First posted 18 August 2010 on Liquorature.
Fresh from the intense concentration I brought to the Elements 8 Gold rum, I trotted out the flattie of Smuggler’s Cove Dark to chillax with. I would have damaged the Young’s Old Sam, but it was almost done, so off I went to this one. My more romantic side likes to think that the humourous and positive reviews of Newfie Screech and Lamb’s so impressed the family of one of my Maritime friends at the office, that when she went back to Nova Scotia for some R&R (rather more recreation than rest, I’d say), they chipped in to assist in the purchase of a flattie just for me, to drink, enjoy and review. “Drink, mon!” that gift joyously asks, and I am duly grateful and gave Tanya a big (but chaste) smooch to express my gratitude.
Smuggler’s Cove is made by Glenora Distillery in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia which opened its doors in 1990: a good example of how low on the pecking order they consider their rum is the fact that they advertise themselves not as a rum distiller (which to me would make them a damned sight more famous and distinctive), but as the only single malt distillery in America (they make the Glen Breton Rare Canadian Single Malt whisky, and they have a legal battle with the Scotch Whisky Association as a consequence of using the name “Glen”). And yet, you really have to search and peruse and squint to find the shy – almost apologetic – remark somewhere in the fine print, that they make amber, white and dark rums as well. Given that the Dark won a Gold Medal in the 2003 International Rum Festival, I find that a troubling and sad omission. On the other hand, that just keeps the price down for me, so maybe it’s all good.
After the complex interactions of the Elements 8 which I likened to a young girl growing up but not out of her braces, and learning how to smooch properly (while not exactly succeeding), it is clear that Smuggler’s Cove Dark is her boyfriend who was out to teach me a goddamned lesson. He’s the captain of the football team, doesn’t have a brain in his head, but sports a massive set of biceps and very stern case of hallitosis. The nose practically knocks you off your feet: molasses, sugar and spices, with armpits reeking of flowers. (maybe he’s got questions about his masculinity?).
Honesty compels me to admit that I took one sip of this neat, and, like the Coruba, shuddered and reached for the mixin’s. That powerful taste of caramel, vanilla and molasses is well nigh overwhelmed by Football Boy kicking me in the sack with his steel toed Spirit boots, and the burn ain’t pleasant either. There’s a whisper of real potential – nutmeg, fruit and spices whisper gently – under the strong rum reek, but it’ll never come out on its own. A cola added 1:1 does, on the other hand, provide an intriguing counterpoint and I think it’s not too far from the Old Sam, though the balance of flavours isn’t quite as good as that particular low-end mixer. The finish on its own is brutally strong, like an uppercut you never saw that lays you out, and scratches the back of your throat as efficiently and sharply as might a hangnail on the finger of the doc giving you a prostrate exam.
I’m not suggesting that Smuggler’s Cove is one of the premier low-class hooches out there, like English Harbour 5 YO or Appleton V/X, or Old Sam’s…but I am saying that as a mixer, it’s quite good, with subtler hints a neat sip would not suggest it had. I’d actually rate it ahead of the V/X. And, it has to be said that much like every Maritimer I ever met, once you get past the the craggy frontage, the dour kick to the tenders and the glorious lack of sophistication, once you accept it for what it is, you might just end up making a friend for life and a staple that stays — constantly replenished — in your rum cabinet forever.