding date of the estate. But what if Stephen Mourant simply bought the still from an upstream or any other estate in the region? Perhaps the metal parts were just bought following the easing of trade relations in 1732 and then combined with the native Guyanese wood. If this is correct, the still, or parts of it might indeed date back further than the period 1813-1821. But that’s just speculation of course. Tasting fortunately isn’t so let’s go on!
Dégustation “Rum Nation 1995 21YO” vs “Rum Nation 1999 17YO”
Key Facts: Both rums have been distilled by the Port Mourant double wooden pot still at Uitvlugt distillery. The 21 year old is a single cask rum bottled at 57,5%, the 17 year old is a vatting of two barrels bottled at 57,4%. The 1995 has been maturing entirely in an ex-Sherry cask while the 1999 has been finished in a cask that previously contained Sherry and then whisky from Wilson & Morgan, Rum Nation’s whisky line.
Colour and visocsity: Burnt amber for the ’95, tawny for the ’99. Both are incredibly oily, the ’99 probably even more so than the ’95. Quite remarkable for unsugared rums.
Nose: Let’s start with the 1995. Even though the nose is unmistakably Port Mourant, the sherry cask maturation cannot be denied either. Put differently, the classical Port Mourant aromas such as wet wood, anise and salt are there, but so are plums, spice cake and orange bitters. What’s more, the profile is slightly smoky.
The 1999 is a bit more classical and the finish is less dominant than that of the older brother. I smell old cheese, anise, wet wood, salted caramel, fruit cake and plums. Later cinnamon, pepper, mangos and some smoke. This one is more classical and aggressive than the ’95, but I think I liked the nose of the older one just a little bit more.
Palate: The 21 years old is very fruity and balanced, for a Port Mourant that is. It’s a bit like biting on a ship’s plank that has been covered by mixed fruits and spice jam. I taste anise, cinnamon, salt and then the usual suspects of the sherry cask maturation: dark berries, plums and fruit cake. There are also some elements that remind me of a young Enmores. The sherry notes are really dominant.
It might sound stupid but the 17YO is very dry and subtly sweet at the same time. The dry flavours come from the rum in the form of wet wood, anise and salt, the sweeter notes from the sherry finish. Here I can pick out dried fruits (apricots, plums) and the well known spice cake. It’s the typical Port Mourant as you know it, but enhanced with the flavours of the sherry cask. Eventually I also detect pepper and other spices.
Finish: Long and dry for both. Anise and wet ship’s plank can be found in both of them. The ’95 has more sherry aromas (dried fruits), the ’99 more salted caramel.
Two great rums! I’d describe them as classical Port Mourant with a twist, which is decidedly more pronounced with the 21 year old from 1995. It’s smoother, more balanced and elegant but the sherry aspect might be too dominant for some people. For most people it might be the better rum overall. Call me a purist, but I think I slightly prefer the 1999. Even though the alcohol is a bit sharper, I like the edginess and aggressivity of the 17 year old. Ultimately, you have to decide for yourself how much sherry influence you want in your rum. Personally, I prefer the more moderate version. Anyways, it’s the only one that’s still easily available.
Todays samples come from bottles splits by Mark. Thanks a lot.