The Virgin Holiday Spirit
Barbados / Jamaica
Blended Rum – A blend of only pot still and traditional column still from multiple distilleries.
ABV Hydrometer Test: 40% ABV @ 20°
Does drinking rum make you think about going on holiday? Do you know you can get the feeling of being on holiday, in a bottle of rum? For the benefit of any Americans reading this…..holiday to us Brits is going/being on vacation.
Well, according to Virgin Holidays and Global Rum Ambassador, Ian Burrell, you can capture the emotions of being on holiday and pair them with rum profile flavour descriptions to produce a rum, that when consumed, will impart the feelings, the emotions, the vibes, the very essence of being on holiday. You can get it in a bottle now!
Claiming to be the world’s first scientifically created rum, it is the work of Global Rum Ambassador, Ian Burrell and IBM computer, Watson, which has looked at 15million social media posts featuring holiday-themed emotions, hashtags and phrases and picked the five most common. These are happy, excited, curious, adventurous and relaxed. Watson also analysed 5,000 rum reviews to pick out key descriptions, from which flavours were chosen to match with the emotions. Happy was deemed to be represented by vanilla, excited equals sugar cane, curious is cinnamon, adventurous is allspice and relaxed is coconut. I love the idea of thinking how happy I am and then craving vanilla or chilling out and putting my feet up implies I am having some coconut.
The principle is sound for a rum drinker such as myself. Speaking personally, every time I have a tot of rum, and that is quite often, it makes me feel like I am on holiday or at the very least it makes me feel like going on holiday. But presumably, a spirit created in this way is not aimed at me, but instead is looking to evoke those holiday feelings in everyone, regardless of what you usually drink and in whatever style, whether it is neat/straight or mixed in a cocktail etc.
It is an interesting concept and one I have to investigate further. So, upon discovering this rum, the next step is to find where to buy it and unfortunately that has meant a 150mile, three and a half hour round trip to a shopping centre, Lakeside in Essex, in order to visit one of the nine V-Stores stocking this rum. Upon my arrival in store, I was exceptionally well looked after by store assistant, Mona, who gave me a tasting of the rum as well as preparing me a Virgin Holiday Spirit cocktail, a Red & Stormy. At this point, I would like to say a big “thank you” to the V-Store and their wonderful staff at Lakeside for their hospitality.
Background aside, the rum itself is a combination of my two favourite rum producing nations, Barbados and Jamaica. The Bajan content consists of two rums from Foursquare distillery, a 3yo and a 5yo and the Jamaican spirit is a 3yo produced by Worthy Park. All of the rum has been tropically aged!
Only 800 bottles of this rum have been produced, each one is numbered and I have number 190 to taste today. Not wanting to doubt the honesty and integrity not only of two fine rum producing nations but also my friend Ian Burrell, I do feel a little guilty about putting my hydrometers into this rum…..just in case! Happy to report that this rum measured a perfect 40%, exactly what it should be and so therefore implying that there are no additives in this rum.
Under Richard Seale’s/Luca Gargano’s proposed rum categorisation, this would most-likely be classed as a “Blended Rum” – a blend of only pot still and traditional column still from multiple distilleries..
The bottle is a slightly squat/dumpy shape with a good sturdy cork enclosure. The front label includes information about the blend of flavours and emotions that this bottle’s spirit is aiming to capture. It also includes that there are 800 bottles, this bottle’s number (190), year of creation, a reference to Watson and Ian Burrell. It also states “Barbados” for the country, which is a little perplexing given that it is a blend of rums from both Barbados AND Jamaica. The rear label explains the rum’s creation in more details.
Whilst I like to know which distilleries are used and what types of stills, this rum is clearly not intended for such scrutiny and as such, the labelling is more about the concept, with marketing to match.
In the glass, the rum is very pale. My initial thoughts are that it reflects its relatively young ageing, but given the extensive use of caramel colouring in rums, I do not take much notice of the colour.
On the sides of the glass, the rum has some medium bodied legs.
Nosing the rum immediately highlights the Jamaican funky pot still aromas…dried fruits , banana and plums notably. Beyond this, I can detect some coconut and vanilla and a hint of Bajan toffee.
This is what being on holiday smells like!
Taste, Initial-middle 31/40
The entry of this rum is soft and delicate with the vanilla and toffee being quite prominent. Some darker sugar notes are also present. This feels like a young rum as it does not have a depth of flavour or complex characteristics of older distillates.
At this stage, I am thinking this is a decent, but quite light, Bajan rum.
Taste, Middle/Throat 33/40
Flick a switch in the middle of the mouth and the Bajan influences are replaced by funky Jamaican vibes of dried fruits, spices and some real fire. There is tropical fruit, a light background of citrus and a big whack of pepper and cinnamon as you swallow. At this point, some charred oak appears, but is only in the background compared to the spice, which starts to dominate after multiple sips and this in turn creates a fiery burn in the back of the mouth. It has quite a short finish, presumably due to the young ages of the rums.
Further tastings also reveal some ripe banana flavours and a touch of coconut.
The Jamaican pot still gives this a spicy party in your mouth that becomes a fiery burn. The burn is tempered by the softer Bajan rums that stop the Jamaican from going too crazy.
The goal of drinking this rum is to re-create the holiday vibes and to simulate the feelings of relaxing on a beautiful Bajan beach or enjoying a Jamaican steel drum band. Whatever it is that reminds you of being on holiday and having fun.
Does it do this? Well actually, yes it does, but to be honest, I find that with most rums, especially those from Barbados and Jamaica. But as I said previously, this is not really aimed at seducing someone like me into the rum market. I was seduced long ago! But it will seduce others, less accustomed to rum, into trying something different and beginning their journey into the world of pure rums. I do think this rum works well with coke and lends itself ideally to some tasty cocktails. I tried the Red & Stormy, which is very enjoyable
From a rumaholic’s point of view, this is a decent young pure unadulterated rum that sits at the entry level of aged rums. At £58 it is not cheap, but you are not just buying some good rum, but also a memory or sensation of enjoying a holiday somewhere tropical.
It is a great way to introduce people to rums due to the twist or novelty of how it was created. It is also ideal for anyone who likes Bajan and Jamaican rum but cannot decide between the two!
Now I have tasted it, I want to go to the Caribbean again!!!
Below are some stills taken from the TV ad playing in the V-Store. There is a familiar Rum Ambassador on TV, having fun. He must be thinking about being on holiday!
P Denotes the rum contains POT still distillate.
C Denotes the rum contains traditional/Coffey COLUMN still distillate.
B Denotes the rum contains a BLEND of POT and COLUMN still distillate.
M Denotes the rum contains MULTI-COLUMN still distillate or is a MODERN rum.
A Denotes the rum is an AGRICOLE i.e. from Cane Juice.
S Denotes the rum is presented in a SWEETENED style.
Bottle/Presentation Out of 3
Glass/Aroma Out of 10
Taste, Initial-middle Out of 40
Taste, Middle/Throat Out of 40
Afterburn Out of 7