Spirit Reviews

New brands and bottles you should know.

That's the Spirit: Brugal 1888 Rum

20111007brugalbottlesmall.jpgHere at Serious Drinks, we've already tried a whiskey that tastes like a tequila and an aged tequila that tries to taste unaged, so you'd think we would be used to the idea that the category doesn't necessarily define the spirit. But we were taken by surprise when we first sipped today's bottle: Brugal 1888 (full name: 1888 Ron Gran Reserva Familiar)—a new rum that thinks it's a scotch.

Brugal, a leading Dominican rum distiller with a huge Caribbean following, has set its sights on the top-shelf export market. Enter the 1888, named for the year Brugal was founded. Beginning with double distilled spirit, the rum is aged first in toasted American white oak casks, and then in European oak casks that were used for aging sherry. The final product is a master blend of the various casks for consistency and flavor, containing rums aged from 5 to 14 years.

Pouring a sparkling dark amber, the aroma is instantly familiar to fans of sherried whiskeys: there are rich scents of raisins, dried apricots, and of course, sherry. There's also a hint of toasty vanilla from the American oak and some familiar rum notes of cinnamon, caramel, and chocolate. Smooth and creamy on the palate, though not overly viscous or syrupy, the sweetness deepens with more caramel, spices (clove, licorice, allspice), sherry, and a distinct light smokiness. The finish lingers and dries out, the sweetness evaporating in a cloud of dry smoke and spices.

Wonderful stuff! If you know any brown-spirit snobs that stick to whisky and sneer at rum, this is the perfect introduction to the world of distilled sugar cane juice that rival single malts. I enjoyed the 1888 very much neat, and it would also play great in place of scotch for a new twist on some scotchtails. The Blood and Sand is a great place to start.

Sample provided for review.

About the author: Andrew Strenio is a lover of all things potable. Since sneaking his grandmother's bourbon balls, he's moved on to touring distillers and sipping snifters. He works by day making documentary television and films for an independent production company in Brooklyn.

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