The New Rum In Town
What is it about rum that immediately conjures up images of Caribbean beaches, swashbuckling seafarers and one of the simplest two-ingredient cocktails young drinkers gravitate towards in college? Yes, I'm referring to the Cuban classic rum and coke.
Rum has been gaining a steady reputation in the local drinks sphere thanks to a booming cocktail scene, with numerous amazing bars in town happy to show and tell curious imbibers the way of the rum. Thanks to a growing appreciation for the spirit, the quality of rum imports is improving, with Dictador aged rum from Columbia recently entering the premium spirits market here in Malaysia.
As of this writing, I have only had the chance to try Dictador's 12-year-old aged rum (RM252). It is deliciously flavourful spirit made from fermented virgin sugar cane that’s distilled partially in a copper alembic and partly in a steel continuous distillation column to create a medium-bodied rum. It’s then aged in oak barrels to achieve its signature flavour. On the nose, there’s a combination of maple syrup and light roasted tobacco. Honey, toffee, coffee and spiced oak dominate the palate, making for a delicious after-dinner pour that begs to be savoured with just a hint of water.
The 20-year-old (RM341), XO Insolent (RM507) and XO Perpetual (RM507) completes the core range of Dictador rums available in Malaysia. I'm told that the XO range is made using the distillery's finer – aged somewhere between 25 to 35 years in ex-sherry and port oak barrels for the Insolent and ex-bourbon barrels for the Perpetual.
I also had to good fortune to speak to Diego Quintero Jaramillo, Dictador's APAC and MEA sales director, recently. Keep on reading to learn more on Colombian rum and why Dictador is winning over whisky drinkers around the globe.
Rum, Two, Three
TC: How would you describe Dictador rum to a first-time drinker?
DQJ: Dictador is the Rolls Royce of rums. We are the leading investment-grade rum, our F&R portfolio is blurring the lines between the spirits categories, as we are adding new collaborations to our collections and we are achieving record auction prices in the rum sector. I'm certain that sounds like a rum that a first-time drinker would love to try.
TC: What makes Colombian rum so different from the rest? Especially Dictador?
DQJ: Our Master Distiller, Hernan Parra, takes good care of each step of our production process – the best possible sugar cane honey, a unique family yeast to achieve a particular profile, two separated types of distillation, as well as the careful process of ageing in oak barrels. However, that is just one part of our uniqueness, as we have become the leaders of investment-grade rum through a platform of unparalleled innovation, collaborations, and peerless secondary market activity.
TC: I was told that Dictador rums appeal to whisky drinkers. Why is this the case?
DQJ: Our rums use sugar cane honey that gives a similar aftertaste to that of single malts. Plus the mouthfeel of our rums is dry and not sweet. When I am doing tastings, most whisky drinkers are pleasantly surprised by our XO Perpetual, so much so that it could be included in a blind whisky tasting and a lot of drinkers will be amazed.
TC: Why is it a differentiating factor that Dictador rum is made from sugar cane honey as opposed to sugar cane juice or molasses?
DQJ: Molasses is a by-product and most of the rums produced in the world use it. We prefer to use sugar cane honey as raw material. Sugar cane honey concentrates the sugar from sugar cane and it eliminates some undesirable flavours that we don’t want from sugar cane juice. It comes down to a matter of the taste profile we want to achieve.
TC: I’ve had the pleasure of trying the 12-year-old aged rum, which I rather enjoy. Why did Dictador decide to age their rums?
DQJ: Ageing makes rum more complex and gives it flavour. For Dictador, it is a must to do our ageing using the best barrels. Our 12-year-old expression uses two types of barrels (ex-bourbon and ex-sherry) giving you aromas such as soft caramel and lightly roasted coffee, as well as cocoa, honey and caramel in the mouth.
TC: What does ageing do to rum and why is it beneficial to the spirit?
DQJ: Ageing is a very important part of the process, probably the most important considering it takes so long. It helps to give balance and roundness to rum, plus it adds flavours and colour. Depending on the type of barrel and wood used, you will get different flavours. We play with the types of barrels – ex-bourbon, ex-sherry and ex-port – as the rum's flavour will also be affected by the previous use of the barrel.
TC: Malaysian drinkers are beginning to appreciate rum but are still fairly new to the spirit. What would be the best way to introduce someone to rum?
DQJ: Rum is a very special category, as there are so many styles. I would personally invite people to visit bars that offer flights so they can try different rums and find their personal choice. The best way to understand a spirit is by sipping different expressions.