Just because a spirit has been around for a long time doesn’t always mean that it’s actually good. There are plenty that have lasted throughout the ages and are absolutely awful. I mean, just look at Malort — case closed. Gosling’s Black Seal Bermuda Black Rum is one of those spirits that has been around about as long as we’ve had transatlantic shipping. Naturally, this begs the question: but is it any good?
James Gosling, son of a wine and spirits merchant in England, set out in 1806 with £10,000 worth of merchandise to set up a shop in the American colonies. He didn’t exactly make it that far, though — the charter for this ship he was sailing on expired, and as a result they landed in Bermuda instead. Making the best of the situation, James decided to set up shop as a wine and spirit merchant on the bustling island and in 1824 he opened a storefront on Front Street in Bermuda with his brother Ambrose that remains to this day.
The company started formulating their own rum in the 1860s, creating a dark, well-aged rum that was primarily sold in casks. The rum became popular, and soon the company began scrounging previously used champagne bottles from the local officer’s mess to fill and sell their spirits. These bottles were stopped with black sealing wax, which is where the brand eventually obtained its name — “Black Seal Rum.”
Goslings continues to be a privately held company that primarily produces their Black Seal rum, as well as some other associated products.
- Learn More: What Is Rum?
The specific recipe remains a family secret, but we can piece together the broad strokes of how this comes together.
The Black Seal Rum starts life as a fermented mash of sugar based products and yeast. There’s no specificity as to whether the base is from sugar, molasses, or something else… but molasses would be my guess. That fermented mash is then distilled two different ways — one version using a copper pot still, and the other a column still.
For the pot still, the resulting flavorful spirit is placed into oak barrels for an undisclosed period of time to age. When they’re ready, those darker casks are blended together with some of the unaged column still spirit to produce the rum you see today.
I’m a little sad that this no longer comes in a secondhand champagne bottle with a black wax sealed stopper (and this honestly feels like a missed marketing opportunity).
These days, the bottle is much more standard issue: straight walls on a round body, a smooth taper at the shoulder, and a short-ish length neck. The bottle is capped off with a screw-on metal topper.
It might look like there’s a giant label on the front of this bottle, but there is not. The liquid inside really is that black, and only the Goslings logo and the playful seal sticker are actual stickers on the front. All of which works well, in my opinion. It lets the liquid shine through the otherwise clear glass, while providing enough artwork to set the tone and make it a little more visually appealing.
This isn’t the greatest looking bottle you’ve ever seen. It seems to be designed for the speed well and not the back bar — something that gets used, rather than shown off.
This spirit sure lives up to its name — the liquid is so dark that it’s practically black.
Taking a whiff from the glass, the spirit smells pretty much exactly like you’d expect from a good rum. There’s the brown sugar sweetness (which is significantly more prominent than you typically find in other spirits like a whiskey), combined with some vanilla and some fruity aspects as well. There’s a bright note in here that I don’t see elsewhere, like a bit of lime or citrus fruit shining through. Beyond that, there are some baking spices and then just more of that sweetness from the beginning.
When you take a sip, this is almost exactly like a concentrated version of Coca Cola. The jammy, fruity sweetness is the first thing that comes through, followed by a good bit of baking spices, then some caramel and vanilla. It’s a bold flavor profile that seems almost purpose built for mixing, not necessarily sipping.
There are some interesting changes here when the ice enters the mix. Instead of being a fruity-forward flavor profile, what we have now is something that more heavily favors the baking spices that are present in the spirit. It’s a flip that I think sets this up very well for the cocktails to come.
Those other aspects are still there, but rearranged. The fruity flavors are near the end, with the brown sugar and vanilla taking a prominent role in the middle of the experience.
The only unfortunate note here is that there seems to be a touch of dark chocolate that has appeared near the finish, and it adds some unnecessary bitterness to the spirit which lingers for a while after the spirit is gone.
This makes a daquiri that is actually pretty darn great. I think what really does it for me is two aspects in particular.
First, there’s the fruity, jammy note that is mixing very well with the lime juice to make something that really tastes like an island cocktail. It’s very fruit forward, and sweet to boot, without being too over the top. It’s hitting just the right note.
But, second, there’s also a depth to the cocktail that I appreciate. Those baking spices and the caramel flavor add some complexity that really elevates the cocktail. This is definitely not a one-note cocktail.
Fizz (Dark and Stormy)
There’s a good damn reason why this is literally the gold standard for a Dark and Stormy cocktail.
First up, the flavor profile is on point. The sweetness from the rum balances nicely with the bitter ginger beer, and the brown sugar and vanilla components blend together expertly to create something that I could sip all day, preferably relaxing on the back of a sailboat.
But more than that, there’s also a fruitiness here that almost makes me feel like I need a paper umbrella and a slice of pineapple in the cocktail for garnish. It’s the flavors on the finish that really kick it into high gear, specifically some apple, banana, mango, and lime that all combine to make for a fruity melange that is really enjoyable, especially as you watch a sunset over a sandy beach.
This might be an okay rum on its own, but this is a knock-out mixer.
This is a rum that has stood the test of time, and for good reason. It might not be something that I’ll show off on my liquor shelf but it absolutely deserves a place in easy reach of the mixers. The flavor profile in this rum is amazing for fruity cocktails and tiki drinks, adding some great complexity and depth to the picture.
|Goslings Black Seal Rum|
Produced By: GoslingsProduction Location: Bermuda, United Kingdom
Classification: Black Rum
Aging: No Age Statement (NAS)
Proof: 40% ABV
Price: $14.99 / 750 ml
Product Website: Product Website
Overall Rating: 4.5/5
An inexpensive rum with a solid history that does wonders as a mixer in cocktails.