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.

Havana Club Seleccion de Maestros review

20160421_093854What is it? Molasses based rum from Cuba. It’s “triple aged” which I understand means that it’s the base juice that makes up the 7 year old (1), casks are then selected by hand from this stock, vatted and put into other casks to marry (2), at the point of maturity certain casks are selected and transferred to white oak casks for an undisclosed finishing period (3). There isn’t much detail on the cask types but from the way this rum behaves it seems like they were either new oak/virgin or 1st fill ex-bourbon casks (my guess only!).

As the casks are selected, married and selected again on merit there is no set aging period, as such there is no age statement for this rum. Sticking point: it says on the carton that it’s bottled “straight from the cask”, well that’s balls – there isn’t any way that the casks selected for the final bottling all match up to produce a rum at 45%, consistently, from batch to batch. It’s clearly diluted to a bottling strength of 45% abv. There also appears to be some colouring and a level of chill filtration, so it’s not “bottled straight from the cask” is it……

Coloured, filtered and bottled at 45% abv.

Sugar? From what I’ve found online, no, there isn’t any added. There is some sweetness to this, but it feels like it’s coming from the natural sugars in the casks used in the finishing process.

Nose: Very “rummy” and slightly grassy to start, then comes plenty (a shovel load) of caramel and some vanilla, fresh oak and some stone fruits (apricot/nectarine/peach). This reminds me of some younger high rye bourbons like Old Granddad. There are some cigar leaves, wooden boxes, cedar, and a touch of freshly brewed Colombian coffee. Woody spices such as nutmeg, cinnamon and clove appear but in quite a mellow manner.

Palate: Medium mouth-feel, spirity, semi-sweet (cask sugars). Quite a spicy delivery (that high rye bourbon again), caramel, toffee, vanillas, touch of leather, mixed nuts and some smoke/char. As with the nose there are some mild baking spices and a big squeeze of lime juice mid-palate – get’s really quite zesty and lively.

Finish: Medium. Quite drying, tart with green apples, apricots, limes and buzzing spicy oaks. There are some musty, dusty sacks (that’s good by the way), cigar smoke and plenty of caramel as it trails off with more spices prickling.

Thoughts? Good. It’s a good solid rum. There is plenty on offer, maybe a tad too much oak but it plays if off nicely with tart and zippy citrus and creamy fruit. I’m enjoying this rum and it’s very easy to sit and sip but also gives you a bit more if you want to go looking for some interest. The problem for me is the price; it’s £50 a bottle (as this is written), which is far too expensive for just “good”, and is competing with some other really outstanding rums at this price. As much as I like this I won’t be buying again at this price, not because it’s shit rum but because it’s over priced and there are others I’d rather have if I were spending the money. If this was £35-£40 a bottle I’d be going back time and again, but it’s not.

Pumpkin Face 23 review

Wha20150619_104701t is it? Dominican rum distilled in 1980, aged for 23 years in oak and put into stainless steel tasks for 10 more years; makes it 23 years old as the tanking doesn’t count towards maturation. No details of distillery. Molasses based.

Doesn’t say it’s natural colour but for 23 years old it looks about right. Filtered and 40% abv.

Sugar? No on-line data, but I can’t detect any.

Nose: Hmmmm. Erm……hmmmmmm. There must be a nose here somewhere……nope.

Palate: Oh dear. Tastes like generic spirit.

Finish: Yes, it does, very quickly.

Thoughts? Right. I’m not having this. I’ve spent £60 on this bottle and I will taste something dammit! Lets give it 15mins and come back to it.

(15-20 mins later)


Ok, let’s have you!

Nose: Ah, it has a smell now. It’s not jumping out of the glass at me, gotta get my nose right in there, but I can smell rum! Nose prickle, oak, some general baking spices. Mixed nuts, oak, maybe even a faintest whiff of smoke.

Palate: Yeah this is better. Medium body, very dry. Oak. Oak, some more oak and lots of nuts (Walnuts), like I’ve just run my tongue over a wooden plank. A little woody spice; cinnamon, nutmeg and a tiny touch of clove. A distant nod to brown sugar, way off over there somewhere.

Finish: Still quick. Short finish, like it can’t wait to get out of the door. For the brief moment that it’s about there are some mixed nuts, salted and roasted, some tobacco leaf, vanilla (light) and some baking cupboards again.

Thoughts? Hard work that. I think I know why this was tanked after 23 years; someone forgot about these casks, realised they were past it and tried to rescue them by putting the contents into steel tanks to stop any further maturation. Too late guys, this has died of old age. The casks have totally murdered the rum, way too over oaked and there is little to no vibrancy left in the spirit.
I am being a little harsh on this, but I spent quite a bit on a bottle and I’m left disappointed, so harsh it is I’m affraid. Note: as the bottle has gone down, by about half way (and a few months), it’s started to open up quite a lot more; it gave less oak and more spices. I actually started to enjoy it. This is still a very dry rum and it’s not going to blow your mind and doesn’t have much complexity, but it’s passable.