Apr 122017
 

Rumaniacs Review #033 | 0433

The Facundo rum series from Bacardi which was launched in 2013, is an attempt by the company to insert itself into the premium market with a series of aged blended rums.  Strictly speaking, it’s not a true Rumaniac vintage (the idea is to write about old stuff that isn’t actually in production any longer), but every now and then a more current expression slips through the cracks without having gone through the process of being recalled only by the elderly, filtered through their fond recollections of where they had been when they first tried it.  You know how it is – when you can’t get the vile crap you had in your younger years any longer, it grows in the memory, somehow getting better each time.

The Paraiso is the top end of the four expressions released under the brand (Neo, Eximo and Exquisito are the others) containing various rums aged up to 23 years, finished in old cognac barrels and is priced to match, though one wonders how much of that is the bottle and enclosure rather than the rum itself.  And of course there’s all the old marketing blather about jealously guarded, never-before-seen, private stocks and family casks meant only for visiting royalty, not the ignoble peasantry.

Colour – red-amber

Strength – 40%

Nose – Briny, soft and mildly fruity, with almonds and vanilla. Some toblerone and a whiff of tobacco. Herbal, grassy notes, and oak, and exactly two grapes. Sweet and light and too damned faint.  Not sure what’s stopping them from boosting it to maybe 45%.

Palate – It may be a blend of old rums, but I think it hews too closely to the formula represented in its downmarket mega-selling cousins.  The thing is too light and too weak in both mouthfeel and taste – there’s no assertiveness here. Caramel (weak). Pears and another two grapes (weak). Alcohol (weak). Vanilla (some). Almonds, oak, breakfast spices (almost nonexistent).  Sugar (too much – I read it has 15-20 g/L when doing my research after the tasting, so now I know why).  Plus, all these flavours blend into each other so it’s just a smooth butter-caramel-vanilla ice cream melange at best.  Did I mention I thought it was too sweet?

Finish – Short, kind of expected at 40%. One last grape. Halwa and Turkish delight (seriously). That is not entirely a recommendation.

Thoughts – Unless you’re a fan of light, easy sipping rums from Cuba (or in that style), and are prepared to drop north of £200, I’d suggest passing on it.  It’s not, as the website suggests, “possibly the finest rum ever sipped,” not even close. Still, the presentation is excellent, and for its strength it has a few pleasant notes — but pleasant is not what we want in something bugled to be this old and this expensive: we want a challenge, a blast from the past, something majestic.  This isn’t it, and frankly, it just annoys me. There’s more and better out there at a lesser price from the same island.

(75/100)

Other Rumaniacs were quite irritated with the rum as well, and their reviews can be found here on the Rumaniacs website.

Dec 272016
 

Rumaniacs Review 027 | 0427

Bacardi has had so many iterations of their rums over the decades, made in Mexico, Puerto Rico or Bermuda (or wherever else they squirrel away production these days), that it’s impossible to state with precision what the genuine article actually is any longer. This version clearly states on the label it was a Puerto Rican rum, six years old, imported into Italy, and I’ve been informed its was made and acquired in the 1980s.  Perhaps it was a forerunner, an experiment, to see whether aged rum sales held promise, and afterwards morphed into the current 8 year old (which isn’t half bad)

Colour – Gold

Strength – 40%

Nose – Dry, almost dusty, very light, grassy and gradually fruity, something vaguely reminiscent of the Alfred Lamb Special Reserve 1949. The fruits are less sweet and more tart – guavas, Thai mangoes yellowed but not soft, unripe pears, with a nearly imperceptible background of flowers and nail polish.

Palate – Light and fresh, yes, perhaps too much so – there’s almost nothing to report, everything has been diluted and dulled down and dampened to the point of nonexistence.  It’s got alcohol, so there’s that, I suppose.  Oak, too much, because there’s too little to balance off against it. Adding water would do no good except to drown it and make what few flavours there were expire without a murmur. Even after half an hour, it evinced little more than the profile of sugar cane juice (without any syrupiness) in which someone mixed some caramel, grapes, vanilla and a lily or two…maybe that was for the funeral, which of course would be in an oak casket.

Finish – Gone so fast it would make The Flash weep with envy.  Again, too faint and vague to appeal – oak dominant, held somewhat in check with clean final scents of half a vanilla stick , a half-hearted squeeze of citrus, one grape and a flower petal.

Thoughts – Perhaps it’s wrong to bring a modern sensibility to a rum made for drinkers from thirty years ago, where Scotch was The Man, vodka was ascendant, cocktails were king and the term “sipping rum” was considered an oxymoron.  Whatever.  It showcases all the current strengths and weaknesses of the brand – column still light rum for easy drinking and mixing, probably at an easy price. The best thing I can say about it is that it’s clean and clear, and better than some modern (and more upscale) Bacardi products.

(77/100)

NB – other Rumaniacs’ reviews of this rum (if any) can be found here.

Nov 062014
 

D3S_9071

Don’t bash the bat until you’ve given this rum a fair shot.  Because it’s damned good.

(#187 / 87/100)

***

Many – myself among them – believe that one of Bacardi’s more unappreciated rums is the 8-year-old, and I’d argue the Reserva Limitada joins the club…and even dials it up a few notches.

The company may sell more rum than anyone else, has enormous (and heavily criticized) tax breaks and subsidies to keep its costs down, is a global juggernaut of the entry-level rums, but at the upper end of the scale has a real bad rep with rum lovers who just disdain it. So if Bacardi wanted to break into the rarefied realms of stratospherically-priced premium rums lovingly issued by craft bottlers, they did well with this one.  And yet, many who taste this rum will express their “surprise,” and how “unexpected” it is.  But it shouldn’t be: one can’t be in the rum making business for over a hundred years and not pick up something, right.  The real mystery is what took so damned long, and why they can’t do better, more often.

Still,  let’s just move away from any preconceptions we might have regarding the brand, and simply address what I tasted that day: a dark amber rum in a standard bottle (I didn’t see a box, but a quick search confirms it comes with one) bottled at — what is now, for me — a mild 40%. (Interestingly enough, while I meant it when I said dark amber, some photographs online suggest a lighter colour, almost honey-like).  The nose demonstrated a solid, creamy nose of coconut, some fruit, burnt sugar, even nougat… and a touch of mischief thrown in via a flirt of lemon peel.  Some clove and cinnamon danced around there after opening up.  It was well done: there was nothing truly exciting or freakishly adventurous about it — it probably wouldn’t be a Bacardi if it exhibited such traits — just above-average quality.

Same for the taste. Soft, smooth, sweet, it was a baby’s drowsy kiss to your palate.  It was a really good melange of coconut shavings, banana, almonds, caramel, raisins, honey, some allspice and cinnamon; even some freshly baked bread.  Barely any smoke and leather or tannins from the ageing. I’m hoping that they didn’t cram sugar into the thing to smoothen it out – that would be a real shame (yet I can’t rid myself of the thought). The mouthfeel at 40% held to that unwarlike temper to which I had become accustomed in my recent enjoyable battles with full-proofs – gentle and easygoing, almost creamy, with merely a nip of the alcohol bite, far from unpleasant.  As for the fade, pretty decent for a milquetoast offering – soft and lasting, with all those rich scents taking their bow before departing.

D3S_9072

Bacardi does this so very well: they don’t seek the edge of the envelope, they don’t shoot for the stars, they don’t go off the reservation.  They simply, day in and day out, make rums that are a slight cut above the ordinary for their age, type and price point. Okay, the cost for this rum is pushing it for the masses that drink and move the brand by the tankerload, yet it must be conceded that it’s being marketed as a premium rum, and so perhaps a different audience is being sought.

This rum apparently hailed from stocks which were reserved for the founder’s family, and were released rarely – commercial production began in 2003, and one supposedly had to go to Puerto Rico to get any, up until 2010 when it began to be released more widely.  Varying online sources mention that the age of the blends comprising the rum is 12-18 years and averaged 16 years (one noted that this average is now 12 years, another said 15) and aged in lightly charred American oak.  The 2010 press release noted 10-16 years. I found it enormously irritating that the Bacardi website itself didn’t mention a damned thing about it. What does it say about a marketing strategy in today’s world, that you get the most information from re-sellers, online shops and hobby sites, rather than from the actual manufacturers?

In the end, whatever the background material (or lack of it) says, I think Bacardi’s Reserva Limitada is neither a cult object, nor a brave miss nor even a “flawed masterpiece”.  It is, simply, a solidly excellent rum, well made, carefully put together, showing real care and attention —  I enjoyed it a lot. And if it is, at 40%, a little to weak for my own personal taste these days, it sure won’t let down legions of its drinkers, who might just be encouraged by this review to pony up the coin which the bottle will cost them – or at least for the cost of a shot in a bar somewhere.  In that case, I honestly don’t think they’ll be disappointed.

 D3S_9071-001

Other notes

Bacardi’s strategy mystifies me.  The rum is a blend limited to 8,000 bottles per year, which many boutique makers would be proud to issue: and as noted, it’s a very good rum, great for sipping. My question is, why blend it at all?  Why not issue an age-specific or even a year-specific rum and ratchet up the advertising to tout its uniqueness?  What’s with the anaemic 40% – this thing could easily be a shade stronger and deliver more punch. And then really earn its “premium” cachet.

Update, March 2017 – Interesting how things develop. I looked at this rum again in passing last week as I was comparing a number of others in Berlin.  In just three years, it’s sunk in my estimation.  Blind, I scored it 78 on this go-around, and it was largely because of my tastes gravitating towards pure pot still rums, and because of the 40%.  It’s still a decent rum and beats out the Paraiso…but is left way behind, by all the amazing rums that have emerged since that time when I first tried it.

 

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