The name alone gives one pause. Does one want to drink cigarettes? If they’re stolen, do they taste better? To clarify things a bit, look to the quotation marks. “Stolen” is the name of the brand. “Coffee & Cigarettes” is the flavor applied. Underneath, it’s spiced rum, making this the first flavored and spiced rum we’ve reviewed.
Now this isn’t our first run-in with tobacco flavoring agents, although Stolen is careful to note its flavorings are coffee and cigarettes, not tobacco. Important distinction? Let’s find out by sipping on this Caribbean-sourced, Florida-bottled, New Zealand-owned oddity.
I’m happy to report that the primary note on the nose is coffee. It’s a little dark and husky, but this comes across more as dark roast espresso with a touch of spice than, as feared, the flavor of old coffee with cigarette butts floating in it. The body is a touch less forgiving. The smokiness builds here, driving the character forward. At first, the spirit offers more of a light brandy character than a rum-like one, though the sweetness (particularly molasses-heavy) grows with time. The smoke flavor component is far more successful than in Ivanabitch’s vodka version, presumably because the coffee and spice elements balance things out a bit. The finish manages to pull all of this together better than you’d think.
Ultimately the spirit is far more of a success than I had feared, but for most it will likely remain a curiosity that generates more questions based on its avant garde label and unique recipe than interest in actually imbibing it.
B / $15 / stolenrum.com
Made from Caribbean cane sugar and bottled in California, Sugar Island is a new kid on the flavored and spiced rum block. (The company is not making an unflavored or aged variety.) Here’s how these new offerings measure up against the competition.
Sugar Island Spiced Rum – Very strong and pungent on the nose. The character is indistinct, with somewhat harsh, rubbery notes. On the palate, heavy burnt sugar notes overwhelm with unclear, clove-and-cinnamon character backing it up. A lengthy finish brings out not more sweetness but more of that rubbery, industrial character. Caramel added. 92 proof. C-
Sugar Island Coconut Rum – Tons of sweetness on the nose. Coconut is a secondary characteristic, overpowered by simple syrup. The body is heavy, full of gravity, with a powerfully sweet finish that offers a touch of mango character to it. Not at all difficult, but it’s a sugar bomb with few parallels in this category. 42 proof. B-
each $19 / sugarislandrum.com
Wait a second? Finished rum? Finished, spiced rum? This bizarre and wholly unexpected product from, of all places, Captain Morgan, borrows from the whiskey industry by taking good old Cappy and finishing it in sherry wine casks. There’s not a lot of information about how long it spends in these casks, but the results are clear: This is a sweeter, more citrusy, and surprisingly intriguing rendition of Captain Morgan.
Up front, a familiar cinnamon character pervades the nose, with curious notes of golden raisins and almonds. The body is bolder. Quite sweet, here you get the citrus notes driven by the sherry, along with bright, light fruit, marshmallows, and a long finish that recalls maraschino cherries.
There’s lots going on here, and it’s more complex than standard Cap’n Morgan… but what will people use it for? The nuance of the rum will largely get lost in a glass full of Coke, and I’ve yet to see anyone consume Captain Morgan straight in the real world. That said, as spiced rum goes, this is unusual and unique, and certainly worth a look of this kind of thing is in your wheelhouse. Give it a try while you can; it’s unclear how long it will be on the market.
A- / $20 / captainmorgan.com
The budget alternative to Captain Morgan (to which it is 2nd in spiced rum market share), Admiral Nelson’s Rum is also named after a real person. In this case it’s a good guy instead of a pirate, the famous British Admiral Horatio Nelson.
Until 2011, Admiral Nelson’s Spiced Rum was produced by Luxco, a smaller company that owns a few random spirits brands. It was then sold to Heaven Hill, or pals in Kentucky, which has its eye on number one. Refreshed packaging has just been introduced — although the eyepatch-wearing, grog-swilling, beard-sporting, tight-pants-donning Nelson still smiles out at you front and center.
How does Nelson’s measure up against Morgan? Not badly, actually. On the nose, light cinnamon and gingerbread notes, backed with vanilla. Not at all boozy, the body is pleasant, quite sweet, and not overly spiced. Gentle and easy, it’s a spiced rum for those who like just a little kick of apple pie in their cola, yet is easy enough to sip straight, not the normal M.O. for a spiced rum. Don’t come looking for complexity — the finish is short, straight, and simple — but few shoppers in the $10 to $12 range have ever made such a request, anyway.
B / $11 (though more typically bought in the 1.75 liter bottle) / admiralnelsonsrum.com
Spiced rum continues its move upmarket courtesy of that most massive of standbys: Captain Morgan.
The Captain saw a line expansion with a 100 proof version in 2008, and now comes the even bigger gun: Captain Morgan Black Spiced Rum. This is actually an American rebranding of a product called Captain Morgan Black which the company has sold internationally since late 2011. The rum is a blend from Jamaica, Guyana, and Barbados (though the label notes only “the Caribbean”), spiced with cloves and cassia bark (we call it cinnamon!), and aged indeterminately in “double charred blackened oak” (whatever that means).
Ultra-dark and loaded with aromas — you can smell the vanilla when you crack open the bottle — it’s a clear competitor (and a worthy one) to the recent flood of high-end spiced rums, including Kraken and The Lash.
The emphasis here remains clearly on the sweet stuff. Vanilla and molasses, plus semi-sweet chocolate on the finish, it’s loaded with these dessert notes. Clove and cinnamon are present almost as afterthoughts, but you’ll catch them once your sweet tooth wears out. Finally, there’s a long, and surprisingly pleasant, finish, one which inspires one to consider girly-type cocktails but which begs to be consumed solo.
Captain Morgan has quite a winning spirit on its hands here, one which comes across at considerably lower proof than it is (and which can be awfully dangerous) and which elevates the Captain to the upper echelon of spiced rum makers. Well done.
A- / $22 / captainmorgan.com
Best known for its ultra-affordable, thong-friendly wine series, Flipflop (or all-lowercased flipflop, as they write it) is now branching into rum, with two equally affordable sugar-based spirits.
There’s not a lot of information on provenance available: They hail from “the Caribbean” and are four-times distilled, but that’s all the info provided. We tasted both of varieties, which are now shipping.
Flipflop Silver Rum is surprisingly clean and easy, with a traditional sugar-based nose and a finish with plenty of molasses in it and a lightly chalky, coconut and chocolate character. Very modest medicinal character on the finish, like a clean vodka. Amazing quality for the price. 80 proof. A-
Flipflop Spiced Rum is spiked with “spices and natural flavors,” which tinge the nose with a bit of orange character. A bigger body brings with it some typical spiced rum character — more clove than cinnamon, but both are evident — and a broader, vanilla-fueled finish. There’s unfortunately a quite bitter aftertaste, though, which spiced rum fanatics will not likely thrill to. 70 proof. B-
each $14 / flipfloprum.com
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.
B- / $18 / captainmorgan.com