Just like my No Master in Class article, this may come across as a strong viewpoint. It’s not surprising as anything worth being talked about will most likely get flagged as controversial these days. Vague and often ignorant terms seem to get thrown around as a category tries to grow. We’ve seen it with Mezcal being initially pitched as a smokey Tequila. But someone who has extensive experience with Mezcal will know smokey Tequila is a huge misconception. Not all Mezcal are smokey. Nor are they supposed to be smokey.
One of the vague terms I’d like to tackle is when rum is said to taste like a whisky. I understand that the usual target of premium spirits is single malt drinkers. So, claiming a certain rum tastes like whisky is a way to attract people into rum. But using shortcuts usually has underlying issues. The vagueness creates miscommunication. Miscommunications can breed disappointment. I am not saying that claiming rum can taste like whisky is bad. It has crossed my mind as some I’ve tasted some that made me think of an unpeated Highland single malt Scotch. What I’m proposing, is people who use these claims should be more specific. If the claimant can’t be precise, hopefully, the addressee can ask for more specifics. What style of rum? Or most likely, what kind of whisky? What brand?
To add more context, let’s look at whisky which, we know, is a huge category. Barley-only based Scotch single malts taste different from barley-only based Japanese single malt. Even bourbons made in one distillery can be very different to each other due to the mashbills and warehouse aging. Single malt Scotch from the various regions isn’t the same. Heck, even single malts from the same region can be very different from each other. Why? Aside from the different preferences of cask selection, the variety of characters are brought about by factors such as fermentation time and still designs. It’s similar for the very confusing rum category. About 90% of rum are molasses-based. Yet they can taste very different from each other due to the difference in cultural influences. These various factors such as fermentation times and still designs, which were brought about in the different rum producing countries by their different colonizers. So, how do a lot of drinkers, who most likely know very little about rum, have the audacity to force the huge category of whisky into a small box? Thereby making it seem the same size to the most diverse category that is rum? It sounds like either a lazy sales pitch, or an arrogant drinker talking out of one’s ass. Thank the gods I’ve never heard someone claim Agricole tastes like a whisky.
I once read this quote: the eyes only see what the mind is prepared to comprehend. Over the years I’ve heard of random persons, while drinking in public, telling their companion/s that a column-distilled aged rum like Bacardi 8 tastes like whisky. To which the companion/s says something along the lines of they don’t see how the rum could taste like whisky. The fault in this is assuming that everybody has the same experience as you. Our environment usually dictates our experiences. Someone may have grown up drinking only Jack or Jim Beam White. Someone else, like myself, may have only grown-up drinking Johnnie Walker Black Label. So, in someone’s own mind, that’s what whisky only tastes like. I can see that there might be good intentions there to help someone branch out but vagueness might make it not end well.
In my opinion, it would be better to improve upon rum tastes like whisky, by being more specific. For example, Fred Minnick’s praise of Foursquare being the Pappy of rum can seem absurd. But he does say Foursquare is a Bourbon drinkers’ rum. Foursquare refers to a specific Barbados distillery. Barbados has a distinct style. Bourbon communicates a specific set of profiles and expectations. Setting aside the weight of Fred Minnick’s words, what he says communicates a more specific expectation to his fans.
I chose to use Bacardi 8 and Brugal 1888 as examples for this article because I’ve heard of these two rums been claimed to taste like whisky. The instance of Bacardi 8 has already been stated above. The instance of Brugal 1888 was when I hosted a blind tasting, which consisted of rum and whisky. One of them was this Brugal. Aside from me, the attendees were not experienced with rum, so a lot of them ended up guessing it was either a blended Scotch or a Speyside Scotch.
Brugal is a rum from the Dominican Republic. Being a former Spanish colony, it has a heavy reliance on modern column stills. This means the spirit was distilled to a high proof which strips it of a lot of flavor and results in a very light rum. The rum is reliant on attaining flavors from the casks it spent time in. The 1888 spent time in ex-bourbon casks for 8 years. Being under Edrington, an emphasis for ex-oloroso sherry casks has to be used. In which, the rum spends an additional 6 years maturing. It’s bottled at 40% abv.
Bacardi 8 year old – review
On the nose: A lasting and medium mix of hot ethanol, marzipan, and an incoherent mix of floral scents upfront. This is most of the scents I got from this. Behind it is a light scent of muscovado sugar syrup. It is followed by nearly neutral scents of vanilla, cinnamon, lemons, and dusty wooden furniture.
In the mouth: Much more pleasant in the mouth. There’s a lot less ethanol heat biting you. There’s a lasting and medium intensity mix of marzipan, floral notes, muscovado syrup, honey, vanilla, toffee and butterscotch.
A bit unpleasant and disappointing on the nose. For a spirit manufactured to be light and easily enjoyable, the ethanol was a hurdle to get through on the nose. It makes me think the entry proof was high and the aged rum was quickly diluted. Since its Bacardi, that style of efficiency wouldn’t be surprising. I would imagine the nose on this would be much more unpleasant if they bottled this at a higher abv. A higher abv wouldn’t change how light, brief and boring this is on the nose.
It’s much more pleasant in the mouth. Everything I tasted was pleasant notes. Sadly, this is not complex and not lasting. Everything fell off after I swallowed it. There is no fleeting taste I get from fuller bodied rum everyday rum at the same price point as the Mt. Gay Black Barrel and Rum Bar Gold.
As much as it’s fun to shit on anything from Bacardi, we are a fair bunch. Overall, not horrible but boring. This is a good rum for drinkers trying to get into rum. There’s an attractive age statement. The light profile is for everyone as drinkers of meatier or funkier spirits will find this acceptable and inoffensive. Fans of “smooth” whiskeys like the Glenlivet and Johnnie Walker Gold will find this just right. This is also easy to find and unadulterated rum. I feel like I have to give this rum two scores. With the tax privileges Puerto Rico gets from America, this has a very affordable price of $19.50 in Total Wine, or $33.99 from Shared Pour. So, if you’re based in the US and can find it for a good price this is a 6. If you’re in other territories like the UK, this is a 5. As this costs £29.95 via The Whisky Exchange, or Master of Malt have it for £29.83.
Brugal 1888 Ron Gran Reserva Familiar – review
On the nose: Hot ethanol immediately jumps at me. It quickly settles down and gives way to some medium scents of honey and toffee. It quickly becomes hot again. Behind it are light scents of casis, vanilla, cinnamon syrup, muscovado syrup and tannins.
In the mouth: No ethanol at all unlike on the nose. I get light and a very incoherently mixed taste of toffee, casis, milk chocolate, cinnamon, muscovado syrup and dates.
It should be pointed out that this bottle is of an older version. The newer releases are in a stouter and shorter bottle. I was fortunate to have been given a bottle of this. Otherwise, I’d have gotten to try this rum. I’m very cautious about paying for anything released by Edrington. After getting to review this properly, I’m glad I never paid for this. Nor will I ever.
I can recall why this was guessed to be a blended Scotch or a Speyside single malt. Something like the Naked Grouse or a sherried malt. But the nose is unpleasant with the hot ethanol notes. Quite surprising for a 40% abv spirit. Yet not surprising for a company who chooses to focus on the presentation of the products rather than the quality. It’s an even worse story in the mouth. It’s very inoffensive, but the flavors are a mess. I can only identify bits of confectionary and fruity notes yet they never really reveal themselves.
This costs £39.95 at The Whisky Exchange, Master of Malt have it for £39.95 and costs $48.99 in Total Wine, or Shared Pour have it for $41.99. As much as I don’t like Bacardi products, it is the better choice among the two for this instance. Avoid this at all costs.
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