Having been mightily impressed by the Plantation 3 Stars (which actually became one of my 2015 Spirits of the Year), I did a bit of research on the brand and found some really interesting (to me at least) expressions. The most expensive of these (excepting the 1998 Jamaican Tokaji Finish) was the 20th Anniversary XO Barbados rum, so that’s what we have here.
It’s a disappointing 40% alcohol, but it’s beautifully presented and, while at £46 (+ P&P) it’s expensive for rum, it looks the part and is blended from Plantation’s oldest stocks – though how old these are is not specified. So it is aged for a number of years in the tropical climate of the Caribbean first, in ex-bourbon casks, then transposed in to French oak casks and aged a little further in a French cellar. Rumratings.com reckon the first ageing is 12-20 years, and the second 12-18 months.
These Plantation products sure are interesting – enough to make me want to spend more money on rum than I ever have before - so let’s see what it’s all about.
Rum has always been a little uninteresting and easy in my admittedly under-educated opinion – it just doesn’t seem complicated enough, so I was certainly hoping to discover some hidden depths on this excursion. I don’t want to end up spending too much when I buy rum, but it would be nice if this were exceptional at this price point – the 3 Stars certainly was at its.
The packaging on this one, is just gorgeous – too beautiful to open, as a friend I Whatsappd an image of it to said. I love bottles like this that have a clear base like that, though I can’t say I’m a fan of the straw webbing that has been added to represent the way bottles of rum used to be transported in days of yore. Elsewhere there’s an oversized stopper (the oversized part and the stopper part of which separated themselves long before the contents were depleted – which is a mark against) and it is all housed in a tasteful cardboard box (that, given my colourblindness, I finally had to concede was brown, rather than red).
I told my friend (coincidentally another recent father) that I’d save opening it until he could be there – as long as he came to the Picadilly Mile brewery crawl that would mark the end of the year long Distinct Beers Challenge in November. I did, but we were all so hammered by the time we got home that his glass and another friend’s were left unfinished.
So, this is very sweet. Too sweet for me, in fact. It’s almost like a soft drink. If I wasn’t so busy trying to taste the fuck out of it and find some depth and complexity, I could actually imagine chugging this like a cold glass of coke on a hot day. You know what this really needs? A little extra alcohol kick. Despite a whole swath of excellent reviews all across the the internet, for my money, the XO is not as complex or interesting as the 3 Stars. It is actually far more like brandy than I was expecting it to be – which shouldn’t be all that surprising when you consider its pedigree. It is however, good for early drinking – not so complex as to confuse your tastebuds when they aren’t fully awake yet in the afternoon.
A real bonus with this one, is that it is the ideal spirit to be enjoyed alongside or just after deserts. I can’t tell you the glasses of whisky I’ve wasted by trying to drink them alongside chocolate or cake – or soon afterwards. Or indeed the number of nights I’ve had to decide which I want more – fancy desert or fancy spirits (fancy spirits always wins out, and deserts are useful commiserations on the nights I’m not drinking). The Plantation XO though, is so sweet that it doesn’t react with such rich fare as Krispy Kreme donuts or white chocolate cheesecake. And that’s good to know.
I’m glad then, to have found something with such a wide range of uses and, while I haven’t found it as interesting as I’d hoped, I have to admit that I have enjoyed drinking it more casually than I would the spirits I consider special. Not considering it special has enabled me to treat it more liberally and not hold it to such stringent testing. So in the end, it deserves a lot of credit – not least because on one night I drank it in a direct comparison with the Havana Club Anejo Especial and the Appleton Estate Signature Blend, and the XO absolutely blitzed them. Yes, you would expect that at more than twice the price of each of those products, but how much better it was is astounding.No, it won’t be troubling for a Spirits of the Year place, but seriously well played, Plantation XO. I think this will appeal to a lot of people but at around £45 it might seem a bit expensive to them. Nevertheless I’d urge them to give it a go. Whoever they are.