Category Archives: Rum

Review: Flipflop Rum – Silver and Spiced

Best known for its ultra-affordable, thong-friendly wine series, Flipflop (or all-lowercased flipflop, as they write it) is now branching into rum, with two equally affordable sugar-based spirits.

There’s not a lot of information on provenance available: They hail from “the Caribbean” and are four-times distilled, but that’s all the info provided. We tasted both of varieties, which are now shipping.

Flipflop Silver Rum is surprisingly clean and easy, with a traditional sugar-based nose and a finish with plenty of molasses in it and a lightly chalky, coconut and chocolate character. Very modest medicinal character on the finish, like a clean vodka. Amazing quality for the price. 80 proof. A-

Flipflop Spiced Rum is spiked with “spices and natural flavors,” which tinge the nose with a bit of orange character. A bigger body brings with it some typical spiced rum character — more clove than cinnamon, but both are evident — and a broader, vanilla-fueled finish. There’s unfortunately a quite bitter aftertaste, though, which spiced rum fanatics will not likely thrill to. 70 proof. B-

each $14 /

flipflop rums

Review: Malibu Red

On paper, Malibu Red is a terrible, terrible idea: Take standard Malibu (coconut-flavored rum), and add white tequila to it.

The brainchild of R&B artist Ne-Yo, I am here to tell you that, yes, Malibu Red is as bad as you think it will be.

Fundamentally these are two great tastes… that just don’t go together: Super-sweet coconut rum on the nose, muddled with sharp agave-heavy tequila. Like putting orange juice on your cereal, these flavors collide in an often angry, unsatisfying fashion, and it’s difficult to get a real handle on either one. The finish is cloying and muddy, leaving you desperate for one side to take hold. Neither does, and your mouth ends up coated in a syrupy, tangy, almost medicinal film.

70 proof.

D+ / $25 /

Review: Brugal Siglo de Oro Rum

It isn’t every day that we’re treated to products that aren’t even sold in the U.S., but our good friends at Brugal sent this, Brugal‘s Siglo de Oro (“Golden Century”), for our consideration. It’s Brugal’s most prized rum, so rare it  is produced only once a year and doesn’t even appear on Brugal’s website.

Fortunately, the company translated the all-Spanish information on the label and packaging to give me some details about this uncommon breed, recently repackaged from opaque blue bottles into clear decanters.

Originated in 1988, this rum is double distilled, then aged for up to 8 years in medium-toasted American oak barrels, then placed into new oak barrels for another 8 years, making this pretty ancient for a modern rum.

You can tell before pouring it: For a 16-year-old Dominican rum this is surprisingly light and clear, color-wise. Compared to other old rums, like the mahogany Zacapa 23, it’s practically the color of iced tea.

On the nose: Light as a feather, shocking, really. Some green herbs, wood, and traditionally sweet rum notes. Take a sip and you see how subtle this rum is. There’s none of the intense chocolate and cinnamon notes of, say, Zacapa, which I poured side by side for instructional purposes. Rather, it’s pure molten caramel, coffee, brewed tea, and a lightly bitter edge, like a green coffee bean. This is pure Brugal house style, just with more of an agricole-style funk. There’s petrol on the finish, surprising for something this old, but I have to chalk it up to all that time in wood.

Very drinkable, but I actually find the Extra Viejo’s richness and chocolate notes a bit more satisfying.

80 proof.

A- / about $120 (700ml bottle) /

Bacardi Celebrates 150th Anniversary

Go Bacardi, it’s your birthday.

Bacardi was founded in Santiago de Cuba on February 4, 1862, when Don Facundo Bacardí Massó purchased a small distillery. After years of experimenting, Bacardi revolutionized the spirits industry by adding steps never before used in rum-making.

Get the details at — and if you pick up a bottle of the $2,000 limited edition celebratory bottling, let me know.

Review: Captain Morgan Tattoo Rum

For a good time, do a Google Image Search for “Captain Morgan Tattoo.” You’ll find plenty of pictures not of this spiced rum but of unique and ill-considered body art on all kinds of anatomical bits.

I’ve actually had a mini of Tattoo for years. It’s that mysterious. What’s it all about? Tattoo is a spiced, “extra dark” rum with additional flavoring agents added. It is said to have been developed as a Jagermeister competitor, and pouring a shot reveals how that works.

It’s dark to the point of near opacity, with a heady nose of citrus fruit, raspberries, and a touch of classic vanilla rum character. Promising, perhaps, but a sip offers a cacophony of flavors, from the rough rum body to the heavy allspice and clove finish. The middle is pure molasses, those citrus notes being largely drowned out by all the other stuff going on here. What’s missing? Any sort of balance. Tattoo is a mess of a spirit, almost liqueur like and just too overblown  with additives to be a serious rum.

But as an ice-cold shooter to prime college kids for a night out? Well, maybe I can see where the Captain is coming from.

70 proof.

B- / $18 /

Review: Denizen Rum

This new, white rum hails from Trinidad and Tobago (and Jamaica, if you believe the website), which is sent to Holland for blending and bottling. The final concoction includes some surprisingly old rums (up to five years old), all filtered back to a colorless white.

It’s quite a smooth operator, with most harsh characteristics well filtered out. At its core: Solid, with traditional caramel, vanilla, and light chocolate body. Coconut is a particularly strong as a secondary characteristic, but not in a heavy, Malibu-sorta way. The wood that Denizen spends so much time in makes an appearance here, too — namely in the finish, almost as an afterthought. When freshly poured, though, there’s a bit of fuel-like funk in the finish as well, a vaporous character that dissipates with time in the glass. That’s a minor complaint in an otherwise solid rum. Don’t let the cheap-looking bottle (and the cheap price, while we’re at it) fool you.

80 proof.

A- / $16 /

Review: Whistling Andy Hibiscus-Coconut Rum

Coconut rum? Sure. Hibiscus-coconut rum? That’s a new one.

The evocatively named Whistling Andy is naturally flavored with both of the above and is imbued with a deep orange color. First things first: The rum (distilled in Bigfork, Montana from cane sugar) is extremely sweet, with a nose redolent of cookies, caramel, nougat, and — especially — honey. What you don’t particularly get is, surprisingly, coconut. That’s largely relegated to nuance somewhere in that cookie character.

Is it the interplay with the hibiscus that mutes the coconut? While it’s not particularly floral, there’s more flower character here than coconut, that’s for sure. But it’s the intense sugariness that just about stopped me in my tracks on this one. Yes, rum is sweet, but this is so wild in its intensity that I often had trouble swallowing baby sips. The flavor’s a knockout, but I’m about 10 years too old to be able to handle this kind of brix.

B / $26 /

whistling andy hibiscus-coconut rum

Review: Plantation Original Dark Overproof Rum

We last encountered Plantation in 2009, when its year 2000, single-island, vintage rums arrived on the scene. Now Plantation is showing off some new tricks, including this monster 73% alcohol overproof dark rum.

Most overproof rums tend to be unaged or only lightly aged, but Plantation Overproof is legitimately a “dark” rum, at least based on the color (time in barrel is not revealed). Hailing from Trinidad & Tobago, the 146-proof rum looks innocuous in the glass. Take a sip and the alcohol level quickly reveals itself. Amateurs will find themselves gasping for air, which is of course the entire point.

But beneath the burn you’ll find an awful lot of character. (Add water to bring it out a bit more clearly.) A mountain of caramel shows off classic darker rum textures,with cinnamon, cloves, raisins, and nutmeg in the finish. Lots of character, and with plenty of water it’s actually really easy to sip. In smaller quantities it’s a great choice for adding a unique spin to any number of cocktails.

A- / $30 (one liter) /

plantation overproof rum

Recipe: Drinkhacker Zombie Punch

The people have spoken!

This year, my holiday punch is based on rum, the results of a vote of attending guests that found the Caribbean favorite chosen 2 to 1 over everything else. My last punch didn’t work out so well, so I’ve spent the afternoon experimenting and tweaking this recipe to get it just right. And so here we go, with a punch inspired by the famous Zombie cocktail.

Drinkhacker Zombie Punch

2 cups orange juice
2 cups pineapple juice
2 cups triple sec (I actually used Royal Combier)
1 cup fresh lime juice
1 cup fresh lemon juice
1 oz. grenadine
4 cups dark rum (I used a variety of rums from all over Latin America)
2 cups white rum (I used Brugal)
1 cup overproof rum (I used 155-proof Da’Bomb)
1 cup Velvet Falernum

Add all ingredients to a punch bowl, stir, and add a block of ice. Garnish with cinnamon sticks (optional, they sink anyway). Serves about 30.

Serve with a bottle of high-quality absinthe on the side: Invite guests to spike their punch with it to taste. A splash — which the real Zombie has in it — takes the punch in a fun and exciting direction.

Update: This was a fantastic success, and most drinkers were sold on the absinthe float after a little encouragement. Within a couple of hours the bowl was utterly drained, to many compliments. Give it a whirl!

zombie punch

Review: Malibu Winter

Malibu Rum, always one to experiment wildly with additional flavors and added tweaks, updates the classic coconut rum with this limited-release version: Malibu Winter.

The twist: Little flakes of real coconut are suspended in the liquid, giving the spirit the distinct look of snowfall and, for the first time ever, successfully associating the words “Malibu” and “holidays.”

There’s no change to the formula or proof level (42 proof), although this version seems slightly thicker (and a bit less clean) in the mouth. If that’s the case, it’s why the coconut flakes stay suspended absolutely perfectly in the rum. Unlike, say, Goldschlager, they don’t settle to the bottom. No shaking of the bottle required: Each pour has a healthy dose of white flakes suspended within. You can taste and feel them in your mouth, but just barely.

Otherwise, everything here is as expected for Malibu, though the bottle has a clear cut-out in the white frosting so you can long for the festivities inside.

A- / $14 /

malibu winter

Holiday Rum Drink Recipes

The weather outside is frightful, so cozy up with one of these rum-centric drinks from our pals at DonQ Rum.

Snowy Day Punch

Esteban Ordoñez, DonQ’s Corporate Mixologist and Brand Ambassador
1 liter DonQ Coco Rum
16 oz. DonQ Cristal Rum
16 oz. Coconut water
16 oz. Coconut milk
4 oz. Simple syrup
Pinch freshly grated nutmeg
3 tbsp. dry unsweetened coconut flakes

Add rums, coconut water, coconut milk, simple syrup and nutmeg to a large pitcher or punch bowl. Whisk until completely mixed. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours before serving. Dip the rim of the rocks glass in simple syrup, and then dip in coconut flakes. Serve punch in rocks glass over ice. Yields approximately 2 ½ liters.

Spiced Vanilla Daiquiri

2 oz BlackBeard Spiced Rum
¾ oz lime juice
½ oz simple syrup
3 drops pure vanilla extract
lime zest for garnish

Combine all ingredients in a cocktail shaker over ice, shake until well chilled, strain into a chilled cocktail glass, zest lime over the glass to scent and garnish.

Cohasset Punch #2

Mathias Simonis, Mixologist at Distil Milwaukee, Milwaukee, WI
1 ½ oz. DonQ Añejo Rum
1 ½ oz. Sweet vermouth
¾ oz. Cinnamon syrup (simple syrup with cinnamon added)
2 Dashes orange bitters
1 Lemon peel twist

Shake rum, vermouth, lemon juice, cinnamon syrup, orange bitters and ice. Double strain into a chilled martini glass. Garnish with lemon peel twist.

El Yunque Cocktail

Julio Cabrera, Mixologist at Viceroy Hotel, Miami, FL
3 oz. DonQ Añejo Rum
½ oz. Grand Marnier liqueur
10-12 Fresh raspberries
1 oz. Fresh limejuice
1 oz. Simple syrup
1 Orange peel twist

Muddle raspberries gently until puréed. Add rum, liqueur, limejuice, simple syrup and ice. Shake vigorously. Strain into a martini glass. Garnish with orange peel twist. Yields 2 drinks.

Coquito (Puerto Rican Eggnog)

16 oz. DonQ Cristal Rum
2 Cans coconut cream (30 oz.)
1 Can sweetened condensed milk (14 oz.)
1 Can evaporated milk (12 oz.)
1 tsp. Vanilla extract
¼ tbsp. Ground cinnamon
1/8 tbsp. Ground nutmeg

Mix all ingredients in a blender at high speed. Refrigerate for a couple of hours. Shake well before serving. Serve cold in a small glass. Garnish with cinnamon sticks.

Holiday Recipe: Cockspur Silver Belle

Cockspur Silver BelleThis recipe comes to us from our friends at Cockspur, who promise it will provide a “Caribbean Christmas.” My fingers are already chilly. Sounds good to me.

Silver Belle

1.5 oz Cockspur Aged Rum
.25 oz maraschino liqueur
.75 oz earl grey tea
.75 oz hibiscus grenadine
.75 oz pineapple juice

Shake well with ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with a maraschino cherry. Optional: sugar coat rim.


Drinkhacker’s 2011 Holiday Gift Guide – Best Alcohol/Spirits for Christmas

Happy Thanksgiving! While you’re enjoying your turkey, stuffing, and pie, many a thanksgiver’s thoughts turn to booze. Specifically, what one might buy for a favored loved one come holiday time. I’ve collected all my favorite spirits from 2011 here for you, but this is just a small sampling of what’s worthy on the market right now. Scan through the category of your choice for other ideas, and chime in with your own gift ideas!

Also check out our 2010, 2009, and 2008 holiday guides.

Bourbon – Big Bottom Whiskey 2 Years Old Port Cask Finish ($40) – Technically not a Bourbon, but close enough. I gave only two A+ grades (outside of event coverage) all year, and this was one of them. Finding this now will be tough (we’ll have a review of the 3 Years Old version shortly), so if this doesn’t pan out try Parker’s Heritage Collection Cognac Finished 10 Years Old ($80) or Col. E.H. Taylor Old Fashioned Sour Mash Bourbon ($70). You can also try Angel’s Envy ($45), technically a 2010 release but also Port-finished and about as good as Big Bottom.

Scotch – The Glenlivet Founder’s Reserve ($375) – This is my “go-to” whisky right now, though it’s rapidly depleting, and the price may make it a big much for anyone short of a spouse. If you can find  Glenfiddich Snow Phoenix ($95) or Laphroaig Cairdeas ($60), both make outstanding gifts. And MacKinlay’s “Shackleton” ($150) is worth the price alone for the conversation value.

GinBloom Gin ($29) – No question on this one. The floral but not perfumy Bloom is one of my favorite gins today. It may be made for a woman, but it’s powerful enough for a man.

Vodka – Russian Standard Gold Vodka – At $45, it’s pushing the boundaries of what anyone should pay for a neutral spirit, but it’s good and the package is striking enough to require no wrapping paper, saving you a few bucks. For your more avant-garde friends, check out Sub Rosa’s Flavored Vodkas ($30) or a bottle of Skyy Blood Orange ($18).

Rum – Montanya Platino Rum ($30) – So much good rum came out this year, but Montanya’s simple, pure, and bracing white rum is my winner for what you should give a loved one. Bottled in Colorado, not Latin America, they’ll immediately want to know more. For more traditional gifts, I also loved Berrys’ Own Panama Rum 10 Years Old ($80) and Brugal Extra Viejo ($27).

Brandy – “Original Gangster” XO Brandy ($25) – This gift works on a couple of levels. First, the packaging and name are so ridiculous that your hipster friends will get a solid, 25 dollar laugh out of it. Second, the brandy is actually pretty good, so you can actually drink it when you’re done giggling.

TequilaCasa Dragones ($275) – The other A+ I gave this year, but considering the price of this. Tequila is still on the rise, and lots of good stuff is on the market, including Gran Dovejo Blanco ($47), El Gran Jubileo Extra Anejo ($65), and Excellia Blanco ($50), among many others.

Liqueur – Tatratea (up to $60) - A collection of five tea-flavored liqueurs, each increasing in proof level. Exotic and bizarre, and totally worthwhile for the liquor snob who has everything. Home cocktail enthusiasts would also love a little Pimento Dram ($28) or the all-new Drambuie 15 ($56).

Need another custom gift idea? Drop me a line or leave a comment here and I’ll offer my best advice!

Review: Berrys’ Own Panama Rum 10 Years Old

Berry Bros., a UK wine and spirits merchant, is branching out into rum production, bringing in a variety of rums from all over the Caribbean and Latin America. We received one of the seven bottlings the company is importing, a 10 year old rum from Panama.

On first blush, it’s very hot — all heady alcoholic vapors — but give it a few minutes to settle down, and this Panama gem shows its charms. Rich, caramelized sugars play with light citrus notes, coconut, and a cocoa finish. After that heat burns off, Berrys’ Panama proves to be quite the smooth and, it must be said, quite delicious sipping rum.

Track it down.

92 proof.

A / $80 /

Review: Montanya Colorado Platino and Oro Rum

As previously mentioned, one of my top discoveries at this year’s Ministry of Rum event was a pair of rums not from the Caribbean or South America but rather from Colorado. Yeah, that Colorado. In the U.S.

These “High Mountain Rums” from Montanya (Montaña is Spanish for “mountain”) are distilled from sugar cane (not molasses) in copper pot stills at high altitude and mixed with Colorado spring water to bring them down to proof. Both the Platino (white) and Oro (gold) rums are aged in used Stranahan’s whiskey barrels (the only different being the Platino is aged in the barrels previously used to age Oro). The Platino is filtered back to clear while the Oro is left amber in hue. Both are 80 proof.

We gave both the full Drinkhacker review treatment. Comments follow.

Montanya Platino Rum – A lush and silky white rum, with a pure expression of sugar in the body. Bracing with some bite, but with a long and lasting finish. Vanilla through and through. This is hardly a complex rum, but if smoothness and purity are what you’re after, look no further. Reviewed: Barrel 68. A / $30

Montanya Oro Rum – The Oro takes on far more of the whiskey character left behind by the Stranahan’s aging, and on the nose the first impression is one of big frontier whiskey character — that Stranahan’s making no bones about showing its face. Peppery, with cinnamon, toffee, coffee, and nut notes. Complex, but not completely what you expect from a rum, as the sugar takes a bit of a back seat to everything else going on. Good, and completely different from the Platino, despite a virtually identical heritage. Reviewed: Barrel 47. A- / $35

Tasting Report: Ministry of Rum Festival 2011

Last year’s Ministry of Rum event was a tasty yet tiny look at the growing world of rum, and most of the same faces — with a few new ones — were back again in 2011. I focused on unfamiliar brands at this walk-around event… but made it a point to retry a few rums that I considered favorites — and which I didn’t like so much last time out. While most of my notes of the re-reviewed rums were consistent with 2010’s grades, a couple of marks were wildly different. Did recipes change… or was I not on my game last time out? Tasting events are always tricky, with opinions formed on the fly based on very limited (and spit-out) samples… so, as always, take all of these notes with a grain of salt. Or, as it were, sugar.

Ministry of Rum Festival – San Francisco Bay Area – 2011

Bacardi Solera 1893 Rum / B+ / much improved notes vs. last year, when I called this rum “rubbery”; still, not a lot to it; Mexico-produced

Diplomatico Blanco Rum / A- / a filtered Peurto Rican claro style; incredible smoothness and sweetness together; Venezuela

Diplomatico Reserva Exclusiva Rum / A / remains a classic; made a fabulous Hotel Nacional Cocktail with Small Hand Pineapple Gomme

Smith & Cross Rum / B- / same rating as last year; huge body and tough as nails

The Scarlet Ibis Rum / B- / hard and rough; same notes as 2010

Brugal 1888 Gran Reserva / A- / just reviewed, tried another sip just for kicks

Zacapa Centenario 23 / A / remains a favorite, citrus and floral notes offering a lighter style rum despite its age; Guatemala

Zacapa XO Rum / A / incredible depth, another classic not to be missed; upgraded since last year’s A-

Crusoe Silver Rum / B+ / coconut finish; both this and the spiced rum are organic

Crusoe Spiced Rum / B+ / huge clove and allspice character

Flor de Caña 4 Year Old Gold / B / smoky and woody, typical of Flor de Cana

Flor de Caña Grand Reserve 7 Year Old / B+ / better balance, but still lots of wood

Flor de Caña Centenario 12 / B+ / improving but wood still holds tight

Flor de Caña Centenario 18 / A- / easily the top Flor, with the sweetness finally balancing out the wood notes

Coeur de Rhum La Favorite Rhum Agricole Blanc / C-

Coeur de Rhum La Favorite Rhum Agricole Ambrè / C / 18 months aged; still really rough (Martinique)

Coeur de Rhum La Favorite Rhum Agricole Vieux / C+ / significantly downgraded from last year; tougher than I’d remembered by a mile; 3 years old

Montanya Platino Rum / A / one of the most exceptional white rums (aged, then filtered) I’ve had lately — and it’s made in Colorado; a full review of Montanya’s rums is in the works

Montanya Oro Rum / A- / aged in Stranahan’s whiskey barrels, left ruddy orange; lots of nut, coffee, and almond character

Lemon Hart 151 Demerara Rum / A- / amazingly clean for 151; very dark, with coffee and cocoa notes

Novo Fogo Gold Cachaça / B+ / rare, an aged cachaca — this one smooths out that spirit’s typical fuel notes

Santa Teresa Claro / B+ / Aged 2 years, then filtered; big citrus notes; Venezuela

Santa Teresa Rhum Orange Liqueur / B+ / citrus + rum liqueur

Santa Teresa Gran Reserva / A- / aged two to five years; bracing sweetness, one of the sweetest of the day

Santa Teresa 1796 Antiguo de Solera / A- / I called this “perfect” last year; in 2011 I’m finding a bit whiskey-like, tons of wood drowning out the sugars

Review: Cruzan Coconut Rum

Coconut continues to be a vital flavoring agent in all manner of spirits (we’ve got coconut vodka coming later in the week for you), and our friends at St. Croix’s Cruzan sent us their rendition of the classic coconut rum. They even put their money where their mouths are: Sending a mini of Bacardi Rock Coconut for comparative purposes.

Results? For starters, Cruzan Coconut is only 42 proof, so I watered the 70-proof Bacardi down appropriately. If you’re looking for (natural) coconut flavor, Cruzan categorically has it. It’s overloaded with the stuff, and it’s also packed with sugar. It’s not the lack of tropical flavor that undoes this spirit, it’s all that sugar: Imbued with the stuff to the point of being cloying. You can almost taste a chalky texture in the body — whether that’s from coconut or sugar, I don’t know, but the effect is daunting. In comparison to the Bacardi though, I still preferred the Cruzan: Its flavor is simply bigger and more authentic.

I also tried Cruzan Coconut against, of course, the gold standard of coconut rums, Malibu. Also 42 proof, Malibu is, clearly the superior spirit, balanced in coconut and sweetness, not cloying, and actually well enough made that it can be consumed solo — unlike almost every other flavored spirit known to man. Sad to say it, but you don’t seem to need native coconuts nor sugarcane to get the job done — that’s right, best coconut rum going today is made in Canada.

B+ / $13 /

Review: Bacardi Oakheart Spiced Rum

It’s a little hard to believe, but the top-selling rum company on earth — in fact, one of the top-selling spirits brands in the world — did not, until now, have a spiced rum under its umbrella. That is finally changing, as Bacardi this month has launched Oakheart, its own “smooth spiced rum.”

The emphasis is on smooth, to be sure: This rum (distilled in Puerto Rico, aged in American white oak) is on the mild side as spiced rums go, a muted spirit heavy on caramel and vanilla and pretty easy on the spice. Very light touch of cinnamon, but it’s almost passable as a moderately (and unspiced) aged rum. The finish is quite sweet and short, and while this is obviously a spirit designed for mixing with Coke (and to be a “well” spiced rum, based on its price), it’s so easygoing that it’s sippable straight. Aside from its sheer innocuousness, I can’t find else much to complain about here.

70 proof.

B+ / $13 /


Tasting Report: Brugal Rums Complete Lineup – Blanco Especial to 1888

The Dominican Republic’s Brugal continues its march into America — it’s the #1 selling rum in the Caribbean currently — with another offering, bringing its total portfolio to four rums and, for the most part, rounding out its offering with a complete lineup of rums from silver to extra-extra-old.

I sat down with maestro ronero Gustavo Ortega to take a deep dive into Brugal’s history and production — largely via his translator and brand manager Juan Campos — at Drinkhacker HQ. I’m on record as being a big Brugal fan — great quality at a very reasonable price — and after this guided tasting through the line, I’m happier than ever.

First some notes about the distillery: Brugal is actually owned by the Edrington Group, which owns Macallan and Highland Park Scotch, among other spirits. The focus is always on quality, and Brugal, like its other hemispherical friends, is obsessive about the wood it uses. Production is pretty huge: 75,000 liters daily, with 250,000 casks aging on site.

All of the rums covered below are blends of a rums from a variety of ages and are released at 80 proof in the U.S. — with slightly different proof levels in other countries. Here are thoughts on the full line.

Brugal Ron Blanco Especial – Brugal’s “white rum” is aged two years, then filtered back to white in the classic Puerto Rican (and other regional islands) style. In fact, by law, rum must be aged for at least one year before bottling in the Dominican Republic. This white rum is crisp and clean, with a light citrus character and a touch of vanilla on the finish. Not too oily, it’s got a good body and an easy, not-harsh finish. A- / $20

Brugal Ron Anejo Rum – Aged 2 to 5 years, we didn’t taste this expression during this event, since I just reviewed it, which you can read here. A- / $20

Brugal Extra Viejo Rum – I reviewed this rum, aged 3 to 8 years, in 2009. Now it is repackaged and rebranded, with a more upscale look, though it’s still very affordable. A sedate rum, it offers caramel, coffee, cinnamon, and lots of balance. It’s not cloyingly sugary, but perfectly set between sweet and savory. This batch could be a touch muted since my ’09 review, but it’s still an A / $27

Brugal 1888 Ron Gran Reserva Familiar (pictured) – The latest expression, released in August, is a real conversation piece. Rums aged for 6 to 8 years in ex-Bourbon casks (as all of the above are aged), are then transferred to ex-Sherry casks for another 2 to 6 years. To give you a sense of how pricey this must be in the Caribbean: After 8 years, Ortega says that just 30% of the original barrel is left in a cask, the rest having gone to the angel’s share due to the intense heat and humidity. With 1888, Brugal is losing up to 80 or 85% of its spirit to evaporation. What’s left is pretty insane for rum: Intense Sherry notes up front, with citrus peel all over the place. The body is huge — hotter than most Brugal rums, surprisingly, and complicated with charred wood notes, Sherry (of course), and herbal touches. The sweetness hits you mainly in the end. It’s a rum for the whiskey drinker — just, I presume, as Brugal’s owners would want. A- / $50  [BUY IT NOW FROM CASKERS]

Review: DonQ “Pasion” Passion Fruit Rum

DonQ’s latest flavor is the always crowd-pleasing Passion Fruit, an exotic treat that nonetheless has become familiar to U.S. palates. DonQ’s Pasión is bright on the nose with tropical notes, but it’s hard to peg it specifically to passion fruit. On the palate, it’s even trickier, as the rum component comes across a little too harsh and the passion fruit a bit too sweet. The ultimate spirit tends to veer, oddly, toward cherry notes, when I’d hoped for something lighter and fruitier. This would probably be fine in a big and fruit-bombed tiki cocktail, but for more subtle drinks it’ll overpower the blend.

B- / $16 /