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Mount Gay 1703 XO Reserve Cask Rum

Review: Mount Gay 1703 XO Reserve Cask Rum 88/100
Chip Dykstra (Aka Arctic Wolf)
January 1, 2020

Barbados is situated as a gateway from the Atlantic to the Caribbean, sailors from the Old World often used the island as the first resting point on the way to the New World. This meant Barbados was ideally suited for trade between the two worlds in the eighteenth and nineteenth century.

The tradition of producing rum on Barbados has been dated to the early seventeenth century. In fact, there is evidence of small-scale distillation on Barbados as early as 1637. It is unclear from the evidence whether this early distillation can properly be called rum. However, the first recorded written usage of the words ‘Rum Bullion’ appears on the Island in 1651. This is the earliest recorded usage of the word Rum as it relates to the distilled spirit anywhere in the world. Evidence dated to 1667 indicates that there were stills in use at the site which would become the Mount Gay Plantation. The first written evidence that a spirit called rum was produced at this site comes from the year 1703. This makes Mount Gay the earliest recorded commercial producer of rum in the world. To highlight their unique place in history Mount Gay includes the year 1703 on every bottle of rum which they currently produce.

Mount Gay 1703 XO Rum is produced in a using a combination of both column and traditional copper pot stills. The rum is matured in American oak barrels which were previously used to age whiskey or  Kentucky bourbon. This is a blended spirit consisting of a wide range of rums of various ages some reputed to be as old as 15 years.

Mount Gay 1703 XO is bottled at 43 % alcohol by volume.

In the Bottle 4.5/5

Mount Gay recently changed the bottle design for their XO Rum. The current design is not as sleek and sexy as the previous design was, although it can also be said that the current bottle design gives the rum a more traditional look on the bar shelf.  I like that the neck has remained lengthened making the task of pouring the rum much easier, and I also like the corked closure which elevates the presentation.

Note: I do not like the ambiguous XO age designation which has no legal meaning with respect to rum. Although claims are maid that the spirit contains rums up to 15 years of age, there is no verification of this information, and the company website says only that the spirit is matured in charred ex-American Whiskey and Ex-Bourbon Casks, but does not say how long that maturation was. In the world of Cognac where the XO age designation has meaning, the designation may only be used for cognacs whose entire contents are aged at least 6 years.

In The Glass 9/10

The Mount Gay XO Reserve Cask carries a rich coppery hue when poured into the glass, and when that glass is swirled the crest which forms on the side of the glencairn begins to drop thick leglets which fall slowly back to the rum below.

The breezes above the glass show me a complex nose featuring a nice mingling of oak, molasses and tar-like smells.As the glass breathes, I notice firm oak spice, dark caramelized treacle and molasses as well as enticing baking spices (vanilla, cinnamon and clove) combined with roasted marshmallow, coffee and cocoa.

There is a fruitiness apparent and I also receive impressions of with canned apricots and orange marmalade. The Bajan influence is not lost as within the menagerie of olfactory impressions runs a strong herbal note driven by the congeners which have traversed the distillation of the pot still.

In the Mouth 53/60

The XO Rum is spicy and somewhat aggressive as we sip featuring a a light bite of oak sap as well as some push from the elevated alcohol content (43 %). That first sip also brings a nice mingling of caramel/treacle, oak spice and herbal pot still flavour.

Oak spice pushes through more firmly on the second sip. Vanilla and baking spice merge with caramel and treacle. I also taste sticky marmalade and apricot jam. When I add add ice, cocoa and coffee flavours jump out. Wow!

In The Throat: 13/15

The spirit is medium to full bodied with a long smooth and spicy finish. The alcohol bite which was hinted at in the delivery is absent in the exit. I taste dark brown sugar with oak and baking spice as I swallow and wood spice and herbal tobacco lingering after the exit.

The Afterburn  8.5/10

My current sample tastes much better than my previous review in 2011 would indicate, and my score has jumped all the way to from 83.5 to 88 points. I think the Mount Gay Style has grown on my over the last decade. If you haven’t tried this rum recently, maybe give it another look to see it has the same impact on you.

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


Suggested Serving

Aztec Rum Old Fashioned

2 oz Mount Gay XO Reserve Cask Rum
1 tsp Bols Triple Sec
2 dashes Fees Aztec Chocolate Bitters
Ice cubes
Twist of Orange Peel

Add the first three ingredients to a rocks glass over the ice cubes
Rub the cut edge of the orange peel over the rim of the glass and twist it over the drink. (This will release the oil from the orange zest into the drink)
Drop the peel into the cocktail if desired.

Please Enjoy Responsibly!

Note: If  you are interested in more of my original cocktail recipes, please click this link (Cocktails and Recipes) for more of my mixed drink recipes!


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



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