Wednesday, 3 December 2014

Review 9 - Gosling's Black Seal 80 proof

Photo copyright © H.Kristoffersen
More a mixer than a sipper. Perhaps this isn't the right horse for the course.

Tonight my left hand grabbed the Gosling’s Black Seal 80 proof from my shelf.

The rum originates from Bermuda and is apparently part of the islands DNA.
On the company website it says that the Black Seal is used for fish chowder (!) as well as being one of the main ingredients in world famous cocktail Dark’N’Stormy. Talk about versatility.

Gosling’s sport an enormous website with a cornucopia of information. However the space used to describe this particular rum is very easy to overlook.

If you fancy a deeper dive into the history of Bermuda, Gosling’s and rum making swing by the webpage. Link is at the bottom of this review.

The Black Seal is what is commonly know as a black or dark rum. That usually means that the rum is best suited for mixing due to heavy addition of flavours. However I am still risking it all by treating it as a sipper for now, since many others have spoken highly about black rums as sippers.

The Examiner defines it like this: ”The darkest, richest, heavy bodied rums are often referred to as black rums…”. Well that sound quite good doesn’t it?

Dark is good. Dark is mysterious and almost a little evil.
Rich is good. Rich means lots of flavours.
Heavy Bodied is also good. It means that the rum will be a heavy, thick, slow moving mastodon.

And at an drinking strength of 40% what’s not to like?

Well first of all: The bottle. It looks very much like the cheapest possible bottle they could find. Actually I think I saw a bottle like this at a local equivalent of a €0.99 store.

Next: The tacky label. A plastic sticker actually – most of it see through. The name, the brand, the origin and proof is ”painted” on. On the back we find a lot of marketing praise but also a little piece of curious information.

The name ”Black Seal” actually has nothing to do with the picture of a black seal on the front. It relates to the fact that originally the bottle was sealed with black wax. I wonder why they stopped doing that. It would have been an awesome touch.

That kind of luxury is now reserved for the buyers of the Gosling’s Old Rum, which should be their most premium product. Fair enough actually.

Back to the seal.

Next thing to dislike: The bottle is closed by a plastic screw cap directly on the glass bottle. How on earth do they expect this to make a proper seal during changing temperatures. As far as I know glass and plastic do not react identically to changes in temperature leading to an possibly leaky seal (pun intended).

In the glass the rum is a dark mahogany which is kind of a relief since the rum seems utterly black in the bottle. A twirl reveal massive legs which indicates that this could be a very sweet thing.

All short comings aside so far, the superlatives from the Examiner has got me looking forward to the next bit.

As expected from a black rum we got huge molasses and caramel up front. Followed by some oak a lot of overripe cherries.

Everything blends together into a massive sweetness and then vanilla shows up to join the party. The back end is made up by a little burnt rubber and some cough syrup.

Actually quite interesting on the nose. I am quite excited to find out how well this goes down.

The rum is nowhere as thick and syrupy as I anticipated. It feels almost light bodied. Where did all the sweetness from the nose disappear to?

Apart from the lack of sweetness, the nose translates quite well onto the palate. However the balance of it all is shifted around quite a lot. You get boatloads of the cough syrup, burnt rubber and a peppery surprise. In the background I seem to pick up tiny menthol, liquorice and molasses.

Despite the very dominating tastes it all ends up feeling quite weak and straight forward. It gives away all the secrets immediately leaving nothing to be discovered.

The finish is quite short with the exception of the pepper and the worst part of the cough syrup.

Oh lord the spicy pepper. It seems to never let go and frankly it irritates my throat.

More than a couple of tastes later I got a flashback to when I was a kid and my parents made me take my cough medicine. At first it tasted quite fine but then shear agony always followed making sure that you didn't drink the medicine for fun.

Rating and final thoughts
Funny thing: Gosling's actually states on their website that the Black Seal is super premium product. Let us take a couple of seconds to let that sink in.

Right, now moving on.

Edit: After having had a couple of comments on this particular review, I have found it necessary to stress the fact, that this rum is a classic mixing rum and as such perhaps not the best suitable rum for sipping. This I knew before starting my review. But having seen both mixing and sipping reviews of this rum, as well as sipping reviews of other black rums, I found it alright to review it this way never the less.

All in all I have to be honest and admit that I didn't enjoy sipping this rum very much. I was surprised by the nose but quite disappointed in how different it was on the palate.

I am sure that the Black Seal makes awesome cocktails. But as a sipper it just doesn't cut it. Not even when you take the affordable price into consideration.
I though a lot about what would be a fitting rating for this one. 

But in all fairness this rum doesn't do much harm. It didn't try to suffocate me or burn my entrails.

It was a bit unpleasant in both taste and finish. But a person with an affection for medicinal notes might actually get something decent out of this. If only it had a quirk or charisma that would make it lovable despite the ugliness. But sadly it doesn't. That’s why I’ll hand it a…

Rating: 57/100



  1. I'm not sure if reviewing mixing rums as sippers is a very good idea Henrik. I like you simple 1 to 10 scoring but giving this a pretty classic mixing a rum a 3.

    I've always reviewed rum based on what it is I fear you are rating them based on what you want them to be.

  2. Thank you for your feedback. It is much appreciated :)
    I partly agree with you and I have pondered it quite a lot.

    I recognise that it is a classic mixer, but that shouldn't allow for a "handicap" as a sipper. Just because it is primarily a mixing rum, why not try sipping it?
    As all taste is individual, one might be surprised.

    Just to make the distinction more clear, I have made an edit to the "final thoughts"-segment.

  3. "I'm not sure if reviewing mixing rums as sippers is a very good idea"

    The distinction between "mixing rum" and "sipper" is a strange one, that only really exists for rum. I'm not aware that such a concept is used for Bourbon, Tequila, Scotch or others. I'm with Henrik here - a poor spirit is a poor spirit, and the excuse "but it's just a mixer!" is strange.

    Saying that a spirit should be rated differently because of it's prescribed usage IS rating "on what you want it to be", not the other way round.