First posted December 3rd, 2010 on Liquorature
Bacardi Black is a deep, dark rich mixer’s drink just the right side of sweet enough, but lacks the cojones to be a decent sipper on its own merits.
The mainstays of Bacardi’s massive sales are, to my mind, the low-enders: those rums not good enough to stand on their own, but which have a bold taste, a decent body and – somewhat like Johnny Walker – sufficient overall quality to be a cut above the average. The normal Joe who walks into a liquor store isn’t after all, looking for a life-changing experience: he’s looking for a decent drink at a good price that won’t make him void his bowels, lose his sight and tie his alimentary canal up into a complex knot.
Such a rum is the Bacardi Black, which I will tell you right out, is not a sipping rum by any stretch of the imagination (unless you like low enders to sip and cause you pain) but will liven up any drink you make with it. It’s a cocktail base, pure and simple, and should be treated as such and I must be equally honest and tell you it’s one of the better ones out there at its price point (less than $30 for 750ml). I should also point out, however that the Black is no longer available as the Black since it has now been replaced as the Bacardi Select rum. Dunno what difference there is between the two.
You can almost always tell tipple for the masses: with a very few exceptions, almost no care is taken tartin’ ‘er up, and this is no exception. Tin foil cap. Cheap label with bare minimum of facts. A reekingly pungent nose that only reluctantly releases its claws and puffs a grudging fart of caramel into your face like a baby’s bum at the exact wrong time. A thin little toot, you understand…the Black is not a heavy dark rum. But to some extent you are compensated by a transformation of the initial caramel whiff into light cinnamon, some bonbons, and a weakly burnt-wood belch.
The body is, as I say, not for sipping. A tad on the thin side, tasting of oak and carmel, some vanilla and maybe nuts. But oddly, for a rum this dark, there is a lack of boldness and assertiveness, a lack of sweet, that’s somewhat at odds with its aggressive styling and bold dark looks: it’s as if Will Smith turned into a wuss, or something. And that finish: ugh. Lousy. Hobbesian, truth be told – nasty, brutish and short.
I know I’m making a case that this is just another piece of dreck. But it’s not, really – it’s just not meant to be had neat (and my apologies to all of you who have tried it that way and liked it – but you need to trade up). As a mixer in cocktails it’s actually really good….its weaknesses are compensated for by whatever we chose to add to it.
Bacardi’s 20 million cases of annual sales are more than just a question of a stable of brands or a favourable tariff regime with the US. They have simply, and for generations, made a damn fine series of rums. What they lack in uber-quality and premium labelling (they have nothing to even breathe upon the Appleton 30 or DDL’s aged offerings), they make up for in volume of decently distilled spirits that appeal widely because of both their overall quality (sold cheaply) and their ubiquity. I’ve found Bacardis the world over and always affordable, almost always better than the local hooch.
By eschewing top-end and exclusive premium rums and concentrating on making a series of excellent mid- and low-tier products – like the Black and the Gold – Bacardi have essentially created what every manufacturer dreams of making just once and then selling a jillion. Simply put, with the Black and its like, Bacardi have made the Model T of rums.