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Rum Review: Mount Gay Black Barrel

Mount Gay Black Barrel

Mount Gay Black Barrel Rum

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

Buy Mt. Gay Black Barrel online

Have you tried Mount Gay Black Barrel? Please share your thoughts below!

Cheers,
Josh

8 Comments leave one →
  1. March 6, 2013 6:26 am

    Thanks for the review for a rum that unbelievably, has not yet hit our South Florida stores. You have a good palate, and you are certainly right that this rum exhibits a typical MG profile. I take it this is not quite a sipper which raises some interesting points…

    Remember Eclipse Black? This was a 100 proof release, notable for some nice blending (2 to 7 years) and aging in charred American oak, and was released not all that long ago. The similarities with this “new” Black Barrel are undeniable. It is notable too that this new Black Barrel avoids any age statements, nor identifies the blend ages as did the Eclipse Black.

    Unfortunately, many companies are now in a real money squeeze. The single malts are now realeasing many NAS (no age statement) products that they claim are “just as good” as their named age products of 10 years or more. The same is happening – even moreso – with rums. The good stuff is being saved for the super-premium 1703 and MGXO, and the new releases like this Black Barrel scrupulously avoid discussing age at all.

    This is not accidental, and your review confirms this for us. My guess is that the Eclipse Black was d/c’d and re-invented with some minor changes as the new Black Barrel to justify a higher price. They can’t charge more for the Eclipse Black, but they can for a modified new Black Barrel. The difference remains to be seen, but I’d guess the cork is the most notable, lol. And we couldn’t agree more with MG’s new labels. Ugh.

    Older MG fans still mourn the loss of Mount Gay’s classic bottles, little changed for a hundred years. Again, good stuff, keep it up!

    • Rednail64 permalink
      April 25, 2013 12:52 pm

      Cap’n Jimbo,
      I work for a Mount Gay distributor and I can tell you that this is not Eclipse Black relabeled as Black Barrel – they are two different rums.

      Per the label, all the marques will be moving to that style of label (they showed us a picture).

  2. April 26, 2013 6:08 am

    Allow me to clarify: I didn’t say nor mean to imply the Black Barrel is just a relabeled Eclipse Black. Elipse Black was very highly rated by us for several reasons: high proof (100), significant and flavorful pot still element, larger amount (full liter) and some indication of age. Best yet, it could be had for a mere $19 here.

    The Black Barrel demonstrates a lower proof, smaller bottle (750ml), less pot still flavor, and NAS (no age statement) and – gulp – for higher price, $29 here. Outrageous.. A brief time in a charred barrel was no doubt necessary to compensate for Black Barrels’ relative NAS youth. In sum, I daresay the Eclipse was a far more attractive product for much less money.

    Readers should grab all the Eclipse Black they can find. I’m serious. A great rum for a great price.

    To discontinue this product in favor of a far less attractive and more expensive Black Barrel is a shame, but surely understandable. IMHO this is a direct consequence of the USVI subsidies that are forcing especially the rums of Barbados, Guyana, the Dominican Republic and Guyana (and Haiti to a lesser degree) to sell ever younger (average age) rums for ever more money to survive.

    The real shame of it is was that the public has gotten so used to faux rums from the Big Three, that a truly fine product like Eclipse Black was not recognized as the Best Buy it was. I have little interest the the Black Barrel for obvious reasons. Still, Mount Gay remains a favored spirits for us, just not this one.

  3. Jeff permalink
    December 29, 2013 6:27 am

    I have been a Mount Gay rum drinker for years and, having just received a gift of a bottle of Black Barrel, I look forward to tasting it and enjoying the latest of Mount Gay’s excellent rums.

  4. Matthew permalink
    April 4, 2015 7:10 pm

    This is not too bad, a little harsh on the alcohol, but not bad. It’s the end that I dont like. Way too much smoke. Thats a personal preference however. If you love that intense smoke flavor from the extra char barrel, you’ll probably like this. I wont be finishing the bottle without mixing it. Which is sad to me because I love nothing more than a quality, neat, rum.

Trackbacks

  1. New Rum Review: Mount Gay Black Barrel | Inu a Kena
  2. Mount Gay releases new ‘Black Barrel’ rum | Rum Ahoy!
  3. Time Flies When You’re Having Rum | Inu a Kena

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