Review: Diplomatico Rum Reserva Exclusiva

I’ve had French rum, Cuban rum, Jamaican rum, American rum… if there’s a country that produces rum, I’ve probably tried it. But, until today, there was one notable exception: Venezuela. The country has a famous brand associated with it, Diplomatico, but it’s not a country you would normally associate with rum. So how does Diplomatico (and Venezuelan rum) stack up against the rest?


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History

In the late 1950’s, the Seagrams company managed to wrangle all of the production and distribution of spirits within the country of Venezuela into a single entity named Licorerias Unitas S.A. (LUSA), of which Seagram’s owned a 51% stake. In 1959, the Venezuelan company opened a new combined distillery that would be able to produce whiskey, rum, and other spirits to support this business.

Over the years, the Seagram’s company would be merged and acquired several times over. After a 2001 acquisition of Seagram’s by spirits giant Diageo, the new owners decided to divest LUSA — including the distillery. A group of local Venezuelan investors purchased LUSA and renamed it Distilleries Unitas S.A. (DUSA).

Diplomatico is a premium brand of rum produced by DUSA at their Venezuelan distillery.

Product

Diplomatico rum starts with Venezuelan sugar cane — specifically, a mixture of molasses and sugar cane honey. Rum has always been a secondary product of sugar processing, so the source materials are generally derived from intermediary steps in that process: sugar cane honey or sugar cane syrup comes from the beginning of the process when the sugar is more pure, and molasses comes from the very end when all that is left are primarily impurities (which add flavor) and residual sugar.

Those sugary substances are added to water and fermented using a proprietary strain of yeast that is only used at this one distillery. The newly created alcoholic liquid is then distilled through a combination of column and pot stills to produce the raw white rum.

Once distilled, the rum is placed into a combination of oak casks including previously used American bourbon barrels and Scottish malt whisky barrels. The rum matures in those barrels for an undisclosed period of time, reportedly up to 12 years, before being removed, blended, and bottled for sale.

Packaging

This bottle breaks all of my rules… but in a way that somehow makes me love it even more.

This is definitely a differently shaped bottle. It’s more like an onion bulb, with a flatter bottom, curved sides, and sloping towards a short neck. The size makes it just a bit too wide to fit easily into a typical slot for a liquor bottle, which I think was the point: keeping this on the shelf and out of the speed well at a bar.

While the shape might be interesting, the color is the more potentially controversial topic. The glass on the bottle is a matte green color, transparent enough to see that there is liquid inside… but not transparent enough to see the actual color of the spirit. On a more modern bottle, this would probably be crystal clear to show off the color — and I normally appreciate a transparent bottle for that exact reason. But here they are going for a bit of a more traditional take: tinted, almost opaque glass. Glass bottles used to be colored like this as standard operating procedure, as sunlight tends to degrade the contents of the bottle fairly rapidly. Green glass prevents degradation and keeps the flavors intact longer. This tinted glass is a signal that this is meant to be sipped and enjoyed over time and not downed at a raging party.

On the front is the label, sporting the illustrated portrait of a fabled noble Venezuelan adventurer and rum aficionado named Don Juancho. The man is a complete fabrication — a legend — but the image is striking and appealing, looking with the rest of the label like a large postage stamp. It’s a great design that I don’t think I’ve seen anywhere else, besides maybe something similar from Few Spirits in Chicago.

Normally all of these things would be demerits in my book. I like seeing the spirit inside, I like simple labels, and I like straightforward logos. But somehow, in this case, it all makes for a beautiful work of art that looks great on a liquor shelf. I can’t knock it — well done, folks.

Neat

This is a beautifully dark rum, and has some great fruity notes coming off the glass almost immediately. On the aroma I’m getting pineapple, coconut, mango, and banana, all mixed with some brown sugar sweetness.

Pretty much all of those components translate into the actual flavor, just a little re-ordered. The brown sugar is the first thing I get, that delicious sweetness with a hint of depth and a bit of vanilla on the side to add some character. As the flavor develops, the fruit joins the party with tropical fruits like pineapple and mango leading the way. Behind those ripe tropical fruits I do get some deeper dried fruit tones including raisins and dried plums — all good indications of a well aged spirit. On the finish, there’s a hint of some baking spices but primarily it is the raw molasses flavor that lingers, providing a pleasantly richer sweetness as the lasting memory.

On Ice

Some darker rums face a bit of a challenge with the addition of some ice. The flavors don’t tend to hold up as well as you’d hope, specifically, the lighter and fruitier ones that give rum that tropical vibe. Fortunately, in this bottle I think all of the flavors are still intact.

I’m still tasting the brown sugar, the tropical fruits, and the richer dried fruits, as well as the molasses on the finish — the difference, though, is the time scale. Instead of being a little more drawn out and contemplative, everything seems to come almost at once, compacting the flavors into a much shorter but still just as delicious experience. There’s plenty of depth and richness remaining to hopefully make some really tasty cocktails.

Fizz (Dark and Stormy)

Sure enough, the promise I saw in this when trying it on ice holds true — this makes an absolutely delicious cocktail.

The bright ginger beer and lime juice are perfectly balanced in this cocktail thanks to the combined effort of the various fruit flavors in the rum. The pineapple and mango are clearly identifiable and add some sweetness, while the dried fruit notes add depth and richness as well. It’s the whole package in one glass.

Normally with something like a Kentucky Mule, I’d expect a spicy kick or some other textural change on the finish. But in this case, I think that molasses flavor does a fantastic job adding just a touch of baking spices and sweetness to make it enjoyable but not boring.


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Overall Rating

For the price, this is the total package. You’ve got a delicious rum that not only brings the fresh tropical fruit flavors you’d expect, but also pulls in some of the richer dried fruit you normally find in a well-aged spirit. Those flavors are combined with some other typical barrel aging notes to make a delicious mixture, and the whole thing is poured into a great looking bottle.

If I could offer one criticism, I think there’s an opportunity here for a little bit more spice. I do get some baking spices near the finish, but this might be something that could be better incorporated throughout the flavor and offer a good enrichment to the fruity notes.

Diplomatico Reserva Exclusiva
Production Location: Venezuela
Classification: Rum
Aging: No Age Statement (NAS)
Proof: 40% ABV
Price: $37.99 / 750 ml
Product Website: Product Website
Overall Rating:
All reviews are evaluated within the context of their specific spirit classification as specified above. Click here to check out similar spirits we have reviewed.

Overall Rating: 5/5
A deliciously aged rum that sports tropical fruit, dried fruit, and baking spices in a delicious mixture.


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