Rum Nation Panama 18yo (40%, Single Domaine Rum, Release 2010, Panama)

All four Ron Abuelo’s have been reviewed now, but there is still one ace up my sleeve. An independent release of an Abuelo Rum. Lance (The Lone Caner) reviewed this very same Rum and mentions this is an Abuelo Rum, so let’s go with that. Rum Nation is the Rum brand of Italia’s one and only Fabio Rossi, most of us also know from the Independent Whisky bottler Wilson & Morgan. Fabio also has a passion for Rum and is able to source some very special Rums for his own label. Besides this 18yo, Rum nation also has a 21yo Panamanian Rum, which according to Lance, even surpasses the Centuria in quality. I have the 21yo in storage somewhere, so I’ll probably review that one too in the near future.

Rum Nation Panama 18yoColor: Reddish orange brown.

Nose: Powdery and dusty. Radish (Rettich). Cold gravy and leather. Laid back, and yes, still middle of the roadish. Soft old oak. Soaked oak. Lots of toffee and custard. Some sulphur and a meaty note come flying by after a while in the glass. Next some smoky honey, white pepper and candied lemon skins and bitter oranges.

Taste: Half sweet toffee and some wood. Sweetish and the typical Abuelo red fruity acidity is in this one too. Better integrated than in the 12yo. The body has quite some wood and spicy wood, licorice. but the wood is still soft. The end of the body and the finish tell you more. The wood stays on and becomes more spicy, the Rum gets a bit hot for a while, finally some action! Red peppers, and somehow it lacks a bit of complexity. The finish itself is rather short. When I come to think of it, the spicy bite seems to be a bit sulphury. But the finish is about wood and its light walnut skin bitterness.

Quite soft and well-behaved for a 18yo Rum, and quite inexpensive to boot. You know Rums in the hot Caribbean age quite quickly, so when a Rum is still so smooth and easily drinkable after 18 years is quite a feat. I have made quite a dent in this bottle already, and I’m still trying to figure out what it’s all about. It is in part similar to the 7yo and 12yo Abuelo offerings. The heritage is apparent, but it is all a bit to anonymous for me, it doesn’t bring a smile to my face, as in great, I love this, I need more of this. I can easily live without the Añejo, the 7yo and the 12yo, heck, even the 18yo I can do without. The Centuria, however, is from another Panamanian planet and is the proof great Rums can also be made in Panama. I’m wondering about the Rum Nation 21yo now…

Points: 81

Abuelo Centuria Reserva de la Familia (40%, Panama)

You thought I was finished with Abuelo, no? Nope, there is still another Abuelo available. The Centuria was released in 2011, one year after the 12yo in celebration of the distillery’s centennial. It is said to be a blend of the Varela family’s own private reserves. Hmmm, holding on to the best stuff for private use aren’t we? Luckily they have found it in their hearts to share a part of it with the world. For this Rum, only estate-grown sugarcane is used, which could mean that for the other three versions also Rum from molasses may have been used or sugarcane grown elsewhere. There is nothing wrong with that. The Rum was aged in a solera system for up to three decades and matured in American Whiskey barrels (Probably Jack Daniels). 3.000 bottles were produced. For such a limited quantity run, it is quite special that this hasn’t sold out yet. Maybe 3.000 bottles were initially released, but more were made since.

Abuelo CenturiaColor: Dark brown, PX Sherry.

Nose: Fantastic old oak. Dark chocolate. Creamy vanilla and a slightly acidic note. Leather and dark organics. Spicy and hints of orange skins. Gingerbread spices with dried oranges. Sometimes this nose reminds me of a very old Single Malt Whisky. The nose is always centered around the many different wood notes. The wood changes, but will never let you down. It’s the centerpiece, its like nosing the wooden interior of the ball-room of the Titanic (before it sank). You’d almost dress up to nose this.

Taste: Ahh now we’re talking. Coal and tar. Great interaction between dry oak and half sweet, slightly burnt sugar and caramel. Creamy even. Long finish with soft old oak, gingerbread spices and some licorice. Polished furniture. In the distance there is the fresh and acidic fruit. Here it is pushed back a little (by spicy wood) and thus aids the overall taste. In the 12yo this fruit is up-front and ruins the whole balance with its strange acidity. In this one they got it right. I would say, back to the drawing board with the 12yo! Lots of old Rum in this one, but blended masterfully not to let the oak dominate. Not sure if it’s all solera though.

This is hands down the best of the bunch. Even at this price point. It costs about as much as four bottles of the 12yo, today at least, but I expect it to be even more expensive in the near future. However, this is still the one to get. The other three are decent Rums, but each of them can be replaced by many others. A bit anonymous? So, nothing special compared to the Centuria. The Centuria is fantastically unique and is worth its price, even at 40% ABV.

Points: 89

Abuelo Añejo 12 Años Gran Reserva (40%, Panama)

We have already tried the Reserva Especial (Añejo) and the Reserva Superior (7yo), and I have to say, they didn’t lie bout them. The 7yo is most definitely superior to the Añejo (which is a NASser). Both are clear examples of the Panamanian Rum style, the first young and light, the second a lot more aromatic and letting the wood shine through. Not bad. Let’s see if the 12yo, called Gran Reserva is even better than the 7yo…

Abuelo 12Color: Orange brown.

Nose: Spicy and deep. Even more dry and dusty than the Añejo. Hot, almost burning wood. Nice deep fruity acidity. Pineapple. Nice touch of orange and a tiny hint of solvent. Nice wood and sawdust. Winey and PX-Sherry. Caramel. Waxed dark chocolate sprinkles. Less vibrant and sweet than the Añejo.

Taste: Thick and syrupy. Ahorn syrup. A little bit sweeter than the 7yo, but still not much. There is some wood spice in here, which is left behind in the finish. Quite warming. Alas this 12yo also has a fault. It has this (rotting) fruity aroma and acidity and this syrupy sweetness, but those two don’t match! One is on top of the other, and they are never completely integrated. The acidity has more staying power than the sweetness, which is also a bit strange. This is where this Rum goes slightly wrong. Next up the wood. That is the third dimension that isn’t properly integrated. It’s like a succesful band of which the members can’s stand each other. Beatles White album maybe? However, for me Abuelo isn’t The Beatles, but more The Moody Blues. Beautiful music, maybe, but also a bit boring. In this case, the Moody Blues don’t like each other very much.

As the age rises, there is more of everything, more aroma, more consistency, more color (maybe E150?) and more wood, but is it also better? Not for me.

Now that we have tried the three Rums that make up the standard range we can conclude that the Añejo is the simple and light one, meant for mixing. The 7yo is also quite light, but is suitable for sipping. Also the 7yo is the best balanced of the three. The 12yo is the sipper, at least, its meant to be the sipper. The 12yo is alas a bit unbalanced, but shows a lot of promise. I hope for a better balanced blend in the near future.

Points: 81

Abuelo Añejo 7 Años Reserva Superior (40%, Panama)

After the affordable and very light young Añejo Reserva Especial, comes this 7yo Reserva Superior. And as luck would have it, I have the 7yo right here on my lectern, and I’ll review it shortly. First a short history lesson:

The history of the Ron Abuelo brand is actually the history of Varela Hermanos. It starts in 1908, when the Spanish immigrant Don José Varela Blanco established the first sugar mill in Pesé. Panama is then a fairly new country, since it just gained independence from Colombia in 1903. In 1936 Don José started distilling sugar cane juice. In 1976 Don José’s distillery was replaced by a new one that was surprisingly called the Don José distillery. Besides Ron Abuelo, also other spirits are made in the stainless steel column still.

Abuelo 7yoColor: Orange gold.

Nose: Floral and fruity, yet light. Dry and dusty. More dry wood in the mix, but still not a lot. Vanilla powder, toffee and a touch of honey. Luke warm sugar-water. Vanillin from oak. Slightly spicy, balanced and light. Latte Macciato with mocha sprinkles. Appetizing but not very complex.

Taste: Fruity and instantly very nice. Nice half-sweetness matches with the right amount of oak. Fruity and waxy. Toffee, but also a tiny bite. Toasted cask I would say. Much fuller and thicker than the Añejo, but still not very heavy. That’s the Panamanian style of Rum making. This time also an apply, fruity acidity, and sometimes a slight bitter note towards the finish. However, I don’t pick up on those, every time I try this. Nice and easy, no frills and certainly a decent Rum. A little bit of sour oak lingers on in the finish and somewhat later even some menthol.

As far as I know, this is not a lot more expensive than the entry-level Añejo. That one seems to be made for mixing, whereas this one is made to be drunk by itself, or maybe with an ice-cube. It has more going for it than the Añejo and is also nice for mixing, but why should you. Well made, a bit middle of the road and still pretty light. No faults and no off-notes. This may very well be the definition of Panamanian Rum.

Points: 82

Abuelo Añejo Reserva Especial (40%, Panama)

When looking around on the internet you can see that Ron Abuelo from Panama is a very hip and foremost sexy brand of Rum. When Rum is presented by women in underwear and swimwear, I have no problem with that at all, non, nice, I like that. Thus no complaints for me. But underneath I’m also a sort of distillation geek, and that side of me is a bit worried. If Ron Abuelo is actually a good Rum, why then is so much effort put into distracting the public from the Rum itself?

Abuelo has four Rums in its portfolio. We’re about to try this Añejo, but there is also a 7yo, a 12yo and finally there is also a Centuria. The first three are all reasonably priced and make up the standard range. Centuria is a bit more expensive and something of a speciality. I’m telling you upfront, prices for the Centuria will be rising soon.

Abuelo AnejoColor: Gold with a pinkish hue.

Nose: Light, sweet and young. Sugar water. A slight hint of wood, leather and cinnamon, but also a coastal note. Very smooth smelling. Whiffs of fresh air. Light scent of fresh-cut flowers, immediately followed by a more meaty component. Gravy. Also notes of candy powder and red fruit gums.

Taste: Very light and sugary. Not a lot of character yet. Add to that a wee bit of oak and that is what you get. Sweetish, but not sweet. Warming with hints of licorice and a slight woody bitterness, to give it some back bone. Quite light and in the distance it sometimes reminds me of cane juice (Rum). Toffee. The entry into the mouth is light, and the body is not any heavier. Funny enough, after swallowing, the Rum starts to work. Its warming and shows some heat from young Rum. Peppery note from the wood.

The entry-level offering is really an entry-level Rum. Very light, young and pretty simple. No off notes, so that’s a plus. Yes you can sip this, and keep doing this for a long time f.i. when playing cards with your friends. This is a Rum that probably is made for cocktails and similar uses. Its alright, but not as exciting as the girls selling it. I hope the rest of the range is better. Actually it’s not bad, but it is what it is. A very affordable, very light young Rum.

Points: 78