English Harbour 1981 25 Year Old

English Harbour 1981 Rum Review by the fat rum pirateEnglish Harbour rums are produced by Antigua Distillers on the Caribbean Island of the same name.  English Harbour is a port on the island.  Its name was given by the Royal British Navy when they set up a naval base there in the 18th century.

Outside of the Caribbean, Antigua Distillers are best recognised for their English Harbour rums.  The 5 year old is regularly held up as being a classic (I didn’t share that view in my review though).  Within the Caribbean they are best known for their Cavalier brand of rums.  Less expensive rums used mostly for mixing.  Much like St Lucia Distillers produce Bounty for their own domestic and more localised market.

The Antigua Distillery has been producing rum in its own right since the mid fifties.  1981 is a significant date in Antiguan history as it was the year the nation gained independence from the UK.  I assume that this event influence the production of this rum.

English Harbour 1981 was aged for 25 years from 1981 to 2006 when it was finally bottled.  The rum is now getting quite scarce and the price, should we wish to take the plunge is around £150 per bottle.  It is bottled at 40% ABV.

As you can see from the photo’s Antigua Distillers have really pushed the boat out presentation wise.  A beautiful leather case houses the rum which comes in a classic stubby style bottle, complete with authentic cork stopper.  The labels provide some information on the rum and its heritage and all in all its a very classy package.  The distillery also have a website which has some nice information about rum in Antigua and beyond.

English Harbour is a classic, almost Bajan like style of gold rum.  It has an air of authenticity about it and as I have mentioned earlier their 5 Year Old is highly regarded in the Rum Community.  I will say at this point that this particular rum caused a bit of a storm when it was revealed that despite 25 years of ageing – sugar had been added to the spirit.  There is no mention of this on the their website.

English Harbour 1981 25 year old rum review by the fat rum pirate

In the glass English Harbour 1981 presents itself as a good golden to dark brown colour which confirms many years ageing (or if you’re a conspiracist the addition of caramel).

If you didn’t know any better when nosing the rum you would assume this was something from Barbados.  It has all the classic hallmarks of the lighter Bajan style.  Vanilla, caramel and a some very nice well aged oaky notes.  It’s all very well balanced and very inviting.  I might be detecting an extra sweetness level but this may be just because I know its there.  It’s still very good nonetheless.

Tasting this rum is also a very pleasant experience.  It’s nicely balanced though it is possibly a little too sweet for my palate.  It has a good balance and despite the 25 years ageing the rum is not overly oaked.  The sweetness of the vanilla and toffee notes work well with the aged oak notes and there is a sweet nuttiness present adding extra depth to the overall profile.

There is quite a bit going on with this rum and it really is very easy to drink.  The added sugar ( I won’t labour this point) has definitely smoothed out the rum, making it both sweet and smooth.  Personally I would have liked to have tired it minus the sugar but that is just me.  I wouldn’t mark the rum down based on the additives.  Oak chips are also added to each rum barrel during ageing.

Rumour has it that rum was produced using some rum they originally intended to use in their domestic mixer Cavalier.  In turned out the rum was felt to be too good and was further aged till they decided what to do with it.  There were only 5712 bottles of this ever produced.

English Harbour 1981 25 year old rum review by the fat rum pirateEnglish Harbour 1981 reminds me a little of Barbancourt in its overall delivery – it exhibits an almost cognac like smoothness and has sweet almost wine like notes.  It is super smooth and there is virtually no burn on the finish.

Which is where I kind of fall out of love with English Harbour 1981.  Despite 25 years ageing I can’t help feeling I should be getting a little more rum for my money.  A little more “oomph” to really excite me.  This is a tasty, reasonably complex rum but overall its just a little bit too soft for my liking.  It doesn’t have that extra bit of “oomph” that I so enjoy.  When I’m sipping a 40% spirit I really don’t expect it go down almost like a liqueur.

This is a very good rum but I think it could have been better and I suppose what I’m saying is that I would have enjoyed it more without the added sugar.  Yes I’m pretty sure I would.  This isn’t rum that will put hairs on your chest nor is it Pyrat or Zacapa – it does a lot of things very well but ultimately lets itself down when really it had no need to.

3.5 stars







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