Hamilton Bar Staples: 86 Demerara and Jamaican Pot Still Black

An Ancient Mariner, recipe by Jeff “Beachbum” Berry

Let’s take a break from the niche, high strength, enthusiast-oriented rums and try out a couple bottles I tend to keep on hand from Ed Hamilton’s lineup.

Hamilton 86 Demerara

One of Hamilton’s most ubiquitous products, this is a blend of pot and column still Guyanese rums aged up to five years old and bottled at 43%. It’s no secret that the dark color is achieved via the use of added black caramel coloring, though not nearly as much as the Jamaican Pot Still Black, according to Hamilton’s product sheet.

On the nose, I get burnt sugar and burnt marshmallow, geosmin, mulch, banana pudding, and vanilla. The palate brings back the burnt sugar and introduces cooked fruits like strawberries and raspberries, underripe pears, and dark roast coffee. It’s somewhat bitter, but not as bitter as the SWR I’ve tried.

Overall, it’s not bad. While it certainly isn’t offensive, there’s not quite enough going on here to make me all that interested in drinking this neat. If you’re looking for an entry level rum to sip on, I’d look toward Foursquare or Appleton before this. Alternatively, Hamilton Navy Strength isn’t too shabby on its own, neither is the 151 (which is literally just the 86 with less dilution), though you might want to water it down a bit.

As a mixer, however, the 86 is both tasty and versatile. While this would obviously do just fine in any cocktail which calls for Demerara rum, this is more stylistically similar to rums like Myer’s and Coruba than the Jamaican Pot Still Black is. In a pinch, I’d say it could sub in for either of those just fine. (4/10)

Hamilton Jamaican Pot Still Black

This is a blend of unaged pot still rums from Worthy Park distillery. It also has added caramel coloring and it’s bottled at 46.5%. Once again, Hamilton’s own product sheet is available online and tells you just about anything else you’d want to know.

On the nose, I get overripe banana, brown sugar, burnt marshmallow, blackberries, black pepper, and flamed orange peel. The palate has more of the same: overripe banana and burnt marshmallow, vanilla, brown sugar, and the blackberries have now been cooked into a compote.

This is definitely a little more interesting to me than the 86. There’s some funk underneath that caramel coloring, making me wonder what this would be like without any additives. Regardless, it’s fairly tasty on its own and it works really well in cocktails. Use this instead of Myer’s in your next tiki drink for a noticeably different but very delicious libation. (5/10)