Aldi Crossbones Premium Rum Mashup

I shop in Aldi. I shop there for a number of reasons, but one of the main reasons is that the general price to quality ratio of the stuff you get is excellent. Sure, there are a few duds on their shelves, but on the whole the stuff I buy is better in quality than other supermarkets at the same price point, if we’re comparing like for like. This extends right into their alcoholic drinks range with their wines blowing away stuff 3 times the price. Long have Aldi done a range of whiskies and about a billion gins, but rum has always lagged behind. They put out the Sea Dog spiced rum this year which really wasn’t very good, but I have been hoping for more offerings. So there I was, minding my own business in the Aisle of Wonder when I see some new rum. I’ll have some of that!

A while ago Aldi released 2 new “Premium” rums as part of their Special Buys (they come, they go, then they’re gone), one was a golden rum and one was a dark rum, both called “Crossbones”. As I have a lot of time for Aldi I thought I’d give them chance to make amends for the Sea Dog. I’m going to review both rums here to give you a fair account of them against each other as I imagine most people will see them on the shelf and be wondering which one to go for.

Update: It looks like these rums may have been incorporated into the wider range rather than Special Buy as they are now sitting with the rest of the booze on the main shelf. Hopefully the dark rum will be part of the core range.

First, lets start with the review of Aldi Crossbones Premium Golden Rum:

What is it? Dunno. Rum. It’s a blend of young and older rums from around the Caribbean, aged in oak casks. We don’t know the still type, or the countries, or how long they have been aged in oak for. So we’ve looking at a generic rum blend here. Without a doubt this will be entirely from molasses.

Coloured, chill filtered and bottled at 40% abv.

Sugar? My hydrometer says 4g/l, that is perfectly fine and generally considered to be “none” as anything under 5g/l can be attributed by cask sugars. So well done Aldi, they’ve not smoothed it over with sugar.

Nose: Pretty pleasant actually, smells like rum. Some spirity varnish notes and it’s on the lighter Cuban or Central American side, high in column still, but none the less it’s a fair nose; banana, coconut, caramels and baking spices with cinnamon and clove. A touch of runny honey, vanilla and a little menthol.

Palate: Medium mouth feel. Light and grassy, slightly astringent but not too bad, easy to drink neat. It’s a rinse and repeat of the nose really, a little more savoury note here though with some brine and a touch of tar but nothing too much as to sway it from the oak caramels and spices.

Finish: Short. More astringent here and a little bitter, still some cinnamon, caramel and vanilla though. It gets some lime part way through which lifts it.

Thoughts? A standard “golden rum” I guess. Generally though it’s decent enough. I’ve had worse rums for more money and in respect to Aldi it probably wasn’t ever designed to be drunk neat from a Copita glass and judged by some dude on the internet. Based on that, its general flavour and price of a mere £15 I think it’s a solid buy.

 

Ok, let’s move on to the Aldi Crossbones Premium Dark Rum review:

What is it? A bit more detail here; this one is solely a blend of Jamaican column and pot still rums, so we know we’re likely to be getting a bit more in terms of quality, it’ll be solely from molasses. No mention of ageing here, but then I don’t know what defines “older” rum in the Golden one anyway, the lack of any age indication isn’t a deal breaker, it’s a dark rum blend.

Coloured (oh yes, heavily), chill filtered and bottled at 40% abv.

Sugar? As with the Golden Rum, this has come in at 4g/l so totally fine. No issue here.

Nose: Yikes. Big, rich and decadent that’s for sure, definitely got some Jamaican pot still in here. It’s going for the “Navy” style of rum, if that’s your thing. Black bananas, boot polish, treacle toffee, molasses, roasted coffee beans and black olives. Notes of camphor, soil, wet leaves and brine. There is a slight meaty note too, mushroom’y, maybe ham and a little grilled pineapple.

Palate: Yeah, same here. Full mouth though, quite oily and rich but not cloying. Chocolate, fudge, cinnamon, treacle toffee again and a massive waft of banana bread, black bananas, ginger and coffee. It still has some savoury notes though with that boot polish, some leather, camphor and mushroom. A little black olive and brine too at the end.

Finish: Medium this time. Stays on the treacle, coffee, chocolate and wood spices here with ginger, clove and nutmeg. A little vanilla and coconut towards the end and a lighter banana note.

Thoughts? Heh. Really pretty good. Lots of rich flavours, not much heat or astringency and easy to drink neat. It’d mix very well but honestly it’s easy peasy to drink it neat. I imagine this is what most people expect when they order a “dark rum” and it delivers on that expectation.

Just reading the bottle tag I knew that this one would be better than the Golden rum, it was the one I originally went for before I decided to get both; knowing it’s fully Jamaican rum is the kicker here as even industrial Clarendon column still rum is better than the vast majority of shite from Central America, chuck in some heavy pot still and it’s game on.

£15, again. No thought needed, it’s an absolute bargain. I’d recommend going out and getting this one if you are a fan of dark rums, it blows away stuff twice it’s price. The only issue is that it’s on the Special Buy so you may find your local Aldi like mine; sold out of this. I guess that’s a fair indication of which one was better!

Cadenhead’s 1842 Cask Rum

October in the UK. The weather is shit and it’s getting dark early, time for something a little more…….robust.

What is it? Who knows! Basically, Cask 1842 Rum is a rum from Independent bottlers Cadenhead, who do a whole range of whiskies, rums and other goodies. They own Springbank whisky in Campbeltown and are very active in sourcing and bottling their own range of spirits in various guises, from single casks to various small batches. As part of their range of spirits they offer “Cask 1842”, now this is not just a rum, they do the range for whiskies also, so don’t get confused. They have a “live” cask in the shop in Campbeltown for each of their offerings, in the case of this review it’s for their rum. A “live” cask is basically a quarter cask that is filled with a mixture of rums and left, once it gets about half empty they top it up with more rum, from whatever they have that they think with go well in the mix. They mix it around, leave it for a bit and then start to bottle again, once it gets half empty they top it up with some more rum. The result of this is that there’s some rum sloshing around in the cask from way back when, and quarter casks are smaller than your standard barrel so there is quicker wood interaction.

Naturally, there is no age statement on the bottle as it changes all the time depending what has been put in and given the nature of what’s being done with it, age statements are largely irrelevant. I’ve been told that all the rums in the cask are all “dark” rums from Guyana, Trinidad and Jamaica and that over the years some very old and rare rum has gone into the cask; 30 year old stuff and some Caroni for example, back when old Demerara rums were easy and cheap to come by!

This is a review of an 1842 Cask Rum that was bottled on 5/11/2018.

Natural colour, not chill filtered and bottled at 56.6% abv.

Sugar? Nope.

Nose: Smells like a big, rich Demerara at first; dark roasted coffee beans (something like the heavy roast Monsooned Malabar that I’m currently drinking), soft eating liquorice, boot polish, black olives and thick molasses or treacle. Vanilla, coconut and bourbon cask caramels pop up along with a nice little lift of lime juice and fresh pineapple. There is a little banana here and there, tar and a salty note that I can’t quite put my finger on.

Palate: Full, oily mouth feel, chewy. Yeah, heavy on the Demerera that’s for sure, very “British Navy” style I guess you could say. Chewing new leather, some rolling tobacco, treacle toffee, big black raisins, deep brown muscavado sugar, liquorice and blackberries. There’s a touch of fig, black cherry, dark chocolate (like an unsweet Black Forest cake, if it was possible), some banana and salty black olives again. The lime lift shows up here too just to freshen the palate and stop it getting bogged down.

Finish: Long. Liquorice again, bitters a little with walnuts, black coffee (more of a Sumatran this time), very dark chocolate, smoky sweet cigars and a bit of a savoury note I can’t pinpoint – it’s almost like a ham I had once that was covered in treacle, porter ale and smoked – it’s bitter, sweet and meaty all at the same time, really hard to explain.

Thoughts? I love this. It doesn’t have much balance, why would it, it’s bits of casks that have been chucked into another cask over years and years, but it’s got big and bold flavours, and a huge richness. I really like the idea of a live cask, and you can see how it changes over the years with each release, plus I know some very good rums have gone into this; it’s not a load of leftovers. A great winter rum by all accounts.

So I paid £48 for this, that’s a lot of money for a NAS rum, but given I know Cadenhead and the provenance of some of the rums that have gone into this over the years I’m happy to pay it. The only thing to watch, as always with Cadenhead, is their bloody delivery charges! If you’re going to order something from them then it’s worth batching up several bottles to justify the charges. I’ll be getting the next batch when it’s bottled, that’s for sure.

 

English Harbour 10 year old

What is it? Molasses based Rum (multi-column at over 95%), produced at The Antigua Distillery in St John’s, Antigua and bottled under the English Harbour brand. The Antigua Distillery use a copper 3-column still and distil the spirit to a whopping 95.5% abv – this is basically making a neutral spirit so wont be carrying much in the way of flavour at all, nearly all of the flavour is going to come from the cask maturation here. Once distilled the rum is matured, in the tropics, for at least 10 years. I seen in various places that the rums in the blend that make up this rum can be up to 25 years old, how much of that older rum is in here we can’t be sure, but it’s being labelled as a 10 year old as that is the youngest rum present, there is older stuff in here too.

The distillery take the spirit (95.5% abv) and dilute it down to 70% abv before it’s filled into casks. This is quite interesting as cask fill strength is something that is very often overlooked by consumers (mainly because we’re not told about it) and actually has quite an impact on the resulting product. Many distilleries cask fill at 65% abv, and there is a good reason for this; below 60% you get more water soluble compounds extracted from the cask, such as sugars in the form of hemicellulose – a spirit at 55% abv will extract twice the sugars from the cask than a spirit casked at 70% abv. Above 65% abv and you get more ethanol soluble compounds extracted from the cask, such as lignin (wood notes). So that fact that this is being casked at 70% explains how such a high abv distillation is able to get a more intense flavour into the rum at the end. It may only be a little difference in fill abv but the end result over those years maturing makes a big difference.

Chill filtered, coloured and bottled at 40% abv.

Sugar? No

Nose: Sweet at first, with caramel, toffee and vanilla fudge. Some cask spices, certainly, with cinnamon, nutmeg and clove, a touch of marmalade and bags of nuts – all kinds; almonds, cashews, pecans and hazelnuts. There is a touch of dried fruit in here too, maybe raisin, and some rolling tobacco. A little bit of engine oil appears later on with some nail varnish remover, just to add in a little savoury note.

Palate: Full mouth, oily. Slightly sweet at first, but not sticky, with fudge, caramel, butter toffee (Werthers Original candy), sweet breakfast tea and vanilla. The spices kick in and its warm with nutmeg, cinnamon, clove and white pepper – very much in line with the nose. There’s a really nice taste of smoked orange that comes out near the end and an ever so slight brine’y tang as it finishes.

Finish: Medium. As the nose and palate really, there isn’t that much more to add. What’s nice is that it seems very cask influenced (as you’d expect) but at no point does it get bitter, only a little tannic with the breakfast tea on the palate and again at the end of the finish.

Thoughts? It’s a nice and very easy drinking rum. It’s not the most complex, but it’s better than average. The problem for this rum is it’s price; it usually sits around the £75-£80 mark, which I find quite extortionate really. I managed to pick mine up for £50 delivered, which is much more like it – although I still think that is quite expensive for what you get. It’s not a rum I’ll be buying again at the price I paid, and at £80 it’s madness for “just above average”, sorry.

The Olde Sea Dog Black Spiced

Let’s get this out of the way first, before we go any further. If you have stumbled upon this review from a search engine result you need to be aware that whilst this is a rum blog, it’s one focused towards actual rum (generally higher end stuff that is made to be drunk neat and appreciated) and not your Sailor Jerry or Kraken, but there times when I review other stuff and I’ve reviewed several other “spiced rums” before. Just bear that in mind when you are reading this review and if Kraken is your thing, that’s fine, you just need to know the direction I’m coming at this from.

I happened upon this in my local Aldi, and it “accidentally” fell into my trolley. Being autistic I am quite literally the least impulsive person you’ll meet, my purchases are planned well in advance and meet certain criteria (mainly not duplicating regions or styles in the same order and ensuring that mixes of prices match to the budget I allow myself each month, for example) – all very boring and anal. For some reason I saw this and thought I’d give it a go, and I have no idea why. Imagine my surprise when I searched online for it and discovered it’s won a Gold Medal at some awards thing (The Spirits Business Rum and Cachaca Masters 2019), result I thought! I’ve scored a beaut here. Well you have to remember that companies have to specifically enter these awards and that the panel can only score what has been put in front of them, so they are far, far, from definitive awards. They also give out medals like a primary school sports day; everyone gets one for taking part……so let’s ignore that shall we.

So, The Olde Sea Dog Black Spiced (rum?)…..

What is it? It’s an Aldi own brand drink and it’s not a rum. There. Done. Credit to Aldi where it’s due, they have not labelled this as a rum either; it’s been labelled as a Spirit Drink, “A premium black spiced rum based spirit drink” to be more specific, so at least they are not trying to pass it off as something it’s not, unlike some other more well known producers….it seems to be based on their Old Hopking Rum brand.

The bottle says “Limited Release” – no details on how limited, but it’s April 2019 and I’ve seen it in the shops since the start of December 2018. It says “Premium Quality”, which just means it’s either got better ingredients in it, or is just more expensive than their “Standard” offering – want some good views on the word “Premium” when it comes to rum, read this from Wes at The Fat Rum Pirate: Premium Rum The Impossible Task? Part 3.

So we’ll go with molasses based rum, from somewhere, from some type of still and most likely not aged. Added flavourings and sugar.

Coloured, chill filtered and bottled at a respectable 40% abv, for a spirit drink.

Sugar? Why did I even ask. Yes. I’ve dipped my hydrometer in this and it’s around 50g/l sugar showing, but as it’s got other stuff added this reading my not be very accurate. Let’s just go with, lots.

Nose: Vanilla, masses of the stuff, muscavado sugar, molasses, cloves and milky coffee. There is some lime in here too but it’s like a lime cream or lime butter, and some vanilla. Tinned pineapples, chocolate oranges, some vanilla and a touch of coconut. And some vanilla. Can’t smell any rum in this I’m afraid, just flavourings.

Palate: Very sweet, but actually not that sticky and cloying, more of a medium mouth feel, which is surprising – and quite welcome. Vanilla, limes, rum and raisin ice-cream, fudge, vanilla and some limes. There is some soft brown sugar again, sweet black coffee, some more vanilla and a little bit of coconutty lime. Almost no heat whatsoever (caveat: when you drink full proof spirits a lot, like I do, pretty much anything at 40% tastes like water anyway!), but this has literally, no heat from the alcohol at all.

Finish: Short. Sweet. Gone. Faintest bite from the booze just to remind you that it’s young spirit, and a little bit bitter.

Thoughts? To be fair I’ll do this in 2 parts, firstly as a spiced rum based spirit drink (or general beverage) and secondly as a rum (don’t laugh). If you’re looking at this as a casual drinker of spiced rums, read Part 1, and I apologise for Part 2. If you’re looking at this as a real rum enthusiast, then you’re reading the wrong thing! (Sorry about this!) – Part 2 is for you.

Part 1. As a “drink”: Yum. Lovely tasting, sweet, easy and good value for money. You can mix it with coke, lemonade, coffee, other spirits, fruit juice and it’ll give you a really nice long drink with lots of ice. Great for summer. You could put it in a punch, or mulled wine, or hot toddy and it’d be great for winter. You can sip it neat with ice (or not) and it’d make a nice tasty way to get alcohol into you. There is virtually no alcoholic taste and it’s not spiced too strongly, unlike some “spiced” rums, I’m looking at you Rumbullion. Is it a good spiced rum/spirit drink thing? Yes. Is it worth £16.99? Yes. Is it better than other spiced rums that are out there? On the whole, yes. In my opinion it’s better than Sailor Jerry Spiced, it’s better than Captain Morgan Spiced, it’s better than Kraken and it’s better than Rumbullion. If that’s the sort of thing you like then get a bottle of this, it’s cheaper and better than most out there.

Part 2. As a Rum: Utter shite. Rum based my arse. You’d get the exact same thing if you swapped rum for vodka. It’s basically a 40% abv alcopop. I literally don’t know what I was thinking when I bought this – what part of my brain read the labels and thought “What could possibly go wrong here, sounds good”, I bought it knowing what it was so I’ve only got myself to blame. These things happen to us all, I guess it helps us realise what else you’ve got on the shelf. I got a bottle of Havana Club 7 anos for £19 last year and that’s a proper rum, if you want a real spiced rum then up your budget and grab a bottle of Bristol Black Spiced. I want my £16.99 back.

…..still, I’m going to drink it, because I’ve bought it and I’m tight. I’ll just have it after a spicy meal, or if I have a cold or something.

 

 

Depaz Port Cask Finish

What is it? Rum, distilled in a column still where the raw material is pressed sugar cane juice – so a R(h)um Agricole. This rum was produced at the Depaz distillery on the island of Martinique in the French West Indies and has been aged for around 8 years in oak casks followed by a finishing period of 11 months in Port casks, all ageing is done tropically. You can read more about the rum and distillery in my previous posts here and here, which cover off the AOC classification and background.

Chill filtered, not coloured and bottled at 45% abv.

Sugar? No.

Nose: A shy nose at first, there is some rich chocolate – the 60% dark stuff, like Bournville – liquorice, cinnamon, some slight cane but not much. Chocolate covered cranberries, plums (those deep black ones) and ground black pepper. There is a little vanilla in there right at the back but the richer flavours keep it down.

Palate: Medium. More cane here but it’s quickly take over by milk chocolate, liquorice, coffee beans, stewed plums with vanilla cream topping, raspberry jam, damsons and Turkish Delight. There is some sweet nutty oak, marzipan and handful of hazelnuts, almonds and cashews pop up towards the finish.

Finish: Long. Spicy at first with black pepper, nutmeg and cinnamon but it gets chocolatey, then soft cooked stone fruits and a little butterscotch as it progresses. Vanilla and some dried banana chips, dusted with coconut appear right at the end.

Thoughts? This is my 2nd favourite of the new Depaz rums. There isn’t all that much sugar cane juice on offer but there are really lovely rich, nutty flavours and the Port cask adds a deep dark fruit that really compliments the rum rather than cover up the character, which often happens with “finishing”. Ok, this one is quite pricey and it’ll set you back around £80 or more for a bottle, and whilst it’s really very good I’m not sure I’d get a bottle of this over the VSOP as that really is the sweet spot for me.