There’s a dearth of spiced rums on the market, and a severe shortage of ones that are any good. (We’re fans of Kilo Kai, but it remains terribly hard to find at retail.)
Sailor Jerry is the personal recipe of Jerry Collins, a 1920s Hawaiian tattoo artist and apparently quite the rum connoisseur. Distilled in the U.S. Virgin Islands and bottled at a hot 92 proof, Sailor Jerry welcomes you with a ukulele-playing hula girl and a nose full of caramel. The “spice” component of Sailor Jerry is less than you’ll find in other spiced rums, but its more than made up for with that sugary, caramel flavor that makes what sounds like an overly alcoholic wine surprisingly smooth.
I tried it against Kilo Kai and it was night and day: Kilo’s citrus notes (and low proof) made it easy to sip straight, but Jerry’s caramel made it a fuller (and darker colored) spirit and perhaps a little better with Coke. Both are knockout rums, but quite different. Any rum fan — especially the spiced rum fan — should seek out a bottle. At prices like this, it practically drinks itself!
A- / $17 / sailorjerryrum.com
Summer is nearly here, but summer fruit is already available at the market. Here’s a new recipe for strawberries that doesn’t have the overpowering sweetness of a frozen daiquiri.
Vaya Con Fresas (Go With Strawberries)
4 strawberries, destemmed
2 oz. spiced rum (preferably Kilo Kai)
1/2 oz. peach-flavored brandy
1/2 oz. Chambord
1/2 oz. agave nectar
In a tall rocks glass, muddle the strawberries until they’re thoroughly crushed. Add remaining ingredients and stir. Fill with ice and stir again until cold.
Sub in sugar for the agave nectar if you don’t have it. For fun, sub tequila for the rum, and any other flavoring for the peach brandy (maybe maraschino, Cointreau, or even melon liqueur).
When it comes to spiced rum, most people (including myself) pretty much know one brand: Good old Captain Morgan. Nothing wrong with that. The Cap’n takes boring old Bacardi and infuses it with a vague taste of the tropics and the nostalgia of, er, spice traders, pirates, and saucy wenches.
The problem is that Captain Morgan is hardly the top of the line. Dump a shot in a glass of Coke and it’s fine enough, but try it straight and it comes across as a middling rum with a harsh finish and no real distinguishable spice to it, just a vague, almost chemical heat. (I give it a B. At $14 a bottle it’s a decent deal.)
Enter Kilo Kai Spiced Rum, a brand new bottling from Curacao and spiced the way rum ought to be. I tried it straight, head to head with the good Captain and another spiced rum called Kuya. (Don’t bother looking for Kuya; it’s so undrinkably awful I give it an F.) The difference was quite noticeable. While the Captain Morgan rum was hot and harsh, the Kilo Kai was much smoother, with a creamy texture and a clear flavor of honey and cinnamon. That said, the Captain Morgan tastes a lot more clearly of rum, while the Kilo Kai could have had a based of almost anything. Breathe in and it’s the spice that you inhale, not the sugary rum.
It was also quite good mixed in Coke, and I’ll be working on some cocktails with it over the next few weeks. Watch for these! Oh, and the bottle is pretty cool, too. The rough “grip tape” wrap at the top of the bottle is especially memorable.
Kilo Kai is not yet available in stores. Watch for it soon; it’s definitely worth the price.
A / $20 / kilokai.com