Now here’s a showdown between two rums with similar specifications, yet miles apart when it comes to reputation. Wray is a celebrity, a star, even a religion for some, both in Jamaica and abroad and its label is arguably the most recognisable worldwide whereas Monymusk is probably the most “underground” Jamaican overproof even compared to the other similarly less known.
Wray & Nephew owns over 3 quarters of the rum market in Jamaica and it’s only natural that other distilleries on the island would follow on its steps to get a piece of the pie. That’s how there’s now a choice of other punch-in-the-gut 63% beasts in the form of Rum Fire, Rum-Bar Overproof and Monymusk Overproof. The reason why I chose the Monymusk OP to go against the godlike Wray is because they are both pot and column distillate blends unlike the other two which are pot still only – so I thought it would be interesting to compare.
Wray & Nephew Overproof White Rum
Wray & Nephew started with a Scotsman, Charles John Wray who came to Jamaica in the 1800s and opened the Shakespeare Tavern in 1825 in Kingston. The rum he blended was so popular Charles started selling it to the local merchants as well. The nephew, Charles James Ward, started helping the company in 1860 making it one of the most succesful businesses on the island with their rum winning various medals.
In 1916 the company was purchased by Lindo Brothers & Co who soon after also got the Appleton Estates under the J. Wray & Nephew Ltd. umbrella. In 1997 the well-known Joy Spence was appointed Master Blender at J. Wray & Nephew, being the first woman ever to occupy this position in the industry. Since 2012 to present the company has been owned by Gruppo Campari.
Wray & Nephew has built quite the name for themselves over the years and in Jamaica is drank almost religiously on every ocasion, being it celebration or illness. They are responsible for the elusive Wray & Nephew 17 Year Old (now almost extinct) which was used by Victor Bergeron aka Trader Vic in the original Mai Tai – a dream of mine is to sample this one day, so if you know anyone, feel free to slide into my DMs.
While J. Wray & Nephew owns the Appleton Estate Distillery, they also own the New Yarmouth Distillery which is where Wray & Nephew is made.
Wray & Nephew is molasses based, a blend of pot and column still distillates that are completely unaged. Bottled at the infamous 63% ABV without any additions.
On the nose it feels like… well, definitely Wray & Nephew. Grapefruit and lime zests, overripe bananas, white vinegar and nail varnish. Canned plums, red apples and raspberry jam. Despite how many shots of this I had, I never proper sat down to appreciate the complexity of Wray. Picled onions, green olives and pink pepper.
On the palate it becomes more tropical. Pineapple, banana and grapefruit juice all in one. Ripe pears, coconut cream and a touch of cardamom. Honestly, I am taking only small sips of this because of its ABV and intensity. Green olives, single cream, raspberries and pink pepper. The finish is long with raspberry candies and overripe tropical fruits.
I can see how this is a quintessential Jamaican rum, it has funk, it has kick, but it’s not a complete beast compared to the likes of, let’s say, Rum Fire. Very mixable, can be shot (with caution) or simply enjoyed with ice if that’s your thing. This is Jamaica in a bottle, and everyone can have a taste!
Wray & Nephew is available pretty much everywhere, but for online ordering, Amazon would probably be the best pricing with £26.50 for a bottle.
Monymusk Overproof White Rum
The Monymusk Estate is one of the oldest estates in Jamaica still involved in sugar and rum production. The Monymusk rums are made at the Clarendon Distillers Limited which is located on the Monymusk Estate in Lionel Town, Clarendon. The distillery was built in 1949 and was originally owned by the Monymusk Sugar Factory which began operations back in 1901.
The ownership of the distillery has been a bit hectic throughout the years, but nowadays the distillery is part of the National Rums of Jamaica along with the Long Pond Distillery and the Inswood ageing/blending facility – a former distillery that stopped rum production in the 1950s. Also the National Rums of Jamaica is a three-way partnership between Demerara Distillers Limited, Maison Ferrand and the Jamaican government (National Sugar Company).
As I said the Monymusk rums are distilled at the Clarendon Distillery and blended/aged at Inswood – unfortunately it doesn’t have as big as a name as Wray & Nephew and information about the brand is also quite limited.
Monymusk Overproof is molasses based, a blend of pot and column still distillates that are completely unaged. Bottled at 63% ABV without any additions.
On the nose it feels more clean than Wray. Coconut water, unripe bananas, fresh raspberries and some biscuits. Hints of nail varnish and ink. It smells fainter than Uncle Wray and I wish it had some of that Jamaican hogo. Sulfur, white cardboard and single cream.
On the palate more fruitiness comes through. Ripe pineapple, peach yogurt, pears and white pepper. Some red berries and single cream as well. Now it does have some funk, but it’s still far from Wray’s intensity. Mango puree, kiwi, butterscotch and green tea. The finish is medium to long with biscuits and tropical fruits.
It’s not bad, but for me it ranks the lowest from all the Jamaican overproofs. It’s more balanced, but that’s not what I’d expect or want from a 63% ABV Jamaican distillate – Wray & Nephew has set the bar for that and unfortunately Monymusk does not meet the criteria.
I appreciate they tried to make something more balanced and maybe easier to drink – probably if it had a different provenance I would’ve appreciated it more, but I have to score it as a Jamaican rum… that’s the whole point of this “versus” anyway. If you prefer a kick with a smaller amount of intensity then this would be for you.
Monymusk is not very widely available in the UK, but it can currently be purchased from The Whisky Exchange for £33.
Unfortunately this was a little one-sided – as I said Monymusk isn’t bad, but it is a bit of a let-down. That being said, it’s good to have the choice when it comes to rums, Jamaican overproofs included.
Wray & Nephew represents Jamaica very well and wins this showdown without doubt!
Wray & Nephew Overproof White Rum score:
Value for money: 15/15
Monymusk Overproof White Rum score:
Value for money: 14/15