A lot of spirits geeks—myself included—appreciate that one can end up with such a diverse range of flavors merely by leaving something in a barrel for long enough. So, if you taste molasses because the distiller added in molasses, it doesn't exactly feel like they should get a medal for it.
Welcome to the world of spiced rum, probably the most maligned category of rums in general because there's so much that can be thrown in by way of sugar, artificial coloring, and, uh... spices. Often, we don't know what we're getting, and transparency really isn't that important for producers or consumers, so generally it's safe to assume that what you're drinking is going to be sugary and "constructed" in some sense.
Kraken may very well be a superlative spiced rum. Hell, it may be the best spiced rum I've tried. Cutting directly to the chase, it has a lot going on for it. It's bottled at an almost unheard-of 47% ABV, which represents lots of flavor and extreme value. And despite that price, it's super affordable: it's less than $20 from most fine liquor stores. Impressively, it doesn't burn or taste like cheap rocket fuel. It's got very generous notes of molasses and cola, and it's very easy to sip with only a small splash of water. And I'd be lying if I said that bottle wasn't one of the most gorgeous, best-designed packages in the alcohol kingdom.
But for the same reasons I'm not particularly thrilled about flavored spirits, I'm not thrilled about Kraken. When I drink it, I can't shake the feeling that everything here is designed as one would design a Jelly-Belly to taste like "spiced rum." All of the various flavors like licorice, molasses, and Dr. Pepper play well enough together, but they never feel natural, per se.
Again, I love molasses, but if I'm tasting actual molasses that's been added to the spirit, can I really credit Kraken for that? I appreciate it tastes palpably like cola, but is it because it's been formulated to disappear into cola as a mixer? I suspect so.
It might be pretentious to talk about the "personality" of any particular spirit. (Even writing that, I winced a little.) But God help me if it isn't at least partially true. The Kraken's branding, positioning, and advertising definitely has a personality, but do I taste it in the bottle? Ehhh....
What immediately comes to mind when I think of what I'd recommend without hesitation (in the same price point as Kraken, no less) are less-slick but better-tasting aged rums from Botran, Diplomatico, El Dorado, Atlantico, and even Mt. Gay. Usually they'll tell you how long they've aged the rum, and while it's an open secret that they add sugar, I think you get better flavors and a more cohesive experience as a result of them not adding in whatever shit they wanted the end result to taste like.
One of the harder aspects of being your own boss on a website like this is forcing yourself to adhere to your own standards. While a wishy-washy "one-point-five stars" would be warranted here if it were ever going to be warranted, I'm sticking with my instincts. The Kraken is a perfectly serviceable spiced rum that would make a very good Dark and Stormy. It has definite utility on a bar shelf. However, I think there just are too many rums I'd place ahead of this one for it to earn a solid recommendation.