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Calico Jack Spiced Rum

Review: Calico Jack Spiced Rum 78.5/100
a review by Chip Dykstra (Aka Arctic Wolf)
Posted March 9, 2010
(Reposted and edited July 20th)

John “Calico Jack’ Rackham was a pirate of the early eighteenth century who seems to have two primary claims to fame. The first was that his design of the ship’s flag may actually have been the first use this design for a Jolly Roger flag ever on a pirate ship. The second is that his crew featured two female pirates, Anne Bonny and Mary Read (Rackham actually believed Mary Read was a man when she joined his crew).

Researching Calico Jack, I learned he received his nickname due to his fondness for colourful cotton calico clothing. Apparently some of hes crew liked his flashy look to as he and Anne Bonny were apparently lovers. (It is also reported that Ann Bonney was actually another man’s wife.) Calico Jack’s pirate days seem to have begun in 1718 when he was elevated to the Captaincy on an English warship during a mutiny, and it ended at the end of a hangman’s noose in November of 1720 after being captured off the shore of Jamaica. His short career of piracy was highlighted by the plundering smaller ships near the coastal shorelines in a stolen sloop and ended shortly after it began.

I could actually find little in the way of redeeming qualities for “Calico Jack” the Pirate, who appears to have captured the imagination of popular culture on the basis of the Jolly Roger flag alone. He certainly seems to have been a lousy pirate. Perhaps standards were different back then, but huddling close to shorelines attacking only smaller ships, then allowing yourself to be captured after only a brief stint of pirating hardly seems to be the stuff of legend. (It is even rumoured that he was captured in a fight which saw only his female pirates fighting back. Calico Jack surrendered without a fight.)

I hope that White Rock Distillers (acquired by Beam Global in 2012), the owners the of Calico Jack Spiced Rum Brand have a rum which fares better than the its namesake.

In the Bottle  4/5

Everything looks promising here, a nice tall bottle with great pirate ship graphics on the front, and a nice little vignette on the back label which gives a little ambiance to the occasion of opening the rum. My hope is that unlike Calico Jack the Pirate whose clothes were better than the man, I will find the rum inside the bottle to be at least as good as the dressing.

In the Glass 8.5/10

When I swirled the rum and noticed nice legs in my glass, it made me wonder if Mary Read or Anne Bonny may have had such nice legs. Then I remembered that Calico Jack had at first mistook Mary Read for a fella, and it made me not want to think about her legs anymore. (Sometimes I do too much research)

After I let the glass sit for a while, (and got the image of hairy girl legs out of my mind), I took a nice deep wiff and found that the nose of this rum is quite nice. I’m guessing Madagascar vanilla, (which is all the rage for spiced rum these days), and fragrant rummy caramel rose up in a nice mixture.  Then I started to catch scents I was unfamiliar with, different spices, and something almost flowery that seemed maybe a touch out-of-place. The nose reminded me very vaguely of the smell of Black Cherry soda. I’m guessing that the spices used in the rum are not the typical variety spices I find in my cupboard which makes my identification of them somewhat haphazard. Still the rum in the glass in pleasant enough that it has made me want to venture further.

In the Mouth 46/60

The spiced rum feels nice and soft with a little butter on the palate. The spices do not reach up and grab my tonsils, but that Madagascar vanilla and the caramel I sensed on the nose is right at the front of the parade.  I am still having trouble figuring out what the other spices are. Now I am thinking along the lines of maraschino cherries and holiday spices. I also taste  a touch of hotter cinnamon and maybe a whisper of oak tannin.

I have the impression of something that really doesn’t fit. The “rare island spices” that the Calico Jack website boasts of do not seem to coexist well with the caramel and vanilla. When I add coca cola to the mix these spices disappear altogether and I am left with what tastes like Vanilla Coke. This is little out of balance; the vanilla and caramel dominate, and the other spices clash rather than harmonize.

In the Throat  12.5/15

I have to give credit where it is due; the soft rum has a long finish with very little burn. I checked the proof label on the bottle and realized that at 35 % alcohol by volume; I shouldn’t necessarily expect much burn. I find it odd that a rum named for a notorious pirate would have this smaller alcohol content. Then I remembered that the real pirate, Calico Jack, seemed to be a bit of a coward who kept to the shorelines and only attacked small boats. I realized that he probably didn’t have a lot of burn either. Still the smooth finish is nice.

The Afterburn 7.5/10

I guess I found the rum somewhat better than the pirate. A moderately pleasant vanilla and caramel spiced rum with just a bit else thrown in to make things a little interesting. The lower proof of the spirit was  disappointing as it does not seem to add much oomph to my cocktails.

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


Suggested Recipe

SAM_0774Based upon the suggestions of some of my readers, I present:

Spiced Rum and Root Beer

1 ½ oz Calico Jack Spiced Rum
3 ½ oz  Root Beer
A slice of Lemon
Large Ice Cubes

Add the ice into a serving glass
Pour the rum and cola over ice
Garnish with a slice of lemon

Enjoy Responsibly!


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)

12 Responses to “Calico Jack Spiced Rum”

  1. Jeff Russell said

    With the new bottle design there also seems to be a different formula…it tastes different…..why mess with a good thing? Its not bad just not as smooth

    • Thanks for the comment Jeff.

      It is not uncommon for a producer to tweak the recipe when a new bottle is produced. In fact, the acquisition of the brand by Beam Global in 2012 may have led to some changes recently.

  2. matt said

    Mix it with root beer!!! I have yet to find a spiced rum that doesn’t go perfectly with it. Calico jacks is good for the price sensitive drinkers, I think this review is spot on.

  3. Luke said

    A&W cream soda & calico mix deliciously if you like sweeter things. The vanilla is left to dominate and adds almost like a carbonated milkshake taste with a hint of alcohol

    • I am glad you like that combination, but based on your description I’ll pass. I’m not a fan of over doing the vanilla, and a carbonated milkshake just seems wrong….

  4. Vapor Juice said

    I really enjoy mixing this with Cherry Coke Zero. Thank you for your review.

  5. nanrea said

    I found it helped make a great Pan-Galactic Gargle Blaster: half orange juice, 1/4 peach brandy, 1/4 rum with just enough blue curacao to turn it green. Delicious.

  6. amskie said

    lime juice
    a LITTLE bita lemon juice
    toss of suga

  7. Larry said

    I was thinking of Cherry Pepsi

  8. Dan said

    Try it with a little Sprite the spice of the rum and citrus from the soda mix very well

    • The next time I encounter this rum I shall. Quite often when I find I cannot find a suitable cocktail or mix for a rum (or a whisky) it is merely because I have not thought of all the possibilities.

      Thank You!

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