Tasting Malibu Black

I'm known as the "rum girl" around these parts, so when the Houston Press got a bottle of Malibu Rum's new Malibu Black, I was the one chosen to test it.

I'll say this about flavored rums. I don't hate them. I just don't like them. But I'll sometimes keep a bottle in the house for things like flavoring my coffee or making jello shots (regular Malibu is good for mixing with clear gelatin or pineapple jello). Still, it ain't my thing.

But I was kind of curious to taste Malibu Black. The marketing materials for the bottle did little to answer the question of why the world needed yet another type of flavored rum, but did say Malibu Black, while still coconut-flavored, has a higher alcohol content and a less sweet taste than its "white" predecessor.

And they're right. It does taste less like a mouth full of suntan oil. I imagine it's the kind of thing Malibu wants to encourage people to sip alone, maybe on the rocks, as an aperitif or dessert drink. Sure enough, the Malibu Black website lists a recipe for a "Black Bite": a shot of Malibu Black served with a lime dipped in cinnamon sugar, not unlike the Mexican Itch.

But here's my problem with any flavored rums...

I just can't think of a single cocktail I'd like to make or drink with them. Some of the recipes on the Malibu Black website sound good, like the Early of Paradise and Pineapple punches, or the Lick of Sunshine, but pair all that juice with an artificially sweetened rum and you've got a recipe for sugar-shock. Some of them might benefit from the less-cloying Malibu Black, but most of them would probably be best with plain old unflavored rum instead.

Earlier this summer, I was sitting in a room at the Mai Kai (a.k.a. heaven on earth, a place I've written about before) with four of the most prestigious men in the world of rum: Godfather of the tiki revival Jeff Beachbum Berry, writer Wayne Curtis, rum ambassador Ian Burrell and Steve Remsberg, a NOLA resident who owns the largest and rarest private collection of rum in the world.

As the four of them were talking about the lack of respect for rum in the United States, one of them offered an observation.

"I know how to raise the profile of rum. You know what you never see? You never see coconut Dewers. You never see flavored Glenlivet."

They were right. If I want a "black label-style" rum to sip on with a wedge of lime, it'll be an aged demerara, not a candy-flavored concoction.

Malibu drinkers out there -- how do you mix your rum?

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