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Review: Ron Abuelo Anejo

The Arctic Wolf signs back on with a review of Ron Abuelo Anejo, a unique and affordable rum from Varela Hermanos in Panama.  Check it out.

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Rum Review: Ron Abuelo Anejo  (80.5/100)
a review by Chip Dykstra (Aka Arctic Wolf)

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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 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 200ml 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.

In the Bottle  4/5

Although I am reviewing the rum inside my small glass flask, I was sent a photo of the larger sized flagon style bottle after contacting the Varela Hermanos website. The presentation is a dark brown flagon style 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.

In spite of the richness, when I sip the rum I find the flavours 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 much 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 seem to find legs in the finish which full of a spicy sweetness and is much longer than I would have suspected.

The Afterburn  8/10

The Ron Abuelo Anejo rum has a very 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.

Suggested Recipe

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.

Mandeville
(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 grenedine

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 had and made my formulation as follows:

The Mandeville
Arctic Wolf’s Variation

1 oz light rum (Flor de Cana 4 yr dry)
1 oz dark rum (Abuelo Anejo)
1/4 oz Chartreuse
1/2 oz fresh lemon juice
1/4 oz grenedine
ice

1/2 oz cola
ice
Garnish with an orange slice

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

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To read more from Chip, click here and here.