It’s time for another interesting, old bottling from Jamaica. Today we have the Wray & Nephew 12YO, most likely dating back to the 1960s.
Now everyone wants to know about the Wray & Nephew 17YO for obvious reasons but that one is pretty much as hard to get as it gets, if it is even possible at all given that the last available bottles have apparently been fakes. Personally, I’ve never cared much about the ‘holy grail’ of Mai Tais as it is probably only of serious interest for the real Tiki freaks interested in history but of course I wouldn’t say no if I were offered a dram ;). Generally, the overall quality of rums has improved tremendously over the years and as the recent Old Jamaica Blind-tasting has shown, many of these old Jamaican rums just weren’t very good. But probably it’s different with the Wray & Nephews cause after all, every myth contains at least some truth. That said, I am interested in the rum, not how it performs in some cocktail since I believe that we’ve got better alternatives for a Mai Tai today, even though the resulting drink might be rather different from the original.
Wray & Nephews history dates back to 1825, when a certain John Wray opened ‘The Shakespeare Tavern’ in Kingston, the city which grew steadily to become Jamaica’s capital in 1877. In 1860, Wray brought in Charles James Ward, his brother’s son, to manage the business side of his company. Under Ward’s leadership, J. Wray and Nephew began a period of growth and prosperity, until Wray retired in 1862. He died eight years later, leaving Ward as the sole proprietor of the business, who then continued to develop Wray’s heritage of a tavern and liquor-dealing company into one of Jamaica’s largest commercial enterprises. Eventually, Wray & Nephew have been bought by the Lindo Brothers & Co in 1916, which then acquired the famous Appleton Estate. Since 2012, it belongs to the Italian Gruppo Campari.
Dégustation “Wray & Nephew 12YO”
Key Facts: Not too much is known. This bottling of the Wray & Nephew 12YO has been distilled in the ~1960s on Jamaica and bottled at twelve years at 43%.
Colour and viscosity: Tawny/ auburn. A thick crown and even thicker streaks that stick to the rim of the glass like syrup. Incredible for a 12YO, diluted rum.
Nose: I get a fresh, continental fruit basket, freshly cut branches and young herbs. After some time heavier aromas in the form of dried fruits or hints of leather. I’d describe all of the aromas as rather fresh, in contrast to some of the musty old Jamaican rums we’ve encountered already. All in all, the nose is quite nice but not very complex.
Palate: At first I get the fruit basket again. This is your standard, low-ester Common Clean Jamaican if you want but you can also find some of the more nutty flavours in the background such as dried walnuts or grated hazelnuts. Then more vegetal and earthy notes. The rum is so simple yet it works rather well. At a slightly higher abv (even at just 46%, say), this would be a really good one!
Finish: Short with the vegetal notes and plenty of nuts.
The Wray & Nephew 12YO is a more than solid rum with some flaws. What it offers is really good but unfortunately that’s its main problem: it just isn’t enough to make it great. I guess that it’s mostly a collector’s item at this point and even though I am not praising it to the skies, I’d say it is worth opening your bottle since it is good, nice rum. Moreover, it’s not going to get better inside the bottle. For everyone else, it won’t hurt to acquire a sample if it is at a fair price.