Tuesday, August 16, 2011

National Rum Day / Diplomatico Reserva Exclusiva

With today (8/16) being “National Rum Day,” I thought I’d reminisce a little about the rum that started my love affair with the sugar-derived distillate. But before I go into the rum itself, I have a confession to make… I was a whisky drinker long before I was legally able to purchase a drink. It’s what the old man used to drink, so it’s what I would sneak sips of before I could pronounce many of the names of the single malts in my collection (but let’s be honest, I probably still butcher some of those names today). So how did the big switch come about?

Well, several years ago, I received an email advertising a rum tasting. Rum tasting? I thought once you add some Coke you were done? Boy, was I ever wrong! So I happily head off to this tasting figuring “What do I have to lose? At worst, I’ll have a couple of drinks and tomorrow I’ll go back to the well-known product of Scotland named for a famed pedestrian that can be found at any bar in Miami.”

Of the many rums that were sampled that day, I can still recall a handful of the expressions offered. I can also still recall my amazement at just how varied the category really is -- the subtle differences that the methods of fermenting, distilling, aging and blending the rums could have on the final product. And there were a few rums that day that I still count amongst my favorites. But one bottle stood out that day because of it’s approachability and, well, for lack of a better word, it’s deliciousness. It was the one bottle I purchased that day (lucky for me this tasting was held in a liquor store) and one of the bottles that I’ve made sure to always have on the rum shelf… Diplomatico Reserva Exclusiva – a blend of 80% pot stilled rum blended with 20% column stilled rum aged for 12 years in small white oak barrels from Venezuela.

The stout green bottle bears a portrait of Don Juancho Nieto Melendez, who in the 18th century developed a passion for rum and whose personal rum collection was the stuff of legend matched only by his generosity in sharing his findings. It’s only fitting that the bottle and the label reminds me of currency because, if I may borrow a line from Swingers, this stuff is money! In fact, such was my appreciation for this fine spirit that, at my wedding a few months ago, I was happy to present every guest with a small token of thanks that (I think) represented a little piece of me: 50ml of Diplomatico Reserva Exclusiva!

The rum itself is fairly easy on the eyes, liquid the color of cherry wood that grips the glass and forms delicate, slow-moving legs. The aromas of baking spices, caramel and vanilla waft toward you before your nose even meets the glass. A small sip coats the tongue with a layer of vanilla, accompanied by all of the cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg your nose first picked up on. As sweet as the rum is on the palate, its finish is slightly drier than you would have expected, with earthy tobacco notes. No mixing here folks… no ice necessary… this one’s an easy sipper!

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