Smith & Cross, named for two 18th century London rum traders, is very proud of its funk. The label touts it as a badge of honor, proclaiming that it contains only Wedderburn and Plummer pot still distillate, both high ester styles of Jamaican rum that went out of vogue generations ago (although some are starting to return; see here and here). It’s bottled at navy strength without chill filtration, so by all accounts, this thing should be a full-throttled flavor bomb.
And it is.
The nose has the expected savory hogo qualities of leather, smoke, and grilled meat, but they aren’t as punchy as I might have expected. The leather is aged, the smoke more like sweet chimney soot, and the meat is lightly barbecued. Add to that some generous, syrupy molasses and flambéed banana, and you have an impressively rich and complex aroma that hardly slaps you in the face. The palate, however, is another story. The alcohol hits hard and fast with a sweet, peppery burst of gripping heat that awakens the taste buds with spicy cinnamon and other sweet shop notes: dark spices, vanilla bean, and chewy caramels. The fruit is there, but it’s buried under considerable warmth. I just barely detect some grilled pineapple, banana pudding, and perhaps a little peach candy. The finish sees the warmth recede into Demerara syrup and a bit of dried dark fruits, but not without leaving behind a lingering bit of red pepper spice to keep things lively. Smith & Cross is regarded as a go-to cocktailing rum, and I can absolutely see why. But with a little time to open up, it sips just fine on its own. If you can take the heat, that is.