Diageo has realized something very important about its Captain Morgan brand – it’s a brand not of a single product, but a very specific lifestyle brand for a category of spirits. For a long time, Diageo has seen great success with the core Captain Morgan Spiced Rum, but slowly and surely they’ve been making efforts to expand the brand, slowly turning the Captain Morgan’s ship around and sailing it towards open waters.
First, Diageo had a series of limited edition releases, mainly focused at targeting Captain Morgan at the “whiskey occasion”, including Captain Morgan Black Spiced Rum in 2012, Captain Morgan Limited Edition Sherry Oak Finish Spiced Rum in 2013, and Captain Morgan 1671 Rum in 2014.
Then in 2014, Diageo made a major move in the white rum category with Captain Morgan White Rum. As a spiced rum, Captain Morgan had limited competition, with brands like The Kraken, Sailor Jerry, and, to a very limited extent, Bacardi and Oakheart. As a white rum, the battle is much fiercer with titans like Bacardi (with their Bacardi Superior Rum) and Gallo (with their Shellback Rum). Diageo generally doesn’t pick fights they don’t think they can win (or at least gain significant ground on), and so they’ve pushed Captain Morgan into the white rum space with great gusto.
Now, Diageo continues their assault on the category with the release of three flavored white rums: Captain Morgan Grapefruit Rum, Captain Morgan Pineapple Rum, and Captain Morgan Coconut Rum. With flavored vodka beginning to fall out of favor, Diageo’s move to add three tropical rum flavor offerings couldn’t be better timed. This move also is a very aggressive fire across Bacardi’s bow in a space where Bacardi is weakest (look at Bacardi Arctic Grape). The flavor selection here for Captain Morgan’s debut flavors is extremely savvy, and they’ve taken a page out of Smirnoff’s playbook by releasing these flavors at a lower ABV than their core rum (35% vs 40%), and all at the aggressively low price of $15.99.
Captain Morgan Grapefruit Rum (35%, 70 Proof, $15.99) – The aroma from the glass is clearly ruby red grapefruit. The grapefruit is strong, but not overpowering, and reads fairly natural. The base rum is a little more difficult to pick out – there’s a touch of vanilla as the slightest hint of spice, but both those aromas are fairly tied in to the grapefruit note.
The entry follows the nose fairly closely: it’s clearly ruby red grapefruit that we’re dealing with here. The grapefruit is more pleasant on the nose than it is on the palate. There’s a little bit of a battle between the slight grapefruit bitterness and the sweeter, fleshy grapefruit flavor that just doesn’t work. In the midpalate, the base rum begins to shine and the grapefruit flavor dials back a little bit with vanilla and pepper complementing the grapefruit. The intersection in the midpalate is a lot better than in the entry and the flavors do integrate well. The finish is soft with a touch of spice and a touch of dryness, cleaning up a lot of the grapefruit flavor, the remainder of which does linger on the palate for some time.
Grapefruit may not be the first flavor that you think of for flavored rum, but ultimately it does work, and it’s the kind of crossover flavor that may just be enough to lure flavored vodka fans over to Captain Morgan rum. 78 points.
Captain Morgan Pineapple Rum (35%, 70 Proof, $15.99) – Fresh cut pineapple leaps out of the glass here – it’s strong, but not overwhelming, and fairly spot on matching the natural aroma. As with the grapefruit flavor, you have to dig around a bit to get to the base rum, which reads as faint vanilla and pepper spice. The entry for the pineapple flavored rum is a little on the sweet side, like slightly over-ripe pineapple, but it’s not candied or overly artificial. Like the grapefruit, the pineapple flavored rum really shines best in the midpalate, after the initial blast of flavor subsides and the flavor is integrated with the vanilla and pepper elements of the base rum. A short and fairly soft entry wraps everything up with a light, lingering pineapple flavor on the palate.
Pineapple is a much more conventional flavor when it comes to rum, and Captain Morgan has succeeded in delivering a natural pineapple flavor. At 35% AVB there’s just the right amount of alcohol to give this rum some structure and spice without making it fiery or overly spicy. The balance between the spice and flavor is good, although it’s still just a tad sweet. The level of sweetness isn’t unexpected given the target market, and aside from the sweetness, the elements do come together better with the pineapple flavor than the other two flavors. 80 Points
Captain Morgan Coconut Rum (35%, 70 Proof, $15.99) – Coconut is an easy flavor to overdo, and Captain Morgan hasn’t gone crazy with the nose on this rum. Here it reads a little like coconut oil which, along with the vanilla from the rum, gives it a slight coconut cream quality. There’s also a light floral note in the mix as well as a dash of pineapple. The underlying rum is there, too, with vanilla and pepper spice, a touch more pronounced than with the other flavors.
The entry is sweeter for Captain Morgan Coconut than for the other Captain Morgan flavors. The coconut oil from the nose combines with a sugar note on the entry. The tropical pineapple note from the nose is also here in the mix, but it’s subtle. Unlike the Pineapple and Grapefruit flavors, which balanced out a bit in the midpalate, the sweetness of the Coconut Rum carries through to the midpalate and doesn’t get as much of a counterpoint from the spice of the rum, which is much more muted here.
The finish is not as dry and clean than the other flavors, with coconut cream and pineapple lingering on the palate. The flavor of Captain Morgan Coconut Rum is well architected, but the structure isn’t as solid. With Captain Morgan Coconut Rum, there clearly seems to be a focus on not only going after Bacardi’s flavored rums but also taking aim at Pernod Ricard’s Malibu Rum, with a slightly richer and sweeter offering. 79 points.
This trio of Captain Morgan flavored rums will be a real test to see how well the Captain Morgan brand extends into the white rum space. With every step away from the core spiced rum offering, Captain Morgan redefines itself, and for the long term future of the brand, that’s a good thing. The selection of flavors for this first round of flavored rums is smart and the flavors are fairly natural across the board. While these aren’t amazing rums, they do fulfill the brand promise and deliver a pleasant experience at the price point.