Wray & Nephews and I go way back. I adore overproof rums and have drank them for years before my life slowed down a little. Wray & Nephews also occupies a unique space in the early cocktail scene because it was about the only funky thing available at time when demand and curiosity were well preceding supply.
In the chicken or egg analogy of funky rum supply & demand, for many of us, W&N O.P. was both of the them, and we projected lots of speculation on it. Could we put W&N in a barrel, mature it, and get something Trader Vic would be comfortable with? Arguments went in both directions without anything to really back it up which was fine back then. The presence of the conversation alone gave us what we wanted which was a market for fine Jamaican rums and now, years later, quite a few are available. For most, W&N is back to being a small curiosity.
I have to say, after cutting it up with the birectifier, and finding traces of nobility, the teachings of Arroyo make it look like it could age well! Props to Joy Spence! I think my official position way back when was that of a skeptic. A lot of questions are raised, however. The spirit seems a little heady. Maturation in barrique may blow it off nicely, but is heady a deliberate style for O.P. rums? It seems like it may be obscuring fraction 5 a bit. I’m sure they are calling their shot and everything is right where they want it to be. There is significant consumption of O.P.’s in Jamaica and its a very competitive market. When I spent a month there on a project, all the construction guys were very opinionated on what O.P. they liked with their Campari. The headiness has me thinking a sensory sketch may be ordered up to investigate the theory.
Surprising is how prototypical Wray & Nephews is. All the fractions are right where they should be as described by Arroyo with no unique character bleeding across fractions and there is a definite positive for rum oil in fraction 5 which was textbook and pleasant, but still sort of ordinary and indistinct. I was really impressed, but not ready to throw out the glorious I’ve used on other fraction 5’s. Maybe that would develop with age?
One thing the astute reader will note is its not exactly clear where the rum oil ends and esters begin. Birectifier fractions don’t seem to turn up any notes of pineapple or butyric acid concentrated to the point it smells vomity. Shorter chain low molecular weight esters, other than ethyl acetate, are likely obscured in fraction 1. Longer chain higher molecular weight esters are known to be located in fraction 5, but they do not exactly leap out.
The next big question is whether spirits are as estery as we thought or is the concept a little over blown? What is more significant to rum quality, esters or rum oil? And what MacGyver techniques can we use to sort the two before looking to chromatography? Should we take a fraction 5, add sulfuric acid to employ the old German technique of destroying the esters but not the rum oil? Arroyo used it, but in my experiences it has produced overly salient brimstone aromas and not been helpful.
Regardless, both esters and rum oil participate in quality and we know we find them in fraction 5 of 8 fraction Micko distillation with the birectifier. Wray & Nephews has the hallmarks of quality.
Fraction 1: Very concentrated to the pint of non-culinary aromas.
Fraction 2: Concentrated to the point of non-culinary aromas. Never yields to hollow fruity aromas.
Fraction 3: Fairly neutral in aroma. Nothing distinguishing.
Fraction 4: Not as concentrated as I would have expected. There is definite fusel oil, but it does not feel like the evil wraith that some other spirits have.
Fraction 5: Definite rum oil aroma. Quite pleasant. Slightly cloudy, but no distinct emulsion. Acrid to the taste, but not unpalatable. It is not overly concentrated, but they have definitely captured something noble.
Fraction 6: Slight aroma that is likely a carryover from fraction 5. Pleasant but faint. No distinct acidity.
Fraction 7: Very faint non-descript aroma. Very little character. No distinct acidity.
Fraction 8: Very faint non-descript aroma. Very little character. No distinct acidity.