I love it when the doorbell rings and there’s a booze related package waiting to be signed for. I especially love it when it’s a new product that I haven’t tasted before and know almost nothing about. There’s something wonderful about the anticipation of seeing a bottle for the first time and wonder if it will be a new favourite or simply a bottle that will be pushed to the back of the b&t drinks cabinet to gather dust.
So when a bottle of the new spiced product from Bacardi, ‘Oakheart’ arrived on my doorstep I was eager to see where it would fit in the b&t drinking room. And now that I’ve tried it?… I’m still not sure!
The first impression was good, premium packaging, a unique bottle design and a label that balances nicely between appealing to men and women. Even the name has broad appeal which means you won’t be cringing at the bar when it’s your round and someone wants an Oakheart and coke.
I should probably mention what Bacardi Oakheart actually is. It’s labelled as being a ‘smooth and spiced spirit drink’ however if you read the small print underneath, it states that the drink is made ‘of premium rum with flavours and spices’; so in other words it’s spiced rum! Bacardi aren’t allowed to label it spiced rum as it’s bottled at 35% abv, and by law it needs to be over 37.5% to be classified as a rum in the EU (or 40% for the US). So forgive me if I call this what it really is: rum that has been spiced and bottled at a low enough abv to make it smooth and easy to drink.
Now, about the liquid itself: Bacardi Oakheart is sweet on the nose with a strong vanilla essence, followed by a gentle smokiness that hints at charred wood and burnt caramel. The one thing that’s conspicuous by its absence is the aroma of alcohol, which, in a stronger rum would cut through the sweeter aromas. That being said, it’s an inviting aroma that makes you want to have a sip, but the initial impression made me think that Oakheart is really aimed at those who have a slightly sweet tooth. To be honest that doesn’t describe my tastes, so on aroma alone I was beginning to feel sceptical about the liquid.
When it comes to flavour Oakheart pretty much delivers a combination of what it promises on the label: smooth spiciness with a hint of smoke. It also lives up to expectations from the nose: sweet vanilla fudge with a hint of charred wood. The flavours and aromas are pleasant but for my taste it is actually too smooth and a bit on the sweet side with a long lingering vanilla finish. The thing about spiced rum is that it’s usually mixed with coke, so I tried it that way and found that the vanilla and smoke finish carried through nicely, but for me Oakheart continued to be just too sweet. Personally I’d like a slightly higher abv and less sugar, but then thinking about it, the product probably wasn’t created with me in mind as its target audience.
Even having decided that Oakheart wasn’t for me, I still haven’t been able to consign it to the depths of the drinks cabinet; I’ve found myself going back to the bottle wanting to find a better use for it. Then it finally clicked that although I might not want to sip it over ice or mix it with coke (and there are plenty of people who will like it that way) it offers an interesting way of introducing sweetness and vanilla into rum based cocktails while reinforcing the rum flavours, rather than overpowering them. It’s a product that just keeps calling out to me and, as such the bottle is still sat within easy reach… at least for the time being!
So here’s a couple of uses we’ve found for Oakheart has found at b&t HQ having played around with it over the last few of days; and while it may not be my favourite product of all time, I have a feeling it will see occasional use over the coming months.
The vanilla finish on Bacardi Oakheart was crying out to be thrown into an espresso cocktail so that’s where we started. It made for a great lingering finish mingling coffee and vanilla and this could quickly become a favourite pick me up cocktail of mine!
25ml Bacardi Superior
25ml Bacardi Oakheart
25ml fresh espresso
20ml Tia Maria
Shake all ingredients hard with plenty of cubed ice and fine strain into a chilled cocktail glass. We left this one ungarnished but if you want to you can float 3 coffee beans on the foam on top of the drink.
Next up was a twist on a rum sour to see how the rich creamy vanilla would work with a lighter and fresher style of drink. If I do say so myself it worked a treat and the addition of just a scant barspoon of pimento dram made a positively tropical feeling sour.
SWEET YET SOUR
50ml Bacardi Oakheart
20ml lime juice
20ml pink grapefruit juice
barspoon pimento dram
Shake all ingredients with cubed ice and strain into an ice filled rocks glass before garnishing with a grapefruit twist and a cherry. If this doesn’t make you think of sun drenched tropical beaches, then nothing will!
Last up I wanted to see what it would do in a sweet manhattan style of drink and in the end decided to combine bourbon and Oakheart which seemed to work very well. Vanilla and smoke are a natural match for American whiskey so it’s no surprise that it all came together in the end.
1000 MILES FROM MANHATTAN
25ml Bacardi Oakheart
20ml sweet vermouth
2 dashes angostura bitters
Stir all ingredients with plenty of ice and strain into a chilled coupe before garnishing with a cherry.
I have no doubt that Oakheart will be a hugely successful product when it launches in the UK at the end of this week and, as with most ‘spiced rums’, it will be consumed in large quantities and mixed with coke by those looking for a smooth easy drink.
But, if you have a bit of a sweet tooth, or want to try it as a cocktail ingredient I can recommend giving it a go, as it does offer an interesting way of adding a lingering vanilla finish to a drink. It’s a well made product that is interesting enough to deserve a chance to feature in more than just an ‘Oakheart and coke’!