Rum and peat? Has this been done before? If not (and I think not), then why not?
Barbados-based Mount Gay’s experiment is one of the most unusual I’ve seen from the rum world in years. It’s a blend of column and pot still rum, ranging in age from 8 to 15 years old. It is finished in heavy-peat Islay whisky casks for six months before being bottled at cask strength.
This rum is made from a blend of column and pot still distilled rums selected by master blender Allen Smith. The rums aged from 8-15 years in American oak before finishing its maturation in peated whisky casks from Islay for its final six months of aging. It is bottled at a cask strength of 57% ABV. Mount Gay XO: The Peat Smoke Expression is a limited release with just 6,120 bottles produced–only 1,200 for the US. Available beginning October 2018. Says Mount Gay master blender Allen Smith, “For this
limited edition, I have worked to capture the perfect balance of elegant rum overtones and mellow, peated whisky undertones. This one-of-a-kind blend is sure to please the most discerning of palates with its unconventional character, freshness and aromatic complexity.”
One of a kind is right. The nose immediately messes with your senses, throwing notes of overripe fruit, oxidized wine, coconut, and flamed orange peel at you — all filtered through a haze of peat smoke. It goes well beyond the barrel char notes you find in old, high-proof rum, making your brain think of Islay malt while your eyes insist it’s a bottle of rum. The palate is sweet and fruity, sharply boozy, and smoky all at the same time. The experience is very whiskeylike, with citrus, peat, mint, and some chocolate notes all coming together — though a bit haphazardly, I must say. The finish is on the herbal side, informed heavily by the mint, with some lingering camphor and ample smoke. The peat isn’t overdone here, but it does scatter your impression of the spirit and boggle the mind a bit. That said, while it’s a bit hot, it does drink fine neat and at full proof.
Ultimately, Mount Gay has done a solid job at melding two divergent experiences, and fans of both high-end rum and Islay Scotch are encouraged to give it a try. Whether it pleases both of those camps or turns them off, though (particularly given the price tag), is perhaps going to be too much of an individual opinion for this writer to say.
114 proof. 1200 bottles on sale in the U.S.