Jul 012013
 

D3S_5493

Passive,easy, light, indifferent, with a finish as short as this review

(#171. 56/100)

***

 Put aside my issues with underproof rums in general, and the five year old rum made by Centenario Internacional SA out of Costa Rica comes off as a reasonable rum, quite soft, and in line with many of their other jelly-kneed products: which is to say, pleasant and perfectly drinkable, but ultimately uninspiring (to me). As before, I simply note that I’m unclear who the rum is made for, since it’s too weak to appeal to an aficionado or to make a mix where strength is called for, and too strong for those who prefer liqueurs and digestifs. Perhaps it’s a liquid primer for beginners who want to test the waters before plunging right in.

In the glass, this hay blonde 35% spirit presented itself on the nose like a somnambulant Chihuahua: it had a smooth, shy, yet oddly nippy little nose to it. And that scent was very nice, if kind of, well, tiny: cherries and frangipani meandered out, brown sugar and caramel notes held hands with them, wound around with a smidgen of oak tannins and citrus. To some extent this lack of oomph is at the heart of my dissatisfaction with underproofs, since I’ve long since stated that I personally am more enthused by stronger and more aggressive (and darker) profiles: light, dancing notes that are difficult to come to grips with just don’t do much for me, pleasant as they may be (and admittedly, they really are quite pleasant, in this rum).

As befitted a less powerful rum, the arrival on the tongue was smooth, light and lacked sting or oiliness. Tangerine rinds and brown sugar, caramel infused with muskier, sharper oak: overall a pretty nice rum, just without chutzpah. As it opened up (didn’t need long for that), other, subtler tastes emerged, honey and pecans, a bit of vanilla. Quite enjoyable on its own. It succeeds swimmingly on taste and aroma, but failed on intensity, and while to me that sank it, there’s no question that as a drink judged on its own standards (that of rums bottled at 35%), it wasn’t half bad. Of course, it would come as no surprise to anyone that the finish was short and gentle and tasty, like being enveloped in a thin but very soft sweater that someone wore too close to a smoky fire for an hour or two.

D3S_5490

So: as a five year old, it’s reasonable without passion, self-contained without aggro. A bit passive, if you will, giving you what it has without real flair or bang-down-your-door animalism. Bearing in mind my personal palate, which tends towards darker and stronger rums, I can’t say I would ever buy such a rum, because underneath, if I were to be honest, here’s a product that doesn’t look like it wants to be a rum at all, or, at best, is truly sure about its place in our piratical universe.

Stuff not strictly pertinent to this review – you can ignore this section

It’s appreciated that my disdain for rums bottled at under 40% is a divisive issue, and many will like it for the same reasons I don’t. The purpose of these remarks (even if negative) is to illustrate how I reacted to a rum that does not conform to my own standards, even if it does to those of others. As with any product one is unsure of (or disagrees with the review of) and where one gets different opinions from many people, sourcing a sample of one’s own to try is probably best.

If your preference is for such a relatively gentle drink but you do enjoy some complexity as well, take a look at the Legado 12 year old made by the same company. It’s also 35% (available at 40% in Europe), and has similar qualifications from me, but there’s quite a bit more interesting stuff going on in that one than here, especially at the front end.

 

A:4/10 N:14/25 T:17/25 F:11/25 I:10/15 TOT: 56/100

 

 

Rating system

  • 40-50 Hooch. Deficient in either nose, body, flavour or finish (or all of them), barely worth a mix.
  • 51-60 Decent for a cocktail but not much else. Not meant as a sipping spirit. May make a brilliant cocktail. In this case the rum is soft enough to be taken by itself, as it would probably be shredded by any kind of single mixing agent.
  • 61-70 You might want to experiment with drinking this one neat. In this case, you absolutely can.
  • 71-75 Good sipping rum with a few discordant notes that can still make a good cocktail. I’d prefer to sip it myself.
  • 76-80 Really excellent, top tier drink. May be unique in some way that goes against the prevailing opinion
  • 81-90 No additive or ice should ever touch such a superb offering.
  • 90+ Marriage material. Sell the Benz, ‘cause you’ll have to.

 

 

 

 

 Posted by on July 1, 2013 at 1:18 pm
May 212013
 

D3S_5494

 

 

If rums were animals, this would be a faithful, doe-eyed spaniel with slippers in his mouth, who only wants to express his adoration of Master.

(#163. 74/100)

***

The Costa Rican Ron Centenario “Fundacion” solera rum is a poster child for rums which could easily be a bit more torqued up, and become better. Right now, this quietly excellent solera is cuddly, a bit pudgy, and is like soft velvet on the tongue – I think it could just as effortlessly go on a Charles Atlas program and beef itself up to something a lot more interesting, good as it is in its current iteration. I make this comment, of course, after having sampled the darkly dour Bristol Spirits Port Morant 1980 51%, which addressed all such issues and pleased me more…but should that be enough to make me smack down the Centenario? Not at all. For a solera, for a 40% rum, there’s little to complain about here. It’s just a different kind of rum than the aforementioned beefcake, and takes its place comfortably in the ranks of the perhaps better-known soleras, like the Rum Nation Solera 15, the Cartavio XO, or maybe the Dictador 20.

The Ron Centenario is part of the family of rums from Costa Rica that seems to like breeding cautious 35% underproofs such as the Legado and others in the line, with which I was unimpressed, sorry. Here they must have realized that what with soleras tending to be sweeter, more full bodied and softer, bottling it that weakly was a dangerous indulgence, and dialled it up a notch. As with the Legado, appearance was impressive in and of itself, spartan box, zen like long bottle, well etched and simply stated, showing a dark mahogany and ruby red drink reposing within. That red colouring of box and rum is sure to catch your eye in any shop you’re lucky enough to find it.

D3S_5496

As with many other soleras, there was a soft pungency to the nose, yet remarkably little fruitiness one would expect. Some molasses and overripe pineapples brushed against each other, laced with a faint licorice, cinnamon and coffee. Smooth and rich and very pleasant – no aggro here at all, this was certainly not the kind of rum that wanted to maul your schnozz.

As for the palate, wow. Very pleasant indeed. A lot of one’s final opinion would, I think, depend under what circumstances one would drink such a rum – my own take would be after dinner, not before, or even as a sundowner to be had without haste or urgency. It’s thick and sweet (though not too much so – the Fundacion has a really good balance on that score) and in its own way, even a little heavy. The olfactory pungency carried over well into the taste, being redolent of aromatic pipe tobacco, some smokiness, anise and blackberries, with that pineapple taste being just barely held at bay but lending some of its sweetness to the overall profile. And it segues into a gentle, warm finish, quite long lasting, flowering into final memories of orange peel, caramel, walnuts and a kind of creamy butteriness. Overall, a very impressive product – as I said, warm and cuddly and loving..and therefore, it must be said, perhaps a mite unchallenging if your tastes run to somewhat more assertive and complex drinks. A doberman this is not, by any stretch.

D3S_5488

You’re going to look long and far to find a review of this rum that isn’t contained within the marketing materials and write ups of online shops (mostly, it should be noted, in Europe, with almost all that I could find actually being in Germany). I don’t get that. The Centenario is a sterling solera product, noses well, tastes excellent, finishes without bombast. It’s well known, won prizes, and an all-round good product. Why it would not be either reviewed or sold in quantity in North America confuses me. My recommendation is to disregard the lower-proofed 35% offerings further down the line of Centenario’s food chain, and get this one if you can. It may not be sold with the box (or so Stuart told me when he passed it on), but who cares? – as a rum, as a solera, as a well made addition to your shelf, it’s worth the money to acquire a soft sipping spirit that has zero ego and only seeks to please.

 

A:8/10 N:18/25 T:21/25 F:16/25 I:11/15 TOT: 74/100

 

Other notes:

Aged in American oak barrels that once held bourbon. As a solera, treat the 20 Años with some care, since of course it does not represent the youngest part of the blend but the oldest, and therefore a large portion of what you’re tasting is less than two decades old..

Rating system

  • 40-50 Hooch. Deficient in either nose, body, flavour or finish (or all of them), barely worth a mix.
  • 51-60 Decent for a cocktail but not much else. Not meant as a sipping spirit. May make a brilliant cocktail.
  • 61-70 You might want to experiment with drinking this one neat.
  • 71-75 Good sipping rum with a few discordant notes that can still make a good cocktail. I’d prefer to sip it myself.
  • 76-80 Really excellent, top tier drink. May be unique in some way that goes against the prevailing opinion
  • 81-90 No additive or ice should ever touch such a superb offering.
  • 90+ Marriage material. Sell the Benz, ‘cause you’ll have to.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 Posted by on May 21, 2013 at 6:15 pm
Apr 122013
 

D7K_1244

 

A set of Bata flip-flops made out of Gucci-quality leather

(#155. 61/100)

***

Frankly, I just don’t get the point of underproofs. It’s like they aren’t quite sure what they want to be, and are deathly afraid of offending even one potential customer by being, I dunno, a real rum. If I wanted a light liqueur, I would have bought one, and to have a rum aged twelve years to be bottled at a strength like 35% makes little sense to me: the wussiness sinks an otherwise decent product. You can taste the underlying potential…it just doesn’t deliver.

Put aside the grumbling about oomph, and this 12 year old rum made in Costa Rica (presented to me by my compadres Mary and Stuart, who recently returned from there) is a pretty good product, mind you…it rises – barely – above its weakness, one might say. Consider merely the presentation: decent cardboard box of good paper, well designed, holding a frosted, dark, engraved bottle with a plastic screw cap. Solid all the way ‘round.

This was a rum too weak to batter your schnozz — so gentleness, warmth, lightness and softness were expected and received — and had intriguing and predominating scents of vanilla. Around that core swirled light floral hints, freshly cut ripe peaches and apricots (not rich enough for pineapple by any means, which was a good thing). Sweet, not cloying, and a faintly medicinal background, barely noticeable. Relatively unassertive, which may point to where underproofs usually unravel for me.

That gentleness carried on to the palate as well. This was a very smooth and light rum, and because of its delicacy, very difficult to pick apart. Almost no oak prescence, more vanilla and caramel and light flowers, all of which morphed into the androgynous nature of a papaya, skirting the line between a little tartness and none at all. There was hardly any finish to speak of, a short exit that left a quick last taste of oak and vanilla (but none of the raw smoke of older, more powerful expressions), and left me looking with some dissatisfaction at my glass. It gave too little, you see, and while a person casually trying something in this line would probably enjoy it, I preferred and continue to prefer, stronger and more intense drinks. This wasn’t one of them, good as its makers made it.

Speaking of the makers, Centenario Internacional SA from Costa Rica makes quite a range of these rums – five, seven, nine, twelve year and twenty year olds (plus a solera 25 40% not mentioned on their website). Aged in white oak barrels, the product of locally grown sugar cane, all except the solera are bottled at 35% according to the website’s photographs, so this is not an aberration, but a deliberate blending choice. I’m afraid I was not able to come up with much more regarding the company history – however, it did not seem to be one of those decades- or centuries- old distilling houses with traditions handed down through the generations, more a commercial spirits maker of relatively recent antecedents.

In fine, then, the general profile of the Centenario strikes an intriguing balance between the smooth lightness of some of the Colombian rums (like the Juan Santos 12, or the Ron Viejo de Caldas Añejo 8 años 38%) and the slightly more assertive Panamanians such as the Abuelo 12 or RN Panama 18. But bar the Viejo de Caldas, those drinks were bottled at par proof or better, had heft, hair and some hormones under the satin slinkiness. On this one, I can’t help thinking that they had a great product in the making , and for reasons known only to themselves, they dialled it back down to a puff piece I can barely call a rum without snickering. Much as I believe it to be a good product, I would only use it to introduce a newbie to the rum world, because at end, speaking for myself and knowing my preferences, that weakness of proof is its undoing – they have, alas, made a sow’s ear out of a silk purse.

***

Other notes

Scouring the online shops shows me that the 40% expressions of the Legado are available, mostly in Europe. I suspect I’d enjoy those a lot more and score them more highly than this one.

Josh Miller from Inu a Kena has reviewed the Centenario 25 and notes it as being a solera. No such notation for the Legado, either on box or bottle

 

A:7/10 N:16/25 T:15/25 F:13/25 I:10/15 TOT: 61/100

 

Rating system (Mine)

  • 40-50 Hooch. Deficient in either nose, body, flavour or finish (or all of them), barely worth a mix.
  • 51-60 Decent for a cocktail but not much else. Not meant as a sipping spirit. May make a brilliant cocktail.
  • 61-70 You might want to experiment with drinking this one neat
  • 71-75 Good sipping rum with a few discordant notes that can still make a good cocktail
  • 76-80 Really excellent, top tier drink.
  • 81-90 No additive or ice should ever touch such a superb offering.
  • 90+ Marriage material. Sell the Benz, ‘cause you’ll have to.

 

This one can be had neat, no problem. It’s gentle and smooth enough not to bite. A drink for the calmly unadventurous who prefer navigate through less treacherous waters without any stress.

 

 Posted by on April 12, 2013 at 8:31 pm