English Harbour 5 Year Old

I have consistently heard good things about English Harbour 5 Year Old… Rated one of top ten rums by Forbes Magazine, two Double Gold Medals at the San Francisco World Spirits Competition, rated a 93 at the beverage Tasting Institute… the list of positive reviews goes on. When I ran into it, I got it. Who could resist?

Initial Tastes
English Harbour 5 Year Old is distilled in copper stills and aged in small oak casks. When poured, the smell is strong. I have no problem detecting it from a couple feet away. Up close it smells sweet like sugar, but some smoky smells come up too, making me think of lightly burnt sugar. The first sip is powerful, filling my mouth with a strong rum taste and a long, slow burn that is certainly noticeable. I have a feeling that this rum is going to need some water to tame it a bit, but I really want to keep this neat for a couple more sips.

Another sip and again it’s strong, and a bit harsh, but a swish in the mouth lets me detect some more flavors. But not much – a bit more smokiness, caramel and/or burnt sugar, and the slow burn. Water is called for…

A Little Water
It’s still not tamed after a little water, but it is a touch sweeter. Some more water, another sip, and it’s still a long slow burn. Egads, is it time for an ice cube?

Harsh, But Good
By now you may have gotten the idea that this is a harsh rum – maybe harsh is too strong of a word. There is more burn than I like in a sipping rum, no doubt, but I feel like I should try every rum neat and at room temperature to get the full flavors. And this rum has got flavor, it’s just masked a bit by the burn. It’s time for an ice cube and a little rest before the next sip.

An Icey Cube
An ice cube makes this more palatable, but it still has a noticeable burn. Sitting 5 minutes watered it down a bit, and didn’t do much for the flavors.

I’d have to say that this rum is not for me. Though it’s tasty enough, it’s not all that complex, and much of the taste is covered by the harshness. I’m sure that any subtler tastes are completely covered by the burning sensations. Perhaps this rum will do something for you if you don’t mind the burn like I do.

I’m not so sure that this rum could be used in mixing – it would require a cocktail that lends itself to that mildy smoky, burnt-sugar taste. Something with brandy, perhaps, like a Scorpion. That could work with this rum. But I’m not so sure what I’d do with this rum.

With so many people saying such good things about this rum, I have to worry if I’m just not in the right mood tonight. Perhaps if I try it again, when I’ll be expecting the burn, it will be better. I will have to try it again some time, for sure, and be prepared with some soda and lime or something.

Antigua Distillery Website