“the perfect blend between the past and the future”
We’re staying in Jamaica for this one. As I’ll be tasting the Worthy Park Single Estate Reserve. This is the standard rum for the distillery under this name. as with Hampden they already had a range of white overproof rum. The rum-bar range, which I can attest to as being absolutely wonderful and my choice as prevention medicine against the current coronavirus. WP also produces a rum-bar rum cream, which I haven’t tasted yet. I imagine it to be like Baileys but from heaven instead of from Ireland.
This is the first and main rum bottled and exported by the distillery themselves under the “Worthy Park” name. before, again, as with Hampden this could pretty much only be found in expressions by independent bottlers, the most familiar one being Velier.
But in 2017-2018 depending on where you live, you could start enjoying Worthy Park’s very own “Estate Distilled, Aged, Blended & Bottled” rum as the label so classily states.
Now seems like a good time as any to give a short history on the Distillery and the sugar estate that made this rum possible.
The estate can be traced back to 1670; this is the year that’s prominently readable on the label.
However, this is not when rum distillation started, or even when sugar production started. This is the year when (according to the WP website) “It was gifted to Lt. Francis Price for his services to Cromwell during the English capture of the island from the Spanish in 1655.” 50 years later sugar cane production began and after about another 20 years rum production started. All was pretty much sunshine and rainbows.
The 1960’s brought some clouds and rain however, due to an oversupply of Jamaican rum and some other political reasons, Worthy Park stopped distilling rum for a while. This obligatory narrowing of attention may have been a blessing in disguise (though it may be completely unrelated) because since 1968 the sugar estate has been the most efficient of the island every year.
If you’re interested in some of the general numbers check out the WP website again.
However efficient the sugar plantation and high the quality of the sugar may be, it doesn’t quite make up for the loss of rum. Lucky for us, the Clarke family wanted to introduce the world to a rum that’s been made with high-quality molasses. So they decided to start distilling again in 2004. Construction for a brand new distillery that could manage to produce very efficiently and produce a wide array of rum expressions. The main man behind this future- and efficiency focused endeavor is Mr. Gordon Clarke, the managing director and CEO of the estate. Construction of this state-of-the-art distillery started in 2005 and by 2007 distillation started again (hopefully for ever). BACK IN BUSINESS BABY!!!
The background is now set for their first expression under the Worthy Park name. And Mr. Clarke did it right. First in 2015 he hired Alexander ‘Zan’ Kong to be export sales manager, he took this role and turned himself into an absolute rum Rockstar. Oh, if only I could be like Zan…. And later the Single State Reserve was released.
The fermentation and distillation process in Worthy Park is unlike some of the other well-loved Jamaican rums. For starters, they don’t use muck or dunder for fermentation, they do use a cultivated yeast-strain that makes sure of a consistent product.
As mentioned before their distillery is very modern contrary to most distilleries on the Island. This should make for an interesting look at the difference between a “muck-infested”wild fermentation and a old time-y distillation like in Hampden or Long Pond and a well-managed and monitored process like in Worthy Park.
There’s no need to fear that WP is too modern. With over 200 years of rum-making heritage and the use of their homegrown sugarcane A-grade molasses, this should be a perfect blend between the past and the future and a staple of Jamaican distilling for years to come.
Finally, to round of the information about this rum. It’s said that it has a WPL (worthy Park Light) marque, which is 60-119 gr/hl AA in esters. It’s a blend of rums from 6-10 years and it’s bottled at 45% ABV
Okay, enough babbling, let’s get tasting
Natural golden colour, quite light and somewhat radiant.
The nose is very light and very fruity. Mostly dry fruits, plums and some not-quite-ripe-yet bananas. After a little while I get some coconut accompanied with some caramel and vanilla. Overall, the smell is quite strong, with a bit of an alcoholic whiff. Very attractive in the beginning, but it doesn’t really evolve much. This is probably due to the lower ester count. It’s a very accessible nose, but not one that evolves throughout hours.
At first the taste is the same as the nose, light and accessible. Very pleasant actually. A real crispy note of tropical fruits overtakes me. It’s like sitting on a Jamaican great house front porch, eating an assortment of freshly picked fruit and suddenly a refreshing breeze passes by and you know… life is good.
A little alcoholic flavour does wriggle its way through the fruit from time to time. After a couple of sips I got used to the fruity bouquet and the darker flavours started popping up. The easiest to discern is an oaky bitterness, not overpowering or disturbing but noticeable and pleasant enough to give the rum some depth. Along with the oak, I get the classic caramel and vanilla.
The finish is something quite interesting. When I swallow the rum some pepper tickles my tongue and a bit of ginger stays in my throat. With other rums this spiciness also presents itself in the mouth with a sip, but with the Worthy Park the spice is saved for the end. This is a nice surprise as I expected the finish to be a bit dull and really short (with it being full of light, fleeting flavours). However, the finish is medium-long and medium interesting. Again it’s nothing like the high-ester bombs that make Jamaica so famous. Worthy Park doesn’t really strive for this (in this bottling at least) and that is understandable.
To conclude, this is a great stepping stone into Jamaican rum. As it has the fruity notes that we all love in Jamaican rum. It’s a great rum for sitting and just enjoying, without having the fuzz of really putting work into getting every aspect of it.
A (in my opinion) good analogy is this: if Hampden are The Rolling Stones, Worthy Park are The Beatles. Instead of painting it black and having sympathy for the devil, Worthy Park will come together and hold your hand. Either way they’re both amazing in their own right.