I have both the old and new bottlings of the Cruzan Single Barrel. I debated for a while on which one I would use for the World Cup. I had tasted the old a little while back and it was good, but I had not tried the new one. Was this competition really the time to try it? In the end I went with the new bottle. My justification was that the competition should reflect spirits that are currently available… but my real reason was that I hadn’t found any other old bottles anywhere, so I was hesitant to part with my one and only.
The Gosling’s Old Rum, on the other hand, was a completely new beast for me. I had seen it in stores, but it was always past that magical $50 mark, so I never picked it up. In fact, I was very close to just using their Black Seal for this competition, since I am very, very familiar with that one (especially when it’s mixed with ginger beer)… and it is dirt cheap. Then I came across a store selling the Gosling’s Old for a mere $40. So here it is… and I am excited about it. Oh, if you want to know exactly where I got it from at that price, I’ll be more than happy to tell you… AFTER I pick up another bottle.
Trying to do a blind tasting with these two rums is absolutely pointless. The Cruzan is almost honey colored, whereas the Gosling’s is a very dark reddish brown. I considered using some opaque glasses, but dismissed the idea as pretty pointless as well. I could trust myself to do an honest comparison without bias… right? So on I went to the battle.
I tried the Cruzan first. The initial scent was a buttery-vanilla whiff, but with a heavy citrus accent, almost sour at times, but not overwhelmingly so. The taste carried these same notes, but without the sourness I had perceived at first. It then built into an oak and leather base, with spiciness building up as I explored it more and more, and ending in a mild but lingering finish. This really tasted like what I imagine rum should taste like. All the flavors were there and they worked well, adding layers rather than just mixing together.
The Gosling’s, on the other hand, lacked all the subtleties of the Cruzan. I sang praises to the Mocambo bottle in the last battle, but the Gosling’s presentation could definitely give it a run for its money. A dark green (almost black) frosted glass champagne bottle, corked and sealed in black wax, placed in a bed of sawdust inside a wooden box with a plexiglass cover. Yeah, they went there. And the spirit inside lived up to the packaging. The scent of plums (or prunes?) was the first thing I noticed, with a heavy base of molasses (as is to be expected from its dark color) and caramel. The flavor was rich and sweet, without being sickly so, and it felt substantial throughout the mouth and throat. It was not the flavor I was used to when tasting “sipping” rums, but it was rum loud and clear.
These were obviously two very different rums, and it really illuminates the point that some have made about the futility of having these types of comparisons where rums of different styles are pitted against each other. There is really no subjective way to compare them, and in the end we simply have to rely on our personal preference… but, to me at least, that is precisely the point, to explore these differences and figure out what we like… and why we like it. In this case, I liked both rums… but I had to give the edge to the Gosling’s. While the Cruzan said to me “I will be everything you want me to be,” the Gosling’s replied “I am what you never even knew you wanted.” So, I’m still learning so much about this spirit, and enjoying every step of the way. The winner is Gosling’s Family Reserve Old Rum.
Ha, I just re-read this before posting it, and I should probably sober up a bit before I write these things… or maybe not.
Next Up: Group B Battle – Barbancourt Estate Reserve vs. Botran Solera 1893