I did a quick search through the archives of Malt and realized the one and only review of Mount Gay rum was by Mark, last year. Naturally, I thought it was about time to show the birthplace of Caribbean rum some love and respect, so I bought samples from local bars that had them. I also just found out that the brand has decided to reformulate their Black Barrel and XO, which makes it a good time to review these before the old releases become completely phased out.
Mount Gay Eclipse is the cheapest of the aged regular offerings. I’d like to note that there is an Eclipse Silver, but they are less common. I don’t know much about this, as it doesn’t get talked about even amongst the cocktail drinkers of the rum community. I'm not sure why, but more are just drawn to the Black Barrel. According to the distillery’s website, it’s a blend of pot and column, then aged in ex-bourbon casks and bottled at 40% ABV. A local website prices this bottle at about $24, but I can’t find this specific release at the well-known UK online stores like The Whisky Exchange (TWE) anymore. All I’m seeing is this new Eclipse Heritage Blend, which is going for £20 via The Whisky Exchange, £19.60 from Master of Malt or Amazon it is just £15.50.
The Mount Gay Black Barrel was released in the UK in 2014. The “Black Barrel” part of the name comes from its being finished in heavily charred ex-bourbon casks for one month. It’s bottled at 43% ABV and said to be a blend of rum aged from two to seven years in American whiskey casks. The Fatrumpirate’s review from five years ago says this is priced at about £30 to £45. A local online seller still has it for under $40. The reformulated version will have a higher ratio of pot-distilled rum in the blend. It is also made up of rum aged from three to seven years and is finished in heavily charred ex-bourbon casks for six months. This is available from The Whisky Exchange for £36.95, Master of Malt have it for £36.84, or Amazon demand £29.
The Mount Gay XO Reserve Cask is the premium regular offering from the distillery. The XO is simply a borrowed term from French spirits, and thus bears no legal meaning. This is said to be a blend of eight to 15 year old rum, is bottled at 43% ABV and goes for $55 at Total Wine. A local online store has this for around $50. The new version is now being called a Triple Cask with the new packaging pictured below. This retails for £49.95 from The Whisky Exchange, with Master of Malt asking £53.75 and Amazon £49.95.
The Mount Gay 1703 is the distillery’s most premium regular offering. It’s said to be a blend of 10 to 30 year old rum. Like the rest of the regular offerings, this is a blend of pot and column. It has added coloring and is sadly bottled at 43% ABV. I wasn’t told which year this 1703 is from, but you can buy the 2019 release from TWE for £175, or from Master of Malt for £174.95.
Mount Gay Eclipse – review
Color: Freshly brewed chamomile tea.
On the nose: Light fruity and floral scents that make me think of peaches, coconuts, golden kiwi and apples. Midway through, the ethanol becomes more pronounced and contends with the other scents.
In the mouth: Instant coconut juice and hints of coconut milk. The ethanol becomes more
pronounced. More coconuts again, but showing bits of incoherent tastes of canned peaches,
honey, vanilla, cinnamon and nectarines.
Mount Gay Black Barrel – review
Color: Freshly brewed oolong tea.
On the nose: Immediately very pleasant scents of coconuts, apricots, marzipan and banana syrup emerge. The banana syrup and marzipan are the most pronounced, yet they’re gentle scents. Behind those two are undertones of vanilla, cinnamon, honey, pineapple syrup, oolong tea and canned peaches.
In the mouth: A very interesting texture for the low ABV. It has a certain viscosity that outclasses most 40% to 43% ABV Scotch I’ve come across. On the nose, for example, I get coconuts, apricots, marzipan banana syrup and pineapple syrup. It’s a bit more peppery compared to the Eclipse, but the ethanol doesn’t blanket the other flavors. I still get undertones of vanilla, cinnamon, honey and canned peaches after the more pronounced syrup tastes, but these are not so strong, and the tastes are pleasantly stretched out.
Mount Gay XO Reserve Cask – review
On the nose: Initially a bit peppery and hot, but I quickly forget about it as I get pronounced and lasting scents of oranges and marzipan. Next, I take in a hard-to-define yet pleasant mix of smells reminiscent of butterscotch, banana syrup, toffee, nutmeg, peach jam, cinnamon, honey, and vanilla, with cloves in the supporting role.
In the mouth: A lot less peppery and hot. In the same way as the nose, orange has a pronounced character, but more so here. The marzipan takes a back seat. This gets a lot less complex in the mouth. The incoherent mix is a lot more pleasant but is also less concrete. Honey, toffee, and more oranges, marzipan, cinnamon, coconut syrup, banana syrup, vanilla and cloves at the end.
Mount Gay 1703 – review
On the nose: A bit of pepper followed by pronounced scents of marzipan, stone fruit jam, orange peels, orange jam, dried apricots, dried fruits and honey. There are undertones of vanilla and cinnamon behind the fruits. I pick up very faint scents of cloves, thyme, bell peppers and pickled veggies, too.
In the mouth: Confectionary and fruits! Very pleasant mouthfeel and very easy to drink. What I taste is very similar to the nose, except the cinnamon and vanilla are more vocal upfront. They’re also accompanied by an undertone of clove. Then I get mostly marzipan, dried apricots, butterscotch, toffee, orange peels, orange jam, lemon-flavored Nerds and honey. Some marzipan and coconut sugar syrup sneak up from behind too.
I can see why the Eclipse is not popular. It’s very bland, hot and forgettable. It makes me think this is composed of mainly very young rum and column distillate. Despite the noticeable price difference, the Black Barrel is a much better purchase. I agree with most online sentiments that this rum can serve as both a great mixing rum and a decent sipping rum. If it were cheaper I’d have given this a score of 6, but I’ve had better rum meant for mixing for cheaper, such as the Rum Bar Gold.
The XO Reserve Cask is something I’ve always heard and read good things about, even before I took a deep dive into rum. I can now see why. Amazing, also, as this was one of the few unsweetened rum whisky drinkers gravitated to back when many of them had no idea that many rum were sweetened. I tried this when I was new to rum, but didn’t like it then. There was this unpleasant sandpaper texture I couldn’t shake off. I guess my palate has changed. Regardless, it has a huge upside: easy to drink, yet has good texture and complexity despite the 43% ABV. $55 for quality and unsweetened rum like this is a steal for me.
The 1703, is just exquisite. It’s really a step above the XO. Some of the less coherent parts in the XO are made more clear here. It’s truly delicate, complex and wonderful; you just have to wonder if all releases are consistent. I’d have given this a 7 or 8, were it not for the price. The mention of this having some 30 year old rum may be blinding for some people, but I think it would be perfect at about £100.
Since this is a brand that gets more distribution, I hope Malt readers looking for Malternatives will try some of these.
Images kindly provided by The Whisky Exchange. We’ve also included some commission links within this article for your convenience and also to support the good ship Malt. Mount Gay is widely distributed as John right says, so you might find a bottle locally as well.