As a confirmed Jamaican rum “dunderhead,” I obsessively track every snippet of news regarding the island’s rum industry. So it was with great joy that I learned about a year ago that the Long Pond Distillery was gearing up to resume operations after a several year hiatus.
Residing in the Trelawny region of Jamaica, Long Pond is known for its ultra-funky, high-ester style of rum. It’s no surprise that Hampden Estate, also known for off-the-charts funkiness, is just a short distance from Long Pond. However, with Long Pond closed down, Hampden seemed to be the only game in town for funk bomb rums.
I first reported on Long Pond in early 2016 after touring the distillery with a WIRSPA-assembled group of rum experts. At the time, the distillery was not operational — at least one of the five pot stills was disassembled, and signs of recent activity were scarce. To be honest, our group was dubious it could resume operations anytime soon.
Fortunately, a lot has happened in the twenty months since I wrote my original story. For starters, in July of 2017 National Rums of Jamaica, the owners of Long Pond, held a re-opening ceremony to celebrate the first new production run in several years. You may have seen a few event photos floating about on social media. We rum geeks always want more details, but this was surely a good sign.
Equally important, in early 2017 France-based spirits company Maison Ferrand purchased the West Indies Rum Distillery in Barbados from Goddard Enterprises Ltd. While the West Indies purchase has been well documented in the rum press, it’s not as well known that the purchase also included one-third ownership of National Rums of Jamaica (NRJ). In addition to Long Pond, NRJ also controls a substantial share of Clarendon (aka Monymusk) distillery. And since Maison Ferrand owns Plantation Rum, it’s no surprise that Master Blender/Owner Alexandre Gabriel and several other senior staffers were soon poking around Long Pond, much as I had done a year earlier.
During my recent visit to Maison Ferrand, I expressed to Alexandre my desire to provide an update to my Long Pond story, which had very effectively spread the word that it was closed. However a great rum story requires copious photos, and a return trip to Long Pond wasn’t in the cards for me in the short term. Fortunately, Alexandre has graciously allowed me access to Plantation’s photo sets of Long Pond in operation, to share here in curated form. (I won’t repeat all the history and production details regarding Long Pond here – my original story has all that in spades.)
After enquiring about the very latest, up-to-date information on Long Pond’s operations, here’s what I know: Of the five pot stills on site, two are currently in use. As for Long Pond’s beautiful old column still, sadly damaged and out of commission since 2009, there are no immediate plans to repair or replace it.
Hardcore high-ester rummies will be glad to learn that Long Pond’s muck pits remain. It was certainly kept “alive” during Long Pond’s recent closure, and rumor has it, has been alive for hundreds of years. Muck, if you’re not familiar with the term, is the ultra-high acid mixture added to rum wash during fermentation to supercharge ester production. When you hear people speak of “dunder,” odds are what they’re really talking about is muck. (My in-depth look at muck, dunder, and exactly what they are is here.)
In looking though the Maison Ferrand photos, some are remarkably similar to images I used for my original Long Pond story. However, you’ll also find photos of areas of the facility I wasn’t able to visit. Most noticeably, the open air, wooden fermentation vats — at least 63 of them. They’re now filled with wash and bubbling away. Also, the spray ponds, used to cool water heated during the distillation process, are now operating!
Long Pond has historically had ten marques (i.e. different “recipes”) it makes, and after the reopening, the distillery is able to make all the classic marques. The highest ester marque, TECC has 1600 g/HL of volatile components, the highest Jamaican law allows, and equivalent to nearby Hampden Estate’s DOK marque.
All photo credits for the images used here belong to Maison Ferrand. My most sincere thanks to Alexandre Gabriel and the Maison Ferrand staff for graciously allowing me to use these images to provide a vital update to one of my favorite rum stories.