Don Q Oak Barrel Spiced Rum

In my quest to try new rums, and given my limited selection in North Carolina, I recently ordered a bottle of Don Q Oak Spiced Rum from VA ABC. After being notified of its arrival at my preferred store, I was road-tripping to see my neighbors to the north.

I know spiced rums have a poor reputation in general, often using poor quality rums and an abundance of artificial flavors and sugar to hide that fact. This one seemed to have a lot to recommend it. Aside from using natural flavors, promoting the oak influence, and having a real age statement, it weighs in at a respectable 90 proof.

The aroma is vanilla upfront with toffee, cinnamon, and oak. The flavor is the same as the aroma, with the oak bringing some char, and some additional heat from the alcohol to go along with the cinnamon; it reminds me of spiced Christmas cookies. The flavor lingers for a bit also.

Don Q Oak Spiced Rum was a very nice experience. Unlike other spiced rums I have tried neat, this was very drinkable. It is not overwhelmingly sweet like so many others, and the claimed natural spice flavors, come across as such. The oak is there in the aroma and in the taste.

I haven’t mixed this yet. I think I could be happy having it neat as a special treat, saving the less deserving spiced rums for the Coke

Age: 3 Years

Proof: 90 (45% ABV)

Paid: $30 for 750ml (VA ABC)

Buy Again: Yes!

Old Forester Rye

Rye whiskey is so named due to the recipe consisting of at least 51% rye, usually followed by corn, and barley, in some combination. Bourbon contains at least 51% corn, and often contains some percentage of rye to add some spicy notes. It is often in the range of 15% rye. There are also high rye bourbons with 30% rye.

Old Grand-Dad is a high rye bourbon and is quite spicy, while still being sweet.

Old Forester Rye is 65% Rye, 20% Malted Barley, and 15% Corn.

The aroma is very minty with oak and cinnamon.

The flavor is very spicy, but less sweet than most bourbons. I taste mint followed by sweet, cinnamon, a peppery heat, and of all things, bubble gum!

Age: No Age Statement

Proof: 100% (50% ABV)

Price: $25 for 750ml (NC ABC)

Buy Again: Maybe on occasion

Flor de Caña 7 Year Gran Reserva

Flor de Caña makes a number of rums ranging from the Flor de Caña 4 Extra Seco (their white rum) to the Flor de Caña 25. As with a lot of rums on the market, the number on the bottle may not mean anything.

I tried a bottle of Flor de Caña 7 Year Gran Reserva rum. The “7” on the bottle used to read “7 Years Aged”. Now the Flor de Caña website uses the phrase “Profile: 7 Years”.

Unlike a lot of rums, Flor de Caña does not add any sugar after distillation. I don’t have a problem with rums that do add sugar, but it is nice to have access to brands that don’t.

The aroma has a bit of oak, alcohol, and a little sweetness. The taste is like the aroma, with the addition of a light molasses flavor.

The rum is nice to sip, but the flavor is very light. In my experience, the rum doesn’t hold up in cocktails as well as others I’ve tried.

Age: No age statement

Added Sugar: None

Proof: 80% (40% ABV)

Price: $20 for 750ml (on sale, NC ABC)

Buy Again: No

Bernheim Wheat Whiskey

Unlike a bourbon where the main grain is corn, Bernheim Wheat Whiskey uses 51% wheat, 39% corn, and 10% barley. It still has the sweetness from the corn as well as the wheat. Given its seven years spent in oak, that flavor is a nice component of the aroma and the taste.

It doesn’t have any rye which usually imparts a spicy flavor into bourbons, but there is a little spice from the oak barrel that comes across as a bit of cinnamon to me. Overall, the flavor is mild compared to bourbons, and very mild compared to rye whiskeys.

It is a nice, unoffensive, sweet whiskey. Of course, some people will want something a little more complex.

Age: 7 Years

Proof: 90% (45% ABV)

Price: $25 for 750ml (on sale, NC ABC)

Buy Again: Maybe on occasion

Mount Gay Black Barrel Rum

Mount Gay Black Barrel Rum sits firmly on the middle shelf. The ‘black barrel’ description comes from the fact that the rum is finished in heavily charred bourbon barrels, in an effort to impart some additional oaky char to the flavor.

The aroma is molasses, caramel, banana, some oak, and a light spicy note. The alcohol is minimal, and after sitting for few minutes, disappears from the aroma.

The taste is mildly sweet, with flavors of molasses, and the light spice comes across as cinnamon. The oak char that sometimes get lost is very prevalent here.

It is not as intense as the Mount Gay XO Reserve Cask, and that’s okay. This is very drinkable neat, but inexpensive enough to mix. In fact, this is amazing when mixed with Coke. A bourbon drinker could find a lot to like here. A very nice rum indeed, and a contender for my favorite neat rum.

Age: No age statement

Added Sugar: No

Proof: 86% (43% ABV)

Price: $28 for 750ml (NC ABC)

Buy Again: Yes

Mellow Corn Straight Corn Whiskey – Bottled in Bond

Now that is a title!

As I explore spirits, I keep running across many styles of each spirit. No where is this more true than with whiskey. Bourbon, wheat, rye, and corn; perhaps others as well. Various combinations of these grains form the mash bills that end up in the large variety of whiskeys sold today.

My curiosity, and the low price gave me an opportunity to try the corn variant of whiskey. Mellow Corn is made from 90% corn, 10% rye and malted barley. When they say corn, they mean corn!

The taste is certainly that of sweet corn, and a hint of barrel char. There isn’t really much in the way of spice; the heat seems to come from the ethanol, but isn’t overwhelming. This isn’t complex by any means. To me, it is fine neat. Mixed with Coke, the corn and oak come through, and the oak cuts through the sweetness of the cola. I haven’t tried it in any other cocktails yet.

Age: At least 4 years (a bottled-in-bond requirement)

Proof: 100 (50% ABV)

Price: $13.50 for 750ml (Virginia ABC)

Buy Again: Yes, although simple, I like the style

Plantation Xaymaca

Given my preference for rum, and my enjoyment of Plantation products, I was excited to see the NC ABC started to carry Plantation Xaymaca. This is a very nice Jamaican rum with no added sugars, unlike some other Plantation products. In fact it is labeled as “Special Dry” to indicate it’s lack of added sugar. There is a note that they add caramel color to maintain consistent colors from batch to batch.

I picked up a bottle on sale (there is a trend here). It has a wonderful fruity aroma. To me, it tastes almost exactly like Appleton Rare Blend 12 year. It is younger than the Appleton, as well as being less expensive.

I need to do a side by side tasting and see how much effect the barrel has on the two products.

This rum does just fine as a sipper. I have also enjoyed it in rum-forward cocktails where it would not be lost and wasted.

Age: In the Tropics: 1-3 years in Bourbon casks, On the Continental: 1 year in Ferrand casks

Proof: 86 (43% ABV)

Price: $22 for 750ml, on sale (North Carolina ABC)

Buy Again: Yes

All ABCs Are Not The Same

Living in an ABC state generally means a lack of selection and variety. Seeing the inside of some of the larger ABC stores in North Carolina may make you think that statement is false. Go to one of the smaller stores or stores in a smaller county and see what the selection is like.

I have recently been taking advantage of my neighbor to the north, Virginia. Yes, it is an ABC state, but they have at least modernized their system. For example, in North Carolina, you can order something not carried in stores (as long as it is in the state’s approved inventory), but only by the case. In Virginia, you can order anything in system, a single bottle at a time! And you can have it delivered to a store of your choice in the state (about an hour from my house). Virginia also has the advantage of online inventory for every store, so you can see what’s there before making the trip.

No one expects North Carolina to do away with the ABC system, but at the very least they could modernize the system to work more like the Virginia model. Quite a few of my recent purchases are thanks to VABC.

Eagle Rare Bourbon

When people ask about bourbons to try for people that aren’t familiar with bourbon, usually people recommend Buffalo Trace. The other bourbon that frequently gets recommended is Eagle Rare.

In my area, as of this writing, Eagle Rare is less, uh, rare, than Buffalo Trace.

I actually did not buy a bottle in my area. I found it in a 375ml sized bottle in my neighboring state, along with 750ml and 1.75l (handles). I had never seen a regular, big-name, middle shelf bourbon in 375ml or a handle before (excluding popular bottom shelf bottles like Evan Williams).

Given the availability of a smaller bottle to satisfy my curiosity about Eagle Rare, I jumped at the chance.

The nice thing about Eagle Rare, is that it comes across as smooth, a word hated by bourbon purists. I think they would prefer balanced to describe it. While there is some mild spiciness, it isn’t aggressive. Some of the heat comes from the alcohol, and some peppery heat from the rye. It is sweet, sort of a caramel, but not sugary sweet. There is a fruitiness, to me, almost a mild cherry. There is good bit of charred oak in the aroma as well as a decent amount in the flavor. Given it’s 10 year age statement, it would be disappointing if it didn’t have an oak flavor and aroma.

I like Eagle Rare far more than I like Buffalo Trace, although I want to revisit and update my post, since I only left an overview of the bottle without much detail.

Age: 10 years!

Proof: 90 (45% ABV)

Price: $20 for 375ml (Virginia ABC)

Buy Again: Yes, if I can find it, and if the price doesn’t go through the roof