The Real McCoy 3 Year Old

Real McCoy 3-RG1

Product of:  Barbados
Age:  3 Years
Price: $16-$18
Alcohol: 40% ABV 
Sugar:  0-5 g/L
Context: Premium White Rum
RG Rating: 9

Tasting Notes 
Despite its three years in ex-Bourbon barrels, the Real McCoy 3 year old rum shows no color.  It is none, crystal clear after filtering through charcoal.

After swirling, most of the rum sheets down the inside of your tasting glass, but many short-lived legs make an appearance, leaving behind several droplets at the top of the smear.  That might give clues to this rum, perhaps an absence of sugar while maintaining some viscosity and depth of flavor.

The rum wafts a pleasant bouquet of sweet floral ethyl alcohol and butter, before delivering heavier aromas of mild oaken vanilla, fruity pineapple, stretchy bandaid [a good thing], mild phenols, mushroom, nutmeg and coconut husk.

Sip, and notice how the flavors are fully consistent with the visual clues and aromatic profile.  The rum enters slightly sweet, with very mild spice (vanilla, coconut, nutmeg), and revealing a cleanly-distilled molasses pedigree.  I suppose the lighter column distillates give an ethereal sense while the small amount of pot still rum in the blend adds heft, weighing nicely on a medium-heavy body.  The relatively long finish adds a touch of white pepper tinge that resides on the tongue long after the rum is gone.

During Prohibition, ex-US Navy officer Bill McCoy delivered contraband whisky, rum and other spirits in his schooners Henry L. Marshal and Tomoka and others, sailing from the Bahamas and Caribbean to French Islands in the North Atlantic and locations off the US East Coast and Long Island.  McCoy sold booze legally, safely outside the three-mile territorial limit until 1923, when the U.S. Coast Guard shut down his operations and seized his vessel beyond the rum line*.  While others sold watered down liquor and moonshine with awful and dangerous chemicals (methanol, etc), Captain McCoy sold quality spirits that were the genuine article.  In an act of profitable self-promotion, McCoy borrowed an expression that originated in the 19th Century, enhancing his reputation as “The Real McCoy”.  

Richard Seale, Foursquare Distillery

When I asked Richard Seale, Master Distiller and owner of Foursquare Distillery, if Bill McCoy ran Barbadian rum during Prohibition, he replied:   “…he did, that is why they [Real McCoy Spirits Corp.] came to me.  It was sent bulk to Bahamas, bottled there and he [Bill McCoy] picked it up, repacked it in his special cases.  I don’t think it was the only rum he did but I believe he was strongly associated with Barbadian rum.”  Now, almost 100 years later, It is entirely appropriate that Richard Seale is the Master Distiller behind The Real McCoy Rum.  He is the rum industry’s most vocal champion against the use of adulterating sugarcane spirits with additives, especially sugar.  Trust there are no such counterfeits in his rum.  

Foursquare Pot Still 10:11

Real McCoy rum is today’s genuine article. It’s a blend of Pot and Column distillates, biased toward the light end of the spectrum, with the majority of the rum coming from the column still.  The ABV of the heavier rum was 82-85% off the Pot still, and about 94%% ABV off the Column still.  

Aged in used bourbon American white oak barrels for a minimum of three years.  When I asked how he gets so much flavor in a rum aged for only three years, Seale replied:  “3 years is a lot of aging in the heat of Barbados, enough to give some complexity. It's not far from the 5 year before charcoal.  The 3 year uses older casks than the 5 year.  With the older casks, less masking of the rum takes place.  So some subtle character comes through that would be hidden.  With  the older casks the natural sweetness comes through better.  All these ‘sweet rums’ [on the market] and so little appreciation for the real natural inherent sweetness in a good rum spirit.  Less tannin less vanilla too but the spirit also has its own vanilla character.”  The Real McCoy 3 year old rum is charcoal filtered to remove color before bottling.

Especially for a white rum, The Real McCoy 3 year old has a lot going on.  It’s more aromatic and flavorful than the other class leaders, and shows a depth of character not often found in tis category.  But what strikes me most is how well balanced this rum is, the flavors are almost too complex and nuanced to mix into anything but a cocktail.  I tried the 3 year old in a Hemingway Daiquiri and found it much to my liking; crisp, dry and refreshing, with noticeably greater depth of flavor than the more commonly used column-distilled light rums.  The Real McCoy website lists a number of enticing cocktails for you to experiment with.  Or don’t bother – The Real McCoy sips neat just as well.  At a bargain price of well under $20, this is one gift horse you can confidently look in the mouth.

* Footnote 
“The Rum Line” is Prohibition-era slang for the row of barges and floating booze warehouses that were more or less permanently moored in International waters off the US east Coast just beyond the three mile territorial limit.  Daniel Okrent refers to the “reverse blockade” in his thorough book “Last Call - The Rise and Fall of Prohibition”.  The tongue-in-cheek term was borrowed from the maritime navigation method of drawing a Rhumb Line on a nautical chart, used to determine the compass course to be sailed.   

Reviewed: July 2015 at the Rum Gallery, USA.

© Dave Russell 2017