Funky Friday - Long Pond
Updated: Jan 4
A rainy December Friday off work. Clearly time to tackle this absolute beast of a tasting. I love Long Pond rums and have been looking forward to this tasting for absolutely ages.
Long Pond - one of only two Jamaican distilleries to employ the use of dunder in their fermentation - to fuel-inject the congeners (eg: esters) in their rum. These organic flavour bombs remain prevalent in the final distillate thanks to the use of a traditional copper pot still. Some evidence suggests that the barrel aging increases them even further!
Long Pond make a range of 'marks' with increasing levels of congeners. Of these, the 'marks' being tasted today (STCE, TECA & TECC) are their (and some of the world's) most extreme. (Reaching right up to the legal limit of 1600g/hlpa).
We're lucky to be able to still enjoy Long Pond rum. Founded in 1753, the distillery was closed for 5 years in 2012 due to leakages in the dunder storage tanks. Within a year of restarting a fire caused further risk to the business and I think many were concerned we would lose yet another important historic Jamaican distillery. Thankfully this is all behind us - Jamaica maintains six distilleries and we are able to enjoy these incredible rums for years to come.
What all the above means is that older stocks of Long Pond are scarce. All the rums tastes today were made prior to the 2012 closure and are predictably hard to find. (sorry!)
All the rums tasted today have been fully 'tropically' aged in Jamaica - this has dramatically accelerated the aging process, exciting stuff, with an eye watering angel share (loss) of as much as over 80% !!
If you're reading this review, never having tried a super high ester rum, and wondering if you should invest in a bottle - I suggest finding a sample first. These are extreme. Very marmite. I love them, but I totally understand why others might not :-)
Huge flavour. Massive abv. Big big rums. Monsters of the rotten funk world. As is written on the label of the WhiskyJury bottle "Not for the faint hearted!" So, assisting me today, what else could it be, Parliament - Mothership Connection. What a Friday!
15ml of each. Left to fill the whole house with unbelievable oddly beautiful and exciting fetidness.
I'm half expecting the neighbours to smell this through the wall and to call the fire brigade :-)
As all these rums as are similar abv (62-63%) I'm roughly attempting to taste them in increasing ester level. All nosed first, then tasted. Starting from extreme madman and moving up...
Whisky Jury 2005 - 15yr. 62.1% £90
A single cask, tropically aged for 15 years with an outturn of just 290 bottles. Beautifully presented with a cool giant wooden stopper (cool looking, not so much in the pouring department). Whisky Jury were very helpful, quickly answering my questions, unfortunately they don't know the 'mark'. Rumour is STCE. Very well priced when released this year, although they didn't last long.
Nose: The 'gentlest' and most approachable of the tasting (note what this is being compared to). Less rotting stuff and more acetone & airfix glue :-) Some fruit - cherries, guavas. Wet wood. Spicy. The bourbon barrel influence is very noticeable. Imperfect alcohol integration resulting in a little sharpness. Some signature Long Pond rotten cherries but not as much as the rest.
Mouth: A lovely clean, high ester Long Pond. Warming. Good length, some very slight gaps in the taste. Rich dark fruit. Fairly complex. Really enjoyable. An absolute bargain at under £100. Spicy oak & vanilla are there to give structure to the sweet esters. A little floral perfume. A big one, albeit not to the level of the powerhouses that follow (maybe that's a good thing!). Highly recommended [90+pts]
(Upgraded by a point to 90+ following 90 point benchmarking exercise here)
National Rums of Jamaica(NRJ) Cambridge 2005 - 13yr. 62.5%. £160
These sexy black NRJ bottles were releases by Velier in 2018 as a series designed to showcase the extremes of Jamaican rum. To give rum enthusiasts the opportunity to try tropically aged single 'mark' rums. The price seems high but these are quite exceptional rums, impossibly expensive to produce and I can tell you - a little goes a long way! (Thankfully, as there's not much left after the >63% angel share!)
The STCE Cambridge, named after a now closed distillery and made to celebrate it's style, is produced from 11 barrels. 3,648 bottles.
Nose: More complex. Bigger. More sweet esters than the WhiskyJury. Warmer & rounder. Big deep rotten cherry nose runs on to sweet cake. A smashed bakewell tart drowned and turned into delicious booze. Very inviting. Alcohol is well integrated, the heat is there but it's incredibly approachable for 62.5%
I've been nosing this one for 15 mins without even realising. It doesn't stop evolving. All that sweet rotten cherry keeps swinging to slaps of ammonia & nail polish remover, and then off on another tangent to more big fruit notes - mango, gooseberry, more cherries. It doesn't stop there, we move on again to olives in brine. And round and round. What a journey. Absolutely, and literally, mouth watering.
Mouth: As with the nose, the taste is a journey. A kaleidoscope of flavours. Every time it threatens to get too sharp, we about turn and slide back to sweet esters, big rich fruit, dollops of caramel, cake, spice, vanilla, vinegar and back round. The taste goes on for an absolute age. A real mouth filler. Perfectly balanced. A stunning rum. [92pts]
National Rums of Jamaica(NRJ) TECA 2007 - 12yr. 63%. £160
Another from Velier's NRJ series. A higher mark than the Cambridge, TECA is the second highest ester level that Long Pond produces. 11 barrels. 3,560 bottles.
Nose: More heady. Drier. More meaty - and I don't just mean the power, it literally smells of meat. And soup. And green fruit - sharp, under ripe fruit. Lashings of the expected furniture polish and acetone. Lots of sulphur. Vinegar. It's big, and interesting, but it's got less of the 'higher' sweet notes and a little less of the complexity & 'warmth' of the Cambridge.
Mouth: Ooo sour, really sour. Some very interesting flavours bursting in and out. Lovely dry core. The fruit is there, just slightly in the background, raspberries, mixed dark fruit salad. Sour fruit sweets. It's actually very moorish. A touch thinner and with a shorter finish than the last two. Those rotten cherries make an appearance with the second taste. A touch of vinegar. Less oak, less sweetness. Decent complexity. No screamingly 'bad' notes, just not as complete as the first two. Very good. [88pts.]
Habitation Velier TECA 2005 - 14yr. 62%. £160
One of the 2019 releases in the exceptional Habitation Velier range. Bottled in their distinctive flask shape bottles, these rums are labelled with incredible detail. In this case we are told to expect 1285.4g/hlpa of esters following 14 tropical years of aging that resulted in a massive 80% angel share for this pot stilled monster. One of the smaller HV releases - just 1,213 bottles. Comfortably the darkest, richest colour of the lineup.
Nose: Wow. I mean wow! I couldn't be any more impressed if the rum had gathered itself together, climbed out of the glass and slapped me round the face. I feel like my nostrils have been assaulted. You hear of a taste lingering for ages - seldom with a smell. It's like I've accidentally stuck my face too far into the glass and still have some rum on my nose!
Where to begin ... a huge heady rum. Exceptionally warm, round, deep & complex. Rich dark fruit, lashings and lashings of sweet esters. Brine. Vinegar. Rotten fruit. Biscuits. Extremely complex, and yet complete. Absolutely massive, nose tingling. I'm salivating like a labrador at a picnic. The rum smell equivalent of being tango'd.
All that, and yet beautiful. Forget beauty and the beast, this is both beauty and a beast.
Mouth: A masterpiece. The power is so well controlled, so focussed. It has everything. A refined warm buttery, spicy, vanilla & caramel core. Big deep rich dark fruit. Sweet sweet esters. Lashings of funky, punchy acetone & varnish. All working together in harmony. A symphony. An absolutely huge rum, perfectly made. Goes on ages and ages (sadly not forever). One of my top three rums of all time. [95pts]
National Rums of Jamaica(NRJ) TECA 2003 - 15yr. 63%. £180
Another TECA from Velier's NRJ series. This time aged for a massive 15 tropical years resulting in >67% angel share. 9 barrels. 2,484 bottles.
Nose: First rum smell ever to make me shiver. Blindfolded I'd assume I was smelling something that died about 3 weeks ago. A rum to make your eyes water!
Ammonia, sulphur, some rotten fruit if you choose to search hard... [checks bottle for confirmation that this is for human consumption].
There's some acetone & brine too. Phew, something familiar - LOL.
Rum, yes I'm describing rum. God only knows what this is going to taste like :-)
Mouth: Yuck. I think. What a confusing flavour. Some sweet fruity tasty aspects. Some vinegar & acetone. Some spice. Even some vanilla & caramel. But slapped right over all of it ... rotten meat. And broth.
Long, unbelievable savoury finish. I do not like this rum (repeat after me - I do not like this rum), but then I kind of do...
Interesting - yeah, complex - yeah, lingering - yes, delicious - not on your nelly!
Anyone wanting to experience everything that rum has to offer needs to try this. Extreme stuff. [84pts]
National Rums of Jamaica(NRJ) TECC 2007 - 11yr. 62.5%. £160
The final of the NRJ series. Long Pond's higher 'mark' TECC has ester levels of between 1500 - 1700g/hlpa. No real introduction needed, arm bands on and in we go.
11 barrels. 3,325 bottles. >57% angel share
Nose: Surprise!! I'm expecting another visit to the slaughterhouse. Maybe with added sledge hammer... that's not where we're going. Don't get me wrong, there's plenty of sledge hammer, but it's wrapped in sweet ester candyfloss. And not a dead thing in sight (phew!). Warm, round and inviting. It's bigger and headier than the others, but no ammonia or sulphur, just an oversized portion of acetone, vinegar and rotten cherries. Very slightly less warm, sweet & inviting than the HV but bloody hell this TECC beast may actually be drinkable, maybe even delicious.
Mouth: Bloody lovely. A flavour explosion. Good flavours too. Assuming rotten fruit, rotten veg, vinegar and acetone/varnish are your thing!
This is about as big, complex, unapproachable and aggressive as 'delicious' gets. But trust me, to some (me included) this is delicious. In my top 10 rums I suspect - [93pts]
Conclusion: After nearly four hours I've finally first tasted all these rums. Funkadelic has been replaced several times and I'm now listening to Prince's Batman album, forgotten how bloody awesome this is. Anyway, the point I'm making about these rums is that they're massive. They're an experience.
Yes, they're crazy expensive, but they're also crazy expensive to make, and about as complex and interesting as rum gets.
And when I say a little goes a long way, I really mean it - 4hrs and I've been mesmerised by (so far) about 50ml of spirit - a pub double! A bottle of something like this can and does provide years of enjoyment. In the case of the 2003 - decades of interest ;-)
If you're near RH2 in the UK, give me a shout and I'll happily pour you a dram at my bar. Rum is for enjoying ... and for sharing.