Rum can be a confusing spirit. Almost any country that produces sugarcane can make rum, hence, you can find rum from anywhere from the Caribbean to South America, and even to Asia-Pacific countries like Thailand, Japan, the Philippines, and Australia.
And the amazing thing about rum is, rum from different countries will have their own unique characteristics, flavours, and production methods. There are even different rules for rum in every country.
“Rum is like the wild west. Each country has different rules,” said Alfonso Castillo, Asia Pacific export manager of Venezuelan rum brand Diplomático.
“In Colombia, rum producers can import their molasses. In Panama, the age on the bottle is the average age of the rum, not the minimum.”
Over in Venezuela, they take rum seriously as well. In fact, Venezuelan rum, or ron de Venezuela, is actually one of only two rums in the world that has a denomination of origin classification (the other being rum from Martinique), meaning that any rum that wants to put “ron de Venezuela” on its label has to adhere to strict criteria.
To call itself a Venezuelan rum, the spirit has to be at least two years old, and producers cannot apply the solera process, or refill those barrels for two years.
While white rums are quite common around the world, in Venezuela, dark rums are the norm. In fact, according to Castillo, white rums are actually more expensive than dark ones in Venezuela.
“This is because we have to charcoal filter them, which adds to the cost,” he said. “We’re not used to white rum. We actually called it vodka at one point!”
Produced by Destilerías Unidas S. A. (DUSA) in Venezuela, the Diplomatico Rum brand was created in 1959.
The rum is produced at a distillery at the foot of the Andes Mountains, and strategically located close to the main sugar processing plants in the area as well as the nearby Terepaima National park, where they get their pure water from.
According to Castillo, the climate also provides an ideal environment for cane production, fermentation and rum ageing.
“We use molasses to make our light rum, and sugarcane honeys for our dark rums. All Diplomatico rums are aged in white oak casks for a minimum of two years,” he said.
Diplomatico also goes through a unique production process. The distillery uses three types of distillation methods to produce the spirit – a continuous column still for light rums, a batch kettle still for intermediate rums, and a pot still for more complex rums.
“We are the only company that distils rum with a batch kettle. We distil the sugarcane honeys in there and it produces a spirit that is less complex than that of a pot still,” said Castillo.
“The spirit from the pot stills are the ones that are most important for Diplomatico.”
Each of Diplomatico’s rum expressions are a blend of these three differently distilled spirits. In Malaysia, Diplomatico is distributed by Wholly Spirits, and there are currently two expressions available here, as well as a rum liqueur.
The Diplomatico Reserva is a blend of complex pot still rums and light column still rums that have been aged for up to eight years.
“The blend has 50% batch kettle rum, and the rest is between pot still and column,” said Castillo.
It has a nose of dried fruit, orange peel, raisins, and dark chocolate, with a slight sharpness on the entry, and a bit more vibrancy than the older expressions, but with a short, dry finish.
If you want to try this rum, you might want to hurry, because Diplomatico is replacing it with a new product in February.
Called Mantuano, Castillos says it is an “evolution of what Diplomatico has already done”, and that it is a blend of 40% pot still, 40% batch kettle, and 20% column still rums.
One rum you do absolutely have to try is the Diplomatico Exclusiva Reserva. This is Diplomatico’s flagship rum, comprising a blend of 80% pot still rums aged up to 12 years, making for a complex dark rum that is brilliant for sipping.
The nose is a bouquet of fruit cake, root beer, rum and raisin ice cream, chocolate, cinnamon and cloves, while on the palate, the sweet raisin notes come out wonderfully.
It’s a lot mellower than the Reserva, with lots of ripe banana notes. This is not just a great introduction to dark rum, it’s a great rum, period.
Michael Cheang has a feeling that he still hasn’t even begun to scratch the surface of the rum world. Drop him a note at the Tipsy-Turvy Facebook page (www.facebook.com/tipsyturvy) or follow him on Instagram (@mytipsyturvy).