Spirit Of The Week: Mount Gay ‘Master Blender Collection’ Madeira Cask Rum
The world’s oldest rum distillery releases a column still-exclusive spirit aged entirely in ex-Madeira wine casks.
When the world’s oldest rum distillery crafts a new flagship expression, it’s worth taking note. Barbados’ pride and joy Mount Gay was founded back in 1703, meaning the Caribbean distillery boasts over three centuries of distilling, aging and blending tradition.
Recently minted Master Blender Trudiann Branker, who took the reins from Alan Smith in 2019, learned the craft side of things, or the “balancing science” as she calls it, from the respected UK-trained/Barbados-born erstwhile Master Blender.
This month they’re releasing the fifth edition of their ‘Master Blender Collection’: Mount Gay Madeira Cask Rum. A unique expression from Mount Gay for two main reasons: Mount Gay Madeira Cask is exclusively a column still rum, not the label’s traditional blend of pot and column. And second, it is fully aged in Madeira wine casks — not merely a second finish.
“The Master Blender Collection allows me to innovate, allows me to be curious, allows me to work on different barrel types and distillate matches that we wouldn’t traditionally see in the core range — and that what we’ve been doing for the past few years,” explains Branker. Having already seen experimentations with Peated, Andean Oak and Port casks, 10-year aged pot still rums, and more in the Master Blender Collection, Madeira seems like a valid expression for their fifth edition.
“It seems like I blinked and we’re already on Number 5!” laughs Branker.
“When it comes to breaking it down it’s very simple,” adds Ambassador Prescod. “The more barrels, the more complexity, more flavor, more character — it’s a very simplistic way to get our core message across.”
We’re big fans of Madeira wines Maxim having visited the remote Portuguese island a couple years back and explored the 1,300 miles of Levadas crisscrossing its vertiginous landscape. And without question the Island Of Eternal Spring’s most famous export—wines—have increasingly gained worldwide attention.
Of course their fortified wines have been acclaimed for centuries: The Founding Fathers toasted the signing of the Declaration of Independence with Madeira wine, as did George Washington on his inauguration. In fact, myth has it our first POTUS drank a bottle of the island’s finest every day.
Considerably more recently Madeira wines have gained ground in the world of fine spirits where innovative master blenders and distillers have experimented with finishing their wares in Madeira casks—from The Balvenie’s superb 17-Year Madeira Cask single malt to Angel’s Envy’s Bourbon Finished in Madeira Casks, not to mention rums from Antigua’s English Harbour and Jamaica’s Worthy Park.
For Mount Gay, aging their column still distillate in the Madeira wood lends the acclaimed Barbados rum aromas of pear, vanilla and butterscotch, with the famous wine adding flavors of honey, grapes, lemon rind and raisin to its already fruit-forward flavor profile.
“For me specifically the whole Master Blender Collection is a journey. From edition to edition you see something different from the House of Mount Gay,” reveals the amicable Master Blender. “They all stand alone perfectly, but together they’re a family. You see a difference between pot still standing alone with Andean oak in the first edition, and then you see now column still with Madeira cask, all very different in their own rights.” $225