Thursday, July 22, 2010 at 1:52 p.m.
Dark rum, like dark beer, is something of a grey area: how dark is dark? Just as there are acres of difference between, say, a dark lager and an imperial stout, many bottles of rum wearing the 'dark' label are merely not light. That won't suffice for this quick jaunt into the very darkest corners of the rum world.
To help calibrate your equipment, we're using Myers's dark Jamaican rum as our starting point. In other words, that will be the lightest rum on our list. What we hope you're looking for is something cue-ball black, something that'll last through long, perilous ocean journeys, a sip that'll help you sing sea shanties, a nip that'll put hair on your chest.
These rums usually use molasses as well as sugar cane to arrive at their hearts of darkness, which is why some of them can come off a tad sweet. All the better to sip you with, my dear.
5. Myers's Original Dark: Probably the most authentic and easy to find. Almost every area bar stocks it on their top shelf. The flavor is rich and buttery at first. Then comes an aftertaste that we won't deny: it is medicinal, but not in that awful, iodine-y way some Scotch can hit you with. Instead, think quiolones, those old-fashioned anti-malaria drugs you'd take when traveling through Central America. This makes a damn fine rum-and-Coke, or apply it liberally to the top of any rum-based beverage.
4. The Kraken Black Spiced Rum: Despite its somewhat gimmicky presentation, the Kraken (named after a giant, mythical sea squid) has it going on in the ass-kick department, clocking in at 94 proof. Made in Trinidad (though you'd be hard-pressed to glean that from the label) and fortified with "spices, caramel, and other natural flavors," the Kraken isn't much darker than Myers's -- certainly not a serious black. Think of it as weak-ass Captain Morgan's big, bad brother.
3. Gosling Black Seal: Bermuda is home to this black rum, where it is often mixed with ginger beer for a drink called the Dark and Stormy. But Gosling's Black Seal is black in the Michael Jackson mold: the initial bite has a hint of danger, but after one swallow, Gosling finishes much lighter on the palate than you'd expect. The firm also distills a special version of this called "Gosling family reserve," which is just aged longer and sold in a fancier box.
2. Cruzan Black Strap Rum: You need to go visit the end of the spectrum now and then. And it's a lot easier to grab a bottle of this than it is to reach the poles. Mind you, you will suffer adverse effects if you try to scale the summit - or depths -- in one attempt. But it doesn't get darker than this. It's the Guiness of rums. With heady, deliciously-sweet overtones of mollases, cane, and coffee beans, this pours heavy, almost syrupy. Find it at Red's Lounge on Floranada Road just west of U.S. 1, where the clientele and staff still refer to it as "Navy Rum."
1. Black Tot Navy Rum: Yes, this is real
navy rum. Back when the British sailed the seas, they brewed strong ale (like India Pale) that was highly hopped and meant to last for months without refrigeration. And they made strong rum, meant to fuck you up. Sailors would get a ration to last the journey and a little copper cup to drink it in. Pusser's sells something called Navy Rum (Blue Label) but it's amber in color. Order a bottle of this online -- it's only $1,000
-- and celebrate Black Tot Day on July 31. That's the day, 40 years ago, that the Royal Navy stopped the rum rations for good. But with this, you're getting what was left in the barrel -- from the very last consignment of real Navy Rum -- plus a copper cup and an 80-page book on naval rum. Sodomy and the lash sold separately.