Tres Hombres XV Años (42%, 2013, Dominican Republic)

Although Tres Hombres sounds very “Spanish” and the Rum hails from the Dominican Republic, this is a Dutch brand with a nice story behind it. Tres Hombres are three Dutch friends called Andreas, Jorne and Arjen who in 2007 started the world’s first emissions free shipping company. Today the company is called Fairtransport and has five ships in their fleet, one of which is called “Tres Hombres”. Apart from the ship and their nickname, Tres Hombres is obviously also a brand, put on Rum, coffee and chocolate. So when your cargo is shipped west, no ship returns empty. Sailing emissions free, the company also focusses on transporting special products which are organic, or crafted traditionally, like olive oil, Wine and Rum. When sailing back from the Caribbean, powered only by the wind, the journey takes a while and it is said that the Rum ages on the ocean, adding to the flavour.

This particular example, edition 05, from 2013, is a solera 15, so it is not a true 15yo Rum. The Rum is made by Oliver & Oliver. A company we already came across when reviewing Presidente 23 Años, also the Atlantico Reserva and Private Cask I reviewed earlier are sourced from Oliver & Oliver, this time for a Miami based brand owner. Even though Rums like this might be sweet, and you get duped a bit with the “age”statement, all examples mentioned were good for the style they represent.

Color: Light gold.

Nose: Smells like a typical Rum. Warm with a promise of some vegetal dirty sweetness. Soft. All is here, wood and leather, but again soft and laid back. Vanilla powder, maybe even powdered coffee creamer. Virgin oak. After letting it sit for a while, the wood gets more assertive, and sharper, which I welcome very much, still underneath the feel of warm sugar-water. Now we also get some unlit cigarette tobacco and even a more spicy feel. A breath of fresh (sea?) air even. Dry leaves, wood and tea. Vegetal with tiny hints of latte macchiato, tea and hot chocolate. Very late in the mix some red fruits sweets. A nice Rum, yet overall it smells a bit simple, maybe less complex would be a better way to describe it. Likeable nevertheless.

Taste: On entry a bit thin. It isn’t thick nor cloying, which is good. I expected something different. Spicy oak. Vegetal again, but different from the nose. This time it’s autumn forest floor (on a sunny day, so without the damp and the rot). Cold tea with hints of chocolate powder. Hardly sweet, people! It drinks like the Epris I reviewed recently. With this I do not mean it resembles the Epris because it smells entirely different and the taste is quite different as well. It’s a different style altogether. I guess you need a bit more experience to wrap your head around the Epris. The Tres Hombres may lack complexity, and it’s not in your face, nor is it big (or sweet) like a Demerara or a funky Jamaican, but it is likeable, like a puppy is. Amazing. I love the way the soft wood presents itself here. Were the casks on deck, stewing in the sun?

When you pick up some experience along they way, I have to say this smells a (more than a) bit in the same line as the other Oliver & Oliver Rums I mentioned above. Tastewise however, this one does show that the people at Oliver & Oliver are perfectly capable in making (blending) different Rums. Lovely puppy, and puppies aren’t 15yo nor is this Rum.

Points: 84

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Presidente Solera 23 Años (40%, Dominican Republic)

There are probably more Rum brands in the world than there are people, which makes the Rum world less transparent than, lets say, the Scottish Single Malt Whisky industry. Remember the reviews I wrote about Malecon? Malecon is a brand and not a distillery. Malecon is a Brand of PILSA. A Panamanian company which is known for its Cuban master blender: Francisco “Don Pancho” Fernandez Perez. Malecon is Rum made in the Cuban tradition. Well, something like this is also true for the Presidente brand. Presidente is made the Cuban way in the Dominican Republic by Oliver & Oliver and just like PILSA, Oliver & Oliver make, and own, a lot of brands of Rum, like Cubaney, Opthimus, Puntacana and Quorhum, to name but a few. They also make Rums like Atlantico and Tres Hombres, for other brand owners. Oliver & Oliver will make even Rum for third-party brand owners. If you and me want to put out a Rum together, Oliver & Oliver will be happy to oblige, but so would PILSA and many others around the world.

We’ll encounter many Rums in the future that are made by Oliver & Oliver, so more about them next time. Their website is more down than up these days, so lets find out who this guy on the label is. It is José Julián Martí Pérez (1853-1898), a big national hero in Cuba. Amongst other things he is known as a writer, poet and journalist, but foremost as a political activist. He fought for Cuba’s independence against Spain, traveling the world to spread the gospel of political and intellectual independence and was the architect of the Cuban Revolutionary Party. The Cubans fought three wars against Spain for independence, and in the third and final war (1895-1898), during the battle of Dos Ríos, Martí was killed. Martí helped planning and execution of this war. After his death one of his poems was turned into the song Guantanamera (which is probably a Rum brand by now).

Presidente 23Color: Dark brown, slightly mahogany.

Nose: Big, initially sweet and syrupy, but quickly some dry woody aromas emerge as well. Old cabinet with faint smell of dried out lavender soap. Hints of cured meat, dust and toned down sawdust. Very closed actually and it comes across as one big aroma which makes it hard to detect distinct markers for this Rum. I have seen that before in Whisky when a lot of caramel colouring is done. I’m guessing from the smell that this has seen some sugar added to it. Sweet biggish smell with some dry spicy wood. Sweet black tea. Yet overall lacking some depth, so not all that old I guess. In fact it smells a bit like a El Dorado 12yo light, which also saw some added sugar. If you need to refresh your knowledge about the Solera System at this point, please read the introduction to this review. Nevertheless a very nice smelling Rum.

Taste: Sweet caramel, dry wood, slightly bitter spicy wood and plywood. Sitting near the fireplace in winter, when the air outside is crisp and sharp. Toffee, lots of vanilla and sugared cacao. Burnt sugar, and the aroma of burning paper. A touch of glycol. Because this has hints of burnt sugar and burnt wood, the sweetness is well hidden but unmistakably there. Big aroma. On top a nice well-integrated, slightly acidic fruitiness, which balances out the Rum. Just enough. Honey and licorice. The finish is rather cloying, another sign of added sugar, and surprisingly sees the soapy note from the nose return. The finish is of at least medium length, with quite a warming quality to it. Again a Rum that suffered a bit by reduction to 40% ABV.

This Rum is pretty sweet and these days, added sugar is like swearing in the church of Rum. And rightly so. Although Rum is made from molasses and sugar cane, adding sugar is something else. Sure, lots of Rum drinkers love their Rums sweet, but for that we have liqueur. Calling Rums like these just “Rum” is a bit confusing and to be honest, misleading. We already have the Spiced Rum category, why not add a Sugared Rum category. As a Sugared Rum this is not bad. It does taste nice, and although it has its flaws, I do quite like it.

Points: 85

Atlantico Private Cask (40%, B2-2009-BLAA, Dominican Republic)

Another Atlantico. This one is called Private Cask, but since it is widely available, I’m not quite sure what they mean with private. One for the book of (not so) funny names perhaps. In most markets this Rum is only slightly higher in price than the Reserva I reviewed last. However, they took the time and effort to supply this particular bottling with a nice looking cardboard box. I don’t know why, but I have higher expectations for this one…

Atlantico Private CaskColor: Orange gold.

Nose: Fresh sweet and acidic. Lots of fruits and first come the citruses. Sugared lemon and lime, but also tangerine. More wood. Virgin oka, but also some polished wood. This version is more aromatic than the Reserva and shows more wood and pure class. More happening, less light. Nice to see some more oak in here compared to the Reserva. This Rum definitely needs it. Hard to get past the lovely oak (never overpowering), but behind that some old orange skin. Meaty. It almost smells like a Oloroso Sherry finish. Nice dry and dusty smell on top. Way to go!

Taste: Fresh Sugar cane juice and again some thin honey. Although not bad, I did expect a bit more at first. Nice light woody bite and again some orange skin. Luckily the Rum picks up pace and starts to shine. All is here, toffee, vanilla and caramel. Even some slightly burnt caramel and maybe some toasted cask. More staying power than the Reserva. Great balance and offers more complexity, but still isn ‘t very complex itself. Highly drinkable. Nice sugared fruits and a slightly bitter and woody backbone.

Looking around, this Rum seems to be slightly more expensive than its Reserva brother. The Reserva in my opinion is too light. This private cask has more confidence and shows itself more. For the small difference in Money, this one has a lot more to offer. The Reserva is quite good, but in itself pretty obsolete, when the Private cask is around. For me a no brainer, especially considering the small difference in price.

Points: 84

Atlantico Reserva (40%, B1-1,635-BLAA, Dominican Republic)

Atlantico Rum hails from the Dominican Republic but its HQ stands in Miami, Florida. Atlantico Reserva was first aged for three years in American virgin oak, blended and aged for another two years. That’s not all, next up some solera aging of up to 15 years. If you don’t know what solera ageing is, please have a look here. Atlantico is a blend of Rums distilled from both molasses and pressed sugar cane juice (like Rum Agricole and Cachaça).

Atlantico ReservaColor: Light gold with a pinkish hue.

Nose: Extremely fruity. From the start, lots of advocaat (egg nog) and Banana. Vanilla Ice-cream with chocolate sprinkles and advocaat. Mocha and toffee. Dusty, and very dessert-like. Nice stuff. All the components are easily recognizable, but also rather closed. They don’t easily emanate from the glass. It needs some vigorous movement to get it out. Well balanced, but not very complex. Appetizing. The dustiness is wood related and shows itself more after some time spent in the glass. Otherwise you’ll have a hard time “getting”some wood out of this. Lovely stuff, just a wee bit too light.

Taste: Half sweet, so nothing overly sweet or cloying. Tastes rather thin, although it has a lovely aroma. Sugary sweetness and maybe a tad of honey. Advocaat is in here too. Cream and toffee, with an alcoholic base (brandy). A short sharp bite in the middle of the body and then it fades away. No long finish, and nothing stays on for a long time. Its gone, leaving you with no other choice than wanting another sip, because tasty, this is.

This one is very easy to sum up. A light, slightly closed yet delicious Rum. That’s what its all about. Advocaat and Ice-cream with pieces of (dark) chocolate and banana. Short finish, so gone too soon. This Atlantico Reserva would probably benefit from a higher strength and a more complex sweetness.

Points: 82

Matusalem Gran Reserva Solera 15 (40%, Dominican Republic)

Matusalem was founded in 1872 in Cuba by the Spanish Brothers Benjamin and Eduardo Camp. They especially went to cuba to distill Rum. Being Spanish they knew about the Solera-system often used to make Sherry and Brandy, so they incorporated that into the way they wanted to make Rum. In 1912 Benjamin returned to Spain but Eduardo stayed behind to run the company by himself, or did he? The Camp brothers had a partner in Evaristo Alvarez, so it was with him that Eduardo continued the Company. Funny enough in the end Eduardo’s son Claudio Alvarez LeFebre, married Evaristo’s daughter, making it a real family business! Their son Claudio Alvarez Soriano was the next in line to take over the business.

Matusalem Gran Reserva 15 SoleraIn 1959 the Cuban Revolution took place and the family moved their business to the U.S. of A. and the cuban’s turned the facility the family had to leave behind into the production facility of Ron Santiago. As with many families, when a lot of offspring shows up in a business where most of them don’t belong and are in it only for financial gain, they run it into the ground. The great-grandson of Eduardo, Claudio Alvarez Salazar took over the business in 1995 after a settlement with the rest of the family and moved the production to the Dominican Republic.

Color: Dark gold.

Nose: Light and lightly sugary sweet. Floral notes and lightly fruity too. Hint of perfumy wood, jasmine and some vanilla. Acidic red currants and some sugar. Tiny hint of toasted wood.

Taste: Light, very light, with a floral and woody touch. Passes quickly through the mouth in which the woody bitterness and a burnt note are the most obvious. Very thin in texture and actually in taste too. Not all is working well together in the taste here. Short and not the best of finishes.

It’s Obvious the Alvarez family is proud, not of their Spanish heritage, but of their Cuban one. So for a rum that is made in the Dominican Republic, the label states quite proudly that the Rum is from Cuban origin, and for me fits right in into the Cuban style but isn’t the best expression from that style.

Points: 75