The first, but definitely not last look at rum for the Casks. I’m starting on the low and readily available end of things and (slowly) working my way up from there…
The Plantation line of rums is part of the Maison Ferrand family, a well-regarded spirits house that also includes Pierre Ferrand Cognac and Citadelle Gin among others. Maison Ferrand has not always been a this well-regarded spirits house however. In fact, according to company legend, towards the end of the 80’s, Maison Ferrand was an old, established cognac producer which had pretty much halted production and was more or less just sitting on a fair amount of maturing stock. The founder, owner and CEO of today’s Maison Ferrand, Alexandre Gabriel, met with the Ferrand family in 1989, and partnered with them in an effort to bring more of their maturing stock to market and to reimagine the brand and restart production. Gabriel accomplished this by introducing a French gin (Citadelle), and creating the Pierre Ferrand line.
The Plantation line of rums began life in 2003 when Gabriel’s trips to the Caribbean sparked an interest in the local spirit. He began this foray by being an independent bottler, buying up stocks, transporting them back to France for finishing or further maturation, and creating a line that ranged from very accessible to very limited. In 2017, Maison Ferrand purchased Barbados’ West Indies Rum Distillery along with a 1/3 stake in Jamaica’s Long Pond Distillery. These two iconic distilleries were the first located outside of France purchased by the company, giving the Plantation line a lot of long term stability as well as the ability to sell rum to others looking for sourced and/or contracted spirit..
The Plantation Five Year Old Barbados Rum is, as its name strongly suggests, a five year old blended rum from Barbados. It’s hard to miss this on the shelf as the squat bottle covered in a loose lattice of straw or raffia has fairly awesome, if not a little yo-ho-ho stereotypical, look. This one has been aged in American oak barrels on Barbados for three to four years before being shipped all the way to France to mature for one to two more years in French Oak ex-Cognac casks.
Being new to the rum world, I’m not quite up to date on all the heated issues that serious rum fiends like to get their undies in a bundle over. Apparently, one of the more contentious subjects is the addition of sugar, flavorings, and colorings. There is very little regulation to rum and its labeling, so it’s not as easy as it should be to know exactly what’s in a bottle. Plantation seems to be, refreshingly, one of the few that openly admit and support the addition of sugar. In their case, they prefer the Cognac/Champagne term dosage. They claim a bit of sugar brightens up a rums flavor profile. As a neophyte, I don’t really have much thought on the subject past that. Obviously, I’d prefer it if booze companies would insist on being totally honest and transparent for the consumer’s sake, but there’s about as much chance of that happening as…well, there’s pretty much no fucking chance of that happening.
The Nose: Bright and sweet, but not cloying. Lots of complex sugars; creamy caramels, light molasses, moist brown sugar, and hints of hard butterscotch candy and vanilla cream soda. Behind that, pineapple juice, raw coconut flesh, and juicy oranges. There’s a bit of dried grass in the background, and relatively subtle but sturdy oak notes, with bright, hot cinnamon, and vanilla bean.
The Palate: Very nice, viscous mouthfeel with many of those same sugars from the nose; caramel sauce, vanilla syrup, juicy citrus, and simple syrup. Mid palate there are subtle notes of darker molasses, candied almonds, and sweet, baked plantains. The grassiness is a bit more leather-bound here, making it feel older than it is. Again, subtle, integrated oak, nicely tannic, with a handful of spices – cinnamon, nutmeg, peppercorns, and a hint of star anise
The Finish: That heady sweetness mostly fades quick leaving more citrus and oak to linger. It’s lightly peppery, with a little cinnamon, and a bit of barrel char at the last.
Thoughts: I’m pretty sure I chose wisely in this initial jump into the rum pool. It was hard to find a single reason to be disappointed with this one. Is it sweet? Yes, appealingly so, but it manages to stop short of being overly so. But while the relatively straight-forward, non-funky flavor profile is mostly all about the complex sugar sweetness, there’s a decent balancing counterpoint of earthiness, oak, and spice. Smooth and easy drinking, the low ABV (and added sugar?) helps round off some expected sharper edges, while the mouth-watering finish makes it hard to put the glass down. While there are obviously better rums out there, it’s hard to imagine a better rum value than this one. With a price ranging from $17-$20, the Plantation 5 Year Old is a steal. Along with the Appleton Estate Signature Blend, this is a great, affordable introduction to aged rums, and a good-looking bottle that will probably grace my bar on a regular basis.
How I was I drinking it? I’ve actually been enjoying the hell out of this neat in a Glencairn glass or over ice in a tumbler. It also makes a wonderful, bright, citrus-y dark rum daiquiri (see below). I’m guessing it would be a very good choice for Tiki drinks calling for dark rum. The oak and spice make it a fun rum to play with in other brown spirit cocktails as well.
Dark Rum Daiquiri (by way of Jeffrey Morgenthaler and Simon Difford)
- 2 1/2 oz aged rum
- 3/4 oz fresh lime juice
- 1/2 oz simple syrup or Demerara syrup
- Shake it with some ice, strain it into a glass, do something creative with a bit lime peel for a garnish.
- Curtis, Wayne. “The Birth of a Rum Giant.” The Daily Beast, The Daily Beast Company, 30 Aug. 2017, www.thedailybeast.com/the-birth-of-a-rum-giant
- English, Camper. “How Much Sugar Is Added to Your Rum?” Alcademics, 7 Jan. 2014, www.alcademics.com/2014/01/how-much-sugar-is-added-to-your-rum.html
- Ferrand, Maison. “Maison Ferrand Purchases Historic West Indies Rum Distillery In Barbados.” PR Newswire: News Distribution, Targeting and Monitoring, PRNewswire, 10 Mar. 2017, www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/maison-ferrand-purchases-historic-west-indies-rum-distillery-in-barbados-300421974.html
- “Plantation 5 Years.” Plantation Rum, www.plantationrum.com/plantation-5years
- “Plantation Rum History.” Plantation Rum, www.plantationrum.com/our-history/
- “Rum’s Sweet Spot.” The Fat Rum Pirate, 5 Oct. 2015, thefatrumpirate.com/rums-sweet-spot