Review: Mezan Panama 2006 and Jamaica XO Rum

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Mezan Panama Rum 2006
Mezan Panama Rum 2006

For many, rum is still the great undiscovered country of the spirits world. There are so many amazing rums out there that people have simply never heard of. Mezan is a merchant brand of rum, purchased and curated from the Caribbean, Central America, and South America. Curating rum like this isn’t anything new, and it’s been done exceptionally well by companies like Plantation Rum and Ed Hamilton’s Ministry of Rum Collection.

Like Plantation Rum, who buys rum and then ages it in a secondary cask (for Plantation, it’s Cognac casks at the Pierre Ferrand Distillery), Mezan ages their merchant rum in ex-bourbon barrels.

Mezan Single Distillery Panama Rum 2006 (40% ABV, $44.99) – although there’s a “vintage” on this rum, there’s no indication of its age on the bottle. We’ve been informed that it’s a 9 year old rum (distilled in 2006 and bottled in 2015). There’s also no indication of the distillery of origin. In the rum space, this information is key, so it would be nice if Mezan would disclose these details on the bottle.

This rum is medium amber in color, made from molasses, with a wonderfully expressive nose. Many of the classic molasses aromas are here including brown sugar, toasted marshmallow, sugar cane, apricot, and a little molasses funk. The presence of the ex-bourbon barrel is also quite noticeable in the mix. Mezan Panama rum’s nose is soft, inviting, and well integrated with just the right amount of spice and funk.

The entry for Mezan Panama Rum is soft, bright, and flavorful, with brown sugar, candied orange, apricot, caramel, and molasses. There’s a touch of oak spice at the opening, which carries forward and intensifies in the midpalate. The midpalate is a nice mix of sweet notes from the opening – apricot, orange, and molasses – with intensified spice notes of nutmeg, clove, black pepper, and oak. The spice from the midpalate drives a nice finish which is backed by apricot and cane sugar.

The flavors of Mezan Panama Rum 2006 are exquisite, but the proof is off by a few percentage points. While 40% makes this rum an easy sipper, it underserves structure. Even a couple percentage point increase in alcohol would really help transform this enjoyable rum into a really great rum. Even at 40%, though, the flavors presented in this rum are delicious, and its slightly soft quality makes it a better candidate to sip neat than to mix into a cocktail. 85 points.

Mezan XO Jamaica Rum
Mezan XO Jamaica Rum

Mezan Extra Old “XO” Jamaica Rum (40% ABV) – as with their other rums, there’s no indication of the age of this rum on the bottle, but the company’s distributor, Niche Import Company, informs us that it is a blend of rum aged “5-25 years old from 3 distilleries: Monymusk, Worthy Park, and Hampden”.

Pale gold in color, the Mezan XO Jamaican Rum has a wonderfully expressive nose. The signature Jamaican funk is right there at the mouth of the glass, ready to greet your nose. Although it’s pronounced, the funk isn’t overwhelming, and it’s accompanied by banana bread, vanilla, sugar cane, oak, and black pepper.

The entry for Mezan XO Jamaican is a lot softer than the nose would suggest. Whereas the Panama Rum could be helped with a boost in proof, the Jamaican absolutely needs it. The entry is just too soft, given how expressive the nose is. It takes a while, but the flavors do eventually develop, including the funk from the nose, banana, and sugar cane. In the midpalate we get the addition of some spice, mostly black pepper and oak. It’s a nice mix in the midpalate, although it still comes off a little too soft due to the proof.

The spice from the midpalate drives a medium length, slightly spicy finish which holds on to the funk from the midpalate along with a current of sugar cane. Mezan XO Jamaican Rum isn’t bad rum by any stretch of the imagination, it’s just underproofed and too soft in the opening. Considering this is a blend from a few distilleries, I’d expect more depth, complexity, and structure. The nose is nice, the taste is fairly affable, but the potential here is for so much more. 83 points.

While both Mezan rums could benefit from bottling at a higher ABV, they do deliver a soft, flavorful and affable sipping experience. I’d like to see Mezan add the age and source of their rums to their bottles. It’s not only the right thing to do for the consumer, it’s important for the rum category, one which is in serious need of greater transparency.