Gosling’s Family Reserve (40% ABV) summary

A faithful replication of one of this revered distillery’s greatest hits. The Gosling’s Family Reserve seeks to honour the 'old rum' that kept the Bermudan population buzzing after World War I. Bitter cocoa and black pepper play against bright orange and orchard fruits in this vibrant, complex classic.


What is the history of Gosling's rum?

The genesis of Gosling’s Rum lies in grapes, not sugarcane. The story starts in 1806, when wine merchant James Gosling left Kent for America with £10,000 worth of merchandise. He never made it there – calm seas slowed his progress and his charter expired, forcing him to dock in Bermuda. Besotted with the tropical landscape of the island, James stayed longer than intended.

Eventually, James' brother Ambrose joined him and in 1824, the pair set up shop in Hamilton. The store front was operated by the family for 127 years. In 1857, the firm was renamed 'Gosling Brothers' and just three years later the first oak barrels of rum distillate arrived on the island. The family set to work experimenting with blending techniques and recipes, eventually settling on a distinctive signature black rum that would go on to be the flagship Black Seal.

What is Gosling's Black Seal?

The world-famous Black Seal name didn’t come about until much later. Up until the start of World War I, the rum was sold from the barrel, and locals with empty jars would ask them to be filled with the ‘old rum’. Post-war, the rum was sold in champagne bottles reclaimed from the British officers’ mess hall, and the corks sealed with black wax – instead of asking for 'old rum', people now asked for 'black seal'.

The name stuck and a bit further down the line, a marketing whizz decided to have some fun with the Black Seal name, giving us the iconic logo of a black seal balancing a barrel of rum on its nose.

How is Gosling's rum made?

The company imports rum distillate from various Caribbean islands before maturing them separately in ex-bourbon barrels that have been re-charred to impart the signature black colour to the rum. The rums are then blended together, along with a generous helping of molasses.

How does Gosling’s Family Reserve rum taste?

The flagship Black Seal bottle is made of a blend of three- to six-year-old rums, while the Family Reserve Old Rum is made of rums matured for a longer period, and is more faithful to the original recipe. The Family Reserve is also afforded some more personal touches: champagne bottles are filled and labeled by hand before being individually numbered and shipped in a presentation box.

The nose is rich yet delicate, a soufflé of black cocoa and vanilla that's bound together in leather. The palate brings the dark cocoa to the fore, along with orange and stewed apple, before pepper and cinnamon make an appearance. A complex and satisfying sipping rum.

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This review was last updated in January 2021. If you have any questions, suggestions for future reviews or spot anything that has changed in price or availability, please get in touch at goodfoodwebsite@immediate.co.uk.