As a spirit industry, rum has become more and more prolific over the last 10 years or so. I recently tasted a new rum on the market that was made from white granulated sugar; distillers are quickly learning that you don't need to own a sugar cane field in the Caribbean in order to produce rum. And yet, many rum producers outside of the Caribbean still import molasses from the islands. Others purchase molasses from local cane producers.
Enter Wicked Dolphin, a rum distillery that's only a few years old, located in Florida. Wicked Dolphin's rums are pot-distilled from the juice of cane cut from fields that are only minutes away from the distillery. This marks one of the few American rum productions which sources fermentation material locally, in the tradition of more staid American spirit industries like whiskey and apple brandy. The result is the beginning of an aspect to Wicked Dolphin's products that I wouldn't hesitate to call terroir. The bottle that I have (batch #13!) was sent to me as a gift for review.
Despite the fact that Wicked Dolphin is distilled from cane juice, you wouldn't be able to tell by the nose. The first few wafts have a sweetness and buttery-ness that will belie a molasses rum. Along with butter, there's vanilla, light brown sugar, and gentle wood. There's a freshness that I can only describe as running water. A big whiff ends with a slight alcoholic spark that's pleasantly subdued.
The butter continues on the tongue. The traditional white rum vanilla notes manifest here as butter and butterscotch. The mouth feel has a noticeable viscosity. Its sweet state on the tongue will once again make you think this is not cane rum. It's at this time that the alcohol will remind you it's there on your tongue and the roof of your mouth. The finish has a freshness that's reminiscent of the chlorophyll of crisp lettuce. Perhaps that's the sugar cane's grassiness trying to come through?
I find that because rums can vary so widely, so can their mixability. The bottom of the scale grinds from the drown-it-in-cola stuff all the way up to the don't-you-dare-mix-that nectar of the gods. My take is that Wicked Dolphin white falls somewhere between fruity drinks and drunk straight. It plays perfectly in a Daiquiri or a subtle mixer like soda or ginger ale.
I've drunk too many shitty American rums. The fact that Wicked Dolphin is imminently drinkable combined with its honest American end-to-end production make it quite noteworthy. Some price checks will have you learn that Wicked Dolphin white will cost between $20-25. Are there better rums for cheaper? Absolutely. But buying Wicked Dolphin will yield a great drink as well as pay American workers, all the while helping develop the southern Florida rum terroir. I look forward to seeing how the Wicked Dolphin distillery and rums mature going forward.