I have to admit I was a little scared coming up to this battle. I had been looking everywhere for the Khukri XXX Coronation Rum, which comes in a cool looking dagger-shaped bottle, and which has received pretty decent reviews. Alas, it was no where to be found in Southern California, or anywhere in the US, for that matter. What I did find, however, was a single bottle of plain old Khukri Rum stashed away and gathering dust in an almost forgotten corner of a local beverage warehouse. The clerk was not even able to tell me when they had acquired this bottle… which, from the looks of it, had lived a rather rough life. No matter, I thought, this is supposed to be an adventure anyway. Then I started reading some rumors that Khukri was recalled from the States because some people had died after drinking it!! Yikes! All unsubstantiated, I hope… Not to mention that the last time I had Nepalese rum, one of my friends ended up having a terrible reaction and we were stuck in the middle of the Annapurna Circuit for a couple of days hoping she would recover and be able to hike out. But still, it was, ready for battle. Its opponent today was R.L. Seale’s 10 Year Old, a name that should be familiar to any lover of rum. The Seale came in a very nice black bottle shaped like the old leather bottles used by sailors in the old days. Points to Seale.
I set up the blind tasting as usual, but the difference in color between the two rums gave them away. The Seale has a clear golden hue, while Khukri leans heavily toward the red end of the spectrum. With anonymity lost, I started my tastings.
The Seale had a nice aroma of oak and something like toasted almonds (I ate some earlier on a salad, so that may have influenced my choice of words there), there was caramel there too, but not overwhelmingly sweet. The taste had a nice smoky quality to it, with a tempered sweetness that was more of a background than an accent. It grew hot in the mouth, but without heavy spice. It had a very nice presence in the mouth, and finished with a lingering buttery aftertaste. An excellent rum.
The Khukri opened with very heavy pepper over a maple syrup kind of smell. And the flavors that followed matched that closely. There were other tastes trying to build up in there, but I feel the syrup and pepper kind of overwhelmed everything else. It wasn’t unpalatable; on the contrary, it was pretty drinkable, I have definitely had worse rums… but it just lacked depth and well… some other flavors would have been nice.
There was no contest here. The Seale dominated this battle with strong crisp flavors that really tasted like they were meant to be there. With the Khukri I couldn’t help but think that the syrup and pepper flavor were added to a kind of generic alcohol base. I am by no means a purist when it comes rum and I am not wholly against the addition of flavors, as long as they add to the rum experience and not simply seek to fake it… which I got the feeling was what Khukri was trying to do. The winner was R.L. Seale’s 10 Year Old.
I really hope to get my hands on some of the Khukri XXX Coronation Rum to see how that one tastes…
Next up: Group C Battle – Matusalem Gran Reserva 15 vs. Millonario Sistema Solera 15