The Real McCoy Rum is produced in Barbados at the legendary Foursquare Distillery. We look at the brand’s inspiration of Prohibition-era smuggling and how its namesake influences the ethos behind today’s expressions, such as The Real McCoy 10-year-old Limited Edition.
What’s in a name?
The story goes that Bill McCoy was a pioneering rum runner during the Prohibition era in the States. It is said that in January 1920, he travelled to the Caribbean, filled a boat with alcohol and sailed it up to New York City where – three miles off shore, in international waters – he legally sold his wares. McCoy made a name for himself as he sold unadulterated alcohol, whereas many other runners diluted their spirits with turpentine, wood alcohol and prune juice. The supplied products were nicknamed “Booze”, “Hooch” and “Rot Gut”, whilst his merchandise was dubbed “The Real McCoy”.
The Real McCoy Rum
Emmy award-winning filmmaker, Bailey Pryor, decided to produce a documentary film about Bill McCoy – the US’s “pioneer rum runner” and “honest lawbreaker”. His research led him to Barbados where, in 2009, he met with Foursquare Distillery’s passionate Master Distiller and Master Blender, Richard Seale. A partnership was formed and in 2012, The Real McCoy Rum came into being.
Bailey wanted to create a brand that lived up to “The Real McCoy” name – a traditional, unadulterated Bajan rum. Those who know Richard, are aware of how outspoken he is on matters of quality and transparency within the rum category, vehemently working to stamp down on additives in favour of true, unadulterated expressions. This philosophy matched perfectly with the new brand’s backstory, and saw it continue the original McCoy’s apparent legacy of not adding sugars, flavours or perfumes to rums (not to mention turp or wood alcohol).
Bailey and his wife, Jennifer, are also advocates for transparency in labelling, wanting to prove their rums’ unadulterated character by including ingredients and serving facts on the labels. However in the States, the TTB (the regulatory body for the alcoholic beverage industry) would not allow them to, as there is currently no legislation to regulate this – madness if you compare this to the food industry where it is imperative to include allergens and the like. Bailey tells us that, after nine months of back-and-forth, they have recently been able to disclose these details on the US label of The Real McCoy 12-year-old Prohibition Tradition 100 Proof bottle (an expression commemorating 100 years since the start of Prohibition rum running), and hopes that this will set a precedent within the industry. Whilst this is a start, there is still a long way to go as the TTB would not allow the sugar content to divulged on the labels – which is pretty darn important when you’re looking to learn about the liquid in a bottle of rum!
The Real McCoy rums are all crafted at Foursquare Distillery using blackstrap molasses and pure spring water. It is safe to say that the core range are amongst the most traditional Bajan rums that Richard produces.
“That’s exactly what we wanted: to be ‘old school’.”
Each expression is a blend of column and pot still distillates, aged in heavy char, American oak, ex-Bourbon barrels. The core range is made up of the 3-year-old, 5-year-old, and 12-year-old, with each age statement referring to the minimum age of the rum in the bottle (classic Richard). No sugar is added but in some cases, a small bit of spirit caramel colouring (E150a) is introduced before bottling to replace colour lost when the rum is diluted to bottle strength. This does not change the taste but brings the appearance in-line with a market that sadly often categorises in terms of colour.
These multi-award-winning rums are stunning and adaptable, enjoyed neat or in premium cocktails and range in price from £33.95 for The Real McCoy 3-year-old to the incredibly reasonable £60.95 for The Real McCoy 12-year-old.
The Real McCoy 10-year-old Limited Edition
As well as the staple suite of expressions, The Real McCoy sometimes throws out an experimental, limited run bottling, such as The Real McCoy 10-year-old Limited Edition, to spice things up a bit.
This articulation boasts a higher percentage of copper pot still distillate for a richer and more pronounced flavour profile. Two batches are aged separately, with the first spending 12 years in ex-Bourbon barrels, and the second aged for 10 years in virgin American oak (with this younger rum defining the age statement). These are then carefully blended to reach the desired outcome, before being bottled at a robust 46% ABV. Here, the colour you get it entirely natural, with no caramel, sugar or flavouring added.
Only 3,000 bottles of this micro-batch have been released, making it a rare find that any Bajan rum lover would be happy to snap up.
Tasting Notes – The Real McCoy 10-year-old Limited Edition
Sweet honey, new wood, ripe banana, roasted cashews, vanilla, plum, spotted dick, sticky toffee pudding, butter, white flowers, fresh green apple, tart dried apple, and a spiciness ever tickling the nose hairs.
Char comes through on the initial with vanilla and browned butter backing it up. We’re surprised by an unexpectedly juicy palate with Ribena fruitiness (that sounds negative but it’s not), red currants, spice, toasted pecans and lots of wood imparting some bitterness. Touches of milk toffee and milk chocolate follow the dry wood notes, with a flitting sweetness trickling through the timber.
This is an unusual, bone dry and super woody expression that could readily convert a staunch whisky palate. It’s definitely very different to the core The Real McCoy range and other Foursquare Distillery releases. Well worth a go.
Neat (although something wants to make us try it in a rum twist on a Sazerac…That could be a terrible idea but we’ll give it a go and report back via social media).
£66.75. Buy it here at Master of Malt.