WineInk: Sipping and talking trademarks with Goslings Rum’s Malcolm Gosling Jr.
If you wish to taste a little Goslings Black Seal Rum with a crowd this spring, there are a couple of appealing – and official – options at iconic American destinations.
First, to end the ski season, Goslings will be hosting the Snowmass Ski Area’s closing party at Elk Camp Restaurant on Saturday, April 20 and the following day hosting Aspen Mountain’s closing party at the Sundeck. Goodbye Winter.
And if you are headed to Boston, home of the world champion Boston Red Sox, Goslings Rum is the official rum of the Boston Red Sox and is poured throughout Fenway Park. Who knew?
Bermuda. Boston. Aspen. A solid mix.
UNDER THE INFLUENCE
Goslings Papa Seal Single Barrel Bermuda Rum
So I have yet to taste, and perhaps never will get a chance to taste, this extremely limited edition super premium bottling. But I sure would like to.
Released this past fall, the Papa Seal was made using both pot stills and column stills, and then placed in hand-selected bourbon barrels where it sat for a decade and a half, maturing in the humid and salty climes of Bermuda. Malcolm Jr. assured me that this rum – named for his father Malcolm Sr., who is affectionately known as “Papa Seal” – is the finest example of a smooth, sipping rum.
So why might I not have a sip? Just 12 barrels were produced and 11 of those barrels were provided to distributors and liquor store proprietors, like Wally’s Wines and Spirits in Los Angeles. None made it to the Rockies.
At least as far as I know.
It has been noted in this column that neither man nor woman lives by wine alone. Although I can assure you that this author has, in the past, endeavored to prove the opposite.
But my point has always been that while there is much time in life for wine, there also is a place for craft beer, Scotch whisky and the occasional cocktail. For me, this is the time of year when thoughts turn to summer sunsets and clear, sparkling seas. And my cocktail of choice is, with more frequency than I like to admit, the Dark ‘n Stormy, a simple rum and ginger beer concoction that can take one to the islands rather quickly. At least metaphorically.
So it was that on a recent evening I was pleased to attend a dinner which included pairings of foods from southern latitudes with the rum from the Atlantic. The rum just happened to be that made, since 1806, in Bermuda by the Gosling family.
This was special for two reasons.
First, in attendance at the dinner on a chilly Rocky Mountain evening in the newly minted Limelight Hotel in Snowmass Village was none other than Malcolm Gosling Jr., the eighth generation of his family to be in the business of plying rum from the Caribbean to those who love the heated spirit. Malcolm Jr. is a hale and hearty fellow who rocks the pink shorts and high socks of his native Bermuda well. And having the opportunity to sip drinks with him was a bit like meeting rum royalty. Kind of like meeting a Mondavi with a longer legacy, if that makes any sense.
Second, the Goslings Black Seal Bermuda Black Rum is listed in the official trademark on the aforementioned Dark ‘n Stormy cocktail. That is to say that, to comply with U.S. trademark law, anyone who makes the drink must do so in the proper way, by simply mixing black rum with ginger beer and adding a garnish of lime. Here’s the rub: you must use only Goslings Black Seal Rum to do so.
Think about that for a second. In all the gin joints in all the world, or, for that matter in all the rum bars on any island beach, if you walk in sporting your flip flops and order a Dark ‘n Stormy and the bartender reaches for a bottle of Bacardi or Sailor Jerry or Flor de Caña, or — God forbid — Malibu, that bartender is in violation of trademark law. Yes, as far back as the 1970s, the Gosling family, which has privately owned Goslings since its inception to this day, has filed trademarks on the Dark ’n Stormy, which is, to repeat, the only rum that can be officially used in a drink called a Dark ‘n Stormy.
And the Gosling family is dead serious about this. In 2015, for example, they filed a trademark infringement suit against Pernod Ricard USA, a formidable player in the liquor industry. The suit accused Pernod of confusing consumers by marketing its Malibu Island Spiced Rum in connection with a promotion for a “Dark N’ Stormy” cocktail. Note that the apostrophe in the Pernod promotion is to the right of the “N,” while in the trademarked Goslings version sits to the left. You noticed that, right?
The suit was settled, but you get the point.
Now the Dark ‘n Stormy is not the only cocktail to enjoy trademark status. Pusser’s Rum holds a trademark on the Painkiller and New Orleans’ official cocktail, the Sazerac, has been trademarked by the Sazerac Company. But it is highly unusual for a brand to expend the resources to protect a trademark to the extent that the boys from Bermuda do.
Aside from legalities, the dinner with Malcolm Gosling Jr. was a rum revelation and he relayed a story that had wine ramifications as well. Back in the day — the early 1900s — the Gosling family had a shop in Hamilton, Bermuda. Customers would to come to the historic store on Front Street to get their rum poured from enormous oak casks. Looking for an alternative, they happened upon a stash of Champagne bottles that had been used in the British officer’s mess. They took the distinctive bottles, filled them with rum and sealed them with black wax.
This not only provided a unique look, but the black wax seal also ultimately provided the moniker used today for — you guessed it — the Goslings Black Seal Bermuda Black Rum that is the heart and soul of the Dark ‘n Stormy. The Goslings also produce a premium Champagne-bottled Goslings Family Reserve Old Rum that receives extra aging in bourbon barrels and is the company’s “sipping rum.”
Trademarks? Champagne? And here I thought I was just going to have a tropical cocktail.