Mount Gay Rum Master Blender Collection: Coffey Still Review

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Mount Gay Rum Master Blender Collection: Coffey Still Review

Every year, Mount Gay Rum Master Blender Trudiann Branker reaches into her ever-expanding bag of tricks to create a new concept for the annual Master Blender Collection. Now in its seventh iteration, the Master Blender Collection has seen a wide range of concepts, from peat smoke, to PX sherry, to South American oak. But perhaps the most enduringly popular, at least among rum geeks, was Master Blender Collection: Pot Still Rum, which as the name would suggest was a 100% pot still offering from a company typically built around pot and column still blends. Now, in its seventh release Branker and co. have gone and pulled the inverse, Mount Gay Master Blender Collection: Coffey Still Rum.

Column stills, for better or worse, don’t tend to get a ton of respect among the hardcore rum geeks. Granted, much of the rum that the world consumes is entirely produced via column distillation–most of the big Puerto Rico brands, for instance, which are many drinkers’ first introduction to rum. But as in the case of so many other spirits niches, the more passionate tasters and collectors have a tendency to be trained to seek out the biggest, boldest or funkiest flavors while shunning the more delicate or subtle ones, which means that pot still rum–or blends including lots of pot still distillate–tend to draw more attention from these consumers. It’s part of why Bajan rum is so widely popular in the first place, in fact: Many of the classic brands are blends that combine bold pot still flavors with the more supple backbone of column still rum.

A 100% column still product from Mount Gay, though? That is something different and unusual. This is a Mount Gay profile as we never really typically see it.

The “Coffey” name is a reference to Irish tinkerer Aeneas Coffey, who in the early 19th century created one of the first continuous (or column) still designs in the world. This new style of still could be made more efficient than the traditional pot still, and could more easily take a distillate up to a higher (more pure) proof point. Technically, this creates a less flavorful distillate when proofed down with water, because the higher the initial distillation point, the more delicate aromatic and flavor molecules are destroyed and replaced with pure ethanol.

Mount Gay’s own full copper Coffey still seems to be a historic design that had been left “in disrepair for decades,” according to the press materials. It was recommissioned and brought back online in 2019, however, with the help of longtime Mount Gay distiller Reynold “Blues” Hinds, to whom this edition is dedicated. Hinds ultimately worked at Mount Gay for more than 50 years, and his first-hand experience in running the Coffey column still was invaluable in assisting engineers in returning it to working order after it had been decommissioned. Hinds has since passed away, but this Master Blender Collection entry is dedicated to his memory. Even the box itself reflects his “blue” nickname.

As for specs of this rum: This distillate was aged exclusively in reused bourbon casks for a surprisingly short four years, and then bottled at quite a stout 58% ABV (116 proof). Only 5,004 bottles were made. It carries the very high MSRP ($240) we typically expect to see in Master Blender Collection releases. So with that said, let’s get to tasting this one.

On the nose, Coffey Still displays rich pear fruitiness and honeycomb candies, while also offering suggestion of nougat, some anise-like spice, vanilla bean and a little cocoa. There’s more spice here than I would have been expecting from a relatively lightly aged spirit that hasn’t had that long to interact with the casks, but the advanced proof no doubt helps this to jump out of the glass in a more vivacious way.

On the palate, the first impressions are of rich decadence–it has a surprisingly full and unctuous texture for column still distillate, but again that may be because I’m not used to experiencing this type of aged rum at this kind of proof point. Regardless, it’s almost a bit syrupy on first inspection, with baking spice notes that prickle across the tongue, joined by poached pear, vanilla, honey glazed nuts, allspice and molasses cookie. Throughout, it maintains that prominent dry spice character, at least partially extracted from the oak, and I must say that I’m impressed how mature this reads despite the fact that it was only aged four years. Initial perception is that there’s considerable sweetness here, but the finish pulls in the opposite direction, with increasing oakiness drying out the sip a bit. Proof, meanwhile, is pretty substantial, though not abrasive–you can feel this one in the chest, but that’s not a bad thing.

All in all, this is arguably one of the most explosively flavorful and certainly one of the most spice-forward column still rums I’ve encountered. Per usual, Mount Gay has worked its fermentation and distillation magic, and Branker has discovered another prominent tool in her arsenal. Perhaps some day, the distillery will be able to package or serve 100% Coffey still and 100% pot still distillates next to each other, so we can experience them side by side before they’re blended together to create Mount Gay. The rum geek in me would certainly appreciate that chance at a learning experience. In the meantime, Coffey Still Rum makes for a worthy entry in the Master Blender Collection lineup, and should appeal most to the rum purists who don’t need a novel finishing cask in order to pique their interest.

Distillery: Mount Gay
City: Bridgetown, Barbados
ABV: 58% (116 proof)
Availability: Limited, 700 ml bottles, $240 MSRP

Jim Vorel is a Paste staff writer and resident beer and liquor geek. You can follow him on Twitter for more drink writing.

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