Abuelo Anejo (Rum)
Rum Review: Ron Abuelo Anejo (80.5/100)
a review by Chip Dykstra (Aka Arctic Wolf)
Posted on February 24, 2011
Ron Abuelo Anejo rum is produced by Varela Hermanos SA in Panama, Central America. This company has a history which dates back to 1908 when Don José Varela Blanco launched the first sugar mill in the then recently formed Republic of Panama. In 1935 the site began to distill sugar cane juice for the production of liqueurs. Today the company produces an impressive array of products which includes over one million boxes of liqueurs and of course a strong variety of rum. The Ron Abuelo brand is just one brand from this wide assortment.
My first taste of this rum came in Miami (Rum Renaissance) at an event sponsored by Abuelo Rums. At the end of the event I was given a courtesy gift bag by the sponsors, and it contained a small 200 ml glass flask of Ron Abuelo Anejo which I kept unopened until now when I decided to sample the rum for the purpose of this review.
According to the website Ron Abuelo Anejo is produced from sugar cane juice rather than molasses and it is aged in white oak bourbon casks. A little research indicates that the Anejo is probably a 3-year-old rum. It stands at the bottom of the rungs, with respect to the Ron Abuelo lineup, accompanied in the brand line up by a 7-year-old and a 12-year-old rum.
(Note: Correspondence with the Distillery has since raised into question whether the rum is distilled from sugar cane juice or from molasses. On two separate occasions I have been assured by the distillery’s contact person that the rum is distilled from cane juice, however in a third correspondence the contact apologized for misleading me and stated the rum is distilled from molasses. Suffice it to say at this point I have no confidence in stating anything concrete with regards to the distillate used.)
Although I am reviewing the rum inside my small glass flask, I was sent a photo of the larger sized bottle after contacting the Varela Hermanos website. The presentation is a tall dark brown bottle which is sealed by what appears to be a plastic capped closure. My flask style bottle was also sealed with a similar closure. I am happy to see no evidence of a metal screw caps anywhere. The label on the bottle is very simple, and lacks any frills. I would prefer a little more information on the bottle with respect to age of the blend, and perhaps a little history of Ron Abuelo Rum to entice me to buy it. But I admit there is also a certain charm in the simple approach.
In the Glass 8/10
I always have this unrealistic expectation of a dark rich spirit when I pour rum or whisky from a dark bottle. So I was a little surprised when I first poured the spirit into my glass, and I saw a pale rum more the colour of barley straw than of mahogany. The pale colour is actually the expected colour for a three-year old rum, so I should not have been surprised.
In the glass the rum is thin and does not coat the sides of the glass with anything more than a light sheen. The initial nose is sharp and carries the medicinal tones of a young rum. A sense of fresh fruit and berries seem to be in the initial breezes as well. As the rum decants in the glass I begin to notice vanilla and caramel rising into the air as well. When the glass is fully decanted, the nose becomes heavy with coarse brown sugar and is tinged with cinnamon accents. By now the lighter medicinal tones have disappeared.
In the Mouth 49/60
Just like the nose, the initial delivery into the mouth is quite sharp and carries a stronger alcohol bite on the tongue than I would prefer. However, the rum also carries stronger, richer, flavour than I would have suspected as well. Vanilla, caramel and citrus peel lead out first but I soon taste firm fruitiness reminiscent of black cherries and wild field-berries. The fruity tastes are reminiscent of a Port wine influence, and they have me somewhat baffled by their appearance in such a young rum which has been aged in a bourbon cask. The rum also contains more familiar strong flavours of brown sugar, spicy cinnamon, and even perhaps a little tobacco and leather. My research indicates that at least a portion of this rum may have been distilled from molasses as the production of rum year round from only cane juice is unlikely. The juice must be squeezed from fresh cane, and during the winter months this may not be available. This makes me wonder if it is a mixture of distillate from two sources (cane juice and molasses) which is the foundation for the very different flavours I am encountering. (As noted above I have received mixed messages regarding the distillate used for this rum.)
In spite of the richness, when I sip the rum I find the flavours seem a little out of balance. The fruits and berries I taste seem to be out of step and do not merge into the more familiar molasses flavours of the rum. In a sense these flavours are clashing rather than harmonizing, and the fruitiness seems sharper than it should be.
I remembered that in Miami (at the Abuelo sponsored event) the rum was served to me with cola. Taking my cue from the that experience, I added cola to my tasting glass. I found that the ‘Rum ‘n Cola’ style suited the Abuelo Rum extremely well. Since this is a three-year old rum, I was not surprised that it performed better as a cocktail rum than as a sipping rum.
In the Throat 11.5/15
A thirsty pirate would probably relish the swat to the tonsils that this rum delivers. The sharpness I detected in the aroma and in the initial flavour has come back to remind me that this is rum and not tea I am sipping. Spicy cinnamon seems to find legs in a finish full of a spicy sweetness which is longer than I would have suspected.
The Afterburn 8/10
The Ron Abuelo Anejo rum has a unique flavour profile, and I cannot escape the feeling that somewhere in the mix, a port enhancement was used to deliver the flavour profile I am tasting. (I am probably wrong, as all indications I have received are that only bourbon barrels are used to age the rum.) I like the rich flavours that I have encountered, and I like the easy mix-ability of the rum. I just wish it was available up where I am north of the 42nd parallel.
If you are interested in comparing more scores, here is a link to my other published Rum Reviews.
I like the way that cola mixes with the Abuelo rum. So I went on a bit of a search for a cola style bar drink that would be interesting but more importantly, taste great with the Abuelo Anejo Rum. A recipe I found on the Internet Cocktail Database which intrigued me was called the Mandeville. Its formulation is as follows.
(This is a standard shake and strain recipe to be served in a cocktail glass)
1 1/4 oz light rum
3/4 oz dark rum
1/4 oz Pernod
1/2 oz cola
1/2 oz fresh lemon juice
1/4 oz grenadine
Garnish with an orange slice
The recipe looks nice but I have Chartreuse in my cabinet rather than Pernod. I also wanted a little more dark rum in the cocktail to better highlight the Abuelo rum. So, I made a few tweaks to suit the ingredients I had on hand and made my formulation as follows:
Arctic Wolf’s Variation
1 oz light rum
1 oz dark rum (Abuelo Anejo)
1/4 oz Chartreuse
1/2 oz fresh lemon juice
1/4 oz grenadine
Pour the first five ingredients into a metal cocktail shaker with ice
Shake until the side of the shaker is well frosted
Strain into a tumbler glass filled with ice
Complete with cola
Garnish with an orange slice (optional)
As always you may interpret the scores I provide as follows.
0-25 A spirit with a rating this low would actually kill you.
26-49 Depending upon your fortitude you might actually survive this.
50 -59 You are safe to drink this…but you shouldn’t.
60-69 Substandard swill which you may offer to people you do not want to see again.
70-74 Now we have a fair mixing rum or whisky. Accept this but make sure it is mixed into a cocktail.
75-79 You may begin to serve this to friends, again probably still cocktail territory.
80-84 We begin to enjoy this spirit neat or on the rocks. (I will still primarily mix cocktails)
85-89 Excellent for sipping or for mixing!
90-94 Definitely a primary sipping spirit, in fact you may want to hoard this for yourself.
95-97.5 The Cream of the Crop
98+ I haven’t met this bottle yet…but I want to.
Very loosely we may put my scores into terms that you may be more familiar with on a Gold, Silver, and Bronze medal scale as follows:
70 – 79.5 Bronze Medal (Recommended only as a mixer)
80 – 89.5 Silver Medal (Recommended for sipping and or a high quality mixer)
90 – 95 Gold Medal (Highly recommended for sipping and for sublime cocktails.)
95.5+ Platinum Award (Highest Recommendation)