la marielita panama
La Marielita. 95 Points.
Eat & Play

Rum Journal: The Best Rum From Panama 

By: Caribbean Journal Staff - July 22, 2023

It’s a Panamanian rum with a Cuban soul. 

This is La Marielita, a boutique rum blended by the legendary Cuban master ronero Don Pancho that just so happens to be his best post-Cuba expression. 

The rum is the brainchild of the married team of Janet Diaz-Bonilla and Luis Bonilla, who have crafted it in tribute to the 1980 Mariel Boatlift.

The rum is a blend of rums at least 18 years old, all aged in American white oak ex-bourbon casks. 

Don Pancho has been working in Panama for decades, including his eponymous line of Don Pancho rums (which include eight, 18 and 30-year expressions). 

The Marielita team says this blend is one Don Pancho had been saving for the right moment, agreeing to use it when he heard the Bonillas’ story.

It’s also is his best: an outstanding, faithful expression of Cuban rum flavors through Panamanian juice. 

So what’s this 40-degree rum like?

On the nose, there are notes of key lime, pineapple and toffee. 

The flavor profile is marked by vanilla, brown sugar, tobacco, cacao, pepper, caramel and even a hint of tarragon. 

The finish is wonderfully round; it’s a balanced, complex rum, filled with personality but impressively elegant. 

It’s one of those lovely surprises in a Rum Journal tasting; where you taste and taste, and then just keep tasting, searching and finding new flavors each time, until the glass is empty. 

Now for the Cuban part. 

So many rums with a Cuban “pedigree” claim to evoke that island but fail to do so (you know who you are). 

This one actually feels Cubanesque: the flavors, the playfulness, the romance and the drinkability. 

But Panama is the bigger story here; even for an island that is one of the biggest rum producers in the Caribbean Basin, this new rum is an outlier: simply put, La Marielita is the best rum you can buy from Panama. 

Rum Journal Review

95 Points 

— CJ

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