The Antigua Distillery – Heavy Traditional Rum & Heavy Rum Julep

The name Luca Gargano enjoys an incredible reputation in the world of rum and his word and expertise are not only in demand, but also for many it is a guarantee of quality and liquid joy. The mastermind and founder of the Italian bottler and importer Velier has played a decisive role in shaping the rum market with various single cask and vintage bottlings – especially in the upmarket and high-end segment. Therefore, it is no wonder there is even some advertising done with his name. (provided test product)*

Of course, this doesn’t happen ostentatiously, but rather integrated into the background story of a product, such as the bottle I have in front of me today. The Antigua Distillery – Heavy Traditional Rum, that’s the name of the bottling, comes in a rather simple but quite elegant and informative garment as we know it from Velier. Directly on the bottle’s label and the packaging it tells the story of its origin in a short form.

This is how we learn that Mr Gargano flew to Antigua exactly on the 20th June 2017 to look for special rum barrels. He found what he was looking for in the Antigua Distillery – 27 barrels to be precise that really delighted him. The reason for this enthusiasm – according to the label – was the extraordinarily high proportion of congeners (sometimes also referred to as fusel oils), which also include esters (the chemical compounds so highly appreciated by rum connoisseurs). Here, too, the label informs us directly about the fusel oil content, which is indicated at 218 g/hlpa. From those 27 barrels, Luca Gargano created a blend and filled it directly into the bottles with a proud ABV of 66%. High amount of congeners, high alcohol content: the name “Heavy Rum” has some merit to it.

The Antigua Distillery is the distillery behind the rum brand English Harbour and is usually not known for single cask bottlings. It distills on a Savalle column distillation plant from 1932 and the rum is usually allowed to mature in former bourbon barrels made of American white oak. The same happened to the Heavy Traditional Rum, which was distilled in 2012 and then bottled in 2018. The age of the blend can therefore be estimated at five to six years. The price for the bottle is about 60 Euros.

In short: on paper, The Antigua Distillery – Heavy Traditional Rum really sounds very, very promising and I am curious to see what will await me in the tasting. Due to the high alcohol content, I have also diluted it a bit with a few drops of water to a drinking strength of approx. 50% vol. – accordingly I have also included the differences caused by dilution below.

Water is essential for this rum!

Tasting Notes:

Aroma: A whole potpourri of exotic fruits (banana, pineapple, ripe peach), but also dried fruits (raisins, perhaps some plum) can be found here immediately with immense intensity. Powerful and heavy, this rum lives up to its name right from the start. Behind those fruits, a whole truckload of spices like cinnamon, nutmeg, pepper and pimento arises, but also nuances of rosemary. In addition, there are fine vanilla and caramel as the expected bourbon barrel reminiscences. There’s a lot in here, I really like it!

with a few drops of water: the concentrated load of fruit recedes somewhat, but remains the decisive first impression. On the nose, greenish and woody notes appear, but above all vanilla and caramel come to the fore. In addition, I now feel more reminiscent of ripe pears.

Taste: at first the 66% vol. start surprisingly restrained and bring with them a lot of fruit (especially bananas), in addition to clearly recognizable oak influence, vanilla, and spices. After a short time, however, the alcohol becomes too powerful for me, the rum brings interesting adhesive and fermentation notes with it (I know, that always sounds funny), but I find the tingling on the tongue too unpleasant and therefore grab my small carafe with water.

with a few drops of water: a brown Muscovado sugar offers a very harmoniously and well-balanced first impression, the fruit notes follow on foot (also here a ripe pear finds its way into the otherwise exotic fruit basket) alongside some caramel. The vanilla retreats into the background, but gets an almost creamy note like in a crème brûlée. The alcohol doesn’t bother any more. A very good rum!

Finish: very long with fermented fruits and spices, but pleasantly dry.

I find the addition of water essential, at least in terms of taste, while on the nose I like the rum better without the addition of water. However, that also means an advantage; because in the end you get a little more value for your money and the bottle will simply last longer. And, of course, such a nice rum is just wonderful for enjoying it neat and will suffice for many in this context. Nevertheless, I would like to stress once again that even “higher quality” spirits can play an important role in a cocktail, which cannot be substituted in the same way by supposedly “lower quality” ingredients. Of course, you have to be aware that you are processing a very expressive spirit and therefore you should not necessarily prepare a simple sour with it (because of course the spirit has to face a considerable opposing wind). Admittedly, especially the Mai Tai enjoys a very high popularity among rum drinkers and here many do not shy away from processing rum beyond 100 euros in this classic and this alone shows what a difference a spirit can make in this segment. Nevertheless, personally I think mostly in the direction of vermouth cocktails or Old Fashioneds. Nevertheless, today it should be a Julep and I want to take up the character of The Antigua Distillery – Heavy Traditional Rum and put it on a new taste level. For this, I first made a syrup from grilled pineapple, which unfortunately needs some advance planning, but you will be rewarded with an aromatic and stunning result. In combination with fresh mint and rum you’ll get a delicious Caribbean Julep, which you should drink with caution, because with an ABV of 66% the main actor is a real heavyweight! (By the way: Do not mistake the drink for a Rum Julep – despite the similar sounding name!)

Recipe “Heavy Rum Julep”:

6 cl The Antigua Distillery Heavy Traditional Rum
0.5 cl cold water
2 bar spoons Grilled Pineapple Syrup (see below)
a handful of fresh mint leaves

Grilled Pineapple Syrup: simply bring sugar and water in a ratio of 2:1 to the boil and let simmer on a medium heat until the sugar has dissolved – allow to thicken a little. Pour the (still hot) syrup into an airtight container. Finally (in the same proportion to the sugar) add pieces of freshly grilled pineapple to the syrup and leave to rest for at least 24 hours. Then filter out the pineapple pieces.

Preparation: Put the mint leaves, rum and syrup in a silver cup and leave to steep for about 5 minutes. Occasionally press the mint leaves along the inner surface of the mug with your muddler. Finally add water and fill up with crushed ice. Stir and again add crushed ice, then garnish.

Glass: Silver cup

Garnish: mint leaves, pineapple leaves and dried “pineapple flowers” (I used this recipe.)

Buying sources: At specialized retailers or online

*The fact that this product has been sent to me free of charge for editorial purposes does not – in any way – imply any influence on the content of this article or my rating. On the contrary, it is always an indispensable condition for me to be able to review without any external influence.




2 thoughts on “The Antigua Distillery – Heavy Traditional Rum & Heavy Rum Julep

  1. A fine website, but gentlemen can disagree. If as noted “…the fact that (my sample was) free… does not – in any way – influence (my review): my friend you are a better man than I, and allow me to reference the well respected Ralfy here as well.

    Between Ralfy and I we are speaking of hundreds of reviews and – gulp – hundreds of purchases, paying the same price as everyone else. Yes, reviewers cannot exist without product, and vice versa. It is our mutual position and experience that getting a product is “free” inevitably affects our judgement. Of course, having to pay never does.

    May I please offer an example: a close friend – knowing I review spirits – honored me with a rather expensive bourbon that sadly was 90% bottle design and 10% quality. It was drinkable, but no more. When I wrote my review, I was forced to reflect that a deservedly awful review was bound to hurt the well-intended gifter – so – I found myself hedging, and taking a bit of the sting I’m known for.

    Yes, it still got a negative review, but delivered more softly had I paid the exorbitant price my dear friend had paid based on the marketing. It’s what I stand against.

    So again – glad if you can pull it off – but I can tell you this: a couple bad reviews of a distiller’s product, and the freebies may indeed cease. Again – thanks for the review and an interesting site…

    • thanks for your comment, Capn Jimbo!

      Indeed this is a delicate matter and of course there is merit to what you say. However, I really try to take this as serious as I can. There are articles I have written about freebies that are not really good reviews. Granted, they are not the majority of my published articles, but I have done that. At least I always try to reflect that there are also companies, industries and primarily jobs behind every single product. Thats the reason I am not publishing any damning reviews from the start of this blog on. Whenever I think a product is absolute crap, I do not publish anything about it.

      That said, I know that there is a mutual relation between companies sending freebies and the reviewer writing about them. Nonetheless this is no platform where I will write about every cheap vodka telling “this is bullshit”. There is an initial filter of what will be written about – it has to fit the mould and topic of the blog.

      I really appreciate your thoughs and reflections on the matter. And I will not try to say that I do not have a subjective perspective. Your comment will make me scrutinize what I’m doing, no question about that.

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