For quite a while, Barbados rum talk in the rum enthusiast circles was mostly about Foursquare Distillery, not Mount Gay. I remember being part of a large group of people who went to Barbados in 2018 to celebrate all things rum. It was an amazing time, where Richard and Gayle Seale especially stepped up to be incredible hosts to us. We toured all the distilleries, minus one. When we were at Mount Gay distillery, we spotted Managing Director Raphaël Grisoni. A few people, including myself and Steve Leukanech cornered him immediately for some passionate questioning about the lack of cask strength options. I’ve spoken with him a few times after and he said he didn’t mind that at all. Pfew! I was also lucky to have about 30 seconds of one on one time with Allen Smith, their Master Blender at that time. I mentioned to him that the demand for cask strength and different barrel options seemed to be growing a lot. I asked if Mount Gay was going in that direction as well. Clearly not impressed by my question he said:”You should go talk to the marketing department”. And he walked off. Haha.
I’m not sharing these tales because I think they had any sort of influence on the direction of Mount Gay, of course they didn’t. They are however an interesting reminder that only four years ago we were asking Mount Gay for more cask strength offerings and expressions aged in different casks. Look at what they’ve brought to market since! Port cask, Andean oak, Pot still, Madeira cask etc. A lot has changed in a short time and it shows how lucky we are to be living in current rum times.
Still, Foursquare remains the more talked about Barbados rum distillery. I can only guess why. I’ll grant myself 3 guesses. They started serving the rum community with cask strength offerings before Mount Gay did and have provided a lot more options. Foursquare’s owner, Richard Seale, has personally involved himself in a lot of social media discussions and Zoom gatherings, providing a ton of wonderful information. Lastly, their price-quality ratio is simply more enticing. The recent price hikes of Mount Gay products is still fresh in my mind. Over here, Mount Gay XO doubled in price. From the best buy at the LCBO stores to a debatable one, regardless of the fact that it is a nice rum. I used to always stock it at home, I don’t have it anymore unfortunately. Looking at the prices of their limited releases makes your eyes water at times. Last time I was at the distillery I bought the Pot Still and Andean Oak. I vaguely remember paying USD150 or so per bottle. That doesn’t seem super crazy at first, however….when you realize it is 48% abv, not cask strength, it becomes a little painful. What I hear from people in Barbados is that a lot of these expressions sell locally, at those prices. Which means you can’t say they are making the wrong choice by pricing it this way. That also means very limited supply will spread across the world, which could be another reason why hardly anyone in the rum community talks about these rums.
The latest Master Blender Collection release is The Madeira Cask Expression. Mount Gay’s Master Blender, Trudiann Branker, is really pushing the boat out with this one. With previous releases there has always been pot still rum in the blend, with ageing in ex bourbon barrels for at least part of the journey. Not with this one! Column still rum only and Madeira wine cask only, for a full six years. That might be surprising at first, but it isn’t really. With Trudiann taking over the Master Blender position form Allen Smith, there has been a real style change at Mount Gay. Away from the heavier ex bourbon profile to a more fruity, lighter body rum. This Madeira Cask Expression fits well in that direction.
Before I heard the price of this one, I thought it might cost a little less than the Pot Still and Andean Oak. Sure, at 55%, the Madeira Cask has a higher alcohol percentage. However, it is a young rum at six years and it’s well known that pot still rum is typically more expensive to produce than column rum. Which makes it rather surprising to me that it is actually priced higher at around USD200. I guess they figured the next release has to be more expensive than the previous one? Continue to push and push the prices up? It makes no sense to me from a specs perspective, but if it sells, it sells. It is very limited with 2706 bottles. Compared to the 2760 bottles of Andean Oak Cask (14 year pot still), 4920 of Pot Still Rum and 6570 of the Port Cask.
I was given a large sample of Madeira Cask rum by the guys from the Barbados Rum Club. Thanks again! I figured I’d compare it to another 55% Mount Gay release, the Port Cask Expression. This is a blend of column rum aged for 5 years in Tawny Port casks and pot still rum aged for 14 years in American whiskey casks that was finished in Tawny Port casks for one year.
I tasted these semi blind. I knew which rums, but not in what order.
Fruity and woody, red wine, pencil shavings, coconut, lots of red fruit, light chocolate, light candle wax. Creamy and soft. More body than rum 2. It has a bit of earthiness to it with some dried fruit.
Thinner than rum 1. Fruit and oak are nicely balanced. Molasses, caramel, vanilla, mineral stones, red wine. It's a very sweet and pleasant nose. Wine is a bit more prevalent than with rum 1.
Both nice noses. Slight preference for rum 1 because of its body.
Strong red wine and oak spice. Very peppery, fruits soaked in wine, very nutty, strawberries, cherries. Finish is solid with a ton of port and oak. Only slightly bitter. A hint of sulphur?
Lots of tobacco and sweet oak coating my mouth, nice. Coconut, it’s so sweet! Fruit basket coming through a little later, little bit of mint, light glossy magazine, red wine, vanilla. Mid palate is wonderful. It's a nicely balanced rum. The finish isn’t super bold and solid, but it is very pleasing, almost soothing. It’s missing some body and doesn’t slap you in the face, but it is rather good and velvet.
Rum 1: Mount Gay The Port Cask Expression
Rum 2: Mount Gay The Madeira Cask Expression
The Madeira Cask Expression is a very nice rum. Column still rum has a bit of a bad reputation in rum enthusiast circles. Especially South American producers have helped to cement this position, well behind the magical pot still. Column still = light flavourless rum, some say. If there is one thing that this Madeira Cask Expression can do is to help change that thought. This column still rum is far from flavourless. There is a lot going on and it's so fruity! Compared to the Mount Gay pot still it does miss some body and heavier notes. It's not for nothing that so much Barbados rum is a perfect blend of heavy pot still distillates and fruity column distillates. It brings balance. They know what they are doing.
Both have very Bajan profiles to me, but the Port Cask Expression feels like it is soaked in red wine. The Port Cask influence is too strong for me. Perhaps a nice dessert rum. I know I'm a minority here, as most people seem to adore this rum. If the time in port had been reduced a bit, I'd likely prefer it over the Madeira cask, thanks to its heavier notes and bigger bolder body. As is, I'll pick the Madeira as a favourite. That price though, bonkers.
Mount Gay The Port Cask Expression – 77
Mount Gay The Madeira Cask Expression – 84
Click here for info on the scoring method.
Click here for the complete list of reviews & scores.