For most people, rum is Bacardi.
However you feel about the Puerto Rican rum brand, it’s what the average consumer thinks of when they think of rum – particularly in the United States, where Bacardi’s overwhelming — and often exclusive — ubiquity means few consumers ever even see other rum bottles at many restaurants and bars.
Bacardi’s vast global influence has meant that it has long controlled the perception of rum — and what Bacardi does sends ripples throughout the industry.
That’s why rum lovers long bemoaned the fact that, for years, the rum giant seldom put out any truly great rums.
There was Bacardi 8, for many rum drinkers an entry point to the world of sipping rums, but never anything special.
Things changed a bit half a decade ago when Bacardi released the small-production, ultra-premium Facundo line of rums, a series of expressions named after the founder of the company, Don Facundo Bacardi Masso. (There was also the wonderful Casa Bacardi, a hard-to-find expression that has since disappeared since launching a few decades ago. )
Last year, Bacardi made a further push with the re-blended Bacardi 8 — and the Bacardi 10, a more drinkable, more interesting rum, the latter part of a broader new series that also includes the Bacardi Cuatro.
But for rum lovers, Bacardi still has its work cut out.
Even in its home country of Puerto Rico, brands like Don Q and Ron del Barrilito (the latter actually the oldest brand in Puerto Rico) put out some stellar, often superior expressions.
That brings us to Bacardi’s newest rum, Bacardi Gran Reserva, or as we call, it Bacardi 16.
This rum, which for now is sold only in Duty Free stores, effectively replaces the Bacardi Reserva Limitada, a rum that was for years the brand’s flagship.
Bacardi says it’s aged for at least 16 years, although it’s almost certainly a blend.
On a recent jaunt to the Caribbean, we purchased a Bacardi 16 at Miami International Airport, exceptionally curious to see how Bacardi’s recent efforts to premiumize its own expressions had fared.
And the results are, well, special.
Bacardi 16 has a lovely, harmonious aroma of vanilla and carambola.
The flavor profile is, happily, an extension of the aroma, with notes of carambola and spice – and then it gets really interesting. This is not the Bacardi you’re used to – new whispers emerge of notes like white pepper and even cane stalk – raw, visceral murmurs you don’t often find in a Bacardi.
This is a journey, a concerto, a carriage ride through a cane field.
It’s a difference in kind than the terrific but sometimes overly sweet Facundo range – and a new standard for Bacardi.
Here’s hoping that it’s the beginning of a new era – and that Bacardi is this rum.
Rum Journal Rating: 95 Points