Rum Review: Mezan XO Jamaican

Rum Review: Mezan XO Jamaican

This is something different. I’ve encountered that a lot lately. Investment grade Caroni (interesting, but not for me at its price), two Foursquare rums (both fantastic), Pusser’s Gunpowder proof (fantastic), and now this Mezan Jamaican XO. Different would be an understatement, not only compared to the last few, but to everything else I’ve ever had. Only a Papa’s Pilar light has been this pale, and I haven’t had one of those in a couple of years now.


Mezan is known for its single barrel rums from Jamaica, Guyana, Panama, and Trinidad. This is not a single barrel rum but a blend from Jamaican barrels. Mezan finds and buys rum from various distilleries then ages and releases them under their own name. Their expertise seems to be in the selection of barrels to buy and they’re pretty good at it.

The Mezan website declares the rum free of additives and but “lightly filtered”. The XO has no age statement, and other than being a blend of “various ages” no information on the actual ages of rums in the blend is given on the label or Mezan website. The label does say that aged rums are here blended and then re-aged to meld them. An honest rum is worth a try and Mezan has the street cred to be experiment worthy. Even better this rum was $40 which puts it in the high end of the low-price price range for me (English Harbour, Pusser’s Gunpowder, and Mocambo 20 are also about this much), affordable if I really like it. The Mezan website says it should be even less at $30, but then this is California . The XO is bottled at 40% ABV and has a tight plastic cap.


Color: very pale straw, only slightly yellow.

Legs: Tiny droplets form all along the border when you swirl it. A few slowly coalesce into a few thin legs that run slowly.

Nose: Less alcohol than I expected from the color but I remind myself this isn’t a “young rum”. There is lots of fruit on the nose: pineapple, apricot, white grape, and orange along with burnt sugar and light molasses.

Flavor: Bright and fruity. Some cherry, the pineapple, apricot, apple (??), grape, banana. Lots of fruit and also light brown sugar, something like a sweetened coffee, a hint of tobacco, and even some lemon. This is a very “bright rum” with lots of sparkling fruit notes. It is a little fiery going down, more than most 40% ABV rums, but that might be some of the young rums in the blend. A medium finish that turns slightly bitter. The texture is creamy and gets creamier as the rum mixes with air. The fruit and sweetness dials back near the end of the glass and a little oak comes out. But the creamy texture hangs out on the tongue and holds some of the fruit sweetness with it.

All in all a very different rum experience for me. Again worth being aware of how varied even honest rums can be. I’m used to the dark and over-ripe fruits but I don’t find those here. I also expected some “Jamaican funk”, but there is none to be found in this rum. For the price this is a great change-up from the darker rums I usually drink.

As usual I’ve paired this with a few cigars, but I haven’t found anything outstanding yet in any of the pairings but I have most of the bottle still, so there will be more to try. I’m also interested in how this rum will evolve in the bottle. Will let some sit for a while.

Worth $40? You bet! Not something I would drink every day, but a refreshing difference from time to time. I wonder how this will be on a warm day over a little ice.


Rum Review: Caroni AD Rattray Cask Collection 18 year rum

Rum Review: Caroni AD Rattray Cask Collection 18 year rum

My first venture into “investment grade” spirit is not for the purpose of investing, but reporting. Why investment grade? Because the Caroni distillery (Trinidad) shut down in 2002 (or 2004 depending on your source) and there is no more of this being made. This particular bottle cost $100 from a San Francisco retail outlet in late 2016. Was it worth it? Well what have we got…

A.D. Rattray 18 yr old single (bourbon) barrel rum. The A.D. by the way stands for Andrew Dewar who with William Rattray conspired to produce this spirit. This by the way is not the same Dewar (John) of the Scotch brand, but perhaps they are related. The bottle itself is plain, but the label contains real information. There is also a nice cork, a nice touch these days. The label (Notice the English spelling and International date format) on the bottle says:

cask 118, 307 bottles
Distilled 24.06.1997
Bottled 01.06.2016
Uncoloured and unchill filtered
The ABV comes in at 46%, a bit higher than most rums, but not by a lot.

On the back there is a label that gives some tasting notes

Color Burnished Copper
Nose: Coconut, vanilla, and toffee apple
Palate: Pear drops, pineapple, guava, lime alongside lingering toffee with hints of tobacco. A kaleidoscope of tropical flavors.


I’ve had three glasses of this now, and paired it with three cigars (more on that below). Here’s what I get out of it so far…

Color: Medium amber, a little gold, and light copper would be about right.

Legs: Fast medium legs when swirled. I’m always amazed at how much rums differ in this even if it has little bearing on flavors

Aroma: Here it gets interesting. Alcohol distinct but not over powering, there is something like glue here too, but more like over ripe fruit than acetone, perhaps dunder. Plenty of brown sugar, perhaps burnt sugar, and there is ripe banana on the nose, apricot (overripe) orange. There is a hint of funk in all this over-ripeness of the aroma, but it isn’t up front.

Flavors: On the palate the funk is more up front, like Pusser’s blue label, and almost as strong but in some way more crisp, backed by a glassier texture that hides a lot of potential but doesn’t give much away at first. At first I can’t find any fruit in this taste other than the overripe funkiness of what might be spoiled fruit. I do find oak, lots of oak, bourbon-like smokiness, and lots of tobacco. There isn’t any sugar added to this rum so it is dry, but there is a thin brown sugar sweetness to it offsetting the somewhat bitter tobacco notes.

What about the bottle’s own tasting notes? Coconut? Vanilla? Maybe but a stretch for my palate, maybe charred vanilla, but I don’t get any fruit out of it except of the dunder-like overripe sort. If I’ve ever experienced an over-oaked rum though, this would be it. 18 years in a barrel is a long time for a rum. Still some people go for that flavor and my palate is maturing to the point of appreciating the effect of the slightly sweet and bitter together. Toward the bottom of the glass I begin to sense banana and a little more sugar than at the beginning. A little water dials the funk back a bit and brings out more sweetness. I’ll experiment with that a bit more.

Texture: Starts out oily in a strange way I’ve not every noticed before. It looses some of that as you drink it but gets creamier in a sugary way as the glass rests in the air. The rum comes across very smooth for its 46% ABV with no added sugar. Perhaps 18 years adds that. The alcohol does give a very warm cast to the finish, your mouth seems to heat up with it, much more than I’ve noticed with rums at the usual 40%. Other reviews say the finish is medium, but the warming effect lasts a long time and flavors on the back of the tongue fade slowly. Seems like a longish finish to me combining the sweet and the bitter all the way to the end. I know there is more complexity here than my palate can find. I have the remainder of the bottle to find out.

I’ve paired three cigars with glasses of this rum. They were all good, but a Drew Estate Liga (Papas Fritas) stood out. These sticks have a nice nut and dark-chocolate sweetness to them, and the rum brought both out well.

So is it worth $100 a bottle? Not by my palate, though I can appreciate it. Like Pusser’s blue, it is a rum I would drink from time to time to keep my palate honest and remember what a wide variety of flavors can be found in rums. I know a rum drinker who absolutely loves Pusser’s blue and thinks rums lacking its funk are not worth the time. He would want to add this one to his list I am sure. But Pusser’s blue is $25 a bottle, little enough for that reminder. If I’m going to spend this much on a rum, I’d rather it not make me work so hard to find all the flavors. But yes it is good, yes it is complex, and yes its oak and (to me) tobacco notes dominate, but that isn’t all bad. It is definitely unusual, different, and rare. That is sometimes worth a high price.


Rum Review: Pusser’s Black Label Gunpowder Proof

Rum Review: Pusser’s Black Label Gunpowder Proof

Pusser’s a well known rum brand at a reasonable price. Their “blue label” product (reviewed here) is downright inexpensive and claims to be the authentic blend used by British Navy for some 200 years (from about 1730 to 1970). So what is this black label “Gunpowder” proof all about? In the 19th century (or before) the British Admiralty began issuing an alcohol ration to every sailor. At first brandies and such were tried, but these tended to spoil over long voyages. By contrast rum seemed only to get better and so by around 1730 all the rations were converted to rum. At first “the tot” was a half pint of over proof rum, a full cup. That’s a lot of distilled spirit at 57%+ ABV. Over the years the ration changed. First water was added to bring the ABV (and hopefully drunkeness) down and then the ration was cut in half and eventually in half again. But at the beginning it was potent stuff and the sailors knew how to tell they were being cheated. As it turns out, if you put a little bit of gunpowder on paper and pour a little rum over it (any distilled spirit will have this effect) if the ABV is above a certain “magic number” the gunpowder will still ignite even wet. If it refuses to ignite, the ABV is below the magic number.

That magic number turns out to be 56% ABV! But Pusser’s “Gunpowder rum” is bottled at 54.5% ABV! The gunpowder will not ignite. It all comes down to marketing, and they were hoping you, the consumer, wouldn’t know! Well now you do! But “Gunpowder proof” or not, this is a damned good rum!



Color: Medium dark amber shading to a copper red..

Legs: Tiny beads form all along the border when the glass is swirled. After a long while they begin to
coalesce into thick legs that run slowly down the glass

Aroma: Alcohol of course but not so much as you might expect from the 54.5% ABV at which the rum is bottled but it does manage to tickle the back of my throat if I inhale the glass deeply. No acetone notes, this is not a “young rum”. There is plenty to smell though. Prune, raisin, dark brown sugar, and a little bit of that “pot still” funk that one gets so much of in the 40% ABV “blue label” product. But in this version the funk is transformed from moldy forrest floor to over-ripe dark fruit.

Flavors: This rum shines on many levels from the layers of its aroma to the flavors that come through on the palate. Rich in dark fruit, prune but especially raisin, treacle (burnt caramel), vanilla, tobacco, and oak round it all out. The pot still funk is there too but far less intense than it is in the blue label and as in the aroma it tastes more like over-fermented raisin than old socks.

Texture and finish: The rum is a little creamy, but gets creamier as the glass is consumed. The finish is medium, brown-sugar sweet, and a little hot as the extra alcohol takes affect in the swallow. But it is not a harsh finish by any means, the rum shows its pedigree. There is no need to dilute this rum, it is nicely smooth at full strength. But a tiny bit of water didn’t hurt it and brought more brown sugar sweetness and frutiness to the foreground.

Speaking of sugar, the sugar test reference shows 7g/l added sugar, a tiny bit more than the 6g/l in the blue label, but these are low numbers. Some rums go as high as 40g/l, and for comparison, coca cola has a whopping 108g/l!!


For roughly $40 at most retailers Pusser’s Gunpowder rum is a bargain. The price is about 60% above the usual blue label price (another outstanding value its price of about $25 most places) but it is a much better rum experience over all especially if the moldy funk of the blue label product is off putting to your palate.

I have paired the Gunpowder rum with a few cigars and they all seem to go well. This rum seems to hit the sweet spot as goes enhancing tobacco flavors. This might turn out to be the best cigar-pairing rum ever!

The navy tot by the way was often mixed with a little lime juice (to prevent scurvy) and sugar (undoubtedly to smooth out what would have been very young rum). This process may have pushed rum into the “anything goes” spirit we often see in products today. But by the way, a squeeze of lime is pretty good in rum…