Updated: Jan 15, 2020
Long Pond is a Jamaican Distillery that hasn’t featured on Rum Revelations yet. I figured it was time to change that. Founded in 1759 and located in the Parish of Trelawny, just like Hampden Estate. It is perhaps not the most well known Jamaican distillery, likely due to the fact they don’t have their own branded rum on the market. They mainly sell bulk rum. However, if you like funky Jamaican rum, you have to get your hands, or your lips, on a bottle of their rum.
Long Pond Distillery is owned by National Rums of Jamaica. NRJ is owned by three parties who have an equal ownership share: the government of Jamaica, Demerara Distillers and Maison Ferrand. Ferrand recently got into this position when they acquired West Indies Rum Distillery in Barbados from Goddard Enterprises. This included the one third ownership of NRJ. A rather sweet deal for them, pun intended.
Jamaica has a Geographical Indication, or GI, for their rum. All Jamaican producers got to an agreement on this in 2016. “The use of a GI may act as a certification that the product possesses certain qualities, is made according to traditional methods, or enjoys a certain reputation, due to its geographical origin.“ This means Jamaica rum can only be called that when it’s produced and aged according to certain requirements. This includes:
· The territory where the rum can be made in Jamaica (where limestone filtered water is present, which is the water that needs to be used)
· The permitted raw materials
· The permitted yeast for fermentation
· Ageing in oak barrels only
· Age statement being the youngest rum in the blend
There are far more requirements, like a tasting panel, but I don’t want to go into this too deeply. What’s missing from the GI is any wording about adding sugar to rum. It is however mentioned in an excise tax document, prohibiting the usage of sugar or anything else other than water and colouring.
So far, this seems to be a saving grace. Traditionally, Jamaican rum doesn’t have sugar added after distillation. At least not when it’s bottled on the island. This provides a certain level of clarity towards the consumer that is rare in the rum universe, unfortunately. Knowing that a product is made in a traditional way, without the addition of any (hidden) sugar or other flavouring is a great endorsement and strengthens the reputation of rum in general.
Even though the GI is in place, Jamaican rum with added sugar exists in the market. Maison Ferrand’s Plantation line of rum is one of the more well known examples of this practice. The reason why they can still call it Jamaica Rum is because the GI hasn’t been ratified yet by an influential entity like the European Union.
When Ferrand got their one third ownership of NRJ, a discussion started about amending the Jamaica GI. One of the proposed changes is to allow the addition of sugar to Jamaica rum. Every Jamaican producer is against this, except NRJ. NRJ, who agreed to the GI in 2016 but have changed their tone since Ferrand became part owner. A similar scenario is going on in Barbados, which Rum Diaries wrote about.
From a consumer perspective this can turn into quite the nightmare. There would no longer be that guarantee of traditional, untainted, quality rum coming out of Jamaica. Furthermore, this might affect other existing Jamaican distilleries in the future, in case they get taken over by larger entities. Sweeteners typically provide the quickest way to making money in rum it seems, so it might cause an increased interest. Imagine Hampden not really being Hampden anymore. What a nightmare scenario.
This debate is of course very much about financial gains, as with most things in life. One side wants to protect their money making rum tradition which they’ve built up for hundreds of years, while the other side, who’s done nothing to build up this reputation, wants to financially benefit from it while tainting it.
This isn’t an anti versus pro sugar added rum story. People who like sweetened rums don’t need to worry, it will always be available. Even if the current GI gets ratified by the EU, companies like Ferrand can keep selling sweetened rum from Jamaica, they just can’t label it as “Jamaica Rum”. Call it Reggae Rum instead. That also nullifies the argument that the GI would stifle innovation, as anything can still be done. Besides, can the addition of sugar really be classified as innovative? An incredible variety of rum can be made with all the different available oak barrels, char levels, different stills, different fermentations, etc. A skilled rum making team certainly doesn’t need the sugar shortcut to make great rum, do they?
Rum’s reputation already suffers from the false “rum has no rules” idea that a lot of people have. That’s very unattractive for large groups of consumers, as it screams cheap and unreliable. You don’t know what you are buying. That’s one of the many reasons why rare rum making traditions like the one in Jamaica need to be protected. It’s one of the foundations of the world of rum. Wanting to change it in the manner as described above should be criminal.
Now that’s off my chest, let’s look at some rum from this iconic distillery.
A couple of years ago, Luca Gargano of Velier was able to buy a large amount of tropically aged Long Pond rum. He started bottling it in the Velier house style black bottles, resulting in the release of 4 different LP rums in 2018: 2006 Vale Royal VRW, 2005 Cambridge STCE, 2003 TECA and 2007 TECC. Since then, more have been released, including ones in different style bottles.
The three and four letter combinations on the label represent marques with certain ester levels:
The term “Continental Flavoured” is also on the label. Richard Seale recently explained this term in a Facebook rum group:”In the late 19th century, an important export market (mainly Germany) for Jamaica Rum significantly increased import taxes. In order to not lose the trade, Jamaica developed a range of more concentrated marques by developing a form of matured dunder. These marques could then be diluted (with domestic spirit) ensuring the trade continued (and the dilution would offset the taxes).
Back then, we in the West Indies considered exports to the UK as 'home trade' and exports to Europe as exports to the 'continent'. The addition of the matured dunder (often called muck) before distillation was called 'flavour'. And the marques so produced were designated as 'continental flavoured' marques.
Exact techniques of course varied but the process was not practical using ordinary fermentation and distillation. The Cousins process, an adjunct chemical process, was soon developed to allow these marques to be made economically.
They continued to be made as they found additional use wherever a such a concentrated rum might be needed - for example in the making of confectionery.”
When I first opened my bottle of Long Pond TECA and took a smell, I realized I was experiencing something unique. This wasn’t just your typical overripe fruit type of funk. This was a super powerful meaty soup of fruit that had been to the gates of hell and back. I instantly gave it the lovely nickname “graveyard rum”. It’s since seen moderate consumption between me and a few others, as you definitely have to be in the mood for this one. It was distilled in 2003 and tropically aged for 15 years, bottled at 63%.
Duncan Taylor is an independent spirits bottler, established in 1938. They possess one of the largest collections of Scotch whisky casks in the world. They also bottle gin and, lucky for us, rum. Among enthusiasts they have a reputation of bottling solid spirits. In this case I picked up a 15 year Long Pond at Richard Blesgraaf’s store in Holland. Distilled in 2000 and bottled at 51,9%. Has likely seen only continental ageing. The Fat Rum Pirate liked it rather much.
Long Pond 2003 TECA
Walking into a deli shop, it’s meaty. I’m also getting dates, raisins, dried fruit, molasses and a strong tar smell….as if your street is being paved. Wood comes through clearly but with a slightly sour smell that I’ve never experienced before. Definitely graveyard rum. Very intense.
Duncan Taylor Long Pond 2000
It’s on the lighter side (also in colour) and much less expressive than the TECA (which is no crime). I really had to take my time, but then it’s almost like winning the jackpot. Ting ting ting ting……pineapple, overripe fruit, wood, banana, subtle marzipan, mint, light varnish, apple, sweet tea and prunes. That’s a very long list. I usually don’t recognize this many things, as I’m rather bad at it…..but this one kept giving. Mind you, I was nosing it for about 40 minutes.
Long Pond 2003 TECA
Tarrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr, rotting fruit, thoughts of Caroni cross my mind, raisins, leather, it’s savoury and briney with olives. I’m also walking back into the deli shop….it’s meaty. Finish is long and strong.
Duncan Taylor Long Pond 2000
Plenty of wood tannins, raisins, marzipan, a light varnish/oily note, banana and a very long finish filled with toffee and leather. The finish is almost infinite. Feels very balanced to me. It’s right in the middle between sweet and bitter, never really pulls into one particular direction.
These two are of course hardly comparable, even though they come out of the same distillery and are both pure pot still rums. The TECA is a crazy bonkers high ester rum, while the DT is clearly a lower ester rum, which makes it more balanced and approachable. Next to that there is the difference in tropical vs continental ageing. There are too many different variables to know the exact impact of this, but I bet the tropical ageing gave the TECA part of its intensity.
The DT is a nicely balanced funky rum that I can drink on a regular basis. However, for me it doesn’t hit the heights of the Compagie des Indes New Yarmouth, Kill Devil Hampden 11, or Worthy Park Single Estate 2006.
The TECA is hard to rate. Do I think this is a great rum? Not really. Am I happy I bought it? Definitely. As a drinking experience it is somewhat of a novelty instead of a solid rum drinking dream. It is very good at showing the extreme flavour capabilities of Jamaican rum. As a rum enthusiast, I find that very valuable in an educational sense and I love it for that. It's a reference rum. I won’t take more than a sip a month though, while I could enjoy the DT every weekend.
Long Pond 2003 TECA – 78
Duncan Taylor Long Pond 2000 – 83
Click here for info on the scoring method.