The Kraken Black Spiced rum is a 94-proof alcoholic wallop that packs a significantly higher proof than other spiced rums. Expect high-octane flavors of dark chocolate, burnt caramel and cinnamon.
Classification: spiced rum
Company: Proximo Spirits
Distillery: Unconfirmed: Many sources say Trinidad & Tobago at the TDL distillery, while others say the Virgin Islands.
Cask type: oak casks, most likely ex-bourbon
Still type: pot still
Released: 2010; ongoing
Aged: 1-2 years
- At 47% ABV, it has a significantly higher proof than other spiced rums, which makes it a bolder and more effective mixer in cocktails.
- The Kraken’s distinctive jug-style bottle and black-and-white label featuring the sea monster of the same name make it extremely recognizable on the shelf.
- The high proof may put off spiced-rum fans who enjoy the category for its sweet easy-to-drink expressions, while the added colors and flavorings could alienate fans of unadulterated (though higher-octane) rums.
Color: The dark-brown cola color, with a ruby hue virtually opaque both in the bottle and the glass, is due to a healthy amount of caramel coloring added after distillation and done to represent the black ink spewed by the mythical Kraken sea monster.
Nose: It’s a dead ringer for a spiked root beer or perhaps a cherry cola. Once you get past the alcohol, it’s sweet vanilla with hints of dark fruit all the way.
Palate: It’s drier than the nose lets on, probably owing to the fact that it’s 47% alcohol. Lots of dark chocolate, burnt caramel and cinnamon are upfront, with vanilla, brown sugar and a bit of bitter coffee in the background. The mouthfeel is very thick, almost syrupy.
Finish: It has an odd, very long finish reminiscent of charred wood. Given that the rum is only aged one to two years before bottling, it’s likely that the finish comes from something besides the barrel in which it was aged.
Before The Kraken was launched—er, released—in 2010, spiced rum was a more genteel affair, with the rum at lower proof and the most notable “spice” being vanilla. The Kraken brought a swagger to the world of spiced rum with its high alcohol content, darker color and tongue-in-cheek allusions to the mythical sea monster (along with the inevitable pirate associations). The result is one of the world’s most popular and ubiquitous spiced rums.
For a lot of folks, The Kraken is everything that’s cool about rum, from its name and bottle to its dark and opaque color and high proof—unusually high for a spiced rum. For rum purists, The Kraken is everything that’s bad about the category, from its marketing campaign to all the added color and flavor that totally distorts the base spirit. But comparing The Kraken to, say, a Jamaican pot-still rum is like comparing listening to Spotify to playing a vinyl record: It’s kind of the same thing but not really.
When taken on its own merits, The Kraken still comes up a little short. All that alcohol seems to throw things off-balance. If there are spices here besides cinnamon, they’re tough to taste, and the dominant flavor is burnt caramel or charred wood. On the rocks or mixed into a Rum & Coke, it still tastes somewhat “off.” It’s not bad if the objective is to get drunk quickly, but if the goal is to have an enjoyable drink, other darkly colored rums such as Gosling’s Black Seal or Cruzan black strap, are preferable. As far as spiced rums are concerned, The Kraken’s own 70-proof bottling is a viable alternative along with other options like Sailor Jerry.
The Kraken has entered into a partnership with the NHL’s newest hockey team, the Seattle Kraken. Its website has an entertaining backstory concerning the terrifying giant squid and the lone barrel of ink-stained rum that survived a horrific attack. It’s not true, of course, but it’s fun to read while sipping the rum.
The bottom line: The Kraken has a great bottle, the liquid looks cool and mysterious, and it adds a potent alcoholic punch to a cocktail. Alas, it doesn’t have much else going for it.