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A closer look at Denizen Aged White rum
White rum is one of those spirits categories that shouldn’t be a category. The style of rums under the “white” umbrella are all over the map: Some, such as Wray and Nephew from Jamaica are raw and unaged – bottled almost straight off the still. Others are aged for months or years, then run through charcoal filtration to strip out the color – and unfortunately, some of the flavor as well. And while most white rums are single-distiller, there are also white rum blends that pull together rums from all over the Caribbean to target a specific flavor profile. Flavor-wise, the relatively tame Bacardi Superior Silver tastes nothing like the grassy funk of a rhum agricole blanc such as La Favorite Coeur de Canne. If you care enough to craft a good cocktail, it’s worth the time to understand exactly what kind of “white rum” you’re using.
I recently wrote about mixed-heritage rums, i.e., blends of rum from multiple countries. In that post I wrote about Denizen Merchant’s Reserve and briefly mentioned its sibling, Denizen Aged White. Despite having written an in-depth post about the Merchant’s Reserve, I’d never had a good opportunity to try the Aged White. After seeing my mixed-heritage rums post, Nick Pelis, founder of Citizen Spirits and maker of the Denizen line, contacted me and arranged to get a bottle of the Aged White to me to evaluate. Let’s take a look.
Contrary to what you might assume at first glance, the Denizen Aged White isn’t a younger version of its Merchant’s Reserve sibling; they’re quite a bit different in their source rums. The Aged White is a blend of rums from Trinidad and Jamaica, coming in at 80 proof.
Eighty percent of the Aged White is made in column stills at the Angostura distillery in Trinidad. Of this Trinidad rum, sixty percent is aged between three and five years in previously used American oak bourbon barrels, while the remaining portion is unaged. Nick says using unaged rum provides another flavor dimension and helps balance the sweetness imparted by the barrel aging of the aged portion. The color from aging is removed by charcoal filtration.
In addition to the Trinidad sourced rum, the remaining 20 percent of the Aged White is Jamaican. This is a mix of fifteen different pot-still rums from four different distilleries: Worthy Park, Hampden, Clarendon, and New Yarmouth. Jamaica is famous for its funky, high ester rums and many of the Jamaican rums in the Aged White fit that description, including a trace amount of Hampden DOK. Nick describes the DOK as being “basically undrinkable on its own,” but in small quantities provides a welcome dose of the funky fruit and flower essence to the final product.
The Aged White bottle states an age of three years, but given all the different rum above, three years is obviously an average age. As with the Merchant’s Reserve, the blending of the rums occurs at E&A Scheer in Holland.
Being a blended and aged white rum, the natural rums for side-by-side comparisons are the Plantation “3 Stars” and the Banks “5 Island.” All three include component rums from Trinidad and Jamaica, although the Plantation and Banks include rums from other countries as well. Head to head, the Plantation 3 Stars is noticeably sweeter, not an uncommon experience with Plantation rums. The Banks and the Denizen are closer in flavor, however I find the Banks a tad rounder – not terribly surprising given that it costs 50 percent more and includes a wider blend of rums.
Nick tells me that the original inspiration for the Aged White was to make the perfect Daiquiri. Over numerous test runs, I verified that it works well in Daiquiris and other tropical drinks. The flavor starts with wonderful Jamaican hogo before fading into the fruity esters that you expect from a rum of this provenance. The finish is a bit rough for sipping purposes, but this is a mixing rum with flavors that don’t get lost in the shuffle.
2 oz Denizen Aged White Rum
0.5 oz fresh lime juice
0.5 oz simple syrup
Shake over ice, strain into chilled coupe.
At around $19 on average, the Denizen Aged White is solid value for use in high-end craft cocktails. It doesn’t try to compete price-wise with the mass-produced big boys like Bacardi Superior Silver, Don Q Cristal, or Cruzan Lite. The few extra dollars for the Denizen Aged White gets you a far more robust and flavorful rum.