I recently began my love affair with aged rums after being in the bourbon world for a spell. While I do still love bourbon, I have really enjoyed the diversity rum has to offer and have begun a decent collection.
After much research and time spent in understanding the various styles, range of sweet and dry, and countries of origin, I have gravitated to bajan rums mainly, but still enjoy a nicely balanced sweet rum and some cocktails as well.
Here is a list of my current cabinet (it doesn’t seem like I can post a picture here):
Mount Gay XO
Foursquare Probitas (also Jamaican)
Foursquare Zinfandel cask
Plantation 20th Anniversary xo
Martinique (Rhum Agricole):
Clement Mahina coco
El Dorado 15-year
Dzama Cuvée Noire prestige
Don Q Gran Anejo
Don Q 2005 single barrel
Ron Barrelito 3 star
Diplomatico Reserva Exclusiva
Appleton 12-year rare blend
(And the aforementioned Probitas blend)
Ron Barcelo Imperial Onyx
Grander 8-year Single Barrel
Rumjava signature (Florida)
Gordian Knot (North Carolina but not 100% sure where the rum is distilled)
Dos Maderas 5+5. (Can’t seem to find info on source of rum or blend used)
If I had to name a top 3 right now (indicative of each self-described taste category), it would be:
Dry - Foursquare Zinfandel (though I have yet to try any other including the 2004, 2005, or 2007)
Balanced - Ron Barrelito 3 star (a real surprise to me for sure. This rum is everything I’m looking for in a balanced rum and more. Not to mention a great price.)
Sweet - Plantation 20th anniversary (yeah, I know it’s dosed. But it’s a special product that comes together to deliver a great experience overall. What a great bottle design as well.)
Im now looking to expand my collection with:
some rum from countries/areas I don’t have represented yet (Guatemala, St Lucia, Columbia, US northeast, etc)
some higher end stuff - Zacapa XO? Also considering the Dos Maderas Luxus because I’ve heard great things but I’m not a huge fan of the 5+5 to be honest due to too much sherry flavor in the rum,
And more Foursquare when I can get my hands on any.
Recommendations for the above are welcome!
Looking forward to discussions and posting reviews of the above.
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Great job on your initial research and acquisitions for rums! Being that you came here from being a bourbon lover, I will mention the two rums that taste the most like bourbon. Clement 10 year old has absorbed so much of the bourbon barrel flavors that it is very hard to tell it apart from a real bourbon. I would call the Clement 10 as a gluten free bourbon since it is not made from grain. The other one hails from Columbia and tastes a lot like Jack Daniels due to the barrels that it was aged in. It was called Antigua Porteno 8 year old when I bought it a year ago, but that same rum and bottle shape now goes by a different name. I think it is now named Canisteros. Keeping rum drinkers confused! Try before you buy on both, preferably at a well stocked rum bar.
Plantation Stiggins Pineapple for something a bit different.
Venezualan - Diplomatico 2004 SBV / Santa Theresa 1796
Dominican - Brugal 1888 Double Anejo.
St Lucia - Admiral Rodney XO.
Columbia - La Hechicera.
Based on your list above you'll like all the above. Zacapa 23 is nice and similar although not quite as dark/sweet as the Diplo Exlusiva. The XO is excellent too if you fancy a treat.
Thanks so much for the reply and suggestions, Paul.
I think the Clement products I have are interesting and different, and will definitely give the 10 year a try. As for the other, I’ve never seen it in South FL, but will keep a look out.
Sadly, there aren’t as many really great rum bars in my immediate area as you may imagine. I live south of Miami proper, and everything is on the beach and/or North. (Areas I prefer to avoid due to traffic and general congestion of too many people).
I just picked up a different Columbia’s bottle today, which seems to be rated decent: Ron Marquis del valle 8 year. Will be trying that one soon!
Simon, thanks to you as well for those suggestions! In fact, nearly all of those are on my metal wishlist and I intend to try or buy them over the next few months.
The one I’m having the hardest time with finding to purchase here in south FL is the Admiral Rodney’s XO. Have yet to see it once anywhere.
The only one on your list I was not as enthused to purchase is the Brugal 1888. I had considered the Vizcaya VXOP as my next possible Dominican rum
I may well spring for the Zacapa XO once I’m fairly done with the middle priced ($30 to $60) good stuff.
It appears that the Admiral Rodney XO has been replaced by three different ones named after important battleships in the war against the French in 1782. The HMS Princessa is the cheapest at $47 and much better than the HMS Royal Oak at $63 with more oak flavor from extra aging. I have not tried the most expensive one, which is the HMS Formiddable. Both Total Wine And More and ABC Fine Wine And Spirits do not carry them yet. I lucked out and found my two Admiral Rodney's at a small chain liquor store only 25 miles away. The HMS Princessa is indeed worth searching for!
I also noticed your review on Appleton 12 Year Rare Blend. I gave it another shot recently after a year and could not stand that one's funk. May I suggest Plantation Original Dark Double Aged, which is mostly Barbados rum with some Jamaican rum. This tones down the funk. Jamaican rums are mainly good for making excellent Mai Tai's. Smith & Cross as well as Blackwell's Reserve work best for me.
Darn. Was really hoping for the chance to grab a bottle of the XO, since I had the chance to try it at the rum festival and really really enjoyed it.
I appreciate your input on the Princessa being preferable to the Royal Oak! Still interested in the Formidable as well.
I’m about to put in a review for another rum I had the pleasure of tasting recently that I fell instantly in love with: Autentico Nativo 15 year. A Panamanian rum from Cuban distiller Don Pancho that will receive my highest score to date. I prefer the 15 slightly over the 20 year. The overproof was also excellent.
Ron Maestro Don Pancho started out in Cuba with a PhD in chemistry. He made the finest rums for the ruling party and used the cheap stuff to keep the masses happy. Well, somewhere around 1993 when the French conglomerate took over production of Havana Club rum, Don Pancho took a flight to Panama. He suddenly went from communism to capitalism and the rest is history. He is probably one of the most revered rum makers in the world. I have tried quite a few of his rums. However, beware that Panama does not have laws like we do in the USA and there are several rum companies that are only using his name on their rums that he had absolutely nothing to do with.
Well, I can’t tell you for sure about his involvement in the distillation of the Autentico; only what they claim.
I will say this, however, Don was present at their booth signing bottles during the Miami Rum Festival I attended, so one can only assume that he is (at very least) happy to put his name on the product.
If he signed the bottles, that is one SURE way to know it's for real.
The main culprits are Ron de Jeremy, Ron Abuelo, Panama Pacific, and Zafra. The authentic ones are Don Pancho, Cana Brava, and Yolo. The Selvarey Rums are owned by Bruno Mars and some California investors. They spent years searching until they found Don Pancho in Panama. Their white rum tastes a LOT like Cana Brava white. Another group of investors from Abaco and Walker's Cay in the Bahamas also hooked up with Don Pancho and have access to his casks. Their new line of rums is called Frigate Reserve. The 21 year old comes straight from Don Pancho's casks. The 15, 12, and 8 year are all blended from Don's casks to the taste of the investors. ABC Fine Wine And Spirits in Florida are the only stores that carry them. The 21 year old is $110.
Well that’s good to know. If you have a chance to grab any of the Autentico products, you really should.
As for the Frigate Reseve, I’ve seen them on the shelf here in Miami in ABC and will pick up some if you are in agreement that they should be a high quality product line.
I advise you to research the Frigate Reserve Rums website before you buy. It is all well explained. This will guide you on which one to take chances on first. As for me, I probably would not like the 8 year as the cheapest one. Too much wood taste. I also personally would start with the 21 year old, even at that high price. Pure Don Pancho! My next choice would be the 12 year old.
Those Autentico Nativo rums are also very affordable, but I have no idea where to find them.
Just a note about Don Pancho and his relationship with Zafra. At rumhowlerblog under zafra master reserve 21 is a signed bottle and photo of Don. Assuming not faked he had some relationship with Zafra. Best of luck on your journey and try Zafra 21. It backs down from the sweeter great rums.
I agree with Tony Sanders about Zafra 21
I was initially hesitant to try Zafra 21. I finally bought a bottle about 2 months ago and it blew me away. It is not as sweet as most El Dorado, Diplomatico, Centenario, and Plantation offerings. The complexity and multitudes of flavors and their subtlety absolutely floored me. It really is phenomenal. I definitely recommend that you try it.
Tastes being subjective, trying to go by what you seem to like...
Let me start by suggesting Plantation Xaymaca Special Dry. You seem to like drier ones, some Jamaican funk but not overwhelming... this could be a good one for you.
If I'm wrong and you do actually like them funk-heavy: try anything from Fiji if you're looking into other regions. I think there is only one working distillery there, so, you're not taking big chances. I was quite taking with Transcontinental's 2014 bottling, but you want to let it breathe a little.
I don't know if it represents all of Guadeloupe, but Damoiseau from there is in the agricole style. I've tried three expressions from their line and all were good; which I'd suggests based on whether you prefer daqs, cocktails, ti'punch, or just straight.
For the U.S. northeast, I would be remiss if I didn't mention one made right in my backyard (Pittsburgh), Maggie's Farm. They're always changing things up with different experiments, but their "Queen's Share" is solid; they have a pineapple one that's gotten really popular with area bartenders; and if you can get it, they collaborated with a local tiki bar to make "Hidden Harbor blend" specifically for daiquiris (and it made the best daiquiri I had out of a survey of probably 25 different rums).
Now that I've talked regions, let me talk high-end: if you're ready to blow $200 on a bottle, you can get a bottle of Caroni 2000 for close to that right now, and you'll probably never be able to get it again, very soon (at least not without an absurd secondary market price hike).
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