Sep 062013
 

D7K_2901

 

A subtle, supple rum, undone by a lack of courage

(#178. 68/100)

***

Consider for a moment my score on the Barceló Imperial. A 68 rating for me is a pretty good rum. For a premium product, it’s something of a surprise – so here I should state straight out that that score reflects primarily its lesser proof, not its intrinsic quality. Frankly, it should have been higher.

When I originally read the Barceló Imperial review from Josh Miller at Inu A Kena, I immediately fired off post on his site to ask him whether he got the 38% version I had been avoiding for over a year in Calgary, or whether he had something a shade more torqued up. Because when I’m springing for something that is being touted as a premium (even if I didn’t in this case), I’d rather have a rum that’s…well, a real rum. As it turns out, his was indeed 40%, while the one that Jay of Liquorature trotted out on my last meeting of the Collective prior to absconding, was the lesser proofed bottling.

You’d think that this 2% difference is minimal, but nope. It really isn’t. Consider first the nose on this attractively packaged, sleek looking bottle. Soft as sea breezes, sweet with scents of molasses, cashews (white ones), caramel, prunes and almonds…but all very quiet, slumbering almost, as delicate as the frangipani and white flowers which it called to memory. No intensity here at all, yet attractive and pleasant to nose, even without something more muscular in attendance.

This gentleness was mirrored in the taste and the feel on the palate as well. It was soft, warm, billowy, aromatic. It loved me and wanted to share its feelings. Toffee, slight citrus notes, apples and pears led off, with slowly emerging caramel and almonds following on. The mouthfeel was surprisingly “thick” yet that lesser alcohol content also made it somewhat (disappointingly) bland. Still, I must concede that the balance of the muskier, smokier, deeper sugar tones with the slightly acidic citrus and faint astringency was rather well done. The finish, which came as no surprise, was short, if pleasant, providing a closing sense of nuts and molasses.

D7K_2896

So all in all, a very good product. People who go in for softer rums, perhaps soleras or liqueurs, would have no problem drinking this one, I think. Those preferring a more aggressive disposition might disagree (I am one of these). I mean, this is a premium rum, and its sexy shape and packaging reflect that, even if its price (around $50 in my location) seems somewhat low. Part of this might be its ageing, which is uncertain – I’ve read claims of components in the blend being as much as 6 or as much as 10 years, but since the official website makes no statement on the matter at all, I’d suggest that Barceló may still be tinkering with it and aren’t ready to make a definitive statement…yet.

One characteristic of underproofed products is that you get the taste without the strength and this is like gorging on white bread, or a cheap hamburger – a few minutes later the taste is gone, you’re hungry again, there’s no buzz in sight, and you’re unfulfilled, wanting more. If that’s what Barceló are trying to do, all I can say is that they’ve succeeded swimmingly, ‘cause that bottle of yours is going to be finished in no time. Still, I wonder what my malt swilling amigos would make of this rum, those gentlemen who inhale aged cask-strength whiskies by the caseload and can barely sniff standard proof drinks without being snooty about it. I think they would probably make similar comments to mine – subtle, lovely notes, delicacy harnessed to artistry in service of a fine sipping dram. But I’m sure they’d also say, sorry Ruminsky, we like you and all, but there’s just not enough buxom in the bodice and backside in the bustle, to make this rum worth lusting after.

 

Other Notes

Barceló hails from the Dominican Republic, where it shares the island with the other two “B”s – Bermudez and Brugal. They have been in business since 1930, when Julian Barceló (a Mallorcan emigre) founded the company, and Spain remains one of its primary markets, though they ship rum to some fifty countries these days.

 

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. Here, of course, you can.
  • 71-75 Good sipping rum with a few discordant notes that can still make a good cocktail.
  • 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 September 6, 2013 at 9:24 am
Jun 252013
 

D3S_6879

A subtle, complex, tasty sipping rum

(#170. 70/100)

***

You don’t see many of the Brugal rums here — I’ve only ever reviewed one of them, years ago when I was starting to populate the site: that one got a review, a shrug and a meh (which in retrospect may have been a touch condescending, as was my initial scoring), and I remember it principally because of its really lovely finish. The 1888 Ron Gran Reserva Familiar is something else again, and perhaps it’s sad that we don’t get to see more shops carrying it, ‘cause it’s a pretty nifty drink, and deserves its accolades.

The Brugal 1888 is a fascinating synthesis of odd subtleties and traditional strengths that displays a solid character when matched against the other bottles I had on the table that day (the BBR Fiji 8 year old and the Plantation Barbados 5 year old, both of which it outclassed). Right off I admired the blue cardboard box, the elegant tall bottle and the metal tipped cork, because unlike my friend the Bear, I always did enjoy nifty presentation, and feel that special editions or top end products deserve no less even if it does mean a few extra pesos tacked on to the price (note that said Bear does not object to the extra pesos as long as he’s not forking out the dinero himself, and smiles like a cherubic Buddha whenever I do, as he helps himself to a taste).

The first thing I noted on the nose of this mahogany red rum was its clean lightness, redolent of coffee grounds, cocoa and dark chocolate, vanilla (not quite as evident as the Plantation), all mixed up with light floral hints, and a touch of blue or black grapes, apricots and nuts. And a dusting of cinnamon so light it almost wasn’t there. At 40% I wasn’t expecting a rampaging series of flavours to reach out and scratch my face off, and I didn’t get that, just a pleasant, orderly parade of notes, one after the other, which gracefully made themselves known before bowing out to permit the next one in line to have its moment.

 D3S_6877

The medium light body was warm, but in no way overly spicy, more like a verbal dig in the ribs from a friend, spoken without malice – in fact it was smooth, and dry, but not briny or astringent in any way. Light chopped apples mixed it up with vanilla, kiwi fruits and freshly sliced papaya. And it was smooth, very nicely so, delivering further notes of white flowers, pears, some burnt sugar, caramel (not much), butterscotch wound about with a touch of oak. All in all it was a cornucopia of subtle flavours coming together really well, with a clean exit, a little astringent and dry, lasting well and providing a last creamy breath of all the pleasant rum notes described above. No, it doesn’t have the growling power of darker, stronger (or older) Jamaicans or Guyanese rums, but I don’t think that’s how they envisaged it to begin with. It just was (and is) a really well put together sipping rum of some…calmness.

The source of its rather rich set of flavours of the Brugal 1888 derives from its double maturation, once in the standard American white oak casks that once held bourbon, the second in European oak casks once used for maturing sherry (that’s where all those fruity notes come from): if Brugal’s marketing is to be believed, McCallan’s own Master of Wood was instrumental in handpicking the casks, and the end product is a blend of rums aged five to fourteen years – that would, to purists who insist that any blend be age-labelled based on the youngest part of the blend, make it a five year old, but y’know, even if Brugal themselves make no such distinction…man, what a five year old it is.

 D3S_6876

Brugal is one of the 3 B’s of the Dominican Republic (eastern half of Hispaniola island…the west is Haiti) – Brugal, Bermudez and Barcelo – and probably the largest. The company was formed in 1888 by Don Andres Brugal, and is now considering itself the #3 rum maker in the world by volume…again, if promo materials are to be believed. However, when you consider that #1 is Bacardi, #2 is probably the Tanduay, then that leaves Havana Club, Captain Morgan and McDowell scrabbling for the next three places…Brugal is somewhat of a lesser player compared to these behemoths, in my opinion, so you’ll forgive me for taking that remark with some salt.

Still, sales volume and their place in the rankings is not my concern. My issue is the character of this rum from the perspective of a consumer, and which in this case I enjoyed and liked and appreciated. Anniversary offerings are traditionally good rums with an extra fillip of quality: the Brugal 1888 succeeds on many levels, is a very good sipping rum, and a worthwhile addition to any rum lover’s cabinet. I’d buy it again without hesitation, to drink when I’m not on top of the world, perhaps (I have the full-proof Demeraras for that), but certainly when I’m feeling a little more relaxed and at ease with the state of my life.

A:8/10 N:18/25 T:18/25 F:16/25 I:10/15 TOT: 70/100

Other Notes

Since 2008, Brugal has been owned by the Edrington Group, the same parent company as MacCallan’s and Highland Park. That might account for the sherry maturation philosophy and the source of the barrels I noted above.

The company’s literature remarks that this is a rum for whisky lovers (which I assume would be the bourbon boys, not the Hebridean maltsters).

 

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. 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 June 25, 2013 at 8:31 pm
Apr 072013
 

D7K_6415-001

38% weakling, of pleasant taste approaching real complexity, but with no real assertiveness.

(#153. 61/100)

***

Originating in the Dominican Republic (home of the Brugal, Bermudez and Barcelo brands), the Opthimus 18 artestinal rum is a solera rum, quite good, but too weak for me. It’s made, like the excellent Solera 25 whisky-finished version, by the firm of Oliver and Oliver, a company in existence since the mid 19th century and founded by the Cuban family of Juanillo Oliver, a Catalan/Mallorcan emigre. Abandoning Cuba in 1959, members of the family re-established the company in the early nineties in the DR after finding the supposed original recipe for their forebears’ rum. They also produce the Opthimus 15 (which may be the best of the lot simply because it is a shade younger and has therefore not been smoothened out so much as to eviscerate its more complex nature). The 18 I tasted was bottle 4 of 316 in the 2011 production run, and cost €65 for the 500ml bottle pictured above.

The 18 twitches all too feebly. The nose, in spite of the rum’s relatively weak knees, did try its best to kick a bit, and evinced notes of cinnamon and breakfast spices, together with a faintly musty air, like biscuits and straw; a vegetal sort of nose, deepening gradually into caramel and burnt sugar notes. Quite gentle, all in all, with no heat or burn to turn one off, yet also lacking in a strong kind of aroma that would have made it score more highly.Want to know why I disdain underpfoof rums? Look no further, as this is a good example of the thinness and overall wussiness I don’t care for in rums (but full disclosure – my preferences run more to beefcakes greater than 40% these days, so your mileage may vary)..

The palate offered no real redemption. What struck me as sad about it was simply that while it tasted pretty good, had a scintillating background complexity that strove to emerge and recall the potential of both the 25 and the 15, it was too scrawny on the body and too weak on the taste buds to really tug at the senses; and therefore it could not offer a strong, assertive profile that would have made me appreciate it more. Caramel, sweet brown sugar, bananas and softer, riper fleshy fruits, some nutmeg and cinnamon and lemon grass, quite faint. Finish was short, aromatic, but like a one night stand, gave too little and was gone too quickly, taking your hard earned money with it.

D7K_6414

Opthimus 18 is aged by ex-Cuban master blenders via a solera process for eighteen years in total (so the oldest part of the blend will be that old, not the youngest). Oliver & Oliver uses rum stocks bought elsewhere, and ages them in oak barrels prior to final issue: they also have brands like Cubaney, Quohrum and Unhiq in the stable, though I have yet to try any of them, and they act as third part blenders to other companies as well. Given the plaudits they’ve received from other reviewers, all I can conclude that this is the runt of the litter, and somewhat of an aberration.

Summing up, a rum like this leaves me with too little. Those of you who bemoan my verbosity and essays that never end will love this one, because beyond the bare bones tasting notes, and my personal opinion, there’s not much I can give you. This solera rum shows all the evidence of being well made and well crafted, yet sinks itself at the end by not having the strength to go with its potential. In essence, then, this is an Opthimus that has yet to develop into a Prime.

A:7/10 N:13/25 T:14/25 F:14/25 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.

 In this case, drinking it neat is recommended, it’s good enough for that. My low score reflects a dissatisfaction with intensity and firmness of the tasting elements.

 

 

 Posted by on April 7, 2013 at 7:27 am
Mar 302013
 

 

Smooth, soft, voluptuous Tomatin-cask-finished solera rum that expresses its admiration for your awesomeness without coyness or complexity, just unalloyed, warm affection. And a bit of a quirky side.

(#124. 72/100)

You are entirely within your rights to ask what the number actually means in the context of a solera’s given “age”. Generally accepted useage holds that it does not mean the oldest or youngest component of the blend, but the average of them all: which is no more than proper given that the solera process is based on a percentage of the rums in one level of barrels being progressively poured (and mixed) with barrels containing yet other percentages in another level over a period of many years. The Bicentenario out of Venezuela, for example, claims that rums as old as eighty years of age are components of the final product (hence the price)…but no solera maker I’ve ever researched makes any mention of how much of each age forms the final blend, though sometimes you are informed of how long that final blend is itself aged.

None of this would be more than an academic exercise unless it was for the fact that since we are never quite sure what percentage of what age is in our “average x years” solera, we therefore are never certain whether the price we pay is worth what we are getting (unless we get a taste first, in which case…). However, some general observations I’ve made is that soleras are sweeter and smoother than the average, get better the higher the number is, a bit pricier, and are much liked (look no further than the Ron Zacapa 23)….yet lack something in the way of real complexity, real depth…real oomph. I like them just fine, and they sip quite well, mind you, so let these remarks not dissuade you. When I meet persons who know they want to try one of my rums, but not which one, it’s almost inevitably a solera I trot out, ‘cause I know they’ll enjoy it.

One of the best I’ve ever tried is the Opthimus 25, originating in Dominican Republic, home of the Brugal, Bermudez and Barcelo (and Matusalem) and bottled by Oliver&Oliver, a company in existence since the mid 19th century and founded by the Cuban family of Juanillo Oliver, a Catalan/Mallorcan emigre. Abandoning Cuba in 1959, members of the family re-established the company in the early nineties in the DR after finding the supposed original recipe for their forebears’ rum. They also produce the Cubaney line, and the sub-par Opthimus 18 (at a jelly-kneed 38%) and the fully awesome Opthimus 15 (which may be the best of the lot simply because it is a shade younger and has therefore not been smoothened out so much as to eviscerate its more complex nature). The 25 I tasted was bottle 795 of 1350 the 2011 production run, and cost an eye-glazing €108 for the 500ml bottle pictured above.

Like most soleras I have been fortunate enough to try, this 43% ABV version was warm and soft and billowy to the nose, with scents of caramel and burnt sugar being subtly upstaged by nutmeg, banana and cinnamon…and an odd kind of brininess hinted at, not driven home with a bludgeon to the schnozz. And the label makes it clear why: the rum was finished in Tomatin malt whisky casks in Scotland (no info is given as to how long, alas). That’s quite different from many other rums, which finish in wine casks of some sort (though Cadenhead, you’ll recall, does have the Laphroaig-finished Demerara rum). I shrugged and passed on – after all, the feinty wine notes of the Rum Nation products enhanced the overall profile, so who was to say this was bad?  Not I.

The arrival was also a bit off the beaten track, with the brininess I had noted sticking around as if to see wh’appenin’ (as my West Indian squaddies would say); a bit sweet, a bit salty, like biscuits in a teriyaki sauce (I kid you not). There was a touch of iodine-like peat in there, but the rum itself was brown-sugar-sweet and smooth and strong enough not to be overwhelmed by it, and that sly touch of mischief appealed to me a lot, a fact aided by a lovely, warm finish with no hint of malice or bile in spite of the 43% strength, redolent of caramel and breakfast spice (and yup, that touch of brine again, sneaking in through the back door). Honestly, this reminded me nothing so much as of the lovely brown-skinned, dark-eyed Guyanese lasses I regularly fell in and out of love with in my teenage years…warm, friendly, smart, inviting, funny and with just a touch of the flirt to keep me at bay.

I’m going to go on record as saying this is a really wonderful rum, it beats the living crap out of the embarassingly underproofed 18, and yup, it’s a bit pricey; still, for my money it is eclipsed by the cheaper 15, the same way some believe the El Dorado 15 is a better rum than the 21 or 25 (my father among them). I don’t often hold with such uninformed opinions from my supposed elders and purported betters, dogmatically held and long (and loudly) proclaimed. Yet in this case I have to concede that while the 25 is a really beautifully put-together rum which presses all the right buttons (and loves me, unlike all the aforementioned lasses, who probably had better sense), it somehow, through a subtle loss of alchemy, fails to quite be the Prime it may have been meant to be. Note that there are other variations of the 25 out there, some weaker, some finished in different casks

Let that not stop you from trying it if you have a chance, though. You won’t be sorry. It’s a lovely rum.

A:7/10 N:17/25 T:19/25 F:19/25 I:10/15 TOT: 72/100

 Posted by on March 30, 2013 at 8:07 am
Mar 272013
 

Photo to come

First posted 27th February, 2010

(#102)

Having friends who will trot out cherished stocks of the good stuff for me to taste and comment on is always a plus.  Having those who share my interests in rum, and pick up obscure bottles from odd distilleries in faraway places is even better.  Granted every now and then one runs across paint thinner or liquified rat turds masquerading as rum, but in the main, the odds work in my favour. Still, though, I’ve had to take a leaf out of the Last Hippie’s book and always have a notebook on hand.  I may be fairly clever, but I’m somewhat prone to losing a few IQ points when having my sixth or seventh…or shev’nt’nth shot of…whu’ever. And that impacts on my note-taking, so I have to watch it.

Anyway it was with real delight that I saw this intriguing 15 year old rum from the Dominican Republic  joining its cousins the English Harbour 5, the Bundie, the El Dorado 21 and the Angostura Royal Oak on the table.  Now some might shake their heads and question my liver, my sanity or my ability to have so many competing rums swirling around my palate and still maintain my sobriety or sense of taste (which would be much degraded by the Bundie), but I exist to rise to challenges such as these, and sacrifice my finer feelings for the good of The Club.

A Super-Premium rum (whatever that might mean), this french-oak-barrel matured rum is the top of the line for the Ron Matusalem distillery which originated in Cuba in the 1800s, and which captured a fair share of the market right up to the point where some upstart johnny-come-lately called Fiddle…Fidelity…Fido…whatever (he had a beard and dressed in fatigues) took over from the US-backed dictatorship in 1959. The company was re-established in the USA and removed to the Dominican Republic in 2002 after one of the descendants of the founders gained full control of the company (the family branches had been feuding, leading to the brand’s decline). Interestingly, Matusalem’s master blenders are all descendants of the original founders as well, and are supposedly masters in the technique of solera blending originally developed for sherry and brandy, where barrels of rums from different stages in the maturation process are blended to produce the desired, unique blend (you can tell I love history, folklore and anecdotes about any subject). And while my bottle never noted it, this is a solera, which means the “15” on the label does not mean the youngest in the blend, but the average.

The Gran Reserva is a deep gold colour, though not quite dark; it looks like burnt honey. Not light either in body or colour or density. The nose contains strong indications of oak which, to my mind, drown out the subtler vanillas and toffee that linger better on the taste buds; and it is not as sweet as other offerings…they may have stinted on the sugar or caramel.  In my opinion, then, it does not impress when drunk neat or on ice – it is too much like a whiskey, in smell and body and taste (this may be a deliberate attempt to distinguish the product from other rums of equal vintage), and it burns going down, with a short and smoky finish, the way no good 15 year old should.  If I wanted whiskey I’d cross to the dark side and genuflect to the Scots, so on that level it fails.  However, I liked the taste and feel on the palate – the slightly higher density and long maturation period helps give it a really good, silky feel – I just don’t appreciate the taste that much.

That said, as a mixer with coke, whatever screams of outrage from purists, the thing is stellar. It has no such explosion of flavour as the EH5 did, but it develops a very solid, multi-layered and robust taste where the coke provides exactly the level of sugar that enhances the taste of the rum, to produce an excellent butterscotch taste that the silky texture of the rum goes with beautifully.

And that makes me conflicted, not least because I generally like soleras.  It seems that an aged sipping rum like this should not have to be mixed to enhance it to the level I rate so highly. I concede that this may partly be my sweet tooth and love of vanilla and caramel and butterscotch (that’s not butter made in Scotland, Curt, just in case you wondered), and partly my own preconceived notion of what a good sipping rum should be like.

Be that as it may, I believe a whiskey connoisseur, or someone with a different palate from mine, will love this rum.  As a mixer, I think it’s great — but why pay more for this when so many able, younger, cheaper mixers exist? The test of a good aged rum is whether it can stand on its own without adornment or enhancement. On that level, much as I like what comes out of this baby when coke is added to it, I must sadly state that it doesn’t measure up to its hype or pedigree when taken neat.

(Update March 2013 – I’ll revisit this rum soon. I haven’t had it for some time, and think it’s due for a reassessment.  Plus, it’s out of sequence numerically)

 

 Posted by on March 27, 2013 at 5:47 pm
Mar 262013
 

First posted 9th February, 2011 on Liquorature

(#066. 41/100)

This is a weaker than usual, unloved product of a distillery that has better products up the food chain, but apparently refused to pay the same attention to this one.  It passes muster as a rum, but barely, and if you have choices and like stronger wares, this one won’t get you to part with your cash. If you want something stronger than a port or liqueur, but weaker than a real spirit, well,  I guess this is for you.

*

Right out of the bottle you get a sense of the relative weakness of this rum.  Perhaps it’s a measure of the forty percenters or even fifty percenters I’ve been sipping lately, but let’s face facts and concede that it’s also a relatively weak rum at a 37.5%, one which would make any maker of a 151 snicker a little. And that also makes the Ron Barceló weigh in dangerously close to being a liqueur, which this site is not in the business (yet) to review.

Ron Barceló, made in the Dominican Republic (not in Dominica – the two are separate nations), is a product of Barceló Export Import, which has been in business since 1930, has always been a rum producer, and remains to this day a privately held company run by men who bear the name still.  Julian Barceló, the founder, hailed from Spain – the name is actually Catalan –  and arrived in the DR in 1929.  His company soon became a very large and profitable enterprise, expanding his line of products to differing rums starting in 1935. By the 1980s the company became pone of the biggest in the contry, and expanded its market base by aggressively promoting exports – Spain was and continues to be a prime export market for the rums, of which the anejo reviewed here seems to be somewhat of a mid tier product.  Maybe it’s a sherry thing. Note that this is one of the “Three B’s” – Bermudez, Brugal and Barceló – of the DR, and the youngest.

A gold rum, Barceló poured into the glass and displayed the swiftly moving anorexic legs of a middle distance sprinter, judging from the haste with which the scooted back down into the body. The nose was quietly unimpressive: it had a bit of sting and spice to back up the scents of caramel, burnt sugar, bananas and perhaps a bit of coffee, but beyond that, there was very little, even after I went back to it a few minutes later, and again for a second and third nosing. I really didn’t know what to make of it: against the lack of depth and power imparted by a lower alcohol content is a slightly smoother, less astringent nose imparted by that very same lack. Bit of a schizo product, really.

The downward spiral continued on the palate: thin, a little harsh (if I was unkind I’d say bitchy, but that would be implying a strength the rum does not possess). The flavours are unassertive, though one must concede that you do get unambiguous notes of caranel, molasses and brown sugar, and perhaps a shade of citrus.  But none really “tek front” and either elbowed the others aside, or asserted a pleasing marriage of the lot.  You got these, and…nothing.  You could almost say it was boring.  And the finish?  Well, uninspiring – smooth and short, with no sting worthy of the name (let alone a burn) and some kind apologetic whiff of weak spirit at the back of the throat, a tired reminder that Barcelo had some alcohol content after all. Undistinguished and unremarkable, to me.  The whole product smacks of some kind of “good enough” philosophy in its provenance that I find vaguely affronting.

In sum, I’m going to have to go negative on this one.  With respect to other distillers’ products from the same half of the island, I didn’t care for the Bermudez Ron Añejo Anniversario, to which I gave an indifferent opinion, but that one, at 40%, was marginally better than this anemic offering. The Brugal on the other hand blew both of the other “Three B’s” away on better body, better taste and a phenomenal finish.  Mind you, as I noted in the former review, people who like cognacs and whiskies and drier libations might find lots to favour about the Barceló – I merely suspect that it’s lower proof will alienate those same people.  Who wants an underproof when there’s so much standard 40% or higher out there for the same cost, with a bolder, more assertive profile? I mean, the only reason I don’t classify this as a liqueur right away is because it is not sweet or heavy enough.  But it’s close. No wonder the maker’s website gives so little information on the Barcelo: there’s precious little information to give.

So there we have it.  The indifference of manufacture, coupled with an underproofing of the Barcelo, undoes what could be termed passable work by the blenders — and therefore I must conclude that it appears that it is a throwaway product, something without much care and love lavished upon it.  It’s an also-ran for older, more aged, better blended efforts from the same company.  It tries to walk with the big dogs, but for my money, alas, it just ends up peeing like a puppy.

A:6/10 N:11/25 T:11/25 F:8/25 I:5/15 TOT: 41/100
 Posted by on March 26, 2013 at 8:54 am
Mar 242013
 

First posted November 19, 2010 on Liquorature.

(#048. 46/100)

***

Bermudez is the second rum I managed to find from the Three Bs distilleries in the half-island of the Domincan Republic (Brugal, Bermudez and Barcelo), and is both less and more than its possibly better known sibling, the Ron Añejo Brugal which I took a look at yesterday.

J. Armando Bermúdez & Co., C. por A. is a distillery located in Santiago de los Caballeros in the north central region of the DR. It was founded in 1852 (hence the year on the label of this Anniversary edition) by Erasmo Bermúdez, who created the formula of the Bitter Panacea, an early rum meant to be taken as appertif, and which soon became very well known. To this day the descendants of Erasmo run the show, but there are stories about how the various members of the family have squabbled among themselves on the direction of the company, and so it no longer holds the pre-eminent position it once had. It certainly is the oldest of the Three Bs, Brugal being established in 1888 and Barcelo in 1930.

There is no age statement on the bottle, so one is forced to resort to external resouces to see what’s in this baby.  Wikipedia refers to the Anniversario as a golden high-end premium blend (not particularly helpful), and Chip Dykstra’s notes suggest it has either a twelve or a fifteen year old backbone, based on the supplier’s say-so. Given its middling price of just around forty dollars, he may be right,  but I find it frustrating in the extreme to find the company website unavailable, and no other notes of consequence anywhere to inform the casual reader on the matter.

Anniversario is a tawny gold colour, however hidden it may be in a nearly opaque dark green bottle. I can’t say the tinfoil cap impresses me much – if this is a premium rum you’d think something more would be added to the initial presentation to justify the price, not a cheap covering and an equally cheap sigil on the front above the label.

A thin oily film devolves into slow thin legs that meander slowly back into the glass; on the nose, the medicinal sting and reek is more pronounced (much to my surprise) than the Brugal I had right beside it and ten minutes previously (I promptly poured another glass of it to make sure this was not an accident and yup, it was confirmed).  After I left it to open up a bit, other flavours emerged: a sort of earthy, dark taste, like rich chocolate, balanced off by a dry and woody flavour and a hint of citrus.  Later it developed a sweet floral hint, though not as light and clear as the Brugal: it was more…heavy, a bit like lilies as compared to white roses.

The Anniversario is a dry, unsweet medium-bodied rum which seems to be characteristic of the Latin islands. Tasting it confirmed some notions, dispelled others.  A sweeter taste shyly emerged from out of the nose, and the driness became more pronounced, as did the slight bitterness coming from the oaken tannins.  On the back end and leading into the finish, the faint traces of molasses and caramel I so like could finally be discerned.  The finish is short and spicy, a slight burn that just misses being sharp (for which I give thanks), but again, is nowhere near as smooth as the Brugal.

I wish I knew more about its distillation and provenance: it smelled and tasted like a single digit rum, yet it was obviously aged and seemed to be marketed as something more. And against that, the 3-5 year blend of the Brugal has a phenomenally smooth finish which this one can’t even approach. In fine, I’m underwhelmed by the Anniversario.  It has a relatively modest price tag, but if it is true that it is a blend of double digit teen rums, then it has a pedigree I simply cannot see as justified (on the other hand I must say that it’s a matter of what one reviewer has said, plus some anecdotal evidence gleaned from hours of searching online – no real hard facts I can hang my shapka on).

At the end of it all, it must come down to my opinion based on what I tasted.  The Bermudez Ron Añejo Anniversario tastes like a dry cognac, not a rum, is not sweet enough and lacks a real body.  The blend just doesn’t work as well as it should for me, in spite of the fact that it may have a blended series of aged components in the double digits. It has an interesting marriage of flavours, but this groom, alas, ain’t buying today.

A:6/10 N:10/25 T:10/25 F:10/25 I:5/10 TOT=46/100

 Posted by on March 24, 2013 at 7:51 pm
Mar 242013
 

First published November 18th, 2010 on Liquorature.

(#047.  49/100)

***

Ron Añejo Brugal is one of two rums from the Domincan Republic which I tasted side by side last Friday.  Not to be confused with Dominica, the Dominican Republic is the Spanish speaking eastern half of the island of Hispaniola…the western half is Haiti.  Three distilleries known as the Three Bs operate in the DR: Bermudez in the Santiago area, the Santo Domingo distillery called Barcelo, and Brugal in the north coast.  Brugal, founded in 1888, seems to be the largest, perhaps as a result of being acquired in 2008 by the UK Edrington Group (they are the makers of Cutty Sark), and perhaps because Bermudez succumbed to internecine family squabbling, while Barcelo made some ill-advised forays into the hospitality sector and so both diluted their focus, to Brugal’s advantage

The term añejo simply means “aged”, and in this case it’s just a question of how long.  Given the cheapness of the bottle (~$30 in Calgary Co-op) you can sort of assess that it’s not a double-digit rum, and indeed, after doing some research, I confirmed it to be a blend of rums aged three to five years in the usual used oak barrels that once held bourbon. The rum itself is a solidly mid-tier offering, golden in colur, in an utterly undistinguished, average looking bottle with a white plastic cap (plastic? >> sigh<<). I don’t always agree with the Arctic Wolf in Edmonton on his assesments of rum, but both he and The Bear share this one thing: they despise cheap crap, in particular, bottle caps made of tinfoil or plastic (against this, you have to understand that the Bear in particular hates being dinged for extra crap which adds only to presentation…it gets a bit confusing at times).

All this preamble aside, what’s it like?  Well, if you want me to cut to the chase, the bottom line is that Brugal Anejo is a solid mid-tier rum, with a smooth finish that makes it just barely edge into sipper territory. Stop reading now if that’s all you needed.

In the glass it’s a clear dark toffee colour, which leaves a nice clear film on the side of the glass which gradually disperses into thin legs. The initial nose is sharp and medicinal (did I ever mention how much I hate this?) which, once the rum sits a while, devolves into light vanilla and caramel notes with a clear sweet floral note that I quite liked. Gradually, a second and third nosing will take you back into the comforting arms of the caramel, molasses and burnt sugar flavours, but they are light and clear in a way that is at odds with the heavier, darker flavours of the Guyanese El Dorados (or even the Jamaican Appletons).

The body of the rum is medium light… in fact, it’s almost thin, the way Doorley’s XO was. Be warned: this rum is not sweet, and this means that the overall feel on the tongue is more like a cognac, an opinion reinforced by its overall driness.  The lack of sweet translates into something almost salty, like an ocean breeze tang, or something autumnal (which may be the oaken flavours coming through), and it’s intriguing without entirely being somehting I cared for.  And as with the nose, after a moment you can taste the burnt brown sugar flavours coming subtly through on the back end – much more so than the Doorley’s I could not learn to appreciate. On ice Brugal’s is not recommended – the ice will close this baby up faster than a nun’s habit in a brothel – but as a mixer? Hmmm.  Pretty damned good.

The delight of this rum is the finish: Brugal is astonishingly smooth. I don’t like the lack of sugar in the flavour profile because this to some extent affects how long the finish lasts and how heavy the rum feels, but even with the short time you feel the rum on the swallow, you get no burn or scratch or bite whatsoever.  It’s nothing short of amazing, and for this I gave it a high thumbs up. Overall, this is not quite my kind of rum – I’ve made mention  of my liking for heavier, darker and slightly sweeter variations – but I must be honest about it. If your liking is for less sugar than I prefer, then this low priced mid-range likker from the Caribbean will be right up your alley and is absolutely a good value for your thirty bucks. If that’s your thing, go for it.

A:4/10 N:15/25 T:10/25 F:20/25 I:0/10 TOT=49/100

 Posted by on March 24, 2013 at 7:47 pm