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McDowell’s No. 1 Celebration Rum

Rum Review: McDowell’s No. 1 Celebration Rum    78.5/100
a review by Chip Dykstra (Aka Arctic Wolf)
Posted on February 17, 2011

Depending upon which website you visit, McDowell’s No. 1 Celebration Rum is listed as either the 3rd or the 4th best-selling rum in the World with sales of over 6 million cases per year. It is the largest selling rum in India with a market share between 38 and 40 percent. My research indicates that the McDowell’s No. 1 Celebration Rum is a result of a multiple distillation production which uses 5 copper column stills. The rum is aged for at least 3 years in oak barrels before being blended and bottled. Because the information from the various websites I visited was somewhat contradictory, I would not want to claim that these are solid facts, they should more reasonably be assumed to be good estimations.

The rum is distilled, blended and bottled at Ponda, Goa in India by United Spirits Ltd. (formerly known as McDowell Spirits Ltd). For your information, Goa, a former Portuguese colony is situated on the Western Coast of India. It is India’s smallest state by area, but the fourth largest by population, and the most prosperous by GDP.  Today Goa contains a unique blend of European culture merged with Indian hospitality. It is a preferred tourist destination in India famous for its abundance of white sandy beaches.

I have very little experience with rums from India, (Amrut Old Port Rum is the only other Indian rum I have tasted), and it will be very interesting to see what this Indian Rum has in store for me.

In the Bottle 4/5

The bottle I am reviewing is pictured to the right. It is a square decanter style bottle with textured glass to help you grip the bottle without slippage.  Of course I am unhappy with the metal screw cap especially as this one has only two threads. However, the rum was not especially expensive, and the bright red label combined with the squarish bottle has kind of funky charm.

In the Glass  8/10

In the glass the rum has a rich mahogany color with reddish tinges in the light. The initial nose carries a lot of caramel, toffee and molasses forward with strong accents of vanilla and dry fruit. An odd medicinal sharpness rises into the air as well reminding me that this rum is aged for only three years.  As the glass decants an underlying aroma of toasted nuts becomes apparent as well as baking spices which have been building in the glass. I seem to catch a few spicy cloves, and a little nutmeg in the breezes, but an odd spicy element I cannot identify has crept in which taints the aroma rather than enhances it.

In the Mouth 47/60

As the rum enters my mouth I cannot help but notice that this is quite a bit dryer than most rums I am accustomed to. There is a bit of a sharp bite that accompanies the dryness as well as an odd bitterness.  I taste a lot of vanilla and caramelized sugars, as well as other charred flavours which seem to give the rum an oddly medicinal quality. Dry tobacco, tea leaves and citrus zests round out the flavours; but, the overall impression is of a rum which tastes a little rough around the edges.

Mixed with cola the rum settles down, but I would be hard pressed to say that this is smooth. I tried a few other mixers including various fresh squeezed juices with simple syrup, but I was defeated each time by the oddly spicy taint I found in each drink I constructed. I did however have good luck when I ventured from my comfort zone and used a combination of ginger beer and lime . The spiciness of the ginger beer seemed to merge with the odd qualities I was tasting and the resulting “mule” style cocktail was quite nice.

In the Throat  11.5/15

The rum finishes with a dry harshness I am not used to. Tea leaves, as well as hints of tobacco and cocoa are apparent in a somewhat sharp, and somewhat bitter finish.  My conclusion here is that the McDowell’s may work well as a mixer, But I would not consider this a rum for sipping.

The Afterburn  8/10

I found it hard to warm up to the McDowell’s No. 1 Celebration Rum. It has a dry bitterness, an oddly spicy yet somewhat medicinal flavour, and a harsh finish which for me made this rum difficult to enjoy neat or with ice.  Mixed with ginger beer however, the rum tasted pretty nice.  Given some time I think I might actually find a few other cocktail expressions which will work really well, but until those cocktails have been found, I will prefer to stick to the recipe below.

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


Suggested Recipes


2 oz McDowell’s No. 1 Celebration Rum
1/2 lime
3-4 oz Ginger Beer

Slice the lime into chunks and muddle in a tall glass
add ice and McDowell’s Celebration Rum
Fill with Ginger Beer

Garnish with Lime if desired


You may (loosely) interpret the scores 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)


4 Responses to “McDowell’s No. 1 Celebration Rum”

  1. Sanjay said

    Can someone let me know where in Vancouver, BC, can I buy McDowell’s No.1 Celebration Rum? Thank you.

  2. rus said

    hi..seems a bit rougher than old monk…a dark 7 yr. which is quite sippable… purchased for $13-$17 at binneys in chicago…gave one to rob burr and he seemed surprised with its body and spirit… thanx 4 the review… this week the boat drinks started after nordic skiing on the lake and plantation20ann.barbados,diplomatico res,ron varederro 7yr[cuba].havanna club 7yr[cuba],appleton est.vx, cockspur vsop, ron superior carta resernia[aruba] the preferred order russ

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