Jan 292012
 

Big, stompin’ rum maybe meant to be a mixed-drinks base but really good neat. Definitely helpful for getting loaded when dollars are tight; interesting when mixed in any number of cocktails. Feeling lonesome in some cold winter clime and miss the Ole Country? This will cure what ails you.

First posted 29 January 2012 on Liquorature. 


I don’t always get top end rums like Barbancourt’s Estate Reserve 15 year old to try, and often, I don’t even want to try them. Sometimes, like most people who’ve had a hard week, I just kick back with a glass of hooch that makes no pretensions to grandeur, pour it, mix it and glug it, and like the fact that it’s just there to make me feel better. Myer’s Planter’s Punch Dark Rum falls squarely into that category, and joins – maybe exceeds – fellow palate-deadeners like Young’s Old Sam, Bacardi Black, Coruba or Potter’s at the tavern bar. These are single digit rums or blends, meant for mixing (cowards cut ’em with whisky) and for my money, they’re all sweaty rums for the proles, displaying a remarkable lack of couth and subtlety – I appreciate them for precisely that reason.

Pour a shot of the stuff and you’ll see where I’m coming from: Myer’s is a dark brown-red, oily rum quite distinct from Appleton’s lighter coloured offerings, and the scents of molasses, liquorice, nutmeg and dried fruit don’t merely waft out onto your nose – they gobsmack your face off. Once you stop crying like a little kid at the neighborhood bully or staring at your glass in wonder, I imagine you might try to recover your dignity, and observe how you can detect caramel, vanilla, perhaps a bit of nutmeg, coconut, citrus. Quite encouraging for something so cheap (less than $25).

The tromping arrival of unleavened flavour square-dancing across your tongue is perhaps the main selling point of a rum like Myer’s. What is lost in subtlety is made up for by stampeding mastodons of a few distinct profiles that actually mesh quite well: caramel, coconut shavings, molasses, fruit, burnt sugar with maybe some orange peel and baking spices thrown in. There’s a weird butteriness in the taste somewhere… maybe from the ageing? Overall, I wish I knew for sure whether they augmented the profile – as I think they have – with any additives: a rum this cheap is unlikely to be this interesting merely on the skill of a blender (if it was, it wouldn’t be so cheap). And there’s a fade here, boys and girls, but it’s strong – more like the exit of a gentleman bank robber discretely blasting away with his gat than the soft silken swish of something more polished. And it’s long, very pleasant – this is a rum which could easily be stronger and still be good.

Mix Myer’s Dark Rum in a Planter’s Punch, in a dark-rum cocktail (feel free to consult Tiare’s excellent site a mountain of crushed ice or any tiki site for ideas) or just mess with the old stand-bys, and the few weak points of the drink as a neat drink are smoothened out and it becomes an excellent base for whatever you feel like making. I’m reviewing it as a sipper, as I must, but this should not discourage you from trying other variations.

Myer’s Dark Rum is hardly an unknown, of course, having been a staple of the cocktail makers’ bars the world over for decades: It was indeed made specifically to address the popularity of Planter’s Punch (which could be equally said to originate in a recipe dated 1908, or in a Charlestonian doggerel from 1878 depending on who you ask). The company founded by Fred Myer in 1879 is now owned by Diageo, and they continue to blend nine rums out of Jamaica at the southern distillery of Monymusk (the plantations of origin are more secret than Colonel Sanders’s recipe) into the drink that we know today. Monymusk, as you may recall, also makes the middling Royal Jamaican Gold rum, which isn’t anywhere near as fun as Myer’s. Aside from calling it the “Planter’s Punch” variation, it is supposedly the same as that first produced in 1879, made from Jamaican molasses, and a combination of distillates of both pot and column stills, then aged for four years in white oak barrels. I’ll also note that my bottle clearly states Myer’s is a blend of Jamaican and Canadian rums, at which I immediately sneer and say…well, “Bulls..t”, not the least because after years of crisscrossing the country in my beater, I still haven’t found a single sugar plantation and therefore I somehow doubt Canada has a rum of its own.

I have to be careful in assigning a rating to Myer’s. It’s not quite a sipper (damned close, though), but some of my review must address the sheer enjoyment I get out of it both as such, and in a proper mix – and even if it *is* added to. Like Young’s Old Sam, it exists in a somewhat less hallowed underworld of rums embraced by bartenders and not so much by connoisseurs, and which some believe must be braved only with fireproofed throat and iron-lined stomach for the crazies who drink it neat. It’s strong, powerful tasting, heavy on a few clear flavours – and doesn’t so much whisper its antecedents as bellow out the sea shanties. It may not be the coolest rum you’ve ever had, or the smoothest, but by God, when you’ve tasted this thing you know you’ve just had a *rum*.

(#92. 80.5/100)

May 252010
 

First posted May 25th, 2010 on Liquorature.

Surprisingly mellow sipper from a purveyor not noted for such drinks; not overly complex, but warm, buxom, heavy and with a rich nose and body. This is the Mother Hubbard of rums, to keep in the cupboard.

Right from the get go I must mention that I’ve given Captain Morgan a wide berth thus far, simply because it always had a reputation as a low- to mid-level mixer.  The fact that it was a spiced rum – whether or not it says it is – also added somewhat to its plebian cachet.  Not that I have a real issue with that, but there’s so much other good stuff out there that I don’t need to go to Puerto Rico for my rums. Without trying to be insulting, the fact is that Puerto Rico, which enjoys a favourable import tax regime with the US, makes the Budweiser and Coors of rums, with all the negative connotations this implies.  In making common hooch to appeal to the widest possible audience and lowest common denominator (the US consumer), some of the quality is lost in the quest for sales.

The Captain Morgan brand actually originated in Jamaica, where Seagrams bought the Long Pond distillery in the 1940s. Tax incentives favouring Puerto Rico caused them to transfer manufacturing to a factory outside San Juan (close to where the Bacardi family was setting up a factory at the same time); in 1985 they sold the rights and brand to Diageo, a British concern and (in 2010) the largest spirits company in the world.  Diageo noted that they will transfer the production facilities to St Croix in 2011 or thereabouts. Nowadays there is a Captain Morgan Rum produced in Puerto Rico by Seagram (or its successors), and another by J. Wray and Son in Jamaica.

Having bored you to tears with all of this tedious history and trivia, the question remains, is it any good?

Going in, I wasn’t sure: my experience with Puerto Rico was previously with Bacardi – the bestselling rum in the world and the choice of expatriates in far flung and remote corners of the world such as where I used to be – and Bacardi is a well-meaning, reasonably tasty but generally boring mixer — I tarred Captain Morgan with the same broad brush. Surprisingly enough, however, it really is quite a decent rum.  In fact, it’s a really nice sipper for the newbie who wants to get away from mixers without losing the body and taste. But I should add this was largely because of the inclusions and additions (primarily sugar and vanillas), not because of brilliant ageing and blending skills.

The nose is candied and overwhelms right out of the gate with vanilla and caramel. The dark undertones of molasses are clearly in evidence. The dark body has some strong legs, yet they don’t kick you in face with harsh spirit notes either.  This is why as an intro to a sipper, Captain Morgan is a pretty good way to start. The sweetness usually imparted by coke or other mixers that cut the spirit burn is essentially taken over by the spices added to the rum itself. And clearly effort has been taken to mute and smoothen out the palate.  The downside of this is that beyond the candy of these spices, it takes a real expert to taste anything else: try as I might, I could not discern more than butterscotch, vanilla and caramel and some very faint traces of what may have been orange.

The finish is also surprisingly smooth and even, and lasts quite a bit.  This may be attributable to the spices, but even so, for a three-year-old rum, I’m quite impressed. It ranks right up there, though its lack of complexity and deeper rum notes render it unsuitable for more discerning (and choosier) palates.

Speaking for myself, I’d buy this again, sure.  It may not be top tier (I paid just under $30 for it), but I have a sweet tooth and enjoy a decently crafted rum that is at home either by itself or in company with a cola. As a man who has spent triple digits searching for the best of the best (and been disappointed more than once with expensive losers that fail on the finish), I cannot fault the Captain Morgan for not aspiring to great pretentiousness.

So, unlike a Coruba, which I’d feed to favoured enemies in quantity, this one I’d gladly share on a warm sunset or cold winter night with my friends – for a low end rum, from me, that’s high praise indeed.

(#021)(Unscored)


Other Notes

  • In the mid-2010s the bottle label was changed to replace the Captain Morgan portrait  (head only) with the full picture of “The Captain” standing with one leg resting a barrel.  Bottle shape and contents remain the same, though.
  • 2021 Update: The rum has now been reclassified (by me) as a spiced rum due to the overwhelming vanilla profile…and the fact that it’s now acknowledged as being added-to. It’s therefore unsurprising that I don’t much care for it these days.