Rum from Colorado just sounds a bit “off.” Who in their right mind would decide that the Rocky Mountains is the right place to plop down a distillery to make the favored spirit of the Caribbean?
They started Montanya in 2008 with the idea of making rum using fresh, American-grown ingredients and pure Rocky Mountain water. They produce two rums, the Montanya Platino white rum and the Montanya Oro gold rum.
Both rums are produced in much the same fashion. Sugar cane is brought in from Hawaii to be crushed for its juice. The juice is then mixed with water sourced from a local creek, fermented, and then distilled into rum.
After distillation, the Oro spends between 4 and 6 weeks in used Woodford Reserve barrels and then gets a unique twist when it comes to rum. Caramelized honey is added to the rum to help further mellow the alcohol flavor as well as to maintain a consistency of color and flavor.
While the practice of adding caramel or molasses to rums that haven’t been aged for at least 5 years is fairly common, the only other place you’ll likely find people using caramelized honey is the Canary Islands.
Montanya Oro is a pale straw color. The color is a little lighter and more pale than most gold rums, but there’s no mistaking it for a white. In the glass it is very yellow and forms a thin, sharp ribbon along the side of the glass. The ribbon eventually gives way into a mass of slowly moving legs.
The first scents to visit your nostrils are those of sugar and caramel. There’s a very distinct coffee note that follows before giving way to more vegetal notes of grass and pepper. A pleasant note of honey lingers afterward. All indications are of a light, slightly complex rum waiting for you in the glass.
Honey and a grassy sugar greet your palate first. A light sweetness with just a hint of vegetal notes from the cane juice, the entry is incredibly pleasant.
There’s a very sudden and overwhelming coffee flavor at the midpalate that wipes out all other flavors rapidly. The coffee does eventually subside, allowing you to taste a momentary spice before a long finish that is once again dominated by coffee and a little cocoa.
The taste is quite good if a bit rich and maybe a little too “coffee.” Oddly, it reminds me a little of Santa Teresa 1796 if you were to turn the coffee notes to eleven. It’s a very noticeable, dominant flavor that leaves you thinking, “Holy shit! That’s coffee!”
An ice cube or a little water go a long way to taming the overwhelming strength of the coffee note.
Whereas the Montanya Platino had me excited about finding a way to use such a complex rum, the Oro actually scared me a bit. Such a strongly accented flavor meant that cocktails could become challenging. A classic daiquiri was right out. Attempts at a Santiago Rose resulted in failure and disappointment – and maybe a little crying.
Strong, bold flavors are really needed to play against the coffee, allowing it to become a nice accent.
Drinks like the Twelve Mile Limit, Palmetto, or, my own house recipe, Improved Rum Fizz did a nice job of taming the coffee or complementing it. In the end though, the drink that I seem to talk about a lot lately may be the best match for the Montanya Oro.
1.5 oz Aged Rum
.75 oz Dry Vermouth
.25 oz Curacao
.5 tsp Grenadine
Stir with ice, strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with an orange or lemon twist.
It’s the dry vermouth that’s key here. A vermouth like Dolin Dry can stand up to the coffee flavor and make it part of the team, allowing the Montanya Oro to take what is normally a very crisp, rather dry drink and make it something more. The richness of the coffee becomes a great accent rather than an overwhelming brute in a thoroughly enjoyable cocktail.
The Long & The Short Of It
The Montanya Oro is a unique rum with a really interesting story. Using caramelized honey in the place of caramelized sugar is a great way to differentiate a product from the majority of rums.
My only concern with the Oro is the utter domination of the palate by the coffee notes at the midpalate and the finish. It creates a rum that’s a tad rich for my tastes when it comes to sipping, and presents some interesting challenges when you go to use it in a cocktail. Once mastered, however, the peculiarities of the flavor profile can do wonderful things in the right hands making the right cocktail.
I can’t help but think, though, that if the coffee were just a little less pronounced, this would be garnering a much higher rating.
Dood’s Rating: 2 Bottles of Rum Out of 5
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