Wednesday, 29 April 2015

Review 42 - Gordon & MacPhail Demerara 1974 29 year old

Photo copyright © H.Kristoffersen
A piece of ancient history.

42 - the answer to life, the universe and everything. What a fitting number for the first review following the birth of my son. Coming into this world mere hours ago, my life has been kicked up a huge notch.

So, review wise, it only seems logically to once again do like Elsar, and kick things up a notch with a blast from the ol’ spice weasel. BAM! (Some of you will get the reference, some might not, and then it’s just weird. I know.)

To do exactly that, a 29 year old Demerara has found its way to my table, and it has been bottled by legendary Scottish indie whisky bottlers Gorden & MacPhail.

No mentioning of the type of still used to make this rum, but there has been quite a few Port Mourants from 1974 and 1975 floating around, so my best bet is, that this is also a Port Mourant.

I am currently awaiting a clarification from G&M, but if you have information which either confirms this or could enlighten me of its correct origin, please contact me.

So what is so special about this rum?

First of all, the age. 29 years is a very long time to wait for a spirit to mature. Not many rums this old are available, and I suspect that they will be even more uncommon very soon.

Second, this is one of only two G&M rums that I know of. The other one being a 58 year old Jamaican Long Pond distilled in 1941 and bottled in 1999.

I am also awaiting a response from G&M regarding their past selection of rums, and if they plan on bottling more in the future.

G&M seem to pick their battles though, you have got to give them that. A 29 year old Demerara and a 58 year old Long Pond. Not a bad track record at all.

G&M has a hugely informative website, and if you are into such geeking around, I suggest that you go pay them a visit.

The bottle in my possession came without its complimentary tube. A red tube with a clothen texture to it. However I have only seen it on a poor image on an eBay auction – once. So my memory might be tricking me here. I do however remember seeing a label on the tube similar to the one on the bottle.

The bottle is a regular bar room bottle type, with a rather large label on it.

The label is old style, with beige and bordeaux being the dominant colours, displaying only the bottler, the vintage, the year it was bottled and the ABV of 50%.

Finally the seal is made – well was made – by a natural cork with a plastic stopper.

When opening the bottle the top of the cork broke off, and I har to pry out most of the cork with a cork screw. Then I had to remove tiny pieces of cork from the remaining rum.

So, I you ever find a bottle like this and decide to buy it, know that you will have to replace the cork if you plan on saving it for later. ”Luckily” I bought this bottle as a shared purchase with friend, so I had to re-bottle it in smaller bottles anyway. So no need for a new cork in my case.

In the bottle the freak of nature seems almost black. When released into a glass the colour comes off as a dark mahogany.

A soft twirl creates a thick oily residue on the inside of the glass, a few heavy droplets descend ever so slowly from the ring and eventually is reunited with the rum.


Putting the nose to use, is immediately rewarded with boatloads of molasses and burnt brown sugar.

As the sugary veil lifts, additional boatloads of heavy prunes and raisins are ferried in.

Finally there is an underlying burned oak beneath it all.

A very fleshy nose, but not the most complex one. And perhaps even a bit boring for a rum this old and strong.

Taking the first sip, an intense tsunami of sweet prunes and raisins is unleashed. In its wake there were several other dried fruits like apricots, figs and mangoes.

After the tutti-frutti onslaught, a lot of soft, drying tannins with remnants of very heavy red wine came out, joined by oaken subtleties mixed with anise, tobacco and smoke.

A spicy veil seemed to tie everything together very nicely.
All in all a super heavy and full bodied piece of booze.
It has a kind of fatness that covers the entire mouth with sweet, rich flavours, but there is absolutely no stickiness and the drying effect from the wine notes cleans everything up very nicely. Actually it had me thinking a lot of some sort of old, heavy port – although a little less sweet and more spicy.

The combination and the levels of wine notes, anise, prunes and raisins are enough to convince me: This has to be a Port Mourant.

Very long, heated finish and still very heavy on the sweet prunes, with a side of other dried fruits.

A spicy oak and anise tingle stays on the palate, tongue and back of the throat for a long time.

And as the flavours themselves start to fade, the warmth and the tingle keeps the memory alive.

Rating and final thoughts
This has indeed been a time travel to an era long gone and one that is at risk of never returning - The age of ancient rums.

41 years after its birth I am fortunate enough to indulge myself with this piece of ancient history.

Having spent 29 years in the barrel, and then another 12 in the bottle, it has patiently awaited the day when it was finally freed from the bottle. Just to please the senses of a random bloke who happen to like rum very much.

I believe that rums like these will become more and more rare – and fast.
Stocks are disappearing like morning mist in the sun, as these old rums become more and more sought after.

Furthermore I fear that rum companies are getting less and less patient with their produce and want to go for faster profit. It takes money, time and effort to leave a rum to age for 25+ years. And as rum gets more and more popular, I fear that the production is unable to keep up with demands, making ancients less and less likely to be made.

Perhaps in way to few years we will rarely see rums more than 12-15 years old and have to settle for that. But until then I will savour the moment and enjoy these valued drops very much.

Value for money makes no sense in this case, since you will have to be insanely lucky to even find a bottle. And if you do, it will be quite pricey. I got it for what I consider a reasonable price for an artefact like this one. My advice will be, that you only buy this rum if you want it for historical reasons. Otherwise you will find rums just as great and a lot more available, at a cheaper price.

Availability aside I must come to a conclusion and even though the palate is a little too narrow minded, the finish is a bit shortish and the proof could easily have been even higher, we are in the marginals here when it comes to room for improvement.

I am tempted to dish out a very high score, because of its ancient nature. But we are not quite there. It does however deserve a nice, fat…

Rating: 89/100



  1. Hi, I have a bottle of this, but bottled in 2001. Can I expect the same flavours? And would you be able to give me an indication of what it might be worth? Thanks.

    1. Sorry, I have no idea about the 2001 bottling. Neither taste or value.