DonQ Gran Añejo

by Matt Robold on April 19, 2011

Post image for DonQ Gran Añejo

During the 1820s, a Spaniard by the name of Sebastian Serrallés emigrated to Puerto Rico and created a new hacienda named Hacienda Teresa. Being in the Caribbean and owning a decent plot of land, Serralles did what most new farmers did in the region: he started growing sugar cane.

In 1865, his son, Don Juan Serrallés Colon – now in charge of the Hacienda, imported a pot still from France and began a family tradition in producing rum. For the early part of the family’s history in making rum they focused on producing rum for a number of small, Puerto Rico-only brands. It wasn’t until around the time the U.S. ended its (ig)Noble Experiment and repealed Prohibition that the Serrallés distillery reorganized to produce its own, higher quality brand of rum, and Ron DonQ was born.

DonQ is a nod to the well-known literary character of Don Quixote (Don Quijote en Español) who tilted at windmills along with his loyal squire, Sancho, to win the heart of his lady fair (who had no idea what this Man From La Mancha was doing). According to the company’s website, “Just as Don Quixote represents the search for a perfect world, DonQ signifies the family’s quest for perfection in rum.

DonQ Gran Añejo is the top of the line rum produced by Destileria Serrallés. It is a blend of rums that have been aged from three years to twelve years in used bourbon casks before being bottled at 80 proof (40% abv). The rums are all made using fermented molasses which is then distilled in the company’s six column stills.

Appearances

The rum is packages in a heavy crystal bottle with gold embossing and a wax seal above the company logo. It’s quite the looker on the shelf.

In the glass the rum is a pale mahogany color. The requisite swirl leaves thin legs traveling down the sides of the glass.

Nose

Right away your senses are given sweet gifts of vanilla and molasses. There’s a heavy does of caramel and some grassy characteristics that catch you a bit off-guard. An almost honeyed scent fills your nostrils before the burn of the alcohol hits, preventing you from inhaling too deeply.

Honestly the beginning of the nose is quite lovely, but the finish of it is a little rougher than I expected from a Top-Of-The-Line rum like the Gran Añejo – especially one that is supposedly in the Puerto Rican tradition. This rum has a few rough edges left to it.

Palate

Rich vanilla, honey, and caramel greet your tongue on the entry. A wonderfully rich viscosity envelopes your palate as the rum fills your mouth. There’s a hint of grass at the mid-palate through to the finish with just a touch of leather.

The finish is initially smooth, but gives way to a bit of a strong burn. For 40% ABV, this rum feels very “hot” on the palate.

Just like on the nose, there are some rough edges that make themselves known toward the end. Again, this is rather unexpected in a Puerto Rican rum, as they – like most Spanish style rums – tend toward the cleaner, lighter side (unlike their Jamaican or Guyanese cousins).

Mixing

Suggested Drinks:

Usually the flagship rum in a company’s line is something that people believe cannot be mixed. This Dood feels that the DonQ Gran Añejo, on the other hand, almost begs to be mixed.

Those rougher edges and bolder flavors are atypical both of Puerto Rican rums by tradition as well as premium rums as a category. They cry out to be tamed by the tart bite of a lime and the sweet caress of rock candy syrup. Like the bad boy character in a formulaic movie, this rum is all rough and tumble, but secretly just wants a loving hand.

Despite its pedigree, I wouldn’t recommend this for an Old Fashioned, but rather as a good stand-in for a Jamaican rum in various Tiki drinks. In a Navy Grog or even a Mai Tai, this rum actually works quite well. Still, as blasphemous as I’m certain Destileria Serrallés may find it (this’ll probably be the last time I see any samples from them, probably deservedly so), this is a rum that was almost born to be mixed with a squeeze of lime, a dash of bitters, and some Coca Cola.

Cuba Libre

1.5 oz Rum
.5 oz Lime
1 Dash Angostura Bitters

Build in a Collins with ice and top with sugar cane Coca Cola (or “Mexican Coke” as it’s often called here in the US where domestic Coke is made with HFCS).

The dash of bitters deviates a bit from the According to Hoyle (or Dave Wondrich) Cuba Libre, but we started doing this at 320 Main for our Cuba Libres and it’s just bloody delicious. For some added authenticity, throw one of your spent lime shells into the glass before adding the ice.

The Long & The Short Of It

DonQ is a rum with a long history in Puerto Rico and, unlike a certain other rum company that is well-known on the island, is a Puerto Rican original. The Gran Añejo is a damned tasty rum, but suffers from a bit of an identity crisis.

Gran Añejo is a great mixing rum, but only an average sipping rum. Those rough edges that give the rum character also make it a rather unpleasant companion in a glass without additional company – and its placement as a Premium rum somewhat demands that it be better alone than it actually is.

I honestly feel that if this rum were positioned as a Gold Rum instead of a Premium Aged Rum, I’d probably give it a higher rating within that context.

Dood’s Rating: 3 Bottles of Rum Out of 5

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{ 11 comments }

DJ HawaiianShirt April 19, 2011 at 7:29 am

I love this stuff.

A buddy of mine picked some up for me in Puerto Rico for about $30. I thought the rum was worth the price.

He returned 2 years later and was looking to get me another bottle. The price had gone up to $50. I told him not to bother.

MattBH April 19, 2011 at 7:31 am

I think this review is pretty spot-on. I’ve had the DonQ Gran Anejo on a few occasions in Puerto Rico and it’s never lived up to my expectations for an aged sipping rum. I think you nail the vegetal elements in the mid-palate and the rough heat in both the nose and finish.

I hadn’t thought about them rebranding it as a gold rum, but it makes sense to me. I’ve repeatedly chosen Ron del Barrilito 3 Star over the DonQ Gran Anejo because the price point is so much better and I think it lends itself well to mixing without the identity crisis.

Jordan April 19, 2011 at 8:12 am

That seems like a pretty tough sell when rums like MGXO are significantly cheaper. Here in Oregon, MGXO runs ~$40, while Don Q Gran Añejo is ~$70. No competition.

Capn Jimbo's Rum Project April 20, 2011 at 2:56 pm

This review illuminates the importance of knowing and appreciating the four or five basic styles (not origins) of rums, which include Bajan, Jamaican, Cuban, Cane Juice and Demeraran. Again styles, not countries. Reference rums for these styles might well include MGXO, Appleton Extra, Ron Matusalem Gran Reserva, Barbancourt Five Star, and El Dorado 12yo.

All stunning examples of wide acclaim and respect. Yet, comparing one style to another – say a hearty Navy, Jamaican influenced rum with a mellow Demeraran can be misleading.

This can easily turn into personal preference. Far better to compare rums of the same style.

At the Tampa rumfest (by Dori Byrant), we were judges and had the opportunity to taste the Gran Anejo some years ago. It’s hard to remember the exact profile anymore, but at the time we felt it was one of the most competent rums we’d reviewed.

And that’s saying something. What style is it? And what would be your reference rum in this style?

John Eason April 21, 2011 at 1:55 pm

I won’t comment on the review but I will say that the suggested retail of this brand is $49.99. Why the great state of Oregon is charging $70.00 is beyond me. It probably has to do with Mount Gay being a “listed” item and DonQ Gran Anejo being a “special order” item. Personally the Gran Anejo is my favorite product that we produce. I prefer it with a handful of ice cubes, straight up. By the way… Don’t worry Matt. We will still send you a few samples of our other brands. LOL! Got to try the new BlackBeard Spice. Now that’s something begging for some cola!

Cheers,
John

Matt Robold April 23, 2011 at 5:40 pm

John: Thank you for the very awesome response. I don’t think any of the brands reviewed here have ever had anyone come and respond afterward.

I think the Gran Añejo is a fine rum, I just don’t think it fits in the slot that you guys have it in. But that’s just my opinion. I like to think that the people reading this site understand that that’s all I’m giving here, my opinion.

Thank you so much for sharing yours!

Matt Robold April 23, 2011 at 5:46 pm

Jimbo: I suppose I’d have to agree with the list of styles you have there to be able to say among which of them this rum belongs.

Personally I see this as an excellent gold rum. I find it to be a bit hot for a sipper and when doing these reviews I tend to take into account where the product is positioned. In this case, I think we have a fantastic gold rum that’s being cast as a premium rum that one would sip. Obviously John likes it that way and that’s perfectly fine. I’m sure there are lots who agree. I feel that it’s better as a role player in a drink than as a solo act.

Capn Jimbo's Rum Project April 24, 2011 at 8:46 am

Matt, what I was getting at in particular is the Cuban style and the peppery, often hot finish that defines this otherwise smooth and pleasant category. This rum is actually everything as you quite well described.

The factor that you didn’t like is the factor that both defines this rum, and for which it is revered by others that like the style. A hot, peppery finish.

As a Cuban style, it is well representative and often gets high ratings. That being said, mixing a great rum may be a good thing, not because the rum is not worthy of being sipped, but because a better rum often enhances a the drink.

I’ll never forget the time Sue Sea and I were on the Fort Lauderdale beach and on a whim I poured a shot of the eminently sippable Mount Gay Extra Old into a can of good coconut water. It was magnificent, far better than the Flor de Cana 4 yr Gold we normally use for mixing.

Matt Robold April 24, 2011 at 10:13 am

Actually Jimbo, nowhere do I mention pepper, and that’s because nowhere did I get a sense of pepper.

My description of a “hot” finish is not a description of pepper, but rather a description of the sudden onset of an ethanol burn. It’s this non-peppery bite at the end that leaves me perplexed and causes me to state that this is not a good sipper – for me.

And I agree that there’s nothing wrong with mixing a rum, but this is a rum that is positioned as a sipper. A $50 mixer is a bit expensive for most people and the value and positioning are things I try to take into account in these reviews.

Were I comparing this to Appleton Gold or even the DonQ Añejo it would do better, but the product isn’t positioned there, nor is it priced alongside those.

Your example of mixing Mount Gay Extra Old isn’t quite the same, because I bet that you enjoy MGXO on its own as well as in a cocktail. I don’t enjoy DonQ Grand Añejo on its own at all and can only mix it, meaning I’m now looking at the value of spending $50 for a bottle for mixing versus the $14-$25 I normally spend on a mixer.

Capn Jimbo's Rum Project April 24, 2011 at 12:25 pm

Matt, my bad. Just goes to show you the different interpretations and word useages among us all . In our reviews “hot” and “peppery” are used almost interchangeably, with the differentiations proceeding from gradually intensifying from a sort of sweet heat – clove like, and getting “hotter”, say a black pepper, then into a very hot white pepper and even occasionally a scorching jalapeno, that leaves your lips/tongue/throat hot and glowing.

So when you speak of burn and “hot” on the palate, we naturally thought of our pepper, not your alcohol. Thanks for the clarification.

Jordan April 25, 2011 at 8:55 pm

Eh, even at $50 it’d be a pretty tough sell. I could barely bring myself to spend so much cash on one bottle of rum when I got MGXO and that was ultimately worth it. When any spirit reaches the point where I could conceivably get two bottles of something good for the same price, it’s hard to justify that purchase.

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