I don’t think anyone will debate a statement like “Mount Gay is an iconic distillery”. Although, nowadays it seems anything is debated online. It doesn’t really matter what kind of statement you make about what rum, someone will have something to say about it. This is great in a way, as it’s how a lot of knowledge gets shared and it’s how social media groups keep motoring. Downside is that it can get a little messy at times. Communicating without being able to look each other in the eye, reading each other’s face expressions is challenging. Messages are misunderstood easily. We’ve all been there.
At times it gets worse though and it becomes comparable to road rage. For some reason, many of us humans feel they turn into some sort of invincible, untouchable super power when they get into a car. Doing the strangest and at times aggressive things. I used to show some of this type of behaviour as well, but realized that I won’t be able to change anyone while driving and it only takes one lunatic to mess up your life forever. It’s somewhat similar when people get behind a keyboard. The mighty keyboard! The feeling of no consequences to actions is rather big when it comes to some people and their keyboards. It’s silly, as you never know who you’ll cross paths with in real life.
This might seem a strange topic to start a rum review with. But then again, me just telling you what I think of the liquid is rather boring, as there are millions of reviews out there which do just that. Plus, people who only want to know the score won’t read this anyway. What got me onto this train of thought was what Trudiann Branker said about the Mount Gay Pot Still and Andean Oak releases. I was at the Barbados Rum Experience last November, where one of the activities was to tour Mount Gay Distillery. One of the highlights was meeting Trudiann, Mount Gay’s master blender. One of the things she said was that she felt the Pot Still Rum and Andean Oak Cask tasted best at 48% abv, adding to this that she realized people will debate this decision……and that she won't lose any sleep over it. Fair enough, there is no bigger expert on these rums than Trudiann. And as long as her releases sell well, she’s right. We do like some debate in our tiny rum enthusiast bubble though…..but that’s for later on.
The two expressions in question are special limited releases, labeled “Master Blender Collection”. The Port Cask was another one of these, which gets a lot of praise. Not one of my favourites, as I find the port influence too strong. The Andean Oak Cask is the latest release. It’s limited at 2760 bottles and seems sold out already. It’s a pure pot still distillate that spent 14 years in ex bourbon barrels and 11 months in Andean oak. One month more and they could have called it a 15 year rum. I like that they took it out of the barrel when it tasted right and not when it would have given them the opportunity to put a higher age statement on the label. It shows Mount Gay’s focus on quality over gimmicks.
I had never heard of Andean oak, so I asked Raphaël Grisoni, Mount Gay’s managing director about it. He said:”The oak is coming from Colombia and the cooperage is in Colombia too. Why??? New oak that brings interesting flavors”. The official name for this species of oak is Quercus humboldtii. It grows in the Andean mountains at an altitude range of 1000 to 3200 meters. It can also be found in Panama. I wondered how they heard of this type of oak. After some reluctance, Raphaël said:”Our friends of Bruichladdich were ordering casks from them and we piggy backed on their order to do some r&d”.
The other expression is the Pot Still Rum. A 10 year old pure pot still, released at 48%. Limited to 4920 bottles. A younger and larger release that’s been around for a while. I was late to the party but was still able to purchase a bottle at the distillery, luckily. First time I tried it was at Philippe Madkaud’s house in Barbados. He had noticed I was in Barbados and invited me over for a rum tasting. Him and his wife are the nicest people and I’m very glad I got the opportunity to meet them. Philippe arranged a stellar lineup of rums to taste, including some of his own brand. He’s an independent bottler. His brand of good, additive free rums is 'Rhum Opportune 1791'. One of the rums he let me taste was the Mount Gay Pot Still. I instantly fell in love with it. The nose was enough already. I had to have a bottle.
I asked Trudiann if the Andean Oak Cask was simply a further ageing of this particular pot still release. She said this wasn't the case, as "that wouldn't be interesting". She clearly doesn't like to be bored and isn't afraid to push boundaries and shake up the establishment a little, as can be seen with her Mount Gay XO. She seems to want to use her creativity in each release to produce something new and exciting. That's great for us rum enthusiasts. For me, the process doesn't have to sound interesting though, that's for the marketing people. The taste is all I care about.
On to the tasting. As usual, I did it semi blind. I know the lineup but not in which order. This didn’t have much of an effect in this case, as it’s fairly easy to distinguish the two. I tasted them next to each other and separately in multiple sessions.
Spicy wood, vanilla dessert, light tobacco, cigar box, fashion magazine, dried flowers, banana, light raisins, mint. Fruitiness comes through the longer you leave it. It’s quite floral. This nose is heavenly.
Slightly less complex than rum 1. Oak, candle wax, light vanilla, it’s creamy and dusty at the same time. Prunes, orange peel, light chocolate and licorice. There are some similarities but rum 1 is more interesting on the nose.
Wood, pot still goodness (you know what I mean), tobacco, quite fruity, mint, light chocolate, slightly bitter on the solid finish. It’s sweeter and fruitier than rum 2. It’s rather thick, despite its lower abv.
Delicious prime example of a pot still profile. Chocolate, wood, orange, tobacco, mint, no bitterness on the long finish. The wood spice is there, but it never dominates. Can’t get enough of this.
Rum 1: Mount Gay Andean Oak Cask
Rum 2: Mount Gay Pot Still Rum
I like both of these very much. The Andean Oak Cask adds a floral, fruity complexity that the Pot Still Rum doesn’t have. I do have to admit though, it doesn’t need it. That pot still is perfectly fine without the Andean Oak. It’s actually more than fine, it’s close to perfection. If anyone wants to know what a great pot still rum tastes like….this is the one to get hold of.
Apart from the pot still profile shining bright like a diamond, the lack of bitterness on the finish of the Pot Still Rum, likely because of its lower age, is another thing that makes me prefer it over the Andean Oak Cask.
There is one thing that slightly holds it back in my opinion. The one thing Trudiann won’t lose any sleep over, the abv. I would love to taste this in the mid to high 50s. I think I’d want an unlimited lifetime supply of it. I’d travel to Barbados several times a year to pick up a supply and try to slip it past Canadian customs.
The downside to a higher abv is the price, of course. As is, the prices of these releases are high. I’m not saying they are too expensive, as rare, old pot still rum should have a high price. But with a higher abv comes less bottles and an even bigger price tag. It would make it unobtainable for most, with the majority of the bottles likely going to people who’d never drink it. I wonder if this has been part of the conversation when determining the abv and price.
I haven’t seen a lot of talk about these rums in the enthusiast bubbles. Which makes me wonder who’s buying them. I know and have seen quite a few people who proudly say:”I don’t drink anything that isn’t cask strength”. I have a hunch that this goes hand in hand with a feeling of pride and accomplishment. They’ve reached the Valhalla, the epitome of drinking! Cask strength! Naturally, everyone else who doesn’t drink cask strength or drinks both (like me), is a bit of a pansy and can’t be a member of this exclusive group of rum knights with their iron throats and stomachs. This makes me giggle at times. In general I prefer higher abv rums, but there are exceptions that I wouldn't want to miss out on. These two Mount Gay releases are such an example.
Mount Gay Andean Oak Cask – 90
Mount Gay Pot Still Rum – 93
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