Saturday, January 4, 2014

Ron Barcelo "Imperial" Dominican rum

When I read that the BTI (Beverage Tasting Institute) of Chicago has rated a rum 97 points not once, but twice, then I take notice. You see, 97 points is the highest score they have ever given a rum.
So I do some digging, find out that they guys at Ron Barcelo have accumulated a succession of medals that would make any distiller dizzy with pride: 10 gold medals, a double-gold medal in Miami where it was also voted "Best in Class". The list goes on... pretty good legacy for the company that Julian Barcel√≥ started in 1929 when he emigrated to the Dominican Republic from Spain.
rum Ron  Barcelo barrels
The company grew out of a vision of quality, quality, quality. So much so that even the locals ditched their hither-to favorite libations in deference to the Barcelo brand. Time passed and the natural progression of a company with strong vision and the support of the community: Barcelo rum became the most popular brand in the country! Impressive! But there's always room to grow, right?
In 1980, Miguel Barcelo (?grandson to Julian?) created the new icon: "Imperial" label. A testament to the family/company values, only the best would do and the company invested heavily in their infrastructure: from the sugarcane plantations to the molasses refinery to the labs to the aging cellar. Quality because more then a catch-phrase for the Ron Barcelo company (Barcelo Export Import S.R.L.), it became the Prime Directive.
The led to great accomplishments: the company earning the first ISO 9001:2000 Certification in the Dominican Republic spirit industry and the second in all of the Caribbean, international expansion to 10 countries in the 1990s,  the company winning a team of highly skilled, highly motivated Spanish rum professionals and by 2010 a distribution plan the extends to over 50 countries world-wide.
The massively accelerated growth can be directly linked to that 97-points I started talking about: it's the octane in the Barcelo fuel. But obviously grandson Miguel would never have been able to push such dramatic expansion without the leg-work of grandfather Julian. When a company starts with such a determined vision or goal then anything is possible.
My one challenge with the Barcelo company propaganda is that they state the "Imperial" is made in "limited quantities to maintain its mystique... its uniqueness". The Barcelo company is immense, employing many thousands of people, and exporting its own ocean of distillate to over 50 countries. To a country-lad such as myself, this doesn't seem much like "limited production". That being said, the spirit is quite good, so let's move straight to the tasting-notes:

"Imperial"rum Ron Barcelo Imperial

no age given: research shows from 6 to 10 years, but flexible depending on the year

91 points

$42+ CAD (Quebec)
$35+ US (Washington)
  • TO THE EYE: a pretty rum, it shows so well in the glass with it's dark coppery hued amber tones
  • ON THE NOSE: it displays rich, unique salt-water toffee, young pineapple and mild Szechuan pepper aromas
  • ON THE PALATE: is where the score starts to dip for me: clean flavors of dark toffee, coffee and warm wood-tones are reminiscent of great Bourbon (positive) but some of the spirit in the blend is a tad juvenile/rough and clumsy and burns (negative). The structure is quite good, but not all of the flavors truly seem to marry together and this particular vintage seems to have some bits and pieces sticking out on their own. Well made but perhaps benefiting from further maturation.
  • How to serve it? Too good as a blender with cola or fruit-punch, too much ice will also dampen the more subtle aromas and leave it somewhat mono-dimensional. I found that room temperature, with a splash of water allowed it to open more in the nose and left the palate in better balance.

So a good little sipping rum, from a company with a strong history of over-delivering. Just the type of company I like to support! This rum is a great gift for you celiacs out there who find yourselves missing a splash of Bourbon or Kentucky whiskey... similar flavors and will do in a pinch on your veranda one lazy afternoon. 
rum Ron Barcelo pouring into glasses
As always, I look forward to your thoughts, comments and questions. Here, or:
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  1. 97 points? That rum really worth a huge deal! But when I read their company accomplishments through your research, like earning their first ISO 9001:2000 Certification, winning a team of highly motivated and skilled professionals, and so on - it’s not surprising at all. They make sure that when it comes to quality of rum, they will be one of the best. Thanks for sharing your research. I learned something new today.


  2. A pleasure - glad you enjoyed the article, there will be many more spirit articles coming this Spring/Summer.