Denizen Rum is something of a paradox. It’s a Caribbean rum, but it is blended in Europe. It’s an aged rum, but it is crystal clear. It’s a quality rum, but it is sold at a very affordable price. One thing is no mystery, however: this rum is a winner.
Denizen begins with aged Trinidadian rum from the Angostura distillery, which is charcoal filtered to remove all color. It is then blended in the Netherlands with small amounts of 15 different pot-distilled Jamaican rums, giving it much more flavor and body than is typically found in clear rum.
And clear it is. Denizen has a bright, clean appearance, accompanied by a subtle floral, sugar cane aroma. It has a silky, medium-bodied mouthfeel — it’s immediately apparent that this rum hasn’t been distilled to death. There’s still a lot of character here.
The flavor is spicy and dry, only slightly sweet, with a medium-long finish. It definitely has some heat to it that reminds you you’re drinking rum. You can also taste the vanilla and oak that indicate it spent some time in wood.
Denizen is certainly a rum you can sip neat, especially with a couple ice cubes to cool its fire a bit. But it really shines in cocktails. Almost any drink that calls for a white rum, from a Daiquiri to a Mojito to a Piña Colada, will be improved by the use of Denizen rum. Its versatility means you can use it virtually anywhere with good results.
Best of all, this rum won’t break the bank. You can buy a bottle from DrinkUpNY for only $17. Most of the time you can’t even find Bacardi for that cheap, and this rum runs circles around that better-known brand.
Currently, Denizen is only available in New York State, but hopefully they’ll be getting wider distribution soon. This is a rum that’s too good to pass by. [Edit 7/8/14: This rum is now more widely available. Check their website for details.]
Cockspur Fine Rum Bajan Rum Final Grade: B+ Price: $18 (750ml)
Cockspur 12 Rum Bajan Rum Final Grade: C Price: $30 (750ml)
Barbados is the original home of rum, and one of the better known Barbadian (or Bajan) producers of the spirit is Cockspur. They currently make two rum expressions that are distributed in the United States: Cockspur Fine Rum and Cockspur 12.
Both of these are gold or amber rums, distilled from fermented molasses. They are typical of the Bajan style: more dry than sweet, with a toasty, floral aroma.
Cockspur Fine Rum is the "entry-level" bottling. It is lighter in color than the Cockspur 12, and has a spicy, brown sugar smell. Its taste is smooth, with an initial burst of caramel, followed by a dryer flavor of oak. The finish lingers a bit on the tongue, with a nice, tingling presence, but not an overhwhelming amount of heat.
Although the Cockspur Fine is primarily intended as a mixing rum, it was still quite suitable for sipping neat. It would go well with a little Coke or ginger beer, if you'd like something on the sweet side. I mixed it in a Daiquiri and it was delicious. A very sold rum, especially for the price.
The Cockspur 12 Rum, however, did not accord itself so well. When compared to the Fine Rum, I found it lacking in most ways.
The Cockspur 12 starts off well. It is beautiful in the glass, a gorgeous dark amber color with medium body. Its smell is close to the Fine Rum: brown sugar and alcohol with a little oak. Once I took a sip, however, the disappointment set in.
This rum was very hot and rough for a blend of spirits aged so long. (Cockspur 12 is made from the oldest rums in the distillery. It is not technically a 12-year-old spirit, but some of the rums in it are that old.) The flavor is dry and oaky, with a touch of vanilla. There is almost no sweetness to this rum. It has a bitter, almost leathery flavor that I didn't care for.
Even after some time in the glass, I found it less than ideal for sipping. I did try mixing it in a cocktail — a Daiquiri, naturally — and it was very tasty like that. However, a rum like this has to rise or fall when drunk on its own.
The Cockspur 12 does have some things to recommend it. It has a lot of complexity to its flavor profile — there's a lot going on here — and a long finish. If you're used to drinking single malt Scotch, this is a rum you might like to try. For my taste, however, I'll be reaching for a different bottle.
Wine Enthusiast magazine doesn't just write about wine — they recently ran a good piece on the best Caribbean rums, including tasting notes and scores. They also suggest a variety of ways in which these rums can be enjoyed, and some of the best places in the islands to stay and to drink. It's definitely worth a read.
Here are some of the rums they recommend. I haven't tried all of them yet, but they get good marks from most people.
Mount Gay Extra Old — Wine Enthusiast score: 93 points. An interesting rum that a lot of people love, although it's a bit too whiskey-like for my tastes.