Rum Review: Rhum Barbancourt

On December 6, 2011, in Rum Reviews, by admin

In my continuing search for the world’s best rums and rum bargains, this entry reviews Rhum Barbancourt, a sugar cane dark rum from Haiti.  The rum is produced by one of Haiti’s oldest companies, Société du Rhum Barbancourt, T. Gardère & Cie in Port Au Prince.  The company began in 1862 by a Frenchman Dupre Barbancourt.  Currently the fourth generation of the family still runs the company.  The bottle states it is pot-stilled from 100% cane juice, aged in imported white oak casks for eight years.  Rum, like most wines, generally age well and improve with age and Eight years is longer than most rums are aged and should produce a fine product.  We are trying the Five Star Reserve Speciale.


Given Haiti’s long tragic history, I was hoping for a rum of good quality and a good bargain.  Spreading the word of a great product that could help the economy an impoverished country would be a positive outcome.


The bottle itself is dark, with a wheat colored label with a female figure (goddess?) in front of a blue star.  The company’s website did not explain the history of the label.  Upon opening the bottle, I was concerned with the fact that it was a screw-top.  In the few years I have been reviewing rums, there have been some good rums with a screw-top, but no great rums with one.  The great ones have a cork stopper.  Letting the rum breathe before tasting straight up, I found the aroma to be very chemically strong, almost like dry cleaning fluid.  The rum was dark as it should be, with a good dark rum texture.  However, the first taste did nothing to dispel that mechanical flavor.  Over several weeks of mixing it with Coke, Coke Zero, and various fruit juices, the rum was a great disappointment.   It reminded me of old school Ben Gay sports ointment: not a good experience.  Some rums may present better than others with soft drinks or perhaps fruit juices or boat drinks, but this rum didn’t blend well with anything.  Unfortunately, the only recommended uses for this rum would be for cleaning carburetors or perhaps pouring on fire ant mounds and lighting them on fire.


At approximately $25 a bottle, I was extremely disappointed in this product.  It may be the worst rum I have ever had.


The Rum Quest continues….


The Rum Guy


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Now that title is a mouthful.  The Rum Guy jumps into obscurity with his latest entry.

Today’s featured rum is from the lower price range of the spectrum.  The ultimate goal is to try every commercial rum and to find the best rum values on the market.  While some of my top rums are indeed in the upper cost tiers, not all have been a good value for your hard-earned cash.  So today’s entry, “Tropic Isle Palms—Spiced Cask Rum” addresses the other end.   While research found very little information about the company, the bottle states it is imported from Barbados, where “modern” rum is thought to have been originated.  The origin of the word “Rum” is lost to the mists of time, and several different linguistic experts disagree on that origin.   One item we can agree on, good rum means good times.  The island of Barbados makes a number of rums, some better than others but all are worth trying.  Historically, I have never been a huge fan of the “spiced” rums.  I have to be in a certain mood, and generally that happens only a couple times a year.  Purchases therefore have been few and far between, as I hate to spend the money on a rum and have it sit, lonely and ignored for months at a time.  That would not be a good rum bargain.  Having said that, I tried this Tropic Isle Palms.  The bottle has an appealing picture of two coconut palm trees and underneath that two barrels, to induce that impression of having been aged in barrels.  The rum itself is yellow-gold in color, similar to a beer when poured.  Upon opening the top, the aroma of fruit and spice rises gently to the nose.  Pouring a straight shot, this 70 proof rum is lighter than most I have tried.  The first taste on the tongue takes me to the tropics, with banana and vanilla overtones with a hint of cherry.  The spices seem to include a touch of cinnamon, cardamom, and light black pepper, but are subtle not overpowering.  It has a very smooth finish, perhaps due to the lower alcohol content but also to the right mix of spices.  While this is not a rum for drinking straight up, it mixes very well with both regular cola and Cherry Coke Zero.  With fruit juice it is a refreshing mix for a hot summer day.   Tropic Isle also sells a number of flavored rums if you are so inclined.   I am not a fan of flavored rum, but obviously people like it, as all the major rum distillers sell their own versions.   The texture and flavor of this Palms rum hold together, even if the drink sits unattended for a few minutes, which some rums do not do.  At about $12 a bottle, I was very pleased with this rum.  If you like spiced rums, or are looking to try one, I can recommend this rum, especially for summer outdoor social occasions.


Does it make my Top Ten Rums?  No, but a very good rum for the price.

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Balcones Rumble Review

On June 13, 2011, in Rum Reviews, by admin

I am not one to steal thunder from one of my valued contributors, but Rum Guy has fallen on the job, and I must go pick up the pieces. We review Balcones Rumble Rum.  This comes from the Balcones Distillery, in my very own Waco, Texas.  Now in order to assure Rum Guy I am not retiring him, I must reveal the misconception that led to this review. I went into my fav liquor store in Dallas this weekend seeking some whiskey.  On the Whiskey shelf was this unique smaller bottle labeled Balcones Rumble.  Now, since we review liquors regularly on this and our sister sight VODKAFACTS.COM, I pay attention to things like packaging, pricing, and word of  mouth.  But this little mis shelved gem had nothing but unique packaging.  So upon picking up the bottle, we realized that this was a Texas Distillary for making and marketing Whiskey. In fact, the only one in Texas.  In fact, right from my second home town of Waco, Texas.  Curiosity peaked. We had to purchase.  Of course, we thought this was a whiskey.  But one taste, and it we found this would be the most unique tasting whiskey ever.  So further research to their website Balcones Distilling revealed this is actually a rum……now I should have known that from the taste.  Well, I am not the rum expert, Rum Guy is.

Balcones Rumble, Waco, Texas

Balcones Rumble, Waco, Texas. Not Your Mother's Rum

This rum has a truly unique taste. In their marketing pitch, they embrace everything that is Texas Hill Country.  They make it with Texas honey. They make it with figs.  They use turbinado sugar.  Anyone in their right mind out there know what turbinado sugar is?  Then they tease you further by saying “this is what happens when whiskey distillers play with sugar”.  OK.  I know understand my favorite liquor store’s confusion.  I am confused.  Is this whiskey or rum?  Well, it tastes like one of the best rums I have ever consumed, so lets call it rum. In fact, tonights dinner is this mixed with my favorite soda.   But do not get me wrong, mixing this is somewhat of a sin. This is a strikingly smooth drink that is better suited for sipping. I would put it over rocks, especially now since it is been over 100 degrees in this distillers home town of Waco, Texas for over two weeks.  The honey taste leaps forward.  There is a smoothness to this drink that smacks of sipping over rocks. It starts fresh on the palate.  It never has a chemical burn or after taste despite its advanced alcohol content of 47%, ah thats 94 proof for you newbies.  A party waiting to happen, but please drink responsibly.  As stated earlier, the taste of honey is recognizable. In fact, this is the driving taste of the rum. There is a hint of fig in the taste as well.  OF course, if you mix it, which I am doing for my dinner tonight, these tastes fade somewhat.  You need to put this over ice, and slowly sip it.  Never mind, you northern states.  You likely cannot buy this rum, or global warming has not completely caught up to you yet.  But for us Texans struggling with one of what I believe will be the hottest summers in many years…….this is a mind altering godsend.

This rum is available in Central Texas, which includes some of the Dallas liquor stores.  Not sure about the planet Houston.  The other interesting thing is the name.  “Balcones” is a fault line that runs prominently from Dallas (most people in Dallas have no idea there is a fault line in Dallas, but a trip to southwest Dallas around Duncanville will prove it) to south of Austin, Texas.  In fact it is the Balcones Fault that creates the gorgeous Texas Hill Country.  If you check the website, one of the owners lives in Austin (the site for other liquors like Tito’s Vodka, subject to an upcoming review) with a ‘512’ area code number.  In fact, there is little on the website that would indicate this is a Waco Distillery.  Waco is just not cool enough.  I am surprised in this city of 125,000, home of the largest Baptist University in the world, and a ultra conservative attitude to boot, that we have this distillery smack dab in the middle of town. I love Waco in a sick way.  I find it interesting that these blokes marketing this product try to give the impression it is from Austin, which stands for ‘everything cool in Texas’, at least in an Austinite’s mind.  But check the bottle folks.  It is Waco.  17th and Franklin to be exact.  Sorry owner’s, you have been outed.

Go buy this if you are in Texas, but do expect to pay $30-40 for a 750 ml. bottle. And if you are not in Texas, well, you are screwed, because this one is well worth the money.


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Venezuelan Rum

Today’s entry into the sweepstakes of the World’s Best Rums is “Pampero Aniversario”. This dark rums sails in from the tropical clime of Venezuela where it is blended from 100% Venezuelan rums. The bottle advises that this rum-style was first made by the Pampero Family of Rums in 1963 to celebrate the 25th year of Pampero Rum. This was an “exclusive” reserve bottle with a wax seal on it and individually numbered. The distillery was established in 1938, which is quite encouraging, in the central plains area of the country. I will not comment on the current political issues of the country. Pampero was the first rum from Venezuela to be declared “Anejo” (aged). The distillery has been awarded several prizes from the international community most recently 2007. The company is not Venezuelan-owned anymore (political comment here? Tempting, but no) but is part of Diageo, the world’s largest liquor holding company. Well, if you have to hold something, I think liquor is a good choice—especially rum. Now, let’s talk rum….the bottle is pleasantly squat, the wax stamp gives it gravitas, while the label itself is not overly impressive. From a marketing side, the bottle comes in a beautiful, soft brown, handmade leather bag, quite distinctive and unique. When the cork top is removed, the rum aroma is reserved, soft, low-key like a 3 piece jazz group playing old standards on a deck overlooking a harbor. The texture is smooth, with a nice finish. However, the flavor is smoothed almost to the point of blandness. Like filing off rough edges until you are left with just a sliver and a pile of shavings. There is no “there” there, to quote Dorothy Parker. Drinking it straight brings the thought, “Is that it?” It almost disappears mixed with Coke or Coke Zero. It fares a little better with fruit juices. For approximately $28 a bottle, I was not greatly impressed by this rum. It is not a bad rum, just not a good value for the price. The Rum Road goes ever onward….. The Rum Guy

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Editors Note:  We continue with our Low Budget Review Guy who not only travels Texas, but apparently stays smashed on rum.  Check his great review, and he keeps it everything Texas

My newest entry in the ever-continuing search for the best rums brings to the bar a Texas-made product, Railean Rum.  I always like trying “Made In Texas” products, supports local economies, and business people.  Foods have been by and large a very positive experience, BBQ and BBQ  sauces, salsa’s, etc.  However, historically Texas made alcohol products have been an uneven result at best.  Some Texas wines are very good.  Texas booze, however, has had largely poor results for my taste-buds.  Probably because it is a new industry here, and learning to make good products takes time and patience.  That brings me to Railean Rum.  Owned by one of the few women in the business, Kelli Railean has a passion for good rums.  She founded Railean Distillers in San Leon, Tx on Galveston Bay.  She describes San Leon as, “A small drinking community with a large fishing problem.”  Sounds like my kinda place….their website advises they use Gulf Coast Sugar Cane Molasses.

Railean Rum. Very Cool

They offer three rums, Texas White, Reserve XO, and Small Cask Reserve.  My review is on the Reserve XO.  The Small Cask Reserve is produced from single barrels, which is rare.  The XO is blended as most rums are.  First, the bottle.  It  features the Railean mascot, a brightly-feathered Monk Parrot.  Evidently there is a large colony of these birds in San Leon and they have been adopted as the company logo.  (Do they get a cut?) The label is easy to read, well designed, and allows the  golden amber color of the rum to entice potential buyers.  Indeed, it was the rum’s color that caught my eye, and then the parrot on the label.  I picked up the bottle, read the label, and they had a customer.  Well done.  The label does state this is an ultra premium rum.  I am unsure what that really means, but in most establishments , that means a higher price.

Upon opening the cork top ( a good sign), I could smell the warm molasses based alcohol softly calling.  The amber color pours gently into the glass like a slow hill country rain.  The first sip was quite smooth, no harsh bite, with some chocolate and light pecan aftertaste.  It “finishes” very well, the oak barrels giving it a very smooth ride.  This rum makes you think of just sitting and watching the sun go down or hearing the tide come in.  It is an OK rum for sipping, I prefer the darker rums for that, but it mixes very well with coke or cherry coke zero.  Mixed with fruit drinks it blends well.

Overall grade:  I give this rum an “A”.  For about $18 a bottle, this is a good value and a good product.  I will buy this rum again and recommend it to friends looking to get something different than the large commercial distillers.   At this time, I am placing this rum in my ever-changing top-5.   I look forward to trying the Small Cask Preserve in the future.

My top 5:

So many Choices, So Little Time for Over Indulgence


Plantation Grande Preserve (Barbados)

Old Monk

Mount Gay Extra Old

Railean Reserve XO

Just dropped: Flor De Cano 12 yr

The Quest Continues….

The Rum Guy

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Many of you know that the our “Low Budget Review Guy” is likely to review a cadre of things…films, travel, shopping experiences, you name it, all in the name of the what usually the less expensive experience. Well, LBRG is a rum guy. Big time. So he weighs in with his latest rum review, with comment by me of course:

My latest rum project is called, “Flor De Cana”, a product of Nicaragua. Per their label, they have been making rum since 1890. This 80 proof dark rum comes marketed in years aged of 4, 5, 7, 12 and 18. I purchased the Grand Reserve 7 years. The manufacturers state their rum has won 72 international awards in the past 5 years. You never really know how accurate those statements are, but I had read a good review, so I tried it. Those that have read my previous rum reviews know that I have migrated over the years from the white, or silver rums, to the golden and/or dark rums. I have found that the darker rums have a stronger “rum” taste, and although maybe don’t mix as well with some fruit juices or for Boat Drinks, the darker rums mix great with cola or diet cola (or my current fav Cherry Coke Zero). If you find a fruit juice or party mix that blends well with the darker rums, the end product can be sensational. So, for my palate, you may have a roller coaster– some lower lows but the highs are exhilarating. This Flor de Cana is a moderate priced rum, about $20 at my local Twin Liquors. As always, first I pour a shot to sip straight, slowly because 80 proof is 80 proof. Most rums are 80 proof, but I have seen a few lower and some that are 92 proof (scary). I like to try a straight shot to actually taste the rum. It has a forceful “bite” but not overpowering. It has elements of vanilla, and a backtaste of blackberries. It caresses the tongue, slowly before a strong finish. I would not recommend it as a sipping rum. But most rums are not, nor are they distilled that way. Rums are made to mix and match, to mingle and jingle and dance the sun down. Or, in my brother’s case, to salute the sun as it comes up. Mixed with cola, this rum is very pleasant. Mixed with fruit juice, it blends well. I will try it with a party mix in a blender this weekend. In short, a pretty good, but not great, rum. A good rum value for the price. My top 3 favorite rums are still:

Plantation Grand Reserve
Goslings Black Seal

The Quest Continues….

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Low Budget Review Guy Strikes Again

On April 11, 2010, in Uncategorized, by admin

Put this in the Every-Man-has-to-have-a-dream category….In my ongoing quest to try every rum in the world (except Sailor Jerry—sorry—no can do) I have tried a rum that is high on the list of most rum connoisseurs….

Pyrate Rum (Pyrate XO Reserve)….comes in a funky squat bottle like a small brandy decanter. Has a double-cork stopper, and as I sipped it straight over ice at first, I read the info that came with the bottle…from the makers of Patron, a premium tequila. Pyrate is a blend of 9 rums aged up to 15 years in Limousin oak and American sweet oak barrels. Amber color, the bottle says has flavors of vanilla, caramel, honey and cinnamon. My uncultured palate detects caramel, and a little vanilla and fruit (apricot?). It is extremely smooth, leaves a taste on the tongue, but not bitter. This rum you can taste the rum flavor, not just taste the alcohol. It warms the throat and belly like an Irish Whiskey or almost like a brandy. Mixes well with diet coke, tomorrow I shall try with fruit juice or regular coke. Has a medallion attached to the bottle with a Hoti (pronounced Ho-Tie) engraved on it. The Hoti is the Zen patron saint of fortunetellers and (by coincidence) bartenders. I am very impressed with this rum. It is now #1 on my list. The main drawback is price, it aint cheap. As most of you know, I am careful with my money. (Jay calls me a “cheap bastard”, which I gleefully acknowledge) Normally my upper limit is no more than $35 a bottle and huge majority are in the low to mid $20s. This was more than that, but I can unequivocally state that I can taste the quality. The old saying, “You get what you pay for” is usually not true; often you pay premium prices and don’t get premium experience. This one, abso-dam-lutely getting the premium experience. Worth every penny……

…..The Quest continues…..

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