It’s not often I stray from the safe, trustworthy path of whisky on Malt, but today it’s time for something a little different. Rum, in fact. Flaviar – the drinks tasting subscription service – sent me a ‘Smuggler’s Cove’ Rum tasting selection, which was rather nice of them. There was something in the press information about rum being as good as whisky, and I thought to myself: now that is a bold statement indeed. They’re very different spirits, and I do enjoy a good rum from time to time, but why compare directly? (Maybe in the future I can review more here.)
The idea with these tasting packs from Flaviar is that you get some friends around to sample a little of a few drinks (they do whisky as well), to broaden one’s alcoholic horizons. That’s all very well, but my wife has pretty much laid claim to any rum that I do not consume, so no sharing for me. Oh well… Time to strap on the panama hat and metaphorically leap to sunnier places.
When I was about 15 years old, I went with my school on cricket tour to Barbados. We lost every game. But one of the things I do remember is a visit to the Mount Gay Rum distillery. Of course, many of the intricacies of the distillery are lost on me now, which is a great shame, but I remember – very vaguely – the process being not unlike whisky production. Whereas whisky relies upon grain (usually barley), rum is made from sugarcane byproducts. Like whisky, it then gets fermented and distilled on either pot stills or column stills. And like whisky, the product is then shoved in oak casks to age. But the regulations around rum are not halfway as tight as for, say, Scotch meaning definitions of rum are imprecise at best. So I won’t bother with all that nonsense.
On with the show.
El Dorado 8 Year Old
A demerara rum from Guyanam a blend of ‘pot still and colum still’ rums, aged in… whisky barrels!
Nose: a curious, nutty fruit sensation, but leads to a syrup that’s not unlike a single grain whisky.
Taste: now that’s actually pretty tasty. Sweet, of course, since this stuff does come from sugar. Very sweet in fact. Think of the following and add more sugar: stewed fruits, molasses, plum jam. A warming, spicy, peppery finish.
Rhum JM XO
This one is an agricole rum from Martinique’s JM – made solely from sugar cane juice.
Nose: Much milder aromas this time, not as cloying. Not unlike a whisky from Speyside, I have to say. A little grassiness, almost herbal touch.
Taste: Fascinating. Not as blatantly sweet as the first one. There’s some interesting citrus and menthol notes, which leaves the mouth with a little fresh zing. Bourbon-y. In fact: this is almost a Mint Julep. Pour this over ice in summer and you’ll not go wrong.
Havana Club Selección de Maestros Rum
A hand-picked selection of rums from Havana Club, bottled at 45% ABV.
Nose: different again. Definitely down the maple syrup road, but this is more autumnal – pumpkin pie, ginger, toffee apple.
Taste: delicious. My favourite so far. A lot more going on here – a great silky texture that brings a sort of caramel latte. Kind of nutty, too. Maybe it’s a hazelnut syrup latte instead, but you get the idea.
Rum Sixty Six 12 Year Old
Born on Barbados, this is another blend of pot and column still rum aged in white oak casks from Tennessee.
Nose: vanilla, late autumn fruits, perhaps a bit too much woodiness.
Taste: you really could mistake this for a bourbon. A lot of cask influences on this, which give you that impression. But seriously – slap Buffalo Trace on this and you might fool a good few people.
Banks 7 Golden Age Rum
A blend of 23 rums from around the world, they’re aged between one and seven years in ex-Bourbon casks. Made by the Foursquare distillery in Barbados.
Nose: now this is seriously different. Tropical fruits a go-go. Almost abrasive in its attitude with those fruits.
Taste: all kinds of weird! That was unexpected (it’s hard to express how different this is from the others). I need to go back in… And I’m still all of a flap. There’s a weird mix of tropical fruits along with honey and then quite strong – but not intense, just very much there – oak influence.
Well… These rums are hugely varied. I was actually staggered that no two rums were even close, which can sometimes be the case with grain whiskies. I had a little difficulty in getting past some of the bright sweetness of these offerings. My particular favourite was the Havana Club Selección de Maestros Rum, which was I think the least sweet and more complex. It allowed the other tasting senses to be in with a chance.
If you’re rum-curious, then I honestly think it’s worth a go yourself with a few samples from Flaviar – and I’m not just saying that. Believe me, I’d tell the world if something I drank was a pile of wee. But these samples come with a range of information and notes to accompany them. The experience, for a hardened whisky drinker, is an eye-opener. I think bourbon and single grain lovers especially will enjoy the experience. I didn’t really like all those rums – that last one was a curious beast – but I’m glad I tried them all, for I am a wiser man for it.
But I must explore some rums properly on here at some point…