By and large I don’t give spiced rum much consideration these days. Sure, rum&cokes are fine things now and then, and the rare exception of Kilo Kai managed to tap into spiced rum’s more impressive potential, but mostly I prefer my rum untarnished (‘neat’, as landlubbers call it.) I do owe Captain Morgan’s Private Stock a debt of gratitude, as it ushered my early days of rum consumption, being rather more approachable than others available to me. But over time I found myself outgrowing Private Stock as its cheap alcohol undertones became more noticeable beneath a seeming increasingly thin veil of spiciness.
So yeah, the world of spiced rum largely remained outside of my field of vision – but then along came the Kraken (‘Along Came the Kraken,’ incidentally, sounds like the title of a smashing children’s book or romantic comedy, but I digress.) First off, you can’t mention Kraken Rum without mentioning their ad compaign – one minute spent at their website will tell you that this is a rum company that not only has great pride in their product, but a smashing sense of humor to boot. Whatever Kraken pays their ad guys, it’s not enough. But fun videos and goofy humor aside, ultimately the proof is always in the pudding, and I’ve been hurt before. So let’s examine the rum on its own terms…
As usual, the first impression Kraken makes is while it’s still in the bottle. A custom, semi-squat bottle with two distinctive “earlobe” handles, it boasts an old-style label with a large octopus dragging a tiny galleon to the depths. At this point I really need to applaud Kraken for their excellent choice of mascot. The kraken motif is a fine way of capturing the ocean-dwelling spirit of rum without risking the spiced rum “Captain Morgan knockoff” trap encountered by the likes of Calico Jack and Admiral Nelson (and now, Lieutenant Dan.) And for those of you that wonder why the packaging even matters, as it’s the rum that counts, you’re quite right – the rum is the key. But for me (and as I understand it, many of my readers) rum is about the whole experience, bottle to baño. And so the bottle and label of the rum matters, and Kraken wins bigtime. But now it’s time to carry forward.
In the glass, Kraken Black Spiced Rum is indeed very dark. This might seem like it should go without saying, but I’ve tried many a so-called “dark” rum that was amber at best. Kraken, however, is a very dark brown with just a hint of red. To the nose Kraken smells strongly of vanilla, with little to no alcohol at all. It does, however, contain a fine musky undertone, and just a hint of spice.
Upon tasting, it’s immediately clear that sniffing Kraken is no substitute for tasting the stuff. Many rums can almost be entirely dissected by scent alone, but Kraken’s aroma is deceptively subdued compared to the explosion of flavors encountered on the tongue. Vanilla and cloves are most prominently featured, as is an undercurrent of cinnamon. The flavor of rum itself is apparent, but it’s on its very best behaviour (while still packing a hearty boxing-gloved punch.)
Kraken Rum isn’t just a spiced rum, it’s an experience. From their website to the bottle to the mingling flavors of the rum itself, it’s truly an adventure. It’s surely a fantastic mixer that will put most others to shame, but it can also be enjoyed on its own, even by those of us who’ve become jaded by a steady diet of Nelson’s Blood for near a decade.