Transparency is something I find important, especially when I buy food or drinks. Unfortunately it’s often nowhere to be found in rum. At least with food there are nutritional values and ingredients on the labels. In rum, at times it seems some manufacturers are racing each other to prove who can bring their products to the market with the least amount of transparency. Are there any gold medals available for this race?
There are three reasons why I find transparency important. I want to know what I’m consuming; I want to know what I’m paying my hard earned money for; I want to satisfy my curiosity in regards to how it’s made.
Why would a manufacturer not be transparent?
· Can’t be bothered?
· A tale about legends and pirates sells better?
· Easier to sell a pretty package than mediocre contents?
· Easier to make money off an uneducated consumer?
· There is something to hide?
Lets look at the marketing story on the website of Millonario.
The history, as described on the Millonario website, tells us a column still was shipped from Scotland to Peru in 1938. The Millonario brand started in 1950. I wonder what they did the years in between. In 2004 Fabio Rossi, the current owner, traveled to Peru and “stumbled upon a genuine treasure of Peru”. That reminds me a bit of another story about someone stumbling upon a long lost distillery in Panama. I wonder if there is a lost & found department for distilleries somewhere on Earth that only certain people know about?
“Ever more highly rated by experts from around the world, Millonario can count itself among the bests.” I’m happy to say I’m not an expert.
Lets move to the information on their site about Millonario XO in particular. It states the rum is aged for “up to 20 years”. What does that mean? Sometimes it’s 1 year, sometimes 3 and on one particular day in July it’s aged for 20? Is there a single drop of 20 year rum in a bottle? Who knows? It’s a blend of something. No transparency. Big benefit for the producer, as this gives them incredible flexibility to put whatever they like in the bottle, while selling the consumer the illusion of a well aged rum.
Then there is the following:”It’s particularly popular among our female customers also thanks to the stylish and distinguished perfume-like bottle: perfect for a gift or for showcasing in a liquor cabinet.”
Distillery: Pomalca, Peru
Hydrometer Fat Rum Pirate: 40 g/l of additives
Plastic is the first thing that comes to mind. It’s like smelling that made in China plastic wrapping paper you just bought at the dollar store.
Then some toffee and sweet wine. Confectionery, when you walk into a candy store and you get sick to your stomach because of the extremely sweet smell. It’s also a little musty.
If I want to be positive, there is some vanilla, spice and toffee. Other than that it tastes artificial, sweet and winey. It’s syrupy. Finish is short and a tad harsh, which is surprising with so much added sugar. Perhaps young rum?
Maximum level. Vague age statement, loads of added sugar and a pretty bottle.
If someone gave this to me in a blind tasting I'm not sure if I'd label it a rum. I’m wondering if people who say they like this product didn’t fall in love with the illusion more than the actual flavour. What if someone would organize a blind tasting for 50 Millionario XO drinkers, where they have absolutely no idea what they will be drinking. The lineup being Appleton 12, El Dorado 8, Foursquare Premise, St Lucia 1931 and Millonario XO. I believe half of them would go home and pour the Millonario down the drain.
But, this is a tough point to get to when you’ve invested a good deal of money in what’s been sold to you as a top flight premium rum. Let’s face it, most people wouldn’t call this a cheap product. It’s about 100 euros in Europe and 100 dollars in the US and Canada. Next to that it looks damn fancy as well. I totally get why someone would buy this when they’ve never tried it before.
Lots of people like this product, fair enough. It would be a big step forward if all these people realized they aren’t drinking a well aged, quality product. One that has taken cues from the world of vodka on how to sell the illusion of quality, making people overpay because of it.
To me it's a coloured, sugared, no age statement, low abv, flavoured alcoholic beverage in a beautiful package.
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