and Serving Guidance
The great tradition of this style is reflected in the famous drink recipes that call specifically for Jamaica rum. Make no mistake, this is not a sipping rum by contemporary standards. Upon initial pour, allow a minute to open up before tasting. We suggest exploring the profile first in the Jamaica Rum Daquiri (see sidebar) and from there to other classics.
On Production and the Wedderburn & Plummer
Through the 19th century and into the earlier 20th century, Jamaica Rum was revered for its deep full flavors and pleasing aromas. In this era, rum fell into three general classes, Local Trade Quality, Export Trade Quality (mainly an ester-intensive "High Continental" style for the German market), and Home Trade Quality for UK (and US) consumption. In the mid 20th century appeared the more familiar "Common Clean" light and/or sweeter styles on offer today, made with the column-still product introduced in the late 1950s. The heavier bodied Wedderburn and medium bodied Plummer styles were made with a combination of the molasses, skimmings, cane juice, and syrup bottoms from sugar production, and the dunder of the previous rum production. A Jamaica tradition has been the use of wild yeasts indigenous to the region in the fermentation process, which is arguably a major contributor to the special body and flavor. The end result is a rum of tremendous and local character.
Here we offer a blend of approximately equal parts Wedderburn and Plummer, the former aged for less than a year, and the latter split between 18 months and 3 years on white oak. It is not a style that necessarily benefits from further aging, as the oak can dominate the fruit and spice notes within and in time dampen the aromas.
57% ABV (50% by weight, or 100° English proof) was the traditional strength required by the British Royal Navy. At this proof a spill of the spirits would not prevent gunpowder from igniting. As important, this degree of concentration provided an efficiency in conveyance on board and onward to trading partners far away.
Navy Strength should not be confused with Navy Rum, which was for over 200 years a daily ration in the British Royal Navy, and traditionally composed of rums principally from Guyana, also Jamaica and Barbados.
London & Rum
The sugar trade was a cornerstone of the British Empire, and from the 19th century had its largest trading hub in London. In 1802 an entire new section of the Port of London, the West India Docks, was built to process the vast amounts of sugar and rum arriving from British colonies in the Caribbean. The Rum Dock section grew famous for product aged therein. For generations England was Jamaica's best market for rum and for this reason the world went to London to source the finest marks.
About Smith & Cross
The mark of Smith & Cross traces its lineage to one of England's oldest producers of sugar and spirits. It's history dates back to 1788 with a sugar refinery located at No. 203 Thames Street by the London Docks. Over time, the firm and its partners became prominent handlers of Jamaica rum, with extensive cellars along the river Thames. Smith & Cross today stands as successors in trade to Smith & Tyers and White Cross, both having previously operated side by side for generations in the house of what is today Hayman Distillers.
Recognition Where Due
As the Smith & Cross production lines have been dormant for many years, its revival owes tremendous gratitide to the encouragement, insights and guidance of spirits historian David Wondrich. Our special thanks as well to the numerous others who contributed in so many ways.
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