Famous Newfoundland Screech Rum
Review: Famous Newfoundland Screech Rum 86/100
a review by Chip Dykstra (Aka Arctic Wolf)
Posted on Aug 4, 2011
“…As the story goes, the commanding officer of the first detachment was taking advantage of Newfoundland hospitality for the first time and was offered a drop of rum as an after dinner drink. Seeing his host toss back the liquor with nary a quiver, the unsuspecting American adhered to local custom and downed the drink in one gulp.
The look of shock and the glorious shades of color on the American’s face were overshadowed by the bloodcurdling howl made by the poor fellow as he managed to regain his breath. Sympathetic persons from miles around rushed to the house to assist the poor man in such obvious agony and of course to satisfy their curiosity as to what was going on. Among the first to arrive was a garrulous old American sergeant who pounded on the door and demanded “What the cripes was that ungodly screech?”
The taciturn Newf who had answered the door replied simply, “The screech? Tis the rum, me son.”….”
And that is the tale told by the Newfoundland and Labrador Liquor Corporation (NLC) on The Famous Newfoundland Screech website regarding their infamous Rum. Whether the story behind the rum is literal truth, or whether it is a finely fictionalized account of a real event is irrelevant now. The story, and the rum have entered folklore, and good marketing dictates that the rum hereafter be referred to as, Newfoundland Screech.
The rum itself hails from Jamaica, the roots of its ancestry tracing back over 300 years when fishing fleets from Newfoundland, with their cargo of Northern Cod and North Atlantic Tuna, traveled south and established a tradition of trade with Jamaica for that elixir of the Caribbean, known as rum. This trade established Newfoundland as one of the major portals for the legal import (and of course a little illegal smuggling) of rum into Canada. There have always been a good variety of rum brands on the shelves of my local liquor store which began their journey westward across Canada from the easternmost Province of Newfoundland and Labrador; the most famous of these brands is certainly the Screech Rum.
In the Bottle 4/5
To the right is the bottle presentation for the Newfoundland Screech Rum. It is a typical tall barroom style bottle made to fit easily on the bar shelf. These bottles are meant to be easy to store, easy to hold, but most importantly… easy to pour. It is sealed with a metal pressed on screw cap. These screw caps have always been a source of disappointment for me, but the rum is economically priced, and because I see deep ridges on the screw cap, this leads me to believe it will not be as prone to leaking as other such caps I have encountered on other spirits.
In the Glass 8.5/10
In the glass the Screech Rum is a nice coppery-mahogany colour. A quick tilt of my glass and a slow turn reveals mid-sized legs which move slowly into the glass. This indicates a little more oiliness than I would expect from a young rum and leads me to believe there will be a little added sweetness apparent in the flavour.
When I nosed the rum, the dominant scents pushed upwards seemed to be a strong molasses, banana and orange peel. The combination is actually quite striking. As the glass decanted, I noticed more brown sugars, pungent baking spices as well as light tobacco scents. The aroma from the glass is quite nice.
In the Mouth 52.5/60
According to my correspondence with the NLC, Screech is a Jamaican Rum blend of 4 marques that are produced in the same distillery as Appleton Estate Rum. All of the marques are aged in once used white oak bourbon barrels for a minimum of 2 years and the final blend is bottled at 40 % (abv).
As you fist sip the rum you will find that it is full of molasses flavour with those typical Jamaican Rum flavours of banana and orange peel heating the palate alongside that molasses. As the rum sits in the glass, the heat subsides and you can notice charred caramel and baking spices beginning to build. The rum is moderately complex, and there are nice nuances of flavour if you look for them. I detect a light smokiness of dried fruit and tobacco, and a bit of walnut in the depths of the glass. There is also a light bitterness which is not unpleasant as this element seems to match the dried fruit and tobacco and act as a foil against the tartness of the banana peel.
I did a little mixing with cola as I sipped on the rum and I discovered that The Famous Newfoundland Screech takes to the Rum and Cola style cocktail very well.
In the Throat 12.5/15
Newfoundland Screech is not nearly so harsh as the name would imply. The finish has some of that “Jamaican” heat with the orange and banana peel warming the throat, but this heat is tempered by a molasses and dry fruit finish. If not for a hint of bitterness which appears in the exit I would have scored the finish higher.
The Afterburn 8.5/10
I had read a few reviews online about a year ago which had dissuaded me from trying the Screech sooner. This rum must have mellowed considerably since those reviews were written, as I found the Screech to be a pleasant diversion. It has just enough orange and banana peel to give the rum some heat, but it counterbalances those tart flavours with molasses and baking spices creating a well-balanced pleasant rum which is easy to mix.
If you are interested in comparing more scores, here is a link to my other published Rum Reviews.
My sample bottle of Screech was a small 200 ml bottle which left me very little left over for cocktail exploration. I did mix a little with cola during my review process and can say with certainty that the Screech will mix very easily with cola and cola style cocktails. Screech rum also seems to me to be well suited for a good Jamaican Punch. I did a bit of research for punch recipes and the earliest recipe construction I could find was in the form of a poem from the New York Times in 1908. The poem does not give ingredients rather it gives an overall suggested form or punch construction.
(from the 1908 New York Times)
This recipe I give to thee,
Dear brother in the heat.
Take two of sour (lime let it be)
To one and a half of sweet,
Of Old Jamaica pour three strong,
And add four parts of weak.
Then mix and drink. I do no wrong —
I know whereof I speak.
JAMAICAN RUM PUNCH
2 cups of Lime Juice (Take two of sour)
1 3/8 cup Pineapple Juice (and)
1/8 cup sugar syrup (To one and a half of sweet)
3 cups Famous Newfoundland Screech Rum (Of Old Jamaica pour three strong)
2 1/2 cups Ginger ale (and)
3/4 cups Orange Juice (and)
several dashes of bitters (and)
Lots of Ice-Cubes (And add four parts of weak)
Garnish the punch bowl with tropical flowers, and a variety fruit slices, pieces and chunks.
My Final Score is out of 100 and you may (loosely) interpret the score as follows:
0-25 A spirit with a rating this low would actually kill you.
26-49 Depending upon your fortitude you might actually survive this.
50 -59 You are safe to drink this…but you shouldn’t.
60-69 Substandard swill which you may offer to people you do not want to see again.
70-74 Now we have a fair mixing rum or whisky. Accept this but make sure it is mixed into a cocktail.
75-79 You may begin to serve this to friends, again probably still cocktail territory.
80-84 We begin to enjoy this spirit neat or on the rocks. (I will still primarily mix cocktails)
85-89 Excellent for sipping or for mixing!
90-94 Definitely a primary sipping spirit, in fact you may want to hoard this for yourself.
95-97.5 The Cream of the Crop
98+ I haven’t met this bottle yet…but I want to.
Very loosely we may put my scores into terms that you may be familiar with on a Gold, Silver, and Bronze medal scale as follows:
70 – 79.5 Bronze Medal (Recommended only as a mixer)
80 – 89.5 Silver Medal (Recommended for sipping and or a high quality mixer)
90 – 95 Gold Medal (Highly recommended for sipping and for sublime cocktails.)
95.5+ Platinum Award (Highest Recommendation)