Ron de Jeremy XO

RDJ XO AngleWe’ve been quite vocal in the past about our love of Ron de Jeremy. It is a product that was dismissed by some as it was thought to be pushing the boundaries of good taste. But we always felt that the Rum was quite enjoyable and it became a real regular purchase at home. The perfect foil to the cries of ‘gimmick’….something that stood up to scrutiny, which we think that it did. You can refresh your memory and see our article on Ron de Jeremy and also Ron de Jeremy Spiced here.

Ron de Jeremy XO – 40% abv

Right, now your back with us. We can tell you all about Ron de Jeremy XO. This Rum is positioned as the next step, or a step up the Rum ladder. The presentation is quite frankly is stunning. The bottle comes in a black cylinder and when the metal cylinder top is removed you are faced with a jet black smooth coated glass bottle. The text is bright white and furnishes you with a little information, the most important being the location of the source Rum(s). The Reserva was from Panama (though the blend has changed now but the profile of the Rum remains) but in this iteration the Rums have been sourced from Barbados, Trinidad, Guyana and Jamaica and are a blend of pot and column. Some aged for up to 15yrs. Solera is mentioned in the bottle but in this instance (and in the majority of instances), it is merely referring to the fact that there is a blend of Rums of differing ages/locations and no desire to be tied down to an actual minimum age. It is profile based not age based. It is a common practice…see Zacapa, Botran, Matusalem, Dictador, Cubaney and so on. A little further digging (Thanks Olli) has turned up that the distilleries in question providing the Rums are hugely credible locations. The Barbados component is a blend of column and pot distilled Rums sourced from Foursquare Distillery. The Trinidad component is from Trinidad Distillers (the production company of Angostura), obviously column only. The Guyana element is obviously DDL and they provide pot distilled Rum which should give the Rum some real backbone. Jamaica is the really interesting one….Hampden, Worthy Park, Monymusk and New Yarmouth Estate all provide high ester pot still Rums to the blend. All signs point to the fact that this should be some good juice…..

Now this Rum has been doing very well in Europe and is firmly placed to grab a slice of the big selling marketplace that is currently dominated by Zacapa and Diplomatico. It gives a three-tier element to the range with Spiced, Reserva and XO which positions them well in the grand scheme of things.

But what does it taste like…..

Tasting Notes

RDJ XO Bottle and Glass

In the glass: The Rum displays itself as a nice dark gold with mahogany flashes and upon swirling is as reluctant to release any droplets as I am reluctant to get a round in….eventually (as with getting a round in) it succumbs to peer pressure and a few very slow chunky droplets meander back down the glass. When swirling the Rum looks VERY viscous and is almost giving the appearance of moving in slow motion. The initial aroma, which is not as shy as the droplets is one of a very rich fruit cake. Prunes and vanilla are there by the bucket load and there is an almost nutty quality surrounded in burnt caramel. A little one-dimensional and not at all what I was expecting. In fact, it is nothing like I’d expect from the knowledge of the Rums in the blend.

In the mouth: On entry the Rum is incredibly viscous. It immediately gives me a kind of bitter caramel flavour but that is soon kicked into touch by a thick, gooey sweetness…almost cloying. Straight off the bat there is a heap of vanilla, a tiny hint of spice and the hint of an oaky component. It is very smooth…..almost confusingly so. The finish is very short-lived and very disappointing. I expected it to linger but it just slips out of the door without telling you whilst you’re seeing to the other guests. I feel a little of that ‘peach’ like quality that I keep harping on about in the back of my throat that can only be the merest hint of the Barbados component. There is none of the pot still Jamaican magic that I expected and none of the backbone that pot still Demerara usually provides…Trinidad will maybe be the provider of the oaky element but this is the polar opposite of what the blend tells me. It’s all a bit ‘meh’….

I hate to put out bad vibes but after tasting a few glasses of this Rum I felt that something was amiss. It just didn’t sit right with me, so I sent a blind sample off for hydrometer testing by Wes, who runs another Rum based site (it’s not as good as this one, and I’m way more handsome…and taller). He duly carried out the test on this along with two other samples that I had marked up for him to taste…they were almost the controls for the hydrometer test. The resulting data was cause for concern and a bit of a red flag. 92 g/L of additions whether that be sugar, glycerol, vanillin’s or something else. I buy sweetened Rums and I enjoy sweetened Rums, but to say that I was shocked by the figure displayed in the results would be an understatement. More than this though, I felt really let down. I like Olli from One Eyed Spirits, even though I’ve only met him once. This was on the same night that I also met the big man himself, Ron Jeremy and Gaby from Spirit Cartel. Olli has answered my emailed concerns over this Rum and that level of honesty and openness should be applauded. I asked the questions, I got my answers.

The following though, is why I feel so disappointed. The Rum is sourced from credible origins (including some of the most credible) and it has all the potential to be a very interesting blend….world class even. I perhaps expected it to surpass our love of the Reserva! But it has massively under achieved as it has been masked by the additions and the whole experience has been dulled. Imagine that friend, everyone has one. They are a really vibrant and interesting person and for some reason they wind up in the kind of relationship where their partner doesn’t let them be themselves….they control every interaction that you have with your friend and they mask the very essence of what made your friend so great to be around in the first place. Ron de Jeremy XO is that friend and as a result is a huge missed opportunity for me, and it does it’s credible components a large disservice.

That said, it is massively unfair to put this Rum in the same category as all other Rums that have test data out there, for one, this product actually does have Rum as its base….and very credible Rum at that….it just went off the rails and made a few bad decisions whilst it was growing up.

As per usual, feel free to pop in for a drop. It’ll be popular, just not with me. I’ll stick to the Reserva.

0-5-star

In the interests of full disclosure, I was sent the bottle in question by some really lovely people to give my thoughts and feedback.

© Steven James and Rum Diaries Blog 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material, both written and photographic without the express and written permission from this blog/sites author and owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Steven James and Rum Diaries Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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Ron Botran

Guatemala has a rich heritage within both the sugar cane and rum production industries. In the early 20th Century, the country was scattered with family owned, individually set up distilleries. Essentially, these were single estate family concerns that had their own land for the growing of sugar cane, stills to distil the fermented product and bottling facilities for the rum. As the spirit industry played a huge part in Guatemala’s economic growth, during the 1940’s the Guatemalan Government issued the Aging Act to force distillers to create  reserves of aged spirits to guarantee the quality of their products. This sowed the seeds for the formation of the Industrias Licoreras de Guatemala.

The Botran family, synonymous with sugar cane production in Guatemala, sowed the seeds of their rum production legacy high in the western Guatemalan city of Quetzaltenango, 2300 metres above sea level. This is where the five Spanish brothers, Venancio, Andres, Felipe, Jesus and Alejandro Botran, discovered that the climate there was ideal for the high altitude slow ageing of rum. This discovery led to the brothers forming the Industria Licorera Quezalteca in 1939.

Botran Range Angle

All of the sugar cane that is used in Botran Rums is picked from their family estate in Retalhuleu, in the south of Guatemala. This location is perfect for the growing of sugar cane due to its clay, volcanic soils that enjoy constant sunshine. These qualities allow the growth of sugar cane varieties that give the highest sugar content to give the best raw material and the ideal characteristics for the first process of producing Botran Rums. The cane is transported to the mill for the first press. During this process the juice extracted from the cane pressing is heated to remove water and impurities, thus creating the virgin sugar cane honey. The key base ingredient of all Botran rums as it allows the preservation of more of the sugars.

The sugar cane honey is fermented with the use of a proprietary strain of yeast taken from pineapples, to allow the sugar to be turned into alcohol whilst retaining consistency of flavour and aroma for the rums. This fermentation process takes approximately 120 hours and helps develop the flavours and aromas that will be present in the rum. Each product is distilled individually to achieve a distinctive character unique to the intended end product. The process of distillation allows the extraction of alcohol from the fermented ‘wort’ within continuous stills containing copper components. Within these stills, the fermented product is heated using steam until the alcohol reaches evaporation point. The alcohol vapours are then passed through condensers where they are captured again.

This end product, rum, is then aged in Quetzaltenango, 2300 metres above sea level in barrels that once contained American Whiskey (both new and re-charred), Sherry and Port. The American Whiskey barrels that are re-charred are done so to extract the flavours and aromas from the wood to provide a further depth of character for the rum. The rum is aged using the Solera System which I highlighted when talking about Ron Zacapa and the explanation of their specific system was given in that write-up. The system can vary from producer to producer and I will attempt to briefly describe the Botran system here.

The rums are initially aged in new American Whiskey barrels. This aged rum is then placed into blending vats where it is blended with older lots of rum (mother rum) that has already undergone the full solera aging process. The contents of these vats are then aged in re-charred American Whiskey barrels. These are again transferred into blending vats with more of the mother rum. The contents of this stage of the process is divided into used Port and Sherry barrels for further aging. These barrels are then reviewed by the rum blenders and their flavour, aroma and colour are assessed. They are evaluated and enter their marrying phase where they are then considered to be the final blend and are aged for a further 12 months or until the Master Blender considers them ready for bottling.

There you have it, the journey of the sugar cane from the family owned fields to the bottle. There were originally only two styles available in the UK. These were the Reserva (a blend of rums between 5 and 14 years old) and the Solera 1893 (a blend of rums between 5 and 18 years old). They have recently been joined by the Reserva Blanca, a white rum that has also been aged in the same Solera process but has been charcoal filtered to remove all colour from the rum. Fortunately I have been able to make contact with the UK distributor for Ron Botran, Distillnation and they have been amazing in helping me research the history and production methods.

Botran Range

This write-up is a first for Rum Diaries Blog as it will be the first complete range that I have featured……but what a range to start with!

Tasting Notes – Ron Botran Reserva Blanca

In the glass: The rum is crystal clear and when I swirl the glass the rum looks to be a lot more viscous than I would’ve thought. The initial aromas are fresh with a slight vanilla and no hint of alcohol burn…but what does it taste like?

In the mouth: Instant vanilla and a light fruitiness hit you and this turns into an almost marzipan sweetness on your tongue. The rum is smooth, not harsh, not too dry but not dripping with sweetness either. The finish is quite short and spicy with a warming burn on the way down.

Sipping is not the intended use of this rum though, even though it blows most other white rums away when drunk this way. Where it really excels is in a simple mixed drink where the rum is the star. I use mine to make a sublime daiquiri. Just squeeze 25ml of fresh lime juice into a Boston mixing glass, add 10ml of sugar syrup (adjust sweet and sour levels to suit your taste) and finish with 50ml of Reserva Blanca. Add lots of ice, shake well and double strain into your glass of choice (I use a pre-chilled Martini glass)….I fully expect you to be making your second whilst halfway through your first! Botran Reserva Blanca

Tasting Notes – Ron Botran Reserva

In the glass: The rum is a nice medium bronze colour with flashed of red and gold. Again, the rum appears to be of a medium viscosity, not too heavy. Vanilla, toffee and slight spicy aromas rise from the glass. It doesn’t smell as heavy as I would’ve thought. It is very smooth with no harshness. Prolonged sitting in the glass reveals a warm peach, oak and leathery aroma.

In the mouth: The rum instantly coats your whole mouth with warming sweet oak and toffee with a dark sherry like edge. Light spice and oak dominate the middle of my tongue. The finish is pure dairy fudge, oak and a fruity sweetness and this comes back at you in waves both in the mouth and through the vapours sneaking up on the back of your nose. It is, quite frankly, everything that I look for in a sipping rum to suit all moods and all times of the day.

You can mix it, in plenty of drinks, but I prefer it neat. When I have mixed it however I have used it in a rum old fashioned. Take a mixing glass with a few ices cubes, add a bar spoon of sugar syrup, 50ml of Botran Reserva and 2 or 3 dashes of Angostura Bitters. Stir well until nicely chilled then strain into a rocks glass filled with 3 or 4 ices cubes. Finish with a twist of orange zest which you first crack over the glass then drop in….or at least that’s how I do it.

Botran Reserva

Tasting Notes – Ron Botran Solera 1893

In the glass: The rum is a dark bronze with hints of orange. Medium viscosity with an amazing vanilla and almost oily orange aroma sitting over the glass. Caramel, oak and that warm peach aroma make an appearance too.

In the mouth: Warming sweetness hits you with a butterscotch edge and absolutely no burn. Slight spice again and a sweet oak coating my tongue. Peaches, butterscotch, and an orange sweetness hit you in waves. There is, to me, a tiny bit of oaky bitterness, but nothing off-putting. I’d imagine that the medium length butterscotch and tobacco finish would make this an ideal match for a decent cigar.

I have never mixed this one, but if I did, I couldn’t see myself straying too far from the simplistic old fashioned or maybe a sazerac! Now there’s a thought!

Botran Solera 1893

So there you have it, an amazing range of rums with an amazing history and amazing prices with the whole range available for around £100 in total so there is no real excuse not to own all 3….at some point. All of them have their own qualities and all of them deserve a place on anyone’s rum shelf. They will all be replaced once they have been emptied…..not long to go for the Reserva!

© Steven James and Rum Diaries Blog 2013. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material, both written and photographic without the  express and written permission from this blog/sites author and owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Steven James and Rum Diaries Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.