Tasting the Mount Gay 1703 Rum
I tend not to think too much about rum. While other spirits are often showcased through martinis or meant to be sipped straight, rum is often swimming with fruit juice. It would be sacrilege to do that with the 1703 Old Cask Selection rum from Mount Gay. This latest treat from the world's oldest distillery deserves respect and earns its place with the growing coterie of fine aged rums. The 1703 Old Cask Selection comes in an elegant oval bottle with the Mount Gay seal embossed on it and could sit nicely behind the bar with cognacs, bourbons, brandies and other slow sippers.
The rum itself, made of golden sugar cane and the clean water of Barbados, is aged in former bourbon casks. Master blender Allen Smith has used rums aged for 10 to 30 years and his own experience of nearly 20 years to create a rum that has a cognac-like appeal. It is rich but also soft with a hint of something tropical, just a touch of sugary white flower and banana on the nose. The rum has a silken flavor with notes of dried mango and caramel grounded in the spiced earthiness of wood. It calls out for a late evening sunset, a fine cigar and the sort of lazy, meandering conversation that arises when no one needs to wake up early for work the next day. The 1703 will be rolled out next month for around $100 in major markets.
A little less expensive but also worthy of standing alone in a glass is the Extra Old which is made of rums that are aged for 17 years in charred oak barrels. It has a rich bourbon-like flavor with a subtle sweetness and hints of vanilla. It sells for around half the price of the 1703 and could change the minds of those whisky drinkers who turn up their noses at the thought of rum's sweetness.
And for mixing there is the Mount Gay Eclipse. While I've had more than my share of gin and tonic and vodka and tonic drinks over the years it hadn't occurred to me to combine rum and tonic until I tried it. If a gin and tonic is a crisp white cotton shirt, crisp and clean, a rum and tonic is a pair of linen pants, still sharp but with a more laidback appeal. It makes a nice twist to a summer classic.