The Real McCoy 5 Year Old

Real McCoy-RG2-USE?

Product of:  Barbados
Age:  5 Years
Price: $29
Alcohol: 40% ABV 
Sugar:  0 g/L
Context: Premium Aged Rum
RG Rating: 8

Tasting Notes 
Very Smooth.  In appearance, The Real McCoy 5  year old is a copper-amber color, and swirling produces a profusion of legs that run casually down the glass’s sides.

As the cork is pulled, a bouquet of sweet caramel and molasses quietly announces The Real McCoy 5’s presence.  Sniffing brings those same stronger aromas, with subtle orange peel zest, dates, sweet nuts, understated vanilla, trace leather and bourbon transferred from aging five years in ex-Jack Daniels American white oak barrels.

The taste is initially dry, then sweetens as the medium-heavyweight body rum cloaks you palate in the same balanced flavors revealed by the nose before ending in a supple, long lasting finish.

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 a characteristic act of profitable self-promotion, McCoy borrowed an expression that originated in the 19th Century, and enhanced his reputation as “The Real McCoy”.  

Real McCoy the rum, is still the genuine article today.  Distilled by RL Seale’s Foursquare distillery on Barbados in vacuum column and pot stills, the rum is true to Richard Seale’s ethic of producing the best rum he possibly can, without additives or flavorings.  Aged in used bourbon American white oak barrels for a minimum of five years.

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.”  There you have it, from someone who should know.  

Prohibition:  “The Noble Experiment”; perhaps created not with the best of intentions, it certainly had the worst of consequences.  Every drinker became a criminal.  Since no one was be old enough to drink, no one was too young to drink either.  Like a cocktail or bizarre story that’s incomplete without a twist, consider that the efforts championed by the Women’s Christian Temperance Union succeeded in banning alcohol for everyone – everyone except the clergy.

No wonder rum runners and bootleggers succeeded, even becoming popular heroes.  Bill “The Real McCoy” was such a legend.  The rum might live up to the legend’s status, yet it’s a little pricey for a five year old.  But Real McCoy 5 Year Old is fine rum with a noble pedigree, honest craftsmanship and a great backstory.  As of this writing, it’s been 90 years since Bill McCoy stopped delivering rum to America.  To thus day, we still don’t get enough rums from Barbados’ high-quality Foursquare Distillery.  Now, as then, the Real McCoy delivers.

* 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: September 2013 at the Rum Gallery, USA.

© Dave Russell 2017