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Rum Reviews

Clarendon 2010, 11 Years Old, bottled by Malt, Grain & Cane, 67.2% ABV


Jamaican rums are having a real moment - and for good reason, these ester fruit bombs are smack-you-in-the-face tasty and you don’t need to be bestowed upon military-grade noses and palates to detect these amazingly tropical fruity flavors. Heck, you couldn’t miss it if you tried. And that’s the key - accessibility. With flavors as forthright as these, a wider and even more green audience Is able to appreciate such rums and get into the swing of it. Which in my opinion is far better than going for a wine tasting sessions and trying to discern between notes of light slate and chalk - they’re still mostly fermented grape juice mind you. If that’s triggering, I’m just calling it as it is. These Jamaican rums are so popular for a reason, they’re just that much easier to enjoy!


The Jamaican funk trio known as Hogo.


So what exactly are these Jamaican rums known for? The flavor you’re looking for, as it is known in the vernacular, is hogo. Hogo comes from the French term “Haut Gout” which translates to “high taste” and is best described as funky, gaminess akin to a mix of overripe bananas, gamey meat and olive brine. This might sound strange but its flavors are highly aromatic, fruity and umami, and incredibly distinctive. Think banana bread and miso paste. To delve a little deeper, these are the result of Jamaican rum distilleries uniquely employing a number of practices that help to amp up the creation of ester chemical compounds that translate sensorially into those flavors. The end outcome - a veritable flavor bomb.

Now, of course some rums take it to the furthest extreme with these flavors but believe me, there’s a real market for that. 

So who are the perpetrators of these flavor bombs? The usual suspects that come to mind are Hampden, Monymusk (or Clarendon), Long Pond and Worthy Park. Each have been on an exceptional tear, rocketing to popularity. 


A Visit to the Monymusk Rum Distillery and the National Rums of Jamaica -  Alcademics

The Clarendon (also known as Monymusk) distillery - rums interesting don't have the same picturesque distilleries as whiskies do, perhaps that will change as rums become increasingly popular. (Image Source: Alcademics)


Today’s bottle comes from Clarendon (or sometimes known as Monymusk), which belongs under the wing of the National Rums of Jamaica, a consortium of Jamaican rum distilleries. Its full history is long and complicated and frankly irrelevant to this review - so we’ll skip that.

Instead, what is key to note here is that the overwhelming majority of Clarendon’s produce is sold away to Diageo, as these funky ester heavy rums are much like the MSG (monosodium glutamate) of the drinks world - if you need to make a good cocktail what do you do? You toss a couple swigs of this and that, burn a garnish, rim the glass, but really all that matters is you add a shot of Jamaican rum. For that reason alone, Clarendon has been highly prized for its strong, aromatic flavors that are beloved by pretty much anyone and everyone.

That's in large part why you don't see Clarendon's out there much, which as we've always espoused, underscores the value that indie bottlers like Malt, Grain & Cane brings - smuggling out some of these good juice for us.


(Image Source: Malt, Grain & Cane)


In any case, this is part of Malt, Grain & Cane's Year 2 collection, a Singaporean indie bottler, and is entitled "Youth", sporting a clean, minimalist green label by artist Fiona Koh. This particular Jamaican expression was tropically aged for 8 years, followed by another 3.5 years of continental aging before being bottled.

Well, let’s get to it!



Clarendon 2010, 11 Years Old, bottled by Malt, Grain & Cane, 67.2% ABV - Review


Color: Maple Syrup


The Holy Trinity - Banana ice cream, petrol, dried meats; it's all here. Then onto richer notes of caramel and black plums. Light touches of menthol and mint, with more acetone notes of fresh rubber tyres and tar.


On the nose: Fresh, vibrant, not the usual striking heat one has come to expect with the Clarendons. In comes the classic banana ice cream and cake notes we love the Jamaican rums so much for. Light fusel oil and rancio to complete the house style. It gets sweeter with notes of caramel, almonds, dried dark fruits and black plums. Great oak structure that holds its own, pacing the aromas well, ending with more menthol, fresh rubber tyres and tar.


Creamy tropical fruits, something more tannic and meaty of tea-smoked duck, chewy licorice, finally oilier butter and sweeter, richer butterscotch. (Image Source: Leite's Culinaria)


On the palate: The red fruits makes a first impression – again very fresh and vibrant; even some yellow kiwis with cream. More camphor and menthol as is expected from a Clarendon – reminiscent of tea-smoked duck. This is complemented by notes of licorice, fusel oil and clarified butter or butterscotch and wax. The texture is oily and buttery with the oak notes well integrated.


Sweet and salty mung bean pastries (known as Tau Sar Piah in Southeast Asia) and raw cacao bits. (Image Source: Breadtalk)


The finish: Long finish, this goes on for ages. Waves of Jamaican funk or as they say hogo. Sweetness, oiliness, salinity – the works! Salty mung bean pastries and raw cacao interspersed.



My Take

What is stark here is the really spectacular integration between distillate and wood here - one never leaving the other too far behind. always balanced harmoniously. On the Yin, you have the rich tropical fruitiness, the oiliness, the sweet butterscotch, and then on the Yang, you have the astringency of the wood, not sharp mind you, but cutting through the oily sweetness, creating a really delightful juxtaposition. One never overpowers the other - which is not something you find too often with these Jamaican distilleries going full speed at attempting to create funk bombs.


My Rating


Oooh I really liked this! Great complexity, balance, and harmony between wood and rum! It's got sweet and salty bits, lots of rich butterscotch and those wondrous creamy tropical fruits! Well-rounded to a fault!


While the title card says "Youth", it never really does show, with no sharpness, hotness or offnotes, in fact, it showcases a really well-bounded roundedness that made it thoroughly enjoyable. The art on the label is a nice plus as well, given Fiona Koh's reputation as an artist, whose work adorns the bottles of spirits only ever so rarely.

We've followed Malt, Grain & Cane since their inception, particularly given the rarity of indie bottlers in this part of the world, and I have to say this was a wonderful showcase of what they can do - and only in their second year, mind you! They've done a great job here and that gives me comfort to know they're pressing on.

You can find it around most rum/whisky bars in Singapore, or if you're lazy like me, have it delivered to you from Malt, Grain & Cane, it's still available here.