[Velier Forsyths WP 502 (Worthy Park, Jamaica). The photo features an extraordinary amount of rum oil floating at the top of fraction 5 from the birectifier.]
This is a grand arôme rum, and though it is presented as a pure single rum, it may not exactly be meant for drinking (502 is the non-alcohol congener count which is massive). All the while, I feel so privileged to be able to experience this rum and at such an incredible price. I only paid $50 and believe, as odd as this rum is, the price should ascend considerably. These distilleries are among the great wonders of the world and should be protected by the World Heritage Project to ensure they continue uninterrupted.
This rum style cannot compare to other white rums or even overproofs like Wray & Nephews because it was meant for extreme blending as well as flavoring tobacco, confections, and perfume. It is a new concept to bottle these rums and offer them to the public. When I drink this style, I often blend them 50/50 with another lighter rum I know really well and let them sit and integrate for a while. If you consume them straight, a lot of ordinary character will overshadow all that is singular and extraordinary.
When Velier declares this rum a pure single rum, they are more focused on the distillation and the élevage while when I declare it a grand arôme rum, I am more focused on celebrating aspects of its unique fermentation. It can easily be both simultaneously and both are compliments. I don’t necessarily say high ester rum because that somewhat implies a specific process.
A grand arôme rum implies a Schizosaccharomyces pombe yeast (as opposed to saccharomyces) and unique fermentation complications such as secondary bacterial cultures. These ferments are also known for a high Δ of acidity which is the measure of how much was created during the fermentation. These acids are likely to become esters in the still. The bottle does not disclose the yeast type, but nothing else ferments that long nor is so osmotolerant to create such a high ester profile. This rum was likely created with the vinegar process where large quantities of cane vinegar were added to create a pH much lower than 5, possibly even in the 3’s. Chain elongation occurs (which is barely understood by science) and much of the vinegar is converted to longer chain fatty acids.
Rum oil is created by the incredible pot still distillation, but that may only get it as far as amounts seen in Velier’s Foursquare rum. Rum oil is also accumulated by unique enzyme activity from the yeast as well as the bacterial cultures. In yet another way, rum oil is accumulated by staling at room temp in acidic conditions over such a long fermentation duration (The label says three months, but it was clarified that this is the length of their vinegar fermentation [which preps their symbiotic cultures and selects for a yeast]. The duration of their alcoholic fermentation is 2-3 weeks which is similar to Hampden.). I should probably also mention that precursors for rum oil are liberated during distillation, but are only truly unlocked when dunder is recycled to the next ferment. This rum is positively radiant and maxing out almost every known channel to create rum oil. If you look at my tasting notes for the birectifier fractions, you will see that the presence of rum oil keeps stretching through all the fractions into the stillage. What they achieve at Worthy Park is other worldly.
A concept which we may see in action when comparing the WP 502 and the Foursquare single Barbados is that they likely differ in yeast types. According to Rafael Arroyo in Studies On Rum (1945), this may give us different shades of rum oil to nuance. I have noticed this without understanding what exactly it was correlated to. There are types that seem out of focus but somehow extra radiant. There are types that seem very animalic and sensual and then there are types that are extra tobacco-like if not smokey (like Syrian Latakia). WP 502 seems to exhibit both the first and the last.
It is fair to say that this rum has an uneven congener profile. This is more of a production characteristic than a criticism and must be understood before experiencing it. Unevenness lies mainly in the ratio of lower boiling point esters (fraction 1) to higher boiling esters (fraction 5). That high number, 502, may be greatly inflated by ethyl acetate which is excessive as a pure single rum. For this rum to show its best, it would have to be blended down and it has extraordinary features that would allow it to stretch incredibly far and still feel opulent. The traditional grand arôme style of rum (for the most part) has to drag along a lot of ordinary stuff to produce every thing that is extraordinary. It is just the way it works. All those esters may be the gateway to rum oil.
What I would like to see in the future is Worthy Park bottle a blended rum that fully discloses the ratio of pot to column rum so we can see these ferments and double retort action at their best. I would also love to see the yeast types disclosed so we can start to nuance and collect the differences. We can then also collect these pure single rums as references. A shelf of Jamaican rums can be as profound as a shelf of mezcals. According to Imbibe, the WP 502 mark is used in their Rum-Bar label so we are getting a taste in other contexts.
[Fraction 5 is in the foreground then 6 followed by 7. Fraction 5 features a significant louche from long chain esters as well as a large blob of rum oil floating at the top. Fractions 6 and 7 feature an insoluble precipitate that may either be an ester or fatty acid. What precipitates would be soluble in ethanol, but these fractions are aqueous. The birectifier has an incredible congener sorting ability. It can push things right out of solution!]
Fraction 1: Possibly the most concentrated fraction 1 I’ve ever encountered. It isn’t really offensive, but you suspect it has the ability to overshadow other more noble aromas. No other unique notes.
Fraction 2: Quite concentrated with non-culinary aromas. This almost feels like a fraction 1 found in another spirit. No other unique notes.
Fraction 3: No unique notes, but I feel like a small amount of ethyl acetate has made its way as far as this fraction which I’ve never encountered before.
Fraction 4: Far more approachable than I’d thought. Not exactly a wraith and very much inline with other full bodied spirits. The low amount here may be a testament to their incredible yeast and possibly to reactive distillation converting higher alcohols to esters.
Fraction 5: Absolutely radiant and massive. It is almost too much to take in this context like overdosing on perfume. Detectable rum oil, but also a massive estery presence. I feel like I can handle the rum oil, but the esters sort of drown you. Slight acridness on the palate as I expected. This is certainly enough aroma for a few bottles of rum. You cannot find any culinary object comparisons for a tasting note. It is all affect like your immune system bends to it. It has a sense of space and a shape and an emotion. Otherwise it is incomparable to a worldly culinary object. There is a pleasure in witnessing it, but then almost a feeling of responsibility to do something with it, to put it to use. We know this fraction is all about the juxtaposition of rum oil and the noble esters.
Fraction 6: Detectable rum oil character. Some wonderful rums have this much in their fraction 5! Some extra pleasant character. Possibly a note of butyric acid? On the palate a sort of smokiness exposes itself. Minor detectable gustatory acidity. This fraction is extraordinary.
Fraction 7: Faint rum oil character. No inharmonious notes, Minor detectable gustatory acidity.
Fraction 8: Faint tobacco-like smokiness also found in the stillage. No inharmonious notes. Minor detectable gustatory acidity.
Stillage: Definite gustatory acidity, but not the most I’ve ever experienced. There is a unique tobacco kind of smokiness here which I suspect is associated with rum oil. There was almost the hint of acetic acid, but nothing too noticeable. This actually tasted very clean and remained crystal clear. There were no signs of tufo. This may have been the cleanest stillage I’ve ever seen from a full flavored spirit. I expected to encounter something quite different. Very extraordinary.
[50 ml of stillage left in the birectifier. Four small natural pumice stones are added to prevent bumping.]