Venezuela probably isn’t the first country that comes to mind when someone mentions “top-shelf rum.” While the rum from the islands in the Caribbean tends to draw all of the attention, the people on the mainland continue to toil in the same hot, sticky weather to make rums that are all their own and every bit as delicious as you might find on any wind-blown island.
Not only are the mainlanders making rum, they’re making damn good rum.
While your average “man on the street” may not have heard of Ron Diplomatico, any rum aficionado will likely confess to having at least one and probably three or four of their bottles on shelves at home. And if they have but one, the odds are pretty high that it’s the Ron Diplomatico Reserva Exclusiva.
The Reserva Exclusiva is the top offering from Destilerias Unidas. This molasses-based rum is aged in used bourbon casks for as many as 12 years before being blended, bottled, and bon voyaged for a liquor store or drinking establishment near you.
I’d be remiss to not discuss the bottle of the Diplomatico Reserva Exclusiva. The squat, frosted-green bottle looks beautiful on a shelf. There’s something about the bottle that makes it modern and elegant while simultaneously hearkening to the bygone days of wooden ships carrying Spanish treasure back to the Old World.
In the glass (which is the important part after all) the rum is a deep, warm-looking mahogany color. The legs that form after a swirl or two are long and slow-moving.
The warm, rich smell of caramel and molasses massages your senses at first whiff. There are notes of dried fruit and citrus peel, followed by some spicier elements of cinnamon and allspice. Touches of vanilla and almonds can also be found riding on the top of these deeper, spicier aromas.
This nose is incredibly seductive. Resisting the urge to drink is not only impossible, it’s unfathomable. Really, why am I still waiting?
As soon as the rum hits your tongue you find yourself awash in a heavy, rich, toasted sugar flavor. The entry is rich and buttery, with just a hint of spice before the midpalate.
Your tongue is eventually treated to a medley of flavors that dance together in wave after wave. Caramel and allspice, almonds and molasses, vanilla and leather all come together and float gently across your palate in a very viscous, medium-bodied parade of flavor.
The finish is long and sweet but not cloyingly so. More almonds and maybe a touch of walnut with a sort of dry richness linger as the rum finishes smoothly without any noticeable burn. This is definitely a rum that is worthy of spending time alone in a glass for enjoyment by a fire with a nice cigar.
Diplomatico Reserva Exclusiva’s complexity and boldness make it not only a great sipper, but a wonderful mixing rum as well.
Those deep flavors of sugar and spice and everything nice can punch through in any drink. I have yet to try it in a drink and not thoroughly enjoy the drink. More often than not, if I’m mixing the Diplomatico, I’m mixing it in one of the following:
Not wanting to be boring though, I figured I’d try it in something new, so I grabbed a copy of Jeff “Beachbum” Berry’s Grog Log
and pulled out a long-time favorite.
AncientMariner_BoxedThe Ancient Mariner
from Jeff Berry’s Grog Log
1 oz Demerara Rum
1 oz Dark Jamaican Rum
.75 oz Lime Juice
.5 oz Grapefruit Juice
.5 oz Simple Syrup
.25 oz Pimento Dram
Shake ingredients with ice and strain over crushed ice in a double old-fashioned glass. Garnish with a lime wedge and mint sprig.
Of course the Ancient Mariner calls for no Venezuelan rum, but I figured that using the Diplomatico in the place of the demerara would probably work really well, and oh boy did it. While the drink loses a little bit of the funky flavor that the demerara would imbue it with, the cocktail still comes out packing a wallop flavorwise. (Incidentally, the image above is an Ancient Mariner prepared for me at Rivera in Downtown Los Angeles by bartender Julian Cox).
The Long & The Short Of It
If I had to pick a rum to be the crown jewel of Destilerias Unidas, this would be the easy choice. Rich and complex, silky smooth and just as at home in a glass by itself or shaken/stirred and strained over ice, Ron Diplomatico Reserva Exclusiva is a treasure to be enjoyed – preferably in a repeated fashion. And the best part is that in the US you can get a bottle for a mere $30, making it easily one of the best bargains on a premium rum you’re likely to find.
I really can’t say enough good things about this rum. You should be out buying a bottle or sampling it at your local watering hole right now instead of reading my incessant ramblings. I’ve already got my glass in-hand. Go ahead and get yours and come back, I’ll still be here.
★: Terrible, only drink for a dare.
★★: Meh, not undrinkable but best left alone.
★★★: Reasonable, middle of the road.
★★★★: Tasty stuff, well worth seeking out.
★★★★★: Incredible, booze doesn’t get better than this. You need a bottle in your life.