Ron Barcelo Imperial

by Matt Robold on February 21, 2008

This week found me home alone, which is generally not a good thing.  Not that I can’t take care of myself or that I’m a threat to burn down the house or anything like that (Mrs. Dood usually hides matches and other dangerous items before leaving), but if I’m left to my own devices with no one to reign me in, I’m likely to spend inordinate amounts of time standing in front of my rum shelf, puzzling over which bottle to pour next.  I might have 3 or 4 different rums in one night…or I might make myself the same cocktail over and over again while I watch TV or read.  The big problem with this tasting is that it often doesn’t lead to reviews, as I get too caught up in trying this and then that and then this other one and so on.

Last night, however, I managed to put my game-face on and pulled out my trusty Muppets notepad and sat down with my bottle of Ron Barcelo Imperial.

I acquired this rum right before Christmas as trade-fodder for a fellow rum enthusiast, but our deal subsequently changed to be for entirely different bottles and the Barcelo ended up on my rum shelf for good.  It’s a product of the Dominican Republic, which is rapidly becoming one of my favorite rum nations (you’ll recall that the nation is also responsible for Ron Matusalem and Brugal, among others)…ranking right up there with Jamaica in my book.  I know a lot of people who kind of knock the Dominican rums because they don’t have a distinctive style all their own (they’re pretty much Cuban-style rums), but I say “Pbbbbbblltlltltltl”.  I don’t care if they didn’t invent their own style of rum, they make rum with style.  The offerings from this half-island nation are spectacular and all-too-often overlooked.  Did you ever think that maybe the Cubans actually copied the Dominicans?  HUH?  Did you?  I mean, you can’t prove that Cubans from the future didn’t steal the Dominican style and then take it back in time to try and preempt the Dominican dominance of the rum market, so there.  On that note, if any time-traveling Cubans are reading this, can you bring me some Bacardi from the 1930’s?

The Imperial product from Barcelo is a blend making use of rums aged up to 10 years in used Kentucky Bourbon casks, and is distilled using only Dominican sugar cane.  The bottle, as you can see above, is a terrific, stylish affair with a serial number on the back.  I mean, you know you’ve probably got something good when they keep a real serial number printed on the bottle rather than just a SKU (FYI, the bottle for this review was #683397).


The rum is a cherry/mahogany color.  Giving my glass its customary swirl, the legs form crisply on the glass, slowly developing the inching tendrils back to the body of the liquid.


Now that I had the rum aerated and ready to go, it was time to investigate the aromas held within.  Let me tell you, this rum promises a lot.  It speaks to your senses through strong notes of cocoa, lemon, and oak.  The cocoa is most prominent, with the citrusy/lemony scents following, and then closing with the notes of the oak barrels.  Going back for seconds (and thirds, and fourths) I found the usual rummy scent of molasses, and just a slight touch of leather.  Overall the nose is warm and inviting.


The nose sent the invitation, and I RSVP’d “YES”! 

The Barcelo Imperial is warm and rich on the tongue, with a very slight oily consistency.  You immediately taste the cocoa and notes of toffee.  There is a light, fruity sweetness in the body, and a mild oak flavor to the finish.  The rum is smooth with a capital “S”, “M”, two “O”s and a “TH” for good measure.  There is no burn whatsoever in the throat, and just a little warming in the chest.  Unlike the last few rums I’ve reviewed, there’s really no spiciness to this spirit.  It’s just warm, wonderful, and soothing.

Just to make sure my notes on this were up to snuff, I made sure that I sampled the contents of the bottle 3 or 4 times in total.  I don’t want to be accused of not being thorough…

The Long & The Short Of It

Wow.  Just, wow.  What a fantastic rum.  There’s a reason that this rum was called the “Best Rum In The World” by the Beverage Institute of Chicago in 2000 and 2001.  It’s smooth and rich…almost decadent.  I know I had talked about not just reviewing the best of the best here, but I can’t help the fact that I ended up with an extra bottle of one of the best rums on the market on my shelf.  It’s not my fault!!

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

Dood’s Other Rum Reviews

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keith waldbauer February 26, 2008 at 7:44 pm

excellent site, rum dood. i just found you and look forward to more of your rum tastings. washington is a bit of a socialist state when it comes to liquor, so it’s hard for me to get stuff like the Ron Barcelo for my bar. I’m going to have to track a bottle of this down somehow…

Matt Robold February 27, 2008 at 5:14 pm

Thanks for the kind words. This site is a ton of fun to keep up. 😉

I’ve gone ahead and added a link to Moving At The Speed Of Life to my links section…which I should have done a few weeks ago when I stumbled across it.

Good luck hunting down the Barcelo!

Kingston March 19, 2008 at 2:14 pm

Great review. I had the pleasure to pick up 4 or 5 bottles of Barcelo from the Dominican four years ago. I can’t wait to get my hands on this bottle.

I love the new design of the Web Site, great job.

Ysrael May 24, 2008 at 1:18 am

hey great review .. I’m Dominican and i always saw my grampa drinking that barcelo and thats the only thing he drank heh now i know why ..after reading your review i got me a bottle for myself and see how it taste all i have been drinking is brugal …

therumelier June 17, 2008 at 4:30 pm

Just got the new bottle of this today, so good to read your review before I try it out later tonight. I had a bottle of the old style, but it is nearly empty and had to have this flown in from California. I hope it is as good as I remember.
Great site, keep up the good work.

Dominican Lou July 18, 2008 at 4:43 pm

Great review, it’s about time that people gave the Dominican Republic proper credit for their rum distilling talents. Barcelo is great, but my personal fav is Brugal extra viejo. its like 10$ for 700ml in santo domingo. $10 for a world class rum, can’t beat that (and it was way cheeper before the financial crisis).

Matt Robold July 18, 2008 at 5:38 pm

I’m a huge fan of the Dominican rums. My personal favorite is Brugal Siglo de Oro, which you can also find reviewed here.

Bolido July 30, 2008 at 11:56 pm

I have both rums with me and love them both. For me the fun lies in hunting down the bottles, and the reward they offer when found. Reviews like these help me along in my quest.
Keep reviewing, RumDood, I’ll keep hunting.

Capn Jimbo August 12, 2008 at 8:49 pm

Thank you for the review. It is always enlightening to read your impressions. At our tasting and review (, we found more of a deep fruity leather with a peppery cigar box finish. Not a beginner’s rum, and most agree this is a good cigar rum. I quit 30 years ago, but this rum came close to causing me to buy a good stogie…

Redrum October 13, 2008 at 5:03 pm

Being Dominican, I am genetically predisposed to like Dominican rum, Dominican Republic has been producing rum at a large scale since 1852 by Bermudez.
My favorite is actually the one featured in this review (although Bermudez aniversario comes very close). It is always a treat to enjoy a bottle of this spirit, you can feel the care and effort that has been put into this product. Cheers!

Sundar December 6, 2008 at 5:09 pm

Great review. Heard about Domnican rum. I tried to find this in my country and i found finally .
This is the first time i am tasting this rum, right in front of me.
Very smooth, soothing the throat, getting into me.
Congrats to me..hahaha for finding this one today.
continuing… CHEERS

Grantaire December 31, 2008 at 5:37 pm

I was fortunate to have been given a bottle from a friend as a holiday gift. I agree with you about the serial numbers and I look forward to my bottle (#797499). I’m sure that it will be just as good as yours and I thank you for the review and will continue to read your postings Dood. Cheers!

Mike February 7, 2009 at 2:48 am

Well, I was given a bottle as a gift by a Dominican co-worker more than a few months ago. As I’m finally getting around to opening it up and checking it out (#732901), I decided to see what had been written about this rum. What a joy to read your review as I sampled it myself. Delicious! Why did I wait so long to open this up?! Thanks, Dood, for sharing your experiences!

hans 5/16 2009 May 15, 2009 at 11:45 pm

i from norway and i was given a bottle of this rum from a god friend ho living in Dominicana .i get the bottle 2 ouers ago ,[1176766] is the numbers sorry i not speak english so god when i see this page i think i taste the rum to day

hans 5/16 2009 May 15, 2009 at 11:45 pm

i from norway and i was given a bottle of this rum from a god friend ho living in Dominicana .i get the bottle 2 ouers ago ,[1176766] is the numbers sorry i not speak english so god when i see this page i think i taste the rum to day

hans 5/16 2009 May 15, 2009 at 11:45 pm

i from norway and i was given a bottle of this rum from a god friend ho living in Dominicana .i get the bottle 2 ouers ago ,[1176766] is the numbers sorry i not speak english so god when i see this page i think i taste the rum to day

Dave June 28, 2009 at 4:24 am

I like this rum so much I inquired to the company to become a distributor in the U.S. (twice) but I never got a response. It is difficult to find in the U.S. but if you keep looking you will find it. Its like finding hidden treasure.

Notorious PB June 29, 2009 at 11:49 am

Went to Dominican on holiday last year, never got round to buying a bottle when i was out there, then saw this in the airport for $20 and took a punt. Absolutely love it, I’d put it up there with Pampero Aniversario, my all time favourite. Great decision to buy it, considering Pampero costs me £30 in the uk. Beautiful drop.

Rj November 23, 2009 at 11:01 am

PLEASE help in this running debate with my lovely Jamaican wife… Which country makes the BEST RUM? My experience has been Haitian and Dominican rums have been the BEST. She supports her native country and the Appleton brand.

Granted, Appleton is one of my favorites and is the staple of my bar. However, I guard my last two bottles of Haitian rum and only pour a galss for New Years.

Look forward to your informed opinion.

Matt Robold November 23, 2009 at 10:16 pm

The best style of rum? Impossible to determine.

What are you making? How are you drinking it?

It’s like asking whether Bourbon or Rye is a better whiskey. Neither is better, they’re just different expressions of the same spirit. The clean, rounded flavors of the Spanish rums (Dominican, Cuban, Puerto Rican) are great and loved by many, but those who appreciate a good, bold, flavorful, and funky Jamaican rum will tell you that those Spanish rons are inferior to their own rums.

To be honest, I drink more English style rums – Jamaican and Bajan – than I do Spanish style rums. I also drink a bit of Demerara rum from Guyana. That being said, when I want something smooth and mellow, it’s a Spanish rum almost every time. Rum to pair with a cigar? Spanish. Rum for a daiquiri or mojito? 9 times out of 10, Spanish.

The Haitian rums are something of an anomaly. Haiti produces a sort of crossover style, melding Spanish and French styles of rum. It’s unique, flavorful, and utterly wonderful – and if it’s your favorite, then it’s better than the others, for you.

I know it sounds like something of a cop-out, but I’m just being honest. I love all of the rums.

Every island, every distiller, will tell you that THEIR rum is the best rum. They’ll say that THEIR style is the TRUE style. They’re all right and they’re all wrong. My favorite quality of rum is its variety, which is unparalleled in the spirits world. I just keep drinking different ones trying to determine which is the best until I can’t remember why I was drinking them. 😉

pastoriza December 6, 2009 at 8:53 pm

I’ve been drinking on and off Imperial for more than 20 years. I picked it up whenever I visited the island. It had been extremely difficult to find in US. I learned during my last visit to DR that the company is exporting Barcelo Imperial to the US. I don’t know who the distributor is. But, my search in the internet , Barcelo Imperial, found several online stores. Hope this new helps some aficionados.

Martin December 19, 2009 at 9:33 am

I just got back from the DR on Thursday and I bought one of these bottles. The cheapest place to get it down there is at the supermarket. They had it on sale at 495 pesos which is around 14$ US which is a steal. I saw the same bottle at the resort for over 1000 pesos…


Joe January 19, 2010 at 10:18 pm

I love this! I’ve had rum from every island and found this one to be the best!!!!!!!!!!!! I work in a cruise ship and always keep a bottle of this near me!!!

Matt Robold January 19, 2010 at 10:24 pm

Glad you like it Joe!

Which cruise ship/line are you working on?

Vadim October 11, 2010 at 8:01 am

Hello everybody! Was at DR in 2008, but still can’t forget the rum taste – it’s grate! Keepin’ empty Barcelo Imperial bottle (yes, I store it!) and remember how was wonderful my trip! Thanks to the rum too :))

Wish you an excellent rum for every day!

Russia, Siberia, Tyumen

Phil October 26, 2010 at 2:30 pm

I’m going to vacation to Dominican Republic 2 or 3 times a year so I’ve tried most of their rums by now. Nothing beats the Barceló Imperial. I mean it’s not as good as Zacapa 23 or X.O but you can’t compare a 50 or 100 EUR rum to a 12 EUR bottle. The value for price is unbelievable, I always bring home as much of it as the customs law allows.

There’s also a Ron Barceló Imperial 21, but it seems to be limited edition and I’ve never found it in a store, only in one bar and they were on their last bottle. It goes without words that it was incredible.

P.Aristy March 11, 2011 at 6:08 am
P.Aristy March 11, 2011 at 6:08 am

Im looking forward to see your review about that rum, Dominican Ron’s are the best for me

Vickie April 18, 2011 at 5:50 pm

My daughter and her boyfriend went the the Dominican Republic for spring break and brought me back a bottle of the Ron Barcelo Imperial. I love it, and if I can’t find it here, I may just have to travel to the island to acquire some more.

Carlos September 6, 2011 at 5:15 pm

Very good review. Thank you for it.
I actually stumbled upon this rum while searching for Barcelo Extra Viejo. I’ve seen Barcelo Imperial plenty of times before but I thought I had found “it” in Brugal Extra Viejo. Having no luck finding the Brugal, I went ahead and acquired this Barcelo Imperial, which I thought was going to be at the same level of the Extra Viejo…how wrong was I.
1 quarter of the bottle in and this Barcelo Imperial has quickly been promoted to my go-to rum, I’m even pondering picking up another bottle to have as a reserve.
I enjoy this rum at room temperature, in its purest form, sans ice/mix which for me would totally ruin the essence and effect of this Caribbean rum.
I find this rum very tasty, very smooth, and with great aroma. It is a real treat to the palate, a real treat to the psyche.
You must sip this rum even out of your hands if you come across it, so not to miss a taste.
Barcelo Imperial gets two thumbs way up from me.

Anupam joshi December 25, 2011 at 9:42 am

I had it for the first time and …my oh my…
I best rum I ever had….
Folks in my India,forget about your Old Monk once you taste this

victor charles May 3, 2012 at 8:00 am

I like rums from the Dominican epublic but I am put off by the low alcohol content, 37% instead of 40%. I visited again on April 25, 2012 but did not buy any rum because of the low alcohol content. By the way I am form Trinidad, the home of Angostura rums and bitters.

PPG May 3, 2012 at 1:36 pm

Not all rums are 37%. All Brugals are 40% and some Barcelos are 40% too. The finer stuff has a lower alcohol content, that is the case with a lot of the high-end rums.

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