I was recently browsing the rum aisle looking for Meyers’s Rum, and did a full-on double take when I finally found it. Because right next to it on the shelf was a bottle of Navy Bay Rum and I was immediately confused by the strikingly similar packaging. Was this another sub-brand? Did I write down the wrong rum to buy? Naturally, I bought both and decided to try and figure out what’s going on here.
This rum is a sub-brand of Infinity Spirits, which is a company that barely exists.
All evidence points to this being a company that was established sometime in 2018. That’s the earliest record I can find for their website being online, and roughly correlates with a 2019 TTB label approval for Navy Bay rum. A quick Google search for their office location in Amsterdam led to an apartment building.
The company seems to be trying to generate income by producing rum brands that are similar to (but just legally distinct enough from) other popular brands. Instead of Captain Morgan, they have Commander Jones. Cana de Flor is instead Cana Fuerte. And here, for this brand, this is a pretty obvious visual copy of Myers’ Original Dark Rum re-branded as Navy Bay.
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There’s practically zero information available about this rum. All we get are misdirection and confusing statements.
First things first, where did this even come from? The label claims that this is an imported rum, originally distilled in Jamaica, and bottled in Bardstown, Kentucky. The TTB records seem to back this up, listing Strong Spirits, Inc as the local bottler here in the United States (but more recently also a different Boston, MA based bottler). But whether any of that rum actually originated in Jamaica is unknown.
The bottle makes no claims about the source of the sugar for this spirit, which makes me suspect that it’s probably the cheap and full-of-impurities backstrap molasses that we’re getting. That sugary liquid is fermented to create alcohol and then distilled to condense the alcohol content. We’re told that this is a combination of pot still and column still produced spirit. Column stills are great for putting out large quantities of spirits very quickly, and usually without a lot of flavor. So this is probably a column still produced rum that is then flavored with pot still produced rum.
Once distilled, a “major part” (no indication of exactly what that means) of the spirit is aged in previously used bourbon barrels for an undisclosed period of time. The aged spirit is then blended with more undisclosed distillate and I suspect that some caramel coloring is added at that point prior to bottling.
For the bottle shape, this is a pretty standard bottle. There’s nothing really interesting going on here. It’s pretty much the same as we saw with Ancient Age, just with a different colored cap. Really just a wine bottle with a plastic screw top.
The truly interesting part is in the label.
I really just want to take a second and highlight how much this is absolutely a brand that is trying to mimic Myers’s Rum as much as legally possible.
Let’s start with just the label shape. Note that the Meyers’s Rum label has this angled feel to it (thanks to the “Original Dark” slash going through the center of the label). Navy Bay doesn’t directly copy that component, but instead achieves the same effect with the angled top border of the image just under the brand name and a similar banner at the bottom of the label. There’s even pretty much the exact same band around the neck of the bottle, both saying “IMPORTED” with a small design.
How about the color palate? I describe the Meyers’ Rum color palate as “tropical sunset” and it’s practically the exact same thing here. Bright yellows, oranges, and even the same touch of green on the edges.
Then you notice the similarities between the images on the label itself, in both content and style/technique. The content of both are a dockside or water side scene, with tropical plants, some barrels, and the water’s edge. The painterly style is pretty similar on both, as well, and the biggest difference is that the Navy Bay label actually is a little more complex, sporting some additional detail (like porters carrying the barrels and a detailed ship).
I guess what I’m saying here is that I don’t think there’s any logical explanation for all of these coincidences than a deliberate attempt to trick customers into purchasing the “wrong” brand of rum compared to what they were looking for. The labels are similar enough at first glance, and the use of a larger glass bottle makes this version actually seem higher quality than Meyers’s plastic version.
It’s smart. I don’t like it at all, but it’s a smart way to encourage people to buy your product.
At first glance, this smells very much like a good Jamaican rum. There’s that hogo rum funk that you’ll see with rums of this style — specifically, that almost over-sweet rotting fruit aroma that is prized in Jamaican high ester marks. I’m getting some good pineapple, rotting mango, and banana notes in there combined with some good vanilla, caramel, and toffee components, and just a touch of cinnamon and nutmeg for good measure.
Taking a sip, though, this tastes artificially sweetened. There’s some burned sugar taste, as you’d expect with a rum, but it doesn’t taste as dry as I’d expect. There’s a more viscous mouthfeel here, which I usually see when actual sugar is added to a spirit.
As for the flavors, I get all of them but it seems like they are really being dragged down by the richer and darker components. The fruit is still there — pineapple, mango, and banana — but the overpowering components of the flavor here are burned brown sugar, vanilla, and toffee.
It’s surprisingly not a bad sipping rum. There’s no bitterness or bite here — just a richer version of a white Jamaican rum.
There’s not a whole lot of change when the ice gets added. The flavors are all basically the same. But the big difference here is that, once the ice goes in, this gets surprisingly bitter.
I think what’s going on is that there was a bit of sugar that was masking the bitterness when we tried it neat… but once we diluted it with the added ice, the sugar fell out of solution. (In fact, I could see it settling to the bottom of my glass as I wrote this review.) One the added sugar is gone, the bitterness it was hiding was revealed, and it became a less enjoyable experience overall.
Fizz (Dark and Stormy)
There’s a lot going on here with the mixers added, but there’s still one thing that is peeking through: the bitterness.
On the positive side, I do get a lot of the fruity notes coming through, as well as that almost-rotten fruit funk, which is exactly what you want to see in a good Jamaican rum drink. That fruit does a nice job with the ginger beer and the lime juice, making for something tropical and interesting.
But there isn’t a whole lot of balance. With something like the Meyers’s Rum (which this is quite obviously mimicking), there’s a rich dark coffee note that adds depth and complexity to the cocktail. I don’t get any of that here, and instead this ends up being a lighter and more superficial tasting cocktail.
And then you add the bitterness to it, and it becomes, at best, a forgettable drink.
This is clearly intended to be a product that consumers will confuse with the more popular and more traditional Meyers’s Rum. And if you just taste it neat, you probably are going to prefer it. Meyers’s has a slight bitterness when taken neat (due to the richer coffee notes), which I could see as off-putting for some folks. But the problem is that this lack of bitterness comes thanks to some fancy tricks (aka added sugar), and those all disappear once the ice goes into the mix. Here, in the end what I have is a bitter, unbalanced, and superficial form of a dark & stormy cocktail.
I don’t like anything that is going on here. I don’t like the added sugar (although I’m willing to be wrong on that point and will happily update the review if someone can confirm that this doesn’t have any post-distillation sugar added). I don’t like the resulting cocktails. And I really don’t like the branding that is clearly designed to confuse consumers looking for Meyers’s.
As awful as Meyers’s Rum looks in its cheap plastic bottle, I’d much prefer to have that on my bar (or, at least, behind it) instead of this.
|Navy Bay Dark Rum|
Produced By: Navy BayProduction Location: Jamaica
Owned By: Infinity Spirits
Classification: Dark Rum
Special Type: Jamaican Rum
Aging: No Age Statement (NAS)
Proof: 40% ABV
Price: $15.99 / 750 ml
Overall Rating: 1/5
A bitter, sugar-filled, unpleasant cocktail producing copycat of a much better rum.