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Plantation XO 20th Anniversary Barbados Rum

Review: Plantation XO 20th Anniversary Barbados Rum  (92/100)
Review by Chip Dykstra (Aka Arctic Wolf)
Published on June 19, 2012
(Added new bottle shot December 2014)

The Plantation 20th Anniversary Rum is a blending of the company’s oldest Bajan Rum reserves. These selected rums were first aged in the Caribbean (in ex-bourbon casks). Then they are transported to France to be blended by Plantation Rum’s Cellar Master at Château de Bonbonnet. The blended rum is matured a second time in small French oak casks for another 12 to 18 months. This “double aging” gives rise to a startling increase in both the body of the rum and its complexity, and is the signature of Cognac Ferrand’s Plantation Rum portfolio.

Plantation AnniversayIn the Bottle 5/5

The Plantation XO 20th Anniversary arrives in the suave masculine decanter style bottle shown to the left. Although it is not shown, I also like the protective box which adds not only ambiance and class to the presentation, but also protects my rum from any deleterious effects of light.

In the Glass 9.5/10

The rum has the rich colour of copper pennies in the glass. The initial nose surprised me a little with its strong oaky presence and luscious smells of caramel and toasted coconut. Some nice orange marmalade chimes in as well as hints of marzipan and tobacco. As the glass sits, rich baking spices full of dark brown sugar, vanilla, and dabbles of cinnamon and nutmeg rise into the breezes. Then the oak wells up again and pours out of the glass. I love the aroma, and I could sit for hours just nosing the glass without taking a sip.

In the Mouth 55/60

This Plantation Rum exhibits a fair amount of heat in an entry full of oak spice smothered in a creamy honey-like caramel syrup. Orange peel and marmalade; bits of dark fruit (raisins, dates, and plums); baking spices (nutmeg, cinnamon, cloves and vanilla); tufts of tobacco; and little dabbles of cocoa (both bitter dark chocolate and sweeter milk chocolate) all swim around in the flavours of that oak-spiced caramel syrup. The oak is almost overdone as the rum teeters upon the precipice of oak spices almost turning to bitter sap; but thankfully (or should I say delightfully), the rum stays upon that precipice and rather than crashing it instead treats the connoisseur to a glorious view of unbridled oak aging and unrestrained complexity. The result is an oak filled marvel which is wonderful to sip.

In the Throat 13.5/15

The exit is full of oak spice and orange peel, but there is just enough caramel sweetness along to soften the landing. Lingering flavours of bittersweet chocolate trail down the throat, and I swear I even taste a little cola left upon the palate. I continue to be impressed at how close to the edge the oak walks without causing the rum to crash.

The Afterburn 9/10

The Plantation XO 20th Anniversary Barbados Rum is an excellent way to cap off on evening. The rum is full of oak spice, and in some ways it reminds me very much of a fine oaky Cognac. But perhaps comparing this rum to a fine cognac is a little unfair to the rum. For unquestionably this is rum, not cognac. Luscious honey-caramel accompanies the oak, and a multitude of wonderful rummy flavour nuances have left their impressions upon my palate throughout this tasting experience.

I think perhaps I will save some of this Plantation XO Rum to share with a few friends of mine who indulge in a touch of Cognac from time to time. If I let them have a swallow of this, then the next time they have a fine oaky cognac they will be able to say,

“This cognac reminds me of a great Plantation Rum….”

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


Suggested Recipe:

The El Padrino
(Spanish for Godfather)

The name El Padrino fits perfectly as this premium aged rum may truly be called a Godfathers of Rums!

2 oz       Plantation XO 20th Anniversary Barbados Rum
1 oz       Amaretto
1/8 oz  Fresh Lemon Juice

Build on ice in small rocks glass
Garnish with a thin slice of lemon.

(Thank you to forrest for his help with the cocktail and the great photo)


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)


11 Responses to “Plantation XO 20th Anniversary Barbados Rum”

  1. BIGMARCUS said

    Just purchased a bottle of this and am very eager to taste! I will wait for the perfect timing…

    I currently have in my stable: Zaya – Dos Maderas 5+5 – Diplomatico Exclusiva Reserva

    What can I expect with this Plantation XO compared to those? Also, I prefer as “sweet and buttery smooth” Rum as possible. What do you recommend?

  2. what is your verdict for the head to head? I feel the El dorado 21 is darker, brrodier, more demanding. where the plantation 20th is easier going and would please a broader audience. Love them both. I would prefer the El Dorado at the end of the evening, whereas the plantation would be a more festive dram to be enjoyef earlier in the soirée

    • Hi JF

      When I tasted the two side by side, I found a preference for the richer full bodied of the ED 21, and if you check out my Rum Howler Awards for 2012, you will notice that the El Dorado 21 recieved an Honourable Mention for Best Ultra Premium Sipping Rum.

      Having said that, the scoring between all rums was very close. The Plantation XO is absolutely fantastic in its own right. I would never turn down a glass.


  3. John Hill said

    Hi again, Chip
    Just curious—noticed you gave the El Dorado 12 Year Old a slightly higher rating than the Plantation XO. The El Dorado 12 is also one of my favorites–if you were to rate them side by side/head to head, would you still give the edge to the El Dorado?


    • Interesting question, as I have never tried them side by side.

      Later this fall, when I publish my Rum Howler Awards I will of course be tasting the Plantation XO against the El Dorado 21, and maybe just to appease my curiosity, I will also throw the El Dorado 12 into the mix. Of course I will have a number of other great rums to taste that day including the Plantation Guatamala, the Five Barrel Rum from Belize and the Panamonte 25. (I am probably missing a rum or two that will also be in consideration.)

      Time will tell which rum will win my coveted Rum Howler ‘Rum of the Year’ Award.

  4. John Hill said

    Hi Chip,
    Agree with your review. The first time I bought a bottle, it also reminded me of fine cognac. If you are a rum drinker—which I am–you can pick up the rum taste immediately,if you are not a rum drinker, you might think you are drinking cognac. This is one smooth rum! One of my absolute favorites. Also, the price is very reasonable here in Minneapolis for such a premium rum.
    Happy rum tasting,
    John Hill

  5. russ said

    hi chip this has been a fav for our boat drinks for a couple of yrs. starting at 32-39-42$ as the popularity increases. Have even, about 3 yrs ago, cleaned out all the total wines inventory for this bottling in the miami/lauderdale area. My only unfavourable comment received from my buds was the burnt coconut nuance. As to the different oak taste difference, I agree with you as to the aging and possibly the expertise of ferrand’s cognac based processes. Seems that their whole line of spirits has very few shortcomings right across the product line. As to pricing, they seem to be more interested in value and quality compared to some other companies. I still remember Llamy’s comment of ‘the wealth is in the casks’. I misunderstood thinking he meant full barrels in the cellar maturing not realizing he meant that if they want our used barrels, than we want their best rum to do our way! happy trails russ

    • I took the ‘wealth is in the casks’ to mean that if you want to make a good spirit, be it Cognac or Rum. You must have a strong supply of quality oak casks for the aging process. Quality Oak + Quality Rum = Plantation!

  6. Hi Chip

    You marked the Appleton 30 year old down for its excessive oakiness, and here you compliment it. Can you elaborate on the differences between the two styles that would make one a lesser product than the other?


    • Hi Lance,

      One thing you will be happy about is that I just learned that the Plantation XO will be hitting Alberta this Summer (August).

      As for what the difference between the Appleton 30 and the Plantation XO, the difference is in how the oak interacts with the rum. In the Appleton 30, the oak was (IMO) standing alone or apart from the other flavours. It had also turned bitter and sappy.

      In this rum, as indicated in the review, the oak and the caramel flavours appear together and are in essence part of each other. The other flavour nuances swim within not without. In this way the oak is melded into the other flavours and everything acts together upon my palate.

      I do not know the ages of the Bajan rums within this blend but they are far younger than the Appleton 30. I suspect that further aging might cause this rum to fall over that precipice and crash as the oak would begin to separate from the caramel and the other flavours. But at this point it has not separated, and although it is very oaky, the rum is balanced beautifully by the other flavours.

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