By Christopher McCollum
I’ve long made the assertion that DonQ is my favorite light rum, and has been so since I had a taste of it in its native Puerto Rico, back in 2008. From that point forward, whenever I spent time in Puerto Rico, I would make sure there was consistently a bottle of DonQ Cristal in my freezer.
Recently, I had the good fortune of obtaining a bottle of BlackBeard Spiced Rum, DonQ’s spicy cousin, produced by Distileria Serralles. Not readily available throughout the United States yet, it is quite an honor to preview the newest product from the Island distillery. At Culture of Spirits, we took care to isolate ourselves from other available reviews, so as not to give ourselves preconceptions about BlackBeard, and to maintain as objective a tasting process as we could. This is something that we try to do with all products that we review, in order to provide an honest, untainted opinion.
Upon opening the bottle, the scent of vanilla is the first noticeable feature. It takes a moment to get notes of anything else, but when the rum does finally come through, it’s business as usual in the olfactory department. Allowing the open bottle to breathe for a few seconds brings more of the rum scent to the surface, but it remains infused with vanilla. Unlike other rums which can have an over-powering smell out of the bottle, whether they be silver, gold, or spiced, BlackBeard maintains a smooth, almost fragrant scent that belies it’s 86 proof content.
On first taste, my immediate thought was that I was, in fact, drinking rum. This was a pleasant thing to note, as the light, aromatic bouquet left me with some concern that there would be such a strong presence of spicing ingredients in the rum that it would mask the natural flavor, rather than complement it. This did not prove to be the case, and the actual flavor of the rum is mild, with a hint of vanilla. There are subtle notes of other, less identifiable spices, that further complement the rum’s overall flavor.
As spiced rums are not generally meant to be drank neat, and we were shut in by adverse weather conditions when the reviewing process went on, it was decided that we would use available ingredients to mix together cocktails that would show off the qualities of BlackBeard, and bring to light any flaws in the product. The first cocktail we tried was a simple Cuba Libre; BlackBeard, cola, and lime. The taste took a little getting used to, as we at Culture of Spirits are accustomed to using a silver rum when mixing with cola, but it ended up being a mostly positive experience. The vanilla flourished in that mixture, and the overwhelming consensus was that the BlackBeard Cuba Libre tastes an awful lot like Vanilla Coke. While pleasant in small doses, it was a little too sweet of a combination to drink more than one glass.
The next drink we mixed was BlackBeard and eggnog, which was a revelation. Normally, I’m not a fan of eggnog at all, but we had an excessive amount of eggs in the kitchen, so we decided to whip it up rather than risk life and limb outside, with ice covered roads, to go to the store for more ingredients. A four part to one mixture of eggnog and BlackBeard made the tasting a success. Oddly, despite the ludicrous amounts of sugar in eggnog, the libation didn’t seem nearly as sickly sweet as the Cuba Libre did, and the spicy undertones of the rum set the drink up as a fantastic creation for the evening. The taste of the rum itself was barely evident, but the vanilla and other spices went hand in hand with the eggnog flavor, and ended up being worthy of multiple refills across the board.
All in all, BlackBeard is an excellent mixing agent when used properly. The sweetness that all spiced rums carry with them can be a detriment in certain cocktails to those who aren’t big fans of sugar, but a smart mixologist can get around this with clever combinations, and the weekend bartender can always find a suitable recipe that will fit his or her needs. When you see BlackBeard on the shelf, I highly recommend it to take a spot in your bar as your spiced rum selection.