I’ll be blunt: Ron Abuelo’s rums are as good as rums that cost twice as much and possibly more.
Right now the company (producer Varela Hermanos, a 100-year-old firm) offers two rums, distilled in Panama from sugar cane the company grows itself. (Abuelo claims to be one of few distilleries in the world to grow its own cane.) Both are 80 proof.
First up is Ron Abuelo Anejo (the company doesn’t make a white rum), which is clearly aged, but with no statement on how long. (It’s a fairly pale rum, so I wouldn’t expect it spends more than three or four years in cask.) At first I found the Anejo a bit harsh, but letting it open up in the glass did wonders for it. After 10 minutes, the bitter, fiery nature mellowed out, leaving the spirit with a nicely sweet, lightly oaked body. Not a lot of complexity, no, but its brown sugar-like character was really quite lovely, even on its own, sans mixer. Not bad at all for a rum that costs about $13 a bottle, which makes it one of the cheapest aged rums on the market, cheaper even than just about all of Bacardi’s aged rums. (My only big complaint: The plastic cap doesn’t stay on well at all.) B+ / $13
As good as the Anejo is, it’s outclassed by Ron Abuelo Anejo 7 Anos (pictured below), a moderately darker spirit with a smoother and more complicated body. The 7 year is ready to drink from first pour, a cocoa-inflected sugar bomb that is immediately accessible. Fresh sugar cane and some light citrus are at play in this rum, and though it has short finish that won’t leave you grasping for exalted descriptions, it’s a classic spirit that I challenge any rum drinker not to enjoy and enjoy greatly. All this will set you back a whopping 20 bucks, which makes it accessible even for the Rum & Coke crowd who feel guilty about using aged rum with a mixer. A- / $20 [BUY IT NOW FROM CASKERS]