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

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.

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.

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.