Rum review: Chairman’s Reserve Original.
I’ve written before about the importance of having a good base/anchor rum for Tiki cocktails. Last time around I was in the process of looking for a replacement for Havana Club Anejo especial which, frankly, was less especial than most of Havana Clubs other rums (3 años, 7 and Selecion de Maestros being pretty damn fine). I settled on Mount Gay Eclipse at that time but the good cocktailista is always in search of a way to raise their game and here, a few years hence, I sense that am again drifting away from my big base rum. I do recall that I also promised to inform you if my choice of anchor rum were to change. Yes, Mount Gay Eclipse remains a solid choice with a very mid-Caribbean style that suits many cocktails which contain more than one rum. To justify a change we need another jack-of-all-trades rum that gives us more oomph than it does yet doesn’t have such an idiosyncratic personality that it dominates other flavours. An interim experiment was Appleton Estate Signature blend but, while an excellent mixing rum, it falls at that very last hurdle as it has enough of that Jamaican funk to skew the balance. Besides, I have plenty of other funky Jamaican rums that I can reach for if needed. So today I’m going to look at a new candidate for my anchor rum. Let’s have a look and see if it cuts the mustard:
This rum from the tiny island nation of Saint Lucia* comes in a fairly plain squat bottle with one of those dismal thin metal screw caps. I’m paying a shade under 20 pan-European currency units for a 700ml bottle and Appleton Signature manages to provide a nice wooden stopper in a cheaper rum so it is possible to provide a better closure at this price if still uncommon. Otherwise the clear bottle is fine being broad enough to be stable without taking up too much rum shelf real estate. The label is a bit dreary, dated and over-complex. I feel like it is due an update. We do have some information though, as it is declared to be a mix of column and pot still (huzzah!) distillates. There are some tasting notes on the back which I found unusually accurate but we’ll get to that. I don’t at all like the “finest selection” text that sits under the main text. This is their entry level rum with many more expensive ones to save such claims for. On some fake “medals” we see a little more information some of which are pretty meaningless but do glean that it is aged in oak for an unspecified period. However, a trip to their website adds more information including that Original is aged for an average of 5 years in ex-bourbon barrels. We’re at 40% abv here which is not unexpected at this price but I would be much more impressed with a bottling a touch stronger. So far, so meh. But hang on – how about we actually pour some of this stuff? In the glass we see a bright coppery/golden hue that is very pleasant but likely caramel influenced. A sniff gives an initial unsubtle ethanol hit but backed by some reassuringly “rummy” smells of spice and vanilla. Suddenly I find my interest awoken. A taste reveals more of the same: a fair amount of burn for a 40% rum but while undesirable in a sipping rum unlikely to do much harm in a cocktail. I suspect that no attempt to “smoothen” it with added sugar has occurred. I take a minute to test this (with the hydrometer and table method) and can confirm I can measure no such addition. Excellent! The flavours which are very present and forward are indeed of vanilla, raisin and spices with a hint of wood that tells me they certainly haven’t been too stingy on the aging. There are hints here of a more expensive sipping rum but they do hide behind that harshness that hasn’t had time to be fully aged out. It’s a bold rum for the money and while not unlike Mount Gay Eclipse it just has more presence. For me this is exactly what I’m looking for in anchor rum. Yes, it is a little more expensive than my previous candidates but not by very much. It has bags of flavour but none of them too left of centre and (after some enjoyable testing) it indeed forms that solid base in multi-rum Tiki drinks that other rums can expand on. Place it in the centre of a Navy Grog or Mai Tai and you will not be disappointed.
Mission accomplished: Chairman’s Reserve Original is now my new anchor/base rum and well deserves (in the above context) a Proofcocktails:
*Incidentally the only country in the world to be named after a real** woman (Eire being named for a mythical one). Funnily enough Mount Gay rum is distilled in the town of Saint Lucy in Barbados named after the very same lady.