Soooo, a few months ago I
begged made a request that if anyone at Mount Gay was reading, I wanted to try their new limited edition rum that I knew was releasing for Barbados Independence. I didn’t know the details at that time but when one hears limited edition and missed out on the 300 year anniversary edition (I’m still sore about that), you do what you need to do so as not to miss out. I made arrangements to buy a couple bottles but wouldn’t you know, I was recently contacted by Mount Gay Rum and offered a sample? To know someone is reading is great but to also receive a compliment followed up with RUM is freaking fantastic!
So here I am with a lovely sample of the recently released Mount Gay XO Cask Strength. XO? Cask Strength? I’ve been familiar with Mount Gay XO for roughly 17 or so years. My first visits to Barbados were focused on beach, rum punches, and parties where I wasn’t yet in tune with buying liquor by the bottle (ie. mini, flask, 750 ml). It’s funny how much we spend in the United States on bottles of so-so alcohol but in the Caribbean, bottles are the preferred and pretty inexpensive. I said before that Mount Gay was what made me realize my love for rum, and the XO version is the one that solidified my desire to explore other mature rums. It has set a benchmark for any aged rum I encounter because while there may be some that are more complex or more refined, XO has always been a familiar favorite. It doesn’t break the bank, it’s versatile, and it is pretty easy to find which is important.
For anyone familiar with XO as much as myself, which admittedly may be difficult unless you too have spent countless hours partying with the best of the best Bajans for hours on end, you will find the Cask Strength to carry all of what you love about XO with about 20% more alcohol. What?! Yes, the strength of the character is pretty bold and it is evident from both the initial aromas as well as its first taste. The standard aromas of ripe banana, sweet almond, mocha, and vanilla are there; the mocha is what stood out most to me. On the tongue, one must remember this is not your standard XO. It’s slightly numbing at 63% ABV and as I was told prior to receiving my bottle, one must “take it easy,” with this version. I for one will not be told what to do, and 2, I will always learn the hard way. That said, I concur that one should probably take it easy when drinking because one will want to remember the experience.
After a few sips neat, I was able to appreciate the flavors that Mount Gay intended for this blend. The description calls for, “the perfect balance of ripe banana and toast, followed by vanilla, pastry, and warm spice,” this is very much all of why XO is such a great choice for not just rum lovers, but honoring Barbados for its Independence of 50 years. In Barbados, I love having a glass of lemonade (made with limes of course) that must have a dash of vanilla essence, or the almond and spices one gets in currant roles, sweet bread, or maybe conkies. Trust me when I say, that any time I have any Mount Gay, I am immediately brought back to Barbados through flavor.
Mount Gay has the advantage, of course, of holding claim of being the world’s first distilled rum. Being able to honor 50 years of Independence would certainly be important to the brand that is synonymous with Barbados – just look at the logo! The tradition of Mount Gay Rum in its release of XO Cask Strength would be to embody the flavors of a Barbados favorite “characterized by an elaborate and robust taste profile.” I also feel, however, that this would have once created envy amongst the old Royal Navy. At 63% alcohol, this barrel proof rum would have made quite a tot! I can appreciate that with all of the various cask finishes that we rum lovers are enjoying these days, that the decision to keep XO in perhaps its truest form, is reason enough to want to own a part of Barbados history. As Master Blender Allen Smith stated, “to taste XO Cask Strength is to experience the truest intensity of XO aromas straight from the casks.”
So you’re probably wondering, where can one find one of these fine bottles of Mount Gay XO Cask Strength? I’m not saying it is impossible, but it will be limited given a production of 3000 bottles. On sale this month, they sell for the suggested retail price of $185 USD and are available at select premium liquor and spirits stores in the United States, Barbados, United Kingdom, Belgium, France, and Australia. While I will always share rum, I am not giving away my bottles so I would suggest if you are interested, do not delay. Oh, and for every bottle sold, a portion is going to the Barbados Museum and Historical Society, so you wouldn’t be selfish as you would be contributing to something really great.
One last thing…in honor of Barbados Independence and rum, I am interested in hearing your rum stories. How did you come to love rum, become interested in it, or as it relates to this article, has Mount Gay Rum (or any other Barbados rum) served some influence in your rum experience? This is the former educator in me requesting as I see my readers come from quite a few places; many being far away. I will post this separately again as I think putting a collection of stories up for others to see will be fun. If you would like to share your story, message me via https://allineedisrum.com/contact/ and be sure to include your name and location.