Category Archives: Rum

Review: Malibu Winter

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

malibu winter Review: Malibu Winter

Holiday Rum Drink Recipes

The weather outside is frightful, so cozy up with one of these rum-centric drinks from our pals at DonQ Rum.

Snowy Day Punch

Esteban Ordoñez, DonQ’s Corporate Mixologist and Brand Ambassador
1 liter DonQ Coco Rum
16 oz. DonQ Cristal Rum
16 oz. Coconut water
16 oz. Coconut milk
4 oz. Simple syrup
Pinch freshly grated nutmeg
3 tbsp. dry unsweetened coconut flakes

Add rums, coconut water, coconut milk, simple syrup and nutmeg to a large pitcher or punch bowl. Whisk until completely mixed. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours before serving. Dip the rim of the rocks glass in simple syrup, and then dip in coconut flakes. Serve punch in rocks glass over ice. Yields approximately 2 ½ liters.

Spiced Vanilla Daiquiri

2 oz BlackBeard Spiced Rum
¾ oz lime juice
½ oz simple syrup
3 drops pure vanilla extract
lime zest for garnish

Combine all ingredients in a cocktail shaker over ice, shake until well chilled, strain into a chilled cocktail glass, zest lime over the glass to scent and garnish.

Cohasset Punch #2

Mathias Simonis, Mixologist at Distil Milwaukee, Milwaukee, WI
1 ½ oz. DonQ Añejo Rum
1 ½ oz. Sweet vermouth
¾ oz. Cinnamon syrup (simple syrup with cinnamon added)
2 Dashes orange bitters
1 Lemon peel twist

Shake rum, vermouth, lemon juice, cinnamon syrup, orange bitters and ice. Double strain into a chilled martini glass. Garnish with lemon peel twist.

El Yunque Cocktail

Julio Cabrera, Mixologist at Viceroy Hotel, Miami, FL
3 oz. DonQ Añejo Rum
½ oz. Grand Marnier liqueur
10-12 Fresh raspberries
1 oz. Fresh limejuice
1 oz. Simple syrup
1 Orange peel twist

Muddle raspberries gently until puréed. Add rum, liqueur, limejuice, simple syrup and ice. Shake vigorously. Strain into a martini glass. Garnish with orange peel twist. Yields 2 drinks.

Coquito (Puerto Rican Eggnog)

16 oz. DonQ Cristal Rum
2 Cans coconut cream (30 oz.)
1 Can sweetened condensed milk (14 oz.)
1 Can evaporated milk (12 oz.)
1 tsp. Vanilla extract
¼ tbsp. Ground cinnamon
1/8 tbsp. Ground nutmeg

Mix all ingredients in a blender at high speed. Refrigerate for a couple of hours. Shake well before serving. Serve cold in a small glass. Garnish with cinnamon sticks.

Holiday Recipe: Cockspur Silver Belle

Cockspur Silver Belle 199x300 Holiday Recipe: Cockspur Silver BelleThis recipe comes to us from our friends at Cockspur, who promise it will provide a “Caribbean Christmas.” My fingers are already chilly. Sounds good to me.

Silver Belle

1.5 oz Cockspur Aged Rum
.25 oz maraschino liqueur
.75 oz earl grey tea
.75 oz hibiscus grenadine
.75 oz pineapple juice

Shake well with ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with a maraschino cherry. Optional: sugar coat rim.

 

Drinkhacker’s 2011 Holiday Gift Guide – Best Alcohol/Spirits for Christmas

Happy Thanksgiving! While you’re enjoying your turkey, stuffing, and pie, many a thanksgiver’s thoughts turn to booze. Specifically, what one might buy for a favored loved one come holiday time. I’ve collected all my favorite spirits from 2011 here for you, but this is just a small sampling of what’s worthy on the market right now. Scan through the category of your choice for other ideas, and chime in with your own gift ideas!

Also check out our 2010, 2009, and 2008 holiday guides.

big bottom two years old 212x300 Drinkhacker’s 2011 Holiday Gift Guide – Best Alcohol/Spirits for ChristmasBourbon – Big Bottom Whiskey 2 Years Old Port Cask Finish ($40) – Technically not a Bourbon, but close enough. I gave only two A+ grades (outside of event coverage) all year, and this was one of them. Finding this now will be tough (we’ll have a review of the 3 Years Old version shortly), so if this doesn’t pan out try Parker’s Heritage Collection Cognac Finished 10 Years Old ($80) or Col. E.H. Taylor Old Fashioned Sour Mash Bourbon ($70). You can also try Angel’s Envy ($45), technically a 2010 release but also Port-finished and about as good as Big Bottom.

Scotch – The Glenlivet Founder’s Reserve ($375) – This is my “go-to” whisky right now, though it’s rapidly depleting, and the price may make it a big much for anyone short of a spouse. If you can find  Glenfiddich Snow Phoenix ($95) or Laphroaig Cairdeas ($60), both make outstanding gifts. And MacKinlay’s “Shackleton” ($150) is worth the price alone for the conversation value.

GinBloom Gin ($29) – No question on this one. The floral but not perfumy Bloom is one of my favorite gins today. It may be made for a woman, but it’s powerful enough for a man.

russian standard gold vodka 185x300 Drinkhacker’s 2011 Holiday Gift Guide – Best Alcohol/Spirits for ChristmasVodka – Russian Standard Gold Vodka – At $45, it’s pushing the boundaries of what anyone should pay for a neutral spirit, but it’s good and the package is striking enough to require no wrapping paper, saving you a few bucks. For your more avant-garde friends, check out Sub Rosa’s Flavored Vodkas ($30) or a bottle of Skyy Blood Orange ($18).

Rum – Montanya Platino Rum ($30) – So much good rum came out this year, but Montanya’s simple, pure, and bracing white rum is my winner for what you should give a loved one. Bottled in Colorado, not Latin America, they’ll immediately want to know more. For more traditional gifts, I also loved Berrys’ Own Panama Rum 10 Years Old ($80) and Brugal Extra Viejo ($27).

Brandy – “Original Gangster” XO Brandy ($25) – This gift works on a couple of levels. First, the packaging and name are so ridiculous that your hipster friends will get a solid, 25 dollar laugh out of it. Second, the brandy is actually pretty good, so you can actually drink it when you’re done giggling.

TequilaCasa Dragones ($275) – The other A+ I gave this year, but considering the price of this. Tequila is still on the rise, and lots of good stuff is on the market, including Gran Dovejo Blanco ($47), El Gran Jubileo Extra Anejo ($65), and Excellia Blanco ($50), among many others.

Liqueur – Tatratea (up to $60) - A collection of five tea-flavored liqueurs, each increasing in proof level. Exotic and bizarre, and totally worthwhile for the liquor snob who has everything. Home cocktail enthusiasts would also love a little Pimento Dram ($28) or the all-new Drambuie 15 ($56).

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

Review: Berrys’ Own Panama Rum 10 Years Old

Berry Bros., a UK wine and spirits merchant, is branching out into rum production, bringing in a variety of rums from all over the Caribbean and Latin America. We received one of the seven bottlings the company is importing, a 10 year old rum from Panama.

On first blush, it’s very hot — all heady alcoholic vapors — but give it a few minutes to settle down, and this Panama gem shows its charms. Rich, caramelized sugars play with light citrus notes, coconut, and a cocoa finish. After that heat burns off, Berrys’ Panama proves to be quite the smooth and, it must be said, quite delicious sipping rum.

Track it down.

92 proof.

A / $80 / bbr.com

berrys own panama rum 10 years old Review: Berrys Own Panama Rum 10 Years Old

Review: Montanya Colorado Platino and Oro Rum

As previously mentioned, one of my top discoveries at this year’s Ministry of Rum event was a pair of rums not from the Caribbean or South America but rather from Colorado. Yeah, that Colorado. In the U.S.

These “High Mountain Rums” from Montanya (Montaña is Spanish for “mountain”) are distilled from sugar cane (not molasses) in copper pot stills at high altitude and mixed with Colorado spring water to bring them down to proof. Both the Platino (white) and Oro (gold) rums are aged in used Stranahan’s whiskey barrels (the only different being the Platino is aged in the barrels previously used to age Oro). The Platino is filtered back to clear while the Oro is left amber in hue. Both are 80 proof.

We gave both the full Drinkhacker review treatment. Comments follow.

Montanya Platino Rum – A lush and silky white rum, with a pure expression of sugar in the body. Bracing with some bite, but with a long and lasting finish. Vanilla through and through. This is hardly a complex rum, but if smoothness and purity are what you’re after, look no further. Reviewed: Barrel 68. A / $30

Montanya Oro Rum – The Oro takes on far more of the whiskey character left behind by the Stranahan’s aging, and on the nose the first impression is one of big frontier whiskey character — that Stranahan’s making no bones about showing its face. Peppery, with cinnamon, toffee, coffee, and nut notes. Complex, but not completely what you expect from a rum, as the sugar takes a bit of a back seat to everything else going on. Good, and completely different from the Platino, despite a virtually identical heritage. Reviewed: Barrel 47. A- / $35

montanyadistillers.com

Tasting Report: Ministry of Rum Festival 2011

Last year’s Ministry of Rum event was a tasty yet tiny look at the growing world of rum, and most of the same faces — with a few new ones — were back again in 2011. I focused on unfamiliar brands at this walk-around event… but made it a point to retry a few rums that I considered favorites — and which I didn’t like so much last time out. While most of my notes of the re-reviewed rums were consistent with 2010’s grades, a couple of marks were wildly different. Did recipes change… or was I not on my game last time out? Tasting events are always tricky, with opinions formed on the fly based on very limited (and spit-out) samples… so, as always, take all of these notes with a grain of salt. Or, as it were, sugar.

Ministry of Rum Festival – San Francisco Bay Area – 2011

Bacardi Solera 1893 Rum / B+ / much improved notes vs. last year, when I called this rum “rubbery”; still, not a lot to it; Mexico-produced

Diplomatico Blanco Rum / A- / a filtered Peurto Rican claro style; incredible smoothness and sweetness together; Venezuela

Diplomatico Reserva Exclusiva Rum / A / remains a classic; made a fabulous Hotel Nacional Cocktail with Small Hand Pineapple Gomme

Smith & Cross Rum / B- / same rating as last year; huge body and tough as nails

The Scarlet Ibis Rum / B- / hard and rough; same notes as 2010

Brugal 1888 Gran Reserva / A- / just reviewed, tried another sip just for kicks

Zacapa Centenario 23 / A / remains a favorite, citrus and floral notes offering a lighter style rum despite its age; Guatemala

Zacapa XO Rum / A / incredible depth, another classic not to be missed; upgraded since last year’s A-

Crusoe Silver Rum / B+ / coconut finish; both this and the spiced rum are organic

Crusoe Spiced Rum / B+ / huge clove and allspice character

Flor de Caña 4 Year Old Gold / B / smoky and woody, typical of Flor de Cana

Flor de Caña Grand Reserve 7 Year Old / B+ / better balance, but still lots of wood

Flor de Caña Centenario 12 / B+ / improving but wood still holds tight

Flor de Caña Centenario 18 / A- / easily the top Flor, with the sweetness finally balancing out the wood notes

Coeur de Rhum La Favorite Rhum Agricole Blanc / C-

Coeur de Rhum La Favorite Rhum Agricole Ambrè / C / 18 months aged; still really rough (Martinique)

Coeur de Rhum La Favorite Rhum Agricole Vieux / C+ / significantly downgraded from last year; tougher than I’d remembered by a mile; 3 years old

Montanya Platino Rum / A / one of the most exceptional white rums (aged, then filtered) I’ve had lately — and it’s made in Colorado; a full review of Montanya’s rums is in the works

Montanya Oro Rum / A- / aged in Stranahan’s whiskey barrels, left ruddy orange; lots of nut, coffee, and almond character

Lemon Hart 151 Demerara Rum / A- / amazingly clean for 151; very dark, with coffee and cocoa notes

Novo Fogo Gold Cachaça / B+ / rare, an aged cachaca — this one smooths out that spirit’s typical fuel notes

Santa Teresa Claro / B+ / Aged 2 years, then filtered; big citrus notes; Venezuela

Santa Teresa Rhum Orange Liqueur / B+ / citrus + rum liqueur

Santa Teresa Gran Reserva / A- / aged two to five years; bracing sweetness, one of the sweetest of the day

Santa Teresa 1796 Antiguo de Solera / A- / I called this “perfect” last year; in 2011 I’m finding a bit whiskey-like, tons of wood drowning out the sugars

Review: Cruzan Coconut Rum

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

cruzan coconut rum Review: Cruzan Coconut Rum

Review: Bacardi Oakheart Spiced Rum

It’s a little hard to believe, but the top-selling rum company on earth — in fact, one of the top-selling spirits brands in the world — did not, until now, have a spiced rum under its umbrella. That is finally changing, as Bacardi this month has launched Oakheart, its own “smooth spiced rum.”

The emphasis is on smooth, to be sure: This rum (distilled in Puerto Rico, aged in American white oak) is on the mild side as spiced rums go, a muted spirit heavy on caramel and vanilla and pretty easy on the spice. Very light touch of cinnamon, but it’s almost passable as a moderately (and unspiced) aged rum. The finish is quite sweet and short, and while this is obviously a spirit designed for mixing with Coke (and to be a “well” spiced rum, based on its price), it’s so easygoing that it’s sippable straight. Aside from its sheer innocuousness, I can’t find else much to complain about here.

70 proof.

B+ / $13 / bacardi.com

bacardi oakheart spiced rum Review: Bacardi Oakheart Spiced Rum

 

Tasting Report: Brugal Rums Complete Lineup – Blanco Especial to 1888

Brugal 1888 89x300 Tasting Report: Brugal Rums Complete Lineup   Blanco Especial to 1888The Dominican Republic’s Brugal continues its march into America — it’s the #1 selling rum in the Caribbean currently — with another offering, bringing its total portfolio to four rums and, for the most part, rounding out its offering with a complete lineup of rums from silver to extra-extra-old.

I sat down with maestro ronero Gustavo Ortega to take a deep dive into Brugal’s history and production — largely via his translator and brand manager Juan Campos — at Drinkhacker HQ. I’m on record as being a big Brugal fan — great quality at a very reasonable price — and after this guided tasting through the line, I’m happier than ever.

First some notes about the distillery: Brugal is actually owned by the Edrington Group, which owns Macallan and Highland Park Scotch, among other spirits. The focus is always on quality, and Brugal, like its other hemispherical friends, is obsessive about the wood it uses. Production is pretty huge: 75,000 liters daily, with 250,000 casks aging on site.

All of the rums covered below are blends of a rums from a variety of ages and are released at 80 proof in the U.S. — with slightly different proof levels in other countries. Here are thoughts on the full line.

Brugal Ron Blanco Especial – Brugal’s “white rum” is aged two years, then filtered back to white in the classic Puerto Rican (and other regional islands) style. In fact, by law, rum must be aged for at least one year before bottling in the Dominican Republic. This white rum is crisp and clean, with a light citrus character and a touch of vanilla on the finish. Not too oily, it’s got a good body and an easy, not-harsh finish. A- / $20

Brugal Ron Anejo Rum – Aged 2 to 5 years, we didn’t taste this expression during this event, since I just reviewed it, which you can read here. A- / $20

Brugal Extra Viejo Rum – I reviewed this rum, aged 3 to 8 years, in 2009. Now it is repackaged and rebranded, with a more upscale look, though it’s still very affordable. A sedate rum, it offers caramel, coffee, cinnamon, and lots of balance. It’s not cloyingly sugary, but perfectly set between sweet and savory. This batch could be a touch muted since my ’09 review, but it’s still an A / $27

Brugal 1888 Ron Gran Reserva Familiar (pictured) – The latest expression, released in August, is a real conversation piece. Rums aged for 6 to 8 years in ex-Bourbon casks (as all of the above are aged), are then transferred to ex-Sherry casks for another 2 to 6 years. To give you a sense of how pricey this must be in the Caribbean: After 8 years, Ortega says that just 30% of the original barrel is left in a cask, the rest having gone to the angel’s share due to the intense heat and humidity. With 1888, Brugal is losing up to 80 or 85% of its spirit to evaporation. What’s left is pretty insane for rum: Intense Sherry notes up front, with citrus peel all over the place. The body is huge — hotter than most Brugal rums, surprisingly, and complicated with charred wood notes, Sherry (of course), and herbal touches. The sweetness hits you mainly in the end. It’s a rum for the whiskey drinker — just, I presume, as Brugal’s owners would want. A- / $50  [BUY IT NOW FROM CASKERS]

brugal.com.do

brugal rums with gustavo ortega Tasting Report: Brugal Rums Complete Lineup   Blanco Especial to 1888

Review: DonQ “Pasion” Passion Fruit Rum

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

donq pasion passion fruit rum Review: DonQ Pasion Passion Fruit Rum

Review: Mount Gay Rum Eclipse Black

Barbados’s Mount Gay is rounding out its “Eclipse” rum collection — currently comprising a Silver and a medium-bodied gold rum — with Eclipse Black, a darker, bolder version of its classic aged rum.

The rum is a blend of single- and double-distilled rums aged from two to seven years. The final blend is then aged in new charred American oak casks and bottled at 100 proof.

I like this a lot. It’s got a big, authentic, sweet rum flavor, and it’s surprisingly smooth on the palate. Nothing unexpected: Rich molasses character, brown sugar, and a lasting finish. There’s some mint and light chocolate character in there, but it’s basically drowned by the big, deep dark rum sweetness. That’s not a bad thing, since the primary notes are so impressive. Be warned: The hefty proof level is a little dangerous for a rum this smooth. Travel with care.

A- / $25 / mountgayrum.com

mount gay rum eclipse black Review: Mount Gay Rum Eclipse Black

Review: Treaty Oak Platinum Rum

Texas isn’t a region one typically associates with rum production, but what the hell: It’s hot, and there’s plenty of sugar to go around. (Imperial Sugar is based here, after all.)

Graham Barnes names Treaty Oak Rum after a famous tree in its hometown of Austin, and is made from all-Texas ingredients (which, in the case of rum, mostly means molasses, yeast, and water). Made by hand, the company prides itself on both brewing its own mash and distilling in-house, a first, it says, for Texas distilling.

The rum is a hot, white spirit, redolent with lime aromas but also petrol overtones, reminiscent of cachaca. On the body, more of the same. This is an intense and a little funky rum, initially almost bitter despite a powerful and big body. That intensity fades as the finish comes on, though, and finally Treaty Oak proves that is indeed rum, with a mild sweetness that offers some fun secondary character: Dark molasses, filberts, and light wood character. It opens up even more — showing more of that sweetness — as you sip and let it air out, proving that there’s quality to be found in its crystal clear confines.

B / $30 / treatyoakrum.com

Treaty Oak Rum Review: Treaty Oak Platinum Rum

Review: Malibu Black Coconut Rum

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

malibu black rum Review: Malibu Black Coconut Rum

Review: Brugal Ron Anejo Rum

We’ve covered the Dominican Republic’s Brugal Rum before and declared its Extra Viejo (old, but no age statement) an awesome rum at an unbelievable value. Brugal Anejo is aged three to five years in American white oak casks and, like it’s kissing cousin, represents an incredible value.

What does 20 bucks get you? Good, old rum. The attack is sharp, but it soon melts into a buttery body, studded with green pepper notes, mango, pineapple, and big wood notes on the finish. That finish is what knocks it down a peg, though: The petrol bite evident there makes it not nearly as good as the amazingly well-balanced Extra Viejo, an upgrade which represents the best five dollars you may ever spend on a rum. Still, even though its big brother is the more awesome sibling, Brugal Anejo represents an excellent value for what is a consistently high-grade product.

80 proof. Update: New bottle image attached.

A- / $20 / brugal.com.do

brugal anejo rum Review: Brugal Ron Anejo Rum

Review: Ron de Jeremy Rum

Perhaps this was inevitable: Infamous porn star Ron Jeremy now has a rum. Makes sense, of course: Ron is Spanish for rum and Jeremy is actually from that noted bastion of rum production: Queens, New York.

Hrmmmm.

Ron de Jeremy is actually an aged, seven-year rum from Panama. If it didn’t have Jeremy’s mug on the front (complete with “Blue Steel” pose) you might easily mistake it for something that’s been around for decades.

But this vanity project is brand new, a bizarre meeting of two industries that’s so crazy it just might work.

The rum itself offers few surprises. There’ quite a bit of heat on it and it’s not exactly complicated. It’s a throat-burner but it’s one that carries a little charm. Secondary notes are fairly traditional: Vanilla, mild spices, and creamy finish. A lot like Ron himself, I imagine.

As for Jeremy, my sole experience with him is that he fell asleep while driving his car during an interview with one of my writers for the movie review website I run. I can’t imagine having your very own rum is going to help much with that.

80 proof.

B / $30 / rondejeremy.com

ron de jeremy rum Review: Ron de Jeremy 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