What to Drink This Week: The Kraken Rum
I had a big long story written about how I discovered the value of rum from a woman I dated once, long before Tina, when she told me that me she was “still technically married” and I needed an effective way to obliterate the rest of the evening.
But on reflection, that would do an injustice to what I’d like to talk about today — even though it would be highly effective at eradicating the instant of any emotional trauma, and potentially one or two adjacent days besides — because I haven’t been this excited about a bottle of alcohol since Ron de Jeremy, and that’s saying something.
More specifically, the something I am saying is that The Kraken Rum is completely amazing, and I love every part of it. I know that’s a big statement from a person who once adopted the persona of an entire region of Italy to bag on a crappy pre-made cocktail, but that’s how you know I speak in earnest. I am fully on the record as a person who will back any product that is totally honest about what it is, but can still find a fun or interesting way to get me interested in it, and The Kraken manages to do that over and over again.
A part of the portfolio of Proximo Spirits, The Kraken is a very strong dark rum produced in Trinidad & Tobago. It’s anchored in the concept of Late Victorian crypto-zoology, and takes every opportunity to play off of the idea that contained in every bottle is a black, terrifying and compelling beast. I mean, look at their press kits! These are people who are fully committed to having a good time with their product.
But before I compose a sonnet in tribute to its virtues, let me instead confine myself to my traditional oddly-numbered reasons why you — and anyone who would like to reward fun, creative distillers — ought to give it a try.
1. The Packaging
I am keeping this bottle, oh yes, and I’m certain that’s part of why KRAKEN is embossed right into the side of it, along with the timely authenticity of it all. The profile is very much the traditional carboy, with the glass rings on either side of the neck that evoke the Victorian era even to those of us who are not altogether sure what Victorian looks like.
On top of that is the label, with its engravings of a bulls-eyed monstrous squid blithely crushing a ship, tucked happily behind a who’s-who of period-appropriate fonts. It all might have sprung from the pages of an edition of the Boy’s Own Paper, or at the very least been source material for a particularly great strip at Wondermark.
It’s eye-catching and well done, more than enough to pull you into the angle that they’re going for.
2. Their website
I have said in the past that distillers are surprisingly half-assed about their online presence, as though it is a nuisance that distracts them from creating TV commercials where they can’t show anyone actually consuming their product. I’m always perplexed by that, and thus disproportionately thrilled when someone takes their website seriously.
The Kraken does so, and then some.
Like everyone who sells food or drink on the internet, the Kraken site is entirely Flash-based — but in this case, they can be forgiven because they take full advantage of it. There are documentary films, there are commercials, there’s a flip-book documenting survival techniques and giant squid anatomy, and there’s even an iPhone game.
Was it strictly necessary for them to have put together a brief animated short on just how many elephants a Kraken can crush in its tentacles? Could they have gotten away with a few recipes, instead of a horror movie soundtrack and a survival guide whose best advice is “toss other passengers at the Kraken”? No and yes, respectively, but they did anyway. Best of all, they’re all really well-done, which has the double benefit of being entertaining and conveying that these are people who really, really got behind their concept.
3. The rum
Oh, it’s good. It’s actually sipping rum, if you can believe it; if you can’t, it’s possible that you’ve never had rum better than what issues forth from a Bacardi bottle, desperate for Coke to drown out its eye-watering savagery.
This is significantly different. Kraken really does pour out dark like coffee, clinging a little to the side of the glass as a sure sign of its sweetness. A major selling point is that the liquor weighs in at 47% alcohol (or 94 proof), which is considerably more hefty than any of the competitors on the shelf. And yet despite that, the rum is tasty, full and — most importantly — smooth in its finish. Tina and I both picked up notes of fruitiness and Christmas spices, underneath a strong and pleasant flavor of burnt sugar.
That said, Kraken still mixes perfectly well in the usual ways you’d take care of rum — with cola or ginger beer, or particularly nicely in a mojito. But with the help of an ice cube or a splash of water, it can be just as easily enjoyed all by itself, taken slowly as you might a nice Scotch.
There are lots of cute little ideas out there, nicely-designed labels stuck on all manner of fluids that are meant to help them stand out… and I should know, because I am drawn to them like a mosquito to an armpit. But there are precious few who really throw themselves into the idea that they’re trying to sell, having so much fun with it that you feel compelled to join in — and fewer still who do so with a product that is genuinely good.
The Kraken Rum manages to be all of that, and at a price that’s right in line with everyone else on the shelf. For a drink that’s tasty, surprisingly smooth and darned strong, that’s compelling; for one that adds in a bit of fun that makes you want to tell everyone you know about it, it’s a fabulous deal.