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Rum Review: English Harbour 10-Year

English Harbour Reserve 10-Year Rum Review

English Harbour Reserve Ten Year

Hailing from the island of Antigua, English Harbour is the premium line of rums made by Antigua Distillery, Limited. Founded in 1932, the company has long provided the go-to rum for Antiguans: Cavalier. When my grandparents lived on Antigua in the early 1960’s, a bottle of Cavalier could be had for about fifty cents. Back then, Antigua was still producing their famous Muscovado sugar and the molasses that went into Cavalier, but global competition would soon drive Antigua out of the sugar business. Nowadays, Antiguan rum is produced from bulk molasses made elsewhere in the Caribbean. Their recently renovated distillery employs copper-piped four-column stills.

Antigua Distillers Limited is a member of the West Indies Rum and Spirits Producers’ Association Inc. (WIRSPA) whose mission is to promote authentic Caribbean rum (ACR) and English Harbour’s bottles carry WIRSPA’s ACR seal. In the US, the English Harbour line is imported by Anchor Distilling here in San Francisco.

The English Harbour reserve 10-Year is a blend of rums at least ten years old, and contains rums up to twenty-five years old. It’s bottled at 40% ABV and retails for $90. Ninety dollars is a lot of money for a 10 year-old rum—let’s see if it’s worth it.

The English Harbour Reserve Ten-Year arrives in a medium height clear bottle with a classic, broad-shouldered shape. The wood-capped cork seal provides an appropriately classy closure that works well. The understated tattered white label  occupies a very small amount of real estate, and the bit of gold leaf  makes a flashy, yet understated nod to quality.

In the glass, there are no surprises regarding this rum’s color. The same copper bronze color we saw in the bottle persists. A swirl of the snifter yields a razor thin ring atop the glass, and after what seems like an eternity, a uniform set of droplets form and creep southward.

Moving in for a nosing, there is a bit more astringency than I would expect for a blend of rums at least ten years old, but it’s not unpleasant. Moving past the ethanol, the dominant characteristic is a set of fruity esters including cantaloupe, honeydew, plum, and apple. Beyond the fruit comes some oak and a raft of scents from the bakery: caramel, vanilla, toffee and cocoa. Finally there is a bit of spice including allspice and pepper. Let’s have a taste…

The rum enters with a surprising level of spice given what we found on the nose. There is a good amount of cinnamon here now along with the allspice and black pepper noted earlier. The bait and switch continues as I’m given a huge dose of oaky tannins rather than the fruit I was expecting. Once my palate is conditioned to the spice and oak, the fruit manages to push through, however, and the melon notes again make themselves known. Digging deeper, the caramel and vanilla reappear along with a bit of tart cherry syrup. The finish is long and dry with melon and raspberry notes that linger almost as long as the oak.

With a name like English Harbour, one might expect this rum to be heavier bodied and perhaps even a bit funky, but that is certainly not the case. (The name comes from the name of an Antiguan harbor, after all.) In fact, the English Harbour Reserve reminds me more of a Spanish style rum than anything English. There is no heavy bottom end, nor is there any funk or mustiness—it’ all very light and fruity with a goodly dose of oaky spice.

If my grandfather Jack were still alive, he would be shocked by the price of the English Harbour Reserve. Ninety dollars is an awful lot to ask for a rum of this age—especially when evaluated among the panoply of lower-priced rums of similar age. If pressed, I would probably advocate for buying three bottles of the very tasty 5-year English Harbour instead. At $27, it’s a far better value.

On to the scores:

  • Appearance: 1/1
  • Nose: 1.5/2
  • Mouth feel: 1/1
  • Taste: 3.25/4
  • Aftertaste: 1.75/2
  • Total Score: 8.5/10

Buy English Harbour 10 Online

Have you tried the English Harbour 10-Year? Please share your thoughts below.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. September 23, 2014 11:04 am

    What has happened to once good rums is a shame.

    If you go back around ten years English Harbor XO, like the El Dorados, was quite a decent rum. Due to the subsidies both have suffered greatly. Both are nowhere near their former quality and both now add hidden sugar to the blend, a sure sign of decreasing worth.

    The well known JaRiMi – a honest festival and tastings promoter said this: “Most rum producers bow down to US tastes, and the Americans want things ever sweeter… Rum has become in many cases extremely sugary sweet, in response to this.

    English Harbour XO was a good example of this: Their XO was a notably dry, and complex rum in the past. When I purchased already many years ago the last XO bottles I could find in the German market, the rum was but a shadow of its former glory. It was sweetened, and far simpler in taste.”

    Now we get to the price: $27 for the 5yo and $90 cannot be justified, particularly in light of their actual quality. Not to mention you can buy Mount Gay’s 1703 – a truly world class and pure rum in the $90’s, MGXO at $30, Seales 10 at $21, Doorly’s XO at $16.

    All of these are much better rums, and the 1703 has no equals. I could not help but notice your mention of unexpected tannins – I agree completely that no honest and well done ten should display these.

    Thanks for the review…

  2. September 23, 2014 11:18 am

    I like this rum a lot but I agree that 3 bottles of the 5yr are better than 1 of the 10yr! 🙂

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