Review – Sailor Jerry Spiced Rum
Although he did spend more than a decade as a sailor, Sailor Jerry (or Norman Collins to use his real name) is in fact better known for his tattoos. The nickname ‘Jerry’ was given to him as a child by his father, who noted he had a similar disposition to their cantankerous mule! His time on the high seas came courtesy of the Great Lakes Naval Academy with whom he travelled the globe on schooner ships. Although he started tattooing at the age of 19, it wasn’t until he finished his naval stint in his late 20’s and settled in Hawaii that he had the opportunity to make a name for himself by decorating many a sailor that passed through. We can only assume that working as a sailor and living in the Caribbean caused Norman to develop a taste for spiced rum, for the background to the rum that bears his name is remarkably difficult to find.
Nose: The spices dominate the rum, with vanilla in particular wanting to be the star of the show. Somewhat thin-smelling, aromas of caramel, cinnamon, stewed apples and cloves are all perceptible but much more delicately than would be hoped.
Neat: A drier entry than was expected given the nose, and which is well-received. Soon follows notes of vanilla-laden demerara rum with moderately assertive contributions from both nutmeg and cinnamon, before becoming far too spicy on the finish. As with the nose, it tastes a little thin and a bitterness reminiscent of burnt toffee is hardly welcome. The rum base itself doesn’t bother to offer any interest other than a generic ‘rummy’ flavour. The flavours here are disjointed, lacking in depth and complexity, and sadly what pleasure there is is mortally wounded by some rough edges that have no place in my glass.
Mixing: Alas this rum also fails to inspire when mixed. As with all but the most awful spirits, intelligent mixing will result in a tolerable libation, but it hardly seems worth bothering. Mixed long with ginger ale in the Anejo Highball, the rough edges are smoothed and the flavours homogenised, but I’d rather drink the ginger ale on its own. A decent spiced rum should make an excellent Flip and Daiquiri, and in fact the former is serviceable albeit in a different league to this rum’s competition. The latter however only serves to highlight the deficiencies of this rum, principally that there just isn’t enough going on in the flavour department. The most success comes with cocktails that offer plenty of flavour from the other ingredients, such as the Spiced Pear which actually works rather well with the vanilla notes from the rum. Another option is to use Sailor Jerry almost as a modifier to enhance another ingredient rather than be expected to steal the show on its own. Such a drink is found in the Warsaw Cooler in which bison grass vodka and apple juice again makes for a vanilla-friendly angle to mix with. The signature Queen’s Park Swizzle is another example of a respectable, if not game-changing cocktail and is worth a try if you have a bottle lying around.
Signature Cocktail – Queen’s Park Swizzle
2oz Sailor Jerry Spiced Rum, 1oz Lime Juice, 0.5oz Sugar Syrup, 8 Mint Leaves, 2 Dash Angostura Bitters.
Add ingredients to a highball glass. Fill 2/3 with crushed ice and churn/swizzle. Top with crushed ice and churn/swizzle again. Garnish with a mint sprig.
Sailor Jerry Spiced Rum is a most disappointing spiced rum that doesn’t come recommended save for collectors of artistic bottle designs. Rating: ★★
Sailor Jerry is available to buy from Master of Malt.
★: Terrible, only drink for a dare.
★★: Meh, not undrinkable but best left alone.
★★★: Reasonable, middle of the road.
★★★★: Tasty stuff, well worth seeking out.
★★★★★: Incredible, booze doesn’t get better than this. You need a bottle in your life.