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The arrival just before Independence Day of three rums we hadn't tasted when we last celebrated aged rums in Cigar Aficionado (Good Life Guide, January/February) was a great excuse for an impromptu tasting to recall rum's role in the revolutionary days—and strike our own blow for independence.
When our forefathers were lifting a libation to liberty 234 years ago, sugar liquor was likely the quaff of choice. The colonialists drank their share of beer and ciders, but when it came to spirits, rum predominated. (Bourbon wouldn't become America's first original spirit drink until after the War of Independence.)
Ron Atlantico Private Cask is a Dominican Republic rum that results from a one-to-two-year aging process in Bourbon barrels before being transferred to a solera process that mixes it with rums in older casks for another 15-25 years.
Appearance: Deep yellow, fat legs.
Nose: Vanilla and bread dough.
Palate: A shock of sweetness out front turns to caramel and butter rum.
Finish: The sugar cane sweetness returns as it clings to the palate and delivers a medium-length finish with some herbal notes and greater complexity.
Will open up the flavors of a mild cigar.
Ron Cartavio is a rum oddity in that it comes from Peru, which is better known for its pisco (grape) spirit. We tasted the Solera 1929 (12-year) version (produced similarly to the above rum). Cartavio also makes a five-year Aniversario and will soon debut an 18-year Solera XO.
Appearance: Amber, gives up its sturdy legs slowly.
Nose: Elegant hard-candy nose with hints of mint and Bourbon.
Palate: Curious mixture of sweet and tart as this tightly wound rum releases its nutty flavors.
Finish: Dries up on the finish, leaving no saccharine after taste.
Smoke with a nutty, sweet medium-bodied cigar.
Ron Viejo de Caldas Grand Reserve, of Columbia, also hails from a Latin country that is not as renowned for rum making—and again with positive results. This eight-year-old rum is a vintage spirit—not a blend—and is aged at an altitude of 7,000 feet.
Appearance: Dark bronze color, delicate legs.
Nose: Dried or meaty fruit, pears, not overly sweet, with a snap of spice or licorice.
Palate: Warm, brandy notes turn to anise as you chew through it. Very subtle sweetness.
Finish: The ending notes are at first quite dry and then open to meaty fruit (banana notes) as the anise toasts off.
An excellent partner for a full-bodied smoke.