Brand: Hamilton, Ministry of Rum series
Origin: Diamond Distillery, Diamond, Guyana
Still: Pot & Column Blend
Hamilton rum and its purveyor and namesake, Ed Hamilton, are no strangers to the rum community in the US. The brand is well-known for quality, affordable, and honest rum sourced from a few select countries around the Caribbean, and sometimes blending those rums into a unique profile. Ed himself is an incredibly well-traveled, well-studied rum expert, having spent extensive time around the Caribbean and learning about the spirit.
The flagship lineup of the Hamilton rum brand– known as the Ministry of Rum collection– features single-origin rums from Guyana (which will be hereafter referred to interchangably as "Guyanese" and "Demerara" rums), Jamaica, and Saint Lucia, as well as blends of rums from Guyana, Jamaica, Trinidad, and beyond.
This collection and other bottles released under the Hamilton brand sport a unique, distinctive bottle and label, which evokes a maritime-but-not-too-piratey theme. These are perfect bottles not just to use in cocktails– specifically tiki recipes, but also as decorations once you've finished the contents.
Hamilton 86 is the first bottle of this collection that we're going to review. Named after its proofing of 86 (43% ABV), this is a purely Demerara blend of various marques, each of whome are 5 years aged or younger. Like all younger Guyanese rums, this distillate is all but confirmed to have been distilled and aged by Demerara Distillers Ltd., the only currently-operating distillery in the country.
Unfortunately for Memphians, we are unable to get this in-market (for now), but I was able to snag a bottle in my travels to and from Nashville.
Dark brown, with a gold tinge; medium clarity, medium viscosity
Brown sugar, molasses, stewed cherries, pineapple, almond paste, ethanol
Brown sugar, molasses, grilled pineapple, overripe blueberries, slight smokiness
Medium length; oak tannins, molasses, brown sugar, tobacco
Hamilton 86 is a great entryway into Demerara rum if you haven't had the chance to dip your toes. Unlike other markets in Europe or the UK, America seems to have precious few offerings of Guyanese rums; outside of Hamilton and Lemon Hart, there are no entry-level, cocktail-ready Demeraras that are free of (excessive) additives.
In the glass, this rum has medium clarity and viscosity and presents a nice, deep dark brown color tinged with gold. According to Ed Hamilton and the classic hydrometer tests, this is bottled without detectable additives, so this likely doesn't suffer from added caramel or sweeteners that may artificially affect the appearance or palate.
The nose offers brown sugar, molasses, stewed cherries, pineapple, almond paste, and a healthy dose of ethanol burn. Seems like a pretty straightforward Demerara rum to me!
The palate is definitely not "sweet", however, and actually a bit bitter, while carrying notes of brown sugar, molasses, grilled pineapple, overripe berries, and a slight smoky element. Definitely a drier style of rum, but it does not shy away from flavor in the slightest.
The medium-length finish offers oak tannins, molasses, brown sugar, and tobacco notes.
It's no wonder this is such a popular bottle with tiki and cocktail enthusiasts. The 86 has plenty of character while remaining pretty dry, which allows itself to be blended in cocktails with other spirits, liqueurs, and juices without stealing the show.
The 86 proof point is also welcome, and shows just how much a few percentage points of ABV can make a difference in a rum. If this were lower, I'd fear that it would lose a bit of flavor and produce more of an uncontrolled alcohol burn.
Hamilton 86 is definitely a worthwile addition to your backbar that will not break the bank, and makes for some pretty outstanding cocktails.