We all have our favorite spirits, but when’s the last time you tasted your favorite spirit? Not in a cocktail, but unadulterated, neat at room temperature. Even if you don’t normally drink spirits neat you might be surprised how the taste of spirits change. On the other hand, if you can’t stand to drink your favorite libation neat, maybe you should widen your horizons.
I’ve been a fan of Cruzan rums ever since I first discovered these molasses-based rums in St Thomas a couple of decades ago. The first thing I noticed was that even their cheapest rum was significantly better than those from the 800 pound gorilla distiller a hundred miles to the west. Then towards the end of the last decade Cruzan launched their Single Barrel Rum which was a little too dry for my tastes. Up until that time, Cruzan Estate Diamond Rum was on my short list of favorites, but the Single Barrel Rum lacked some of the body of this new addition to the St Croix distiller’s lineup. About the same time, Cruzan was blending some of the best flavored rums in the Caribbean.
Over the last five or six years, I tried Cruzan’s Single Barrel Rum at various tastings and events and noticed that the blend had changed and had gained some of the body that had been lacking in the original blend. In August of this year, I tasted the Single Barrel again and following the taste of Ron Zacapa Centenario, Cruzan’s flagship rum had become sweeter and actually mimicked the award winning rum from Guatemala.
I’m not suggesting that change isn’t good, but don’t think that distillers aren’t working to make their products more attractive to consumers. In the 1980s Mount Gay Refined Eclipse had lost much of what had made that rum so popular. Fortunately, that blend has improved and is now much better (it lacks the raw, sharp bite typically found in young rums).
Considering rum is aged in used barrels and the raw material source also varies, it’s not surprising that my favorite distilled spirit changes. Distillers typically blend many barrels in an attempt to maintain consistency, but changes are part of any industry. And like many other products, distillers have been known to bottle different blends for sale in different market areas. But every distiller bottles its best rums at the distillery for the local market.