This is a rum that I’ve been hearing good – if vague – things about from the Tiki community for quite some time but never quite got around to trying because I wasn’t really sure what kind of rum slot it would occupy on my already crowded rum shelf. But when I spotted a bottle that was favourably discounted I thought it time to bite the bullet. So here we go.
Tiki Lovers Dark Rum comes in a somewhat ordinary screw cap bottle and adorned with a grinning Tiki-god decoration that is a touch on the cheesy side. Alarm bells are going off all over the place here and I feel the makers need to raise their game a little on the presentation. However on closer inspection we see (oh, alright I already knew) that this is a blend put together by The Bitter Truth company from Germany, them wot make a pretty decent range of bitters and liqueurs. This in turn means it was very likely the work of master rum blenders E & A Scheer right here in Amsterdam. How so? Well pretty much any small company who wants to “make” their own rum blend ends up at a little office at Herengracht 316 due to their unparalleled expertise and connection in the world of rum*. The label provides some additional information on the contents. First up we note that it’s a Navy Proof rum bottled at 57% so we immediately know that this is a serious rum. The details on the blend as printed on the bottle are intriguing but a touch vague so I consult their website which, indeed, has more information. And it’s all good news! Tiki Lovers Dark is largely made from a combination of pot-still Jamaican rum from Hampden Estate and aged Barbados rum from Foursquare distillery and frankly those are two of the most respected rum distillers on the planet. Not content with that The Bitter Truth go on to round things of with a little Guyanan (ergo Demerara) and Trinidadian rum which shows a remarkable attention to detail for a rum of this price (€28 is typical here). The label states clearly “contains colouring” (probably thanks to German transparency laws) which is honest and welcome. A little caramel colouring is pretty normal and harmless enough but regardless I wish other manufacturers would be so open. These days I have the equipment to test for added sugar and I’m not surprised to find that Tiki Lovers has either none or very, very little added. There are some very encouraging signs here and I can hardly wait to crack this bottle open!
I can’t even wait to pour it into the glass and my sniff from the bottle rewards me with the delightful aroma of that funky Hampden Estate pot-still component but tempered with something deeper that I’m pretty sure is the Demerara part of the mix. In the glass we see the the effect of the caramel addition but they’ve at least been fairly restrained going no further than a nice coppery hue. With none of the rum over 5 years old – and likely not too much of that – we can be pretty sure little of the colour is barrel related. Whatever. A taste reveals a most interesting mix of the classic flavour profiles we would expect from the individual components with the hogo of the Jamaican rum a little more restrained than it was on the nose. It’s a skilfully blended affair that does the individual components full justice. Now very clearly this is really not a rum that was designed for sipping from a sherry glass so let’s dispense with such pretence and without further ado a-mixing we shall go.
Naturally I first make myself a Daiquiri as any test of a rum would be pretty lame otherwise. And it makes a fine if powerful one. But the whole raison d’etre for this rum is to easily replace the mix of rums that are required for a variety of Tiki drinks. Typical classic Don The Beachcomber recipes mix a funky Jamaican rum with a rich and smoky overproof Demerara rum and a classic Barbados rum**. Tiki Lovers Dark was designed to cover this in one pour and frankly pulls it off pretty darn well. An experienced and dedicated tiki-head with an extensive rum collection (raises hand) could probably do a three rum blend that is slightly better – but this comes pretty close. It’s a perfect fit for a Zombie, Navy Grog or Jet Pilot and also makes a pretty fine Mai Tai. It’s versatility can be further expanded by nudging it in slightly different directions with the addition of a second rum. For example a bit of agricole alongside it makes a fine base for a Three Dot and a Dash or you could double down on the Jamaican for a cracking Planter’s Punch. I wrote an article recently about Ten Tiki Rums but if there are issues of cost, storage space and availability with those I have no hesitation in recommending Tiki Lovers Dark as a great starting point for your voyage on the good ship Tiki.
Yes, it’s a bit of a niche product but what it does beautifully is to open the door to authentic classic Tiki drinks to those who lack the space and budget*** for a wide range of mixing rums. Even though I already have a fine range I’m inclined to keep some Tiki Lovers Dark in stock for when I’m feeling a little lazy. But don’t tell Mrs Proof…
When it comes to the grade please bear in mind that my mark is for this rum in its intended use. At the risk of being just a touch over enthusiastic I can’t help but reward the dedication of bringing classic Tiki recipes to the masses in such simple yet delightful form and crown Tiki Lovers Dark Rum with a hearty:
*I have to be clear that I can’t be 100% certain of E & A Scheer’s involvement so don’t quote me on that.
**Don The Beachcomber once said “Three rums can do what one rum can’t.” And that was certainly true at the time.
***and dare I say dedication?