English Harbour is a rum which I had been looking at for some time. For whatever reasons I had resisted the temptation to buy a bottle online. I was presently surprised to find Newcastle (Upon Tyne) department store Fenwick’s had it in stock. There is something satisfying about actually being able to have the experience of being able to buy a half decent bottle of rum over the counter. Whilst the rum was slightly more expensive than online (£27.50) this was tempered by the ability to have the rum instantly (even though its taken nearly 3 weeks to try it!) and the fact no P&P charges.
English Harbour is actually the name of a port/town on Antigua, West Indies. Rum is as closely associated with England as it is the Caribbean so this is also quite a good marketing ploy. I’m sure many a proud Englishman has bought this rum on name alone. The rear of the bottle gives some details on the legend and heritage of this rum.
The rum is presented in a traditional stubby style bottle. Similar to those used by Doorly’s and Chairmans Reserve brands. However, the English Harbour is in a dark green bottle. As a result there is no way of telling how dark the rum is until poured. The presentation is quite nice, the labels have a jagged aged age to them and overall it is pretty good albeit a little on the boring side. It looks almost antique like. I can’t imagine this rum appealing to younger drinkers, at least not by appearance. The presentation redeems itself a little as the closure is a plastic topped real cork. Its always satisfying to pop the cork on a bottle of rum and smell the aroma’s within and on the cork.
I have a number of rums in my collection and have tried many more. Very few I have found to have the ACR (Authentic Caribbean Rum) mark. From memory I can only really think of Chairmans Reserve displaying this. I’m pretty sure though that a few more of my Bajan, St Lucian and Jamaican rums probably do satisfy the criteria for ACR. For those who are not in the know the ACR mark means the rum has been produced in a traditional manner. The only additives permitted are caramel but this must only be for colouring it must not impart flavour to the rum. NB I have since writing this review conducted Hydrometer Tests on this rum which reveals added sugar – which makes me wonder quite what the ACR is achieiving.
When finally poured the English Harbour is a deep mahogany. It looks warm and inviting. The nose is quite subtle, despite being a relatively young rum their isn’t much of an alcohol smell in a sense it doesn’t smell “boozy” or harsh like some young rums can. The nose is sweet molasses, a little orange its smell is almost as sweet as some of the South and Central American premium sipping rums.
From the nose I could be mistaken for thinking I have a £40 plus sipping rum. When sipped the rum is a lot smoother than a rum this age has any right to be. We aren’t talking ridiculously smooth as in Angostura 1919 but it is definitely a rum which can be sipped. There is a little burn and a kick when swallowed but it isn’t rough or unpleasant. It .actually pays to sip this in very small sips and to allow it time on the tongue. When sipped like this you taste molasses and toffee. The oakiness of the rum also comes through giving a slightly bitter taste. When sipped you do get a tiny hint of fruit, a little citrus.
As a cheap sipper English Harbour is certainly less rough and ready than many of the rums I have tried in this price range. An ice cube also improves things as it takes some of the heat out of the rum allowing a little more flavour to come through in the mix. Personally if I was looking for a sipping experience and enjoyed this unadulterated style of rum I would spend a few pounds more and go for either R Seale’s 10 Year Old or his Rum Sixty Six. Cockspur 12 would also be a good shout at around the £30-35 price point. Maybe even Chairman’s Reserve The Forgotten Casks.
As usually concludes my tasting I tried the rum with my usual cola. Even when mixed with only a little cola English Harbour is still very smooth. Only a tiny amount of cola seems to take away the moderate burn experienced when sipped. The rum actually seems to take some of the fizz out of the cola making the overall drink very smooth, perhaps too smooth. The English Harbour is quite oaky and bitter, in the background you get a little banana and orange peel. Once the bitterness subsides there is a hint of coconut and ginger.
I’ve compared this rum both to premium Central/South American rums and Bajan/Central Caribbean “traditional” (excluding Jamaican) styles. It’s a pretty complex rum there is quite a lot going on. My initial thoughts are that it isn’t as good as Chairmans Reserve (sorry!!!!!) for rum and cola. Personally I miss some of the rough and readiness of Chairmans and it isn’t quite as fruity. As a sipper it is better than anything else in the £20-25 mark (that doesn’t say much) but it isn’t a really satisfying sipping rum. For me this rum is kind of stuck between a rock and a hard place. A kind of Jack of all trades master of none.
This isn’t a bad rum by any stretch of the imagination but it isn’t anything to write home about either.