West Indies Rum and Cane Merchants – Central American XO

What is it? Rum produced in Nicaragua and Guatemala. Crafted from molasses and distilled using column stills then aged in ex bourbon casks. A limited release of 2,000 bottles worldwide. This was bottled by West Indies Rum & Cane Merchants (a brand of Crucial Drinks). I have no idea where the rum came from, I’ve contacted Cruical Drinks about the distillery information and rum ages but I’ve not had a reply.

My bottle is from Batch number 1 and is bottle number 560.

Not chill filtered, not coloured and bottled at 43% abv.

Sugar? No information on this at the moment. The bottle states “natural rum” and I’m not finding any evidence of tampering during tasting, so I don’t think there is any added sugar in here.

Nose: Quite aromatic and almost agricole like with fresh flowers (Lilly of the Valley, Sweet Pea), Lavender, limes and cane juice. There is a little orange rind in there too. Behind the citrus and florals there is a warm oak, actually quite a bit of oak, incense, a little tobacco leaf, spent coffee grounds and menthol. Fairly complex with some lovely mixing of smells.

Palate: Medium mouth feel, quite spicy at first. Some of those cane’y notes from the nose with the flowers and lime but then quite quickly to richer flavours; dark chocolate, choc-chip brioche buns, some cinnamon, vanilla – gets a bit Bourbon’y; a few cashew nuts here and there, honey, coconut and a little mint.

Finish: Short, not it’s best bit I’m afraid. Spearmint, spices (generic heat), some honey and a little bitter coffee. It just kinda falls off a cliff at the end.

Thoughts? Very pleasant and a great surprise; I was expecting trouble given the countries this is from, and whilst it does get a bit flabby near the end of the palate and finish, overall it was interesting. The nose is the best bit, really quite a bit going on. I think it’s a decent rum and worth the price I paid, which was £34.

Brugal 1888

Right. This is a re-review of Brugal 1888. I reviewed a bottle in  February and the bottle was bad; it was corked. Luckily for me the shop I bought this from (Amazon) sent me a new bottle free of charge, and I’ve been drinking this for a few weeks – time to review a good bottle!

What is it? Well, I wont cover old ground. You can read details of the bottling and my previous review here (Brugal 1888 – corked). Essentially, it’s a sherried column distilled rum from the Dominican Republic.

Let’s get down to it then;

Nose: Similar (naturally) to the corked bottle; gooey toffee, Crème Brule topping, golden raisins, sultanas and honey – but it seems “wider” and “rounder” if that makes sense, a lot less narrow and the smells merge and overlap with better integration. This is where things start to pick up; the oak is warmer and the incense is much more intense with plenty of mouth-watering rolling tobacco. The nose is much fruitier than before too, with flamed orange peels and even some grapefruit. There is some faint earthy, mushroomy smell further in which is quite consistent with the rancio notes I’d expect from a sherry matured spirit.

Palate: Still a medium mouth feel, a bit fuller than before (the old bottle seems thin now). No damp cardboard or wet dog! Result. There is still a musty cork note in this, but that’s common with what I’ve had in previous DomRep rums and is just part of the character, it’s not a “flaw”. Here is where the difference in this new bottle is found. Big fruity oranges, that slightly sour grapefruit note and lots of honey. Big fat juicy sultanas, figs, buttercream, milk chocolate and coffee. There is a big handful of roasted mixed nuts, covered with fresh cinnamon and a prickle of oak and it moves to the finish.

Finish: Medium. Juicy, mouth-watering and spicy at the same time. It’s a dry finish, with plenty of vanilla, clove, root ginger and walnuts. There are notes of coffee bean, brown sugar and mint as things fade out.

Thoughts? Well this is seriously better than the first bottle I had. When I did a side by side it’s like they were almost different rums, which I’m very happy about. I’ve looked back through my previous review and I think I was being a little kind when wrote it, it wasn’t until after that I really realised how bad that bottle was. Is it for me? Well, yes. I’m not a massive fan of the DomRep style, it’s fine and has a place but I find it all a bit “magnolia” – you know, you paint your walls magnolia because it’s goes with everything, it’s neutral and doesn’t offend anyone….but it doesn’t really excite, its just “there”. This rum, however, is quite different. It’s easily the best DomRep rum I’ve had so far and the ex-sherry casks have been fantastic by pumping it full of big flavours. One I’d consider getting again.

Brugal 1888 – corked!


*** Update 28/02/2017: I’ve contacted the shop where I bought this (Amazon) and they’ve sent me a new bottle on the house. Same Lott number so same batch. It’s a different rum, I mean really different. The one in this review is a bad bottle and most likely corked, which is the first time that’s ever happened! So I’ll be doing a re-review once the new bottle had been open a bit longer.

I’m going to leave this review up for info purposes as I think it’s important to know that spirits can be corked. ***



What is it? Molasses based rum from the Dominican Republic, distilled in column stills and aged in a mixture of American ex-bourbon casks and European ex-sherry casks. I’ve seen mentions of this being “double distilled” on various sites. It is also double matured; the distillate is put into American ex-bourbon casks for up to around 8 years and then transferred over to European first fill ex-sherry casks for up to around 6 years, the key words being “up to”, this likely varies based on the cask selection and as such there is no age statement on this rum. I’ve also seen mentions of “around 7 or 8 years old” and based on the details above it could be up to 14 years old, but we don’t know with any certainty.

Brugal is owned by Edrington Group, who also own Macallan (the Scotch). Macallan are renowned for the quality of their sherry casks, used for their whisky maturation, and I understand the same casks are selected for the second maturation period of this rum….so we should have some decent caskage going on here. First fill casks mean that it’s their first fill since the previous contents were emptied, so in this case it means it’s held sherry and then this rum – nothing else prior – and should be very evident on the tasting.

Coloured (most likely), chill-filtered and bottled at 40% abv. My bottle is 2013 release, Lott 03.

Sugar? Sub 5 g/l (around 3/4), so no. This is likely to be residuals form the sherry casks.

Nose: Oh, now this is nice; toffee sauce, slightly burnt caramelised sugar like you get on top of Crème Brule, golden raisins, sultanas, thick honey. Really nice warming oak, some incense (cedar, sandalwood, that sort of thing) and a gentle smoke; fresh rolling tobacco being smoked somewhere in the distance. There is an earthy, leafy and slightly musty note in there too and a touch of wet dog.

Palate: Medium mouth feel, slightly sweet delivery but not sugar sweet. Straight away there is the taste of wet and musty cork, damp cardboard, bung cloth and that old dog note from the nose. Not so great at first really. This is something I’ve found in other Dominican rums before now too, but it seems to be amplified in this, not sure if this is a batch issue or not, but it’s not overly pleasant. After about half a glass it starts to taste quite nice; butter, caramel, milky coffee, mixed nuts and honey. There is a little cinnamon and a touch of oak.

Finish: Medium. Vanillas, honey, and quite spicy as it goes on – much more so than the palate suggest. Maybe a touch of clove, ginger and aniseed. Milky coffee again and walnuts right at the end which are a little sour and puckering.

Thoughts? Another easy and rather inoffensive rum from the DomRep. The nose is a real delight and the finish is safe but tasty, if not overly interesting. The palate bothers me. These are done in batches and I don’t know if the problem is with my batch, my bottle or just normal for this rum, but searching on the web I don’t find any other mentions of this taste – I get it every time so it’s not my palate. Anyway, it lets the rum down quite a bit; if the palate was like either the nose or the finish then it’d be a real joy, but as it is I find it too odd and out of sorts to want to get another bottle of this, especially at the price of £40 a bottle.

Don’t let my notes sway you, as I say there are many reviews of this stuff and it maybe just something I’m sensitive to or I have a dodgy bottle. As always, get a rounded and informed view from looking at many sources before deciding on what to buy 🙂

Barceló Imperial

20160819_175901What is it? Molasses based rum from the Dominican Republic. As far as I can tell this is column distilled and aged in ex-bourbon casks for up to and around 10 years, although there is no age statement and some sources state 6 years while others say 8. It’s likely this is made in batches which vary with age content from batch to batch with the intention of maintaining a uniform profile, I say this due to the lack of age statement and also I have a serial number of the back of my bottle which seems to relate to a batch.

Coloured, chill-filtered and bottled at a woeful 38% abv.

Sugar? Yes. From online sources it could be around the 27 g/l mark, I’d say this is consistent with the evidence I get from drinking it too.

Nose: Caramel, cinnamon, butterscotch, butter. Mushy banana, oak – actually there seems to be a fair amount of oak on the nose. Musty. I’ve noticed this is other DomRep rums too, almost a old and dry cork smell, earth, dried leaves and a little bit of mushroom. There is a handful of mixed nuts too. Quite rustic/outdoor smelling.

Palate: Medium mouth feel – certainly not from the abv or spirit, so it’s got friends helping out here. Sweet delivery. Yep. Dosed up. Big waft of toffee and caramel and then basically the same as the nose, which aint a bad thing. Some fruit, but dried/candied, a little honeyed banana and walnuts. That’s about it. Not really any oak to shout about.

Finish: This is where things fall apart. It’s short, maybe carries out to medium helped by the sugar. Not bad, just not very long. Then sugar does it’s thing and flattens it totally. Finishes the same as the palate but bitters off at the end with those walnuts.

Thoughts? Nose is good, palate is ok, finish is……meh. It’s pretty one dimensional , easy going and inoffensive, what’s not to like? Well, there’s nothing to challenge or dislike really, so it’s aimed at a wide market appeal. It’s ok. At £30 I don’t regret buying it but it’s not something I’ll be having again; just not really my style and all a bit to “flabby” if that makes sense. I can think of a dozen rums straight off the top of my head at around this price range that I’d rather have than this.

Rum Nation Panama solera 18 anos (2015)

20160519_120754What is it? Molasses based rum from Panama, column distilled and aged in a solera system for maximum of 18 years. The solera contains a mixture of ex-bourbon casks and various wine casks – no details on what wine but I’d wager there are certainly sherry casks in there. Batch released annually with around 6000 bottles each year (so I believe).

Likely coloured, is filtered and bottled at 40% abv.

Sugar? No online data. Seems to have something going on in there but that may well be the mix of wine casks used in the blend, so can’t say for sure.

Nose: Smoky, leather, dried fruits – in fact smoked raisins (if ever a thing existed). Burnt sugar, milky coffee, molasses and caramel. Some barrel char and oak. Under the fatter notes is a light trace of menthol, some watermelon and even grape flavour jolly ranchers.

Palate: A bit (not a lot) sweet actually on delivery, hmmmmm, shame. Medium mouth feel. Apricots, loads of oranges, flambed orange rind, dates, big fat and juicy raisins, smoky tobacco leaf, barrel char again and some soft eating licorice. Some of those mixed caramelized nuts you get at Christmas time.

Finish: Medium. Some sweetness carried through. Bananas now, but those dried slices you get in muesli etc. Starts to get spicy with pepper, ginger and clove. As things tail off there is a bit of a buzz and things get all flat. Not sure if this is because of any “additions” or something knocking things off center from the cask blend.

Thoughts? I like this. It’s a complex rum with layers of flavour and is something different than your standard ex-bourbon cask matured rum. It’d pair well with pudding and in fact the Rum Nation website does suggest pairing with chocolate – I can see that. It gives the smoothness you expect from solera aging but with enough going on to make things interesting. I’d prefer to see higher abv again on this, as an Independent bottler I’m sure they can put this stuff out at 43% abv or even 46% as it needs a bit more wallop on the finish. I picked this up for £48, which I think it a fair reflection of the rum you’re getting in the bottle, so I’d be happy to buy this again.