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Old Monk Gold Reserve Rum (12 Years Blended)

Review: Old Monk Gold Reserve Rum (12 Years Blended)   87/100 pts
a review by Chip Dykstra (Aka Arctic Wolf)
Posted September 22, 2013 (Revised March 5, 2015)

Old Monk is an aged dark rum produced by Mohan Meakin Limited in Ghaziabad, Uttar Pradesh, India. According to the information I received from the importer, the Gold Reserve 12 Year Blended Rum is a molasses distilled rum, aged for a minimum of 12 years in oak casks (in the tropical climate of India) and then blended to be a smoother, more refined version of (the previously reviewed) Old Monk Very Old Vatted XXX Rum (7 Years Old Blended).

The brand receives very little attention from the press, and does not appear to be represented in any advertising campaigns which I have seen. Rather Old Monk appears to rely upon word of mouth and customer loyalty for its sales. Word of mouth must be good as the Old Monk brand is (again according to information I received) the second largest selling aged dark rum in the world.

(Note: India is a huge market for rum, and there is only a small presence of foreign brands on the sub-continent. Based solely upon sales in the home market, this would certainly be a believable statement. In fact the largest selling dark rum brand is also a rum produced in India, McDowell’s No.1 Celebration Rum.)

I was sent a sample bottle of Old Monk Gold Reserve Rum by Bharat Bhushan Pahuja, who is the President of Venus2011 Importers (the distributor of Old Monk Rum in British Colombia, Canada) and I was asked to provide an unbiased review. I was more than happy to oblige.

SAM_0958 Old Monk Gold Reserve RumIn the Bottle 3.5/5

I must admit a sense of disappointment washed over me when I unwrapped the sample bottle which had been provided for me. Although I liked the protective cardboard box which housed the rum. I was not enthusiastic about the unimpressive bottle which was housed within. As you can see from the photo to the left, it is a tall clear bottle in the style of a bar room whisky bottle. The top is sealed with a pressed-on metallic cap. I find it rather strange that the ‘smoother, more refined’ version of Old Monk has been housed in a bottle which is in every way inferior to its younger sibling the Old Monk Very Old Vatted Rum.

I firmly believe that what is inside the bottle is far more important than the bottle itself; however, I also firmly believe that an inferior bottle presentation means that many people will pass over the rum entirely without ever being able to make that judgement.

In the Glass 8.5/10

As I begin my examination of the rum inside the bottle, it is inevitable that I compare my notes with the younger 7 year – Old Monk Rum. Visually the two rums are identical both displaying themselves as rich dark brown coloured rums with coppery hues that flash in the light. When my sample glasses are tilted and twirled, each shows a similar moderately thick sheen of rum which gives up a few lonely fat legs.

It is when I snoot the glasses side by side that the differences between the two rums begin to reveal themselves. Although each are full of impressions of dark brown sugar and maple, the 12 year Old rum seems drier and spicier with a stronger presence of oak in the breezes.

Above the glass of the 12-year-old Gold Reserve Rum the breezes also bring me indications of black pepper, cinnamon and cloves with a light, but firm vanilla accent. As the glass sits, the aroma deepens bringing forward dark brown sugary smells and rich baking spices with impressions of cigar tobacco and crushed walnuts.

As I sniff each glass side by side, I cannot really decide which I like better. The stronger oak does indeed give the 12 Year Old Rum a more refined nose; but it is at the expense of some of those exotic nuances I noticed when I reviewed the 7 Year Old Rum. In the end, I decide that my score for the 12  should match my score for the 7 as far as the breezes above the glass are concerned.

In the Mouth  53/60

As I sip on each rum, the 12-year-old begins to separate itself from its younger sibling with a drier, spicier flavour profile that strongly appeals to me. Molasses flavours dominate the rum; however, peppery wood spices have joined in to add more depth and character to the spirit. The wood spices carry some elements of cinnamon, clove, dry tobacco, and hot black pepper. I also taste dark brown sugar mixed with baking spices and vanilla, as well as strong chocolate flavours, and black tea. A somewhat bitter nuttiness lies underneath (which reminds me of walnuts), but there is enough of the brown sugar and molasses sweetness to counterbalance the bitterness such that the rum is an easy sipper.

In the Throat 13.5/15

Hints of licorice and the lightly bitter flavour of walnuts are evident in a smooth slightly dry finish which is very appealing. The throat feels a nice glow of woodspice and cinnamon, and upon the palate we taste lingering flavours of brown sugar, vanilla and tobacco.

The Afterburn 8.5/10

The Old Monk Gold Reserve Rum is exactly as it was described to me by the British Colombia distributor, Bharat Bhushan Pahuja, (which is a rare thing in today’s world of over hyped marketing). The rum is a smoother, more refined version of the Old Monk Very Old Vatted XXX Rum. The extra five years of aging has resulted in a crisper, drier rum which also tastes smoother and sips just a little easier. I liked the 7-year-old Old Monk Rum; I like this 12 Year Old just a little more.

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


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)

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