Let’s flip the script.
If you’ve been around whisk(e)y long enough, you will have tried your share of cask finishes. Long known to Scotch drinkers, they have lately popped up on the radar screens of American malt, bourbon, and rye whiskey fans. Cask finishing has been embraced by craft distillers, especially, who are more often at a loss for a unique selling proposition to differentiate themselves. Take a look back through our archives of American whiskey reviews, and you’ll notice a recent increase in both the number and the types of cask finishes.
A concurrent but unrelated trend is the migration of whisky and whiskey drinkers away from those particular potables and toward entirely different categories of spirits. Malt’s own library of “malternative” reviews expands at least weekly, and our writers have relished the chance to occasionally stray off the well-worn paths. It’s safe to say that, given the recently announced price increases coming from the likes of Diageo and others, the whisky consumer will only feel more pressure to seek out more wallet-friendly options in the future.
Taking these two threads and braiding them together: instead of a whiskey finished in a rum cask, what if we had a rum finished in a whiskey cask? That’s exactly what I have in my hands today, due to the impulse purchase of a Myers’s Rum single barrel selection from one of my local retailers.
Myers’s hasn’t yet garnered any coverage on Malt, so I’ll provide a short introduction to the brand before getting into the specifics of this individual barrel.
Myers’s (the unnecessary second possessive “s” is vexatious to me every time I have to type it) was started in 1879 by Frederick Louis Myers, himself born in Kingston, Jamaica in 1853. Mr. Myers passed in 1915, though the Myers family retained ownership of the brand until it was acquired by Seagram in 1954. The failure of Seagram saw the brands sold to Diageo in 2000. Current owners Sazerac acquired from Diageo Myers’s in 2018, along with 18 other legacy Seagram brands.
But what about the rum itself? Myers’s own site provides this small nugget of production information: “Using only pure Jamaican molasses, Myers’s Rum is made from continuous and pot still distillation and matured in white oak barrels.”
Myers’s is best known for its mainstay 40% ABV “Original Dark” rum. To give you an indication of the regard in which that rum is held: a 1.75l “handle” retails for $43 at my local (equivalent to $18 for a 750 ml). Clearly, it’s the kind of spirit more likely to be used as the well backbone for a Mai Tai or dumped into a trough of “jungle juice” than it is to warrant the attention of serious rum folks.
How, then, did a bottle from this unassuming brand attract the attention of a distilled spirits snob like myself? As hinted at before, there’s a bit of a twist to this one. Myers’s, as I said, is owned by Sazerac. Sazerac has a functionally unlimited supply of used Sazerac rye barrels. See where this is going? This particular barrel was finished for an undisclosed amount of time in “Sazerac Rye Oak Casks,” per the label.
The ploy is an obvious one and, based on the fact that I bought a bottle, obviously effective. Take an under-loved rum with a reputation for quantity over quality and spruce it up with a barrel finish from an increasingly coveted whiskey brand. Why did I suppress my cynicism to make this purchase? Price definitely was a factor; at the just under $30 I paid for the bottle, I figured that I could use the remainder for liberal mixing into easy-sipping cocktails (this is bottled at 86 proof/43% ABV), a three percentage point bump up from the standard Myers’s rum), presuming this ends up being a dud. As always, there’s only one way to find out.
Myers’s Rum Single Barrel Sazerac Rye Finish – Review
Color: Medium-dark brown with orange glints
On the nose: This presents a delightful marriage of sweet and citric notes, with a salutary hint of funk. Caramelized brown sugar meets piquant key lime zest in a way that strongly suggests a proper Daiquiri cocktail. There’s a deeper, more sticky-sweet molasses element to this, which melds seamlessly with a subtle, low-key funkiness. I’m not sure I sense much influence from the rye cask; perhaps if I concentrate really hard (or convince myself) I can tease out a little rye grain or a hint of black pepper.
In the mouth: This starts fairly sedately. There’s a watery texture and some nondescript rich sweetness at the very front of the mouth. This evolves a more meaty flavor profile toward the middle of the tongue, where that funk-accented rich sweetness meets with a tannic woodiness that is the strongest suggestion yet of the ex-Sazerac barrel. The burnt sugar notes reemerge right before the finish, turning slightly chemical tasting and bitter, though this fades fast into a quickly disappearing finish.
I was pleasantly surprised by the nose, which had some really delicious smelling notes along with a nicely integrated funkiness of the type sought out by rum aficionados. The palate, by comparison, was a bit of a letdown. There were some decent flavors, particularly toward the midpalate, but generally I found this alternately underpowered and overwhelmed by too much bitterness from the wood.
Is it great rum? No. Has the Sazerac rye finish added anything in the way of noticeable improvements to the presentation? Not especially. However, this performs decently for a comparatively modest financial outlay, so I am awarding it a score in the middle of the range.
Though I won’t be urging rum curious friends to run right out and secure a bottle of this, I am increasingly openminded about innovations around finishing, both within whiskey and elsewhere. As this is a trend that shows no signs of losing momentum, I’m confident that there will be another review of a finished spirit in this space very soon.
Frederick Louis Myers photo courtesy of Geni.