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Cross Keys Island Tradition Barbados Rum (Aged 5 Years)

Review: Cross Keys Island Tradition Barbados Rum (Aged 5 Years)    83.5/100
Review by Chip Dykstra (Aka Arctic Wolf)
Published October 22, 2013

Cross Keys 5 Yr Old Barbados Rum is a spirits brand developed by Distiller Sales Company of Princeton, Minnesota. Distiller Sales is adivision of a company called USDP (United States Distilled Spirits Co.). They describe themselves as a “leading developer of corporate brand distilled spirits programs”. The company boast sales in 32 countries worldwide, and some of those brands which are available in my home market include Ethan Koll 8 Year Old Canadian Whisky, Broken Bell Bourbon, Monkey Paw Rum, Luxus Vodka, Capatina French Vodka and Veil Premium Vodka.

The Cross Keys Island Tradition Rum is produced from Bajan rum stocks which have been aged at least 5 years. I was provided a sample bottle of the rum by Jfj Agency Inc. who is the distributor of Distiller Sales Co. brands in Alberta.

SAM_0978 Cross KeysIn the Bottle 4/5

The Cross Keys Rum arrives in the clear squat bottle shown to the left. I like the shape of the bottle with its jug-like look and low center of gravity. This bottle shape seems to fit my idea of what a rum bottle ought to look like. The topper is a plastic threaded closure which seals the rum much better than a metallic threaded closure would, and the labeling tells me the rum is aged five years in oak casks and bottled at 40 % alcohol by volume.

My only quibble is with the gold writing etched directly upon the glass bottle. I found the smaller print hard to read (my eyes just aint what they used to be), and I feel a better contrast of colours would be more suitable.

In the Glass  8/10

When I poured the rum into my glass I found it had a medium dark brown/copper colour. A quick tilt and twirl of my glass revealed a multitude of small drooplets forming at the crest which formed small legs that scurried back down into the rum. The initial nose featured scents of treacle, charred marshmallows, and baked molasses.

As the glass sat, additional aromas of toasted coconut and baking spices (vanilla, brown sugar and cinnamon) rose into the air as well along with some oven roasted walnuts. There is also a hint astringent alcohol heat in the breezes which seems to mingle with some dry wood spices. The test of this rum will be in the glass to see if there is enough sweetness to balance with the obvious hints of bitterness foreshadowed by all the charred and toasted aromas.

In the Mouth  51/60

When I sampled the Cross Keys Rum neat, I found the alcohol heat I had noted in the air above the glass seemed to add a touch more harshness than I personally preferred. However, when I added a few ice-cubes to tame this astringency, the rum seemed to become much friendlier. The heat was gone, and I tasted more sweetness in the glass than the nose would have indicated. Dark caramel and treacle still dominate, but there are also nice complimentary flavours of brown sugar, vanilla and baking spice. Impressions of roasted walnut and dark tobacco round out the rum’s profile.

Although the spirit is by no means an elegant sipper, it is enjoyable with ice. It is also (and perhaps even more enjoyable) with just a dash of cola. Given that up to 40 % of the rum produced in the Caribbean is destined to be mixed with cola, this is not a bad thing.

In the Throat 12/15

The finish carries the same charred sugar impressions as the entry with perhaps the flavour of toasted walnuts more apparent at the exit than it was across the palate. A light creeping burn follows the rum when sipped neat, but this disappears with the addition of a simple ice-cube.

The Afterburn 8.5/10

I found the 5 Year Old Cross Keys Island Tradition Barbados Rum to be a pleasant indulgence. The flavour runs to the darker side of the spectrum with molasses and treacle leading out in front; but happily, there is also a counterbalance provided with just enough brown sugar, vanilla and baking spice to bring balance and enjoyment to the glass. With and ice-cube the rum is an enjoyable sipper, and with cola it is an outstanding mixer.

If you are interested in comparing more scores, here is a link to my other published Rum Reviews.


Suggested Recipe:

Although I made the point in my review that this rum mixes very well with cola; I should point out that ginger-ale should not be dismissed as a great compliment to Bajan Rum. With the addition of a touch of lime and bitters we have the makings of a nice highball recipe.

Bajan HighballBajan Highball

2 oz Cross Keys 5 Yr Old Barbados Rum
Angostura Bitters
Slices of Lemon
Ginger-ale to fill

In a tall glass add Ice-cubes and a Slice of Lemon
Add 2 Oz Cross Keys 5 Yr Rum and a few drops of Bitters
Fill with Ginger-ale
Stir until the Glass Frosts

Garnish with a second slice of Lemon
Of course enjoy!


My Final Score is out of 100 and you may (loosely) interpret the score as follows:

0-25     A spirit with a rating this low would actually kill you.
26-49   Depending upon your fortitude you might actually survive this.
50 -59  You are safe to drink this…but you shouldn’t.
60-69   Substandard swill which you may offer to people you do not want to see again.
70-74    Now we have a fair mixing rum or whisky.  Accept this but make sure it is mixed into a cocktail.
75-79    You may begin to serve this to friends, again probably still cocktail territory.
80-84    We begin to enjoy this spirit neat or on the rocks. (I will still primarily mix cocktails)
85-89    Excellent for sipping or for mixing!
90-94    Definitely a primary sipping spirit, in fact you may want to hoard this for yourself.
95-97.5 The Cream of the Crop
98+       I haven’t met this bottle yet…but I want to.

Very loosely we may put my scores into terms that you may be familiar with on a Gold, Silver, and  Bronze medal  scale as follows:

70 – 79.5    Bronze Medal (Recommended only as a mixer)
80 – 89.5     Silver Medal (Recommended for sipping and or a high quality mixer)
90 – 95         Gold Medal (Highly recommended for sipping and for sublime cocktails.)
95.5+            Platinum Award (Highest Recommendation)

2 Responses to “Cross Keys Island Tradition Barbados Rum (Aged 5 Years)”

  1. Major Tom said

    Thanks for the review of this rum Chip. It is always helpful to have some independent tasting notes to go by when I look at buying a new bottle, and your reviews are always spot on. As I like Dark Rums from Barbadoes (Particularly Mount Gay) based upon your description I think I will look for a bottle of the Cross Keys too.

    (BTW: I have never tried Rum with Ginger-ale, but your cocktails have never disappointed me so I think I will pour myself a Bajan Highball, the next chance I get.)

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