Few rum aficionados need me to elaborate either on Don Q, the “other” major distillery on the island of Puerto Rico which makes it, Puerto Rico itself and it’s peculiar status vis-a-vis the USA, or indeed, this rum. Any one of them is an essay in itself and can lead to any number of rabbit holes,
Let’s just stick to the basics, then. In brief: like Bacardi, Destilería Serrallés was founded by a Catalan emigre in the 1860s (the sugar plantation the Serrallés family first bought goes back three decades before that), though they lacked the global ambitions of the larger company’s operations and have stayed within Puerto Rico. Don Q, named after Sancho Panza’s elderly sidekick, is the flagship brand of Destilería Serrallés with several expressions dating back to 1932 when it was launched to compete with Bacardi: however, let’s be clear – the Cristal was first released in 1978, when it was specifically designed to compete with the rising popularity of vodka. Before that, I think white rums were just called “Don Q” and had a distinguishing white label (my assumption), since I can’t find any reference to a specific one predating the Cristal.
The Cristal itself is a white rum, adhering to the Latin style of light ‘n’ easy rum making, and is the result of distillation on a multi-column still, aged in ex-bourbon barrels for between one and five years, filtered to colourlessness, blended, and then bottled at standard strength (40%). The review of the modern equivalent gives you some more details of the version you’re likely to find on store shelves these days – this one, as far as I can tell, is from the mid to late 1980s, perhaps the 1990s (the label has undergone several revisions over the years and for different countries, so dating is imprecise at best).
Colour – white
Strength – 40%
Nose – Has a sort of light and creamy aroma, like custard drizzled with vanilla syrup. Acetones and nail polish. Slightly sweet, somewhat warm. A few faint fruity notes – nothing really identifiable leaps out – which are just trembling on the edge of a flat cream soda.
Palate – Sharpish, mostly pineapple, vanilla and flavoured yoghurt, iodine. Not a whole lot going on here and while not really unpleasant, there are too many discernible medicinal and ethanol notes to make to a drink worth having.
Finish – Decently long, sweet vanilla milkshake and an apricot slice or two. Unremarkable, but at least there’s something here, which is already better than most of these bland, anonymous filtered blancos from the era.
Thoughts – My remarks about when it was issued and why, is the key to unlocking why the profile is what it is: inoffensive, bland, easy, vodka-like…and by today’s standards, rather uninteresting. It remains what it has always been, a cheap bar mixer, without much of an edge to wake up a mixed drink. Older versions like this one seem even blander than the modern ones, and so my recommendation is to get one if you like to drink some rums from Ago, but don’t expect too much, and keep mixing your mojito with what’s on the shelves today.