By Patrick Gary, Contributor
I must admit that when I was asked to review Rum Diplomatico Reserva Exclusiva that I was not familiar with the history of rum production in South America. I had always thought of rum as being a Caribbean spirit, with some lovely offerings from Guatemala or the Philippines being worthy outliers. However, as I started researching the distillery, I learned that while Venezuelan rum is new to me, it is not new to the market.
[Disclosure: Rum Diplomatico provided Swine & Swill with a complimentary sample of rum and chocolate. The opinions here are the writer’s own.]
Diplomatico is a Venezuelan distillery established in 1959, but the first verified rum producers in that country were making spirits as far back as the 1890s. So, clearly, this is not a region making an attempt at starting a new industry to compete in a global market due to modern ease of distribution. This particular rum is one in a series of Diplomatico’s traditional rums (the other two being Planas and Manturo), with the Reserva Exclusiva being the most aged. It is distilled in copper pot stills, then aged for 12 years in whiskey barrels. With this new knowledge in hand and a bottle just delivered to me, I found myself excited by the prospect of a new discovery.
The first thing I noted was that, when you first pour the Reserva Exclusiva, you would be forgiven for thinking that it’s a brandy or a whiskey rather than a rum. The color is a clear golden-bronze color with no sediment in the glass. Bringing it close to your face, however, the scent is recognizably rum, although rum of a very high quality. You get notes of dried fruit, clove, cinnamon and walnut complementing the dominant scent of caramelized molasses.
The rum is a masterwork of balance and flavor. There is none of the cloying sweetness of a cheap or young rum. A dozen years in oak casks has aged this spirit masterfully. This has a spicy, dark flavor with a medium mouthfeel. It manages to seem fruity, buttery, nutty and sweet simultaneously with a very long finish. This is unquestionably a rum that rum drinkers could share with lovers of brandy or bourbon.
Diplomatico suggested to me that this pairs well with dark chocolate, and to prove their point, sent a spirits-filled chocolate cigar made by the New York artisan chocolatier Tache. The rum-infused candy was a beautiful complement, as it shares much of the same flavor profile with the spirit. The candy tasted somewhere between a fine chocolate mousse and a brownie, with the rum infusion highlighting the butter and dried fruit notes of the chocolate, which is interesting, as the “cigar” was essentially just chocolate and rum.
In summary, the Diplomatico Reserva Exclusiva is an outstanding spirit, even more lovely due to its price. After all, for a approximately $30 price point, you will have difficulty finding a better value for your dollar in any liquor category.