Diplomático Reserva Exclusiva
Neat or On the Rocks? - how sweet do you like it?
Destilería Unidas S.A produces Diplomático Reserva Exclusiva Rum as their flagship offering. This Venezuelan rum first peaked my interest at my barbershop. Yes, there is a full bar in my barbershop. I highly recommend it. Aaaaanyway, they had a bottle and I ordered a glass on the rocks and was pleasantly surprised. After doing this a few times I finally bought a bottle to add to my sipping collection. Little did I know that the Reserva Exclusiva had another surprise in store for me.
Apparently, in barbershops, I'm a slow drinker. They use block ice as whisky drinkers dominate here in Tennessee so I guess I didn't notice how much ice melt was mixing into the rum as I sipped it. Once I got the Reserva Exclusiva home and poured one neat, I was shocked at how sweet it is! The flavor is quite nice with warm notes of vanilla, caramel, butterscotch, cinnamon and a dose of brown sugar. Well technically, they don't dose it with brown sugar, that's just the way I'd describe the flavor; but there is definitely dosage at play here.
For those new to rum distillation, "dosage" is a term used to denote that sugar was added to the finished product during blending or bottling. While rums are made from sugarcane and/or molasses, none of those sugars actually make it through the distillation process to the finished product. They are either converted to alcohol by the yeast or they are left in the mash on the wrong side of the still for drinking. So, many distillers add sugar to the finished product to produce the taste they want. Despite the fact that many do it, it is a bit controversial to say the least. Rum purists would say you shouldn't need dosage unless you're trying to hide a flaw in your rum. Many blenders are going for a particular flavor (and come from other distilling traditions that have no problem with dosage) and as a result see no issue. As you can probably guess, I fall somewhere in between. I'm okay with doing whatever you want to the rum you produce, but I do think they should be transparent about it on the bottle. Something akin to the IBU ratings on a beer would be my preference. There are some European countries that require such labeling so the data is out there if you're willing to look for it. According to the the Finnish distributor Alko, the Reserva Exclusiva has a dosage of 40g per liter. To put that in perspective, they are adding 7 1/2 teaspoons of sugar to each bottle. So, is that a lot? It's a matter of perspective, of course, but that's about the same as a can of Coca-Cola in a bottle more than twice the size. It's about the highest of any rum I've ever had. I think of Captain Morgan's Spiced Rum as cloyingly sweet and they only dose it with 3g per liter! So, yes, it's sweet. In fact, it won't take you long to find a purist or two referring to it as a liqueur instead of rum. Technically, you might be able to make that argument but I'm still calling it a rum.
All of that said, I still really like this rum. Given that it is a pot still run aged 12 years in used bourbon barrels, the under $50 price is a bargain. It's nice and dark due to the barrel aging and has a wonderful bouquet. The flavor is not particularly complex but it is an incredibly smooth rum. They've managed to produce a rum that provides that pleasant warmth that comes from being 80 proof without a hint of burn. It's a bit above my price point for recommendation in mixed drinks but it would work well in several Tiki drinks that rely on a strong rum-forward presence where you didn't want anything too funky.
As for drinking it straight it all comes back to the sugar. Sweetness is, of course, a matter of subjectivity and there are days when I like this sweet rum neat and days when I need a bit of ice to cut it back; but there hasn't been a day yet that I didn't enjoy it!