Rum Review: Jonah’s Curse Black Spiced Rum

Before I fell down the tequila rabbit hole, I had already started wandering off the straight and true path of the whiskey drinker and had found myself investigating rum. It’s appealing for exactly the opposite reason I like whiskey: it’s the wild west of flavors. Particularly in the spiced rum category, there’s a lot of variation and experimentation happening — and Jonah’s Curse is one of the latest entrants into that field.


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History

This whiskey is produced by K. D. Distilling Co, and claims to be bottled in Louisville, Kentucky.

Who owns K. D. Distilling Co? Buffalo Trace.

Founded in 1792, the Buffalo Trace distillery claims to be the oldest continuously operating distillery in the United States (with Burk’s distillery, current producers of Maker’s Mark, taking the title of oldest continuously operating bourbon distillery).

Distilling first started on the property in 1775 by the Hancock and Willis Lee brothers, and the first permanent distillery there was constructed in 1812 by Harrison Blanton. The distillery remained open during prohibition to produce whiskey for “medicinal purposes” — one of the only facilities permitted to do so.

The distillery was given its first name by then owner Edmund H. Taylor as the “Old Fire Copper Distillery” or OFC.

In 1992, the distillery was sold to the Sazerac company, a privately held New Orleans based distillery conglomerate that is one of the major spirits producers in the United States (mostly through discount spirit brands). It was re-branded in 1999 to the Buffalo Trace Distillery, which is the name it retains to this day.

The change of ownership has done the distillery well, with a recent $200 million investment in the plant happening in 2016.

Product

From the moment I saw this bottle, I knew who produced it. It’s the exact same bottle as their peanut butter whiskey and Two Star whiskey, two of Buffalo Trace’s other products that appear to be quickly produced copycats of other competitors. In this case, the rum was introduced in 2015, nearly three years after competitor Kraken hit the shelves — so it appears this is continuing the pattern.

In terms of what is actually in the bottle, we have even fewer clues than normal.

This rum is labeled as being “bottled by” K.D. Distilling, which means it was actually produced somewhere else. Reportedly, the rum base was distilled from fermented sugar cane in the Caribbean… but there’s no indication of where exactly that distillery is located or what part of the sugar cane was used.

As for the process used to make this rum after it was distilled, the label claims that this was mixed with natural flavors and caramel color. There’s no indication of any barrel aging, and no details on the natural flavors being used. The color is also 100% artificial and not the result of any typical aging process.

To recap: it’s a rum, made from some form of sugar, flavored and colored to make the final product. Any other details are speculation.

Packaging

As I mentioned, this is a bottle design that seems to be common to some of Sazerac’s other attempts to break into newer markets. That’s not to say it’s a bad bottle, just that there’s nothing original or new here. The base is wide and round, much like the cognac-inspired Maker’s Mark bottles (but without the charm).

The whole thing is topped off with a plastic screw-on cap, which isn’t encouraging.

The label is a stylized whaling illustration… which is a not-very-subtle mimicry of the label design for the Kraken black spiced rum line. It’s like someone said “make it look like that other pretty popular rum, but change it just enough to not get sued.”

Quick question here, actually: why Jonah’s Curse? The Old Testament story of Jonah is that of a prophet sent by God who purposefully decides to run away from his responsibilities, and as a result finds himself swallowed by a big fish. Jonah’s story is only tangentially related to the ocean — the being swallowed by a whale thing is only one set piece in the larger story. Could they not find a better character for their rum brand?

Neat

Industrial alcohol is the first thing I smell coming off the glass. Behind that is pretty much the worst version of flat Coca-Cola you can imagine: very heavy vanilla, with a dash of cinnamon, and some sugary molasses.

Taking a sip, the flavors pretty much follow the pattern from the aroma. That industrial alcohol leads the pack, and unfortunately colors the rest of the experience more towards the “medicinal cough syrup” flavor that most spirits try to avoid. That alcohol is followed by some sugary molasses, then a huge hit of vanilla, and finishes with a bit of cinnamon spice.

The ferocity of the alcohol is unpleasant. The combination of the flavors are unpleasant. It isn’t bitter, at least… but I’m becoming a little bitter that I have to finish this review.

On Ice

The good news is that the alcohol content is significantly reduced, and no longer punching me in the face. The bad news is that the flavors have pretty much completely fallen apart.

Right up front is some of that typical vegetal rum flavor, like a diluted molasses, but it almost seems a bit sour. One flavor that hasn’t been dulled here is the vanilla, which hits your taste buds like a freight train and leaves behind some bitterness. On the finish (if your taste buds have recovered enough to find it) is a bit more cinnamon and baking spices, but mainly they just seem muddled.

It isn’t balanced or well put together at all at this point. It’s just a mash-up of confusion and shouting.

Fizz (Dark and Stormy)

Nope. Nope nope nope.

This is way too sweet, with no balance whatsoever. And here, even with all the ginger beer fighting the good fight, that vanilla flavor continues shouting loud and clear through the storm. Somehow, it still tastes like cough syrup — even with all the additives working to right the ship.


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Overall Rating

I’m trying to think of something nice to say about this. And the only good thing that comes to mind is that I never have to drink it again.

Admittedly, the majority of my expertise is in whiskey and I’m not a rum expert. Maybe this is what peak rum performance looks like and I’m just too plebian to understand how good it is. I’m willing to entertain that possibility… but until proven otherwise, my gut says to recommend y’all avoid this. In my experience, there are better options on the market and you don’t need to spend your money on a cheap knock-off of a more popular and better tasting brand.

Jonah's Curse Black Spiced Rum
Produced By: Jonah's Curse
Owned By: Sazerac Company
Production Location: United States
Classification: Spiced Rum
Aging: No Age Statement (NAS)
Proof: 47% ABV
Price: $14.99 / 750 ml
Overall Rating:
All reviews are evaluated within the context of their specific spirit classification as specified above. Click here to check out similar spirits we have reviewed.

Overall Rating: 1/5
The biggest curse is what’s in the bottle.


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One comment

  1. Jason Sams – United States – A tinkerer of sorts. Sometimes words and ideas, other times wood and paint. Oh, and two adorable corgis.
    Jason Sams says:

    Even though you are a whiskey drinker, as a rum drinker I will tell you: You aren’t wrong.

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