Category Archives: Rum

Review: Banks 5 Island Rum

Last year a survey named Banks 5 Island Rum as the best rum for that quintessential rum drink: The Daiquiri.

Only problem: Who’s ever heard of Banks 5 Island?

Well finally, we have.

It’s not called 5 Island for kicks: Banks 5 Island really is a blend of aged rums from five Caribbean islands: Jamaica, Trinidad, Guyana, and Barbados. The fifth island, oddly, is not named. It is only said that it is to the east of the area. Hmmm.

Filtered to clear, this barrel-aged rum has much more character than most white rums. It is sweet and engaging, lively on the palate. The nose is rich with sugar cane, filling the room when the bottlecap is unscrewed.

Banks 5 Island doesn’t have a lot of nuance to it, and the finish is a bit lacking: Things take a turn for the bitter as the rum lingers on the tongue, which leaves the spirit a bit out of balance. I am out of limes right now, but I can certainly imagine how this would fare in a Daiquiri, and it is an image that I find pleasing.

80 proof.

B+ / $50 / banksrum.com [BUY IT NOW FROM CASKERS]

Banks 5 Island rum Review: Banks 5 Island Rum

I Took the Cachaca Challenge

There is nothing more fun – or terrifying – than doing a blind head-to-head tasting of wine or spirits. What if everything you thought you knew was wrong? What if it turns out you like Gallo from a jug better than Screaming Eagle? (Answer: Well, then, you’re lucky. You’ll save a lot of money down the road.)

Recently I was given two vials of cachaca labeled A and B, some sugar, and a lime. My goal: Try the cachaca straight, then try it in a caipirinha, and report back to the agency putting on the event which I preferred.

I tasted them backwards…

Cachaca B was a clear, traditional cachaca, full of petrol notes but balanced with a little sweetness and citrus. Not much to it, a lot like a simple rum. (spot rating: B+)

Cachaca A was tinted light yellow, clearly one which had seen some barrel time. Much fruitier than A, it had lots of lemon oil and orange notes. Racy with aromatics, it was spice, flowers, and caramel/vanilla character from the time in wood. But still it was a cachaca at heart, as the petrol overtones made clear. Long, long finish here. (spot rating: A-, on the fence)

But what happened in a caipirinha? I made two cocktails identically, right down to the number of ice cubes, muddling lime and sugar, and adding the spirit and rocks.

Cachaca B made a very good caiprinha, pleasant and very much like a margarita. Clean and unfussy, it was easy to sip.

Cachaca A was overpowering: It stood up to the lime and sugar and made itself known, giving an astringency to the drink that was matched only by the floral and aromatic notes that followed. More complicated and intriguing, at first I preferred this one… until, five minutes later, I just couldn’t get that floral taste out of my mouth. While Cachaca B’s caipirinha finished clean, Cachaca A was too much, with a strong, almost salty aftertaste. I was reminded of my recent pisco tasting, where the stronger, mosto verde pisco was too much for a pisco sour to handle, and the simpler, acholado-style spirit turned out to work better in a mixed drink.

Just goes to show: Just because you like something on its own, doesn’t mean you’ll feel the same way once you start adding stuff. (And vice versa!)

And now for the identities (revealed after I submitted my ratings)…. Cachaca B was Cabana (then: B+), and Cachaca A was Leblon (then: B+).

cachaca challenge I Took the Cachaca Challenge

Review: Cockspur Fine Rum and Bajan Crafted Rum 12 Years Old

Cockspur isn’t a new name in the rum business, but corporate changes have led to Cockspur recently updating the way it sells its product in the U.S. Most notably, for the first time in decades, Cockspur’s U.S.-sold bottlings will be bottled in Barbados, where all the rum is made. Previously, Cockspur you purchased here was made on the island but bottled here.

We had a chance to taste two of the new, bottled-in-Barbados offerings from the company. Both are 80 proof.

Cockspur Fine Rum “Aged Reserve” - This is Cockspur’s entry-level rum, aged in oak (how long is unclear) and blended to a moderate gold color. A perfectly palatable mixing rum, Cockspur Fine isn’t much of a sipper — it’s got a roughness that isn’t easy to shake. But at its core it offers good, sweet vanilla notes, some herbal character, and light menthol notes. I’d happily pair this with Coke, particularly considering the price, but it’s lacking the complexity to be much more. B / $19

Cockspur Bajan Crafted Rum 12 Years Old – Containing “the oldest rums kept on reserve” at the Cockspur distillery — and Cockspur dates back to 1884 — Cockspur’s higher-end offering is considerably more advanced. Deep orange/amber color, a nutty character, and a sherry, citrus, and minty finish that offers deep complexity and richness. Great balance here, and while the denouement has a touch of rockiness, it’s quite a compelling rum. Great price for the quality. A- / $34 [BUY IT NOW FROM CASKERS]

cockspurrum.com

cockspur Review: Cockspur Fine Rum and Bajan Crafted Rum 12 Years Old

Review: Cruzan 9 Spiced Rum

Cruzan is the latest rum maker to jump into the spiced rum game. Its “9″ is rare in that it actually indicates what spices — nine of them, natch — are used to flavor the rum. They are: allspice, vanilla, cinnamon, pepper, ginger, nutmeg, clove, mace, and juniper berry.

This, by the way, is not a gin.

I had a tiny sample of 9 well before it was released and found it a bit off-putting. Whether the recipe has been tweaked or my final bottle (#233 of the first 500 made) is proving more worthwhile in a more controlled review setting I don’t know — though the latter is more likely. Cruzan 9 proves itself to be quite a capable spiced rum, a nice mix of sweet and relatively mild spices.

Vanilla is the big note here, with cinnamon and nutmeg distant secondary characteristics. Any sense of heat from pepper and the like is absent in 9, it’s one of the smoothest and most easygoing spiced rums I’ve ever had, and it could pass for a racier aged rum if one didn’t know better. I find this restraint rather a delight. 9 is one of the few spiced rums I can fathom drinking on its own, and it’s a natural companion with Coke and lime.

Give it a whirl.

80 proof.

A- / $14 (or less) / cruzanrum.com

cruzan 9 rum Review: Cruzan 9 Spiced Rum

Review: Bacardi Rock Coconut Flavored Rum

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.

70 proof.

B / $20 / bacardi.com

bacardi rock coconut rum Review: Bacardi Rock Coconut Flavored Rum

Drinkhacker’s 2010 Holiday Gift Guide – Best Alcohol/Spirits for Christmas

Another holiday season is upon us here at Drinkhacker HQ, and again we take the opportunity to look back at the best — and most gift-worthy — spirits the year had to offer. Don’t settle for giving your boss a bottle of Crown Royal again (not that we don’t like Crown Royal). Step lively and go long. Here are some gift-giving  ideas based on 2010′s brightest stars.

Also check out our 2009 and 2008 holiday guide.

Bourbon – George T. Stagg Antique Collection 2010 Edition ($65) – Always a favorite with bourbon fanatics, the incredibly alcohol-heavy Stagg is as good this year as its ever been. If you can’t find it (which is likely), we also highly recommend the new releases of Knob Creek Single Barrel Reserve ($40), Old Forester Birthday Bourbon 2010 ($50), and Four Roses 2010 Single Barrel Bourbon ($75 or so).

bruichladdich cuvee E 16 years old dyquem1 259x300 Drinkhacker’s 2010 Holiday Gift Guide – Best Alcohol/Spirits for ChristmasScotch – Bruichladdich 16 Years Old First Growth Series: Cuvee E Chateau d’Yquem Sauternes Finish ($105) – Failing a windfall that lets you nab a bottle of the new Highland Park 1968 ($4,000), this whisky is one of the best crowd-pleasers we tried all year. For more of a splurge — and an even more impressive statement, the bargain-priced (for its age) Glenfarclas 40 Year Old ($400) is outstanding.

GinBerkshire Mountain Distillers Greylock Gin ($30) – More of a hard-sell, but now you can prove to your dad that Americans can make gin just as good as the Brits. The unique Citadelle ($35) is always a hit, too, and this year’s version is wonderful.

Vodka – Rokk – 13 bucks a bottle, and just as good as anything else out there… though maybe not for a gift for anyone over 25 years old. Instead, Vision ($25) may be somewhat more impressive. Hangar One Kaffir Lime ($35) isn’t new, but it’s one of the best flavored vodkas on the market and will be cherished.

Rum – DonQ Gran Anejo ($70) – Rebranded and bottled in upscale style, it looks like a fancier gift than it is. Pampero Aniversario Ron Anejo ($34), though not new on the market, is equally decadent and a bit of a bargain. Also check out Botran Reserva ($24) or Dos Maderas rums ($32-$43) if you can find them.

camus borderies xo cognac 243x300 Drinkhacker’s 2010 Holiday Gift Guide – Best Alcohol/Spirits for ChristmasBrandy – Camus XO Borderies ($140)- A single-estate cognac that tastes far richer than its price would indicate. Brand new on the U.S. market, so your giftee will probably never have had it. Of course, if you can afford Emperor’s Giorgio G ($535)…

TequilaTequila Avion Anejo ($55)- It’s been an amazing year for tequila, and while we loved Peligroso Reposado ($50), Espolon Reposado ($25), Riazul Blanco ($45), Arta Silver ($45), and Dulce Vida Anejo ($55), we have to give the edge to Avion’s amazing anejo for our top pick.

Liqueur – Voyant Chai Cream Liqueur ($22) – In a world of iced tea-flavored vodkas, how about something a little more exotic? An authentic tasting chai tea liqueur that inspires India… or at least an Indian restaurant. Also unique and gift-worthy: Solerno Blood Orange Liqueur ($35).

Need another custom gift idea? Drop me a line or leave a comment here and I’ll offer my best advice!

Review: DonQ Limon, Gold, and Gran Anejo Rums

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

donq.com

Cocktails for National Sandwich Day

Did you know that tomorrow (November 3) is National Sandwich Day? Did you know there was such a thing National Sandwich Day?

Well, there is, and even if you don’t like eating sandwiches, our friends at Flor de Cana have devised a way to drink them.

Behold, three of the strangest cocktail recipes I’ve seen all year. Happy drinking! Er, dining?

PBJ Cocktail 199x300 Cocktails for National Sandwich DayPB&J
Created by Gianfranco, Tippling Bros.

1.5 oz. Flor de Caña 7 yr rum
.5 oz. Lustau Palo Cortado Vides
.25 oz. Strawberry jam
.25 oz. Peanut syrup*
1 Egg white
1 Yellow banana

Shake all ingredients in a boston shaker without ice, then add ice and shake vigorously again. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass that is rimmed with minced salted-peanuts.

Garnish: A banana slice.

*Peanut syrup
1) Combine 2 parts water with 2 parts sugar in a pot
2) Bring sugar water to a boil
3) Add 1 part minced peanuts
4) Simmer for 10 minutes
5) Strain to remove peanut particles

BLT Cocktail 199x300 Cocktails for National Sandwich DayBLT
Created by Niccole Trzaska

1.5 oz. of Bacon-infused Flor de Caña 7 yr rum
2 oz. Sacramento tomato juice
Dash Worcestershire sauce
Pinch celery salt
Pinch black pepper
Squeeze of lemon juice
Dollop of horseradish
Fresh Cilantro to taste

Pour all ingredients over ice shake and then strain over ice.

Garnish:One piece of bib lettuce wrapped around a thick piece of crispy apple wood smoked bacon and an avocado slice. Use a toothpick or skewer to secure with a cherry tomato.

Cheeseburger Cocktail 199x300 Cocktails for National Sandwich DayCheeseburger
Created by Trevor Burnett and Whitney Munro, Tipicular Fixin’s

1 oz. Flor de Caña 7 yr rum
2 muddled Roma tomatoes
1 oz. Iceberg lettuce water
1 oz. Beef (well reduced)
2 tbsp Toasted bread crumbs
1 tsp Dry mustard powder
2 tbsp Aged cheddar
1 large Kosher dill pickle
Salt and pepper to taste

Muddle tomatoes, add ice, and slowly poor lettuce water. Stir rum and beef jus together in stainless shaker. Float rum mixture over ice. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Garnish: Cheddar frico and pickle knot.

Garnish instructions: Heat pan to medium heat, sprinkle in cheddar and use sides of spoon to gather cheese into a circle. Brown and remove from pan to cool on plate. Mix bread crumbs with dry mustard. Wet rim of glass with pickle juice, dip glass in crumb mixture.

Review: Pampero Aniversario Ron Anejo

A pampero, I am told, is a “vicious squall” across the pampas in South America. I’m only saying that because it’s the only the second time on this blog that I’ve been able to legitimately use the word “pampas.”

Pampero Aniversario is a Venezuelan rum, and one of only a handful I’ve ever tried. And like its comrade Santa Teresa 1796, it is examplary.

Chocolate brown in color, the rum exudes nuttiness and dark, bittersweet chocolate on the nose. Fresh sugar coats the tongue as you taste, and Pampero takes you on a trip into desserts galore on the body — chocolate mousse, creme brulee, caramel pudding. The finish keeps going and going. Wood is there, but it’s sedate and stays in the background. The rum may look impossibly dark, but it actually spends only 4 to 6 years in old bourbon barrels. Really quite seductive and delicious, and at a price that’s more than fair for the quality you get.

It also comes in a hard-to-miss leather satchel (it’s not a purse!), which makes it an unmistakable gift. 80 proof.

A / $34 / thebar.com

pampero aniversario rum Review: Pampero Aniversario Ron Anejo

Review: Mount Gay Rum 1703 Old Cask Selection

We’ve reviewed most of the Mount Gay lineup, but have finally gotten our mitts on the top of the line: Mount Gay 1703 Old Cask Selection.

This rum is produced in accordance with the Barbados distillery’s typical methods — aged molasses is distilled using two different techniques, then the rum is put into casks. 1703 is a selection of a variety of casks at a variety of ages, some up to 30 years old.

The result is a blended rum that exudes complexity. The nose is strong with wood and vanilla notes, so hefty you’d be excused if you thought this was good bourbon based on the aroma. But the first taste offers that telltale rum sweetness, a rush of sugar that is quickly tempered by so much wood that it feels like you’ve woken up in a lumberyard.

As things mellow out in the glass, 1703 reveals it to be less sugary than many fine old rums, and more balanced with those wood, candylike dessert, and green vegetable notes — characteristics which actually work pretty well rather than detracting from the overall effect. Without a doubt it’s one of the priciest commonly available rums on the market, and that makes it a tough sell vs. Mount Gay Extra Old at half the cost or less, but for something decadent and celebratory, this is a hit.

86 proof.

A- / $100 / mountgay.com

mount gay 1703 rum Review: Mount Gay Rum 1703 Old Cask Selection

Review: DonQ Cristal and Anejo Rum

DonQ is an unsung hero in the rum world, producing both some extremely inexpensive spirits as well as some highly-regarded, well-aged rums. Based in Puerto Rico, you’ll find these 80 proof rums just about everywhere.

Today we took a look at two of the less expensive, more widely-available offerings from the company.

DonQ Cristal Rum is a hot little number, produced in a Cuban style — aged for a year or more, and then filtered to remove the color and leave it clear. The rum is clean-tasting but quite hot, with a good bit of burn on the finish. The aroma offers wood and a little smoke, and the body is only minimally sweet with the aforementioned characteristics as secondary notes. If you’re a fan of simple rums without overwhelming sweetness — but which are nonetheless perfectly palatable on their own — DonQ Cristal is a winner at an amazing price. B+ / $10

DonQ Anejo Rum is aged from three to five years and is left with its color intact. The nose is sweet vanilla with wood backing it up. Still hot, though, but it’s mellowed out by the sweetness that the Cristal lacks. Hardly complicated but easy enough to sip on or mix with, it’s nonetheless a solid rum at this price level. B / $16

donq.com

Review: Botran Solera 1893 and Reserva Rum

Botran Rum, aka Ron Botran or Casa Botran, hails from Guatemala and is distilled by the same outfit that makes the fantastic Ron Zacapa, Industrias Licoreras de Guatemala.

Located about a mile and a half above sea level, Botran’s rums are matured in a very cool warehouse compared to most of the industry, where the rum is made to sweat it out in tropical climes. Botran’s portfolio spans six rums. We tried two, the most noteworthy offerings available in the U.S.

Both are 80 proof.

Botran Solera 1893 – Botran didn’t start making rum until 1939, so don’t think you’re getting rum that’s over 100 years old here. But this solera-style spirit certainly does have some really old spirit in it, judging by the deep amber color and intense aroma of wood here. The flavor profile is classic for a quality anejo: Almonds, marshmallows, a touch of black cherry, and lots and lots of turbinado sugar. A little bitter on the finish, alas, but overall this is a really quality rum — and a real bargain at $30 a bottle. A- / $30

Botran Reserva – Quite a different rum than the Solera, with less body but even more sweetness. This anejo is blend of various rums from 5 to 14 years old, rich with tropical flavors — banana and coconut — plus a good slug of caramel character. There’s less overwhelming brown sugar character here than in the Solera, and the Reserva’s finish is exquisitely smooth. This is a real winner of a rum, and, like the Solera, also a truly impressive bargain. A / $24

ronesdeguatemala.com

botran rum reserva and solera Review: Botran Solera 1893 and Reserva Rum

Tasting Report: The Tasting Panel Double Gold Winners 2010

Of all the events I attend, The Tasting Panel Magazine’s get-together of its Double Gold Medal winners is the only one that mixes wine with spirits. Nowhere else do I expect to sample a Turkish rose next to peaty Scotch. Somehow it works, and while the selections here were all over the map, some standouts were to be had, including rich Pinot from Jazz Cellars and Sequana, a surprisingly good Pisco (the first time I’ve ever used that phrase) from Pisco “O,” and light, easygoing cachaca from Germana. Notes based on a brief tasting session follow.

Wine

2009 Jules Taylor Sauvignon Blanc Marlborough / $15 / B+ / mild, good for the money

2007 Lynmar Chardonnay Russian River Valley / $30 / B/ huge oak

2009 Kavaklidere Egeo Roze Aegean Turkey / $19 / B+ / tart, curious

2007 De Tierra Pinot Noir Silacci Vineyard Monterey / $32 / B / skunky

2008 Cru-Monterey Pinot Noir Appellation Series Santa Maria Valley / $35 / B- / too herbal, off

2008 Wrath Pinot Noir Quasi Mulla Monterey / $38 / B- / funky notes

2008 Sequana Pinot Noir Sarmento Vineyard Santa Lucia Highlands / $32 / B

2008 Sequana Pinot Noir Dutton Ranch Green Valley / $40 / A-/ solid pinot, authentic

2009 Jazz Cellars Pinot Noir Lone Oak Vineyard Santa Lucia Highlands / $45 / A-/ rich and intense

2006 Paradise View Malbec Sonoma Coast / $32 / A- / surprisingly good for Cal malbec, big herbal finish

2007 Cameron Hughes Cabernet Sauvignon Lot 172 Atlas Peak / $22 / B / hugely tannic

2007 Halter Ranch Cabernet Sauvignon Paso Robles / $28 / B-

2007 Millarium Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley / $75 / A-/ rich, has aging potential

2007 Valley of the Moon Cabernet Bland, Cuvee de la Luna Sonoma County / $30 / B

2007 St Helena Road Winery-Maier Family Meritage Sonoma / $34 / B

2007 Niner Wine Estates Fog Catcher Paso Robles / $58 / B+ / rich blackberry notes

2006 J. Lohr Cuvee Pau, Paso Robles / $50 / B- / overdone

NV Gonzalez Byass Oloroso Sherry Solera 1847 Superior Selection / $18 / B+

Spirits

Rokk Vodka, Sweden / $NA / B+ / traditional, light sweetness

Pisco “O” Torontel, Ica, Peru / A- / $35 / intense lemon notes, a surprise

2009 Germana SOUL Cachaca, Brazil / A- / $29 / light and easy

Germana Tradicional Cachaca, Brazil / B+ / $34 / bolder, lightly aged

2009 Germana Heritage Cachaca, Brazil / B / $79 / even more aged, but unbalanced

Tequila Blu Reposado, Mexico / B / $38 / a tough rough

Tequila Cinco Blancos Anejo, Mexico / B- / $23 / rough attack, harsh

El Zacatecano Anejo Mescal, Mexico / B+ / $NA / almost no smoke – this is mescal?

Rum Vizcaya VXOP Solera Rum, Dominican Republic / B+ / $38 / overwhelming sweetness

Isle of Jura Single Malt Scotch, Prophecy, Scotland / B+ / $70 / massive peat bomb, big iodine notes

Pere Magloire Calvados VSOP, France / B- / $40 / tough and rough

Pere Magloire Calvados XO, France / B+ / $75 / huge apple character (as one would hope)

Comandon Cognac XO, France / B+ / $145 / tasty, but needs better balance, off finish

Review: Aged Rums from Dos Maderas

These unique rums hail from Guyana and Barbados, and after aging there for five years they’re shipped to Spain for finishing in Sherry barrels. The amount and type of said finishing is what distinguishes the two rums from one another, and the end result couldn’t be more different.

Dos Maderas Aged Rum 5+3 – As noted above, the rums in this bottling are sourced from Guyana and Barbados and aged there for five years, then finished for three years in 20-year-old “Dos Cortados” Sherry butts in Spain. The result is an old rum with good body, with moderate sweetness. Despite the age evident on the palate, the oak is not overdone, giving vanilla and nutty flavors to the spirit. The finish is a bit harsher than I’d like, but on the whole it’s a great little rum. 80 proof. A- / $32

Dos Maderas P.X. Aged Rum 5+5 (pictured) – Take the 5+3 and age it for two more years in 20-year-old “Don Guido” Pedro Ximinez barrels, “triple aging” it if you will, and you have PX 5+5. The rum is much darker in color, and features a much, much different flavor. Unlike the tougher 5+3, P.X. is extremely sweet, and is powerful with strong notes of cola and raisin. Long, and even sweeter, on the finish than its kid brother — in fact it’s so sweet it comes across as candied. All those aged rum flavors like nuts and wood are present in the body, but here they come across as sugar-coated. A- / $43

bodegas-williams-humbert.com

dos maderas px 5 + 5 rum Review: Aged Rums from Dos Maderas

Review: Brinley Gold Shipwreck Spiced Rum

More spiced rum (check out the chatter on the BlackBeard coverage here, and keep the fun going below) from the folks at Brinley, which makes some very good flavored rums.

Shipwreck hails from St. Kitts and is aged for four years before being juiced up with exotic (and unnamed) spices.

Brinley’s rendition of spiced rum carries a big and flavorful kick. I love the way Shipwreck hits the palate, with sweet rum smoothed out by age and time in the barrel, plus a good shake of cinnamon, orange, woody notes, and a marshmallow-like candiness. It’s not too spicy, with clear sweetness dominating.

But the joy fades as Shipwreck gets toward the finish. A funky kind of skunkiness — that what David Wondrich reminds us is sometimes called “hogo” — that, on its own, isn’t entirely wonderful. For a spiced rum, it may just be too much wood, too much clove — or perhaps not enough alcohol. At 72 proof it’s decidedly light and maybe a touch watery.

It drowns away in Coke, but comparing Shipwreck against a more balanced spiced rum without doctoring, you’ll have no trouble sussing out the superior.

B / $20 / brinleygoldrum.com

brinley gold shipwreck rum Review: Brinley Gold Shipwreck Spiced Rum

Review: BlackBeard Spiced Rum

Rum — especially spiced rum — is on the rise again, and BlackBeard is the latest, a Puerto Rican rum being imported by DonQ’s parent company.

BlackBeard offers aromas not of the spice box but rather of a traditional aged rum, with strong caramel, some wood, and toffee notes. This continues into the body. Put simply, BlackBeard is less “spicy” than most of its competition. Here the heat is on the mid-palate, a pepperiness that offers a rather simple burn, not those exotic notes a la incense or baking spices that one comes to expect and enjoy in a proper spiced rum.

That said, BlackBeard is not bad. In fact on its own merits, the taste is quite pleasant and it works well as a mixer. But overall, the effect is more like overproof aged rum instead of a true spiced rum. That’s not really a bad thing; just know what you’re getting into when you crack it open.

86 proof. Due in September 2010.

B+ / price TBD (but I’m guessing in line with Captain Morgan)

Blackbeard spiced rum Review: BlackBeard Spiced Rum

Tasting Report: Ministry of Rum Festival 2010

With the popularity (and quality) of rum rising, the Ministry of Rum continues its mission of exposing the world to great rums and rum cocktails. Recently I had the opportunity to sample numerous hard-to-find, new, and very old rums at the Ministry’s event in Alameda. Ratings and some brief thoughts on everything tasted follow.

Bear in mind notes are based on only a couple of sips and should not be considered on par with our usual canonical, full reviews.

Ministry of Rum Festival – San Francisco Bay Area – August 2010

Cruzan Blackstrap Rum / A- / extremely intense molasses character; easy to see why this is so beloved

Cruzan 9 Spiced Rum / B- / funky finish

Cruzan Aged Dark Rum / B+

Cruzan Single Barrel Rum / B+ / tough woodsy finish

Don Q Anejo Rum / B / good cocktail rum choice

Don Q Gran Anejo Rum / B+

Bacardi Solera 1893 Rum / C / off, rubber character

Bacardi 8 Rum / B- / better, but quite green

Diplomatico Reserva Rum / B / on the harsh side

Diplomatico Reserva Exclusiva Rum / A / rich and lush, night and day vs. the standard Reserva, a special rum

El Dorado 5 Year Old Cask Aged Demerara Rum / A- / long finish, great value, nice herbs and flowers character

El Dorado 12 Year Old Special Reserve Demerara Rum / A / sweeter but not overly complex; lovely

Flor de Cana Grand Reserve 7 Year Old Rum / B+ / oaky

Santa Teresa 1796 Rum / A+ / a Venezuelan rarity, amazing rich caramel notes, gorgeous and hard to put down; perfect

Smith & Cross Rum / B- / overproof, tough and green

The Scarlet Ibis Rum / B- / hard edged

Black Tot Rum / ??? / this ultra-rarity, an old “discovered” rum that sells for $1,000 a bottle, was served in half-an-eyedropper portions so absurdly small I couldn’t taste much of anything except alcohol… a pity!

Coeur de Rhum La Favorite Vieux / A-

Duquesne Eleve Sous Bois Rum / B+

Neisson Eleve Sous Bois Rhum / B+ / herbal, quite strong (100 proof)

Neisson Reserve Speciale Rhum / A- / easier and sweeter, better balance

Chairman’s Reserve Spiced Rum / B / so clove-heavy it burned my eyes

Zacapa XO Rum / A- / intense, sweet tea notes; more tart than other XO rums here

Many thanks to Barrie Lynn of The Cheese Impresario for extending the invitation and pairing cheeses with the rums on offer!

Review: Bacardi Torched Cherry Flavored Rum

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.

70 proof.

B / $15 / bacardi.com

bacardi torched cherry rum Review: Bacardi Torched Cherry Flavored Rum

Review: Berkshire Mountain Distillers Spirits

Hailing from Sheffield, Massachusetts, Berkshire Mountain Distillers is a new (est. 2007) boutique distillery that makes a ragtag assembly of vodka, gin, and rum. Primarily available in the Northeast, we tasted through the company’s current lineup, with one exception (we’ll get to that later).

Berkshire Mountain Distillers Ice Glen Vodka is distilled from unknown materials, and is blended with water sourced directly from the Berkshire Mountain property, and finally charcoal filtered. The result is a surprisingly plain vodka. Though the body is buttery and rich, there’s only a minimal amount of flavor here. The primary taste is merely watery. It isn’t until the finish that some of vodka’s more traditional, medicinal notes start to come on, and linger they do for quite a while. This is an acceptable vodka but a hard sell at this price. 80 proof. B- / $30

Berkshire Mountain Distillers Greylock Gin is more unique, flavoring its spirit with juniper, coriander, angelica, orris root, orange peel, licorice, and cinnamon. Intensely aromatic, the juniper is a bomb on the palate of this London Dry style gin, with citrus the secondary note. Licorice is curious — and quite a delight — in the finish. This is a gin that feels quite versatile, though it does pack a wallop in the flavor department. 80 proof. A- / $30

Berkshire Mountain Distillers Ethereal Gin Limited Edition Batch No. 1 is exactly what it claims to be, a limited edition gin with unique flavoring agents. In this case, it has all the ingredients of Greylock, plus lemon, cubeb (grain of paradise), black pepper, elderberry, spearmint, rose hips, and nutmeg. As you might expect, it’s even more powerful than Greylock, and the mint and lemon shine through clearly. The finish turns a tad bittersweet, though. Perhaps this gin is just too busy? There’s already a Batch No. 2 (pink label) on the market as well, with a different recipe. 86 proof. B+ / $40

Berkshire Mountain Distillers Ragged Mountain Rum is the only brown spirit in this lineup, a pot-distilled and barrel-aged (for undetermined time) rum from Blackstrap molasses. The nose is distinctly earthy, not sweet, and the body backs that up — not wood, but the earth proper. Crafted as a sipping rum, I didn’t get the joy of drinking rum out of Ragged Mountain that I do with sweeter, aged styles, instead finding myself thinking this rum would work better in a simple mixed drink. B- / $30

berkshiremountaindistillers.com

20% Off San Francisco Bay Rum Festival Tickets

Hey rum fans, want to check out rum old and new, rum cocktails, and rum-food pairings ’til you scream for your galleon?

Check out next month’s San Francisco Ministry of Rum Festival, held at Miss Pearl’s in Oakland on August 8, from 2 to 5pm.

All you need to get in cheap is register for the forums at the Ministry of Rum website, then you’ll get 20% off the $50 admission fee. Just create and log in to your account, and you’ll see the discount automatically when you purchase your tickets.

Hope to see you at the event!

masthead.small  20% Off San Francisco Bay Rum Festival Tickets