As with previous tastings, these five rums are sampled straight up, about an ounce of each, with no mixers, ice cubes, or chilling, and enjoyed at room temperature. These were all enjoyed last night, after a honey-glazed ham dinner with scalloped potatoes and fixin’s.
14. Dictador 12. (42% alc/vol, Columbia) This rum from Columbia is an “ultra premium reserve” rum that’s made using the solera system (similar to my favourite sipping rum, Ron Zacapa). Funny thing is, the label itself says 40% alcohol by volume, but then there’s an amendment sticker affixed to the reverse-side label that shows it at 42% instead. This particular bottle was won at auction at one of the Toronto MegaHerf events, and it’s be a slow-use rum for me.
In the glass, this stuff is a bit lighter than similar 12-years. It’s a fair bit thinner in viscosity as well, and doesn’t so much leave legs in the glass compared to just a slight oily coating. This rum is made using virgin sugar cane as well (rather than molasses or Demerara sugar), and it shows. The aroma is fairly bland and light, with slight floral tones, brown sugar, and buttered roasted almonds, and then perhaps some overlapping caramel fringes. Once sipped, flavours of butter, cinnamon, nutmeg, and sweet carmelized sugar remind me of pancakes and syrup, or French toast and syrup – quite nice. However, it seems to be somewhat overpowered by the alcohol heat, which really takes over the other flavours, and lingers long after. This rum for me isn’t so much as a good sipper as it perhaps is something that’s best cut with a bit of Coke.
15. Ron Santiago de Cuba Extra Anejo 12 Anos. (40% alc/vol, Cuba) This 12-year-old rum has a rich, dark copper colour, and coats the inside of the glass well, and has very nice, long-holding legs. The bottle for this is only slightly distinguishable from the standard Anejo (one has a brown-background on the label, the other has the black background), but the price and the quality still do set it aside. That said, this one is fairly excellent value, being picked up for $40 CUC down in Cuba.
On the nose, slight lemon zest is there, along with an almost sour-but-sweet aroma – I’d almost say a slightly sweet malt vinegar tinge; yes, while it may seem a bit crazy it seems to work. Everything on the nose is blended well with a molasses tinge. Once sipped though, a slight sourness is initially apparent. Butterscotch, honey, and fresh dough (like that for fresh and soft white dinner rolls) are most apparent, with the alcohol heat really only hitting at the back of the palate and back of the throat. Everything is evened off of each other quite well, and though that sourness is a bit off-putting at first, it does seem to make this rum pair up quite nicely with lighter cigars (think aged Trinis, Cohiba, and LGC fare). If the sourness is too much for you, some ice cubes in the glass with it alone do wonders for this rum.
16. Ron Flor de Cana Centenario 18. (40% alc/vol, Nicaragua) This bottle was a kindly gift from BOTL Rob / “Freefallguy”, he of the Nicaraguan Children’s Feeding Mission, and grabbed for me as a kind gesture during one of his trips down there. He frequently gets a chance to visit my home and family during trips up here to the Frozen North, and my kids enjoy when Uncle Rob brings bubblegum for them, and then coffee and booze for Mommy and Daddy. This rum in particular is a slow-aged, single-estate sugar plantation rum, and has a fair bit of fans out there.
The rum is a lighter golden colour in the glass, a bit surprising being that it’s a slow-aged traditional rum that’s 18-years-old, and being a lighter hue than other younger and solera-aged rums. That said, once it’s in the glass, it’s all old hat. Long slender legs are aplenty in the glass, and strong banana, caramel, and lemon-honey-tea tones are readily scented. Tasting it, the creme brulee and caramelized-sugar sweetness hits you first, and then WHAMMO!, get’s overran by the alcohol heat, which travels front to back on your tongue and then even hits you in the nasal cavity. After the burn subsides a slight bit after a second or so, background flavours of prunes, bread, and pears round it out. A wonderful sipper that would be a sacrilege to cut with anything aside from a handsome cube or two of ice.
17. Ron Zacapa 23. (40% alc/vol, Guatemala) What can I say – this is my absolute favourite sipper. This Ron Zacapa 23 (as well as the following Ron Zacapa XO) is made from “first-crush virgin sugar cane honey” (that’s a mouthful) and then aged in the mountains of Guatemala at an altitude of 2300 meters. The location above the clouds allow for a unique warming and cooling process of the barrel houses throughout the course of a day, and accelerate and accentuate the aging process of this rum. The Zacapa 23 particularly contains rums with a minimum of six-years of age, and a maximum of 23-years, and is matured in a mixture of barrels that previously held American whiskeys, sherries, and Pedro Ximenez wines. The packaging of this rum is also top-notch as well, with its black, red, gold, and tan outer-packaging, and then the very distinguishable bottle with the rattan weave around the circumference of it.
In the glass, this is one of the richer copper-coloured rums I have, and has wonderful long-holding legs in the glass. The aroma is loaded with caramel right from the get-go, and then even some marshmallow and sweet apple pie notes. Upon sipping, a buttery softness and caramel breadiness makes me a very happy man, and the alcohol heat slowly steps into the fold with some sweet fruits and savoury spices, notably some allspice. This rum definitely has set the bar for me as a sipper, and is my overall favourite, and though the availability seems to be getting harder to find, and the pricing seems to be getting higher, this is still a must-have.
18. Ron Zacapa XO. (40% alc/vol, Guatemala; bottle # T465143) Like the Zacapa 23, this XO has a lot of the same production aspects. However, what sets this one aside is that the rum ages are from six-years to 25-years (rather than only 23), and then the rum is finished in French oak casks that previously aged cognac. The packaging on this one is stellar as well, and a very elegant bottle is contained within a well-protecting outer box; that said, I almost like the Zacapa 23’s bottle better, in that it just fits into a cabinet more neatly!
This rum, almost identical to the Zacapa 23, is such a dark brown colour it’s wonderful to behold in the glass. Again, long legs in the glass when swirled, and beautiful aromas of caramel, this time accented with breadfruit and nectarines, with a cinnamon and nutmeg tinge. On the palate, tastes of caramel and whipped cream are helped along right from the get-go with an alcohol warmth, and continue on with a hit of banana and coconut-cream pie. This is a very sweet rum, caramel laden, and not overly distinguishable from the Zacapa 23. Both are excellent rums, and at the top of most rum lovers’ wish lists, and are equally well-paired with any cigar but the lightest (I avoid long-aged LCG and Trinidad with these).
So, there we go. Eighteen rums, two evenings, zero bottles or glasses broken, one whole dishwasher load of shot glasses and rocks glasses, and only two Aspirin used (for a completely different issue altogether). Glad I went through these – some in here that I haven’t delved into too much lately, and this was a nice refresher on what to start drinking down for this upcoming holiday season.