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Kirk and Sweeney 12 Year Rum

Review: Kirk and Sweeney 12 Year Rum (88/100)
a review by Chip Dykstra (Aka Arctic Wolf)
Posted April 04, 2013

Kirk and Sweeney 12 Year Rum is crafted in the Dominica for a company from Sonoma California called 35 Maple Street, which is the spirits division of The Other Guys (TOG). TOG is wine company led by August Sebastiani, a member of one of California’s oldest wine families. The Sabastiani family has been involved in the Californian wine industry since August’s great-grandfather, Samuele Sebastiani, opened his family run winery over 100 years ago.

According to the 35 Maple Street website, their rum has been named for a wooden schooner of the same name. This schooner, KIRK AND SWEENEY, was a rum running vessel which brought rum from the Caribbean to the Northeast Coast during Prohibition. The ship was apparently captured and seized off the coast of New York in 1924 where enforcement officials found an enormous cargo of rum aboard. The folks at 35 Maple Street like to use historical references in the naming of their brands (see Masterson’s Straight Rye Whiskey) and felt the Kirk and Sweeney was an ideal choice for their Dominican rum.

The rum is produced from stocks that have been aged for 12 years in American oak barrels. It is shipped in bulk to Sonoma California where it is bottled by 35 Maple Street at 40 % alcohol by volume.

K&S-BSIn the Bottle 4.5/5

To the left is a photo of the round “pot shaped” decanter used by 35 Maple Street for the Kirk and Sweeney 12 Year Rum.  An old-fashioned map of a major smuggling route from the Caribbean to the Northeast Coast has been silk screened onto the glass bottle, and the neck of each bottle features an individual numbered identification for each bottle. My particular bottle (which was provided by Purple Valley Wines and Spirits who are the distributors here in Alberta) is from Batch No. 1 and is bottle number 1727.

I like what I see with respect to the bottle design and the silk screened label, and I suspect the rum bottle will garner its share of attention from rum aficionados curious about what could be inside such a nice bottle.

In the Glass 8.5/10

The rum displays itself as a bright mahogany/toffee coloured liquid which, when tilted and twirled in the glass, puts down moderately thick legs which slide slowly back down. The initial aroma reminds me of butterscotch candies and sugar cane syrup (I am thinking Roger’s Golden Syrup). I allowed the glass to decant for several minutes, and the scents from the glass became richer and more complex with vanilla, oak spices and hints of tobacco rising into the breezes as well. The longer I allowed the glass to breathe, the more those oak and tobacco scents seem to build in the air. I suspect the initial sweetness I noticed was holding back the oaky scents, but once they pushed through, the rum seemed to be equally permeated with butterscotch and fine oak spices. I must say I enjoyed the evolution of scents and aromas from the glass.

In the Mouth  52.5/60

As I took my first sip of the Kirk and Sweeny 12 Year Rum, my impression was that this would be a nice gateway rum for someone who would want to move from mixed bar drinks to a sipping spirit. It has a nice approachable flavour which is very easy to enjoy. The rum is lightly sweet with flavours of butterscotch and vanilla taking the lead in front of oak and spice. There is more depth to the rum than first appearances would indicate. Although butterscotch, vanilla and wood spice dominate the rum, I also taste some delicious nuances of tobacco, rich honeycomb, a light almond flavour, and hints of both canned fruit (apricots and peaches) and dry fruit (raisins and currants). These additional flavours must be coaxed out by letting the rum breathe in the glass, but the additional waiting time is well worth it.

In the Throat 13.5/15

I would not say the rum has a long lingering finish, yet there is something to be said for the crisp smoothness which leaves both the mouth and the back of the throat lightly heated with wood spices. Lingering flavours of butterscotch and vanilla seem to gently fade away. As indicated earlier, the rum is very approachable and easy to enjoy as a sipper.

The Afterburn 9/10

As much as I enjoyed sipping the Kirk and Sweeney rum, I enjoyed mixing a few cocktails just as much. The rum mixed very nicely with cola in a Cuba Libra; it made a dandy Spanish Mule, and as I found when I experimented a little, the rum also worked very well in daiquiri style recipes (see below). I am impressed!

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


Suggested Recipe

SAM_0688 Rum DarbyRum Darby Daiquiri
a cocktail by Chip Dykstra (Aka Arctic Wolf)

1 3/4 oz Kirk and Sweeney 12 Year Old Rum
3/4 oz Grapefruit Juice
3/4  oz Lime juice
1/2 oz Sugar Syrup (1:1)
Lime slice

Pour the first four ingredients into a metal shaker with ice
Shake until the sides of the shaker are frosted
Strain into a suitable glass
Garnish with a Lime Slice

This recipe is absolutely delicious!

Please remember to enjoy my cocktail suggestions responsibly!


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)


7 Responses to “Kirk and Sweeney 12 Year Rum”

  1. Brad Mellon said

    Okay – I’ll admit up front ! I tried this rum primarily because of its name. I’m a 9 year veteran of the U.S. COAST GUARD and its name is steeped in USCG history. To my surprise this has become my ‘go to’ rum. It is excellent ! My drink of choice is Laphroaig – arguably the most intense flavored of all scotch whiskies – so it takes a darn good rum to get my attention – and this one has. With just a wee bit of ice this a a fine sipping rum ! Bravo Zulu !!!

  2. Jeff said

    The best two North American rum’s I’ve tried recently are Old Ipswich Tavern Style (from Turkey Hill Distilleries), and The Real McCoy 12 year (which has a great back story). I’m on the East Coast of the US and these both have limited distribution, so it.might be tough to find in your neck of the woods, just passing along in case you happen to see them somewhere.

  3. I might say that your review is quite detailed and informative. Also from my perspective is pretty accurate in my thoughs about the rum. The only thing i might correct is that the rum isnt from Dominica but from Dominican Republic specifically the Santiago de los Caballeros area.


  4. Jason Snider said

    I bought a bottle of this earlier this week (in Edmonton at the Keg n Cork) and was very pleased. I’m a little surprised that it isn’t in the low 90s, but to each his own (and I generally trust your rating system. A very pleasant drinkable rum. Not on the level of sophistication of reserva exclusiva but very very nice…

    My bottle is batch 001 bottle 2759. Any idea how big the batches are? (2759 x .75 l = 2069.25 l at the least…)

    • Hi Jason

      I am high 80’s and you are low 90’s so we are not too far apart on this one. I agree with you on the lower level of sophistication and it was probably that aspect of the rum which kept my marks just under that 90 pt threshold. Unfortunately I have no information on the size of the batches, there appears to be no real definition of the term “batch” in rum terminology.


  5. Steve Savat said

    Very good rum , a little lighter than the Oliver y Oliver brands – Optimus/Unhiq/ Punta Cana Tesoro but worth the price. Could have done a better job
    with the cork. I replaced mine with the stopper from Zacapa’s Ron XO [sadly finished] and it fit perfectly. Would buy K&S again

  6. A bit of ancillary information regarding the Kirk and Sweeney Rum. I had sent a few questions to the brand owner, 35 Maple Street regarding the age of the rum and the possible use of Cane Honey as a blending agent, and I thought I would pass on their replies:

    Question 1) The statement on the boxes and the rum bottle that reads simply “12 Year” does not appear (based upon my interpretation of the US regulatory framework) to be a valid age statement. As I understand things an age statement must contain a reference to age such as “Aged 12 years” or “12 years Old”. I do note that such an age statement is referenced upon your website. It reads “KIRK and SWEENEY A 12 Year Old Rum…”

    I would like to confirm with you that the entire contents of your rum is aged a minimum of 12 years.

    Answer from 35 Maple Street: 12 year is a valid framework in referencing age (or the TTB would not have let it pass), indeed our rum is aged for 12 years.

    Question 2) Another statement I came across:

    “Being a traditional Caribbean rum, Kirk and Sweeney is made with sugar cane, which along with some other trade secrets, yields a distinct and subtle sweet, vanilla oak taste.”

    To me this statement implies that the rum is blended with Sugar Cane honey and perhaps some additional secret ingredients (all well within the rules which govern rum production) which provide that additional sweetness. I am wondering if my interpretation of that statement is accurate.

    Answer from 35 Maple Street:: Correct. Cane sugar.

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