Goslings Papa Seal Review
Goslings is a rum blender from Bermuda. Mostly known for their Black Seal rum and for the Dark 'N Stormy cocktail.
When it comes to their history, James Gosling arrived in Bermuda from England in 1806. Their rum journey started in the late 1850’s, when the first barrels of rum arrived on the island and they started experimenting with blending. The Goslings website states:” They didn’t call it Black Seal at first, in fact up until the First World War it was sold from the barrel, and folks brought in bottles for a fill up of “Old Rum”, so called because of its distinctive smoothness.
Eventually the black rum was sold in champagne bottles, reclaimed from the British Officer’s Mess, and the corks sealed with black sealing wax. Pretty soon people began to ask for the “Black Seal”. Many years later a play on words and images gave birth to the little, barrel juggling “Black Seal”.”
Goslings entered the premium market, whatever that means, in 2018 with Papa Seal (which is the nickname of Malcolm Gosling Sr.). They released 11 barrels for the US and 1 barrel for Bermuda at first. In 2019, two additional barrels were released for Bermuda (which sold out in 2 hours) and 3 for Canada.
Goslings typically buys rum from different distilleries in different countries for blending and further ageing. Unfortunately they don’t want to reveal which rums are in this particular blend. What they did share is that it’s aged for a minimum of 15 years in former Goslings Family Reserve barrels. These are fully emptied before adding the new blend. It's bottled at 41.5%. The sample I have is from the 2018 release, which could be slightly different from any other.
Vanilla, oak, tobacco and molasses are all quite obvious. It’s got a mild fruitiness and some mint. It’s quite smokey, pleasant and rummy. It could do with more power.
It’s a very nutty and spicy rum. I'm finding nutmeg, caramel, banana, toffee, vanilla and cloves. Finish is short and unremarkable.
I find Papa Seal a pleasant sipper and definitely more interesting than the regular Goslings lineup. That’s about where the good part ends though. Being pleasant is very important, but for the price of this bottle I’d expect a lot more than that. I’d want something complex and powerful, something that takes me to heaven and back instead of giving me a relaxed by the camp fire feeling only. Having watered it down to 41.5% is particularly insulting to consumers when the asking price is $250 Canadian. It should have been well over 50%, which would have taken care of an increased complexity, more power and a longer, more intense finish.
This rum is not for the enthusiastic rum drinker. Unless curiosity gets the better of you, or you want to randomly burn a pile of cash you have lying around and don’t really care about an impressive sipping experience. It might be more suitable for a collector who’s interested in rarity. How rare is it really? There is a bottle number on the label, but it doesn’t mention how many there are in total. So that’s not comforting. They’ve said 3 barrels went to Canada. That is a lot of bottles for the $250 price. Compare that to Holmes Cay’s Barbados offering. A total of two barrels, cask strength rum from Foursquare distillery for $150 US per bottle. That’s decent value for money, the Goslings clearly isn’t. Certainly not when you realize they are going to keep releasing this in the future.
For my Canadian readers, if you really want to drink a 15 year old rum, get an El Dorado 15. It’s sweetened and I’m not a fan of this, but despite that, I still recommend it over the Papa Seal. It’s more complex and interesting and for the price of the Goslings you can buy almost 4 El Dorado 15’s. Or a bottle of El Dorado 8, El Dorado 12, El Dorado 15 and El Dorado 21. Or a bottle of Mount Gay 1703 Master Select, 2 bottles of Smith & Cross and a bottle of El Dorado 12. Let me stop rambling as I think I’ve made my point.
A lot of premium rums provide a less than stellar sipping experience to me. In a lot of cases, the more premium it becomes, the more sugar is added. To complete the premium categorization it’s typically put in a fancy looking bottle with a large number printed on the label. In other words, the word “premium” doesn’t mean much to me.....if anything, it has a negative association. To be fair to Goslings, not much of this is going on with Papa Seal. The packaging is nice and not pretentious, it doesn’t seem like there is sugar added and there is no age statement on the bottle. The question that remains is, what’s premium about this product? The answer is the price! I don’t see anything else. It’s not very rare, it doesn’t carry a proper age statement, there is no clarity on where the blend originates from and it’s low in abv and complexity. I’d buy it at $50, but at this price I’ll get a Worthy Park Single Estate 2006 and leave myself with money left over for some other actual premium purchases.
Goslings Papa Seal – 72
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