Bottle #2: Sangster’s Old Jamaica Pimento Dram

Jan 3, 2023

In my first reveal video, I drank the dregs of a tiny bottle of Sangster’s Old Jamaica Liqueurs Pimento Dram. When my dad brought me all these bottles, it was presumably a sealed bottle, lying on its side in a pristine white box with a bunch of other bottles. But a few days later, I opened the bin and it was now a no-longer-pristine white box with a damp brown stain. So I had to open it up to see what I’d lost.

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Losing any bottle is a pity at this point, but also inevitable. Of the handful of bottles I’ve seen so far, a lot have low shoulders from evaporation or leakage. Especially the ones made of plastic – which this one was – but even some of the glass ones too. I’m sure there are some completely empty bottles waiting for me in the bins. But I was especially sad to lose this one, because as a Tiki cocktail fan, vintage pimento dram is especially interesting to me!

Pimento Dram is the original name for what is also called Allspice Dram. While pimento was the indigenous term for the fruits of the pimento tree, British explorers to the Caribbean in the 18th century called it allspice, because to them it tasted like cinnamon, nutmeg and clove all in one. In our modern day, calling it allspice dram helps cater to American markets who associate the word “pimento” not with rich spice notes, but to the inside of olives and the red bits in pimento cheese.

In post-war and mid-century America, allspice dram was a staple ingredient in the Tiki cocktail craze that was sweeping the nation, featured in cocktails like the Three Dots and a Dash from Don the Beachcomber. There were a variety of brands being made, but by the late 1970s or early 1980s regular imports had dried up. In 2007, Ted Haigh (aka Dr Cocktail) said that “It remains a favorite in Jamaica, but the current sole producer, Wray & Nephew, steadfastly will not import it to the States.” When I taught my first Tiki cocktail class in 2015, I had to make my own. While Haus Alpenz had filled the gap by introducing St Elizabeth Allspice Dram in 2008, it wasn’t yet available in Michigan.

The Sangster’s brand was founded by Dr Ian Sangster, a Scotsman who first came to Jamaica in 1967 to teach at the University of the West Indies. He ended up taking a variety of jobs within the Jamaican sugar industry, but also used his knowledge in a rather more practical fashion, starting Sangster’s Old Jamaica in 1974. The company had a range of 27 different rums and liqueurs, including recipes that Sangster and his wife co-created in their kitchen.

The one you’ll see all over Jamaica is Sangster’s Rum Cream, which is a cream liqueur along the lines of Bailey’s. It’s still sold today, because after Sangster died in 2001, giant Jamaican rum producer J Wray and Nephew purchased the company and continued to sell some of the range. Not, so far as I can tell, my Pimento Dram. Or the one that the internet remains most passionate about, the World’s End Wild Orange Liqueur. Although the Pimento Dram has its fans too.

In terms of dating this bottle, we have a start date of 1974. But it’s sized in mL, and the switch to the metric system on labels was complete by 1980. In the comments to this dusty bottle report about the Blue Mountain Coffee Liqueur from 2013, someone says they hadn’t been able to get it in the US for 15 years, so that puts an upper range on export at 1998. And it’s a plastic bottle, which only became legal to use for bottles in the US in 1981. So that lands it somewhere between 1981 and 1998, assuming it was bought in the US. But a lot of these bottles were purchased in Canada, and I think my Aunt visited the Caribbean during Grandma’s collecting years too. It’s hard to say for sure, but I’m going to guess early-to-mid 80s.

Whether it’s a 40-year-old bottle or only a 25-year-old bottle, I have to say that the sip I got was mighty tasty! Intensely allspice-y, as you’d expect, and can probably tell by the expression on my face in the video! I’d happily add it to my Tiki cocktail repertoire if it was still around, but I don’t need it enough to buy the €299 euro bottle being sold by a shop in Germany.

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Bottle #2: Sangster’s Old Jamaica Pimento Dram

Jan 3, 2023 |

In my first reveal video, I drank the dregs of a tiny bottle of Sangster’s Old Jamaica Liqueurs Pimento Dram. When my dad brought me all these bottles, it was presumably a sealed bottle, lying on its side in a pristine white box with a bunch of other bottles. But a few days later, I opened the bin and it was now a no-longer-pristine white box with a damp brown stain. So I had to open it up to see what I’d lost.

Losing any bottle is a pity at this point, but also inevitable. Of the handful of bottles I’ve seen so far, a lot have low shoulders from evaporation or leakage. Especially the ones made of plastic – which this one was – but even some of the glass ones too. I’m sure there are some completely empty bottles waiting for me in the bins. But I was especially sad to lose this one, because as a Tiki cocktail fan, vintage pimento dram is especially interesting to me!

Pimento Dram is the original name for what is also called Allspice Dram. While pimento was the indigenous term for the fruits of the pimento tree, British explorers to the Caribbean in the 18th century called it allspice, because to them it tasted like cinnamon, nutmeg and clove all in one. In our modern day, calling it allspice dram helps cater to American markets who associate the word “pimento” not with rich spice notes, but to the inside of olives and the red bits in pimento cheese.

In post-war and mid-century America, allspice dram was a staple ingredient in the Tiki cocktail craze that was sweeping the nation, featured in cocktails like the Three Dots and a Dash from Don the Beachcomber. There were a variety of brands being made, but by the late 1970s or early 1980s regular imports had dried up. In 2007, Ted Haigh (aka Dr Cocktail) said that “It remains a favorite in Jamaica, but the current sole producer, Wray & Nephew, steadfastly will not import it to the States.” When I taught my first Tiki cocktail class in 2015, I had to make my own. While Haus Alpenz had filled the gap by introducing St Elizabeth Allspice Dram in 2008, it wasn’t yet available in Michigan.

The Sangster’s brand was founded by Dr Ian Sangster, a Scotsman who first came to Jamaica in 1967 to teach at the University of the West Indies. He ended up taking a variety of jobs within the Jamaican sugar industry, but also used his knowledge in a rather more practical fashion, starting Sangster’s Old Jamaica in 1974. The company had a range of 27 different rums and liqueurs, including recipes that Sangster and his wife co-created in their kitchen.

The one you’ll see all over Jamaica is Sangster’s Rum Cream, which is a cream liqueur along the lines of Bailey’s. It’s still sold today, because after Sangster died in 2001, giant Jamaican rum producer J Wray and Nephew purchased the company and continued to sell some of the range. Not, so far as I can tell, my Pimento Dram. Or the one that the internet remains most passionate about, the World’s End Wild Orange Liqueur. Although the Pimento Dram has its fans too.

In terms of dating this bottle, we have a start date of 1974. But it’s sized in mL, and the switch to the metric system on labels was complete by 1980. In the comments to this dusty bottle report about the Blue Mountain Coffee Liqueur from 2013, someone says they hadn’t been able to get it in the US for 15 years, so that puts an upper range on export at 1998. And it’s a plastic bottle, which only became legal to use for bottles in the US in 1981. So that lands it somewhere between 1981 and 1998, assuming it was bought in the US. But a lot of these bottles were purchased in Canada, and I think my Aunt visited the Caribbean during Grandma’s collecting years too. It’s hard to say for sure, but I’m going to guess early-to-mid 80s.

Whether it’s a 40-year-old bottle or only a 25-year-old bottle, I have to say that the sip I got was mighty tasty! Intensely allspice-y, as you’d expect, and can probably tell by the expression on my face in the video! I’d happily add it to my Tiki cocktail repertoire if it was still around, but I don’t need it enough to buy the €299 euro bottle being sold by a shop in Germany.

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