Review: Captain Morgan Tattoo Rum

For a good time, do a Google Image Search for “Captain Morgan Tattoo.” You’ll find plenty of pictures not of this spiced rum but of unique and ill-considered body art on all kinds of anatomical bits.

I’ve actually had a mini of Tattoo for years. It’s that mysterious. What’s it all about? Tattoo is a spiced, “extra dark” rum with additional flavoring agents added. It is said to have been developed as a Jagermeister competitor, and pouring a shot reveals how that works.

It’s dark to the point of near opacity, with a heady nose of citrus fruit, raspberries, and a touch of classic vanilla rum character. Promising, perhaps, but a sip offers a cacophony of flavors, from the rough rum body to the heavy allspice and clove finish. The middle is pure molasses, those citrus notes being largely drowned out by all the other stuff going on here. What’s missing? Any sort of balance. Tattoo is a mess of a spirit, almost liqueur like and just too overblown  with additives to be a serious rum.

But as an ice-cold shooter to prime college kids for a night out? Well, maybe I can see where the Captain is coming from.

70 proof.

B- / $18 / captainmorgan.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: 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

 

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

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

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 Don Q’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+ / $22

Review: The Lash Spiced Rum

For some reason, Drinkhacker readers LOVE spiced rum. They drink it, they comment, they debate it. They love this stuff.

And yet there aren’t that many spiced rums on the market, so when a new one arrives, they pounce on the stuff like phony handbag salesmen on tourists.

The Lash is a rum with a loaded history for its name (I’ll leave that reading as an exercise for the reader). It hails from the West Indies, where it spends four years in oak and is then aged with spices (some may actually settle in the bottle), bourbon vanilla extract, and other flavors.

The result is an intensely brown and very spicy rum. I put it side by side vs. all the spiced rums I had on hand — Captain Morgan, Sailor Jerry, and current fave The Kraken — and it handily out-spiced them all, with intense cinnamon, nutmeg, and big vanilla character. What’s comparably lacking, though, is the rum component. At just 70 proof, The Lash is considerably weaker than most spiced rums, many of which creep toward 100 proof. The Lash instead plays it safe, falling in line with the flavored rum world, a curious choice for a spirit with a picture of a whip on the bottle.

Overall, however, it’s got an excellent character to it, with an intense flavor that many spiced rums have lacking. Kraken is sweeter and more instantly engaging, but if the lack of alcohol in The Lash doesn’t turn you off, this is a solid endeavor.

A- / $30 / website not currently functional

Review: Blackheart Spiced Rum

Spiced rum continues to grow as a category as every distiller on earth realizes that Captain Morgan has been sucking down cash for years with no competition. This latest brand, Blackheart, comes from Heaven Hill, home of Evan Williams bourbon and Christian Brothers brandy. (Also, it is not to be confused with Black Heart Rum, which is a different product altogether from New Zealand.)

Blackheart is sweeter by far than most spiced rums I’ve tried, it’s almost saccharine. Actual spices are elusive — I thought it tasted more like coconut-flavored suntan lotion than anything else — with an apple-cinnamon finish.

It’s not my favorite spiced rum by a longshot, but those with a real sweet tooth may find it more palatable than I. 93 proof. Rum is sourced from the Virgin Islands. Price has been updated.

C+ / $16 / blackheartrum.com

Review: The Kraken Black Spiced Rum

This is not Captain Morgan, folks.

The Kraken, with its sea creature label and black-as-coffee liquid within, makes a striking impression on the bar and in the glass. The idea is kitschy: A drink as strong and dark as kraken (giant squid) ink, powerful enough to take him down. And, yeah, at 94 proof and laden with flavor, perhaps it is. (The label doesn’t indicate it, but the rum is distilled in Trinidad and Tobago.)

The Kraken — the rum, that is — cuts quite a profile in consumption, a truly monstrous hit of chocolate and molasses, cut with Christmas spices — cinnamon and allspice, cloves and maybe even some ginger. Vanilla is big on the finish. Overall the effect is quite impressive, and any spiced rum fan will get a big kick out of The Kraken.

Again, at 94 proof, it needs a bit of water if you’re sipping it straight, and it works just fine with your standard mixers — though last night I was bemoaning the fact that no good recipes exist using spiced rum. The price is also right.

A / $20 / krakenrum.com

the kraken black spiced rum

Review: Gosling’s Black Seal and Gold Rum

Not exactly a Johnny-come-lately in the rum world, Gosling’s is a brand that’s been around for over 150 years. 151 to be exact (hmmmmm)….

Here’s a long-overdue look at two of Gosling’s most popular and commonly-available blends. Both are sourced in Bermuda and bottled at 80 proof.

goslings-black-seal-rumGosling’s Black Seal Black Rum – This is the most common of the Gosling’s bottlings, a dark, “black” rum that’s commonly called for by name in Dark & Stormy cocktails. It’s easy to see why: On the rocks, it’s a smooth and intensely sweet and filled with deep molasses character. Aromatic and full of exotic spice notes — cinnamon, ginger, cloves — it almost could pass for a spiced rum and is interchangable in cocktail recipes if you’re out of Kilo Kai. Best of all, Black Seal is a good deal at just $16 (and often on sale for much cheaper). A-

Gosling’s Gold Bermuda Rum – Seen less frequently, Gosling’s Gold is an interesting counterpart to Black Seal for when you need a different style in your concoction. Less smooth and more rustic in style, it’s got more of a wood and smoke character than the molasses-like Black Seal. Lighter in color than your typical amber rum, it mellows out with ice and a little meltwater, but on the whole it’s better as a mixer than on its own. Still, as with Black Seal, an impressive value for the money (also $16). B+

goslingsrum.com

goslings-gold-rum