(Image Source: @weixiang_liu)
The 1986 vintage from the West Indies Rum Distillery (WIRD) in Barbados has been all the rage since the release of Silver Seal’s in 2020 from a single cask #20, continentally aged for 33 years in Scotland with an outturn of 179 bottles at 58.8% abv.
There has been a tremendous of confusion behind the rum’s provenance because of the different names/labels that have been used when referring to this rum, including terms like “Rockley Still” or “Black Rock Distillery”, all of which have been extremely misleading.
As far as we know, based on research by some very meticulous rum geeks, is that the 1986 vintage, and its younger counterpart from 2000, were distilled at WIRD (located in Black Rock, Barbados) at least in part with a triple-chamber Vulcan still. The “Rockley pot still” does exist, but has been inactive for at least 50-60 years. The Vulcan still itself, a chamber still which works almost like a series of pot stills, was last active in 2000, and was recently put back into operation in 2018 by WIRD since its acquisition by Alexandre Gabriel.
So on to the nose of the WIRD 1986, there is a rich sweetness to it, tropical, bananas, paired with a side of smoke, brine, somewhat like an Islay scotch really. Leaving it for a moment reveals some interesting notes of rubber and green tea, followed by a beautiful bouquet of soft florals and caramel.
On the palate, it is an explosion of flavours, more akin to a Jamaican rum in this instance rather than a Bajan one. Starts off with those funky tropical fruit notes that one could’ve mistaken for a Long Pond, fresh, bright, with iodine and polished leather. The harshness does not show despite 33 years of aging, as the oak and vanilla are very well balanced and paired with mangoes and bananas in that mix. The finish brings sweet honey, fresh dates, a tad herbal and grass jellies.
The SS WIRD 1986 then is very unique, especially in the context of Bajan rum which is known to have a much more approachable profile, whereas this is more akin to heavy ester, funky pot still rum from neighbouring Jamaica. In all honesty the WIRDs aren’t exactly the kind of rums I enjoy, but there is no doubt that the folks at WIRD have something special going on with the Vulcan still, and hopefully with it back in action we’d be able to see more interesting stuff coming out of WIRD.
Your occasional rum addict!