June 2012

Liquid Treasure

Geoffrey Kleinman

Captain Morgan Original Spiced Rum is the best-selling spiced rum on the market and one of the top-selling rums in the world (source: Impact Databank). The popular spiced rum has seen line expansions in the past which includes Captain Morgan Private Stock, 100 Proof Spiced Rum, Lime Bite, Silver Spiced Rum and Tattoo Spiced Rum—but Captain Morgan Black Spiced Rum is something different.

Rather than expand the popular spiced rum within the same category, Diageo has developed a spirit designed specifically to cross category boundaries and woo drinkers of other aged spirit categories, especially whiskey. “The Captain Morgan target consumer continues to evolve and expand his interests, we recognize that Captain Morgan needs to evolve with them,” explains Tom Herbst, Director of Marketing, Rums at Diageo. “The new dark spiced rum has a bold flavor and easy finish, so we see consumers enjoying this new liquid in what previously would have most likely been whiskey occasions While it’s made for all consumers who enjoy spiced rum, there is a specific focus on those who are looking for a more masculine and authentic drink option.”

Captain Morgan Black Spiced Rum follows a series of other popular “black” releases, such as Johnnie Walker Double Black, all of which emphasize the impact of charred oak in the aging process. With Captain Morgan Black, the “black” comes both from a double charred blackened oak cask which is used as a finishing barrel and as a reference to the blend of rums, including blackstrap rum, which is used in the product.

Captain Morgan Black is proofed at 94.6, higher than Captain Morgan Original Spiced Rum, which is sold in the U.S. at 70 proof. This higher proof puts Captain Morgan Black just above many of the key top whiskies on the market, and in a space that helps position it as a spirit to be consumed beyond the traditional “Captain and Coke.” While Captain Morgan Black does mix well with cola, it really shines when mixed in cocktails. Captain Morgan Black’s spice blend, which features clove, cassia bark and vanilla, is extremely symbiotic with the herbs and spices in bitters, and so it’s an easy stand-in for whiskey in an Old Fashioned or as a key ingredient in the brand’s signature Manhattan variation called The Perfect Black.

Even though Captain Morgan Black is at a higher proof, the flavor delivery is extremely balanced. Soft vanilla leads things off with an entry that you’d never guess was high proof. The vanilla gives way to a nice symphony of spices including clove, black pepper, cassia bark, and oak, all with the slightest touch of bitter underneath. The undercurrent of bitterness helps p

Captain Morgan
Perfectly Black

  • 1 oz. Captain Morgan Black Spiced Rum
  • 1 oz. sweet vermouth
  • ½ oz. dry vermouth
  • 5 dashes bitters
  • 1 lemon twist

Combine liquid ingredients in a mixing glass with ice and stir to perfection. Strain into a cocktail glass and garnish with a lemon twist.

The Perfectly Black is a superb example of how Captain Morgan Black ventures into spaces where spiced rum hasn’t traditionally gone. This brown, bitter, stirred drink could be at home at an upscale craft cocktail bar just as it would as an after-dinner digestif at a chain restaurant.

Captain Morgan
Black and Bitters

  • 1 oz. Captain Morgan Black Spiced Rum
  • ½ oz. bitters
Combine ingredients in a cocktail shaker with ice and shake vigorously. Strain into a shot glass.

In addition to cocktails, Diageo is positioning Captain Morgan Black Spiced Rum as a Celebratory Shot. This is similar to the strategy which worked well for them on Don Julio tequila with their Luxury Drop program. The Captain Morgan Black and Bitters shows off the symbiosis between Captain Morgan Black and bitters.
ull all the flavors together and is an unexpected but welcome element that helps Captain Morgan Black really stand out in the spiced rum space. At the end of the mid-palate comes some heat to complement the spice, which then leads to a long flavorful finish. Captain Morgan Black isn’t overly sweet or spicy—it manages to maintain a perfect balance between the elements.

Diageo has gone to great lengths to position Captain Morgan Black as something different and enhance its image as an upgraded, cross-category spirit. The Captain Morgan Black bottle is distinctly different from the traditional Captain Morgan Original Spiced Rum bottle and features a wrap-around vintage-looking parchment label with hand-drawn elements and copper foil accents. The bottle also features a cork stopper instead of a screwcap, another step in providing an upgraded drinking experience to customers. Perhaps the most distinguishing characteristic of the new bottle is a unique back label which is revealed as the spiced rum is consumed. The back label tells the legend of Captain Henry Morgan’s burial and how a massive earthquake dislodged his coffin and as legend has it, set it adrift in the waters of Jamaica’s Port Royal Harbour.

Television, online and print campaigns for Captain Morgan Black Spiced Rum reinforce the darker side of the pirate mythology. “Captain Henry Morgan’s rich legacy and history are something we’ve always sought to bring to life through our offerings, but this is the first time we’re taking our inspiration from his mysterious side,” comments Herbst. The brand has partnered with FADER on the launch of the product with “Step into the Black,” an invite-only concert series across the country featuring performances from notable up-and-coming artists.

Captain Morgan Black Spiced Rum has seen some strong success right out of the gate. The rum was awarded a Double Gold medal at this year’s San Francisco World Spirits Competition, one of the highest distinctions a spirit can attain in competition.

Captain Morgan Black Spiced Rum’s unique positioning and mixability open doors for the spirit and enable The Captain to sail into uncharted waters for the brand. “Captain Morgan Black Spiced Rum is a mature and carefully crafted spirit that is meant to be savored like a fine whiskey or enjoyed in a classic cocktail. We believe this bold, interesting and unexpected new offering has the potential to make Captain Morgan the preferred spirit among a segment of consumers we don’t currently reach with our existing portfolio,” says Herbst.

Seaside Spiced Rum

At Dale’s Junior Market in Playa del Rey, The Captain is in his element. Here, a well-stocked display and surfboards bearing his name let customers know that these are the Captain’s waters, and they’ve taken a turn toward the dark side with new Captain Morgan Black.

  Brandon Hannoun.
Owner Brandon Hannoun has been watching Captain Morgan take charge of the rum category since opening his store in 2000, and he sees the newest line extension as a treasure trove for future sales as consumers explore the possibilities of spiced rum. “A lot more people are beginning to experiment with rum in general,” explains Hannoun, “and Captain Morgan is selling a lot in particular. But adding Captain Morgan Black to the mix will be really interesting, because it will allow the brand to reach a whole new audience.” Hannoun continues, “I think women in particular will be drawn to this product as a way to help them explore dark spirits. It’s a good entrance to brown spirits for them.” Aside from attracting new drinkers to the Captain, Hannoun is a fan of the product itself. He admires the uniquely-shaped bottle and says, “I love the packaging especially. It’s a really distinctive ‘back in the day’ bottle.”

With the combination of old-school charm, enticing flavors and adventuresome imbibing, Captain Morgan will continue to catapult the rum category forward, while blazing an unbeatable trail through the spiced rum seas.

Smooth Sailing for the Captain

  Jim Amen.
A mile from the beach in Torrance, CA, the Captain has sailed into the center aisle at Super A Foods Supermarket, with a well-stocked display of the Captain’s product lineup welcoming customers to explore the new depths of spiced rum. With the recent addition of Captain Morgan Black to the store’s offerings, owner Jim Amen hopes to discover new ways to satisfy his customers.

“Captain Morgan does really well here,” says Amen, gesturing to case after case of the Captain’s spirits stacked behind him, “and we try to have something for everyone.” Although classic Captain expressions continue to sail off the shelves, the brand extension into dark waters allows Amen to cast a wider net for his clientele. “The sales trends in brown spirits right now are tremendous, and Captain Morgan Black is a great way to bring new people to the product, either as brown spirits drinkers looking to expand their horizons, or as light rum drinkers who haven’t gotten in to brown spirits yet.”

And while Amen sees young, trendsetting males as a primary demographic for the brand, he’s noted that women in particular are a good fit for Captain Morgan Black: “Today’s woman is a lot more sophisticated in her spirit choice than many people think; they’re very adventurous and will love this product.”  The Captain, ever the smooth sailor, has done it again, winning hearts and palates alike in Southern California.

Calling the Captain’s Name in California

In the Los Angeles-area community of Glendale, Remedy Liquor has become a local favorite, with a well-stocked spirit selection that draws in customers across a wide demographic. When THE TASTING PANEL stopped by, owner Z. Michael Issakhanian was busy behind the register, helping a steady stream of customers stopping in for everything from a soda to an unusual armagnac.
But no matter what a customer seeks, there’s no way to miss the well-stocked Captain Morgan display, complete with a statue of the Captain himself standing proudly as if to say, “Welcome to my waters; come explore with me.”


Z. Michael Issakhanian.

“Our customers know and trust the Captain Morgan name,” explains Issakhanian, “and that brand recognition definitely spurs them to try this new Captain Morgan Black.” Issakhanian continues, saying that in addition to a “tremendous” boom in the rum category as a whole, the dark appeal of Captain Morgan Black is also right on trend: “Drinkers are turning away from clear spirits because they want more flavor in their product. A few years ago, many people wanted a spirit they could mask with mixers easily, but Captain Morgan Black is so tasty that it is so mixable in a lot of combinations that don’t just cover up the flavor.”

Although Captain Morgan Black certainly plays well in composed cocktails, Issakhanian notes that the darkly mysterious bottle holds liquid treasure all on its own: “It’s so nice neat, though,” he says. “Right off the top you get this wonderful vanilla that disappears into complex spice. It’s just great!” 

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