Denizen Merchant’s Reserve

Denizen Merchant's Reserve -RG1b

Product of:  Distilled in Jamaica and Martinique, blended in Holland
Aged:  Blend of rums aged up to 8 
Price: $30-$34
Alcohol: 43% ABV 
0-5 g/L (estimate)
Context: Premium Aged Rum
RG Rating: 8

Tasting Notes
Denizen Merchant’s Reserve shows a beautiful rich shade of mahogany/ aged copper.  In the glass, the rum provides a visual treat of rapidly forming legs – most run rapidly but others are left clinging to the inside of the tasting glass until they evaporate.  Let’s not wait long for that, we’ve got some smart sniffing to do.

Merchant’s Reserve is a blend of two highly evolved yet distinctly different Caribbean rums. Those familiar with medium bodied Jamaican pot still rums and more rarely, molasses-derived rhum grande-aroma from the French West Indies will immediately recognize the constituent parts of this aromatic blend.  Aggressive pot still Jamaican funk is slightly ennobled by softer Martinique long-fermentation rhum.  Together they utterly define this blend’s aromas.  From Jamaica comes the almost putrid, post-distillate dunder contributing its characteristic hogo.  The Grande Arome rhum wraps velvet around the brute.  Common scents include old wood, vanilla, orange peel, fresh tobacco, overripe banana, green mango, clove and coffee bean, presented more dry and not as sweet as you’d expect.

The initial taste is more akin to liquid aromas, such is the consistency between sniffing and palate flavors.  The slightly high ABV and medium-weight by help deliver flavors rapid and coat the tongue thoroughly, enabling a moderately length, mildly spicy finish.

Denizen Merchant's Reserve Back Label Crop-RG1-USE

Consumers may assume the packaging of Merchant’s Reserve is nothing special.  If so, it is not meant for them.  Instead, this rum and bottle is specifically designed for bars that love to make great Mai Tai’s.  The blend of two rums is a fine approximations of the rum “Trader Vic” Bergeron used in his original recipe.  The slender bottle is speed rack and back bar friendly.  Its tall and slender, unburdened by a heavy glass base that would upset the balance required for rapid repeat pours.  To a bartender, the screw cap is a benefit; easy to remove and no obnoxiously slow built-in pour limiter.  Serve freely and often. 

Denizen Merchant's Reserve Mai Tai-RG1

Sadly, the hearty rum at the foundation of Trader Vic’s 1944 Mai Tai masterpiece is no longer.  Victor Bergeron used a 17 year old Jamaican rum distilled by Wray and Nephew that has long since been discontinued.  To replicate the flavors, Denizen’s principals consulted renowned tiki master Martin Cate, owner of Smuggler’s Cove, San Francisco.  The rums were sourced from E&A Scheer's voluminous stocks in Holland.  The result is a blend of Jamaican medium-bodied Plummer style rum with a Martiniquan “Grande Arome” rhum traditionel made with (gasp!) molasses instead of the fresh sugarcane juice required for French rhums agricole.

"Trader Vic" Bergeron mixing a drink

Finally, a blended rum that pulls no punches.  Intense, dirty even; Denizen merchant’s Reserve is in-your-face, blending Jamaican pot still funkiness with Martiniquan Grande Arome blissIt’s about the closest you’ll ever get to to the style of rum Trader Vic used to create his original and unbeatable Mai Tai.  It most definitely makes for a better Mai Tai than the “Original 1944” served at Trader Vic’s bar/restaurants.  Sure, their house pour is a pretty darn good cocktail, it’s just not craft.  You owe it to yourself to try his recipe.  To the Tiki Bars and home mixologists who pay serious homage in crafting the classic Mai Tai:  Denizen’s Merchant’s Reserve rum is a Must Have.  For those who prefer their rums neat:  Denizen Merchant’s Reserve is a complex little package; its two rum & rhum cousins play nicely together without a dialectic one-upmanship.  My hat is off to Denizen for contributing this unique rum blend to our cocktail scene at a fair price.

 Reviewed: in March 2014 while traipsing through Central America and frequently afterwards at the Rum Gallery, USA.

© Dave Russell 2017