We don’t get many rums from Grenada and most of them, while not bad, are frankly quite dull. Perhaps that perception changes with the recent 25YO single cask by Rum Artesanal; I don’t think there has ever been such an old rum from the island.
Our exercise today is twofold: First, I try to find out what the distillery’s characteristic profile is and what the differences between the batches might be. Second, explore how these rums evolve with different maturities as we have the full spectrum from rather young to quite old.
Westerhall goes back to the late 18th century, when a certain Sir William Johnstone of Dumfriesshire, Scotland purchased the Baccaye Estate and renamed it after his ancestral home. Back then the estate was planting sugar, cocoa and limes. Sugar cane processing machineries were installed in 1862 and most of the equipment from back then is still around today. It seems likely that rum production also started around that time. After several ownership changes, it ended up in the hands of George Williams and John Otway and the shareholdings of Westerhall Estate Limited has remained in within the Williams family. Like most other distilleries they are of course not producing sugar anymore and the molasses has to be imported from abroad. Actually, they don’t seem to be producing themselves anymore and the rum for their own brands is imported from Trinidad Distillers Ltd.
The Rum Cask Westerhall 2003 9YO (68,4%): For the first time ever (I believe) I did not manage to find a picture of the label. Concerning the rum, I did have this quite some time ago and don’t have good memories… In the nose I find, well, not a whole lot. There’s plenty of vanilla, some waxy notes, a hint of exotic spices here and there and warm butter perhaps. Very Bajan-esque if you want but nothing to write home about. On the plus side, the alcohol seems to be integrated rather well for this age and abv. Palate: Quite to my surprise, this isn’t too sharp, but also not very aromatic. I get lots of vanilla and some other spices (cloves, cumin), some wax, a hint of unripe fruits, a lime-syrup mix and something vaguely akin to litchi or oranges perhaps. The finish is short with some oak and spices (vanilla) as well as the waxy notes again. It’s not a terrible rum but very interchangeable, uninspiring and flat. A boring mix of Foursquare and Clynelish Whisky perhaps. The maturity doesn’t seem to be the problem so more time in the cask probably wouldn’t have helped. A finish perhaps!? (68/100)
Alambic Classique Westerhall 1998 14YO (45%): A low abv but perhaps the batch is better and/ or the additional years in the cask have helped. Nose: Again plenty of vanilla but I now get a more moderate fruity character as well. I’d describe it as a continental fruit basket where nothing in particular is sticking out. Then a hint of wax, a clove or two but not a whole lot more. Palate: The fruit basket and vanilla combination continues at the palate but on top of that we get a few more spices this time. Pepper, chili flakes, cloves and cumin can all be found. Then there’s a huge drop and the rum immediately flattens out. In line with this, the finish is quite short and doesn’t leave more lasting impressions than vanilla and some oak. A very good example of a solid, yet below average rum. (69/100)
Rum Artesanal Westerhall 1993 25YO (61,1%): The only other rum from the 1993 batch I’ve had was a Samaroli and in my memory that was perhaps the best Westerhall to date. Nose: A lot better than the two previous rums! The cask is more dominant here but that was to be expected. All in all the intensity of the spices is much more pronounced and the rum isn’t solely shaped by its vanilla note. There’s even a very tiny glue-like aspect to the rum. Then more oak and spices and deeper in the glass also some rather nice, fruity notes. After some time also hot butter and waxes. If only it were a bit more intense. Palate: The vanilla and wax notes are characteristic but with this rum we get a bit more. The cask has added some more spices which I’d say don’t come from the distillate this time. Then a continental fruit basket, salty popcorn, hints of toffee and even some tannins. The finish continues along the tannic line with old walnuts, oak and wax. There’s a lot to like about this rum but the profile just cannot convince me entirely. Nevertheless this is easily the best expression I’ve had from the distillery so far. (80/100)
So indeed, this probably will never become my distillery of choice and there are surely more exciting things to be found on Grenada (River Antoine, soon Renegade). Nevertheless, I think we now have a good idea of the distillery’s characteristic profile (vanilla, wax, hot butter). People who enjoy the very light side of Bajan (Barbados) rum might want to give Westerhall a try I guess.