Following the hype of Velier Antigua Heavy Traditional Rum I am reviewing a flagship Antiguan rum first – English Harbour 5 Years Old. The company Antigua Distillery Limited (ADL) was formed in 1932 by 8 local businessmen and in 1933 they established their own distillery on Rat Island (named like that because of its shape) – the authorities didn’t want a distillery on the mainland due to potential smell and noise. Originally equipped with a multi-column Savalle still, it was replaced in 1991 with a 3-column still from John Dore & Co. made entirely out of copper – bolts included. The 3-column has been modified into a 5-column still making it shorter, apparently due to the danger of tropical storms in the area.
While the ADL website does talk about their yeast and fermentation process that “adds a level of flavour to the liquid in the tank, and it also produces a number of compounds that contribute directly to the complex flavours and aromas of the final product” the wash is distilled to 95% ABV making it pretty much neutral in taste. Most of the flavours come from the maturation process. ADL ages their rum in charred 200 litres ex-Bourbon casks and they also add a handful of oak chips in the barrel to “enhance the interaction of oak and rum”.
Antigua used to have a Royal Navy base of operations in the south of the island and the settlement nearby is now named English Harbour. Taking its name from the settlement, English Harbour 5 Years Old was first introduced in 1999 and won quite a few awards since then. Distilled from molasses, aged for at least 5 years in the aforementioned ex-Bourbon casks (along with the oak chips) and bottled at 40% ABV – thefatrumpirate‘s hydrometer test shows that it is adulterated (dammit ADL!). I’ll leave the link here as I cannot be credited for the test and you can look it up yourselves.
Enough is enough, I haven’t had a drink in an hour… so the nose: walnuts covered in toffee, earthy, dusty old furniture, caramel, cocoa and some floral honey-like sweetness. Smells quite deserty and inviting, I get some marmalade as well, tobacco and burnt orange zest. Quite a lot going on for a 5 year old.
On the palate it’s quite sweet, but I’ll be honest, I was expecting more of a cloying sweetness but I am glad this is not the case. Quite creamy but in the same time light too, I do get chocolate, tobacco along with some earthy-nutty notes. Caramel on the start and on the finish, dried fruits, cherries, hints of glue aroma and oak spices in the middle. Some nutmeg and coffee liqueur as well. The finish is a bit sweete with cocoa, brown sugar and a citrusy acidity.
Not a bad rum at all and for the price range (around £26) it does deliver with a light bodied juice that has quite the complexity. If I didn’t look it up I probably couldn’t be 100% sure it has additives, and I’m still not sure… English Harbour 5 Year Old is a decent dram nonetheless, I’ll most likely take it with me at work and put it in an Old Fashioned (edit: I did and it worked wonderfully). And yes, that is a tiny ship – aesthetics.
English Harbour 5 Year Old score:
Value for money: 13/15