It's always a treat when a friend known for his exquisite collection of spirits deigns to share a special bottle. When your friend is Bacardi and the company is breaking out not one, but four of its specialty rums normally reserved for family members, it's a red-letter day.
Named for the originator of world's largest rum brand, Don Facundo Bacardi Masso, the Facundo Rum Collection was born of last year's celebration of the 150th anniversary of the family-owned company. Facundo L. Bacardi, the current chairman, as well as the great-great grandson and namesake of the founder, took a hands-on role, and says, "We got together [at the celebration] and reflected that it was time to release some rums that family members have been enjoying for years." An alternate motive behind this sharing was to raise the image of what rum can be, he adds. "We have the rums that can compete with any Cognac and Scotch."
The collection achieves its goal. While all are of exceptional age, the entry level, Neo ($45), is almost clear, with a hint of gold. The rum is a tribute to the flagship Bacardi Superior. However, Neo includes age components unheard of in white rum (eight years at the extreme) with three to five years occupying the heart. A double filtering explains the color. While decidedly smooth, it sings of vanilla, rich herbs and marzipan.
The next step up is Eximo ($60) at between 10 and 12 years. Manuel Oliver, the master blender, says that because of the heat under which they lay in casks, the rums' maturity is comparable to that of Scotch three times older. On the palate, it displays vanilla, maple and nuts.
Exquisito ($95), blended from rums of seven, nine and 23 years old, is then finished in Sherry casks for about a month while the rums marry. As well as contributing an array of fruits—nectarine, pear and grape—the Sherry finish recalls the Bacardi family's Spanish heritage. Much of the carefully designed packaging of the collection is also inspired by brand and family history, including its time in Cuba.
The ultimate expression is Paraíso ($250), made from 16 to 23 year old stocks. Tasters identified 200 rum samples of utmost quality. Those were trimmed to 40 to 50 and presented to the chairman for his consideration. The resulting blend also enjoys a Cognac cask finish. The flavor is remarkably complex with spices that include cinnamon and cloves, rich layers of vanilla and caramel, sweet fruits, all informed by a nut flavor reminiscent of a Fine Champagne Cognac.
The limited release (12,000 bottles in total) will likely disappear quickly and there's no telling when the family will be so expansive again. Notes the chairman, with a chuckle: "We have some family members who would have preferred to keep it to ourselves."
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