“Suitcase” posts here on CocktailWonk cover spirits that aren’t readily available in the United States– they’re spirits I’ve discovered while traveling and brought home in my suitcase, warranting an in-depth look.
The Bristol Black spiced rum is among the most interesting of my finds during our recent trip to London. I don’t normally gravitate towards spiced rums – Captain Morgan, begone! Away with you, Kraken! Too often they are vanilla/sugar bombs. However I have a soft spot for Chairman’s Reserve spiced rum from St. Lucia Distillers, and I will confess to using and abusing Sailor Jerry’s in my early proto-mixology days.
The Bristol Black is my third rum from Bristol Classic Rums, along with the previously covered Royal Vale Wedderburn and the 1999 Port Morant Demerara from Guyana, which I found in Glasgow on the last day of our previous European excursion. I fully expect my Bristol Classic Rum collection will grow at the next available opportunity. As the store clerk pulled the Bristol Black from the case at The Vintage House in London, it pained me that I had to forego its Cuban stablemate sitting next to it. Even though the change to US-Cuban relations had been announced just days before, the U.S. import laws on Cuban rum acquired somewhere other than Cuba were still cloudy enough to not risk it.
The Bristol Black’s color is, well, darn-near black. Holding the clear glass bottle up to bright light, it has the hue and opacity of a deep red wine. It comes in at 42% ABV (84 proof), a tad lighter than I’d prefer. I paid U.S. $62 for it in London, and it’s still available online at a few UK sites.
The components of the Bristol Black are a blend of 6-year aged from the Caroni distillery in Trinidad, and 3-year aged white rum from Mauritius. Mauritius, if you’re not familiar, is an island country to the east of Africa and Madagascar, with six active rum distilleries. Unfortunately, I can’t dig up exactly which distillery produces the Mauritian component. However, Bristol Classic Rum has another bottling of Mauritian rum that appears to be from the Rhumerie de Mascareignes, which produces Rhum Agricole style rum. If I had to bet, I’d put money on the two bottlings being from the same distillery.
Taste wise, the Bristol Black is a head-turner, unlike any other spiced rum I’ve encountered. There’s no vanilla, and it’s not syrupy sweet. Instead, it’s fruitcake, tea, tobacco, and mince. The exact flavorings aren’t listed anywhere on the bottle or Bristol’s site, but one source says they include blackstrap molasses, salt liquorice, and orange zest.
How to use the Bristol Black? The bottle suggests “over ice with your favorite mixer.” Not particularly helpful. With its mince, orange, and tobacco overtones, I can picture it being nice with a bit of sweet vermouth, a kind of Holiday Rum Manhattan, if you will. However, I’m perfectly content to sip it neat, ideally by a nice fire on a cold winter night.