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:
- Mai Tai
- El Presidente
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.
The 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.
Dood’s Rating: 4 Bottles of Rum Out of 5
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Other Reviews of Ron Diplomatico Reserva Exclusiva:
Floating Rum Shack
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We drank some of this straight at Deep Ellum (Boston) last night. Rather impressed by it. Had the same level of richness of Goslings Family Reserve at less than half the price!
An excellent review which finds me in agreement with almost all of it. I say almost as I thought 4 out of 5 was just a tad low. I realize its hard to give 5 out of 5, but maybe you could have found a 1/2 bottle more in the score. But of course that’s me talking not you.
As always your review notes are bang on and I look forward to your next review.
As a side note: Thanks for the tradeback link. This is something I have been considering for a while and you have given me the impetus to begin. Over time I shall start adding in tradeback links to your reviews and cocktails when appropriate. Be patient with me as I have a lot on my plate.
I like your review of Diplo Exclusiva. It’s a great rich rum and it never seems to last long around here. Keep your eyes peeled for the long-awaited 100% heavy pot still rum from DUSA named “Ambassador.”
Not to be confused with the new brand from Columbia featuring a blend of Venezuelan and Trinidadian rums named “Dictador.”
What’s next? Emperor Rum?
I had a chance to try this terrific rum in Newport, RI at a restaurant called Fluke. It’s everything you say it is, but I hesitate mixing with it…simply because it’s too damn good on its own! New to your website…lots of good stuff here.
First of all, kudos on your sobriquet – there is no higher title than “dude.” As a first-time reader, I just wanted to say thanks and great job on this review. I loved the step by step description and your evacative usage. Well played!
Frederic: Totally agree. The price on this rum is insanely low, which makes it a “must buy” in my opinion. Quality and value…what a pair!
Chip: It was kind of difficult to decide on a final rating. When I first started this blog I was more apt to give out a 5 out of 5 as my experience was so narrow and my expectations nowhere to be seen. I’ve become much more jaded and picky in my old age. If I were to go back through my reviews, I’d probably elevate one or two rums to 5’s and lower a couple of 5’s to 4’s. Maybe I just need to do a massive “Revisiting Rums” post.
Alz & Mike: Thank you both for your kind words. If there’s ever anything not covered here that you’d like to see covered, don’t hesitate to ask!
Great review. I actually bought this as a gift for someone last month (without actually trying it). I bought it because I have had great experiences with Venezuelan rum and the bottle rocked!!!
After reading your review, I decided to I must try it for myself.
To your point, I think people may start to take notice of rum from this country. Santa Teresa 1796, Pampero Anniversario, and Ron Diplomatico Reserva Exclusive make a hell of a top-3 to beat!!!
A great review for a great rum. A friend brought my bottle over when I hosted a poker night (a great way to acquire good booze). I sometimes find myself reaching for it to pour a glass and then choosing something else because I don’t want to finish it too soon. Although, as you point out, at the price I should probably just drink up and go buy another. I’ve also not tried mixing it, but based on this review I’ll give it a try.
A spot on review of this marvelous rum. It has quickly risen to my heavy rotation list (those rums which I feel I must always have a bottle or two on hand). In addition to being a very fine sipper, it makes for a very flavorful mixer. My only regret is that it is still in limited distribution and not available in Maryland yet.
Hello! What a great drink – the ancient mariner! Though I didn’t make it with this rum – I will when I make it next. I love the gingery taste really lets the complexity of the rum out. Thanks for posting it.
Thanks for all the rum insight you’ve thrown into your blog. It’s super helpful. Quick question: how long do you usually allow your bottles to sit, opened and on the shelf, before considering them “unfresh”? Just wondering because I picked up a number of rums last year around this time but haven’t had much time to drink them because of school. Any thoughts on how an additional year (or more) of bottle-aging rums changes them?
Tejas: There’s a lot of debate on how long an opened bottle of any spirit is still “good” before it “turns.”
Being a distilled spirit, rum doesn’t really “spoil” but it does suffer from evaporation and some oxidation and eventually can lose a lot of its flavor and its alcohol content. It doesn’t go “bad” like wine does, but instead goes a bit “diminished.”
In terms of time, I’ve seen some people insist that a bottle, once opened, should be finished within 3 months. Others have suggested 6 months, some a year, some 18 months. I don’t personally have a set rule. I did have a rule for a while, but as my collection grew faster than I could drink it, that rule was somewhat cast aside.
If you’ve opened the bottle but haven’t had much of the liquid inside, the rum is likely to last longer as there’s less air in the bottle and usually less surface area of the rum exposed to that air to cause oxidation and evaporation. My only real rule, as a result of this, is to focus on drinking bottles once they’re about half-empty.
For a really in-depth read on the matter, check out this thread on the Ministry of Rum forums where there is a lot of healthy debate and science put into the matter.
The Diplomatico is one of the best rum of the world! I like it!
Is there any good way to get rid of the weird spill protector in the bottle’s mouth? I might get used to pouring it that way, but it seems like a bit of a bother at the moment.
I’ve tried to remove the spill protector unsuccessfully. Actually, it a protector to keep dishonest bartenders from pouring cheap rum into that great bottle. I have a crystal decanter I pour it into.
Oh this rum is spectacular! I was born in Essiquibo, Guyana, so my bias toward Demerara rum is bred in. A bartender in Germany surprised me with the Diplomático Reserva Exclusiva. My hometown is part of the land that Venezuela claims for itself, so I can’t be too friendly to them but HOT DAMN that’s a good rum. One problem: can’t find it here in Ontario, Canada. Any Canadians have leads on how to import/smuggle this stuff in?
Hmm, Diplomatico makes me wonder just how much added sweetness can be added to a rum – which essentially is already made from sugar(cane). Sickeningly sweet, definitely a hit in the US markets where consumers are used to high usage of artificial sweeteners. I took a very sweet brandy, Cardenal Mendoza Gran reserva side by side with this – and Mendoza seemed dry : ) Sadly, the added syrupy sugariness covers all the character of the rum.
Then try the Reserva. Cheaper as well.
i’m quite keen to buy this (it is more expensive in the UK), but am put off by the fact that i shelled out 50 pounds sterling for an 18 yr old flor de cana (also venezuelan), which i’m going to give away. way too oaky and dry, not a pleasure to my mind.
i’m about to make a new purchase and am torn between this and the Ron Zacapa 23.
if anyone has both and could give me a steer, i’d love to hear your thoughts.