Brand: Denizen

Origin: Worthy Park, Lluidas Vale, Saint Catherine Parish, Jamaica; Hampden Estate, Wakefield, Trelawny Parish, Jamaica; Clarendon Distillers Ltd., Lionel Town, Clarendon, Jamaica; New Yarmouth, Clarendon Parish, Jamaica; Le Galion, La Trinité, Martinique

Still: Pot & Column Blend

Age: 8 years

Finish: ex-Bourbon*

ABV: 43%

Denizen is a private label brand that was created out of a desire to craft rums that compliment classic cocktails, while also mimicking ingredients that may have been used in the hayday of such dinks. Merchant's Reserve attempts to recreate, as closely as possible, the blend of rums that Trader Vic would have employed in the creation of the original Mai Tai.

A short description on the Merchant Reserve label reads "Blend of Plummer style Jamaican rum and Rhum Grande Arôme de la Martinique". Let's do a little sleuthing to try and uncover the components of this blend!

While Martinique is well-known for its rhum agricole ("agricultural rum", made from sugarcane juice), it still produces molasses-based rhum traditionnel ("traditional rum", made from molasses). Rhum Grande Arôme is a type of rhum traditionnel that has it's own specification, called the Galion Bay PGI (Protected Geographical Indication); only one distillery on Martinique produces this particular rhum: Le Galion. We can safely say that their rum makes up the 20% Martinique component.

As for the "Plummer style Jamaican rum", it's less specific and an outdated method of identifying rums. In modern times, enthusiasts and brands are more likely to identify a Jamaican rum by a distillery-exclusive marque if possible; "Plummer" is a style, and is not limited to production by a specific producer. Luckily, Matt Pietrek has a breakdown of the blend components; the Jamaican portion is as follows:

80% of Denizen Merchant’s Reserve is comprised of rum from Jamaica, sourced from four distilleries:

  • Worthy Park
  • Hampden
  • Clarendon
  • New Yarmouth

[…]Of the Jamaican rum in the Merchant’s Reserve, 60% is aged for eight years in used American oak barrels. Another 20% is aged for four years and the remaining 20% is fresh, un-aged distillate. All of the aging is done in Jamaica.

Although the label says this is aged 8 years, it's clear from this section alone that the blend contains unaged elements, which makes me wonder why the age statement is allowed.

Citizen Spirits, who created the Denizen brand, works with E&A Scheer to source the rums required for this blend, and presumably uses their facilities in the Netherlands to bottle the rum at 43% ABV.


Amber, high clarity, low viscosity


Molasses, stewed cherries, ripe banana, grilled pineapple, wood glue


Pineapple, vanilla, molasses, lavender, oranges, black cherry, oak


Medium-long, warming, oaky; vanilla, bourbon-soaked oak, cardemom, orange peel

Rating: 7/10


While Merchant's Reserve is meant for mixing, this is a decent sipper on its own. The blend of Jamaican rums is most present for me, although I have not had a chance to try grand arôme enough to pick out it's individual notes. This is complex and offers a nice bump from 80 proof, which is beneficial to the flavor profile.

Denizen Merchant's Reserve is amber in my glass, with high clarity and low viscosity.

Molasses and stewed cherries leads the nose, followed by ripe banana. Tangy grilled pineapple leads into chemically pungeant wood glue to round out a bright but slightly thin bouquet. Given that this is primarily used to make cocktails, this isn't detrimental to the overall quality.

The palate is fruity yet savory, with pineapple, oranges, and black cherry bringing some citrus and dark fruit notes, while vanilla and molasses tangle with tannic oak. An interesting note of lavender appears as well, bringing a floral quality to this rum. This is a complex, medium-bodied palate, and suits many cocktails.

The medium-long finish is warming and oaky, featuring vanilla, bourbon oak, cardemom, and fruity orange peel.

Merchant's Reserve is a delicious rum on its own, even if it was made with cocktails in mind. I wish this was available near me, as it is indeed great in Mai Tais, and adds depth and character to other drinks it is used to create.

Recommended Cocktails

  • Mai Tai (Vic "Trader Vic" Bergeron, 1944)

Further Reading

*When the type cask used for aging is not specified, we make an educated guess that it is an ex-Bourbon cask as most aged rums utilize this barrel type.