Nov 122015
 

Cacique Antiguo 1

Supposedly more premium, but not a whole lot better than the 500.

(#240 / 84/100)

***

Here’s a poster child of why a rum reviewer has to have the beady-eyed practicality of a jaded streetwalker. Age, style, marketing, pamphlets, labels, word of mouth, all count for nothing, and all is evaluated without recourse to what anyone else says.

After reviewing the €35 Cacique 500 as well as the Veroes Añejo from Venezuela, and checking around to see what else I could buy from that country, I felt it was only fair to pick up something a little higher up on the value chain (but only one), just to see how the Cacique brand developed as it got older: the Antiguo, selling for around €61, is a 12 year old rum aged in French white oak (Bordeaux, it’s been said) and quite an interesting rum, if not particularly ground breaking in any way: it does however present somewhat better than its predecessor.

My bottle was a cardboard-box-enclosed chubby flagon with a metal wrapped cork topping, so evidently the makers took some time to make the appearance match its marketing pedigree.  All good there.  It poured out a golden brown spirit with a nose that was light and easy, utterly unaggressive, redolent of perfumed bouganvilleas, lavender and honey. It was quite pleasant, except perhaps even smelling it suggested an overabundance of sugary sweetness, a cloying scent of, well, too many flowers.  And it was still a little lacking in the intensity I prefer. Still, it settled down very nicely after some minutes (I was tasting some other rums at the time, so sat it down and came back later) – it got warmer and more solidly aromatic after ten minutes or so. Some nuts, tarts with strawberries but more tart than berry, cereal…you know, like those Danish butter cookies with some jam in the center.  And even some lemon peel lurking in the background.

The taste was a country mile ahead of the nose.  At 40% I more or less expected a tame, soft drink, and I got that, as well as an unusually sharp introduction which fortunately faded away quickly, leaving just warmth. It was still a very light bodied rum – I suppose we could call it ‘Spanish style’ – flowery, delicate to taste. I want to use the word ‘round’ to describe how the texture felt in the mouth, coating all corners equally, but let’s just say it provided the sensation of a thin honey-like liquid, warm and mild, quite tasty, too luscious to be dry.  A pinch of salt, a dab of butter, a spoon of cream cheese, mixed in with a cup of sugar water and honey, a squeeze of lime, and a grating of nutmeg and crushed walnuts.  It was good, I went back a few times and recharged the glass (in a period spanning several days), just not something to rave over.  Admittedly, what I’ve described wasn’t all – over time and with a little water, some oak peeked out from under the sweet skirts, vague peaches and molasses, and an odd, woody, even anise note popped in and out of view, here now, gone a second later.  The finish was something of a let down – medium short, a little dry, flowers, some salt butter and a shade of vanilla; unexceptional really.

You’re going to buy and enjoy this one for the taste, I think, not how it ends. That midsection is decent and lifts it above what I thought were lacklustre beginnings and endings, and perhaps more attention should be paid to beefing this rum up a little.  It is a perfectly serviceable 40% rum, and I’ve read many Venos extolling its virtues online.  

But it’s nearly twice the price of the 500, and not twice as good. I look for certain things in a rum, and this didn’t provide all that many of them.  I’m unclear for how many years this rum has been in production: fairly recently, I think, though it has been noted that the traditions behind the company go back many decades.  For now I can say that what the Cacique Antiguo has shown us is relatively new (and interesting), but that, in fine, doesn’t mean that what they have presented is news.

Other notes

I’ve gone into the company and production background a little in the 500 essay, so I won’t repeat it here.

There’s a lot of the profile of the Santa Teresa 1796 here, or maybe the Diplomaticos.  Too bad I didn’t have them around to do a comparison, but it would be instructive to try that one day.

Aug 182015
 

D3S_9081

As appealing and soft as a pair of slippers on a cold evening

(#227 / 83/100)

*

Nosing this golden brown forty percenter was like revisiting a place in the mind. The soft sweet scents transported me back to the first time I tried the Diplomatico Reserva Exclusiva on a dark, bitterly cold and wintry evening.  This rum, made by the same outfit as the DRE, was quite similar: caramel, toffee, unsweetened chocolate and salted butter on rye bread.  There was a slight salty-sweet note here that hinted at soya, or even tequila, but very much in the background, and as it developed, coffee, dried dark fruits and raisins were also elbowing their way to my attention – not bad at all. I felt warmer just sniffing it, and thought back to the early fun days of Liquorature, where I fought a long hard battle to excommunicate the heresy of the scottish tipple with the rums of the True Faith (ultimately without success, but the fight rages on).

I have to comment on the velvety smoothness of the mouthfeel of the Cacique, which was great – it was like your rice-eating mongrel’s adoring I-love-you-master kiss without the drool, or a hungry cat purring and making nice. It was warm and sweet and unaggressive sort of feel on the palate, smooth and thick, without ever quite stepping off the edge and becoming a sweet vanilla-bomb.  Anyway…salt butter again, sour cream, toffee, vanilla, more coffee, very light floral notes, and exactly zero woody or even tobacco notes to be found.  Water?  Naah, I passed – water might have shredded this thing, it was already too light.  You see, the 40% was too weak to really emphasize and bring out the potential of the flavours hidden beneath…I really had to stretch just to sense what I described just now. This made it somewhat unadventurous, uncomplicated, and lacking in what us techno-rum-geeks with our love of exactitude, call “oomph.”  And this carried over into the fade, which might have been the weakest part of the entire drinking experience – the brown sugar came out really hard here, with dark, sweet caramel, butter and toffee…barely escaping the dreaded term “cloying” by the slight bitterness of oak and stale coffee grounds.

D3S_9084

The brand first marketed its rums way back in 1959 – it is now owned by Diageo – and according to wikipedia, it’s the top selling rum in Venezuela (Diplomatico must be pissed). Three varieties exist, the Añejo, the Cacique and the Antiguo, in ascending order, so this is a considered by the makers to be a middle of the road rum. All the rums in the range are supposedly made from molasses distilled in copper stills (I kinda doubt that – the profile suggests column still product), aged a little, then blended, then aged again, for up to eight years. The 500 is no newcomer to the stage, being first issued in 1992 to commemorate the date Columbus landed in the New World (I hesitate to use the word “discovered”).  Now you know as much as I do, and that’s still more than you’ll find on the Diageo website.

Cacique is made by Licoreras Unidas SA in La Miel – these are the same cheerful amigos who make the equally sweet, light and very drinkable Diplomaticos, which may inspire either praise and derision depending on where you stand on the sugar issue. I always kinda liked the Diplomaticos myself, especially in the early years — and even now that I’m more of a dark, heavy, full-proofed aged-rum aficionado, I still think they’re really good as introductory sipping rums (which is also how I came across them).  So I expected the Cacique to more or less hew to the same profile, and it didn’t disappoint in any major way. It shared points of similarity with the light Colombian and Peruvian rums, as well as the other Venezuelans, which argues for a commonality of origin in the diaspora of Cuban-influenced roneros.

So…did I like it?  Yes and no.  The smooth and familiar tastes were comforting in their own way, sweet, pleasant, unadventurous, uncomplex – they love you. No attention needed be paid to the Cacique – it wasn’t that kind of rum – but if that’s your thing, add five points to my score. If on the other hand you’re into cask strength beefcakes that menacingly flex their power and dunder and esters in all directions, and show their indifference to your health or your opinion or your tonsils, better take five off.

Other notes

A cacique is an Arawak (Amerindian) tribal chieftain. I wonder if the irony of a bottle label commemorating both the arrival of Europeans, and the title of a chief of those they nearly exterminated, ever occurred to anyone.

Mar 262013
 

A puzzlingly schizophrenic rum – I can’t quite make up my mind about how good it is: an undistinguished bottle containing a so-so tasting rum with both a lovely nose and a finish to savour. I’m going to go back to this one, for sure, just to nail my opinion down more precisely.

(#078. 79/100)

***

The Diplomatico Anejo I had on the night of the last Liquorature club was one of those weird rums that I couldn’t quite categorize, because it had both good elements I liked and others by which I wasn’t entirely enthralled. However, I had quite a bit of it, so who’s to say that’s a bad thing?

Presented to Liquorature by the same gent who introduced us to the 15 year old Diplomatico Gran Reserva, the Anejo is distilled by the same Venezuelan concern that makes that version – this was merely a younger iteration, having no age statement on the bottle. It also had the rather grandiose statement that it was the Rare Rum of the Caribbean on it, and as a member of the Caribbean diaspora myself, I can tell you that there’s a misnomer if I ever heard one, since not only are there no shortages of rums (rare or otherwise) in the area, but Venezuela, while having a fairly extensive Caribbean beachfront, is not considered culturally a part of De Islands, being more akin to Latin America.  I mean, when was the last time you ever heard of a Venezuelan soca competition, a Veno steel pan band, or their local cricket team?

Bottle appearance?  Utterly average, nothing fancy – solidly seated plastic cap, though, which I liked (at least it wasn’t some cheap tinfoil screw-on). The Hippie stayed silent on this one (remember his childish exuberance with the postage stamp design of the Gran Reserva?) but did partake of a nip or two.

Nose was soft, a little fruity – peaches and soft fleshy types, with a bananas hint emerging reluctantly after a bit; and a vanilla scent which I liked.  Not much in the way of a sting to your snoot, so you’d probably like this one on that level alone. No real complexity there, though.

I said the bottle appearance was utterly average.  The taste, to me, was medium everything. Like Bacardi, it excelled at nothing while being average at everything. It’s almost like the Corolla or Civic of rums. I mean, there was almost nothing out of the ordinary for which to award points or deduct them – the body was medium; the taste was sweet, but not too much so, with neutral smoothness, a taste that lingered on, not too short, not too long, and which had a slightly thicker character that (I swear) tasted of unsweetened chocolate; and there was an odd briny note, a tang of the sea, that I found odd but in no ways unpleasant.

If I was indifferent to the appearance and taste, let me wax somewhat more ebullient on the fade, which was excellent. Soft; smooth, elegant, long lasting. A taste of grapes a little ripe but not as cloying as the Legendario’s muscatel reek, wafted up and stayed in the mind.

On occasion, I’ve been given a hard time by mon pere for not always expressing an unequivocal opinion (he really must love Ebert’s thumb, honestly), and rereading the above I see I’ve done it again. So here goes: I think this is a surprisingly good rum, with elements that make me believe the blender wasn’t too sure what he wanted. I’d mix it or sip it (the latter perhaps with a cube of ice), but what it really makes me want to do is go back to the Gran Reserva: I didn’t have a rating system when I reviewed it back then, but the good and bad of this lower-tiered product from Venezuela makes me want to return and give the other one a more thorough evaluation.

 

 

Mar 232013
 

Diplomatico Reserva Exclusiva rum from Venezuela

 

First posted 9th March 2010 on Liquorature.

(#017. Unscored)

***

For some reason, the Last Hippie was absolutely enthralled by the label design* of this Venezuelan import when Pat trotted it out for the February 2010 get-together, rhapsodically comparing it to a postage stamp, nearly swooning over the originality of it all. It was the first time I ever saw a label nearly bring a Peathead over to the Light and have a shot of the good stuff, but it fell just short of the mark, alas and perhaps embarassed by his untoward display of emotion, he retreated to the other scottish brews for the rest of the night.

Diplomatica Exclusiva Reserva is a premium aged rum – indeed, the top of the line – made by the Venezuelan firm of Destilerias Unidas…which is now privately held, and a major supplier of raw spirit stock to Seagram.  The research is unclear: either one of the original owners, or Seagram, built a factory in the small town of la Miel, close to the Columbian border, in the 1950s, was for many years the only factor in northern SA and the Caribbean to make both cane and grain based spirits: even now,  this one factory makes whiskeys, vodkas, liquers, gin…and Smirnoff Ice.  (Looking at the location on the map, one wonders why it had to be so remote…I mean, this town is really far away from  anything).

Interestingly, the blend is made from a combination of heavy pot-still rum (80%) and column still rum (20%).  The rums are separately aged in white-oak barrels and then blended together to produce the final product which is a rich and textured dark rum of admirable complexity and taste for the modest price. The website also makes tangential mention of flavouring additives (“Only … rich aromas and flavours are used to manufacture rums…”) which statement I include for completeness, and to contrast it against the majority of rum producers who couldn’t be bothered (to their detriment, I think).

The nearly opaque bottle effectively disguises a copper-brown coloured rum that is medium-heavy bodied and of middle density, and with a distinctive taste.  The caramel and vanilla notes on the nose mellow gently into a very nice taste of burnt sugar, sweet molasses (not much), perhaps cream soda and…butterscotch.  And yet, it’s not overly sweet either. Very slightly ‘oily’, leading to a long, semi-sweet finish that everyone who tried liked.  Definitely top tier stuff, and fully desrving to be had without embellishment of any kind.  Which is not to say it can’t be used as a mixer but it doesn’t need to be.

And quite frankly, I don’t think it should be

* The label is a portrait of Mr. Don Juancho Nieto Melendez de Hacienda Botucal, a famous Venezuelan historical personage (and of impeccably ancient Iberian lineage) who acted as an ambassador for Venzuelan spirits in the 19th century, and noted as a collector of top-shelf liquors of all kinds. If my translation of the spanish web page is right, it was he who encouraged the making of spirits from the area around la Miel, because of the naturally filtered water, and the high quality of sugar cane grown there.

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