Review: Kirk and Sweeney Dominican Rum 18 Years Old and 23 Years Old


Kirk and Sweeney 12 Years Old, imported by Sonoma’s 35 Maple Street, is one of the best artisan rums on the market. And that’s just a babe at a mere 12 years old.

Today we’re looking at the older line extensions of Kirk and Sweeney, including the 18 year old and 23 year old expressions. All three are bottled in similar, urn-inspired decanters, so look for the digits etched onto the glass in order to help keep them straight.

Both are 80 proof.

Thoughts follow.

Kirk and Sweeney Dominican Rum 18 Years Old – Traditional, well-aged rum notes on the nose — brown sugar, vanilla, and some chocolate/coffee overtones. The body starts things off in that direction, then takes an interesting side street toward some curious red wine notes. The coffee character builds as the finish grows, along with some leather notes and a bit of dense sweetness, almost Port-like as it mingles with that wine-like character. Austere and worthwhile. A- / $40

Kirk and Sweeney Dominican Rum 23 Years Old – At 23 years old, this rum is fully matured and ready for sipping on the beach, shoes off. Here you’ll find deep caramel, flecked with barrel char, toffee, intense vanilla, and a touch of baking spice — particularly cloves. They’re all here, from the nose, to the palate, to the rich, silky finish. This isn’t a particularly complicated rum, but it’s got a laser focus on the elements that make rum great. It’s one of the best rums on the market and, at just 50 bucks, quite a bargain. What’s a 23 year old bourbon going to cost you, eh? A / $50  [BUY IT NOW FROM CASKERS]

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7 Responses

  1. Tadas A. September 7, 2015 / 6:36 am

    Can “Kirk and Sweeney” makers prove the age of the rums, please?
    How can they age rum for 18-23 years in hot climates? Barrel should be empty by then.
    I also have rarely seen rums that age range from Martinique where they have strict regulations on age being the age of the youngest component. Oldest I was able to find was 15 years old

  2. Christopher Null September 7, 2015 / 11:08 am

    Tadas – first off, this is Dominican rum, not from Martinique. That said, I’ve seen much older rums than 23… Appleton makes a 30 year old, for example. How do they do it considering the heat and evaporation? If memory serves, old rum casks are periodically married back into a single cask to refill it, thus allowing aging to continue — without disrupting the overall age of the spirit. Someone fact-check me on that, please.

  3. Tadas A. September 7, 2015 / 12:37 pm

    It says Dominican on the title ;) I only mentioned Martinique because it has strict regulations about age statements.

    I have seen rums of 23 years old too. For example, Ron Zacapa stated it is “23 years old” until it started being distributed by Diageo, the “23 years old” age statement has suddenly been dropped and replaced with a somewhat more plausible claim “Solera 23”.

    A lot of statements from rum producers come off like they state the oldest component of the blend. It is a general practice to top off barrels usually with younger rums because of a large evaporation. It would be nice to see a story that actually shows how they age it, show barrels that are of that age, what barrels they use, where do they age it, how they combine barrels, how do they track those barrels and age, records etc. If somebody makes a statement they should be able to prove it – otherwise how do they know that it is of that age. 23 years is a generation. People who worked then probably are not around in that company by now.

  4. Christopher Null September 7, 2015 / 12:51 pm

    At the risk of sounding naive, age statements are policed by the government(s) in question, so there is at least some assurance there… in Cognac, for example, brandy carrying a year-of-production age statement has to be kept behind locked doors, and can only be accessed with the French government on site to observe. So there are some protections… I don’t know about how the Dominican Republic assures all this, of course…

  5. Tadas A. September 7, 2015 / 2:07 pm

    I have not heard any regulations for age statements form Dominican republic. I was not able to find any info either. Even if they have it, widespread government corruption in their government would make those regulations hardly enforceable… :(

    Another hidden and very little spoken fact is that most rum is really a flavored rum. Example: another Dominican rum Ron Quorhum 23 Solera Years that states age more or less truthfully but has a whopping 46 g/l of sugar in it ( It is in Coca-Cola category. European version of Coke has 106g/l of sugar. It seems very well rated by reviewers, but how can I compare those reviews to rums that do not have sugar in it with no advantage of sweetness and no sugar hiding distillate defects?

  6. Christopher Null September 7, 2015 / 2:18 pm

    Rums doctored with sugar are surprisingly common — even “expensive” ones. The only way to know for sure is to do a mass spectrometry test.

  7. Horsemm920 November 25, 2015 / 8:24 pm

    Tadas A. – I agree with you on the age statement. When i first saw the label it clearly says “18 years” “23 years” which is not a legal age statement.

    Christopher – Whilst I agree that governments are supposed to monitor the age statements. Few seldom do. The only legal definition for an age statement being inported to the US is the following “Aged 23 years” or “Aged 30 years” As you rightly stated, there are very old rums out there. Appletons recent release of their 50 year for example. They started with 100 barrels and finished with 1. Hence it’s whopping $4000 price point (at cost), they also had to add sugar because of how woody it was. But any money profit made by them on that is donated to charity.

    Tadas – Adding sugar is very common and often encouraged to a certain degree. There a beautiful rums out there that have added sugars, Dos Maderas 5+5, Ron Zacapa 23 Solera, Diplomatico reserva exclusiva. However, Diplomatico make a fortified raisin wine and add that as far as I’m aware. That is the complete opposite end of the spectrum to adding corn starch.

    In terms of Kirk & Sweeney, i have tasted their line up and, whilst I’ve been assured by people very high up in 35 Maple Street (the company that bottles & imports it to the us) that nothing is added and it’s from the Burmudez Distillery in Santiago de la Cabelleros, I can’t help but taste and smell a very different story. As for its location I’m sure that’s verified (why not put it on the bottle though) and as for its taste. I read tasting notes of very “well aged rum…etc” but i can’t help but compare it other products. Compare it to The Real McCoy 12yr and just look and smell the difference.

    If you look on they scientifically identified the average sugar content of products available in Denmark. The Real McCoy 12yr has between 0-5 g/liter of sugar in it’s product. Taste that against K&S and you’ll have no doubt there is something added. As i said before, not a bad thing, but i would, just as you do Tadas A, like to see a verificaton of their age statement and what they add to it for it to be so in the face vanilla. Even from using a medium charred barrel, you wouldn’t get flavours that strong. Not a bad product by any means but I have no doubt there is something being left out from the story.

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