A tip off just before Christmas set TheFloatingRumShack.com in search of fine rum – and not just any old rum… This is M&S rum! We were told that Marks and Spencer would be adding two new expressions to their spirits range: Bajan and Guatemalan rums. The ‘informant’ also indicated that we’d probably be quite interested in the providence of these rums.
Our man refused to be drawn further on the subject – so what followed was a lovely game of jumping to conclusions until a confirmation came in the form of an invite to the official press launch (an event that at the time of publication has not yet taken place). But I don’t think I’m giving much away in what follows and any self-respecting rummy would jump to the same conclusions we did…
So what do we know? Well officially – not a lot more than we observe on the labels. Marks and Spencer have two new rums: the Bajan Estate XO and the Cana Negra Guatemalan Gran Reserva. Fortunately, the bottle labels are wonderfully revealing in actual fact so let’s consider each in turn.
The Bajan Estate XO is described as a twin barrel aged rum. The front label reads “Rich hand crafted Bajan rum aged in bourbon casks” Just like 99% of all rum “and refined in French oak brandy barrels”. It’s also confirming that the contents are presented at 40% ABV. The rear label gives the rather off putting “Sensible Drinking guide” and a statement saying “Distilled in Barbados and bottled in France”. It also gives a wonderful list of ingredients to which I’ll return later and a nice paragraph describing the rum contained herein – you can read the full paragraph on the image for yourself. But for me, the key statement in the paragraph is “finished and blended in France in oak Cognac barrels”. A shame that Brandy becomes Cognac between front and back, but to the best of our knowledge, there is only one company based in France whose President has a penchant for ‘finishing’ Caribbean rums in Cognac and other interesting casks and that’s Cognac Ferrand.
The Cognac Ferrand range of Plantation Rums feature the rather fab Barbados Grande Reserve 5yo and so we had this in mind when we tried the XO (which incidentally is not given an actual age statement on the bottle). Displaying a remarkable lack of forward planning, we’d drunk our stock of 5yo by the time we opened the XO, so a direct comparison wasn’t to hand, but I’m very sure the XO is richer and not quite so sweet. It is characteristically flavoursome and very, very approachable. Now I guess we drink a fair amount of neat spirits at TheFloatingRumShack.com, which means we are used to the alcohol burn, but I was still surprised that the first sip experience was so very smooth and easy going. Given that I really do like to promote that we should be aiming to “drink well and in moderation, rather than drink cheap spirits in volume (and irresponsibly)” – I have to say that this rum is very easy to drink and I’m struggling to think of a word other than “quaffable” to describe the experience.
The Plantation range also has a Barbados XO, which is a far more expensive affair and another rum that TheFloatingRumShack.com doesn’t own (a mistake I know). The Bajan Estate XO is not a substitute for the XO, but it is very, very good.
The rum is presented in a fairly standard, stock bottle with a shrinkwrap covered screw cap. I can’t say it’s one of my favourite bottles, because it’s not – proportionally all wrong and a bit ugly, but I suspect it is a contributory factor to the amazingly good price that this rum can be purchased for. I’m fully expecting the RRP to be £25 (*) for a 70cl bottle. We managed to procure ours for £19 – but I suspect that this was either a generous opening offer, or a mistake in pricing. And before I give up griping on minor niggles – I really don’t like the yellow label – far too wishy-washy. It all blurs into each other – not enough contrast. And this final point is really is picky – but whomever positioned the tear assist tag on the shrinkwrap got it placed poorly - why is it so far down? Two bottles to open, both times the tag was totally ineffective and I had to resort to cutting the shrinkwrap off. These are minor points really though…
(*) We've subsquently confirmed the RRP should be £22
Buy online at M&S: http://www.marksandspencer.com/Bajan-Estate-XO-Rum-NV/dp/B00B8H3A24
The most interesting thing for me is the list of ingredients. I think only a supermarket could suffer from the sort of legislation that requires an implicit list of constituent parts or a company policy to let their patrons know just what they are purchasing. The fact that Barbados dark rum, cane sugar and caramel (to colour the rum) are listed is almost like a breath of fresh air. Dear rum world: how about 2013 is the year that you all come clean about the little additions your rums include?
Verdict: buy this rum – you won’t regret it. £22 represents amazing value for what is a fantastic sipping rum. Go on… get yourself down to M&S PDQ! Although I might just add that it is early days – it took five trips to three M&S Food Halls to lay hands on a bottle of each rum. And we’ve never seen them both on sale at the same venue so far. Early days though I’m thinking.
Rum Databank: Marks and Spencer Bajan Estate XO rum
Country of origin: Barbados & France
Age: Not stated
[Under £15 = £ / £15 to £25 = ££ / £25 to £40 = £££ / £40 to £100 = ££££ / Over £100 = £££££]
Other Related Info: Second cask finish
Available From: Marks and Spencer [In store and online: http://www.marksandspencer.com/Bajan-Estate-XO-Rum-NV/dp/B00B8H3A24]