Holiday Gift Giving Guide: Blackwell Black Gold

Christmas is a week away and many of you are scrambling to finish your shopping. Me? I’m eating roasted nuts and sipping rum. My shopping is sorted and there’s not much left to do but wrap gifts, write the cards and put on the bows. Now, if you’ve got a drinker on your list or a rum enthusiast, this installment of my Holiday Gift Guide is for you.

BlackwellFirst up, Blackwell Rum. Created by Chris Blackwell, founder of Island Records and Island Outpost among many other things, Blackwell Black Gold Rum is your typical Jamaican rum: full-bodied. A dark rum, I first sampled Blackwell Rum on my most recent trip to Jamaica. I spotted the bottle while sitting at Dougie’s Bar at Jake’s Hotel in Treasure Beach one evening and couldn’t pass up the opportunity to try something new. I’d heard good things about the rum and was not disappointed.

With its deep, dark, molasses-y look I did expect Blackwell Rum to be sweeter than it actually was. Don’t get me wrong, I did taste hints of molasses with the slightly bitter notes I associate with dark chocolate and coffee but it wasn’t cloying; the finish didn’t overstay its welcome and left me wanting more.

Blackwell Black Gold Rum goes for $29.95 at the LCBO and would make a fine tipple this holiday season. Check the following video courtesy the good people at largeup.com for more info on this fine rum:

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Holiday Gift Giving Guide: Wray & Nephew Overproof Rum

There are rums, there are white rums, and then there’s Wray & Nephew Overproof Rum. I know, I know, you’re thinking overproof rum might not be appropriate for a gift giving guide or you might be thinking that white rum’s aren’t for sipping blah, blah, blah, boom, boom, boom. But believe me, this rum is a killer. And I mean that in a good way.

First things first, this rum isn’t for everybody. It is potent, it’s nose is potent and it really lives up to the “guaranteed full strength” written on the label. I have friends who claim it smells like rubbing alcohol or petrol or embalming fluid. They exaggerate. The nose is powerful and distinct but for me it is fruity and tropical, perhaps because it reminds me of time spent visiting family in Jamaica. (Sidebar, this rum is ubiquitous in Jamaican households, even among non-drinkers. It is used not just for drinks but for cooking and baking too.)

Second, though my cousin Stitchy and I tend to drink this on the rocks with a twist of lime and maaaaaaaybe a splash of water, this rum isn’t a sipper. I repeat this isn’t a sipper. Did I already mention this rum is potent. How potent? 63% ABV potent. So unless you’re a seasoned drinker you shouldn’t even think about trying this neat or on the rocks. But if you must, I urge you to add a little citrus (lemon or lime is fine).

Now I’m sure you’re thinking this doesn’t sound like much of a ringing endorsement for a holiday gift giving guide. But you’d be wrong. This rum is perfect for holidays. Use this rum in a mojito and you’ll see what I mean. And don’t even get me started on rum punch. Just a few weeks ago I made punch for a party. I mixed Wray & Nephew with a dark rum, grapefruit juice, an orange mango juice, a smidgen of grenadine, cinnamon, nutmeg and a few splashes of bitters. The drink “sell off“.

As I write this I”m enjoying a mix of Wray & Nephew with guava puree, tonic, lime and bitters. Magic. The complex flavours of this rum add character, heft to any drink. I highly recommend it for your private bar or as a gift during the holiday season. Oh, and it is a most welcome gift for any Jamaican on your gift giving list.

Holiday Gift Giving Guide: Barbados Plantation Grande Reserve 5 Y.O.

It’s holiday time and around these parts that means a Holiday Gift Giving Guide. More specifically, it means a guide to quality rum. As an intro I was going to write something clever but then remembered that last year’s intro was pretty good. At least I thought so. So, I thought I would just cut and paste it here:

The holiday season is upon us and many are caught in the hustle and bustle that is holiday shopping. I myself have finely tuned my seasonal shopping habits in such a manner that it takes one or two outings at most to check every name from my list. My secret: highly personalized gift cards/baskets and fine spirits from theLCBO. I think the gift card/basket tactic is self explanatory, but the LCBO tactic may not be as obvious. But it should be. Unless you come from a family of teetotallers and/or all of your friends and acquaintances eschew alcohol, then the LCBO should be a no-brainer. Won’t you be attending countless parties and get-togethers after all? Isn’t alcohol the finest social lubricant?

Am I right or am I right? Anyway, the first entry in this year’s guide is Barbados’ Plantation Grand Reserve 5 year old rum. First, a little background; this rum is aged in the Caribbean before finding its way to the Ferrand estate in France where its flavour is further tweaked for several months in oak casks used for bourbon.

Sounds good doesn’t it. This is the part where you ask me if it tastes good. Then I remind you this is a gift giving guide and I wouldn’t be here sharing this rum with you if I didn’t feel it was worth it. Want more detail you say. Okay, well Plantation Grande Reserve is a warm medium bodied rum whose honey brown hue promises sweetness and delivers in grand style. The nose is fresh and slightly sweet as is the flavour whose hints of fruit and vanilla remind me of a less sweet version of the candies my mother used to give us in church to keep us quiet.

In fact the subtle sweetness and smoothness of the finish reminds me a little of Angostura 1919, except I think this rum’s flavours might be subtler and dare I say it might even be smoother. This rum is great for sipping neat or on the rocks. And though I’ve yet to try it in a cocktail I’m sure it would punch up any beverage. “That sounds great, but how much does it cost?” you say. Well, in my neck of the woods Plantation Grand Reserve retails for a reasonable $32.45 at the LCBO. And trust me (would I steer you wrong?) if you have a rum drinker, mixologist or cocktail enthusiast on your shopping list they won’t be disappointed with this very smooth offering.

Speaking of smooth, I’m a bit of a Marvin Gaye fan. This just might be an understatement. Anyway, I thought I’d pair this item on my gift giving guide with a little dose of Marvin (and James Jamerson on bass!). Enjoy.