Wray & Nephew White Overproof rum stands out wherever you put it, whether you’re funking up a Daiquiri, subbing it out for gin in a Kingston Negroni or mixing it into a rum punch. It may be high-proof, but the wallop of the alcohol is matched by a big, potent flavor that holds up in any mixed drink.
Classification: overproof white rum
Company: Campari Group
Distillery: New Yarmouth, Jamaica
Cask type: not aged
Still type: pot & column
Released: 1940s; ongoing
Awards won: 2014 Tried & True Award, Ultimate Spirits Challenge
- Wray & Nephew is vastly more flavorful and complex than many of the most popular white rums, due to the Jamaican pot-still rum (along with column-distilled rum) in the blend.
- The combination of high proof and big flavor makes it perfect for punches, where a little bit can go a long way.
- The rum’s funkiness and high proof can be off-putting to rum drinkers who know “white” rum as the aged, filtered and comparatively quite mild expressions made by distilleries like Bacardi, Don Q and Havana Club, among many others.
Color: Clear—many “white” or “silver” rums are actually aged and then filtered to remove the color (along with much of the flavor), but Wray & Nephew is unaged, never having seen the inside of a barrel on the way from still to bottle.
Nose: Pineapple, overripe banana, light vegetal funk and a hint of brown sugar dominate this fragrant rum. There’s a lot of alcohol, too, but when approached with caution, it won’t singe your nose hairs.
Palate: It’s quite dry and grassy at first, but with successive sips, sweet notes of vanilla, banana, coconut and molasses emerge. At 126 proof, it’s a challenging but rewarding sipper, with a fair amount of alcoholic tingle on the tongue. A little ice or water amplifies the fruity notes and brings forward a little funk, as well.
Finish: Like the palate, it leads off dry and slightly bitter, like a potent coffee or dark chocolate, before fading into lighter notes of fruit and coconut. As befits this monster of a rum, the aftertaste is long and lingering.
Wray & Nephew was founded by Charles John Wray, a Scotsman who emigrated to Jamaica in the early 1800s. He opened the Shakespeare Tavern in Kingston in 1825, and the rum he blended there was so popular that he soon started selling it to other local merchants. The nephew in Wray & Nephew, Charles James Ward, came on board in 1860 and helped make the company one of Jamaica’s most successful business ventures, with the rum winning a slew of medals internationally. Today, Wray & Nephew is far and away the biggest-selling rum in Jamaica, and the overproof expression is widely considered to be the unofficial national spirit. “Wray & Ting,” a highball consisting of the rum topped off with Ting grapefruit soda, is the most popular drink on the island. The combination of the rum’s lightly sweet and slightly funky flavor with the dry bitterness of the Ting is a magical alchemy that never fails to hit the spot, especially when the weather is tropic-island hot.
But Wray & Nephew white overproof stands out wherever you put it, whether you’re funking up a Daiquiri, subbing it out for gin in a Kingston Negroni or mixing it into a Rum Punch. It may be high-proof, but the wallop of the alcohol is matched by a big, potent flavor that can stand out in any mixed drink. Sipping it on the rocks with a squeeze of lime is also a great way to enjoy it, although a little of this 126-proof behemoth goes a long way.
If you only know “white” rum from the mellow, aged and filtered expressions made by Bacardi, Cruzan, Diplomatico and many others, you’re in for a surprise—possibly pleasant, possibly not, depending on what you’re looking for. For those who love ultra-funky Jamaican pot-still rums, “dirtier” options like The Funk or Rum Fire may better fit the bill. But Wray & Nephew’s blend of flavorful pot- and milder column-still rums is a delicious middle ground.
Wray & Nephew’s 17-year-old expression was used in the original Mai Tai created by “Trader Vic” Bergeron in 1944. It was soon discontinued, and intact bottles today can sell for tens of thousands of dollars at auction.
The bottom line: Wray & Nephew overproof rum is a national treasure in Jamaica, and one sip of it makes it obvious why it’s so revered. It’s both approachable and uncompromising, and apart from being a tremendous mixer, it’s also enjoyable, if slightly dangerous, neat or on the rocks.