Jun 022012

A good, and very pricey ultra-premium solera, the top of the food chain from Santa Teresa A.J. Vollmer in Venezuela. I’m going to go on record as thinking it’s too much price for too little premium.

The $315 Santa Teresa Bicentenario solera rum is made by the privately owned Venezuelan outfit A. J. Vollmer, who also produce the 1796 rum (also a solera, and about which I was unenthused at the timeit may be due for a revisit). It’s a rum I have avoided for over two years in spite of its premium cachet, and because of its price. Every time I’ve tried it (four times to date) it reminds me somewhat of a fellow I once met on my sojourns, who dressed sharply, was educated at an Ivy League university, and was, alas, a bit of a bore. Pricily dressed and well put togetherjust not that interesting.

The bottle I had was labelled #5820 and given that only about a thousand liters a year are made, and since the product (according to the Spanish edition of Wikipedia and other sources) was introduced in 1996 as part of the company’s bicentennial, you could be forgiven for assuming this one was issued around 2002but personally I find that doubtful. KWM only got this batch about two years ago, and I don’t think it’s been mouldering around for eight years prior somewhere else (it remains an unanswered question). Still, the bottle, however startling (some might say ugly), is distinctive, and while I didn’t have the box it should have come in, pictures I’ve seen suggest it is pretty cool.

Santa Teresa Bicentenario is a solera, and therefore has a whole range of column- and pot-still, aged rum components in it — 80 year old product was noted without any indication of the average age, and the whole blend is aged some fifteen years in oak barrels; as the premium product of its line, it had all the hallmarks of care and love given to it: for the price, could it be otherwise? It was, for all that ageing, still somewhat light in the glass, a darkish golden colour with thin legs running down the sides. On the nose it presented itself with a light aroma containing citrus, light and white woods, white flowers, pineapple and a slight hint of dark berries in cream, caressing as a baby’s breath on your cheek.

The overall quality on the palate led on from there: soft and gentle, without a hint of the astringency of a stepmother’s ire. It was put together well enough that separating out individual tastes was as tough as analyzing the Juan Santos 21: about the most I was able to discern was vanilla, faint breezes of brown sugar, and a certain overall creaminess. Perhaps blackberries, and that’s reaching. To me it was just a bit too light and delicate (while nowhere near the effeminate nature of the Doorly’s). And this continued on to the fade, which was long and billowy and lasting, yet so soft that one barely knew it was there at all.

Rating this baby is a bitch. I can tell the work that went into smoothening out the intermarried solera components, and the fifteen years of ageing that blend was well done, because the smoothness is there, as it should be for any premium product. Yet the Bicentenario failed somehow, perhaps in the flavours being so light and commingled that I had little idea what it was I was tasting beyond the obvious. In short, I felt the rum had too little character, balles, cojones, or whatever Venezuelans call badassery.

So the question arises, for what are you paying this kind of money? The storage costs of rums aged to eighty years? Its purported exclusivity and relative rarity? Bragging rights? Probably. But three big ones (I’ve seen it go for about €150 on European webstores) just strikes me as too much. No me gusta, amigo. I’d rather get three El Dorado 21s, or maybe a few bottles of the feisty Pusser’s 15.

Let me put it this way. I raged about the Pyrat’s Cask 23 and wrote a overlong, scathing indictment of the divergence between quality and price. Santa Teresa is not quite in that league, because overall, it has elements to it that many appreciate and froth over, even if I don’t. It’s a decent rum, no question. The Bicentenariopitted against premium choices like the Rum Nation’s Panama 21 (one third the price), St. Nicholas Abbey 10 year old and English Harbour 1981 25 year oldcarries on its founders’ traditions of taste, clarity and lightness, good blend quality and decent value. Everything more or less works, everything fits. What’s not to like?

Please take a left turn here, because the real issue is, what’s to love? The rums we care about display characteristics which say something about ourselves that we wish trumpeted to the masses. I’m fun and unconventional (Koloa Gold). I’m big on Bay Street (Appleton 50 year old or maybe the G&M Jamaican Longpond 1941). Ask me about my retirement (Pusser’s, El Dorado 15). I am staid and prefer to mix and just get hammeredand like meself just so (Screech). I’m a bit nutso (Rum Nation Jamaican 25)…and so on. What does the Bicentenario say? The trust fund is ticking over? I use a discount brokerage house? I have a summer abode, a nice catamaran and drive a Volvo? By that standard, I have to stick with my assessment: good rum, overly ambitious, lacking attitude, a shade boringand, alas, overpriced.

(#112. 84/100)

Other Notes

  • My thanks go to the Scotchguy from Kensington Wine Market, who gave me his last heel for nothing, so that I could write this review and take the photographs, without incurring the ire of my parsimonious better half.
  • Here is a good write up on the company’s history, too detailed for me to abridge.


  14 Responses toSanta Teresa Bicentenario RumReview

  1. I was impressed by the site initially, ill give you that. Too bad that people nowadays write rum reviews just because they want, not because they are able.

    • The same could be said about people who believe they have something to say in their comments, when they actually don’t

  2. I recently came into possession of a bottle of Santa Teresa SELECTO Bicentario
    A J Vollmer Produccion Limitida Bottella No. 1-0620 (un-opened) which was given to Sam Whitman of BC. who had met one of the Vollmer decendants in Venezuela . Sam has since passed in 2004, Sam’s wife gave me the bottle cause she hasn’t acquired a taste for rum. Sadly Sam was always waiting for an occassion to open it. She figures the bottle to be worth over $400.oo If that is the case I am afraid to even open it as it appears from reading all the reviews to be too distinctive a history or quality. I have no idea what the numbers on the seal on the cap mean. DE 0, 01 L. HASTA O. 25 L. Now I’m waiting for a special occassion to open it, maybe next year for my 70th. What do you think.

    • Oh I agree, you should open it at some occasion that marks an important event. The worth of a rum is not a matter of how much it costs (or can be sold for) but how much it means to you personally. My only advice would be to share it with friends, and then enjoy.

  3. Hi so today i was cleaning out a house of a dead friends great uncle and was given bottle of Santa Teresa Selecto Bicentenario Produccio Limitada Botella NO 2175 AJ Vollimer. Now on the sealed neck it says ano 1992. Is this possible as the bicentennial was 1996? On the under belly of the bottle it does say 92. The label is a little different then yours, I have been looking for some info about this bottle and can’t really come by any. It came in a wooden hexagonal case with a wax seal under the locking mechanism. What would you do with a bottle like this and what do you think its worth.


  4. A minha garrafa esta numerada com o n.º 3416. vale alguma coisa?

    Lone Caner translation: “My bottle is numbered No. 3416. Is it worth something?”

  5. The bottle given to me from my son-inlaws mother who’s late husband had visited a family member of the A.J. Volmer family in Hecmo Venezuela where the bottle was given to him. The number is 0620. I do not know the name of the family member. It was long time ago.
    Since opening the bottle I found the aroma very inticing and although I’m not a connassieur of rums I enjoyed the taste. Although I think it is best served on it’s own over ice without mixing as many rum drinkers do. As I said I’m not a connassieur. I found the taste to be rich in flavour and full bodied rum with a flowery aftertaste, which I had not experienced from other rums. At 150 Lbs price in Canadian dollars about $300.+ I think it is worth it, but remembr it’s a Bicentenraio and is an exclusive limited edition (produccion limitada) Who am I to judge?

  6. Hi, need a bit of assistance here, came across a Santa Teresa Selecto Bicentenario on an auction 9 or 10 years ago. I´ve waited for an special occasion to cap this and now I´m turning 50 soo..
    But I´m a bit put in the dark whether this is actually worth opening, tried to find some information on the net. But mine is different than all the pictures I can find, it has an red stripe on the label. Furthermore on the top label it saysAno 1991but as far as I can read on Wiki´s and such, they didn´t start producing this before 1996.
    Anyone that can tell me a bit about this pineapple shapedBeauty”?

    Oh, pls. excuse my rusty English, my native tongue is Danish.

    • I’ll do some research and see what I can find out

      • Thx, sounds great.
        Pictures of the bottle and case:

        • Gran Reserva Selectoin the pineapple bottle was the top of the line in the Santa Teresa core range prior to the 1996 introduction of 1796 and one time bottling of Bicentenario. So while it’s a good rum it wouldn’t be the same special blend in the Bicentenario. After choosing the pineapple bottle for the Bicentenenario, a younger Selecto in a standard bottle was slotted in the core range for a time as the second tier below 1796. My interest in gathering this information was sparked by a mini tasting set brought home by my wife from Venezuela ~1993.

  7. Don’t waste a exdellent tasting rum by keeping it sealed. I was advised it doesn’t improve in the bottle. Yes its pricey. I was informed it could go as high as $300+ but I would guess $325 I acquired it through the widow of the owner some 11 yrsc ago. The story is Sam had visited the rum distillery in 1990s his widow couldn’t remember the dates. I only knew Sam briefly . Sam’s bottle number is 620. Sam personally knew the owner I have been told. The box it came in is extremely attractive. Box and bottle unopened should bring in my estimation $350 or $400 because it is nicely presented in the box. His widow said she isnt a rum drinker, that was my lucky day really There is still half left. Most rums I’ve tasted had an after taste and were not as smooth tasting and their aroma was like smelling perfume. This Selecto Bicenootenario Rum is exquisite tasting and smelling the aroma one need only breath it to know its quality. I am not a collector and never have been to a wine and spirits auction. Although I have sampled wines and Scotch Whisieys. Don’t recall the colour of the seal. I kept the seal and the box stored seperate. Once I get the Christmas decorations put away I’ll dig for the box..Happy New Yearv

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