Pink Pigeon puts all of that to shame. It is born in Mauritius, which I guarantee you will never find on a map. It’s here: A speck of an island over 1000 miles off the southeast coast of Africa — out there beyond Madagascar.
Pink Pigeon puts all of that to shame. It is born in Mauritius, which I guarantee you will never find on a map. It’s here: A speck of an island over 1000 miles off the southeast coast of Africa — out there beyond Madagascar.
After midnight, we’re gonna let it all hang out… and we’re gonna drink this new liqueur from the increasingly huge portfolio of products from Kahlua: Kahlua Midnight.
Midnight is a major departure for Kahlua, which has to date been happy to create new versions of its signature coffee liqueur by adding additional flavorings like you’d find in a coffee shop (various incarnations now include cinnamon, vanilla, hazelnut, mocha, and peppermint versions). Midnight is something different: A 70 proof monster mix of the classic coffee liqueur with rum.
In truth, even the standard 40-proof version of Kahlua has rum in it (it’s touted on the label), but it’s watered down and sugared up so those Desperate Housewives can sip it all day. At 70-proof, Kahlua Midnight is nearly full-strength booze, more rum than Kahlua — though it’s still just as black as before (caramel color is added). In case you’re unclear, the bottle is completely different than the standard tiki-friendly Kahlua one.
In all honesty, Kahlua Midnight — in taste — is not a great departure from its mother, standard-grade Kahlua. The coffee is clear on the nose and the palate. Rum, as with regular Kahlua, is really just hinted at, indistinctly and more on the undercarriage of the nose than in the body, where the strong coffee character is simply overpowering to anything underneath it. It’s got more of a boozy kick in the middle, but the finish is mild, dominated by a clear, fresh-ground coffee character.
What’s the point of Midnight? It’s primarily meant for consumption straight, on the rocks. God help the hacker that uses this stuff in lieu of standard Kahlua and doesn’t realize what he’s getting into.
A- / $24 / kahlua.com
On paper, Malibu Red is a terrible, terrible idea: Take standard Malibu (coconut-flavored rum), and add white tequila to it.
The brainchild of R&B artist Ne-Yo, I am here to tell you that, yes, Malibu Red is as bad as you think it will be.
Fundamentally these are two great tastes… that just don’t go together: Super-sweet coconut rum on the nose, muddled with sharp agave-heavy tequila. Like putting orange juice on your cereal, these flavors collide in an often angry, unsatisfying fashion, and it’s difficult to get a real handle on either one. The finish is cloying and muddy, leaving you desperate for one side to take hold. Neither does, and your mouth ends up coated in a syrupy, tangy, almost medicinal film.
D+ / $25 / malibu-rum.com
Coconut rum? Sure. Hibiscus-coconut rum? That’s a new one.
The evocatively named Whistling Andy is naturally flavored with both of the above and is imbued with a deep orange color. First things first: The rum (distilled in Bigfork, Montana from cane sugar) is extremely sweet, with a nose redolent of cookies, caramel, nougat, and — especially — honey. What you don’t particularly get is, surprisingly, coconut. That’s largely relegated to nuance somewhere in that cookie character.
Is it the interplay with the hibiscus that mutes the coconut? While it’s not particularly floral, there’s more flower character here than coconut, that’s for sure. But it’s the intense sugariness that just about stopped me in my tracks on this one. Yes, rum is sweet, but this is so wild in its intensity that I often had trouble swallowing baby sips. The flavor’s a knockout, but I’m about 10 years too old to be able to handle this kind of brix.
B / $26 / whistlingandy.com
Malibu Rum, always one to experiment wildly with additional flavors and added tweaks, updates the classic coconut rum with this limited-release version: Malibu Winter.
The twist: Little flakes of real coconut are suspended in the liquid, giving the spirit the distinct look of snowfall and, for the first time ever, successfully associating the words “Malibu” and “holidays.”
There’s no change to the formula or proof level (42 proof), although this version seems slightly thicker (and a bit less clean) in the mouth. If that’s the case, it’s why the coconut flakes stay suspended absolutely perfectly in the rum. Unlike, say, Goldschlager, they don’t settle to the bottom. No shaking of the bottle required: Each pour has a healthy dose of white flakes suspended within. You can taste and feel them in your mouth, but just barely.
Otherwise, everything here is as expected for Malibu, though the bottle has a clear cut-out in the white frosting so you can long for the festivities inside.
A- / $14 / malibu-rum.com
Coconut continues to be a vital flavoring agent in all manner of spirits (we’ve got coconut vodka coming later in the week for you), and our friends at St. Croix’s Cruzan sent us their rendition of the classic coconut rum. They even put their money where their mouths are: Sending a mini of Bacardi Rock Coconut for comparative purposes.
Results? For starters, Cruzan Coconut is only 42 proof, so I watered the 70-proof Bacardi down appropriately. If you’re looking for (natural) coconut flavor, Cruzan categorically has it. It’s overloaded with the stuff, and it’s also packed with sugar. It’s not the lack of tropical flavor that undoes this spirit, it’s all that sugar: Imbued with the stuff to the point of being cloying. You can almost taste a chalky texture in the body — whether that’s from coconut or sugar, I don’t know, but the effect is daunting. In comparison to the Bacardi though, I still preferred the Cruzan: Its flavor is simply bigger and more authentic.
I also tried Cruzan Coconut against, of course, the gold standard of coconut rums, Malibu. Also 42 proof, Malibu is, clearly the superior spirit, balanced in coconut and sweetness, not cloying, and actually well enough made that it can be consumed solo — unlike almost every other flavored spirit known to man. Sad to say it, but you don’t seem to need native coconuts nor sugarcane to get the job done — that’s right, best coconut rum going today is made in Canada.
B+ / $13 / cruzanrum.com
DonQ’s latest flavor is the always crowd-pleasing Passion Fruit, an exotic treat that nonetheless has become familiar to U.S. palates. DonQ’s Pasión is bright on the nose with tropical notes, but it’s hard to peg it specifically to passion fruit. On the palate, it’s even trickier, as the rum component comes across a little too harsh and the passion fruit a bit too sweet. The ultimate spirit tends to veer, oddly, toward cherry notes, when I’d hoped for something lighter and fruitier. This would probably be fine in a big and fruit-bombed tiki cocktail, but for more subtle drinks it’ll overpower the blend.
B- / $16 / donq.com
Malibu is clear. Malibu Black is brown.
With that out of the way we can introduce you to another extension of the Malibu rum line: Malibu Black, a stronger, less-sweet, and more-brown version of the classic coconut rum.
That description is, basically, all you need to know. Malibu Black has much more bite (70 proof) — to the point where you can actually taste the alcohol, unlike standard Malibu (42 proof). It is considerably less sweet, to the point where it has no discernible aftertaste aside from a vague tropical character. And it is brown.
The overall flavor plays down Malibu’s tropical character and replaces it with orange (and orange peel) notes. The coconut is still quite strong, especially on the nose, but the finish isn’t that lasting sweetness that you get with standard Malibu. Instead it’s more of a classic rum character on the fade-out, reminiscent of a fairly standard white rum, chased with a bite of old German chocolate cake.
B- / $13 / malibu-rum.com
As it did with “Torched Cherry,” Bacardi continues its tradition of double-flavoring rums and giving the finished product one, nonsensical name.
Bacardi Rock Coconut is naturally flavored with rock melon and coconut water, hence, I guess, “rock coconut.” Rock melon, by the way, is a fancy name for cantaloupe.
As for the character of this rum, the emphasis is certainly on the coconut here. It’s strong on the nose and the body, and only if you leave the rum in your mouth for several seconds do you get any sense of fruit here, and even then it’s vague, mainly citrus in tone.
Frankly I’d wanted a little more coconut out of this, and it certainly could have used some more of the “rock” that’s promised. All told, your typical beach-goer isn’t going to be able to tell the difference between this and Malibu in his fruity cocktail, but it doesn’t really offer anything special to elevate it above the competition.
B / $20 / bacardi.com
We’ve reviewed rums from this Puerto Rico distillery a few times before (here, and here), but this time we’re really getting into the good stuff, with DonQ’s Gran Anejo the top of the company’s standard product line.
DonQ Limon Rum is the company’s citrus-flavored rum. Lemon/lime is the focus here, and the rum (aged about one year) part of the equation takes a back seat to the citrus notes. Much like a citrus vodka, but sweeter. A bit of tough bitterness mars the finish, but this would be a perfectly good substitute for citrus vodka in a Cosmopolitan or in a Caribbean-style Lemon Drop, and obviously would work well in a Mojito. 60 proof. B+ / $17
DonQ Gold Rum is a blend of rums aged 1 to 4 years — and is said to be the rum used in the world’s first Pina Colada. Light gold in color, with a fairly strong medicinal character to it. More woody than you’d expect, but that lends itself more to tannin than gentle smokiness. 80 proof. B- / $18
DonQ Gran Anejo Rum has been recently repackaged and renamed, dropping a “D” from the old DonQ Grand Anejo moniker. A blend of rums aged 3 to 12 years in both American white oak and used sherry barrels. This is DonQ hitting its stride in full. The sherry notes are strong and lush, giving an orange tartness to balance the sweetness of the rum, well mellowed by time in wood and smooth as silk in the body and finish. Notes of straw, raisins, and cinnamon in the body. Good balance all around, though slightly tight in the finish. A totally solid choice for sipping after dinner. 80 proof. A- / $70
The problem with cherry flavored spirits, of course, is the cough syrup connection. Cherry flavoring is so endemic in over-the-counter throat and lung remedies that most drinkers immediately want to climb back in bed once a cherry liquor hits their lips.
Bacardi bypasses that problem with its new cherry rum by “torching” it — now, they don’t burn the cherry, but to Barbados cherry essence the company adds “torched plant aloe” to the mix.
The result is a somewhat smoother spin on cherry, balanced by a sort of smoky creaminess that comes on after a big and bright cherry opening.
Yes, drink too much in one gulp and you’re in Robitussinland, but in a land of non-credible cherry rums and vodkas, Bacardi’s experiment is at least as good as anything else out there.
B / $15 / bacardi.com
Coruba is Jamaican rum (imported to New Zealand and sold from there). These two new bottlings are flavored rums that have been considerably doctored not just with flavoring agents but lightened down to just 42 proof.
Coruba Mango Rum is an intensely sweet experience, and mango is really only hinted at in the finish. It’s so sugary that there’s no real hint off fruit, just sweetness with a touch of tropicality. Probably fine in any number of rum-and-juice cocktails, but not a winner on its own. C-
Coruba Coconut Rum is more successful, a decent competitor to Malibu with a more delicately flavored spirit than Coruba’s mango concoction. Here the coconut is more muted and the resulting spirit much less sweet, with a mellower, earthy finish. In fact, this rum can be safely sipped solo, though it would clearly find a better home in a tropical beach drink. B
$16 each / coruba.co.nz
Rum Jumbie (the name refers to spirits allegedly trapped inside the caves of the Caribbean who would possess the souls of rum drinkers) makes several light, flavored rums plus a rum liqueur.
The flavored rums are all uncolored, are sourced from Panama, and are bottled at a scant 48 proof. Flavors are natural but otherwise unspecified.
Here’s how they stack up.
Rum Jumbie Mango Splash has a delicate mango nose and moderate tropical flavor. A little bite on the finish, but a fine ingredient in a tropical cocktail if you like a rum with a very mild and light body. B+ / $16
Rum Jumbie Pineapple Splash captures the aroma of fresh pineapple, but the flavor is off. Pineapple notes are pushed aside by out-of-place cocoa and vanilla character, with a sort of woody finish. B- / $16
Rum Jumbie Coconut Splash is extremely sweet, with sugariness that drowns out a lot of the coconut character. As with the other Jumbies, it’s heavy on the nose with the prescribed fruit (coconut is a fruit, right?), but the body doesn’t totally pan out. (Try Brinley.) B / $16
Rum Jumbie Vanilla Splash has almost no vanilla aroma and what little vanilla flavor there tastes synthetic. Fortunately it’s so light it doesn’t really taste like much of anything. Not a fan. C / $16
Rum Jumbie Liqueur is a 60 proof concoction of “aged rum and tropical fruit flavors,” and it’s already awesome from the start because of the bottle shaped like a guy playing a bongo drum and wearing a straw hat that serves as the cap. The amber nectar inside however is not quite as cool. It’s got cola and orange notes, apples, and loads of cinnamon and other exotic spices… but it doesn’t really come together. Perhaps it’s the loads of sugar in the blend that makes this hard to put down more than a few sips of. Perhaps it could make an interesting cocktail ingredient… but how? It’s simply too muddy and sweet and leaves a varnish-like coating on your palate that I wanted to scrub off. C / $30
DonQ is a huge rum brand from Puerto Rico. It’s now producing three flavored versions, two of which we were fortunate enough to review. Flavorings are natural and the proof level is rock bottom, so drink all you want.
DonQ Coco Rum is (obviously) a coconut-flavored rum (aged at least one year). Quite sweet and with merely moderate coconut character, it comes across, oddly, as a little bit chalky on the palate. This isn’t bad, but it isn’t a standout. I think Malibu or, better yet, Brinley Gold Coconut, are both quite a bit better. 42 proof (same as Malibu). B- / $17
DonQ Mojito Rum is not a mojito in a bottle but rather a mojito-flavored aged rum (see the difference?). Add club soda and you’ve got a mojito? Sort-of… It’s very tart and moderately, authentically minty — but the lime component tastes funky, which might be why lime is not mentioned on the bottle, only “infused with natural mint.” Like the Coco, this isn’t unpalatable, but I think the better solution to the mojito problem is to stick with an unflavored rum, add mint, lime, and soda yourself, and call it a day. 40 proof. B- / $17
I”ll let Malibu sell it to you in its own words:
A survey conducted by the Travel Industry Association of America indicated that more than 55 million Americans have participated in a volunteer vacation, and about 100 million more are considering taking one. Malibu is giving 10 budding environmentalists a chance to do just that through the first-ever Malibu Beach Internship. Beginning today, eligible individuals who are of legal drinking age (21 and over) and passionate about ecosystem preservation may apply.Summer is the time to ‘Get Your Island On’ – whether it’s cocktails at the local beach or a once-in-a-lifetime excursion to an exotic tropical destination. Today, Malibu(R) announces a partnership with Reef Check that offers both enticing options to consumers nationwide. To help raise awareness of Reef Check’s mission to monitor, protect and rehabilitate reefs worldwide, Malibu kicks off the ultimate beach internship to enlist 10 interns to monitor coral reef health in Thailand, the Maldives or the Philippines. For those who can’t intern, Malibu brings the party home by introducing a limited-edition Reef Check-inspired bottle with a charitable contribution made to Reef Check on behalf of the brand.
Applications will be accepted from July 1, 2009, through August 31, 2009, and are available online at www.malibu-rum.com/reefcheck. The applicants who convey the most creativity, enthusiasm and character will be selected as finalists, and will be sent on a 10-day assignment to a Malibu-sponsored eco-adventure with Reef Check to an exotic location, such as Thailand, the Philippines or the Maldives.
Inside the bottle, it’s the same-old, good-old Malibu.
Operating out of St. Kitts in the Virgin Islands [er, apparently not], Brinley Gold offers a lineup of five rums, all flavored with natural ingredients and all bottled at 72 proof. The focus at Brinley is clearly more on the flavor than on the rum — all of these spirits are designed for mixing (sometimes you just need ice and a squeeze of lime), and for creating (mostly) fruity cocktails.
We sampled the five rums in the lineup (available in a sampler pack of five mini bottles, pictured below), with generally spectacular results.
Brinley Gold Vanilla Rum is a deep brown rum with a strong vanilla character. Maybe too strong, to be honest. Blended with natural Madagascar vanilla beans, it has more in common with a vanilla-flavored liqueur than any rum you’ve ever had. Still, for what it is, it’s extremely blendable and versatile, and it has an impressive smoothness on its own when served on the rocks, maybe with a splash of water. A-
Brinley Gold Coconut Rum is clear in color, and has a nose full of fresh, sweet coconut (as one would hope). Again, it’s naturally flavored but also quite sweet — enough to counter the alcohol here (Malibu is considerably lower in proof level) and smooth out the rum. Almost candy-like in the finish, this is another winner if you need a coconut spirit that packs more alcoholic punch than its weaker contemporaries. A-
Brinley Gold Lime Rum is a new one for me. Lime and rum is a natural combo, of course, and Brinley’s infusion is flavored with real Tahitian limes. The nose is more of tart Key limes than the standard variety, and the body is quite powerful too. Again it’s not really “rum” but the lime counterpart that makes the impact — and, as with drinking lime juice straight, that may be a bit much for some people. Maybe not quite the hit that the previous two rums are, it’s still a totally solid entry into the lineup. B+
Brinley Gold Mango Rum offers a powerful nose of mango character that seems like it’s fresh fruit that’s just been split open. That intoxicating aroma is a bit of a letdown on the body — the mango rum is hindered by a touch of bitterness in the finish, which is a surprise since the mango character itself is awfully impressive both on the nose and the palate. Light gold in color. B
Brinley Gold Coffee Rum is dark, intriguing, and really smoky and sugary — I was immediately reminded of S’Mores when I put my nose into it. Chocolate and burnt sugar are the biggies here, basically. This might be the most rum-like of the bunch, and I don’t mean that in a bad way. It’s got both the sugary rumminess and richness of coffee — a Brazilian roast, so they say – with good balance between the two. A big winner, on the whole. A-
$19 each / brinleygoldrum.com
The original Malibu coconut-flavored rum isn’t just a staple of every bar, it’s also one of the most venerable flavored spirits on the market, dating back to 1980. Lately, Malibu’s been branching out into other flavors, since 2004 launching Mango, Pineapple, Passion Fruit, and Banana expressions.
Malibu Island Melon marks the company’s first step into not-really-tropical territory (despite the cleverly-placed “Island” in the name I’m still not sure I’ve ever heard of a tropical melon), but since you’ll find so many recipes that use classic Malibu and Midori together, the combo makes sense.
To be sure, Malibu Island Melon is more Malibu than melon, with a strong aroma and body that exudes sweet coconut. The melon is really an afterthought here, and it’s so vague it could be anything from honeydew to watermelon. Like standard Malibu, it’s quite sweet — but not overly so — and lightly bodied. At just 42 proof it’s practically a liqueur instead of a rum.
Essentially this can be freely used in lieu of regular Malibu in any cocktail recipe. It’s not really any better or worse, just slightly different and likely to make only a subtle — though possibly engaging — difference to your drink.
B+ / $12 / malibu-rum.com
What is dragon fruit? Known formally as the pitaya, this Asian fruit has red skin and has a flavor described by some as a blend of “kiwi and Concord grape.”
Bacardi uses dragon fruit and strawberry to create this “Dragon Berry” infused rum (its eighth flavor), and extremely flavorful concoction.
Any notion of rum is largely absent here, as it’s all about the fruit — naturally flavored, I should add. The aroma of this stuff fills the room once it’s poured, and on the palate it’s very sweet, heavy on the strawberry and with melon-like secondary notes. There’s an alcoholic kick to it, but nothing particularly rum-like. This could be a flavored vodka and you likely wouldn’t be able to tell the difference. That’s not inherently a bad thing, but Bacardi Dragon Berry does come off more like a liqueur than anything else.
At 70 proof, it’s in line with most flavored spirits. Definitely try it as a mixer in your favorite froufrou concoction, or even with something simple like Coke, cranberry juice, or lemonade.
B / $16 / bacardi.com
It looks like cachaca is continuing its rise, and now even mass market spiriters Seagram’s is getting into the mix.
Seagram’s (yeah, the gin guys!) new line of Brazilian rum doesn’t say cachaca on the label (and doesn’t offer a whole lot of information about what they’re created from or where, aside from “Brazil”), and that’s probably on purpose: At an ultra-affordable $12 a bottle, this is not intended to challenge the consumer with new and confusing terms but entice him into a new category of spirit while keeping a toe-hold on the familiar. “Brazilian” in the name gets that done.
Here’s how the rum — and its two flavored versions — stack up.
Seagram’s Smooth Brazilian Rum – Yeah, that’s the official name (snicker all you like), and compared to many cachacas it is on the mild, easygoing, even smooth side. The trademarks of cachaca — rubber, subdued sweetness — are here, but it’s all very mild. This is actually drinkable on its own — when’s the last time you said that about a $12 rum? — but of course it shines with simple mixers or in a caipirinha. Bonus points for such affordability. 80 proof. A- / $12
Seagram’s Citrus Brazilian Rum – Very sweet, with a kind of vague lemon/lime kick. Mostly natural-tasting (and specified as “with natural flavors” on the bottle), but it’s a little overpowering, to be honest, but with the right mixer — try club soda — it can work. Go easy on added sweetener. 70 proof. B+ / $12
Seagram’s Raspberry Brazilian Rum – You can’t get away from raspberry these days, and here (also a “natural” per the label it’s just too much for me. Even with a mixer, the raspberry flavor is on the cloying side, though it doesn’t taste artificial, just too, too sweet. 70 proof. B / $12
Complicated and heavily spiced liqueurs are always a difficult bag. They tend to blend poorly with other spirits and on their own can be imbalanced. Put it this way: No matter how much you like spiced rum, when’s the last time you had it mixed with anything other than Coke?
Mekhong is an unusual spirit from Thailand (where it has been on sale for over 60 years) that spiced rum fans may find interesting. At 70 proof, it’s a blend of 95 percent cane sugar and 5 percent rice, which is then imbued with Thai herbs and spices to give you, well, something unique.
Bitter and sweet play together in Mekhong, and only somewhat nicely. That strong hit of bitter, dried herbs punches you on first sip (on the rocks is recommended), then it follows up with some much-needed sweetness. It’s not enough, in my mind, though, to make up for an initial blast that reminded me of an amaro (and I like amaro).
Mixing was tricky. I really didn’t care for the way Mekhong blended with cola, which gave off a kind of funky taste. Ginger ale was even worse.
Mekhong, as you’d expect, has all kinds of cocktail suggestions on tap, but sadly I could make none of them: Every one relies on something exotic, from fresh Thai basil to coconut puree to a quarter of a fresh pomegranate. If you’re crawling in the fruits of southeast Asia, put a bottle of Mekhong on your shopping list. Casual drinkers seeking something spicy should stick with Kilo Kai.
C / $16 / thespiritofthailand.com