Thanks so much for submitting a report. It has been emailed to the Rum Captain and will be actioned shortly.
Martin Cate (Google him) writes that this Denizen 8yo rum is all he uses for making Mai Tais, in sharp contrast to Jeff "Beachbum" Berry (definitely Google him), who writes that an authentic Mai Tai should contain both a Jamaican rum, such as Appleton, and an aged agricole such as Clement VSOP. Having enjoyed plenty of both recipes, I can happily say that you won't go wrong with either. The Denizen drinks, since you asked, were outstanding: plenty of Jamaican funk as well as some aromatic, smoky oak. Really tasty. And sipping this rum straight up has its own special rewards. This is positively good rum, bursting with flavor.
I have to say that sometimes we try to make more out of a rum than its intended or perhaps better expressed; hold it to a standard to to which it is obviously not suited. Merchant 8 is not a long aged pot distilled rum and was never really intended to be a "sipper" (but regardless, to some of us it is!). As mentioned here Martin Cates uses M8 as his house Mai Tai rum at Smugglers Cove house. What isn't mentioned is that he collaborated with the folks from Denizen & E&A Sheer to blend a rum for just that purpose. I was happy to see that at least one person here also picked up on just how successful that collaboration was; the Jamaican funk & Agricole notes do indeed come through. With that in mind I'd say that Jeff Berry and Martin Cates were both pretty much on the same page when it came to recreating the flavor of the now extinct 17YO Jamaican Rum that was the basis for the original Mai Tai. I like it straight but it truly shines when used for the purpose it was intended.
If you're familiar with those, than you should be able to see exactly what I mean! But assuming your don't:
N- Hot prunes, jet fuel and fruity FUNK all layered on top of creme brulee.
P- Musty, fruity, creamy, chewy
F- Funky and spicy
Also, throughout the whole thing theres something... cachaca-y.
Both LS and S&C are known for their fierce, unique overproofs, and this rum manages to bring everything from both worlds and cram it into one beverage AND somehow dial the strength all the way back down to the usual 40% (compared to 60-something and 55 from the "parents"), which makes it way more approachable, and even pleasant! Whoever the maker behind this wonky creation is, they deserve many a pat on the back.
If you take into consideration the price tag of $30.51 out the door at the local mega booze and wine than this is a 10!! It has a huge presence in nose, flavor, finish and perfectly bottled at 43%
Jamaican funk is front and center but with a great oak smoke acidity that kicks in for the extreme linger. Nothing is off putting here for those that love estery dunder and also like their rum with an 'H'. They are two of my favorite styles so for me this is a big winner.
I'm going to believe that the low key presentation of screw on top and generic bottle has something to do with the friendly price. This rum has been around the globe, produced in the west Indies, bottled in Holland and bought in California! Denizen could easily up the ante with a cork and lapels but I really hope they don't because it's an easy buy as is.
I was actually hoping for it to be a bit more intense than it actually is.. The funk is there, but not at the dramatic levels I was expecting from the description. It is, however, a classy rum that deserves a great deal of respect - It is the closest imitation for the legendary W&N 17yr.
Initial nosing is of caramelized ripe banana. It has a very pleasant velvety mouthfeel, and a nuttiness that I assume comes from the Grand Arome. Some tropical fruits mix in as it progresses to a very smooth, warm finish. I would love to see what this would showcase at a higher strength...
Its a go-to rum for Maita'is. Though I would argue a superior drink can be had by blending Smith & Cross with an aged agricole.
This comes close to my favorite rum combination for a mai tai, if somewhat flatter. I have yet to find a better combination than 1:1 Appleton 12-year and Ron del Barrilito 3-Star. This has that same combination of refined column still flavors (toasted oak, vanilla, etc.) plus raw Jamaican pot still funk. However, while the initial taste of the Denizen is a good match, it lacks the delicious, lingering finish of the above combination.
While it's formulated with the help of Martin Cate specifically for the Smuggler's Cove Mai Tai, do take note that you'll want to bump up the amount of orgeat in the standard recipe to balance out the lack of finish. I personally use 2 oz rum, 1/2 oz orgeat (up from 1/4 in Martin's recipe), a heavy pour of 1/4 oz mai tai syrup (basically demerara syrup + vanilla extract); 1/2 oz orange curacao; and 3/4 oz lime juice. You can use a bit more of the syrup if you prefer a sweeter & more vanilla-y mai tai, but I wouldn't go over 1 oz of lime juice as it overpowers the rest of the flavors.
You can't really beat the price of this bottle at about $30. However, if you're willing to shell out a bit more, you can get Ron del Barrilito 3-Star for about $35 and Appleton 12-year for about $40; that means the average price for your Mai Tai is about $37/bottle, so only $7 more than a bottle of the Denizen. (As a bonus these 2 bottles form a really great base for a ton of tiki drinks - Zombies, Jet Pilots, Coronado Luau Special, and on an on.....)
Having said that, if you're looking for an all-around good mixing rum with a good bit of Jamaican funk plus some of the more refined flavors you find from Spanish-style column stills, you can't go wrong with this. It's not much more than your average bottle of random "gold" rum, and it has a ton more character.
I've completely revised my opinion of this rum after learning it's pedigree. For strict traditionalists, nothing will ever replace the 17 yr old J. Wray and Nephew rum used by Vic Bergeron for the original Mai Tai. After exhausting supplies of 17 and later 15 yr old, Vic experimented blending his own rums to approximate the flavor of the original rum. He settled on a blend of Jamaican and Martinique rums. One word of correction to some reviews here. The Martinique rum Vic used was not the strict AOC Agricole, but an aged molasses based rum. Denizen sought to recreate this blend, and has done so admirably. This is the closest you will get to the original Mai Tai flavor.
This rum is interesting as it was created to mimic the qualities of the rum originally used to create the Mai Tai cocktail, blending a jamaican plummer style rum with a molasses style rum from martinique. The finished product has both the strong molasses and brown sugar scent associated with the jamaican plummer style and a more refined oaky component I think orginates from the Martinique rum. A very interesting product that although aiming for the cocktail market, is just as good for a lone sip. Recommended.
I have postponed buying a bottle of this for months. Now that I have my most perfect rum combination for a Mai Tai, it was time to break down and get this all-in-one rum made for Mai Tai's. The comparisons to the long gone W&N 17 Year old also piqued my interest.
So I made a 50/50 combination of Smith & Cross Traditional Jamaican along with Depaz Blue Cane Rhum Agricole and poured that into one Glencairn glass neat. Then I poured the same amount of this Denizen Merchants Reserve into another Glencairn glass , also neat. No need to make Mai Tai's at this point because it is all about the rum that goes into making this drink. Both were swirled around and allowed to breathe for about 10 minutes. The information on the bottle told me not much other than what has been already posted on here. My combination was pale yellow. This Denizen was orange.
This Denizen has a smoother taste on the palate than my combination, albeit with much less hogo funk. However, the after taste of this Denizen ruins it, making it seem like a cheap industrial column still rum made for the masses. If this is what that old W&N 17 Year was like, I am so glad that it is now extinct. This only proves that rums have come a long way from those Kill Devil days. I will stick with my combination, but this bottle won't go to waste.
And yes, I am well aware that the Martinquan rum for the original Mai Tai was not a rhum agricole, but made from molasses. There is a reason that most of those dark molasses based rums from that island are now extinct save for the awful Negrita Dark.
It's still a nice rum with a nice flavour. It was made for making cocktails and that's fair enough. It's just too harsh to enjoy straight up for me.
This aged, blend is a little bit Appleton, a little bit Smith and Cross and a little bit Agricole that sort of make it in category of it’s own. The aroma instantly reminded me of a traditional quality Mai Tai and of course, this makes outstanding cocktails. I also like to sip this on a occasion when something a little lighter and drier is in order. A little brown sugar lingers on the lips with a nice medium long, warm finish. Very unique and nicely done.
Sipped - neat
Jamaican and Martinique rums, 8 YO
Nose - medium
In mouth - bold aged gold rum with grassy linger
Mouth linger - slightly sweet, very pleasant
Blended for a one rum Mai Tai, and am anxious to mix one shortly.
OK, here's the mixed Mai Tai cocktail (30% ABV before ice shaking). Added Whaler's for the woody funk. Smooth and easy drinking,,,
2 Denizen 8 YO (Jamaican-Martinique 86 proof)
½ Whaler's (Kentucky 80 proof)
¾ Pierre Ferrand orange curacao (France 80 proof)
¾ lime juice
½ Giffard's orgeat (France)
Lime wedge squeeze
Tried the Denizen Reserve 8 year old at the Rum House in Manhattan and a proper rum bar should know better not to serve such a low quality aged rum neat in their selection. The smell is off putting and the burn is just ridiculous for an 8 year old rum.
I've only ever made Mai Tai's with this rum, since that is what it was specifically made for.
Tried it on the rocks and with coke. Neither grabbed me. Had the barest of molasses flavor. Ranked it as a 4.5 on my scale of 10
Many people in pursuit of authenticity prepare an "original" Trader Vic's Mai Tai using a blend of aged Jamaican and rhum agricole from Martinique. And the result is delicious. But Martin Cate of Smuggler's Cove has done a bit of research (and lots of rum tasting) and makes a solid case that the Martinique rum used by Trader Vic in his original recipes was not, in fact, an agricole, but a rhum traditionnel/industriel—that is, made from molasses, rather than sugar cane juice. (Shocking! But people forget that the French and former French colonies did and do make their share of molasses-based rhum.)
Mr. Cate then collaborated with the makers of Denizen to produce the first blend of aged rum that approximates that featured in trader Vic's "Second Adjusted Mai Tai Recipe" (the one he used after depleting world stocks of W&N 17 and 15), and released it to the world.
The resulting is rum is really astounding. The bouquet is intensely aromatic and floral. The taste is dry. Sugar-loading has not smoothed out this 8-year-old's rough edges; from start to finish, this is a rum with character. It's not the most refined sipper, but it's still quite sippable. Try it in a Daiquiri. Swap it into your favorite classic tiki drinks that call for Martinique, Jamaican, or "gold" rum. And while its very existence hinges on its not being a rhum agricole, it still makes for a darn good Ti' Punch.
Of course, where this bottle really shines is an "original recipe" Trader Vic's Mai Tai—rum, lime juice, curacao, orgeat, and sugar syrup. Preferably garnished with a spent lime shell and a mint sprig. Thank me (or Martin Cate) later.
This is a rum I continue to revisit. The mix of Jamaican and agricole is finely tuned if unspecific in both categories. Vanilla bean and just a hint of mint and parilla. Lovely stuff.
It really smells like bananas. Also it has a pleasant finish ! Very recomendable
I guess it's made for mixing drinks but works fine as a sipper if you're in to jamaican agricole-like rum.
Interesting smell and taste with smoke, char and wood.
It's quite oily in it's consistance.
My bottle is of the later design, a shorter broader bottle.