3 Howls Black Label 90 Proof

3 Howls Black Label 90 Proof-RG2-USE

Product of: Washington, USA
Aged: 2 years, first innew American oak, then in Portuguese Madeira barrels
Price: $35 
Alcohol: 90 Proof (45% ABV)
Added Sugar: 0g/L
Context: Premium Pale Rum 
RG Rating: 8

Tasting Notes
3 Howls Black label rum has picked up [acquired?] a nice pale gold color from two years aging in oak.  Swirling produces a few well shaped fast legs, adding to the attraction.  Aromas are refreshing, clean, with scents of oaken vanilla, almond butter, prune and citrus, with a touch of alcohol tinging the nose.  Sipping reveals the Madeira wine barrel influence, introducing subtle flavors of golden raisin and nutmeg on a lightweight body of creamy texture.  The finish is warm, slightly waxy, like apple peel, and fades as it eventually dries your palate.

Anecdotes 
3 Howls rum is fermented from sweet Barbados molasses in open top 600 gallon Cypress wood tank.  Distiller Will Maschmeier explains:  “Cypress is less maintenance than stainless steel.  The stainless steel tank requires caustic acid to cleanse, but we steam clean the cedar tank for about an hour, then let it cool” before fermenting the molasses in it.

Cypress fermentation tank for rum

The molasses is diluted to 18°-20° brix, then Scottish Ale yeast and the backset (dunder) from a fresh distillation batch is removed immediately from the still to restart the fermentation cycle.     

Distilled in a 300-gallon hybrid pot/column still.  The belly of the pot still is made of stainless steel, but it is topped with a four-plate 12-inch diameter copper column.  Inside the top of the pot still, sacrificial copper packing is hung over the boiling wort to “clean up” the alcohol before vapors reach the four bubble caps in the column.  The fermented wort makes two passes through the still.  For the first pass, only the pot is distilling, as the bubble plates are left in the open position.  During the second pass, the plates are set to the closed position to remove heads.  Once the heads have been removed, the plates are re-opened, and the still is operated in pot still mode.  The spirit comes off the still at about 160 proof (80% ABV).  

3 Howls' Still

Some of the spirt that makes up 3 Howls Black Label undergoes a third distillation that is unique among the distillery’s rums.  Says Maschmeier:  “We collect the last 1/3 of the distillate from our Gold Label Rum and distill it one more time. The last third of the Gold Label rum has a lot of flavor (especially the end) and includes some undesirable bitter notes. In the 3rd distillation we collect and save the heart of the hearts. To make the black label rum we take this three-times distilled rum and blend it in with some of our Gold Label Rum and rum that was aged in a used Madeira barrel.”

Opinion
Dual aging 3 Howls Black label in American oak and Madeira wine casks adds a welcome complexity to this young American rum – it shows a maturity beyond its two years of age.  And it resists simple categorizing.  3 Howls Black Label rum is more supple than the common tasteless white mixing rums, yet it doesn’t possessing the deeper wood character of rums aged for twice as many years.  When evaluated as a Pale rum, it stacks up well against the notable Santa Teresa Blanco and Havana Club 3.  

Sure, it sips easily enough, but the elevated strength of 45% ABV suggests cocktails.  I tried 3 Howls Black label in the classic literary hero’s Hemingway Daiquiri, wherein it expressed its second nature.  This HD came off a bit drier and more woody than if made with a Cuban Ron Blanco, yet each of the drink’s carefully ratio’d ingredients were allowed to express their individual flavor contribution.  Call it more akin to prose than poetry.  But in an Old Cuban, 3 Howls Black Label shines most brightly.  

Reviewed: June 2015 at the Rum Gallery, USA.

© Dave Russell 2017