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
Pity the guava. No one really understands this tropical staple (go to Hawaii and you’ll be inundated with it), but it’s really quite good. A lot like a passion fruit, really, but with a decidedly unsexy name.
Despite the lack of erotic appeal in the phrase “guava rum,” when you’re on your 12th flavored rum (following banana, black cherry, mango, and even rum cream) you too might find yourself digging deep into the playbook to find something unique to put into your spirit. That’s exactly what Cruzan has done here, offering what seems to be the only guava-flavored rum in the world.
As flavored rums go, this one’s a winner. Start with straight rum on the rocks and it tastes exactly like it should: A light rum spiked with sweet guava juice. I wanted to make some of the cocktails Cruzan recommends but sadly I’m low on mango and apricot juice this week. Ultimately, I found it works great in many drinks you’d normally use standard white rum in: I was a skeptic, but guava rum and Coke was really refreshing and, in my mind, much better than a standard rum and Coke.
Only complaint: At a mere 55 proof, Cruzan Guava Rum is a little on the weak side. That’s of course one reason why it’s so easy to drink, but let’s not forget our rummy heritage, OK?
A- / $15 / cruzanrum.com