It has been a few years since I’ve tried Captain Morgan’s Spiced Rum… and while I don’t necessarily have fond memories, I can’t say I remember hating it either. And since the folks at Captain Morgan have since introduced a premium level offering under the name Captain Morgan Private Stock, I figured it was time to revisit this brand and refresh my own memory.
Henry Morgan was born in Wales in 1635, which had been fully annexed into Great Britain less than 100 years earlier. His early life (including how he made his way to the Caribbean) is largely unknown, but we do know that by the 1660’s Morgan was captain of a privateer ship charged with capturing Spanish ships in the Caribbean. He married his cousin in 1666, the daughter of the deputy governor of Jamaica, and was soon elevated to the rank of admiral and tasked with leading a group of privateers. In 1668, he led those forces in a successful assault on the town of Porto Bello, reportedly using captured clergy as human shields for his assault on one of the fortifications. He further led raids on Maracaibo, Gibraltar, and Panama before the end of privateering in the Caribbean in 1672. Morgan would continue to be a figure in Caribbean politics, acting as governor of Jamaica before his death in 1688.
Morgan is best known because of a memoir published by former French shipmate Alexandre Exquemelin, which recounts Morgan’s exploits as a privateer.
Jumping forward a few centuries, the Seagram company started as a Canadian distillery in 1857 and grew to become one of the biggest spirits companies in Canada. The company eventually became most well-known for two brands: Seagram’s 5 Crown and Seagram’s 7 Crown, which were both massive commercial successes.
In 1944, though, the company decided to launch a new line of Caribbean spiced rum inspired by the life of famous pirate Henry Morgan, and formed the Captain Morgan Rum Company as a holding company for the new venture. Seagram purchased an existing Jamaican distillery to produce the spirit, and this company had previously been producing alcohol for the local Levy Brothers. The brothers, who ran a local pharmacy, had been purchasing raw rum from the distillery and adding their own medicinal herbs and spices before distributing it as their own product. Seagram liked the Levy’s recipe so much that they purchased it and used it as the basis for their new rum.
In the 1950’s, Seagram decided to sell their ownership of the distillery to a Puerto Rican company in favor of building a new distillery in San Juan, and licensed the rights to produce Captain Morgan rum. The new company would introduce Captain Morgan to the United States in 1984 and it quickly became (by volume) the second largest brand of spirits in the country.
The Seagram company wouldn’t last, however — in the early 2000’s, the various divisions of the company were carved out and sold to larger beverage manufacturers. The mixers division was sold to Coca Cola (who still produces them under the Seagram’s name). Other brands, including Captain Morgan and Seagram’s 7 Crown, were sold to the British spirits firm Diageo in 2001.
- Learn More: What Is Rum?
In general, rum is produced by first combining molasses or sugar with water and yeast to produce a fermented mildly alcoholic mixture. Captain Morgan starts this same way, and once the initial slurry is ready for distillation it is fed into a continuous distillation still (or column still) to produce the raw rum.
The distilled spirit is placed into oak barrels for an undisclosed period of time (reportedly up to a year). After an appropriate aging period, but prior to bottling, the company adds a secret blend of spices indigenous to the Caribbean. Given the fact that a single 1.5 ounce shot of this stuff clocks in at 107 calories and 3.2 grams of carbs (sugars), I’m going to guess that sugar is one of those spices that gets added in.
For this bottle of Captain Morgan Private Stock, the company reportedly selects the best aged barrels and uses a richer, mellower blend of spices compared to a normal bottle.
I feel like this bottle is trying very hard to be almost the exact opposite of a traditional bottle of Captain Morgan, instead evoking an older and more storied history.
The bottle itself is fat, short, and wide, with a relatively slim cross section from front to back and rounded edges. The sides of the bottle are curved and round, ending in a short, fat neck. The bottle is capped with a wood and cork stopper.
I do appreciate the labeling. It is a significantly toned down version of their normal bottle label, with an illustrated black and white captain and more emphasis on the text proclaiming this to be “Private Stock”. The actual color of the spirit is clearly visible, making it much more attractive to have on the liquor shelf.
The aromas here are clearly artificial. There’s a saturation and a syrupy sweetness to the smell of the glass that leaves no doubt. That said, it’s not entirely unappealing. It smells like someone dumped a bottle of vanilla extract into a pound of brown sugar — almost reminiscent of cookie dough. There are also some baking spices like nutmeg and cinnamon adding some complexity and interesting notes.
What you see in the aroma is pretty much what you get in the flavor. Once again, the flavors are unnaturally well-saturated with a viscosity like that of maple syrup (note: I’m referencing real maple syrup — not the fake corn syrup stuff). I get an immediate burst of brown sugar and vanilla, followed by some slight development of baking spices, before the finish winds up tasting almost exactly like a flat Coca Cola.
In the standard edition of Captain Morgan, the spirit falls apart at this point, with the sweetness and the baking spices being all that remained. But in the case of this bottle of Private Stock, I think the flavor actually holds up nicely in comparison.
Here, all of the flavors pretty much survive the addition of some ice, with the only exception being a slight reduction in the sweetness. Don’t get me wrong — this still is nowhere near a sipping rum. But the vanilla and brown sugar flavors are still strong enough, and they support the baking spices and provide what should be a good basis for some cocktails.
Fizz (Dark and Stormy)
This is where the spirit really shines. With the addition of a little ginger beer, all of those flavors start to come together really nicely for a delicious drink. The sweetness of this rum (particularly the brown sugar flavor) balances nicely with the bitter ginger beer, and the baking spices in the rum add a depth and richness to the drink.
I will note that this still is still on the sweeter side. Even with that bitter ginger beer in the mix, the sweetness from the rum makes it almost taste like candy. That might be a welcome result for some folks, but in my opinion it is a little distracting. While I appreciate that this rum works in this drink, I’m not personally a huge fan.
There’s no doubt that this is a rum designed and purpose built to be a cocktail mixer. The flavors in here are bold and almost cartoonish — like a caricature artist’s rendition of a spiced rum. While it does work better than the original version, it just doesn’t have the complexity that I’d want to see in a premium rum. This spirit only really makes sense once we add lime juice and other mixers to it.
At this price range, there are a lot more options — and most of them would be a better choice. Unless you are specifically looking for an overly sweet flavor, there are plenty of other premium rums that are just as good (if not better) and I’d recommend checking those out.
|Captain Morgan Private Stock
Classification: Spiced Rum
Aging: No Age Statement (NAS)
Proof: 40% ABV
Price: $22.99 / 750 ml
Product Website: Product Website
Overall Rating: 2/5
Overly sweet cookie dough flavors in a mildly alcoholic liquid.