Malibu was one of the first entries in the flavored rum category, aimed at making tropical drinks more quickly and easily. Flavored with coconut essence, it’s often a tool used for making pina coladas and has found great traction in nightclubs and nightlife-oriented bars. The original Malibu has been vastly popular, leading to a line extension of fruit flavors which have included mango, passion fruit, pineapple, banana, and melon.
Last year, Pernod Ricard released Malibu Black, which wasn’t another flavor, but an increase in the proof of the spirit (35%/ 70 proof vs. 21% / 42 proof). Like Malibu Black, Malibu Red is another higher proof entry for the Malibu family, this time with tequila added to the rum and coconut mix. It’s an interesting move in a space where a lot of the tequila market is migrating to 100% agave. Effectively, mixing rum and tequila makes Malibu Red more akin to a flavored mixto tequila than a flavored rum. Malibu Red clearly isn’t targeted towards the tequila enthusiast, and the fact that it has tequila in it is less prevalent on the bottle than the Malibu brand.
The tequila in Malibu Red is Tequila Olmeca Blanco (Nom 1111), a highland tequila also owned by Pernod Ricard. While there isn’t a statement at the amount of tequila in the bottle, given the taste it seems like it’s considerable. Unlike other flavored products on the market that use artificial flavorings, Malibu Red, as with Malibu and Malibu Black, uses coconut extract, which means that the flavors are truer and more pleasant. Malibu Red is also still considered a “Product of Canada,” which means that the Olmeca tequila and Barbados rum are shipped to Canada to be blended and flavored.
The design for Malibu Red is dramatically different from the original Malibu – gone is the white bottle, and in its place is a silver and red package that shows off the clear spirit inside. Pernod Ricard worked with musician Ne-Yo on the brand and it’s clearly been crafted as a brand rather than an entry in either the rum or tequila space.
Malibu Red (35%, $16.99) - It’s clear from the get-go that Malibu Red has a considerable amount of tequila in it. Behind the clear coconut is sweet agave and black pepper from the tequila. The aromas from the tequila help temper the coconut so it’s not completely overwhelming, and the agave and coconut go very well together. The entry for Malibu Red is soft, very thick, and sweet. Coconut leads the flavor charge with clear tequila right behind. Malibu Red does a little switcharoo in the mid palate and the tequila flavors intensify, overtaking the coconut. In the mid palate there’s clear agave and black pepper, although not much of a pepper kick. At the end of the mid palate we get a pepper kick supported by some heat from the rum – it’s really here towards the finish that the rum shows that it’s there. The spice and heat lead the finish which is pretty long and gives way to the coconut that started off the whole taste experience.
Pernod Ricard has done an extremely good job at evolving Malibu into a bolder spirit without abandoning its core. The spice from the tequila and heat from the rum are just enough to create flavor, but not enough to scare off what may typically be a more proof-sensitive drinker. Is Malibu Red something that we’re going to seek out? Probably not, but we’re not really the target market. Malibu Red is clearly aimed at the night club space where we fully expect to see it served as a chill shot or with Sprite or 7UP. When you put this next to some of the horrid flavored vodka options consumed in that space (including the Three Olive Line), Malibu Red provides a vastly superior taste experience.
We appreciate that the flavors here don’t taste too artificial, and we’re surprised that indeed the tequila and coconut flavors do play well together. If you’re an existing fan of Malibu then you will absolutely want to seek out Malibu Red. It has a lot to offer and does what it does fairly well.Malibu Red Review by Geoff Kleinman