Since I’m Dutch it seems only natural to try rums that are made in Holland. Unfortunately there aren’t that many. Rummieclub is the new kid on the block and I’m hoping to taste some of their rum soon. A more established and famous company is Zuidam Distillers. They’ve been making rums for years but are much more known for their genever production
Zuidam distillers started in 1975, when Fred van Zuidam quit his job as a senior distiller at De Kuyper and started his own small distillery. The company has grown substantially since then and now creates whisky, genever, gin, liqueur and rum. They use 2 different types of yeast in the fermentation of this molasses rum, which takes two weeks. It is then “triple distilled in small copper pot stills” (according to their website). They age it for one year, 3 years and 6 years in various types of barrels. Resulting in Flying Dutchman Rum 1, Rum 3 and Rum OL 6.
The OL 6 is the subject for this review. “OL” stands for Oloroso Sherry casks. That’s the vessel this rum has been in for the entire 6 year period. It’s labeled as batch number 1 and bottled at 46%. The label on the rather beautiful bottle further states that this is a “smooth dark rum”. I wish producers would stop using colour as an indicator of type/quality.
Antigua Distillery Limited was formed in 1932 by a group of rum shop owners. In 1933 the distillery was established on Rat Island. At first, the rum was distilled on a French 4 column copper Savalle still. This was changed in 1991 to a John Dore 3 column still that’s completely made out of copper, including the nuts and bolts. The boiler that powers the still runs on recycled oil from local ships. They use a commercial yeast for their fermentation, which lasts up to a somewhat short 48 hours. The wash is then distilled up to 95% abv, before it’s transferred to oak barrels, where it will age for a minimum of 2 years.
The English Harbour brand was introduced to the market in 1994. Their 5, 10 and 25 year expressions are well known (even in Canada). Around 2016 they decided to add some cask finished rums to their lineup. One of them is a sherry cask finish. It basically is English Harbour 5 (5 years in ex bourbon cask) that’s seen further ageing of a few months in a sherry cask. Before bottling they add a small amount of 10 year rum to the blend. The ABV is the same as the Flying Dutchman, 46%. This is batch 1. The one currently on the market is batch 2.
English Harbour rums have an unfortunate history when it comes to additives. The Fat Rum Pirate measured the 1981/25 year at 12 g/l, the 5 year at 15 g/l, but the port cask finish at 0-5 g/l, surprisingly. I don’t do these types of measurements as I’m too lazy, therefore I’m not sure about the level of additives in this sherry cask rum. That might change one day if I find buying an Anton Paar a worthy cause.
Before going into the review I want to share a couple of bizarre statements from the Antigua Distillery website: “Rum is not rum unless it has been aged in oak barrels.” This is complete nonsense of course. Rum Fire isn’t rum? Then there is this one:”As each barrel is filled, a handful of oak chips is added to enhance the interaction of oak and rum.” Oh my.
English Harbour Sherry Cask
Wood, dates, vanilla, light sherry, light tobacco, flame grilled burger (Burger King anyone?) and candle wax. It’s a bit dusty, like those times when you are searching for something in a dusty attic. It feels light in weight.
Flying Dutchman Rum OL 6
Caramel, rice waffle??? is strong, light sulphur, wine gums, Chinese spice store, nutmeg, cinnamon, licorice, light oak, grapes, strong red wine and sherry. It’s kind of flat.
They aren’t even close on the nose. Even though the EH is on the lighter side, it still has that classic bourbon cask rum character. The sherry isn’t dominating. The FD on the other hand is plain bizarre. Very heavy on the sherry and containing several components that really don’t work for me.
English Harbour Sherry Cask
Vanilla, wood spice, chocolate, raisins, light sherry, light tobacco, plenty of oak. Slight bitterness on the mid palate that vanishes on the finish, which turns a little sweet. Finish is medium long. Nice sipper, although not super remarkable.
Flying Dutchman Rum OL 6
Liquid rice waffle, sherry, sulphur and a short finish….luckily. There is more to it, but unfortunately I don’t want to spend additional time dissecting it. Time is valuable and precious, I'd like to spend it creating positive memories as much as I can. My apologies.
I really like the English Harbour. When I first tried it, years ago, I felt the sherry component was too strong. At that time I hadn’t come across many “cask finished” rums and simply wasn’t used to it. So if you are accustomed to drinking rums which have only been in ex bourbon cask, you might feel the same way at first. Give it some time though, it’s definitely worth exploring and getting used to. Overall it reminds me of a Latin style rum somewhat, with an additional degree of rum character.
The Flying Dutchman on the other hand….
Zuidam and its managing director & distiller Patrick van Zuidam (Fred’s son) have a very good reputation as spirits distillers, although perhaps not as well known for rum yet. Quite a few years ago I tried a younger version of their rum. It’s long enough ago that I can’t remember if it was the 1 or the 3 year. I do remember thinking that it was a decent young rum. This particular 6 year expression doesn’t work for me though. It’s probably not in the distillate but in the ageing. It might have been too light to stand up to the sherry influence.
Was there sherry left in the barrel perhaps, or simply a case of ageing it too long? Did I get a bad bottle? It's not rummy at all. Lots of sherry, grapes, some sulphur and damn rice waffles. That’s a memory from my youth I did not want to relive. Never expected to find that in rum anyway. I hated the smell and taste of these things and refused to eat them as a kid.
For now, it won’t stop me from trying other Flying Dutchman rums, but it will surely take a while before this particular bottle is finished.
English Harbour Sherry Cask – 75
Flying Dutchman Rum OL 6 – 20
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