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Old Sam Demerara Rum

Review: Old Sam Demerara Rum 82/100
a review by Chip Dykstra (AKA Arctic Wolf)
Posted on August 25, 2011

The original recipe for Old Sam Demerara Rum stretches back to 1797 when Edward Young & Co. (from London & Liverpool, England) imported their rum from the Caribbean (primarily from Guyana) and brought the first barrels marked ‘Old Sam’ to London, England. Today the rum no longer travels to England to be blended and bottled, rather it travels to Newfoundland where it is blended and bottled by the Newfoundland and Labrador Liquor Corporation (NLC). The entire blend hails from Guyana, and I have been informed that the age of these rums in the blend is no younger than 2 years old. In fact some of the rum in the blend may be as old as 12 years, but as the rum is blended to a specific taste profile, the oldest rum in the blend may change from batch to batch. I was given a sample of the Old Sam Demerara Rum by Greg Kerr of the NLC for the purpose of this review.

In the Bottle: 4/5

To the left is the new bottle shot (j-peg) for Old Sam. As you can see it is a tall bar room style bottle with a simple label and a metallic screw cap topper. The presentation is rather minimalistic, and in my opinion it really does not do a good job a capturing the heritage of the spirit. In fact this looks like a label I could print off of my home printer rather than a professionally designed label.  My understanding is that Old Sam Demerara Rum is a moderately priced spirit which doesn’t hit the pocket book hard. So I will be a little forgiving with the score.

In the Glass 8.5/10

As I poured the Old Sam into my glass, I noticed that the reddish hue of the rum in the bottle shot to the right was no illusion. The rum has distinct red and with a copper colouration. When I tilted my glass and gave the rum a slow swirl, I noticed the legs in the glass were slightly thickened and moved slowly as they drooped down the side of the glass.

The aroma from the glass is laden with molasses. It is a sweet aroma of candied caramel with tinges of orange peel scents. If you give the glass a little time, the scent of marmalade begins to develop as well as some tobacco and hints of earthy mustiness deeper down. The tobacco in particular seems to grow stronger as the glass breathes.

In the Mouth 49/60

The taste of molasses, candied caramel and orange peel leads out into the mouth but these flavours are soon accompanied by tobacco and musty leather. I also taste a dry fruity flavour which reminds me of raisins and prunes with perhaps a few figs and dates thrown in for good measure. The molasses and caramel flavours release a few baking spices onto the palate and I detect a nice nutty element as well which reminds me of walnuts and Brazil nuts.

Old Sam is an ‘old style’ rum blend which tastes of molasses and tobacco. It is perhaps a little rougher than I expected; but I found that when I mixed a little of this rum half and half with cola and added and ice-cube, I was very happy with the results.

In the Throat 12/15

The exit is lightly sweet and moderately spicy with the flavours of molasses and tobacco providing the finish. A light harshness has dampened my score somewhat but this harshness is subdued when an ice-cube is added to the glass.

The Afterburn 8.5/10

I am left with the impression that this rum is made in a similar style to classic old-fashioned Dark Rums and Navy Rums which also carry similar taste profiles. These rums mix very well with cola or into Tiki style recipes like the one shown below.

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


Suggested Recipe

I wished I could have explored the flavours a little further in the realms of cocktails, but my sample was only 200 ml and this left me with very little rum left over for experimentation. I did try out a Mai Tai recipe which worked very well.

Maritime Mai Tai

1 oz Ragged Rock Rum
1 oz Old Sam Demerara Rum
1 oz Triple Sec
1/2 oz Lime Juice
1/2 oz Amaretto
Large Ice Cubes

Lime Slice

Add the first five ingredients into a metal shaker with large ice cubes
Shake until the metal shaker chills
Pour the mixture from the metal shaker into a tall glass
Add ice-cubes to fill

Garnish with mint in the glass, and the slice of lime on the rim.



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)


14 Responses to “Old Sam Demerara Rum”

  1. Reed said

    I wasn’t a rum drinker but a few years ago a friend of my brother turned me on to Old Sam. As a professional chef the smell of molasses and brown sugar freaked me out. I just thought of all the great baking I was going to do with Sam. When I started drinking it, well it just kept growing on me.Because of Sam I’ve given all the various el dorado vintages a shot. In my opinion the 15 year old is the bang for buck for flavor and smoothness.If your pocketbook is a little lite you can’t go wrong with Old Sam. Here in Nova Scotia it’s about $29.00 FOR 750ML. I think it’s definately worth it, a gem.

  2. Kevin said

    I happened across Old Sam’s in a cheapo ‘sin bin’ in the LCBO in Niagara Falls. $24 a bottle.
    On tasting, it turned out to be one of the very best. Having been spoiled long ago by the molasses back-kick of Governor General’s, I found Sir Sam’s to be an improvement. For those who want to taste where rum originates, Old Sam’s is outstanding.

    Sadly, LCBO seems to have dropped the marque from its inventory. Replacing it, I imagine, with Lemon Heart – which in my estimation doesn’t hold a candle to the product of the Rock.
    Gimme back my Old Sam’s!

  3. Turd Ferguson said

    Love Old Sam. One of the better rums for mixing with cola.

  4. rus said

    ! i am here in the new lcbo in owen sound and they have plantation barb 5yr at 28$..looked at the old sam at 24$…hope it is similar to old monk…let u know…off to fl. happy thanksgiving chip…russ

  5. Carl Maguire said

    I’ve been drinking Old Sam since it was “Young’s Old Sam”, and I still miss the old 32OP version. We used to make moose milk with it.
    Old Sam is always in my cabinet. Inexpensive enough that I don’t fell guilty about seconds (or more), a comfort at 40 below, and tasty. The wife likes it in a hot rum, but I rarely mix it. If I want a mixer, I guess i can always pick up a Bacardi.
    Carl (in the Yukon)

  6. Great review. I just picked up a bottle of Old Sam’s Demerara Rum yesterday for the first time and am (coincidentally) enjoying it with my coffee as I type this. The molasses and tobacco flavour profile is bang on… I’m a fan!

  7. The best I can find is that the rum sells for $25 Canadian. I wonder if the extra cost is for the rum to be shipped across the Atlantic to age and back (it’s a UK company) and those extra dollars are key since it sounds like it’s in competition with El Dorado 5 Year and Lemon Hart 80.

    • I do not believe the rum ships to England anymore as the NLC (Newfoundland Liquor Corporation) now owns the brand. All of the rum is shipped directly to Newfoundland from Guyana. As for price, In Alberta the Old Sam sells about 5 bucks a bottle cheaper than El Dorado 5. $25 bucks as opposed to 30 bucks (Source Lacombe Park Spirits). I would consider El Dorado 5 which is a true 5 year old aged rum (I.e. all of the rum in the blend is at least 5 years old.) is a more premium product than Old Sam which is a 2 year old product. I never really compared the two until now but my score of 86 for ED 5 versus my score of 82 for Old Sam seems to reflect this difference in quality.

      Where are you based out of Frederic?

      • BTW: 25 bucks is pretty cheap for Canada. The bottom shelve stuff goes between 20 and 23, and Eldorado like I sais is about 30. Lemon Hart is a little all over the map right now, I have seen it as cheap as 22 but as expensive as 32.

  8. I really loved this rum — after giving it an intially lukewarm reception. It’s a standard low level mixer for me, and for some reason when I’m on a low and want to simply kick back with something unpretentious, it’s the Old Sam’s I go for. I usually dent a fair bit of a bottle on any given Friday.

    • Thanks for the Comment Lance,

      I tried to convey your idea in the review, the rum just grows on you even though it is not as sweet as one might initially want.

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