The Darién Gap

The Darién Gap is a swampy region in the Pan-American Highway around the Colombian and Panamanian border. The 100-160 km long gap impedes road building and poses huge environmental cost. For the funnsies, let’s try a few rums I usually wouldn’t review. In all fairness, most of them might be suitable companions for a nice cigar. Sometimes I just like these combinations, especially if the cigar is very heavy and we are looking for an easy sipper. It’s time for some rums from Colombia and Panama.
I know I am brave. I also know that I have stated that I won’t review sweetened rums on this blog unless they are truly exceptional. Well, let’s say from now on.


Don_Pancho_8_Years_400x800px (2)Origenes Don Pancho 8YO (Panama, 40%): Besides the 8YO, Don Pancho is also selling an 18YO and a 30YO. The marketing reads: “The youngest rum in the blend is 8 years, aged in American Oak […]. Don Pancho wanted to recreate the rum he used to drink when he was young in Cuba, at a time where 7YO and 8 YO where the oldest rums available”. A Panamanian to create the Cuban flavour, ok. At least the age statement refers to the youngest rum in the mix. But let’s see. Nose: Nice notes of tobacco, leather, coffee, caramel and pepper. Palate: It’s not too bad actually. Quite sweet(ened), flavours of burnt sugar, tobacco and dark chocolate await us. Then some freshly brewed coffee and exotic spices such as cardamom. The finish is relatively long with plenty of tobacco, peppercorns and leather. I guess this is a good rum if you are into this particular style. I don’t mind it at all, but would not necessarily buy it. It’s just too sweet and simple for my liking.

la-hechicera-fine-aged-rum-colombia-10446556 (2)La Hechicera (Colombia, 40%): La Hechicera means “the sorceress” or “the seductress” and contains rums that aged between 12 and 21 years. Let’s hope these promises can deliver. It’s a lot drier than the Origenes which confirms my suspicion that the Don Pancho has been sweetened. I smell leather, strong coffee, nuts and a mix of spices. The nose doesn’t reveal a lot. Taste: It’s a bit like chewing on wood and tobacco. Then cold tobacco, burnt caramel and the spice mix. It’s very one-dimensional and not really exciting but it seems like an honest product. It probably has its fans. Finish: Long and dry with some wood. Where’s my cigar again?

dictador-20-year-old-rum (2)Dictador 20 (Colombia, 40%): A 20 “year-old” Solera and fancy marketing with latex-dressed girls. We all know that sex-sells and apparently the same rules apply in the rum business. By the way, are you interested in how it is made? Then look no further than this. Nose: Tobacco, coffee, burnt caramel and a few spices. It’s quite sweet. Palate: Similar to the nose. I get exactly the same associations. It’s unnaturally sweet but measurements did not detect the addition of sugar (there has been a controversial exception however). Either way, I am relatively sure that something has been added to it as this is not how natural rum tastes like. Finish: Quite long and slightly smoky with tobacco and spices. Again, this one is not too bad but something is fishy about it and I cannot quite nail it down.

dictador-best-of-1976-vintage-single-cask-rum-40-jahre-07l (2)Dictador Single Cask 1976 40YO (Colombia, 44,5%): This must be the oldest rum I have ever tried. However, being a brand that more or less came out of nowhere all of a sudden, there are quite a few mysteries surrounding the company’s distillery, their stills and ferments. Critical questions seem to be unanswered and the company denies the addition of additives even though some measurements suggest otherwise. If you want to learn more, take a look at this great piece of journalism by Cyril. Nose: Not as sweet as the Dictador 20 but with a lot of alcohol, which is unusually sharp. Then plenty of tobacco, leather, molasses, wood and caramel. The palate contains mostly tobacco and leather. This is the typical Dictador profile. It’s slightly smoky and sweet but I don’t think its artificial (in contrast to my perception of the Solera 20). Eventually I also get a few dark berries but there really isn’t much to this alcoholic beverage. Finish? Nah… This was quite the disappointment, definitely not what you would expect from a 40YO or at this price. I actually think I even prefer the Dictador 20 to this.

Should we also try an independent bottling? I think we should.

DSC00220 (2)Our Rum & Spirits Don Jose Distillery 2004 11YO (Panama, 52,7%): We’ve already encountered Our Rum & Spirits here. This one comes with the mark PMD, which might stand for Panama Main Don Jose. Don Jose Varelo Blanco founded the fist sugar mill in Panama in 1908 and in 1936 his sons successfully persuaded him to build a distillery as well. The most well-known brand coming from Don Jose should be Abuelo by the way. The nose is fruity with pomegranate and grapefruit. Then caramel and citrus fruits. The taste is rather interesting. Again I get pomegranate but this time paired with oranges, pineapple, leather and a lot of aromas from the cask. Finish: For me it hits the sweet spot for a Panamanian. Fruity and cask aromas fairly share the stage and form a nice symbiosis. Easily the winner of this Darién Gap cross-tasting but that probably doesn’t mean very much today. I will gladly finish my sample of this one though! By the way: don’t forget to check out what Lance had to say about it.

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