I love smoky whiskeys, but who’d ever think of a smoky rum? Why Plantation Rum, the brainchild of Maison Ferrand’s Alexandre Gabriel, of course! Although his expertise stemmed from producing cognac and, subsequently, gin, his travels to the Caribbean led him to discover a love for rum. He began experimenting with casking, buying rum, shipping it to France, and aging in ex-fill Cognac barrels. The result was the early 2000s birth of the Plantation Rum brand.
In 2017, he acquired Barbados’ West Indies Rum Distillery, which included a stake in two additional distilleries: Long Pond Rum Distillery and Clarendon Distillers Limited. Although the concept of terroir in spirits production has become increasingly cliche, it’s been Gabriel’s focus from the start. He sources rum from distilleries throughout the islands, and his results speak to his successes- he was named Best Master Blender of Rum in the World in 2012 by London’s Golden Barrel Award, and in 2017, the American Distilling Institute’s Man of the Year.
My reputation as a whiskey connoisseur (okay, my reputation is as a whiskey drinker, but I digress), especially smoky whiskeys, preceded me, affording me the privilege of receiving a sample of Plantation’s new concoction- Stiggin’s Fance Smoky Formula Dark Rum. In a nutshell, it’s spectacular!
The rum resulted from the third collaboration between Gabriel and world-renowned spirits author David Wondrich. It’s named as a tribute to Charles Dickens’s Pickwick Papers’ character Reverend Stiggins, who would hide “pineapple rum” in his teacup. It’s produced by blending additionally distilled pineapple-rind-infused Plantation 3-Star Rum and Plantation’s Original Dark and pineapple-rind-infused Original Dark rum. The final blend is matured in ex-fill Teeling Blackpitts Peated Single Malt Irish whiskey casks.
Rum purists may take exception to the pineapple infusion, but this is NOT a typical “flavored” rum. I was impressed by the balance and integration of the flavors. The pineapple is evident, but the aromas and flavors are complex, and the overall experience is refined and luxurious. While it would make a fine mixing rum (I did try a simple rum and diet cola- it was terrific), I thoroughly enjoyed it neat in my Glencairn nosing glass. In my humble opinion, it makes a fine aperitif, although a touch higher ABV (currently 40%) would have made it even more impressive. That said, it is exceptionally smooth, even to the point of being “gentle!”
I expected the pineapple to be most evident, but I was surprised to pick up the banana flavors first. The peat smoke is distant, adding more of an “aged” sense than “smoky.” A veritable tropical fruit salad of aromas followed, with hints of orange zest, winter spices, coconut cream pie, honey, and buttered toast. The mouthfeel is full and round but not oily. The pineapple explodes as the initial flavor, followed by oak, banana pie, cinnamon, clove, brown sugar, and molasses.
Some reviews complain that the smoke is overpowering. I couldn’t disagree more- I found it restrained and subtle, adding an aged character that belies the actual age of the rum. I prefer it to spiced rum, even The Kracken, which I enjoy.
Although I’m a die-hard malt whiskey addict, Stiggin’s Fance Smoky Formula Dark Rum is a fantastic diversion and a damn fine dram. If you like rum, I highly recommend that you at least try it. In a worst-case scenario, it makes a great Rum-and-Coke, and would be a spectacular mixer for a Mai Tai or Pina Colada!