Jun 252013
 

D3S_6879

A subtle, complex, tasty sipping rum

(#170. 85/100)

***

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.

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).

 

Mar 242013
 

First published November 18th, 2010 on Liquorature.

(#047.  74.5/100)

***

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.

 

error: Content is copyrighted. Please email thelonecaner@gmail.com for permission .