23 Dec 2008
I’ve long been familiar with Mount Gay Eclipse Rum. Mixed with some tonic water, the Mount Gay tonic is a summer favorite of mine, or for that matter any other time that I want a refreshing mixed drink. As a former sailing instructor and college sailor, the brand also holds a special meaning to me given Mount Gay’s longstanding support of the sailing community, where its red caps are ubiquitous.
Despite all that, before tasting it for this article I wasn’t all that familiar with the Mount Gay Extra Old, sometimes called Mount Gay Black. Both the Extra Old (XO) and the Eclipse are made in Mount Gay’s Barbados distillery, where rum has been made since at least 1703, making it the longest continually produced brand of rum in the world. While the Eclipse is top notch mixing rum, the Extra Old is more of a sipping rum, best appreciated straight up or on the rocks.
Blended from rums with a range of 12-17 years of age, Mount Gay Extra Old is aged in charred oak barrels, like bourbon. More expensive than the Eclipse, but still quite reasonable compared to the price of other premium spirits, the Mount Gay XO retails for around $35.
The first thing you notice about the Extra Old is its deep copper color. The photo at right (of the newly redesigned bottle and label) doesn’t do justice the brilliant amber hue. Next, I took in the nose, which featured an inviting combination of charred oak (no doubt imparted from the bourbon barrels) and ripe bananas.
The taste starts out with molasses and honeycomb sweetness, lots of oak, a touch of charcoal, and some creamy caramel. But perhaps the most distinguishable feature of the Extra Old was the smooth, long, lingering finish that ends with a peppery burst that creeps up on you. Truly unique, that spicy ending seems to kick in a few seconds after you think the rum’s taste is only a recent memory.
All in all, the XO is a fantastic sipping rum which makes it an excellent choice to pair with a fine cigar. It also strikes me as an extremely versatile spirit to pair with cigars.
A smooth and mild Macanudo gold, a rich Padrón maduro, and a cedary spicy Cameroon-wrapped Fuente Hemingway would all go well. In fact, with perhaps the exception of powerhouse cigars that so overwhelm the palate that the rum’s subtleties will go completely unnoticed, I think you’d be hard-pressed to find bad pairing (unless of course the cigar itself is already unpleasant).
Truth be told, I tend to prefer whiskey to rum when it comes to drinking spirits straight up with cigars. However, the Mount Gay Extra Old is a reminder that fine rum can bring just as much to the table.
photo credit: Stogie Guys