It can be difficult, as a spirits writer, to not occasionally let your expectations—positive or negative—run away with you. There are certain words, for instance, that call up knee-jerk reactions in someone like me. When I see a term like “dark rum,” I’m immediately filled with trepidation, because as I’ve written about in the past, that term lacks any kind of proper federal definition in the U.S. Pretty much anything can be put in a bottle and labeled “dark rum,” which is rarely an incentive to produce high-quality products that are labeled as such. Likewise, when I started receiving emails about Ten to One Rum and saw that it was being marketed as the product of a man who is “formerly Starbucks’ youngest VP,” my expectations fell even lower. After all, being the product of a U.S. mega-corp does not seem like a recipe for patient, well-executed Caribbean rum, if you ask me.
And here I am to admit the opposite: My expectations were dead wrong on this one. Both products from Ten to One—the white rum and the dark rum, but especially the white—exceeded what I was expecting from them and then some. In fact, I may have just found my new daiquiri go-to.
This new brand was created by Trinidadian-born Marc Farrell, and launched in New York this summer, with an eye on establishing a foothold in the city’s temples of mixology. After sampling both products, it’s easier to see Ten to One’s path to success. Let’s get into the tasting.
The big surprise of this tasting is Ten to One White Rum, which is better than I could have possibly expected—especially because I’m coming at this review having tasted a whole lot of white rum in the recent past, forming some appreciation for aged white rums in the process. This one bears no age statement at all, which is curious, especially given the $29.99 MSRP. Certainly, it doesn’t taste like any other unaged white rum that I’ve ever sampled, which makes me think that some of the rums in this blend must have been aged and then charcoal filtered to remove their color, as it standard in the industry.
Ten to One White Rum is a blend of Dominican column still rum and high-ester Jamaican pot still rum, “finished in American oak ex-bourbon casks,” although I’m not exactly certain what this means—perhaps that Ten to One briefly ages the rum, post blending? It’s bottled at a respectable 45% ABV (90 proof), putting it a bit above the standard 80 proof seen in the most widely consumed white rums in America, although short of the 100 proof offerings seen in a lot of clear rhum agricole that is intended for mixing.
On the nose, Ten to One White Rum is immediately funkier and more interesting than expected, with prominent grassy and earthy tones, segueing into juicy pineapple. This is likewise packed with flavor on the palate, featuring notes of fresh cane, white pepper, fresh cut grass, pineapple, green bananas and marshmallow fluff, while being overall fairly dry. It reminds me favorably of one of my favorite daiquiri white rums, Denizen 3 Year, and is, I must admit, far better in general than the vast majority of unaged white rum found on store shelves in the U.S.
The thing is, at an MSRP of $29.99, which is high for white rum, and without a concrete age statement to factor into the rationalization of that price, Ten to One White Rum essentially NEEDS to be great in order to justify itself. Unexpectedly, it does exactly that. This is excellent, being pleasant to drink neat, and with a complexity and assertiveness of flavor that will work wonderfully in a variety of cocktails. I simply can’t deny how good this is.
I can only imagine that Ten to One chooses to simply call this stuff “dark rum” for simplicity’s sake, or because not every component in it is aged, because some of it certainly is. From the brand’s own website, this product is “a blend of 8-year old aged Barbados and Dominican column still rums, combined with high-ester Jamaican pot still rum, and Trinidadian rum. Aged in American white oak ex-bourbon casks. 100% rum with no added sugar, color, or flavoring.” It’s bottled at a lower 40% ABV (80 proof), carrying a higher MSRP of $42, putting it in the same premium bracket as something such as Mount Gay XO or El Dorado 12 Year.
Compared to the white rum, this offering strikes me as a less singular, less unique, but still pleasant product. The nose is very banana-forward, with impressions of banana cream pie, whipped cream and light funk. It’s lighter of body on the palate and easy drinking, mostly due to the lower proof, with some notes of light toffee, hazelnut, pineapple and brown sugar cinnamon. This is pretty delicate as “dark” or aged rums go, and I can’t help but think that a lot of it would probably be lost in terms of mixing, although this drinks effortlessly as a neat dram. Overall, I’m left wishing this was left at the same proof as Ten to One White Rum, but there’s nothing at all wrong with it. Certainly, it isn’t crippled by added sweetness, as is the case in so many products labeled as simply “dark rum.” Mix freely, although I will probably keep returning to the Ten to One White Rum, which is truly remarkable.
Jim Vorel is a Paste staff writer and resident brown liquor geek. You can follow him on Twitter for more drink writing.