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Mount Gay 1703 Old Cask Selection

Review: Mount Gay Rum 1703 Old Cask Selection   86.5/100
a review by Chip Dykstra (Aka Arctic Wolf)
Posted April 18, 2010

1703 is the year that the Mount Gay Rum was first produced on the Isle of Barbados, making Mount Gay Rum one of the oldest, if not the oldest brand of rum in the world.   Because 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.  Part of that trade was rum which is why the island is rightfully considered the birthplace of  the rum trade.

The Mount Gay 1703 Rum is a premium blend which features aged rum stocks from selected barrels of the Mount Gay treasured reserve.  These barrels have been aged 10 to 30 years and feature the best that Mount Gay has to offer in the areas of Craftsmanship and Quality.

A well Sampled bottle of Mount Gay 1703

In the Bottle 5/5

The Mount Gay 1703 arrives in a slick oval decanter style bottle with a brushed metal capped cork topper.  The presentation just oozes class and luxury. This bottle is not adorned with fancy labels; a simple but classy metallic label simply states MOUNT GAY RUM in a black bold font.  Underneath the bold lettering is simple 1703, OLD CASK SELECTION.    The label includes a picture of the island of Barbados with a red star indicating the location of the Mount Gay Distillery.  Sleek, elegant and classy!

In the Glass 9.5/10

The rum has a bright coppery colour with black stains. It looks very rich and lively in the glass almost like a shiny new penny.  A swirl of the glass shows a nice sheen of oil on the sides with small legs tricking back into the rum.  Dark molasses and baking spices rise to my nostrils followed by a smokey leather.  Perhaps it is the colour of the rum fooling me, but I catch a scent of copper pennies in the air as well.  (If you do not think copper pennies have a fragrance then I suggest you buy a fresh roll and break them under your nose,you will understand.)

This is deep and complex, with oak spices, ripe fruit (pears and apricots) and a lingering caramel toffee.

In the Mouth  52/60

This is one of those rums where it is obvious to me that the blenders are working overtime restraining the bitterness which comes with well aged oak barrels.  The resulting rum is full of character with a remarkably deep flavour profile. However it is a taste profile which demands a certain patience on behalf off the rum drinker to realize.

The first impression in my mouth is of a dark smoke and leather flavour riding a wooden raft of oak tannin rum to the back of my taste buds. The rum hits you quite hard with rough flavours and a heavy alcohol aggressiveness.  The rum is peppery and seems almost bitter at first tasting.

Patience is required. Allowing the rum to breathe (decant) brings about a much more pleasing and complex taste profile.  Baking spices, canned apricots and ripe banana build under the smokiness.  Baked pears and apples reveal themselves, and dark cherries pop in  somewhere as well with traces of treacle and a hint of cocoa.  At the very bottom of the rum, copper pennies lie providing support for the sweeter flavours rising in this stew.

As the rum sits in the glass, the sweetness, which lies under the initial smokiness, builds as does the baked fruit.  We reach a point where the bitter and the sweet meet, and the complex oaky rum achieves balance.

In the Throat 12/15

The rum exits with  flavours in my throat and the back of my palate which are more bitter than sweet.  Dried plums and raisins slide down my throat.  The aggressive smoke and oak tannin noticed during the delivery have returned to have the final word.   The lingering bitterness of the 1703 well after my glass is consumed forces me to knock the score down a bit.

The Afterburn 8/10

Each time I sample the Mount Gay 1703 Old Cask Selection, I left with the vague unsettled feeling that the experience should have been better.  The rum is full of character, and full of complex flavours.  If allowed the time to breathe,  the rum displays a great balance of those flavours.  But…. (isn’t that a dreadful word), the rum has that lingering bitterness.

For some this will be the ultimate rum experience.  the rum is like a fine aged brandy, or perhaps more like a well aged scotch.  But for me, my final impression is that the Gods of the Oak Cask, were allowed to foil my enjoyment by choosing a such a bittersweet finish.

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


Suggested Recipes

I was provided only a small sample of this rum for my tasting and so experimentation in the cocktail realm had to be limited to one recipe.  The recipe is based upon a quality Scotch Cocktail called the Automobile Here is a link to the original recipe on the internet cocktail database:  Automobile Recipe.

My recipe is only very loosely based upon this classic, and I call it, Romantic Traffic.

Romantic Traffic

2 Oz Mount gay 1703
1 Oz Bombay Sapphire Gin
1 Tablespoon of Orange Curacao
dash of bitters

Mix all ingredients in a mixing glass with ice and strain into a rocks glass.

In case you are wondering about the name, it is also the name of a song by a Canadian “new wave” band called “THE SPOONS“.  The song is kind of funky like this cocktail.   As well I assure you that this cocktail is “forrest approved“.  Visit his great site by clicking on my link provided here.


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)


14 Responses to “Mount Gay 1703 Old Cask Selection”

  1. Alex Tuttle said

    I don’t get this unfettered bitterness, instead I get a restrained bitterness that balances out the dried fruit and vanilla sweetness due to the oak. This bottle rocks from the presentation the the liquid inside. This should be a standard with a cigar or as an after dinner drink. Don’t waste this wonderful liquid in a cocktail, this must be drank by itself. Beautiful rum period.

    • Thanks for the recent comments Alex.

      I am not sure where you have found the term “unfettered bitterness” in my review. I, like you, found a bitterness which had been “restrained”. It is still a feature of the rum which some, like you absolutely love, and others, like me, find tempers their enthusiasm for the rum. We are of course each reflecting an opinion based upon our preferences. (And many in the world agree with you (not me) on this rum.)


  2. Deadeye said

    I have a bottle of 1703 at home (UK) but even when I tasted it at the distillery last week, I noticed the lingering bitterness. Your theory about climate may have some merit, but in the Barbados heat (33 deg C) I still had the same finish as you.

    Incidentally, I also tried their Eclipse Black (100 proof). A very Cognac style of rum, very reminiscent of MG Sugar Cane Brandy, but with more depth, both in colour and taste.

    • Hi deadeye

      I am not sure where you call home, but if you like in a Northern clime, then my theory would be lightly supported, If you live in a southern clime, then my theory would have at least one exception. My guess is that you would have to live in a hotter climate for an extended period of time before any changes were apparent in how you tasted things.

      Cheers! (And thank you for the comment!)

  3. Jerry said

    I use your site for my rum and whisky selections every week, very good stuff keep it up

  4. Hi Chip,

    When I reviewed this myself, I was left wondering whether I was correct in noting that tail-end bitterness: reading your review makes me feel better that it wasn’t just me. It’s a really top class (world class) rum but that ever-so-slight sting right at the end spoiled my unfettered enjoyment.

    R van D

    • Hi Lance,

      Sometimes I wonder what affect the climate has on the palate. Almost everyone who agrees with me about this rum is from Canada. All of my southern friends think I am Crazy. Could it be that the cold winters here in Canada affect what our taste buds react to and how they react? It makes sense in an evolutionary kind of way.

  5. Jason said

    Hey Chip.

    One point that you should correct is that Mount Gay was not first produced in 1703 as you state above. 1703 is the year with which the earliest written documentation proves the distillery was fully operational in the production of rum. According to the Mount Gay website the first rums were produced in 1637, 66 years prior to this documentation.

    • Evidence exists of small scale distillation on the Island of Barbados as early as 1637. Exactly what is being distilled is unclear, it may or may not have been rum. Evidence exists of stills in use at the Mount Gay Plantation site as early as 1667, (not as far as I know in 1637). Again exactly what is being produced is not clear. I agree that the evidence leans towards rum but it may have been something else or have been produced as something other than Mount Gay Rum.. It may be a matter of semantics, but the Mount Gay Rum Brand has no written confirmation prior to 1703. Even if rum was produced on the site earlier than 1703, we cannot make the definitive claim that it was Mount Gay Rum. The Brand as far as we can track it down seems to have began in 1703 which is what I stated above.

      I will be publishing a review for the Mount Gay Silver Eclipse next week where I make a little more sense of all this.

      • Jason said

        Oops, yeh I misread the blurb on the Mount Gay site. It is 1667 and not 1637.

        In any event you’re right in it being a matter of semantics and I’m certainly not going to argue 1667 vs 1703 further 😉

        • Its all good Jason. I admit I thought I had got it wrong after I read your comment, and it was probably a good thing that you forced me to recheck my information before I publish the eclipse review next week!


  6. I’m a new reader to your site over the last month or so and I really love it. The one thing I find myself missing in the reviews is a price of the rum in question. I especially liked your Rum Howler awards because you listed prices (or at least a range). I ended up picking up 4 bottles from you list and they were all superb.

    Any chance you could list aprox. price in your regular reviews as well?

    • Hi Trevor

      It is always a debate in my mind whether I should be talking about price. I receive many samples from outside my own locale where prices are much different, and I also receive samples which are not even available in my locale. This makes the listing of prices in the review very difficult and perhaps very misleading. As a result the only place in my review where I make vague references to price is in the presentation portion.

      I have seen examples where a particular spirit is available in Florida for under 12 dollars, This same spirit is 20 dollars in New Hampshire, and about 45 bucks here in Alberta. Since my readership stretches across North America (and even across the world) any listing of price in my review could be totally misleading. Another issue is that in large part it is the importers, and the tax authorities who set price rather than the distiller.

  7. Just found your site today, it’s definitely going on my regular read list.

    I’m a huge fan of the standard Mount Gay XO and am really looking forward to getting a bottle of this, speaking of bottles I love the shape of this one, it will look fantastic in my rum cabinet!

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