When you look at the major spirits brands out there, few are as expertly managed as Captain Morgan. With American whiskey taking share away from the spiced rum category, you’d expect the leading spiced rum brand to be freaking out. Instead, Captain Morgan has been nimble, creative, and innovative – something we don’t expect from such a major brand. This year Captain Morgan tipped its hat to what we believe is the future for the brand with Captain Morgan White. Diageo has supported this release with great gusto with a strong saturation of print and television ads.
As Diageo and Captain Morgan continue to navigate the rough seas for spiced rum, they clearly aren’t abandoning ship. Over the past few years Captain Morgan has gone after whiskey drinkers with special editions of Captain Morgans that bridge the gaps between spiced rum and whiskey, including Captain Morgan Black and Captain Morgan Limited Edition Sherry Oak Finish Spiced Rum. Both of these products have been well crafted and intelligently designed to provide a richer flavor experience for the Captain Morgan brand and have established a range of Captain Morgan products that drinkers might sip, rather than tossing into a Coke.
Captain Morgan continues their charge in this space with another special edition of their spiced rum, Captain Morgan 1671 Commemorative Blend Spiced Rum. While the previous limited edition releases were packaged in bottles that, while slightly different, were still in line with Captain Morgan’s traditional bottle, this new commemorative blend is packaged in a bottle that more closely resembles a jug. While we are sure that this jug is meant to commemorate the kind of vessel from which the original Captain James Morgan may have knocked back his rum, it’s also strikingly similar to the style of packaging from one of Captain Morgan’s key competitors in the spiced rum space, The Kraken Rum. No matter what the inspiration, Captain Morgan has done a fantastic job of creating a package that fits the brand perfectly while also looking premium. The gold embossed Captain Morgan 1671 label reminds us a lot of the Caol Ila Distiller’s Edition label, which is unsurprisingly also owned by Diageo.
Captain Morgan 1671 Commemorative Blend Spiced Rum (35% ABV / 70 Proof, $19.99) – stunning packaging aside, it’s really what’s inside that counts. Captain Morgan 1671 is a spiced rum made in St. Croix (where Diageo relocated its rum making facility). Captain Morgan 1671 uses a blend of spices that is unique to this release and is finished “through Spanish Oak”. The key word here is “through” and not “in”, which is something we’ve seen from another Diageo product, Crown Royal Maple Finished Canadian Whisky. There are a lot of ways to introduce wood characteristics into a spirit, and we’re glad to see that Captain Morgan has priced this rum to reflect the fact that it’s finished with oak and not extra aged in it.
The nose on Captain Morgan 1671 is sweet with vanilla extract, cherry cola, clove, ginger bread, almond, molasses, chocolate, nutmeg, black pepper, and oak. It’s a nice collection of aromas that reminds us of a spirited Dr. Pepper. The entry for Captain Morgan 1671 is sweet but not singular, and it manages to capture a lot of the aromas from the nose and present them on the palate with vanilla, ginger, dark cherry, cinnamon, black pepper, and oak. As you’d expect, the spice ramps up in the midpalate with clove, black pepper, ginger, and oak coming together with the support of vanilla extract and chocolate. The finish is medium length and starts out nicely combining the sweet and spicy notes from the midpalate, but then falls apart with a little bit of edge from the rum. The lingering aftertaste is slightly bitter and tastes like vanilla extract, which without the other flavor notes is slightly unpleasant.
Diageo has released Captain Morgan 1671 at 70 proof, which is lower than the traditional Captain Morgan Spiced Rum. We’ve seen Diageo drop proof on some of their flavored Smirnoff offerings as well as the previous Captain Morgan limited edition, Sherry Oak Finish Spiced Rum. This drop in proof makes 1671 softer and easier to sip neat or with a touch of ice, a space where Captain Morgan seems to be targeting with this rum. With 1671, Captain Morgan has done a solid job of capturing a wide range of spices and balancing them out well. The only real misstep is the finish, which doesn’t match the integration or balance of the rest of the spirit.
Captain Morgan 1671 Commemorative Blend Spiced Rum tries to kill many birds with one stone: it’s another stab at luring whiskey drinkers over to the spiced rum category, another attempt to place Captain Morgan aside the growing space of sipping rums, and a fire across the bow of The Kraken. We would never argue that Captain Morgan 1671 is an amazing rum, because it isn’t. At $19 a bottle, it’s not aspiring to be. Captain Morgan 1671 does provide an upgraded flavor experience for Captain Morgan fans, and a sweet and flavorful option for people who are drinking American whiskey because it’s fashionable, not because they enjoy it.