Review #6: Plantation Grand Reserve

“This ain’t it chief”

After 5 reviews that I was looking forward to writing, I really do have to make one I’m not really looking forward to writing.

Since the last 5 rums I’ve reviewed were and are some of my favourites at the moment I’ve been shitting rainbows and praising most of them as nectars of the gods. This is what I like to do; write positive reviews about things that I love. At one moment I have to be critical and write something less favourable about a certain rum and I have found that rum.

When I looked at my selection of open rum bottles I really wanted to drink something else than my go-to Jamaican rums, so I grabbed a bottle of Plantation Grand Reserve that’s been standing idly for a couple of months now. And well… let’s say it wasn’t the best experience.

But before we go into the tasting let’s first get familiarized with the rum and the much debated Plantation brand which some of the more outspoken rum writers love to hate.

Plantation is one of the more widely-known rum brands out there. For me, they came into my periphery with their pineapple rum, which (to be honest) is pretty darn good for what it is; a spiced/infused rum.

The tastes in this flavoured rum are quite natural and it makes for a great pineapple daiquiri. They really came into my mainstream when I tried their OFTD, well… when I tried it multiple times in small quantities taken in a fast way (you know, shots). This also was a good and rather fun experience.

After drinking and enjoying both these rums, I naturally bought a plantation rum for myself. This was in the good old days when I was not yet tainted by the amazing tipples of Jamaican rums, Foursquare and rhum agricoles.

So naïve little me went to the grocery store and bought myself an impressive bottle of the “Plantation Grande Reserve”. The bottle itself has a solid look. Nice, classy bottle with straw wrappings that’ll impress any first-time rum buyer. I then went home and actually really enjoyed it (oh what an inexperienced taste palate I had). After a while I bought more rum and I actually never returned to it… Until now.

Yes! What a man wouldn’t do to pass time in a lockdown. At the time of writing the whole world is in lockdown because of the COVID-19 crisis (if you’re reading this in 2050, look it up. It was a whole thing, people hoarding toilet paper and so on… crazy times). It was day 7 of the lockdown in Belgium and I was bored out of my mind (day 9 and I still am) so I decided to drink some rum. When I looked at my bottles I saw this little thing shimmering and I decided it was a good time to get nostalgic. Boy was I wrong.

Before we get to tasting, let’s quickly glance over the specs. This rum was distilled in Barbados using column and pot stills after being fermented for 3 days. It was aged tropically for 1-3 years in bourbon casks and was then shipped to France for another aging of approximately 1 year in Ferrand casks. After this sugar is added. HUH?!?!?! DUM DUM DUUUUUUM!!!! Yes, plantation adds sugar to their rum. They call it dosage (a technique used in cognac) and they’re really open about it, as they say it improves the flavour of the rum. The ‘dosage’ here is a whopping 16g/L. and finally they top it of with between 0% and 0.1% of E150a caramel to colour the rum to their liking.


Colour:

Light yellow-gold. It is of course coloured, but I guess there really is just a minute amount of caramel added.

Nose:

Ooooh, that’s rough. Not a very enjoyable smell, although this rum is only 40% it smells like it’s bottle at a heart- & flavourless 90-something percent. The noses gives a lot of sharp unpleasant hints and I can’t really force myself to nose it for longer than a couple of seconds. The closest comparison I can give is vodka with sugar and a couple of drops of rum, because damn, you can already smell the sugar. It’s like hanging over a freshly made batch of simple syrup.

Nose, no is good. Let’s see what it tastes like

Taste:

The first thing I notice is the sugar, again. The consistency is just very thick and weird, especially after I’ve grown accustomed to non-sugared rum.

Taste-wise the sharpness continues alongside with a very alcoholic flavour. At 40% this is one of the most alcohol-forward tasting rums I’ve reviewed. There really isn’t much to this, the same vodka-mixed-with-some-rum notes come back. It’s a very one-dimensional rum and not a delight to drink… whatsoever.

There is a bit of a peppery note on the sides of my tongue, but that’s about it. I think the added ‘dosage’ just mutes away any flavour there might have been. I also think that the amount of pot still distilling in this rum is at best minimal, this rum leaves a mostly flavourless and characterless impression.

Finish:

The finish is short, which in this case isn’t a bad thing. That peppery note sticks around for a little while, but the fades after a couple of seconds. There isn’t much more to say about it.


This wasn’t a pleasant experience, for four reasons. The first one is that I hate writing or saying bad things about something people have put work into. There is a certain pride and anxiousness in making a product and putting it out there, and people ought to respect that. That’s why I hate breaking people or their product down.

Secondly, I’ve met Alexandre Gabriel (the owner and master blender of Plantation) and he is an amazing man. Very passionate and charismatic, this man can really make you fall in love with his product just by talking. I love some of the things (definitely not everything) he does with his company: the experimentation with wild cask finishes, the barrel exchange program with other spirit distilleries such as Teeling Whiskey and Kyrö.

This brings me to point 3: Plantation has a lot of rums that I do like, a lot. Take for example their extreme line, and some of the single casks they bring every year (I especially like the Clarendon aged in Arran casks).

and reason four is that despite of my general liking towards plantation and Mr. Gabriel, this just isn’t a good rum

So to give this rum a bad review isn’t something I do for fun (nor will I for any rum). But this specific one is just bad. It’s a rum not to be drunk neat at all, it may provide some alcohol in a rum & coke or a cocktail, but that’s it. I’ll give this rum 1.5 stars since there are far worse rums out there.

2.5/10

Review #5: Worthy Park Single Estate Reserve

“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


Colour:

Natural golden colour, quite light and somewhat radiant.

Nose:

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.

Taste:

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.

Finish:

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.

8.5/10