Over the past year, many spirit companies have released some kind of “black” offering including Johnnie Walker Double Black, Jameson Black Barrel, and Captain Morgan Black. In the case of Scotch Whisky blends, black often refers to smokey. With rum, it often indicates a greater impact from the barrel on the rum. To celebrate their 310th anniversary, Mount Gay has stepped into the “black” space (again) with Mount Gay Black Barrel Rum, a blend of both aged double distilled pot and single column distilled rums. The blend for Mount Gay Black Barrel Rum is weighted heavily towards pot distilled rum and is finished in a heavily charred ex-bourbon barrel. Mount Gay Black Barrel Rum is considered to be a replacement for Mount Gay’s earlier Eclipse Black, which was a blend of 100 proof rum ages two to seven years. There’s no age statement on the Mount Gay Black Barrel, but its proof is lower at 86, and its color is much darker than the Eclipse Black. Some rum enthusiasts will probably be incensed with a slightly higher priced release (about $5 more) that’s lower in proof (although we’re sure it won’t be like the Maker’s Mark backlash). It’s important to keep the release of Mount Gay Black Barrel in perspective, however – a 100 proof rum isn’t for everyone, so by lowering the proof and increasing the barrel impact Mount Gay is tayloring this release towards wooing bourbon drinkers who may not have much experience with the rum category.
Mount Gay Black Barrel Rum (86 proof / 43% abv, $30) is deep amber in color, and the impact of the heavily charred bourbon barrel couldn’t be much clearer in its color. The nose is rich and complex with classic molasses notes including vanilla, molasses, and brown sugar which intermingle well with oak spice with the slightest undertone of funk (an aroma more typically associated with Jamaican rum than that from Barbados). The impact from the bourbon barrel is intense and immediate with a blast of bourbony oak right from the start. This strong oak spice pretty much defines the Mount Gay Black Barrel Rum experience, and how well you like this rum will be greatly dependent on how much you like oak. Although the oak is dominant, it’s not the only flavor note there. Under the oak is a lush sugarcane note along with caramel, brown sugar, and that slight funk from the nose. The flavors build in the midpalate where things get a lot spicier and the character of the rum begins to resemble bourbon more than rum. Things improve on the finish which is long, spicy, and oaky. The finish flirts with being too dry, but manages to sustain the spice and flavor without being too puckery. It’s too bad that integration in the palate isn’t as strong as in the nose (perhaps a little less oak would have done the trick).
Mount Gay Black Barrel Rum doesn’t hide the fact that it is a rum for bourbon drinkers. With prices skyrocketing in the bourbon and Scotch whisky space, it’s a smart move for consumers to look at other category offerings to get a solid bang for their buck. At $30, Mount Gay Black Barrel Rum is a little pricier than say, Plantation’s 5 Year Barbados rum, but it’s also bigger and bolder. As rum producers try to find the sweet spot to lure over whiskey drinkers, we’re sure to see a lot more of these bourbon-forward aged rums. Mount Gay comes very close to delivering an exceptional rum, but ends up going a bit too far with the oak aging. The pot still rum in the mix here is entrancing and it makes us curious to explore the rest of their line, especially releases heavy in their pot still rum.