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Whalers Dark Rum

Review: Whaler’s Dark Rum  (72/100)
Review by Chip Dykstra (Aka) Arctic Wolf
Published on March 26,  2013

A few weeks back, I contacted the distributor for Blackheart Spiced Rum with a view towards providing a review here on my website. It turned out Heaven Hill Distilleries, who own Blackheart Rum, also own Whaler’s Rum and the local importer, Diamond Estates, was hoping I would taste some Whaler’s Rum along with the Blackheart Spiced. I didn’t really know a lot about Whaler’s rum so I agreed to sample this “Hawaiian” style Rum. I say Hawaiian style, because Whaler’s takes great pride in letting everyone know that Whaler’s Rums are blended from old Hawaiian recipes. Their line-up includes three traditional rums, and five flavoured rums.

The story behind the Hawaiian recipe is that in earlier days sailors apparently used to rattle vanilla beans in empty rum bottles at sunset to attract migrating whales to their ships. The whales (who apparently were friendly in those days) guided the sailors to the tropical haven known as Hawaii. There they discovered the old rum makers of Maui, and they were so impressed with the rum they encountered that they called it Whaler’s.

I doubt if any of that story is true (but it is a good story), and I also doubt whether any of this rum comes from Hawaii (although the recipe certainly may). We can perhaps however gain a glimmer of truth from legend of the vanilla bean and the whales. I expect this foreshadows a vanilla complement within the rum. We shall see.

(I note that my Whaler’s Dark Rum was bottled in Barstow Kentucky which is much closer to the Atlantic than the Pacific indicating that almost certainly this rum will be of Caribbean origin rather than Hawaiian.)

Whalers Original Dark bottle shotIn the Bottle 4/5

I like the Whaler’s Rum bottle. It has a bit of an old-school look, letting me imagine that those old rum makers on Maui would have used a bottle just like this to store their rum within. The label for the Original Dark isn’t quite as fancy as the labels are for the flavoured rums in the Whaler’s line-up, but this is an inexpensive rum so I am going to be reasonable in my scoring. I like that the makers of the Whaler’s rums have apparently colour coded their closures to match the expected flavour inside. When mixing drinks it is pretty easy to just grab the bottle with the dark brown topper when I want the dark rum, rather than to have to read each label to find the right bottle.

In the Glass 7/10

When I poured the dark rum into my glencairn glass, I saw that in colour at least, the Whaler’s Dark Rum lives up to its name. The rum is indeed, dark. It is so dark that I originally thought my rum bottle was tinted a nice rich dark brown colour. It was only after I poured a little into my glass that I realized that the bottle itself was clear.

At this point I should mention that Whaler’s Dark Rum is a relatively young spirit which achieves its colour and flavour from its secret recipe of special ingredients and perhaps vanilla spice. In a way this is a throwback rum made in the manner and style of the not to distant past when it was entirely the blender’s mastery that was needed to sooth and flavour the spirit, rather than the oak barrel. There may be some aged rum in this blend, but it would be a mistake to believe that aging has anything to do with the dark colour we see.

When I tilted my glass and twirled it around, I noticed the liquid sheen on the inside of that glass was much thinner than I expected. Usually these young dark rums are full of molasses and caramel which gives the rum a thickened syrupy look. The Whaler’s seems to be traveling a different path from what I was expecting. The breezes above the glass carry a significant amount of vanilla with the molasses and licorice scents taking a back seat to that vanilla. The breezes have a vaguely medicinal scent which gives the air above the glass an (I hate to use the word) “artificial” quality, but that is the impression I am receiving. I dislike being negative, but the nose does not inspire confidence.

In the Mouth 43/60

I began my deliberation on the flavour by sipping the rum neat at room temperature. My immediate response was that this is obviously not the correct way to enjoy the dark rum. I sense no real depth of flavour or character. The dominant flavour is similar to vanilla extract although even this flavour seems to lack dimension. There is some sweetness, however I do not sense any richness within those sweeter caramel and molasses flavours. Dark treacle comes to mind. (In case you are wondering dark treacle has a flavour resembling charred caramel with a slightly bitter aftertaste.) The rum is oddly thin, and medicinal. The only logical course of action is to mix a little with cola to see if the spirit has anything to offer as a mixer.

After I do mix, I decide that the experiment was a success as that thin vanilla and charred caramel flavour slid nicely into the rum and cola style drink. I am not saying the bar drink knocked my socks off or anything like that; but if I served this to my friends, I am sure there would be no complaints and we would all enjoy ourselves.

In the Throat 11/15

When sipped, the rum has a thin burn and an ebbing light bitterness which is unpleasant. Then again if you are sipping the rum, you didn’t read the previous two paragraphs where I advise against this. Fortunately when the rum is mixed all discomfort vanishes. Then again the rum really doesn’t add anything of consequence to the cocktail’s finish. Perhaps I notice a bit of vanilla and a touch of licorice pushing through to the end of the taste experience.

The Afterburn  7/10

This is the type of rum I find hard to score honestly; but I have tried. Although I found the rum one-dimensional, this is probably because the rum was constructed purely as a mixer. When the Whaler’s Dark Rum is mixed with cola, the resulting bar drink seems to be agreeable. Although the enjoyment of the flavour experience relies more upon the cola and less upon the rum as the dark rum does not add anything more than a light taste of vanilla, and a touch of molasses to the flavour of the tall bar drink. (For many person’s, that is all they really want.)

My final score of 72/100 reflects a dark rum which mixes easily with cola in bar drinks, but which does not offer any significant depth or character to that experience.

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


Suggested Recipe

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAHere is a nice tall Rum and Cola style cocktail which works very well with Whaler’s Dark Rum.

The Mandeville

1 oz Whalers’s White Rum
1 oz Whaler’s Dark Rum
1/4 oz Chartreuse
1/2 oz fresh lemon juice
1/4 oz grenadine


Pour the first five ingredients into a metal cocktail shaker with ice
Shake until the side of the shaker is well frosted
Strain into a tumbler glass filled with ice
Complete with cola
Garnish with an orange slice (optional)


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)


6 Responses to “Whalers Dark Rum”

  1. This may read a bit strong, Chip, but I despised this rum because of its so very artificial nature. Ethanol plus spices (mostly vanilla), bam, take that. I have nothing against spiced rums, just crassly made ones which, when disassembled, have very little to recommend them. Did you get any kind of idea from the makers whether it was aged at all?

    Ah well…can’t always have top enders, right?

    • Despised is a bit strong Lance. This style of rum isn’t for me, but I save my despite for those spirits which truly taste awful, even when I mix them. This is just very lackluster and unappealing. I think I mentioned in the review that the rum had an ‘artificial’ quality, but that is the way most of these rums which call themselves ‘dark’ but have no real age seem.

      On the aging front, I did not receive any information from the makers as to whether any of the rum was aged. By Canadian Law, the rum should be aged at least a year to be sold in Canada, but I have seen enough examples of unaged rums in the Alberta marketplace to know that no one is enforcing the regulations. If there was any aging of this rum, the oak left no imprint that I could taste. But, again (I think I mentioned it in the review) that is the way this style of ‘dark’ rum is made.

  2. Josh Miller said

    Fair enough, Chip! I do love the description of the 60-69 score range, though 🙂

    • I have encountered a few of those in the 60 – 69 range. there is one particular monstrosity from Duncan and Taylor (Pittyvaich 1979 Cask 5635) which I always offer to whisky freeloaders who think my collection should be free range. They always stay clear of my whisky after that.

  3. Josh Miller said

    A very kind review indeed, Chip.

    • The crux of the score is answering the question, Would I serve this to friends? And the answer was a qualified , yes.

      So in scoring :

      70-74 Now we have a fair mixing rum or whisky. Accept this but make sure it is mixed into a cocktail.

      is a better description, than

      60-69 Substandard swill which you may offer to people you do not want to see again.

      But as I indicated in the review, it was rather difficult to reach that verdict.

      Cheers Josh

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