Best under $20 mixing rum out there. Buy and use with responsible abandon.
Notes: This rum is a blend of Trinidadian and Tobago rums hand selected by Alexandre Gabriel. Aged in heavily charred American oak bourbon barrels in the Caribbean. The base rum is aged three to five years, and is blended with an 8 year old rum of a fairly heavy and robust nature. The resulting blend is then aged a second time for 12 to 18 months in medium-toasted Cognac Ferrand French oak barrels. This technique was common in the 18th and 19th centuries ( both by merchants and also by default in the ultimate owners storing it till use in their own cellars) but this practice has almost died out as almost no one stores spirits this way anymore sad to say ( except for real enthusiasts for their own use and a few bars)
This rum is part of their Plantation Series of Rum which are hand selected rums from some of the best areas for rum production areas in the world that are selected for further attention and aging by Plantation. Others in the series that we have reviewed include the Plantation Three Stars White Rum , the Plantation Grande Reserve Barbados Five Year Old Rum, the Plantation Old Reserve Guadeloupe 1998 Rum, and the Plantation 20th Anniversary Barbados Rum.
This rum is very much not in the style (or taste) of the vast majority of other rums in its price category (sub $20 per bottle) . It is not one of those overly dosed with molasses, caramel, cane honey,etc., badly refined industrial grade rums that use a lot of sweeteners and colorants to mask the color, roughness, and lack of age problems that much more popular rums in the category resort to peddle rums that have no where near the quality, complexity or sincerity of this rum ( and frankly the other rums in the Plantation portfolio). Unlike its competitors it does not spend a lot of money on advertising or hype. Like a Hermes or Savile Row suit, Plantation Original Dark Rums quality of materials used, craftsmanship and attention to details yield an understated but instantly recognizable quality product as soon as it is tried. It doesn’t need a large advertising campaign and a bunch of logos and celebrities to be seen holding it. It stands out on its own merits.
Appearance: Nice deep brown gold hue in the bottle amber colored in the glass.On swirling it leaves a nice oily coat on the glass which then form some nice legs as they slowly descend back into the pool in the glass.
First Impression: Cane sugar, vanilla, dried fruits, Vietnamese cinnamon, cassia bark, candied citrus,Fiji ginger.
Taste: Very complex with notes of raw cane sugar, vanilla, cinnamon, leather, candied citrus, persimmon, cloves, salty, a trace almost peaty or iodine like, and just the right amount of bite or funk to counterpoint and contrast to give it a delightful edge. I won’t repeat a story about sausage making that was attributed to the blender and how it relates to rum blending here, but it was a great analogy that will require a 2 drink minimum to be related in its fullness. A more technical and informative ( but slightly less scatological) explanation of the process ( used with permission ) is here:
“Plantation Original Dark is all about the true and rich rum taste that works so well in cocktails”, says Alexandre Gabriel. “This is a rum made like rum used to be made, when it was full of flavors. We handpick each barrel, one by one and we blend the rums according to the ancestral elevage technique that we use at Cognac Ferrand. Some people call this ancient touch the “rum funk”. In the old days it was called the ‘HOGO’ derived from the French ‘Haut Gout’ which means ‘High Taste’. I learned from an old cellar master that this is the way rum was blended in Europe in the 18th and 19th century.”
Drinks: Probably on of the best dark mixing rums out there at present. While it has a bit of a bite out front, that is actually something to look for in a mixing rum – at least one you are going to shake ( read almost all Tiki drinks and may other rum drinks) as stated b the famous Japanese bartender Kazuo Uyeda in his book “Cocktail Techniques” you need a spirit with some bite that can stand up to shaking ( and the other ingredients ) in a shaken cocktail. A more subtle or refined spirit will disappear and you will not have a balanced drink. This rum has the bite and some edges along with some excellent bones as I call them ( complexities of taste and sensation that form a framework) to hang the other elements of a drink from with sufficient robustness to carry a lot of other ingredients and elements.
Bottle: A very complex yet understated package full of details. Tall clear glass with rounded shoulders and slightly bulbous neck and neck ring making it fit the hand remarkably and comfortably well. Topped composite cork seals well and makes Made from a very good grade of sparkling French glass with a nicely thick decanter type bottom that not only gives it a quality look and feel but makes it hard to knock over and a good bottle to use in a bar fight. Deckled type edged paper tan/old ivory label with a impressed seal at the shoulder of the bottle and a impressed sigil at the rear below the shoulder give it an antique look and feel The word “Plantation” is in raised letters in then glass just above the foot of the bottle. Silky black textured neck wrap with gold seal/sigil designs on side of neck capsule and mariners star on top of neck capsule again give it a luxury looks for an overall beautiful presentation and distinctive presence on any bar shelf. While many other brands have spent upwards of millions of dollars to market themselves to the public, Plantation has spent their money on the contents of the bottle and the attention to detail in the packaging of that product in the bottle.
Cigars : Good with a natural or even darker wrapper (Maduro or Negra) try it with a Ghurka or if you are feeling fancy a Rocky Patel.
Final Thoughts: A well done aged rum blend that comes by its taste and color honestly ( read not heavily colored with caramel) at a great price for the quality you are getting. While maybe not the smoothest and sweetest one out there it packs a lot of authenticity and skill of blending to make an extremely versitale and usable rum at a price you can afford. Head and shoulders above many others rums in its price range, we highly recommend it as your in house dark mixing rum.
Available from Drink Up New York (a s soon as it is released)
A nicely done and easy to navigate website, that while not flashy ( thankfully in my mind) has a lot of information about all their offerings – Liqueurs, gins, and cognacs among other offerings, all of which we have found to be delightful. Rarely do you find such a consistently great portfolio of spirits!