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  • Writer's pictureStuart Pearce

Captain Morgan's sexy sister

Clarendon distillery - Jamaica, built in 1949, home to Monymusk rum and (of course) the world-famous Captain Morgan.

Lesser-known of Jamaica's 6 distilleries, Clarendon is home to arguably the largest pot still in the Caribbean. One of two pot stills at the distillery. Joined, in 2010, by a large column still that now produces the majority of Clarendon's output.

Clarendon produces molasses bases rums in 2 styles - a lighter, 1 day fermentation rum, and a heavy rum involving super long fermentation of up to a month! These two styles are broken down into 9 'marks' from lighter column still MBS to their highest ester, long-fermented, pot stilled MLC. A great article with a tonne of detail on the distillery and its 'marks' can be found on the excellent singlecaskrum website.

90% of Clarendon's output ends up in Diageo's mass-market bar staples (Captain Morgan & Myers). Today we're interested in the other 10% - more specifically the rums of the distillery (Monymusk) and those independently bottled (Clarendon) ... fingers crossed I got that distinction right :-)

As you would expect, all of these rums are offered unsweetened and without any added colour.

25ml of each, left to breathe for 20 mins. As always, nosed first, then tasted, in increasing abv order. Assisted today by the splendacious Molly Johnson

Valinch & Mallet - The Spirit of Art 2 -2008 (56.1%, 323 bottles)

A single cask producing just 323 bottles. Unclear of the specific mark but it's definitely pot stilled so I'd assume one of the higher ester Clarendon - expecting a full flavoured rum.

Aged tropically for 11 years and then continentally for 1 further year.

The 'lowest' abv of the lineup, but still bottled at a healthy 56.1%.

Selected and bottled by the artisan independent bottlers Valinch & Mallet.

Absolutely stunning presentation on these spirit of art bottles...

Eyes: Light bronze

Nose: Play-doh, plastic, furniture polish, deep heat, some decent minerality, lots of spice, vanilla, glue and more furniture polish. Quite interesting and complex. A little under-ripe pineapple and other under-ripe fruit. Not that much fruit though. A little sweet vinegar.

Mouth: Very dry and quite bitter. A lot of flavour gaps, especially around the sides of the mouth. It doesn't coat the mouth as you'd hope. Short, one-dimensional finish. Some nice sour cherries. Good but not great [85pts]

Old Brothers MLC 2001 (61.3%, 396 bottles)

A single cask with an outturn of just 396 of these smaller 500ml bottles. MLC is Monymusk's highest ester 'mark' (450-550 g/hlaa) - fingers crossed for a funky bold pot stilled rum.

A massive 18 years of tropical ageing in ex-bourbon casks, plus another 18months in Europe, before bottling at a punchy 61.3%.

Selected and bottled by Old Brothers in their distinctive stubby white opaque 500ml bottles.

Eyes: Beautiful dark amber-copper

Nose: Wow. Really glorious. You could be forgiven for mistaking this for a Hampden at first. Big fruity sweet vinegary esters. Loads of fruit. Blackcurrant, sweet & sour mango. So inviting. A massive nose. So much going on. Toasted oak. And some wet wood. Sour cherries. A touch of pickles. Mouthwatering. Quite sweet, even honeyed. Really fruity with a good dash of acetone and a backbone of spicy oak. Yum

Mouth: Beautiful mouth coating thick rum. Lovely sweets esters. Mint. Tannin. Some spicy oak. A little astringency but then pulls back into the sweeter fruit flavours. Cola cubes. Dark fruit. Vanilla. Cherry coke. Layers and layers of flavour. If I was to be uber critical there's a little sharpness and doesn't fully deliver on the promises of the nose but a bloody lovely rum [89pts]

National Rums of Jamaica - Monymusk 2010 MBS (62%, 4660 bottles)

Released by NRJ as part of a series of single mark, tropically aged, Jamaican rums in distinctive tall sexy black bottles.

15 casks produced 4660 bottles. MBS is a low ester mark distilled on the new column still, so I wasn't expecting anything too funky, however - the rear label tells us that the rum contains 152.2g/hlaa of esters - considerably more than the mark of MBS designates - potentially an evolution during the barrel ageing.

Fully aged at Clarendon for 9 years which should offer decent barrel influence (clearly endorsed by the massive 51% angel's share loss detailed on the rear label).

Eyes: Lovely light copper-gold

Nose: Alcohol is quite aggressive and poorly integrated. However, when you get past that it's actually very enjoyable and has some complexity. Lashings of toasted coconut. Cake mix. Sour fruit. A touch of glue but less sweet ester than the others. Some cardboard. And green apple. I didn't expect to like it this much. Clearly column still but super quality. Will the taste deliver...

Mouth: Sweet glorious rum. Not the most complex or challenging rum, but bloody hell it's delicious. As with the nose, the alcohol integration isn't perfect and there's some sharpness but overall it's well made, caramel, vanilla deliciousness. Loads of banana, cherry pie and some wet wood. Very good [88pts]

Sample X 2006 (63.2%, 283 bottles)

A single cask of pot stilled rum, aged continentally for 14 years with an outturn of just 283 bottles.

Bottled as a collaboration between Kinta & The Rum Mercenary at a bold 63.2%

Eyes: Bright light gold

Nose: A bit less going on than the last couple. The alcohol is a touch too aggressive for me. A big bold nose. Sadly lacking a little of the complexity I'd hoped for. Buttery spice. Some oak. A little meat. Vanilla. Glue. Quite dry. Baked apples. Unfortunate bitterness. An edge of coffee. Lacking the sweet esters.

Mouth: Baked apple. Aggressive, poorly integrated alcohol. Spice, but lacking vanilla oak. A touch of cherry bakewell. Enjoyable but lacks balance, maturity and complexity. Big alcohol - thin flavour. [82pts]

Velier Villa Paradisetto Monymusk 1995 (67%, 508 bottles)

Released by Velier as part of the legendary Warren Khong series. Bottled a couple of years ago in honour of the home of Velier, Villa Paradisetto.

One of Clarendon's higher marks, 'EMB'. Pot still rum - aged for a breathtaking 24 tropical years at Clarendon.

A blend of 2 barrels - 509 bottles of huge 67% rum.

Eyes: Spectacular dark gold, thick unctuous rum

Nose: Holy-moly that's good. And big. It's climbing out the glass coming to say hi. Incredible depth and complexity. Beautiful acetone & solvent, big sweet esters, anise, spice, caramel, mango. So much going on and yet all working in harmony together. A little mint, wood polish, buttery - nutty - creamy - yummy. An absolute symphony.

Mouth: Thick glorious mouthfeel. All the promises of the nose, are delivered in spades. Deep rich spicy oak influence starts us on a kaleidoscopic flavour explosion. The sweet esters, menthol, tropical fruit salad, splash of vinegar, butter-rich pastry, walnuts, black tea and back to the spicy caramel. Perfectly integrated alcohol turns this 67% monster into a pussy cat. Incredible. [93pts]

Rum Shark Clarendon 2006 (69%, 252 bottles)

Released as part of Czech independent bottler Rum Shark's first set of rums. I absolutely loved their New Yarmouth in my tasting of the 1994 New Yarmouth's, so I have high hopes for this rum.

A single cask filled just 252 bottles at a seriously strong 69%

Extensive searching failed to provide any information on the mark or the proportion of its ageing that was in the tropics.

Eyes: Lovely dark gold

Nose: Unsurprisingly the 69% makes itself known from the off and is hard to get past. Apple pie. Cinnamon. Almonds. Cherries. Marzipan. Heady stuff. A clear smokiness which is interesting - or maybe that's my nostrils burning :-) ...

Mouth: Good thick rum. Some cakey-fruity-glueyness slightly overshadowed by the big punch of booze. Spice and blackcurrant if you search, A lot of fire, underwhelmed on the flavour and complexity. [83pts]

Scotch Malt Whisky Society Jamaican Rum - Monymusk 1976 MBS (73.1%, Cask no 1)

Bottled way back in May 2001 as part of an inaugural pair of rums released for members of the SMWS. I understand that this experimental, visionary project was quite poorly received by the members at the time, thankfully the MD (Richard Gordon) had a passion for rum and pressed on regardless. Over time the SMWS rum line has become a solid and popular part of their annual releases.

A single cask (Cask No. 1) aged in Scotland for 25 years before being bottled at an eye-watering 73.1%.

Eyes: Possibly the lighted gold amber of the lineup.

Nose: Bloody hell. Punchy stuff, as you might expect! Surprisingly lively for its age... like Mrs Secretrumbar :-) Some spice. Dry oaky rum. Zesty. Citrus. Some esters. Overripe bananas. A mighty beast - and interesting to boot.

Mouth: Deep warm complex rum. Really lovely. You'd be forgiven for thinking it was a fine old Cognac or Armagnac. Good rich fruit. Lots of alcohol but it works. There's layers of cherries, sweet fruit and caramel. A spicy vanilla oak spine. Dashes of glue. Very complete and very tasty. Stunningly, and surprisingly drinkable at 73.1% !! [91pts]

In conclusion - What an amazing tasting. How the hell can a bunch of rums from one distillery be so different. Velier 1995 is off the scale good - sadly with a secondary market value to match. The SMWS is a piece of history that I was honoured to try. Old Brothers did well with the MLC barrel pick - very impressive. Finally, I was really surprised by the Velier MBS - didn't expect much, but it's delicious. Given the much larger availability, the price is not as crazy as some of the others - I will be keeping an eye out for one!

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