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Cigar Spirits: Wray & Nephew White Overproof Rum, Smith & Cross Traditional Jamaican Rum

24 Jan 2019

One of the most interesting, unique, and perhaps divisive flavors in all of spirits is “hogo.” Hogo is Creole slang for “haut gout” (a French term for “high taste”) and its most closely associated with the funky characteristic that is identified with many Jamaican rums.

Describing hogo (that Jamaican funk) is not easy (it’s easier experienced than described) but you can think of a rotting or overripe element ranging from blackened bananas to spoiled red meat. The mystique behind hogo is full of unsubstantiated, misleading rumors (like the use of goat heads or dead bats), but the science is more about long pot-still fermentation, the careful use of leftover dunder (or muck), and the creation of esters that impart the funky hogo characteristics.

Jamaica’s Hampden Estate is known for producing funky Jamaican rum. Which is why today we’re looking at two Hampden Estate-made rums that are relatively easy to find:

Wray & Nephew White Overproof Rum

Billed as “the world’s top-selling overproof premium white rum,” this inexpensive ($20-25) Jamaican staple reportedly accounts for 90% of all rum sales on the island.

Nose: Raw dry-aged ribeye, fresh roast corn, and the raw alcohol of 126-proof unaged rum.

Palate: Crisp apple, pineapple, fresh cut grass, and alcohol heat.

Finish: Short and sharp with more subtle guava and pineapple notes.

Between the proof and the youth, I wouldn’t recommend this as a rum to sip neat, but it can shine in a cocktail. It’s not for everyone, but I love it in a funky traditional daiquiri and it’s an obvious candidate for tiki drinks.

Smith & Cross Traditional Jamaican Rum

This 57% ABV “navy proof” rum is a mix of two of Hampden’s distillation styles (Wedderburn and Plummer) mixed together after 1 to 3 years of aging. Expect to pay around $30 for a bottle.

Nose: Brown banana peel, oak, and brown sugar.

Palate: Crisp tropical fruit (pineapple and mango) followed by clove, molasses, sugar cookies, and ginger with an oily mouthfeel.

Finish: Long and lush with tobacco, nutmeg, burnt caramel, and a hint of powdered chocolate.

Many will probably reserve Smith and Cross for cocktails, but think it’s quite enjoyable neat. Try it that way or on the rocks, but if 114-proof is too intense for you, I especially like the funky notes swapped in for gin in a classic negroni recipe.

Assuming you are using Wray & Nephew in cocktails (especially sweet tiki concoctions), you can pretty much pick out any cigar you like, with the general rule that the stronger the flavors, the more full-bodied the cigar. Smith and Cross deserves to be enjoyed neat (or with a drop of water or an ice cube or two) and with an earthy, full-bodied cigar like the Padrón Serie 1926, Tatuaje Havana VI Verocu, or Dunbarton Tobacco & Trust Umbagog.

Patrick S

photo credit: Stogie Guys

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