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In the world of fine rums, Ed Hamilton needs no introduction. He is the man behind the Ministry of Rum – a line of hand-selected, pot still rums from St. Lucia and Jamaica – as well as importer of the famed Lemon Hart 151 and Rhum Agricoles such as Neisson and La Favorite.
A modern-day pirate of sorts, Hamilton's career in rum officially started after years of living aboard his sailboat called Matahari in the Caribbean running rum from St. Thomas to Puerto Rico (a smuggler, if you will) and visiting distilleries in the 1990s. He has since carved out his place as one of the world's foremost experts on island sprits. In fact, his two books Rums of the Eastern Caribbean and The Complete Guide to Rum: An Authoritative Guide to Rums of the World, published in 1996 and 1997 respectively, are regarded as the most comprehensive sources on the subject. He was also one of the first to champion transparency in the production process of rum, meaning his rums are made without additives (save for water and, in some instances, natural, sugar-based caramel coloring) and bottled unfiltered. Sadly, not long after these books were published, he ran aground of off the coast of Antigua and the Matahari sank. Ed has since bought a larger, newer boat, but as he spends most of his time consulting and running his import business, his time sailing in the islands is limited.
My three favorite rums from his line are listed below and each offers a unique drinking experience. The Hamilton 151 Demerara Overproof is my go-to for tiki drinks, the single-vintage 2006 St. Lucian rum outshines many whiskies in terms of complexity, and the Jamaican Gold is perfect in a cocktail or sipped its own. Rum is the world’s most diverse distilled spirit and these truly highlight a few distinct examples. Even though you may not own a boat like Ed Hamilton, you can still enjoy boat drinks made with his rums! Tim Gagnon
Many rum drinkers are familiar with Lemon Hart 151 - the rum that defined tiki cocktail culture from the 1930s to the 1960s - and this is the best substitute there is. Ed Hamilton introduced this Demerara Overproof rum in 2015 after the owner of Lemon Hart said that they would no longer be bottling under the brand name; it is made by Demerara Distillers in Guyana, the same distillery that makes the original Lemon Hart 151. It is a blend of rums as young as 18 months and as old as 5 years, making for a rich, robust, yet smooth rum that begs to made into a Zombie or any other high-octane concoction. Dark-fruited on the nose with aromas of burnt cane sugar, tobacco, coffee grounds, and sweet spice. The palate is incredibly balanced given its high alcohol percentage making it a seriously versatile component to any home bartender's set up. Tim Gagnon
Ed Hamilton's Jamaica Gold Rum is sourced from the Worthy Park Distillery in the parish of St. Catherine at 1,200 feet in elevation. The estate was founded in 1670 and commercial sugarcane production began in 1720, long before any other distillery on the island. All of the sugarcane is processed on the property which results in molasses that is exceptionally high in sugar content. Fermentation of the molasses take place over three weeks and distillation occurs in copper pot stills resulting in a classic "heavy" rum - the term used for the rich, molasses-based pot still rums of the former English colonies. The only additives are natural sugar-based caramel coloring and water. The nose is a bouquet of earthy, leathery tones balanced by ripe tropical fruits, starchy banana, sweet spice, and a toasted, nutty quality. On the palate it is quite rich with toasted coconut, red apple skin, bright minerality, and more earthiness. This is killer in many classic cocktails, particularly a Daiquiri, and is equally great sipped neat! Tim Gagnon
Ed Hamilton, the man behind the Ministry of Rum line of hand-selected, pot still rums from St. Lucia and Jamaica (as well as importer of the famed Lemon Hart 151, and Rhum Agricoles such as Neisson and La Favorite), is a modern day pirate of sorts. After years of living aboard his sailboat called Matahari in the Caribbean visiting distilleries and writing two books in the 1990s, he has carved out his place as one of the world's foremost experts on island sprits. My favorite of this line is the single-vintage (in this case 2006) St. Lucian 7-year. It is distilled in a classic Vendome pot still and is aged in American oak barrels before being bottled without any additives, save for water. On the nose it opens with a touch of grassy, earthy funk followed by bright citrus, banana, and sweet spice notes. The palate brings powerful notes of black pepper, more bright citrus fruit, and deeper, base-y notes of saddle leather and pipe tobacco. In short this is a serious, complex rum that begs to be sipped slowly. This would be perfect for any serious spirits geek, or even for a wine geek that already has it all! Tim Gagnon