I had originally planned to have a rum review posted for everyone some time in the middle of last week. Unfortunately for me, I managed to contract something called bubonic influenzebola death flu of dying, which first rendered me incapable of doing pretty much anything that didn’t involve lying motionless on the couch or in bed while I prayed for death, and then once my fever broke, still left me noticeably congested in such a fashion that I probably could have drunk garlic juice straight from the jar and thought it was water. Such conditions are not conducive to writing reviews of rums unless you’ve had the notes just sitting around waiting to be posted. I had no such completed notes, so you got no such review.
This week, however, I suffer from no ailments or illnesses that require any sort of treatment or suffering beyond an aspirin of some sort, so I finally sat down last night with my favorite bottle of white rum: Oronoco. I’ve mentioned Oronoco a few times on this blog (here, here, and here to be specific), so I figured that it was probably a good choice for this week’s review.
Oronoco is a white rum from Brazil, triple-distilled in copper stills. It is made from the combination of fresh-cut Brazilian sugar cane juice, spring water (also Brazilian), which is then sent through the triple-distillation process before being blended with Venezuelan rums (which are not Brazilian, for those of you keeping score at home). The rum is then finished in casks made of Brazilian Amendam wood (pretty sure this is Brazilian too). It’s imported in to the US by Diageo, the same company that brings us the ubiquitous Captain Morgan’s Spiced Rum and other such – ehem – premier items.
Oronoco, as I’ve mentioned already, is a white rum – a “ron claroTM” if you will. I’m not often a fan of white rums, preferring to use them only in cocktails, and only when I really, really have to. Looking at the bottle of this leather-clad spirit, I could tell that it was, well, clear. I poured it in to my glass, and confirmed my suspicions: this is a white rum. The spirit is clear, with just a slight green/gold tinge if you hold your glass up to the light. More than likely, this slight tinge is the result of the blending with the darker Venezuelan rums.
The legs are thick and strong, clinging to the side of the glass as though trying to climb out of it.
After giving my glass its infamous swirl and inspecting the legs, I held the glass beneath my nose and took in a few breaths. There is a smooth vanilla note that stands out right away, followed by a caramelly molasses sweetness, and finally chased by a very slight grassy scent. Overall it’s a very warm and inviting smell with just a touch of alcohol in the vapor. Further exploration of the nose can reveal fruitier notes of banana.
White rums are not renowned for their “sippability”. Generally, like me, most people use them for cocktails and punches (the rhum agricoles from Martinique may be the biggest exception here – depending on the drinker). The Oronoco, however, breaks this mold. No, it doesn’t break it, it bats it around like a cat toying with a mouse, then it tears the mold into pieces, beats the pieces with a hammer, and then covers them in gasoline and sets the pieces on fire. When the smoldering ashes are all that are left behind, those are scooped into a jar of lighter fluid, which is then set on fire again.
The Oronoco is smooth, with very minimal burn. There is almost no burn in the mouth or throat, with only a touch of burn in the chest.
This is not a dry rum. It is sweet from start to finish. There are the light vanilla notes that were detected in the nose, and a strong molasses flavor on the tongue. There’s a bit of a peppery spice to it, but it’s rather subtle. The finish is very sweet and sugary, with a slight grassy aftertaste at the end.
The Long & The Short Of It
I cannot say enough how enjoyable this rum is. I did the most recent tasting with my brother and his friend. My brother has long been a fan of Oronoco, and his friend’s only reaction upon trying a sip of it was, “WOW!”. It is simply a fantastic, top-shelf-deserving rum. It is sippable neat, or with a single ice cube – which renders the burn all-but-gone and strengthens the sweet, sugary notes.
It also makes a pretty dog-gone-good cocktail. My brother suggests Oronoco, soda, and ice to get something akin to a Hansen’s Cream Soda, but with alcohol!
My only complaint about the entire experience is a complaint about the bottle. No, nothing to do with the look. Love the look. It’s great. I mean, you’ve got a bottle of rum with a great leather patch in the middle with a map of Brazil on it. How cool is that? And the label? The label is industrial and sheik. I don’t even have a problem with the cheap-feeling plastic cap. The cap looks fantastic, and while we all love the idea of a “classy” cork to close up our spirits, a screw-top is actually better for the long-term storage of any spirit as it does a better job of minimizing the evaporation of the alcohol.
No, my complaint lies with the oddly shaped mouth of the bottle. Something about the mouth just doesn’t work. It’s hard to pour the first few drinks cleanly, i.e without rum ending up running down the side of the bottle and getting onto that sheik label and oh-so-cool leather map of Brazil. Oh, and your hand. I don’t want the rum on my hand. I want the rum in my glass. Maybe I’m nitpicking here, but I want my super-cool, ultra-good bottle of rum to be ultra-pourable. So if anyone out there has any pull with the folks at Oronoco, let them know that we either need better bottles, or some kind of fancy “Oronoco Bottle Accessory Packages” that give us a better way to pour. Vendor lock-in for vendor-specific hardware works for Apple and Microsoft, why can’t it work for Oronoco and Diageo?
Bottle issues aside, there is no denying the extraordinary character of this rum. It makes you want to put on an island shirt and a wide-brimmed straw hat, and sit by the beach while listening to a steel drum play nearby and watching scantily-clad beach-goers dance in the afternoon sunlight.
Dood’s Rating: 4 Bottle of Rum Out of 5
Be sure to also check out Scott’s review of Oronoco at Scotte’s Rum Pages.