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

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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]

35maplestreet.com

Review: Appleton Estate Signature Blend, Appleton Estate Reserve Blend, and Appleton Rare Blend 12 Years Old Rum (2015)

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It’s been six years since we last reviewed Appleton‘s Jamaican-born rums, and the company has recently done some label and nomenclature updates across the line. The distillery tells us that the recipes and the juice inside (nor the Rubenesque bottle design) haven’t changed, so let’s take a fresh look at one of the icons of the rum business and see how things are shaping up in 2015.

appleton1Appleton Estate Signature Blend – Formerly Appleton V/X. A blend of 15 rums, average age 4 years old. No age statement. The entry level Appleton is a bit rustic and punchy, with some sharp medicinal character to it. Clearly designed as a mixer, this nicely golden rum offers big molasses backed by barrel char notes and some burnt marshmallow. A touch of banana on the back end. It’s got more than a bit of a weedy finish due to its significant youth, but it does give this rum some funky character that’s fun to play with in a cocktail. 80 proof. B / $18

appleton3Appleton Estate Reserve Blend – Formerly Appleton Estate Reserve. A blend of 20 rums, average age 6 years old. No age statement. Quite a bit more refined than the Signature, with its rough edges filed down a bit. The Estate Reserve Blend offers a sherried note up front, full of citrus and cloves, that winds its way slowly into bold vanilla and Christmas spice character. Deftly balanced between the sharp attack and the festive finish, it manages to keep a foot in both the rustic and refined worlds. Great on its own or in cocktails. 80 proof. A- / $26

Appleton Estate Rare Blend 12 Years Old – Replaces Appleton Extra 12 Years Old. The youngest of Appleton’s age statement rums, this one (obviously) 12 years old. No blending information offered. This is top notch rum here, and easily the best of the bunch. Refined tropical notes — banana, coconut, brown sugar, vanilla-fueled barrel char — it’s all there, right on the nose. The body takes on a fruitier character, with chocolate lacing and more of a flame-kissed/charred fruit note, giving the rum a distinctly sweet, dessert-friendly character, yet it offers a little extra oomph thanks to the slightly higher proof. This one’s hard to put down — and so beautiful it’s a perfect candidate for straight sipping. 86 proof. A / $32

appletonestate.com

Recipes for National Rum Day, 2015

Of all of the marketing-designated holidays which have come and gone over the years, few have had the staying power National Rum Day (August 16) has managed to muster. Aside from a few other special days (the Super Bowl and St. Patty’s come to mind), our inbox rarely gets this full of suggestions from PR firms. Here are a few we’ve tested and give our stamp of approval.

SIHSugar Island Hurricane
2 parts Sugar Island Coconut Rum
2 parts Sugar Island Spiced Rum
2 parts passion fruit juice
1 part orange juice
Juice of half a lime
½ part Crown Medium Amber Maple Syrup
½ part grenadine
Orange slice and cherry for garnish

Combine all ingredients garnish with orange slice and cherry.

Old Cuban
(now featured at Eleven Madison Park, NYC)
1 1/2 oz Diplomático Reserva Exclusiva
3/4 oz fresh squeezed lime juice
3/4 oz simple syrup
6 mint leaves
2 Dashes Angostura Bitters
Top with champagne

Add all ingredients, except Champagne, to a shaker filled with ice. Shake and strain in to glass, top with Champagne.

fdvFlor de Violette
1 1/2 oz Bacardi Gran Reserva Maestro de Ron
3/4 oz lemon juice
1/2 oz St. Germain
1 dash Crème de Violette
1 dash simple syrup

Shake all ingredients vigorously with ice and strain into a coupe glass. Garnish with a lemon peel.

hdHemingway Daiquiri
2 oz Caliche Rum
1/2 oz maraschino liqueur
1/2 oz fresh grapefruit juice
3/4 oz lime juice

Pour the ingredients into a cocktail shaker filled with ice. Shake well. Strain into a rocks glass.

Knuckle Dragger
1 oz. Shellback Silver Rum
1 oz. American whiskey
2 oz. pineapple juice
2 oz. ginger ale
Lime wedge (for garnish)

Build in a lowball glass, stir, add ice. The recipe didn’t specify which American whiskey to use, so we went with some Corsair Triple Smoke to add some heft to the drink.

Summer Rum Punch
1 bottle Afrohead Aged Dark Rum
1 cup fresh grapefruit juice
1 cup fresh lime juice
1 cup simple syrup
1/2 cup Aperol
1 cup soda water

Add thin slices of orange, grapefruit, lemons, and some fresh tarragon for punch garnish.

Review: Squeal Go Pig Spiced Black Rum

squeal go pig rum

If nothing else: Points for a creative name.

Squeal Go Pig is a Colorado-produced spiced rum (it is produced by a private label distiller on behalf of the SGP folks), but apparently the “Go Pig” is optional. Just call it Squeal and you’ll be fine. It’s spiced, very dark rum — they call it black rum — though it’s unlikely this rum has significant age on it. No doubt, there is significant caramel color here.

The nose is surprisingly fresh — more brown sugar than deep molasses — with a slightly raisiny note that lends it a bit of a Port aroma (not a bad thing). On the palate it’s sweet but not overwhelming. Fruit jam hits the palate first — plums and cooked peaches — plus more raisin and prune character. The spice component is relatively underplayed, with the predominant notes of cloves and anise giving the rum a bit of the essence of sweet licorice candy.

It adds up to a dangerous combination — and one which doesn’t drink like an overproof spirit but rather a more easygoing one. Whoa, 90 proof? Better watch yourself or you really will “go pig or go home.” Oink!

90 proof.

A- / $29 / squealrum.com

Review: Brugal Rum Papa Andres 2015 Alegria Edition

brugal papa andres

Want some really high-end rum? Expect to pay $30 a bottle for it. $35, tops.

Brugal’s latest, Papa Andres 2015 Alegria Edition runs a cool $1500 for each of the 1000 bottles produced. Say what? Hey, it’s not a money grab: All profits go to the Brugal Foundation, which supports education and scholarships for Dominican students.

“Papa Andres” is a homage to Don Andres Brugal, the founding father of This rum was blended by Jassil Villanueva Quintana, Brugal’s Maestra Ronera and a fifth generation member of the Brugal family.  It is the first ever blend by Jassil and the third edition of Papa Andres. As notes, this edition comprises 1000 bottles, composed from 36 casks of rum — reportedly drawn from the absolutely best of the Brugal annual production.

Papa Andres 2015 is — sure enough — a dense, old rum. On the nose there’s coffee and toasted coconut, almonds, plus ample, sweet vanilla. The body folds in notes of raisin, a touch of anise, sugar cookies, and a small amount of dusty lumberyard. The finish is drying, with more coffee notes echoing on the fade-out.

It’s a delightful rum. Whether you can justify shelling out four figures for rum is a something you’ll have to sleep on.

80 proof.

A- / $1500 / brugal-rum.com

Review: Bacardi Gran Reserva Maestro de Ron

bacardi maestro

“Gran Reserva.” “Maestro de Ron.” These are terms that one would expect to see applied to a dark, old, well-aged rum, but Bacardi is taking the unusual step of slapping them on its latest release, a white rum.

Bacardi Gran Reserva Maestro de Ron is “designed to elevate the simple cocktail experience” and is intended as “the ultimate white mixing rum.” As with most white rums, it is aged in white oak, then filtered to white — though Maestro de Ron is said to be “double aged” — each barrel is aged for at least one year, then the barrels are married and aged again for a further three months.

That aside, the results are fine and the rum is capable, if less inspired than the name might imply.

The nose of this spirit — not quite white but rather the palest shade of gold — strikes familiar white rum chords. Hefty vanilla notes with a modest touch of fuel-like character give it that unmistakable Bacardi aroma. On the palate, the vanilla is backed up with more traditional white rum notes, including ripe banana, pencil shavings, coconut husk, and a touch of cinnamon — for the most part they are all flavors that would play nicely in tropical cocktails.

On its own, Bacardi Maestro isn’t altogether that exciting. It’s got too much of a bitter edge, particularly on the finish, which tends to highlight the petrol character a bit too clearly. There’s nothing wrong with a little funk in a white rum, particularly at this completely reasonable price level, but you’ll probably want to use it as intended — in cocktails, rather than by itself.

80 proof.

B / $25 / bacardi.com

Review: Bacardi Ron 8 Anos

Bacardi Ocho Bottle

Bacardi’s 8 year old reserve rum is one of the few rums in the regular Bacardi lineup that carries an age statement. “Bacardi Ocho,” as it’s nicknamed, is Bahaman rum that is often called out as Bacardi’s best offering.

That may indeed be the case, and it’s a large step away from Bacardi’s otherwise staid, traditional structure. Bacardi 8 begins with a molasses/sugar syrup-driven nose that is punched up with notes of cloves, cinnamon, and some citrus notes. On the palate, there’s a bit more vanilla, ample clove/allspice character, and a slight vegetal edge on the back end. This doesn’t really detract from an otherwise lovely experience that keeps your footing firmly in the bakery, but rather adds some character and nuance to a substantially well-made rum.

80 proof.

B+ / $30 / bacardi.com

Review: Don Q 151 Rum

DON_Q_151_750MLWhether you truly need to set a cocktail on fire or just want a little ultra-high-octane in your glass, 151 proof rum is a mixing ingredient without a peer. (Mention Everclear and I’ll barf on you.)

Make no mistake: 151 is dangerous. Don Q knows it and with this new bottling it even includes a flame arrester on the top of the bottle so adventurous mixologists don’t accidentally blow themselves up.

Don Q 151 is Puerto Rican rum aged for up to three years in oak barrels and bottled blazingly hot. Surprisingly, it’s still got a solid rum character — and plenty of it.

On the nose, vanilla, creme brulee, and gentle oak notes dominate. It isn’t at all the firebrand that many overproof spirits are. If you didn’t know any better, you might assume it was a standard-proof product.

The palate is another matter. It scorches to start, but there’s a surprising amount of flavor trapped in between all those ethanol molecules. Even at bottle strength, you’ll find complex notes of banana, dark caramel, coffee, and baking spices. Essentially, it’s got all the character you want in a regular-strength, aged rum — but with double the alcohol.

Now I’m not suggesting you guzzle Don Q 151 for your evening constitutional, but for floats, flames, and other fancy cocktailing effects, this is a tough 151 to beat.

151 proof. Aka DonQ.

A / $22 / donq.com

Review: Captain Morgan Grapefruit, Pineapple, and Coconut Rum

captain morgan flavors

Is the world crying out for more flavored rum? Captain Morgan thinks so, and as such it’s released a trio of new tiki-friendly rums, each naturally flavored and beyond-intensely sugared.

All three are bottled at 70 proof. Thoughts on each follow.

Captain Morgan Grapefruit Rum – Strong grapefruit notes on the nose, with a slight medicinal character underneath. The body is very sweet, with strong caramel overtones. This tends to wash out the natural tartness of the grapefruit and imbues it with heavy candylike notes. As the sweetness fades on the lengthy finish, there’s a vegetal echo, offering some incongruous notes of rosemary and sage. C-

Captain Morgan Pineapple Rum – Pineapple candy (or at least canned pineapple) gets the nose going, but the body is (unsurprisingly) all sugar. Imagine steeping pineapple slices in molten sugar, then bottling it with a touch of water and you’re not far from what Captain Morgan has come up with here. It’s lacking that veggie funk that the Grapefruit expression has, but it’s still far from anything identifiable as rum. C

Captain Morgan Coconut Rum – After all of that, I was scared to death to crack into this one for fear of being immediately put into a diabetic coma. I shouldn’t have fretted so much. While Captain Morgan Coconut is as sweet and saccharine as you’d expect, it’s restrained in comparison to the two fruit-flavored spirits that come before. This doesn’t straw too far from the Malibu formula, though it’s less tropical than that old coconut standby. The finish is surprisingly clean for a coconut vodka, and the caramel notes present in all of these rums actually complements the coconut flavor in a way that it fails to do in the other rums. Definitely the best of the lot. B

each $16 / captainmorgan.com

Review: Six Saints Rum

six saintsThis “righteous spirit of the West Indies” hails from Grenada, but little other information is provided about this rum. Only the notice of “natural colour” informs much of anything about its production.

The nose on this moderately golden rum offers a bit of petrol, backed with some cloves and a bit of spiced or mulled wine character. The body is youthful, slightly corny, with more notes of petrol and some intense clove character. Hints of butterscotch and baking cocoa eventually come along, with some sooty notes lingering on the back end.

Six Saints is a unique rum — almost whiskeylike at times (which is fitting, as the brand is owned by a Scottish company) — but ultimately it’s a bit brash and too youthful, particularly at this (import-only) price.

83.4 proof. Not readily available in the U.S.

B- / $55 / sixsaintsrum.com  [BUY IT NOW FROM MASTER OF MALT]