Sunday, April 22, 2012

Review: Sailor Jerry Spiced Navy Rum 92 Proof









"Number three gun crew an extra tot of rum!" roared Dirk Struan, Scottish merchant captain of his British Clipper, China Cloud, in the emerald green, wind-swept waters off Hong Kong, as the sailors and their captain prepared for battle with circling pirate ships.  (An historically accurate bit of dialogue taken from the well-researched novel  Tai-Pan by James Clavell.  Captains of ships in the 18th and 19th centuries sometimes chose to give their men an extra 'tot' of rum just prior to battle).  

When I first read the novel, Tai-Pan, many years ago, I couldn't imagine drinking rum straight and hardly thought of it as a reward for the gruelling work of sailors.  But, evidently rum was very much a reward and actually a daily ration or 'tot' as it was called.

The British Navy, as far back as 1655 gave a daily ration of one pint of rum.  Around 1740 it would be reduced to half a pint and sometimes mixed with boiling water and limes and called 'grog' in an effort to manage the drunkenness of sailors.  And guess what?  The British Navy did not stop the practice of the daily rum ration until 1970!

It should be noted that the rum drank in the 17th and 18th century by British Navy sailors was brutal stuff.    Wikipedia cites a document dated 1651 from Barbados which describes rum of that time as "the chief fuddling they make in the island is Rumbullion, alias Kill-Divil, and this is made of sugar canes distilled, a hot, hellish, and terrible liquor."  You know it's gonna be harsh when a spirit has a nickname that references the supernatural source of all evil like "Kill-Divil" or "Kill-Devil."

Anyway, where was I?  Oh yeah, drinking rum straight was not something I imagined I would ever enjoy.  But, last summer a neighbour of mine, back from Cuba, had a bottle of Havana Club 7 year old rum that he encouraged I and a few others to sip.  I reluctantly did, and it was good!








About a year later, I found myself at a friend's place playing cards.  Everyone had a drink in hand except for me, not that I was susceptible to peer pressure.  In any event, Victor had beer, Jameson Irish Whiskey (no-age-statement) and Sailor Jerry.  I was not in the mood for beer, certainly not Jameson, so that left the Sailor Jerry.  What the hell I thought.  Let's give it a go.

"You want coke or ginger ale with that?" Victor asked.

"I'm ok, I'll just sip it straight," hoping for the success of Havana Club.








And guess what?  It's good too!

Nose (undiluted)
Huge vanilla notes, oak, molasses, leather scent of an old baseball mitt, and egg nog.

Palate (undiluted)
The big vanilla of the nose, comes through mightily on the palate, chased by oak, brown sugar, chewy cedar, and maple sugar.

Finish (undiluted)
Nice long lasting flavors of spiced caramel drying on the palate leaving balsa wood.  The spiciness on the finish is reminiscent of a good measure of nutmeg you taste in egg nog.  The finish is rewarding and amazingly not hot or biting in spite of this rum being 92 proof!








Affordable!
Great price point on this rum.  It is not expensive.  Maybe a couple more dollars than the usual Captain Morgan and the like, but unlike the latter, you will enjoy a smooth rum that is enjoyable neat.  You cannot say that for a lot of rum.  One of my favorites is Mount Gay Eclipse rum, but neat, is another story.  It tastes far too sweet.

Complexity? 
What makes scotch whisky special is its complexity of flavors.  There is so much going on in the taste experience that I often liken it to a finely woven tapestry or Persian carpet.

Sailor Jerry is not that.

Sailor Jerry is a very pleasant, chill-out, hang with your friends or stare at the beach and the bikinis littered on it and think of nothing else kind of a beverage.  Very hedonistic with little or no cerebral activity going on.  Activity that I am uniquely qualified to windily pontificate about.

So, complex, it is not.  Given the price point, you are presented with a nice, self-indulgent rum experience, that hints at the greatness awaiting for those daring among you, who will spend more to enjoy truly great rum which should never be mixed with anything, much like good scotch.







Rum and Coke Anyone?
Sailor Jerry, coke, ice and a slice of lime makes for a very nice mixed drink too.  This rum is distinct from others because of the towering taste of spiced vanilla seasoning and the absence of any bite, in spite of the higher than normal ABV.  If you like clipper ship size vanilla flavor in your rum, then you will truly enjoy Sailor Jerry.  The lime is a must too!

Next time you buy rum, try this both as mix or neat/on the rocks as a pleasant diversion from scotch whisky.

And that's it for now.  A whisky blog that sternly refuses to take a bow!

Cheers!


Jason Debly

P.S.  Next week I will be back to more scotch whisky reviews.


Copyright © Jason Debly, 2009-2012. All rights reserved. Any and all use is prohibited without permission.  Note:  Photograph of cards is by Flickr member: Robadob.  His photograph is used here with his permission, but he still retains all copyright.  Accordingly, you may not reproduce it without his permission.

31 comments:

  1. Excellent stuff, Jason. One I've more than once came close to picking out, but opted for something else last moment. As the weather grows gradually warmer from the cool-mild March and April conditions into May, I began to bask in this idea, this image of myself seated outdoors in good company with a tumbler of rum (neat or mixed into a simple cocktail)with life's anxieties a distant memory away. I usually opt for whisky as a spirit to enhance a pensive soldier-of-the-mind state (to borrow some of your phrasing!), but the time of transition into late spring, early summer begins to tug at my emotional brain and get me in the mood for rum. Nice review, will need to finally try this one out.
    -Yochanan

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    1. Yochanan, Sailor Jerry works well as a part of a Manhattan too. While I obviously enjoy whiskies, rum has it a place too. Particularly accompanied by hot weather!

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  2. Jason,

    Great blog. I'm not much of a rum drinker, but based on your review above I'd encourage you to try the Ron Zacapa 23. It's very, very good neat - slightly sweet with oak, leather, a hint of tobacco, and vanilla with no burn at all. Probably the best rum I've ever had.

    Dave

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    1. Well, with that recommendation Dave, I will have to seek it out!

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  3. Personally, my favourite of Clavell's novels is Shogun. It would be interesting to see if HBO would redo the Shogun mini-series, what with the success of Game of Thrones, but now I'm getting off topic.

    If you ever have a chance, get hold of a bottle of St. Nicholas Abbey 12 year-old rum from Barbados. You can get it in Barbados at the distillery itself for $180.00 Barbadian Dollars, plus $35 admission for a tour (which works out to about $107.00 CAD), or you can buy it in Alberta at around $200.00 CAD...anyway, it is phenomenal stuff to drink neat, and the nose is fantastic. Liquorature, the All-Things-Whisky sister website, has a good review of it, but seriously, I could sit and nose this rum all day. It is definitely not for mixing!

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    1. Dan, Tai-Pan is one of my all time favorites that I usually re-read every ten years or so. Shogun is a damn close second. Other novels by Clavell were disappointing.

      Thanks for the recommendation. I either go to Barbados or Alberta because it aint where I live. Some rums are very complex, close to scotch and sounds like St. Nicholas Abbey is one.

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  4. I would highly recommend El Dorado 15 if you are looking for a nice complex sipping rum. It's fantastic. I would also recommend The Kraken if you can find it in your neck of the woods. It is a great take on a spiced rum that can be sipped neat, but is cheap enough to throw in a cocktail.

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    1. Thanks Allen! El Dorado 15 is available where I live, so I will have to check it out!

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  5. Rum works best in ice cream or fudge for me but I do have a miniature of this rum kicking about. Maybe works best in glorious sunshine.

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    1. I never thought of ice cream decorated with some rum. What a novel idea. I may have to investigate this idea further.

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  6. Do any other whisky diehards out there read reviews of or sip through glasses of spiced rum and get jealous? Where's our spiced whisky? There are one or two Canadian brands, and I think one of the bourbon distilleries is working on one, but it's mostly an untapped market so far.

    Fruit and honey are out there, but not quite as appealing as spiced. I'd be pretty thrilled for a spiced Dewar's, Cutty Sark Spice Islands Reserves, or such. Heck, spice and sugar might make Jameson enjoyable.

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    1. The spiced rum was a response to the harshness of the rum of the 17 and 18th century rum. It was rough stuff and so, sailors added spices to the spirit in an effort to soften it and make it more palatable.

      In the case of Sailor Jerry, vanilla and cinnamon are added. By the way, Sailor Jerry is distilled in the Caribbean.

      Your idea of adding spices to scotch whisky is intriguing, but it will never happen because of the very strict rules around the production of scotch whisky. Specifically, it is not permitted by Scottish law to use additives of any kind other than E150A caramel which supposedly is permitted because it does not affect taste. The industry will tell you that caramel is added just to ensure uniformity of color at the time of bottling. In summary, the rules governing scotch whisky production do not allow for the addition of any additives that affect taste. In the case of single malt scotch whisky, only three ingredients are permitted: water, barley and yeast (plus the option of caramel). With respect to blended scotch whisky, it is the same ingredients plus other grains.

      So, if a scotch distillery added cinnamon, vanilla or any other spices, they could not by law label their liquor scotch. Hence, whisky distilleries try to achieve spiciness and flavors of oak, vanilla, etc from the casks used, and grains. Obviously a blended scotch employing a lot of rye whisky in the blend will be spicy.

      Nevertheless, "Cutty Sark Spiced Island Reserve" would be interesting and appealing. I guess they could make it so long as they did not call it scotch.

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    2. It's not spiced, but isn't Drambuie basically scotch that has been infused with various herbs and honey? As you say, they can't call it scotch, but isn't the base of the liqueur just that?

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    3. Allen, you are correct! According to Wikipedia and Drambuie.com, it is malt whisky that has herbs, honey and various spices added to it. Thanks for pointing that out. It is not labelled scotch for the reasons i set out above, but rather as a 'liqueur.'

      I only have this spirit as a component of a "Rusty Nail."

      Thanks for pointing this out to me and other readers.

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    4. Drambuie is the liqueur that got me interested in Scotch.

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  7. You wouldn't think it, but this rum makes a FANTASTIC highball with orange juice. Rum and OJ is my go-to drink during the summer, and Sailor Jerry's heavy vanilla flavors make it work better than any other rum I've tried for this.

    Give it a shot! :D

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    1. Mr. Delirious, sounds like an interesting drink.

      Your comment about Sailor Jerry's "heavy vanilla flavors" makes me wonder whether there is another rum in the marketplace at this price point with so much emphasis on vanilla. If the consumer loves vanilla in rum, they will love Sailor Jerry. Those strong vanilla notes probably lend this rum to many mixed drinks recipes like the one you mentioned.

      Thanks for commenting!

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    2. Mr Delirious,

      I used to request rum and oj in my much younger bar-hopping days (20+ yrs ago) because even then I found screwdrivers (and vodka in general) boring.

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  8. Seems like every island nation in the Caribbean has a rum. One of my favorites is Gosling's from Bermuda. Still have a bottle purchased in Hamilton on my last trip there. Good stuff mixed with Diet Coke (heresy?). Haven't tried it neat.

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    1. Never had it. You should try it on the rocks some time.

      I think you are correct in the thought that pretty much every Caribbean island produces rum.

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  9. Thanks for the review. When we finish off one of our current rums (El Dorado 15y - $24 US and Flor de Cana 7y - $17), we'll give Sailor Jerry ($16) a try. Hot weather is coming and rum replaces scotch for the most part, in our drink rotation. JK

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  10. JK, you are the second person to mention El Dorado 15. It must be good. I will have to check it out. Not sure Sailor Jerry is on the same level as El Dorado though.

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  11. Jason, The El Dorado 12y is even quite good as a fine sipping quality rum; better still, it goes for a few bucks less again. Maybe try it first ... JK

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    1. I will second the reco of El Dorado 12 yr - I actually tried the 15 yr first and it was my favorite, until I got ahold of the 12 yr which I like better (though just by a hair.)

      I consider both to be superior to the liqueur-like Ron Zacapa 23 and Zaya 12, both of which many serious rum enthusiasts agree have been heavily sweetened.

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  12. Jason,

    If you ever get the chance to try one of the Brinley's line of flavored rums, jump at it. I have had quite a few spiced rums, and the Brinley gold shipwreck is far and away my favorite. The only problem is it tastes so good neat I can't bring myself to mix it.

    I also have bottles of their coffee, vanilla, mango and coconut and all are outstanding and can be found in the $15-20 US range, though "retail" is $25. If more people tried these Malibu would be out of business.

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  13. Jason, We finally got around to the SJ Spiced Rum at our July 4th BBQ. For service in rum-n-coke and mai tai glasses it fulfilled its duty really well, with that enormous vanilla blanket. It's not quite the sipper that I'd choose among the under $20/750l rum action (preferring the more svelte Mount Gay Eclipse), but this bottle definitely can work too. For that it's nice, appreciated change and it's the first "spiced" rum we'd tried. Thanks for the review. JK

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    1. I agree Mount Gay is better, but if you are in a bar, most don't carry Mount Gay (atleast the dives I have been in), and so Sailor Jerry makes for a satisfactory substitute.

      Cheers!

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  14. Jason,

    I recently got ahold of an outstanding spiced rum that had been on my list for a while, "The lash". It is made with genuine spices, and there is even some sediment in the bottle.

    This is a serious spiced rum, with a TON of baking spices, predominantly cloves and Bourbon vanilla - as well as cinnamonm, nutmeg, anise, and more. Not cheap but IMO well worth the $23 I paid for it.

    The empty glass smell like the kitchen does when you bake gingerbread cookies.

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    1. I will have to get a bottle. I read a couple of reviews online. It looks like something I would like.

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