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Late-breaking telexes from the craft spirit front by Wayne Curtis, author of And a Bottle of Rum: A History of the New World in 10 Cocktails, columnist for Imbibe, and designated drinker for The Atlantic magazine.

  • And a Bottle of Rum: A History of the New World in Ten Cocktails
    And a Bottle of Rum: A History of the New World in Ten Cocktails
    by Wayne Curtis

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An early look at Banks Five Island Rum

Banks Five Island Rum will be rolling into bars and liquor stores over the next couple of months. It’s named after noted explorer Sir Joseph Banks, and is the product of John Pellaton (former president of Hine Cognac USA) and his partners. It’s not a rich amber rum, like you might expect, but an intriguing, intense white rum bottled at 43 percent ABV, with a suggested retail price of $25 to $28. He’s planning to roll it out nationally over the next year.

I sampled a dram with Pellaton when he was in New Orleans with his family engaging in some holiday cheer. We met at Bar Uncommon, presided over by the inimitable Chris McMillian. On first sniff, I was pretty sure that it was an agricole rum — the aroma was pleasingly vegetal and grassy. But Pellaton shook his head and smiled a little. It’s not from fresh sugar cane, he said. This flummoxed me.

I let the silence hang, and eventually he started confessing, saying it was actually a blend of rums from five distilleries, each aged between three and twelve years then filtered. The rums are from Trinidad, Jamaica, Barbados, Guyana (well, four islands plus one, I guess) and a “secret island.” More silence, more inscrutable nodding.

Eventually, it came out — the fifth island was Java — the largest Indonesian island, and a place where Banks the explorer spent some time. The rum blend actually contains Batavia arrack, which at last explained some of that pleasing funk I was picking up.

Banks is a lovely rum, fairly dry and with a big mid-palate taste, although the exceedingly long finish was complicated for me — it was gingery and peppery, which was nice, but also a little bitter and puckery. I’ll give Banks the benefit of the doubt, though: I’d just had a Campari cocktail before sampling, so that may have led me astray. I look forward to trying Banks again with a fresh palate.  

McMillian made us a daiquiri with it — quite nice. It had the robustness of a daiquiri made with an aged rum, but with that lovely alabaster luminescence of a white rum daiquiri. (I don’t like my daiquiris to look like the Mississippi River.) I'm guessing with its extremely full body, this will make a nice addition to tiki drinks and other exotics. It’s not be “arracky” enough to substitute for the fuller Haus Alpenz Batavia Arrack, but I’d like to try them side by side.

Banks, in fact, might be edging into a new category of rum. I’m not sure what to call it, but it’s not a navy rum like Goslings (another blend), nothing like a Demerara rum, and didn’t even compare with a medium-bodied rum like Mount Gay. Banks grazes alone in its own pasture, and seems perfectly happy being there.

Banks Five Island Rum will be appearing in selected markets starting in February. For more information, check Banks Five Island Rum.

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Reader Comments (3)

Sounds like a great rum. I just sampled a new rum from the makers of Root - Crusoe Rum the other night, which is also a blend of different styles of rum.

I'm really excited about the new wave of rums that are taking the best elements of the different, more established styles and giving us spirits that are versatile and unique. It's a great time to be a rum lover.

January 14, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMatt Robold

True. It's nice seeing entrepreneurs doing what Trader Vic and Don the Beachcomber did years ago -- figuring out how different rums work best together.

January 15, 2010 | Registered CommenterWayne Curtis

I need some of this pronto!

August 17, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterKahuna Kevin

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