John Watling's Amber
One of the things I have always enjoyed about the world of rum is the history and legacies of some of the brands. This goes beyond marketing characters and into the history of an island and its people. John Watling’s Rum is named for a pirate captain who in his time traveled with legends such as William Dampier and Bartholomew Sharpe. San Salvador, formerly Watling Island, in the Bahamas still has a fort there with his name. Captain Watling kept the Bahamas as his home base, inhabiting Watling island until departing for plundering opportunities in Central America. Known for being a strict, pious, and frugal captain he raided the Spanish main until he fell during a raid on the city of Arica in Peru in 1681.
John Watling’s rums are produced at the 1789 Buena Vista Estate on the island of Nassau. They source two distillates from around the Caribbean made from sugarcane molasses. The first is a lighter distillate that they nick name “Kill -devil” and a heavier rum that they name “Fire Water”. The “Fire Water” is filtered using charcoaled coconut husk before being aged in American White Oak Barrels. The rums used for their Amber rum is aged for three years and blended to 80 proof.
This custom bottle has the Watling crest embossed on the bottle and on the cap. The neck is wrapped in hand woven sisal plait - a material often used to make ropes and twine. The tan labels provide all of the basic details about the rum and even notes the hand bottling number. This bottle is numbered 24700.
The liquid in the bottle has a nice dark honey amber color that lightens significantly in the glass. Swirling the liquid generates a thin band that spins off fast moving legs that evaporates forming beads that slide down the glass.
The rum’s aroma provides hints of vanilla, creme brulee, charred oak, toasted pecans, and plum.
The smooth caramel entry is followed by a hint of butterscotch and roasted nuts. The alcohol kicks as the finish begins igniting the tongue providing hints of coconut and charred oak before transitioning to a slightly bitter finish.
John Watling’s Distillery currently creates three rums. The amber rum is their midline product between the Pale and Buena Vista Estate rums. Referencing their website, this rum is marketed as a “gold ingredient rum”. I think this is fair, as it is obvious that the blender is shooting for a rum solidly seated in that three-to-six-year range, not so much worried about the past of the rum but providing hints of where longer aging and the art of the Blender might take it.
The next time I am in Nassau, I plan to visit the Buena Vista Estate (where the John Watling rums are blended and bottled) as it now ranks high on my “must do” list. I am curious to witness all of the history stored there (there are rumors that they have quite an impressive museum) as well as see their blending and tasting room.