When I first sampled the still new-ish Ten To One Rum brand back in 2019, it was a good reminder that slick marketing doesn’t always imply a lack of passion for an artisanal product. As I admitted at the time, it was a tasting I went into without a surplus of optimism, given the “big city” vibe of the NYC-launched product and the way it was marketed as being the brainchild of “Starbucks’ former youngest VP.” All of that suggested a product to me that was more focused on image than what was in the bottle.
Suffice to say, I was incorrect. Ten To One Rum, especially its funky, Jamaican-driven white variant, ended up being one of my favorite surprises of 2019. Credit where credit is due: Trinidadian-born company founder Marc Farrell takes his rum seriously, and his team put together two very solid blends from around the Caribbean.
Now, as 2020 comes to a close (mercifully), Ten To One is back to celebrate with its first limited edition Reserve release, and it fittingly returns to Farrell’s nation of origin in the form of Trinidad & Tobago. What they’ve delivered here is an extra-aged, single cask rum in very limited quantity.
Specifically, the first Ten To One Reserve is drawn from a mere four casks of 17-year-old Trinidadian rum, aged exclusively in ex-bourbon barrels and bottled at a fairly modest 43% ABV (86 proof). It carries the expected high price tag ($150) that you’d be anticipating for any 17-year-old rum release.
Being a product of Trinidad, we can say with certainty that this hails from the country’s sole commercial rum producer: Trinidad Distillers Limited (TDL), the “House of Angostura” known for their lineups of Angostura rums, bitters and amaro, in addition to the Fernandes lineup of rums. Angostura rum products are readily accessible in the U.S., and indeed Angostura White Oak Rum once won our blind tasting of bottom-shelf white rum bottles available for less than $15. With that said, I’ve never really tasted any extra-aged Trinidadian rum, so I’m hoping this will be interesting and novel as a rum drinker.
On the nose, Ten To One Reserve leads off with some lovely Caribbean rum aromatics—I’m getting a nice blend of banana, oak, toasted coconut, ginger and cocoa powder. Notably absent on the nose is any kind of real ethanol presence—the ABV is fairly low, but it’s also extremely mellow for any proof. Nosing further, more savory elements begin to emerge, with hints of worn leather in particular.
On the palate, this rum heads off in a more savory and unusually fruity direction. The banana and cocoa I was getting on the nose are there faintly, but this rum is on the dry side, lending them more of a savory than sweet dimension. More dominant players become a funk, leather and earthiness, which somewhat calls to mind rhum agricole, sans the sense of “freshness.” Likewise, there are hints of exotic tropical fruit here on the palate, but they don’t quite have the sweetness to be really vivacious—background notes of passionfruit and plantain.
Ultimately, repeated sips of this rum open up some interesting character—I increasingly get notes that are resinous and woody, with drying tannins and an earthy, leathery finish. It’s a complex dram without a doubt, although I find myself wondering if perhaps it might have been more balanced between caramelized sugars and oak influences if it had spent a bit less time in the wood—I’d be curious to taste this same rum at 12 or 13 years, instead of 17.
Regardless, this first release of Ten To One succeeds in terms of uniqueness—I haven’t had something quite like this before. It should be a target for those who appreciate drier, extra-aged rums with no shortage of savoriness and oak influence.
Distillery: Ten To One Rum (Trinidad Distillers Limited)
City: New York City, NY
Style: Single cask aged rum
ABV: 43% (86 proof)
Availability: Limited, 750 ml bottles, $150 MSRP
Jim Vorel is a Paste staff writer and resident brown liquor geek. You can follow him on Twitter for more drink writing.