Caribbean rums traveled to Manhattan last Wednesday for a media tasting event at cocktail bar Dear Irving. We sampled spirits from a diverse selection of brands and countries, unified by an emblem printed on their bottles — The Authentic Caribbean Rum Marque.
The marque is a provincial symbol that signifies that rum was fermented and distilled to strict standards in one of 15 Caribbean countries. It was created in 2005 by the The West Indies Rum and Spirits Producers’ Association.
The tasting was led by WIRSPA Global Brand Ambassador Neil Morris, who took us through the origins, styles and flavors of each entry.
First up (after a well-balanced Daiquiri) was the Rhum Barbancourt Three Star 4 Year Old. A “French Style” rum, the 4YO was made from locally cultivated sugar cane juice, double distilled in pot stills, and aged in American Oak. Pleasantly grassy up front, the Haitain product was overall light and vegetal.
Next was a common favorite, the Brugal 1888. Crafted “Latin Style” in the Dominican Republic, this rum was distilled from local molasses in a two-column still before aging 6 to 8 years in American Oak, followed by 2 to 4 years in first-fill Spanish Sherry Casks.
To say the sherry was present would be an understatement. It was firmly there, on the nose and initial taste. Other notes included oak (of course), tropical vegetation, fruit, chocolate and caramel, making for a highly complex spirit. This rum lives up to its reputation.
After the two straight-style rums, we transitioned to a blended. Chairman’s Reserve is a mix of rums distilled from both pot and column stills, before being double casked. Propping up the light fruit notes was a spicy, nutty backbone. This balanced union fruit/spice/nuts achieved the intended affect of reminding the drinker of whiskey.
The fourth and fifth samplings were real treats, since neither is available in the U.S.
Monymusk Plantation Special Reserve is a rich, balanced blend of Jamaican rums, from both pot and column stills. Beneath a wood-dominant flavor was an array lighter, fruity notes.
The final entry was the highlight of the tasting. The Foursquare Rum Distillery Port Cask Finish is aged three years in bourbon barrels, then “finished” with six years spent in port barrels. This Barbadian spirit benefits greatly from the port wood, with an oaky, smooth, elegant taste.
The five rums represented the diversity, quality, and standards upheld by The Authentic Caribbean Rum Marque. Each rum bearing the marque must be naturally flavored, made of sugar cane, matured for at least one year in small wood, distilled between 40% and 96% ABV (though 37.5% is okay, where permitted), and, if blended, must feature an age statement based on the youngest rum of the mix.
The marque itself — ringed by the phrase “Authentic Caribbean Rum” — is a large ‘C’ around a smaller ‘R’, the leg of which becomes a blade, crossed by a cutlass. This yet another Caribbean flourish for a symbol of the best rum the region has to offer.