First posted 13 October 2010.
My younger brother and I have always had an excellent relationship, and the other day when I was in Toronto (I drove there from Cowtown) we had a small session, even though we didn’t have anything special to sample – to my surprise, the LCBO prices were higher than those in Calgary and so I simply laughed at the $550 for the Appleton 30 yr old, or the $120 for the El Dorado 21 and bought the Gosling’s Black Seal.
Gosling’s hails from Bermuda: like Appleton’s, Mount Gay or el Dorado, it is closely identified with its island of origin and is, aside from tourism, a mainstay of Bermuda’s economy and probably its main export. The Gosling enterprise has been in business on Bermuda since 1806, when instead of landing in Virginia, the founder went ashore in St. George’s and set up shop. The Dark Seal is their flagship product and goes hand in glove with their trademarked (yes, they have the rights to the name) cocktail “The Dark ‘n’ Stormy.” Note that the rum was not named for the sea animal, but for the black sealing wax with which the first bottles were closed.
The rum is dark with russet-red tints, and has a surprisingly medium body (I expected something heavier for a rum this dark). It is made from three distillates – I was unable to ascertain from where the raw stock is imported – aged three to six years in the standard once-used, charred oak barrels that once held bourbon. What results is a nose of some sharpness (reminds me a bit of Buckley’s, to be honest), but which holds in elements of brown sugar, vanilla, and later, fruit and citrus peel of some kind. I thought I tasted cinnamon behind all the burnt sugar, but won’t swear to it, and my bro’ didn’t sniff it either.
On the tongue, the sharpness and spirit burn mar what is otherwise a decent drink – perhaps I should not be expecting too much from a young rum like this one – but it does have a stronger fruity taste than I had suspected, and the overall flavour profile hints at complexities marrying cirtus, apple and vanilla, all in reasonably good balance. The finish, alas, is short and bitchy, and what spices Gosling has added impart a last bit of undeserved bitterness…and once again I am reminded that in youthful, mostly unaged rums – I do not consider anything under five years to be aged at all, but I’m snotty that way so you may disregard me – not much effort is made to make the finish worthy of note. Since such Single Digit Rums are often made only for cooking, mixing or as bases for something else, perhaps I should count myself as fortunate.
All the above aside, I wasn’t too displeased with what I found. It’s sweet enough, a bit young and brash, lacks experience and complexity, but has a good heart. After we had dinner, we poured ourselves our individual libations (me rum, him beer), relaxed, leaned back; and I thought to myself that there are worse things in life than sharing pleasant conversation of the sort only close siblings or best friends have, while sipping an unpretentious rum I didn’t have to worry about appreciating.