Deep insights into spirits, cocktails, and drinking
Suitcase Rum: Elements Eight Gold Rum
As a US-based rum wonk. I’m constantly pining over all the interesting rum lines coming out of Europe, and especially England – a hotbed of rum going back to the 1600s. One brand I’d heard of numerous times was Elements Eight, primarily in reference to their spiced rum. So on a cold December day in late 2014 at The Vintage House in London, I found myself staring down a treasure trove of rums I couldn’t ordinarily get, and the Elements Eight Gold was one rum that went on my short list straightaway.
The Element Eights Rum Company is London-based, formed in 2005. It’s run by two spirit industry vets, Carl Stephenson and Andreas Redlefsen, both previously at J. Wray & Nephew, the company behind the well-known Appleton brand. Element’s primary market is the UK, although distribution to other counties (such as Spain, Germany and Canada) is growing, although sadly, they’re not in the US yet.
The “Elements Eight” name (henceforth, E8) refers to the eight different factors that shape a rum’s flavor:
E8 currently offers four versions of their rum: Platinum, Spiced, Criollo Cacao, and Gold– the latter being the target of this post. All four rums originate in St. Lucia, a small Caribbean island south of Martinique and northwest of Barbados. Rum wonks will know that the only rum distillery in St. Lucia is St. Lucia Distillers, which sells rum in bulk to blenders and is the liquid force behind well-known brands including the Chairman’s Reserve line, the highly regarded “1931” releases, and Ed Hamilton’s series of St. Lucia rums. Some of these carry quite a funky kick which I really dig, and I’ve found nearly every St. Lucia Distillers rum to be enjoyable, so it was with great anticipation that I picked up this bottle.
The E8 gold is a blend of ten rums, all starting with molasses sourced from Guyana then distilled from four different stills: a Vendome pot still, two John Dore pot stills, and a column still. Although there’s no age statement, the E8 site says it’s “tropically aged for 6 years” then lightly charcoal filtered so as to not remove coloring or too much flavor. The resulting rum is bottled at 80 proof.
The first thing that jumps out at you about the E8 rum is the packaging. It’s striking in its elegance, unlike so many other rum bottles. It appears to be the same distinct bottle form as the El Dorado Single Barrel series: square, tall, and slightly wider at the top. Your eye quickly focuses in on the metal “e” emblem recessed into the bottle. (On the Elements Eight website, however, the bottle shown is slightly different and doesn’t have the recessed metal logo.) Along the two recessed sides of the bottle are graphics that explain each of the eight elements, as noted above. The clear, tall bottle effectively highlights the medium-to-dark gold tones of the rum and allows you to easily read the reverse-printed label affixed to the back.
Now for the important part—the tasting notes. The E8 Gold’s nose is a thing of beauty: A funkiness, different but related to Jamaican-style rum, is there in force. My initial thought was, “Pot still goodness!” The tasting notes from E8 mention prunes, a reasonable starting point. I keep going back for more hits – I’m in no hurry to rush the nosing experience on this one.
The first sip is surprising. Very flavorful, but surprisingly light on its feet. Sweet, like honey, very little burn, and not at all ponderous. I don’t get a lot of woody phenolics out of this rum, but that’s OK – Not every rum needs them. Unlike some other St. Lucia rums such as the Hamilton line, the characteristic St. Lucia Distillers funk doesn’t come in till near the end. Until that point, it’s a similar experience to sipping a nice Irish pot still whiskey like Bushmills 10.
Coming in at around $45 US (£32 in the UK), this is an easy sipping rum that will also work in spirit-forward cocktails. I wouldn’t want to ride roughshod over the honey-like essence with lime or other dominating flavors though. If I were introducing somebody to the world of rum, I might not use this as my first “gateway” rum (like Zacapa 23 or Diplomatico), but once they’re hooked, I’d introduce the Elements Eight Gold to show that a well-crafted rum can easily stand toe-to-toe with other aged spirits. If you see a bottle of this, and enjoy sipping rums with some subtlety and grace, grab it and enjoy.