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I'm a fan of Jamaican rum, and when a friend offered to pick me up a bottle in his travels I asked for something I could not get locally, and he found this.
Appleton 8 is my gold standard for a solid sipping rum, and I tend to compare everything with this.
The Plantation... Well, it is dry, as stated, but it tastes rather like it had a big wad of band aides in the bottom of the bottle. It's very medicinal, almost industrial chemical in character.
Maybe I got a bad bottle and maybe it'll improve with a bit of air, but as of right now I'm more than happy that I will not be in a position to pick this one up again. I'd find cheap vodka more palatable, and you might, too.
What it is:
A blend of Jamaican pot still rums from Clarendon and Long Pond (muck pits!). Most of the marques are the result of a 1-week fermentation period and less than a year of tropical aging, though there is some amount of high-ester distillate from a 3-week fermentation that was blessed with 3–8 years of tropical aging, depending on who you ask (Plantation says 3, CocktailWonk says 8. CW also lists an additional 2-week-fermentation marque, but the bottle label omits this). There may also be a drop of 17-year-old Long Pond in there, for marketing purposes ;). All of these were blended together before the inevitable 1–2 years aging in Cognac casks in France, however, WITHOUT any dosage (joining OFTD as the only other un-sugared, mass-produced Plantation bottling). Bottled at 43% ABV.
Kind of a Hampden-y nose. Unmistakably Jamaican, of the fruity variety, led by cherry and pineapple. Some banana. Like a Hampden lite (and hey, even Hampden can make "lighter" marques). It's plenty funky... more so than I was expecting, given some early reviews (see below). Not my favorite flavor profile (cherry), but I quite like it. Despite the lack of dosage, it still has some of that trademark Plantation "sparkle" on the finish, which I attribute to the Cognac aging.
This release has been subject to much debate since its announcement and release. I believe this is largely due to two factors:
1) interpreting the brand messaging of "100% Jamaican pot still" as "we're unleashing a hogo bomb that will put S&C and Rum Fire to shame," and
2) a rum nerd environment that's often very critical of Plantation (and often rightly so, I might add) and who are hungry for any excuse to decry the brand's endeavors.
So, if you're already not a fan of Plantation, and you're looking for more reasons to justify that position, this new release is an easy target: "It's not as hogolicious as X, therefore it is a disgrace to Jamaican rum."
I see several problems with this.
- If your preconceived expectation is your only benchmark, you are setting yourself up for disappointment. Let's at least temper, or broaden our expectations, a little bit, with the following...
- Brands, like people, are generally not all good or bad, but some combination of successes and failures; ill will and good; ignorance and prudence. Plantation's had some faux pas (and continues to tamper with most of their rums in ways I'm not a fan of), and some strokes of genius (OFTD, anyone?). But even their faux pas, to some, are strokes of genius for others. Their 20th anniversary could be your exemplar of adulteration gone amok—perfectly good aged distillate, ruined—or your most coveted bottle. Which brings me to my next point:
- Target market. Plantation has always striven for mass appeal, especially in their Signature Blends and Bar Classics, which represent some of the absolute best values in rum today. Even their Vintage and Single Cask releases are sweetened and watered down to appeal to a cognac-drinker's palate, with only OFTD and the Extrêmes (if you're fortunate enough to find them) offering a pure, cask-strength, hardcore rum experience. Plantation is for the masses, as they're probably not keen to bottle up the equivalent to DOK and unleash it on someone whose only exposure to Plantation is Stiggin's Fancy. It was never Plantation's intention for this to be a top-shelf sipper that would take dunderheads to Nirvana; rather this is a workhorse rum that is ready to be mixed or sipped affordably. Speaking of which...
- Price point/competition. In the US, you can grab a bottle for about the same price as Myers's, Coruba, or Appleton. Let's review the specs... 100% Jamaican pot-still rum, with Plummer-level esters, bottled at 43% without sugar. That's insanely competitive. Show me a bottle that gives you more flavor for less money (Golden Devil Dark Overproof comes to mind, but that's an outlier, and is sold out as of this writing). W&N White Overproof, certainly, is widely available, but lacks any aging and isn't well suited to most classic cocktail recipes (it's also a blend of pot and column, if that matters to you). Hamilton isn't much more costly (also 46% ABV), but that one too is unaged, and a rather different flavor profile (which I love, btw). Smith & Cross is about 1.5x more expensive with only 1.3x the ABV, and some Wadderburn-level distillate, but no age statement, marques, or even distilleries (not necessarily a point against, just a comparison). (See the CocktailWonk link below for a taste comparison at similar strengths.) But it sure kicks the pants off Myers's, Coruba and Appleton Special. So, this is really a very good value. If you want something with more funk, more aging, more ABV, well, it's probably going to cost you (which, if you’re like me, you're fine with that, but I would refer back to my previous point about the target market for this bottling). Yesterday, Xaymaca didn't exist, and today this quality rum it's widely available to just about anyone. Tomorrow, who knows? So, in my opinion...
- This bottle represents a positive direction for Plantation as a brand, and I believe that we the rum community should be applauding this step. Again... 100% pot still, Velier-level transparency, pungent flavor, no dosage? A "bridge" funky rum for novitiates that is priced well and mixes beautifully? Yes, please! Wouldn't you like to see them do more in this vein? Like an un-dosed Barbados 5 or 20th Anniversary? Maybe even a Xaymaca Ultimate with 300+ g/hLAA at 57% ABV? Help them keep the momentum going :)
I believe Xaymaca should be judged on its own merits, and against peers in its price-point. This rum wasn't made to unseat the venerable S&C, but it sure as heck beats Appleton, Myers's, and Coruba (not to mention giving Rum-Bar Gold a run for its money). Set your expectations accordingly. It's got enough funk to draw you in on the nose and make itself known as Jamaican, and delivers lots of great flavor on the palate, without any nasty sugar. Mix it, sip it, and if you really like it, seek out the funk-bombs from Hampden and elsewhere.
Is it my new Jamaican mixer of choice? No (due only to my personal flavor preferences). Would I be perfectly happy with it if it were my only choice? Yes. Will I be recommending it to people getting started on their rum journey? Absolutely.
Dry nose with hints of oak, alcohol, lightly fruity and maybe a hint of leather. Esters are there but not huge. Banana as it breathes and sits in the glass.
Dry right off with very little to no sweetness. Pleasantly funky but again not bold but balanced. Very warm, nearing hot but the burn is smooth and long. Long funky aftertaste but not a huge funk. Some hints of nut. Oaky and dry. Finish coats the palate. Better mixer than sipper but if the mood strikes it's a decent dry Jamaican sipper. If you like sweet rums this is not for you. Over all a well executed rum. Be interesting to try this with both more and less age. More age may mellow what pot still funkiness there is but younger may bring it forward.
Interesting add on here, the longer it sits in the glass and breathes it seems to become smoother and just a hint of sweetness comes forward. After sitting for a while it becomes more enjoyable to sip as it seems to mellow. This could grow on me!
Alexandre Gabriel and his magic in coming up with many fine rums in the Plantation line. This is one of his newest which is distilled in pot stills rom two different distilleries on the island before heading to France to be nurtured and finished in cognac casks. Plantation uses Clarendon/Monymusk and Long Pond distilleries to combine their rums of various ages to create the newest addition in the Plantation line of fine rums...Xaymaca !
Slightly spicy (pepper) and the bourbon wood. Not as much funk as is associated with Jamaican rums like Smith and Cross or Appleton. Very little sweetness other than that from the cognac wood barrels. Taste of baking spices dried fruits, banana, vanilla, pineapple, smoked leather, treackle , lemon zest.
It’s ok to be sipped neat but holds its own better as a mixer.
It seems like Plantation is trying to create a Jamaican rum that is less funky in that weird flavor. Also a drier rum with 0 sugar with a high alcohol content at 43%. An introductory level rum for people who haven’t had Jamaican rum or or don’t like the funk from the Dunder, or sugar.
My wife bought me this as a Christmas gift thinking it would be a very good rum. It isn't. I enjoy good aged dark rum such as Plantation 5yr Barbados rum, I also drink Zapatan, Cruzan, Flor de Cannes and my favorite 10yr Matusalem. But this stuff doesn't even taste like rum, tastes like bad whisky. I'll give it to a friend who will mix it with coke.
This was my hardest rating so far. It is difficult to go beyond the impressions I had with previous Plantation experiences. I would like to ask to anyone who rated this less then 7 to do a blind taste with this one and tell me what is the rating of this one. It can't be less than 7. First the nose: it is fruity, funky, but it lacks that typical solvent you can find in most Jamaicans. That for me is a pro. You can smell the cognac finish, but that's not a problem too. In the mouth in the first sip it does not kick you like a mule, and that was disappointing at first, but then it opened its variety of flavors: bananas, raisins, pineapple, lot of funk. The hogo is there, it is not covering all other sensations, it is just there, chilling. That would be an 8, if it wasn't for the finish. Long. Super long. Hell I've already washed my teeth and I can still feel it. It is very dry, very Jamaican, may be difficult to accept that the French did a better Jamaican rum than some Jamaican ones. But if you can go beyond that prejudice, you will find a very good rum wanting for you.
Drinking it by itself has so much but that lingers so long. However, in a rum and cola, it smooths out and adds a sweet note that's kind of light.
A very special smelling expression from Plantation, but I found it dull and uninspired on the palate.
If there was ever a rum to confirm my dislike of Jamaican rum, this is it. If plantation cant a good rum out of Jamaica then I doubt anyone can. Smells bearable with that characteristic vegetative and acetone smell of jamaican rums but then just tastes of banana leaf. Save your money, and dont even buy as a mixer.
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