Rum is commonly associated with pirates, as the ideal accompaniment for cola or as the base for sweet cocktails like the pina colada but there’s a premium version of this spirit that rivals whiskey and cognac. White rum is being overtaken in many markets by golden and dark rums, as people trade up to these premium rums. These rums are made for sipping, after being carefully matured and created by master blenders to be consumed either straight up or on the rocks.
The Santa Teresa distillery in Venezuela is a prime example of a producer of premium rums. Run by the fifth generation of the Vollmer family, Venezuela’s first registered distillery produces the delicious Santa Teresa 1796 mature rum. Or Cabal, No.1513, recently launched by two Scottish entrepreneurs, is matured in Scotland in ex-Pedro Ximénez sherry casks. Ron Abuelo, a luxury rum brand based in Pesé, Panama, also produces stellar sipping rums.
Founded in 1908 by Spaniard Don José Varela Blanco in the village with the country’s first sugar cane mill, the company is still family-owned. Ron Abuelo uses its own sugar cane, hand harvested in the fields first established over 100 years ago by José in Panama’s Pesé Valley. José’s legacy continues to live on with Ron Abuelo’s range of fine, aged rums.
“Our brand is the expression of our long and passionate quest to produce the finest aged rum in the world. Abuelo means grandfather in Spanish, and the old man image on our labels reflects the essence of this brand: heritage and tradition,” says Luis J. Varela Jr., the company’s current director.
The rums, carefully created at Ron Abuelo’s Hacienda San Isidro in Pesé, owe their fine flavors in part to the special climate conditions from the small fertile valley in the Azuero Peninsula. Moderate rainfall, cool nights and humid days are key in each spirit’s development. The company controls 100% of the rum making process from growing and hand-harvesting its own sugar cane, distilling, and ageing it all at their estate.
Ron Abuelo’s range of premium rums include 12 Años (£36.34), The Two Oaks (£48.95), The Finish Collection (£72.50) of three bottles and Ron Abuelo Centuria (£123). 12 Años, aged in hand-selected American white oak ex-bourbon barrels, is well rounded and balanced, ideal for for sipping and premium cocktails like a Manhattan or an Old Fashioned. The Two Oaks also aged for 12 years is super smooth with an intense, smoky sweetness, best enjoyed straight up or on the rocks. Also best sipped on the rocks or neat, The Finish Collection is made up of three rums that have been aged for fourteen years, and then a further year in different regional casks. Napoleon is expertly finished in Cognac, Tawny spent a year in Port casks, while Oloroso is finished in Spanish Sherry casks. The jewel in the crown is dark, copper-colored Centuria, created in 2008 to commemorate 100 years of the brand. Only 10,000 bottles were made of Centuria, from a rich blend of rums from Ron Abuelo’s oldest reserves.
If you’re not drinking rum neat, try this refreshing cocktail created by Ron Abuelo:
- 45 ml – Ron Abuelo 12 Años
- 20 ml – Fresh lime juice
- 20 ml – Sugar syrup (2:1)
- 4 Dashes – Angostura bitters
- 8-10 Fresh mint leaves Top off with Champagne or dry sparkling wine
- Shake and double strain into a coupette or large flute
- Top off with Champagne or dry sparkling wine, stir gently and garnish.