Appleton Estate Signature Blend Rum

I’ve been quite the bargain hunter during my brief time as a consumer of cocktails. Not knowing if you will like something keeps you off of the top shelf, and looking for sale items to try. This is part of my quest just after the first of the month, when I journey into the local ABC store.

I snapped my pictures of the sale items and headed home. Amongst the rums, on the top shelf of all places, was a sale on Appleton Estate Signature Blend. This used to be called VX, but someone in marketing thought a change was in order. Regardless of the name, it got good marks for an entry level rum, and if memory recalls, had a sale price of about $20. That may not seem like much, but prior to this, the most expensive bottle was a bottle of Gosling’s Black Seal on sale for $16.

Driven by curiosity and with $20 that could be parted with, the deal was done. In the Lair, the cap was removed. Wow, I did not expect that. Compared to the white and spiced rums, there is complexity here. A smokiness from being in a charred barrel. Sweetness and something fruity.

If it isn’t considered a horrible thing to do to a good rum, I’ll tell you about mixing it with Coke. It was great! Not the kind of sugary spiced rum in coke, but it felt like a real, grown up cocktail with a real, grown up rum in it. Since I’m not a sipper of spirits, I don’t know how it would compare to other grown up rums. But for me, this changed my perception of rum from the candy sweet spiced variety to a serious drink. I can like both, you know, but now I can see new horizons.

Update: I’m sipping the Signature Blend and it is has a little burn, but the taste is very nice. I’m still trying to separate out the flavors, but maybe that will come in time.

Proof: 80 (40% ABV)

Paid: $20 (on sale)

Buy again: Yes

The Kraken Black Spiced Rum

Don’t be dragged to the bottom by the Kraken! A decorative bottle to be sure. But there is that “black” rum versus dark rum confusion. Whatever the case, it is not a bad spiced rum. I like it better than Captain Morgan Original, but not as good as the Bacardi Oakheart, which is also much easier on the wallet. I bought a miniature (50ml) bottle just to try it.

Mixed with Rum and Coke, the spices come through, along with some sweetness. It has a little alcohol burn, but it doesn’t hit too hard.

Proof: 94 (47% ABV)

Paid: $1.50 for 50ml

Buy again: Probably not

Captain Morgan Original Spiced Rum

Well this is the original spiced rum, or so they say, whoever they are. I actually bought a miniature (50ml) bottle just to try it. Straight sip equals alcohol burn. I didn’t get a lot of aroma from it. Mixed in Coke, it was underwhelming to me. The alcohol burn was still present, and the flavor was a much muted version of the flavors I have come to expect from other spiced rums.

Proof: 70 (35% ABV)

Paid: $1 for 50ml

Buy again: No

Bacardi Superior White Rum

A far as white rums go, the expectations can be pretty low. Most aren’t aged and some are filtered to remove any color and most of the flavor. I think the Fat Rum Pirate described it (or quoted someone else) as “sweet vodka”. I think that is a pretty good description and I can’t top that. And to me, the Bacardi Superior is nothing more. There is some sweetness, and I get a hint of something tropical in the aroma, but nothing comes through.

In a cocktail, it adds the alcohol kick. I remember getting more of a subtle fruitiness from the Cruzan Light Rum.

Proof: 80 (40% ABV)

Paid: $7 for 375ml

Buy again: No


Sailor Jerry’s Spiced Rum

Apparently, spiced rum enthusiasts who spend time online really like Sailor Jerry’s Spiced Rum. I’ll spare you the oft repeated stories about the artwork and the guy behind Sailor Jerry’s. It is a spiced rum with a slightly higher proof than others in the category. Oddly, I get a cherry candy flavor from it. And it is fairly pronounced even in Rum and Coke, as well as other cocktails I’ve tried. On review, I also get a cherry medicine aroma.

46% ABV (92 Proof)

Paid: $10 for a 375ml

Buy again: No

Cruzan Black Strap Rum

Do not gaze into the inky darkness!

I wasn’t prepared for this. After a series of exciting discoveries about rum being the right spirit for me, I decided to go all in. I saw the bottle on the shelf, and the liquid inside looked dark and mysterious. As with most Cruzan bottles, it wasn’t expensive. Reviewers warned me that it was an “acquired taste”.

I finally succumbed to curiosity and took the bottle home. Removing the cork (synthetic maybe, but my first bottle with a cork) yielded the aroma or molases, maple syrup, and a sharper alcohol hit. Not stronger, sharper.

A sip. Very sweet, very… musty? Molasses. A challenge!

I tried it in a Rum and Coke. It didn’t work for me. I have used it in a couple of cocktails that were assertive and it definitely holds its own. It will get used, but “acquired taste” was right!

Distiller: Cruzan Rum Distillery/Beam-Suntory

Proof: 80 (40% ABV)

Paid: $17 for 750ml

Buy again: Probably not.

Bacardi Oakheart Spiced Rum

My Second Bottle

Spiced Rum. Who hasn’t heard of Captain Morgan? Even to someone who hadn’t had a drink in 30 years, the name and commercial image of Captain Morgan was burned into my brain. I was intrigued. Here was a category of rum that was, by its definition, loaded with spicy flavor.

Off to the web! The Rum Howler Blog gave Bacardi Oakheart a score well above the other spiced rums that were reviewed (at least among the ones in my local ABC stores). Another factor was the Common Man Cocktails Spiced Rum Blind Tasting linked on the Resources page. As much as people (and Derrick in this case) don’t want to like the Bacardi brand, sometimes it is exactly what you end up liking (look at around 21:00 into the video).

I’m not saying this is the best spiced rum. While quite a few brands are represented at the new (and second largest in the adjacent county) ABC store, many are not. Bacardi Oakheart apparently has a wide distribution, as one would expect for a Bacardi brand.

So, with a bottle in hand, I removed the screw top and was greeted with the smell of maple syrup, vanilla, cinnamon and some other sweet and pleasant aromas. A slight sip, well, there is the alcohol again. I can taste the aforementioned flavors, but I wouldn’t try to drink it straight, as is my lot in life when it comes to alcohol. The burn I get when tasting it in a cocktail is more peppery than alcohol.

I tried and enjoyed it first in a Cruzan Car. Then, after remembering one of the reviews, made my first (spiced) Rum and Coke! This hit my taste buds in all of the right places. In time I learned that there are sweeter spiced rums, although this is plenty sweet, but Oakheart is my go to if I want a little less sweetness.

This experience only cemented my interest in rum in general.

Proof: 70 (35% ABV)

Paid: $13

Buy again: Yes

Blue Chair Bay Coconut Rum

Here we get into the gray area of alcohol. Is this a liquor? Or is it a liqueur? Unlike a rum or vodka bottled at 80 proof (40% ABV), this is at 53 proof (26.5% ABV). The lower numbers of the latter case is common in liqueurs.

Regardless, this is a rum with coconut flavor. It smells like coconut, and it doesn’t hit you with the smell of alcohol. It tastes like coconut. It is sweet, but not overwhelmingly so. It tastes more natural to me than Malibu.

In a mixed drink, it adds a nice tropical note.

Proof: 53 (26.5% ABV)

Paid: $16 (on sale) for 750ml

Buy again: Yes

Olmeca Altos Blanco and Reposado

My first tequila was found through the usual means of reviews and deep data dives. I decided on Olmeca Altos Blanco (as well as the Reposado). I bought one each in the 375ml size. These are 100% Blue Agave tequila. These are my first (and so far only) tequilas.

The agave flavor really comes through. The only way I knew what agave tasted like, was that I had also purchased agave nectar and knew the smell and taste. I also know it isn’t my favorite taste, but I can tolerate cocktails made with tequila. I did like the reposado (rested, aged in barrel for a period of time) better than the blanco (white, unaged).

Proof: 80 (40% ABV)

Paid: $10 for 375ml

Buy again: Probably

Evan Williams 1783 Bourbon

This was a tough one. While making some cocktails with my son and his girlfriend, my son asked what kind of whiskey I had.

There was no whiskey in the cabinet, and until that point, I never intended to have whiskey anywhere near me. (If you haven’t read the intro page, now is a good time).

By this time, I had tried the Meyers’s rum, and it had reminded me of whiskey, but perhaps because of the presentation, had not turned me off to the taste.

So I went down the rabbit hole of reviews and a visit to the ABC store to snap pictures of the entire wall of whiskey, focusing (no pun intended) on the middle shelf. At this point, I discovered just how high-end whiskey had become. So, I also snapped away at the bottom shelf for reference.

I’m not a whiskey drinker, and my intention was to ALWAYS mix it. Even then, I didn’t want to settle for the bottom shelf. Strangely enough, there appears to be a fairly good opinion of some of the bottom shelf whiskey when it comes to mixing (and a few that are decent neat sippers).

I finally settled on Evan Williams. Then the challenge became a choice between the lower end Evan Williams products, and the lower middle shelf.

The online consensus was that even the bottom shelf Evan Williams bottles would work in a cocktail. But in the end I decided to go one step up to the Evan Williams 1783 Bourbon.

Update: Evan Williams 1783 has a caramel flavor with a slight spice.

Distiller: Heaven Hill

Proof: 86 (43% ABV)

Paid: $17 for 750ml

Buy Again: Yes