Tommy Bahama is a brand that seems to permeate the island/beach lifestyle. Overpriced silk shirts, cargo shorts and even sunglasses and watches combine with expensive straw hats and decor to allow people to look snazzy on their yachts or on their cruise ships. It’s sort of the Nike of islandwear.
When I first discovered they had their own rum, I’ll admit that I was less than interested. A white rum in an incredibly heavy and expensive bottle made by a company that’s well-known for its high prices and its faux island lifestyle didn’t really appeal to me. There are already plenty of rums that are well-known for their low prices and faux island lifestyle. I didn’t need a pricey, fake rum like Tommy Bahama.
It turns out I didn’t know what I was missing.
What I didn’t know was that Tommy Bahama Rum was anything but fake rum.Tommy Bahama White Sands rum is actually made at Foursquare Distillery in Barbados by none-other than Richard Seale. Indeed the same man responsible for R.L. Seale, Foursquare Spiced Rum, and John D. Taylor Velvet Falernum – all fantastic, quality products – designed and crafted the rums for Tommy Bahama.
White Sands is a molasses-based rum that is aged for two years in used bourbon casks before being filtered (to remove color) and then bottled at 80 proof (40% abv). It’s a product that, as I eventually discovered, Richard Seale is very proud of and equally passionate about.
The rum lives up to its White Sands name by being a crystal clear rum. There are no traces of greens or browns from time in the barrel whatsoever. Swirled in the glass, the rum forms thick, heavy legs that last for a good long while.
My first whiff of the rum revealed immediate notes of sugar and vanilla. The aroma itself seems to have a rich quality to it that follows an initial crispness.
Coconut and a floral scent that I couldn’t quite place follow the expected sugar and vanilla smells very nicely before just a hint of the alcohol makes itself known. The rum smells clean, crisp, and ready to mix.
The initial entry is sugary-sweet with a hint of the coconut that was evident on the nose. There’s a sugary crispness on the entry that gives way to a light yet buttery midpalate with a very nice vanilla flavor on the tongue.
I found the finish of the rum particularly interesting. White Sands has an almost sour and salty finish to it that leaves your mouth feeling very clean after each sip rather than leaving you smacking your lips feeling like you have a mouth full of butter. It’s a very interesting transition that I found strangely appealing in a sort of “Wow, that’s unexpected and interesting! I would like to subscribe to your newsletter!” kind of way.
I was very pleasantly surprised by how clean and comfortable this rum was. There was no burning harshness of cheap alcohol or flavorless white-washing of the spirit to make it little more than molasses-based vodka. This is rum, and one that I could probably sip neat with no qualms whatsoever – but its real strength comes with mixing.
Let’s see…a clean, flavorful white rum without harsh edges or domineering flavors. I’m at a loss as to what classic rum cocktails this wouldn’t work in.
Tommy Bahama White Sands has become a regular star in a variety of drinks in my kitchen. My first bottle was eliminated in 3 days of Daiquiris, Mojitos, Papa Dobles (aka Hemingway Daiquiris), and Bacardi Cocktails Santiago Roses. It works beautifully with lime and sugar – just like rum should – and shines equally well in a Cuba Libre or a punch.
If you’re going to get started with a good rum though, you just can’t go wrong with a Daiquiri.
2 oz Rum
.75 oz Lime Juice
.25 oz Simple Syrup
Shake with ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass.
The Long & The Short of It
Tommy Bahama White Sands is not a cheap knock-off of rum being shoved into an expensive bottle and sold for a ton of money in the hopes that you’ll buy it to fit the lifestyle you’re being sold. It’s a high quality white rum that, if anything, suffers from an image problem with the connoisseur crowd because of its association with its own brand.
Tommy Bahama likes to call this a “super premium” white rum. That’s a marketing gimmick that goes back to the reasons behind the low expectations and initially inflated prices. Don’t be fooled, this is a great rum – and recently it’s become a great and affordable rum here in the US.
When I first tried Tommy Bahama White Sands it was selling in the US for $30 or more. I remarked to more than one person that there was nothing wrong with the rum but the price. Recently that price has come down to the point that a 750mL bottle can be had for LESS THAN $20. At that price it would be a sin not to get a fantastic rum that gives you good reason to slaughter whole lime groves in your neverending thirst for daiquiris and their close cousins.
Dood’s Rating: 3 Bottles of Rum Out of 5
Question of the Day:
What rums have pleasantly surprised you?
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