Review: Smith & Cross vs Worthy Park 109

Anybody who is active on the rum part of social media at the moment has definitely seen at least one of the dark looking bottles of Worthy Park 109, the very new addition to the Worthy Park range, a Navy Style Jamaican rum. Most of the time, “Navy Style” blends have a component, if not the whole rum, from Guyana in them, but this is not the case with the 109, being purely Jamaican. While neither of them are marketed as such, another Jamaican rum (blend) associated somehow with the same style, thanks to its “Navy Strength” ABV would be Smith & Cross and I thought it would be fun to taste them side by side.

Smith & Cross is made by E&A Scheer for Haus Alpenz, an European spirits distributor. According to the Haus Alpenz website, the history of S&M dates back to 1788 with a sugar refinery located by the London Docks which, together with its partners, were heavily involved with blending and selling Jamaican rums. The name’s origin comes from merging two companies from that time, Smith & Tyers and White Cross – I have to admit it has a nice, old-school ring to it.

Thanks to the Lone Caner, we know that this is a blend of Wedderburn and Plummer styles of pot still rums mostly made at Hampden Distillery, but it is said to contain distillates from Worthy Park, Clarendon and Long Pond as well. Regarding the said styles, long story short, they are British names that were attributed to certain full-bodied pot still Jamaican rums popular in the 19th and 20th century – you can read more about them in this article written by the Cocktail Wonk. Generally, although they were classified by flavour profile rather than ester count, they would measure at 150-200gr/hlaa for the Plummer and 200-300 gr/hlaa for the Wedderburn.

Molasses based, pot still distilled and made up almost equal parts of Wedderburn style rum aged for less than a year and Plummer style rum aged, one part for 18 months, and another for 3 years in white oak. Bottled at 57% ABV (inaccurately described as “Navy Strength” on the label*), free of chill filtering or added sugar.

On the nose the sharp, fruity funk just jumps out of the glass. Rotten pineapple, cardboard, tobacco and nail varnish. Palinca (plum brandy), brown sugar, passion fruit and ginger. Continuing smelling this becomes quite overwhelming. Pen ink, parma violet, brasso, grapefruit peel, green apples and honey. Complex and intense.

On the palate there’s an explosion of tropical flavours. Rotten pineapple, candied banana, mango puree, passion fruit, lime and grapefruit peels. Sharp nail varnish and mothballs notes balanced by some vanilla and toffee. Faded prunes, raspberries, green chilli and coriander as well. Ginger beer, with a touch of cinnamon and liquorice. This is not a breakfast rum, will definitely warm you up instantly. The finish is long with tobacco, wood spices and pineapple rinds.

Delicious stuff, layered and punchy, great for sipping, shooting or mixing. Definitely one of the best, if not the best offering on the market when it comes to high proof, aged, pot still Jamaican rum – or is it? Let’s see what Worthy Park has to say about this.

Worthy Park 109 is made at the Worthy Park Estate located in the central parish of St. Catherine, Jamaica. They distill using pot stills only and their rum portofolio is comprised of the Rum-Bar and Worthy Park ranges. While there’s no specific rule for this, I always considered the Rum-Bar range to be the affordable mixing option while still getting your dose of funk and the Worthy Park one would be more “premium” meant for sipping – don’t jump at me on this, I’ll never shy away from making an Old Fashioned from any rum, regardless of price.

That being said, the Worthy Park 109 seems to bridge the gap between the two. It’s a young blend pretty heavily coloured with caramel, which is believed to impact the taste to a degree as well, so it’s seemingly purposed mainly to be used for mixing while still rocking the Worthy Park branding. While some would hurry to call this “dark rum”, I would rather refer to it as I did in the intro – Navy Style Pot Still Jamaican Rum. Previously meant to be called “Gunpowder Proof” (another rum brand wasn’t happy about the usage of the same moniker as them), the 109 refers to the proof given the ABV is 54.5% – which also is the real “Navy Strength”*.

Molasses based, pot still distilled and made up of two components, WPL (Worthy Park Light – 60-119 gr/hlaa) aged for 3 years in ex-Bourbon casks and unaged WPE (Worthy Park Extra – 600-800 gr/hlaa). Coloured with caramel and bottled at 54.5% ABV.

On the nose there’s that strong dark note I usually associate with the likes of Wood’s, Pusser’s or El Dorado. Dark chocolate, caramel, liquorice, black tea and overripe/black banana. Blackcurrant, blueberries and ground coffee. Definitely less bright fruit flavours than the S&C. Black pepper, cloves, nutmeg, walnuts and caramelised pineapple. Molasses, rich tobacco and freshly polished furniture.

On the palate there’s a sweet-bitter note that I would “blame” on the added caramel. Cola, dark chocolate, sweetened black tea and milk, raisins, dried plums and walnuts. Angostura bitters, charred oak, glue, molasses and liquorice. Banana bread, dried fig, biscuits and blackcurrant. A touch of gherkins as well. If someone told me this is a Guyanese rum I wouldn’t hesitate to believe them. The finish is medium to long with salted caramel and chocolate covered bananas.

The colouring definitely impacts the flavour profile as well, making it “darker”, more bitter and also adding a bit of sweetness. Not too much though, the rum isn’t drowned, it’s clearly still Worthy Park, the profile is there along with the complexity.

Both amazing tipples, but when it comes to complexity and to a degree, purity, I’ll give Smith & Cross the edge. While I wouldn’t mind drinking Worthy Park 109 neat, I would be more likely to sip Smith & Cross and mix the WP109 with cola.

S&C is also featured on my best value for money rums list from last year, but from that point of view, WP109 takes the lead. Smith & Cross can be found for £35 (Master of Malt) for a 70cl bottle, while I got a bottle of 1 litre of Worthy Park 109 for £37.50 (The Whisky Exchange) which is fantastic value.

Smith & Cross score:
Flavour/taste: 54/70
Value for money: 14/15
Transparency/purity: 15/15
Overall: 83/100

Worthy Park 109 score:
Flavour/taste: 51/70
Value for money: 15/15
Transparency/purity: 13/15
Overall: 79/100


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