Rum Review: Mount Gay Black Barrel
Mount Gay Black Barrel
Taking a page from whisk(e)y’s book, rum producers are beginning to dabble more in blends without definitive age statements in favor of those with a marketable characteristic such as the barrels in which it’s finished. It makes a lot of sense, really, given that older does not always equal better in the spirits world. And as rum continues to increase its market share, there will be less aged rum to go around for all of us. Innovation is a good thing here, methinks, and apparently the good folks at Mount Gay agree.
The venerable Bajan rum house’s latest product “Black Barrel” is a blend of aged rums from both pot and column stills, none of which are quantified by percentage or age. What they do emphasize is the fact that the rum is aged in “deeply toasted and charred Bourbon oak barrels”. Given that so many rums are aged in Bourbon barrels, this isn’t such a stand-out feature, so I suppose they are hanging their hats on the notion of a “heavy” char. Well, it worked for Jim Beam, I suppose.
The Mount Gay Black Barrel bottle is an odd one, and quite different than any of their other expressions. Its shape is vaguely reminiscent of the Eclipse bottle, but not as wide, and lower shouldered—the bottle represents as much of a course change as the marketing approach. Rather than a metal cap, the closure is a tight cork topped by wood, and finished with a label similar to a tax stamp guaranteeing its origins. Raised in glass toward the bottom of the bottle are the words “MOUNT GAY DISTILLERIES’.
The bottle itself is nice enough, but I must admit I dislike the label. The bottom portion is well-conceived—it says what the product is, gives the impression of a small batch blending, and provides a sense of place. It’s reminiscent of The Balvenie or other whiskies that highlight their geography as well as their finishing approach. The top portion of the label, however, completely undoes it. With white on black, they went with “MOUNT GAY Est. 1703 Barbados Rum”. If I was new to the brand, I wouldn’t know what the heck I was looking at. It’s very confusing and not at all consistent with their other messaging. It also gives the impression that this could be their 1703 blend—quite a different product indeed. I can only assume some marketing genius at Remy Cointreau came up with this one. But enough about the bottle, let’s get a few ounces into a glass and see what we have here.
In the glass, the Black Barrel presents as a really dark copper gold with flashes of mahogany. Looking closely, I really could imagine this rum coming from a deep and darkly charred barrel. A swirl yields a number of legs that descend quickly as well as several more droplets that are more tardy on their return to the bulk. The nose is bright, but not overly astringent. The aromas are initially all citrus: lemon, lime, orange. Just below the citrus are the sweet notes: vanilla, candied almonds and burnt crème. Now for a taste.
The first taste is characteristically Mount Gay: a moderately spicy and sweet entry with a balanced vanilla and citrus profile. The difference here is the smoke—and it’s significant—especially on the spicy finish. Along with the smoked oak notes is a significant dose of spices, black and white pepper principal among them. The front and sides of the palate remain engaged by the brightness of the citrus and spice, while the mid palate is dosed with caramel, butterscotch and a touch of molasses. At the rear, sweetness gives way to spice as it fades. Subsequent sips allow me to find some fruit: pineapple and a bit of banana along with ripe plum.
All in all, the Black Barrel is a fine and innovative rum, but I fear it’s not necessarily a sipper’s sipper. That said, for those among you who enjoy your aged rums with cola, this would be an excellent option, as it would certainly stand out. Although I only tried it straight, I could also see it playing well in tiki drinks that call for aged rums with a bit of an attitude—at 86 proof, this smoked Bajan would certainly qualify.
On to the scores:
- Appearance: 1/1
- Nose: 1.75/2
- Mouth feel: .75/1
- Taste: 2.5/4
- Aftertaste: 1.5/2
- Total Score: 7.5/10
Have you tried Mount Gay Black Barrel? Please share your thoughts below!