Singular Spirits, Part II: Wray & Nephew White Overproof Rum

The always-reliable Difford’s Guide gives you good basics on Wray & Nephew Distillery – location, ownership, history, distilling method. The company is a classic Caribbean (Jamaica) distiller, traditional and known world-wide for its Appleton and other lines.

Master blender Joy Spence was profiled recently in Afar magazine by Kristin Braswell, with observations benefiting from her long career at the distillery, and offering some good cocktail suggestions.

Her creation The Joy is next on my list. It calls for a muddled orange slice and I’m going to try this with the tart Seville orange, currently in our markets.

Expect a review, of course!

The pot still taste comes through clearly in Appleton expressions I’ve tried, and never more so than in Overproof. This is an extra-strength new rum with a heady taste of the still and cane the distillate derives from.

I bought the bottle shown in Jamaica over 40 years ago, so historic in its own right. However, the liquid is a blend of the original rum and a (half) bottle of the same brand I bought at LCBO 10-12 years ago.

They did not taste exactly the same. Over the years the original rum, while clearly still alcoholic, had become more neutral. It is likely by-products of distillation – congeners familiarly called – lifted off over the years.

For a good schematic of these compounds and the difference between heavy rums such as Overproof and lighter rums rectified to a cleaner palate, Difford’s Guide again is most helpful.

I may have put a splash in too of a French Caribbean agricole rum, similar in character to the Overproof.

 

 

The blending has melded in the last 12 or 15 years to a seamless taste of hearty new Caribbean rum. I keep the bottle tightly sealed (unlike perhaps with the original contents) and have not noticed any drop-off in character.

While used mainly for punch and in certain mixed drinks, I like Overproof neat on ice. The extra strength is offset by the melting ice. To me, the most prominent note is grasses, and maybe fruits of some kind. The taste when I first had it seemed – as for many classic drinks, beer included – strange.

With time, one accustoms to it. Even in the top, well-aged expressions of pot still and single column rum, there is still a hint – sometimes more than a hint – of this distillery character. Just as for good whiskey or brandy, the non-ethanol compounds, with the oak, the whole altered by time, make for a unique drink of character.

Learning too about rum manufacture helped me parse the palate. In the case of Wray & Nephew, molasses, a by-product of refined sugar production, is used as feedstock. So even as molasses sugars are a step away from the sugars in cane, a cane-field is strongly evoked in Overproof, at least for me.

Molasses is quite a remarkable product in its own right. It is like and unlike honey, unlike it since of course manufactured and not harvested naturally, unlike it too in taste, but like it in the sense of its stability.

You can keep honey for a long time, even once opened, and it hardly seems to change, never “goes bad”. It may solidify but you can still use it. Molasses too keeps in its original state for years, at least I have found that.

I have a container in the fridge, half-full now, that I taste periodically. I think I purchased it four years ago. I read once that molasses once opened can, over time, build up gases, so care is needed to avoid accidents.

I haven’t noticed anything amiss with my sample. Maybe the cold of the fridge prevents this.

The taste is remarkably stable. As is my blend of strong Carib rums stored in the antique bottle, made from the self-same molasses (and cane juice direct, for the agricole).

 

 

 

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