As the rum category has grown in recent years, so, too has the number of what we like to call “aftermarket” rums — that is, rums brought from the Caribbean and bottled or branded somewhere else — sometimes losing a bit of their identity in the process.
That’s not to say many (most, even) of these rums are not wonderful — but there is nothing like actually going to the Caribbean and sampling the spirit in its native habitat — tasting what people drink and the brands they enjoy in the way (and in the bottle) that they drink it.
And the more you do that, the more you begin to develop an affinity for certain rums.
Repeated trips begin to shape your taste, pointing you to a certain local favorite that becomes your regular when you’re traveling there.
And as a veteran of countless trips to the Dominican Republic over the years, I can say confidently that my go-to rum when in the country is Ron Barceló (a rum producer whose history dates back to 1925) particularly the brand’s Barceló Imperial.
In a hotel bar or a beachfront eatery or a market, it’s the one I always gravitate toward, a very fine rum at an always agreeable price point.
And, happily, it’s broadly available in the United States, too.
For a long time, it was the signature Barceló expression, an eminently drinkable, complex expression with a delightful, nutty finish not overly dry like some of its competitors within the country.
What’s also special about Barceló is that it’s a single-estate rum — the cane the company uses is grown on-site.
And while it’s not technically a rhum agricole (a designation that is reserved for sugarcane-juice rums of the French Caribbean), it is made from sugarcane juice, not molasses, the only rum in the Dominican Republic to do so, as Rod Simmons, US Brand Manager for Barceló, confirmed to me.
That all adds up to a unique rum in a country that is one of the Caribbean’s rum-making leaders.
About a decade ago, though, the company raised its game, however, with something very special: the Barcelo Imperial Blend 30 Anniversario.
The rum, which was, at the time, a celebration of the 30th anniversary of the Barceló Imperial, is an ultra-small-batch rum, with just 600 bottles made each year for the United States market.
The rum is aged first for 10 years in ex-bourbon barrels before another two years of aging in French oak casks.
In effect, this is the flagship, the pinnacle of Barceló.
So what’s it like?
There’s an earthy aroma of chocolate orange, leather, pepper and tobacco.
The flavor profile is marked by coffee and cardamom, port wine, black pepper and a strong note of salted caramel.
This is a well-rounded, interesting rum, with an elegant, luxurious finish that just seems to keep going, an endless sugarcane journey.
And then there’s the bottle, and its wooden bottom platform, are elegant and ceremonial, adding one of the most important criteria for any luxury rum: every time you open the bottle, it’s an event.
Plainly, this is a grand rum.
But more importantly, it’s a reminder of why to love rum from the Dominican Republic.
Rum Journal Rating
For more, visit Ron Barceló.