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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.
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.
Wasn't as funky as most Jamaican rums, which means I actually enjoyed this rum. I dislike most Jamaican but this was drinkable. Had it over rocks. I would drink again, but I wouldn't buy a whole bottle.
The perfect jamaican/agricole blend for mai tais. A must for any tiki/poly pop/tropical cocktail aficionado.
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.
Just the thing in a Mai Tai. I try to keep this in my cabinet for all things Mai Tai. I really like this rum for cocktails.
Reinforcing what pretty much every else has said, this makes an INCREDIBLE Mai Tai. Its hard to believe that just one rum can bring that much more complexity to a cocktail. I would say a Denizen 8 Mai Tai is more balanced than a Smith & Cross + Black Rum blend Mai Tai (my normal go to). Its pretty tasty on its own & not too harsh to sip. Very earthy with a touch of molasses sweetness & the perfect amount of funk. Very interesting rum that I will definitely be revisiting.
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