Pyrat XO – Old vs New

Some time ago I came across a post about Pyrat XO on Bilgemunky’s Rum Reviews. In this post he compared the Old Pyrat XO to the new Pyrat XO, which made me quite curious. It just so happened that I soon ran into a bottle of the new Pyrat XO that my friend Phil had procured, and – of course – I drank some. I found it to have a strong orange taste, much stronger than I remembered from a couple years back. I made a note to compare Phil’s bottle to my old near-empty bottle of Pyrat.

Phil wasn’t around this weekend, but I made a Rum Run and came across a bottle of Pyrat XO for $21, so I grabbed it.

Side rant – Why the heck does Pyrat XO cost $36 in Massachusetts and New Hampshire, yet runs about $21 in most other states? That seems crazy. But I’ve paid $36 a couple times, and have seen it as high as $50 in on over-priced Massachusetts liquor store.

I definitely believe that Pyrat XO is worth $21, and my old bottle had very little left, so it was a definite purchase. And it allowed me to compare the old to the new.

Label Comparison
Old:
Planters Gold Rum – Pyrat XO Reserve -Anguilla Rums, LTD, BWI
The Hoti medallion says: Anguilla Rums

New:
Pyrat Rum – Pyrat XO Reserve (In a circle around Hoti on the label) Anguilla Rums LTD – British West Indies
The Hoti medallion says: Pyrat Rums

The old says that the sole importer is SMS LTD, Las Vegas, Nevada, while the new lists the sole importer as Patron Spirits Company, Las Vegas, Nevada.

On my old bottle, the hand-written “Certification Of Hand Bottling” lists the number 16737, while my new bottle is numbered 435425. If they number sequentially, that’s quite a difference – though I have no idea of the time involved. It would imply that my old bottle was quite a bit older.

The new bottle still has the little description card around its neck, so I got some interesting facts about the rum. “Pyrat XO is a blend of 9 unique Caribbean rums aged up to 15 years in Limousin oak and American sweet oak barrels.” Limousin oak is generally used for cognac, from what I remember, though it was also commonly used for California wines. I have never heard of “American sweet oak” though it might just be some marketing propaganda to describe white oak, a standard for barrels made in the US.

Taste Comparison
For one thing, the old Pyrat XO seems to be a bit darker than the new stuff. It’s slight, and it might have been the lighting, but there did seem to be a difference. A quick comparison of the smell between the two seemed to be very very close. I couldn’t tell the difference between the two. They both smell like a good hearty rum, a bit sweet, with honey smells and a hint of vanilla. Too close to call, by my nose anyway.

The old has a very nice taste, good basic rum but sweeter. Tastes of caramel and honey came through, with hints of vanilla and a slight orange taste. It’s sweet, but not overly sweet, and quite smooth. It has a slight burn that lasts, and the finish lingers a bit as well. This is an excellent rum.

The new has a distinct orange taste, is definitely sweeter, and has more honey coming through. It’s a bit smoother, with less burn and a longer finish. There’s a small bit of spiciness coming through at the end, leaving a bit of tingling in the mouth. This is also an excellent rum.

There’s no doubt in my mind that these are two different rums.

More Comparisons
These are both excellent rums, and both are quite sippable. The differences in the sweetness and distinct orange taste of the new might turn some people off. I do prefer the old for sipping, as I consider it a truer rum, or a more classic rum one might say. I think the new version has less general use in the world because of it’s orange tastes – it would be fine in basic drinks like a Rum & Coke, but would probably throw off some cocktails. Again, both are excellent for sipping – very smooth and little burn, with great complexity.

Value
For the $21 I paid – not the $36 I used to pay – I’d have to say that Pyrat XO is one of the biggest bargains in the rum world. For this price area, not many other rums are as smooth or as complex. I have happily paid $36 in the past, several times, so to find it for this new low price it’s a bargain in my opinion. More than good enough to sip, yet cheap enough to mix.

Summary
Both versions of this rum are sweet, complex, tasty, and very sippable. Again, there’s no doubt in my mind that the formula for Pyrat XO has changed. The new version is sweeter with more orange taste. They are not huge differences, but they are significant since they are quite noticeable. People who don’t like sweet rums, or distinct orange flavoring, will probably not like the new stuff. But if you ever find a bottle of Planters Gold Pyrat XO that is not distributed by Patron then I urge you to grab a bottle and enjoy it. I like them both, but I do prefer the old version.

Rum Season 2007 Started

“Rum Season” really started for me last night. My wife and I finally opened up the trailer at camp for the summer, and that meant that I got together with a friend, Phil, who’s been exploring rum with me the last few years. (He actually lets me do the exploring, but he does provide Ron Zacapa 15 & 23 regularly, so I can’t complain.)

Phil is noted for some rather large “campfires” that tend to border on the insane. He built a 5-foot-square “camp fire pit” surrounded on 3 sides by 2-foot tall rock walls, and it’s often half-full of burning wood, and occasionally completely full. Phil starts the fire, and when the logs are burning well he’ll throw on another 8 or 12 and then “get it going” with his leaf blower. That’s one hell of a way to get a fire roaring.

Phil’s fires make a nice backdrop for sampling rums, and we’ve been enjoying the combination of Fire & Rum for years now, sitting back, shooting the shit, and sipping some fine rums.

All Sorts Of Rums
I prepared for the long Memorial Day Weekend by bringing down 6 bottles of various stuff. I had also planned on experimenting with some “rum infusion enhancements” (more on this in the future) so I had a nice variety, and I wanted Phil’s opinions on some others. To my surprise I found 4 bottles that I had left last year – 2 uncracked. But I can now add them to my collection: Appleton Estates V/X, Pyrat Blanco, one of the Plantation rums (damned if I remember which one now), and a near-empty bottle of Pyrat XO.

After opening the camper and cleaning, I headed down to Phil’s campsite with 3 rums. I wanted variety, so I brought Flor de Caña 21, Foursquare Spiced, and Prichard’s Fine Rum. He also had a bottle of Pyrat XO on his picnic table, which appeared to have a different label than I remembered. I should have grabbed my bottle and checked, as I have heard that the Pyrat XO has changed recently. According to this post on Bilgemunky’s site, there is a difference – I’ll have to check it out next weekend.

Foursquare Spiced
After the normal hellos and quick “how have you been” chit chat, we got down to business. Rum. Phil’s an old Captain Morgan drinker (which is why I “took him under my wing” years ago) so I first poured the Foursquare Spiced. As a good rummy, Phil smelled the rum first. Alas, he practically stuck his nose into the bottle and inhaled, which probably burned out his sense of smell in the first second. I really need to get some proper drinking glasses at camp.

The Foursquare went over very well, and that was his favorite of the night. He loved the smell, and how it tasted “real” compared to the artificial taste of Captain Morgan. I think he poured himself 3 or 4 shots of the Foursquare by the end of the night. I certainly enjoyed it, too, though I’ve never been a fan of Captain Morgan from my first sip. But I love a complex rum, and this definitely has a number of flavors to be enjoyed. It’s a very nice rum – so different from Captain Morgan, and *so* much better.

Prichard’s Fine Rum
For the second round I we tried the Prichard’s Fine Rum. I think this is quite good (though too expensive), but Phil felt that there was “something odd” going on with that rum. There is a distinct taste that I can’t place, but I enjoyed it. He did not seem so enamored, though he did mention that it was smooth. I can’t wait to get him to try the Prichard’s Crystal.

Flor de Caña 21
Next came I broke out the Flor de Caña 21, poured 2 and then put it away. (Phil and I have killed bottles of Ron Zacapa 23 in a single night, several times, so it had to get put away immediately.) We both liked it quite a lot, though he kept mentioning that a single bottle of the Flor De Cana 21 would buy two bottles of Ron Zacapa 23…. Yes, it certainly will, but I’m not complaining about buying it – you can’t let yourself get stuck in a rut all the time, right? I sipped the Flor de Caña 21 slowly, enjoying it, letting it melt in my mouth and all the way down. I was again surprised by it’s small burn – even the Foursquare didn’t have any burn (though that had an icey cube). OK, it’s a very small sensation of a burn, but I always expect more smoothness for $75. Still, it was darn tasty…

Pyrat XO
For my fourth shot I grabbed Phil’s bottle of Pyrat XO. The Hoti medallion was missing, so I again mentioned my concerns that it was different. But it appears that Stelly had given the rum to Phil – making a “yucky” face and saying she didn’t like it – but kept the medallion. Friends are very good sometimes. Stelly can keep the medallion.

The first smell and sip were all about bitter orange, a taste I quickly recognized from doing my Orange Liqueur Throwdown comparison. This did NOT taste like the Pyrat XO I remembered! (But do you really remember a particular taste from a year ago? I couldn’t be sure if it actually was different.)

Wow, was that orange strong! It barely tasted like rum, though of course the “typical” rum tastes were present. But I distinctly remember talking about this rum – long before I kept tasting notes – and remarking about the complexity of this rum. I have to admit that Pyrat was the third excellent rum that I had ever tried, and that was about 3 years ago when I made those remarks about it’s complexity.

But I haven’t had it in about a year… My memory could be off… I don’t trust “taste memory” anyway…

I really have to compare this to my bottle, which was opened about 1.5 years ago. If Pyrat changed the formula then I’ll have a good comparison taste-test on my hands. (Though I definitely believe Bilgemunky, I have to try myself.)

Rum Talk
Phil and I chatted about a bunch of things, catching up on each other’s winters, and kept pouring and sipping. While chatting Phil kept hitting the Foursquare, and I kept hitting the Pyrat XO. (Hey, I love orange.) I snuck in another Flor de Caña 21, and he even tried the Prichard’s again.

Of course we talked about rum quite a bit, and he kept going back to the Ron Zacapa Centenario 23-year-old. OK, I admit that the Ron Z 23 is my favorite rum, easily, no challenge. But the same thing over and over gets stale. I kept steering the conversation away from Ron Z by trying to give him some insight into the varieties and variations in rum. I tried explaining a bit about agricole and cachaca, and even told him about the solera process used to blend the Ron Z. But I’ll have to start earlier next time – Phil was beyond caring about much after 7 or 8 shots. And he probably had a head-start on me, too, knowing him. And I had a decent glow.

All in all it was a good night of sampling some rums.

Links to Rums Sampled
Flor de Caña: http://www.flordecana.com/
Foursquare Spiced: http://www.foursquarerum.com/
Prichard’s Distillery: http://www.prichardsdistillery.com/
Pyrat: http://www.patronspirits.com/