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

Francisco Montero “50th Anniversary” (40%, 7.000 bottles, 2013, Spain)

Francisco Montero Martin was born on April fools day 1929 in Motil, Grenada, Spain. Motil is unsurprisingly also the place Spanish sugar cane came from. For a long time Francisco dreamed about making Rum, or Ron as it is called in Spain. Finally when in his thirties, in 1963, the year of the demise of JFK, Francisco decided that life is short and started his own Rum-distillery called the Azucarera Montero distillery. Quite a bold move since (domestic) Rum was still unknown in Spain. In 2006, Sugar cane cultivation was seized and one year later, Joaquín Martín Montero, nephew of the founder buys the distillery. His daughter Andrea Martín Targa manages the place, so the business remains in the hands of the family.

Although there is a lot of history concerning sugar cane, the Rum is not distilled from sugar cane juice, but rather from the molasses from the locally grown sugar cane. The cultivation of sugar cane seized in 2006, so the distillery imports molasses made from sugar cane, from Brazil, Egypt, India or Mexico. Sometimes nice molasses from other countries can be brought in as well.

The Rum of Francisco Montero is a light style Rum. Fermentation is done for only 24 to 30 hours and the distillery uses four continuous column stills, of which the first operates under vacuum. This allows for distillation at a lower temperature, claiming less flavour is “boiled off”. However, nothing is said about the conditions provided in the other three columns and their effect on flavour of the final product. Ageing is done exclusively in 500 liter, new American oak casks, configured in a Solera system. And last but not least, in the blending process caramel coloring is done.

Francisco Montero 50th AnniversaryColor: Full Gold.

Nose: A breath of fresh air and a nice floral touch. There is a nice elegant woody nose with an edge of scented paper. Fruity black tea with a little bit of sugar in it. Definitely a molasses based Rum, bot nowhere near the thick and syrupy big Rums. No, it smells refined and elegant without being a completely different Rum, like Agricole. Hints of licorice and more fresh air, but also some wood pulp and breakfast cereals. Sweetness becomes more like a warm liquid of diluted refined sugar. Development in the glass stops rather soon, so after a short while WYSIWYG (What you smell is what you get). I like the floral tough that stays throughout.

Taste: Thin toffee and caramel. Aided by some liquid wood in the background. Lots of warming toffee, vanilla and caramel candy notes. Hints of waxy apple skins and a bitter walnut skin note, but these hints are pushed way back. You have to work for them. Quite unexpected, because the very smart and luxury packaging as well as the speciality of a “50th Anniversary” made me expect something very deep, in part old, and special, just like Abuelo Centuria stands out from the rest of the Abuelo range. This comes across as quite young. Initially very appetizing, with the toffee notes. Towards the finish the taste breaks down a bit. The nice toffee note gets weaker and thinner, and isn’t really replaced by something else. The finish is quite short, and you’re left behind with only an echo of a Rum.

Considering the packaging and the occasion, I was quite disappointed really. I expected a lot more. By its own merits I am disappointed as well. Sure, its a lighter style Rum, but just look at the Cuban Rums I reviewed earlier. The same lighter style but way more happening there. It is all right to sip, but if I would place this according to its merits it would sit right next to the most inexpensive of Abuelo’s, the Añejo, making this Montero way to expensive for what you would get. If you like the style, go for a Cuban.

Points: 78

Zacapa Centenario Solera Gran Reserva 23 (40%, Guatemala)

If memory serves me correctly, last year we had a pretty good summer. Alas summer is long gone, and to celebrate it, I had some Rum. At least there was some sunshine in my glass, so to speak.

Zacapa Centenario Solera Gran Reserva 23Zacapa is a very well-known Guatemalan brand, owned by Diageo. The Rum itself is made with the Solera system wherein the Rums are between 6 and 23 years old, hence the number 23 in the name. 23 is not an age statement, and although Rums are not that much regulated yet as Whisky, Diageo was carefull enough not to call this Rum 23yo. The Rum is made with first crush virgin sugar cane honey and was aged in American Whiskey barrels and (PX) Sherry casks.

Color: Dark reddish copper

Nose: Very floral, nice wood with a lot of depth. Some acidic winey and red fruit notes. Very appetizing nose. Vegetal and woody. Gravy. Overall, the rum comes across as fresh and lively and even sophisticated. Luckily no cloying sweetness in the nose. Small hint of wrapping paper and dried meat. Good wood.

Taste: Thinner and not as sweet as I remember it from a while back. Sweetish, with vanilla and some red fruits. Definitely has some PX-sherry influence. Very easy drinking rum, but for my tastes a bit thin and, dare I say it, simple. Some burnt Sugar stays on the tongue, but after that the whole experience is rather quickly gone. Funky acidity stays on too long and doesn’t match with the wood in the finish.

This Rum has no real flaws and it sells quite well. It’s a nice sipping middle of the road Rum.

Points: 80

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