Bottom Line at the Top: YOLO Silver rum is decent but the influence of oak makes the gold rum fabulous. In a world where rum currently represents some of the best value on the market, Yolo Gold represents that kind of "quest bottle" that causes us to specifically seek it out and purchase. Sparkling in cocktails, it's highest and best use is simply sitting unadorned in a glass or—if you must—a single ice cube. We particularly recommend for those who like milder bourbons or Canadian whisky... to them, Yolo Gold might be a revelation.
Panamanian rums from the rum master Don Pancho Fernandez priced at $25 is something that should make one sit up and take notice. That Y.O.L.O. phrase "You Only Live Once" takes on a new meaning when one can get aged rums at this price and quality… in that scenario, one can live many lifetimes worth of revelry in the span of a single lifespan!
There’s a flush of pride that comes with certain styles of marketing. Normally we don’t comment much about the presentation, accoutrement, and other hoopla around a given label. But in the case of Yolo, every step exhibited a kind of understated pride. From the treasure chest presentation of the rum, to the heft and weight of the classic rounded bottles, to the tight-fitting cork on the bottle… the entire presentation displays a confidence of quality that’s reassuring to the customer and whets the anticipation. Simply beholding it: we want to like the product.
A couple of notes about the production: there are no additives in this rum (many are sweetened) and the base comes from sugar cane rather than molasses. This is a style of rum familiar to people who like French rhum agricole or Brazilian cacha&ccdeil;a. In our experience, this would lead one to expect an earthier, “greener” flavor of spirit rather than the heavier, darker, molasses-based rums that are familiar to the American palate.
Presented with both the Silver (aged and filtered to remove color) and the Gold (aged for 10 years and presenting in a burnished mahogany brown), we wanted to test both against known standards. As ever, one cannot consider silver rums without taking into account the essential Bacardi Light and then for aged the Bacardi 8. These are sipping rums at the price point of mixing rums and we’ll taste them in both settings. As ever: can we declare Yolo products worth the risk when faced with a known product of quality you already hold in your hand?
Yolo Silver vs Bacardi Light Neat and On Ice
Bacardi Light has, in our opinion, always been a high-quality product for the price: the epitome of a benchmark. The taste is clearly molasses-driven but here provides a nice bass note to the lighter spirit and finishes clean and wonderful. It gives the extra oomph with that bass note that vodka lacks and provides color to an otherwise black-and-white canvas.
The Yolo Silver is much different. The aroma lacks the molasses and instead has a much lighter, sweeter feel. But the taste is almost more vodka-like. It’s clean but a touch too clean for rum, where a little earthiness is wanted. All of the jungle green we associate with cachaça is missing. The finish is just a touch bitter.
Judgment for Drinking Straight: to us, taking rum neat or on ice requires a depth of expression and it feels to us like there's a gap between the Yolo and Bacardi and we would err on the Bacardi side. We equally imagine that there is audience who prefer a cleaner-finishing, silky feel he would prefer the Yolo.
Yolo Gold vs Bacardi 8 Neat and One Ice
The Bacardi 8 is well-executed and an example of the extraordinary value available to the consumer in aged rums. Aged for a significant time, the Bacardi 8 presents syrupy, thick, luscious, and with no needle or burn despite the 80 proof. It’s sweet but one expects that from rum—at least to a certain extent—and those expectations are fulfilled.
The Yolo Gold, on the other hand, was a gorgeous blend of whiskey and rum expectations meeting halfway. The Yolo gold is delicate and mild on the palate—avoiding all the molasses-driven sweetness—and slides down the palate with the ease of a feather wafting down on marshmallow pillows. The finish is a lingering, oak-driven finale of vanilla and caramel that, while not as intense as bourbon or scotch, would still please most whiskey aficionados. For the price point and the quality, the Yolo Gold is a triumph of a sipping rum that can easily over-match anything else in or near its category.
Judgment for Drinking Straight: no question whatsoever that the age suits the Yolo brilliantly. This has to be one of the best sipping rums on the market if one agrees to drink on the lighter side of rums (it would not fare well against heavier, more stolid 15yr and 20yr+ rums). The oak and the sugar cane distillate mix as elegantly and precisely as a yin and a yang.
Yolo Silver vs Bacardi Light in a Caipirinha
Since we’re working with a sugar-cane base rum it made sense to try out the Brazilian national drink: the Caiprinha. We used 1 ounce of agave syrup, 2 ounces of rum, and one-half of a lime cut in wedges. We also added some fresh raspberry for flair. We muddled the fruit and sugar, added the rum, shook on ice, and poured in a glass topped with club soda: classic all the way.
The Bacardi made a predictably decent Caipriniha, though Brazilians would lynch us if they knew we were using Puerto Rican rum instead of cachaça in their cocktail. It goes down quickly, easily, with just enough bite to let one know: "Yes, you are indeed drinking an adult beverage!"
The Yolo Silver was, well... the same. It definitely wasn’t worse than the Bacardi but it wasn’t necessarily better. In our experience with genuine cachaça, the difference is extraordinary. Here, it was next to undetectable. This means it still made a very nice drink but one where a person is indifferent regarding which rum is used.
Judgment for Silver Rum in the Caiprinha: a draw. A good tie; a happy tie; a tie that makes us want more… but a tie nonetheless.
Yolo Gold vs Bacardi 8 in a Caipirinha
Putting aged rum in this cocktail is slightly against tradition but we’ve had great success with the oak adding a depth to the fruit (hence, the raspberry). Same recipe but putting in the aged rum.
Bacardi 8, with that sweeter note, chimes through on the Caipirinha. It complements the drink nicely and adds that sweeter, bass note we mentioned above. It’s excellent.
The Yolo Gold is even better. Where it lacks the bass-note sweetness, it makes up in finish and character. “Drinking this made it worth leaving the garden of Eden!” one of our members exclaimed. For taste and sheer ability to throw back with abandon (the very reason the Caipirinha exists as a beach drink), this was an unparalleled success.
Judgment for Aged Rum in the Caiprinha: a completely devastating victory for the Yolo. This is made all the more impressive because the Bacardi 8 came to play and showed well but the Yolo Gold was simply that much better.
Yolo Silver vs Bacardi in Cola
The Cuba Libre, which is a Rum & Coke with a squeeze of lime juice, is a time-honored rum drink that can shine with half-decent rum and an even-handed ratio. We used a quarter lime, and 2:1 cola to rum ratios.
The Bacardi light was a predictable, balanced, Cuba Libre. Tastes on our panel elicited shrugs, nods of agreement, and other cues of assent to an expected test soundly fulfilled.
The Yolo Silver was at once different and polarizing. The dividing line seemed revolve along the “brown vs white” or “aged vs clear” combat lines of spirits preference. Those who preferred aged spirits preferred the Yolo Silver in this setting with cola while the clear camp preferred the Bacardi. We attribute this to the drier tasting profile of the Yolo. But the difference was not enough for either camp to refuse the drink: one should understand that the Cuba Libre can be offered with either rum in dignity and confidence.
Judgment for Silver Rum in Cola: another statistical tie, though in this case because the divided camps averaged along the mean. We recommend the Yolo silver in cola for those whiskey drinkers who are flirting with soda cocktails and/or celebrating the idea of a free Cuba.
Yolo Gold vs Bacardi 8 in Cola
Both rums were somewhat flawed in this setting, which wasn't particularly surprising. (We seldom find that lime works well with oak.) Still, one can detect the cleaner, drier flavors of the Yolo Gold surpassing that of the Bacardi... not necessarily pleasing but definitely a distinctive flair.
Yolo rums represent something we really like seeing in the market place: distinctive flavors, great packaging, and a price point that can really inspire average consumers to take a chance on a new product. Even in the worst case, the product is a match for generally available rums on the market but the Yolo Gold in particular can shine in unexpected and deeply rewarding ways. Strong buy recommend for the Yolo Gold!