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Renegade Panama Don José 1997

Review: Renegade Rum Panama (Don Jose) 1997  (94 pts)
Review by Chip Dykstra (Aka Arctic Wolf)
Revised & Republished November 17, 2015

The Renegade Rum Panama (Don Jose 1997) from the Renegade Rum Company was distilled at the Don Jose Disatillery (also known for the production of Ron Abuelo) in the Pese region of Panama on the Azuero Penninsula. This distillery was established around 1940 by the Spaniard Don José Varela Blanco who emigrated from Spain to Panama in 1908. Don José settled in the village of Pese and proceeded to establish one of the country’s first sugar mills (in the Village of Pese). It was about 30 years later that Don José and his Sons began to distill rum from the excess sugar cane and molasses. Today (nearly 75 years later), the Don Jose Distillery controls and/or produces about 90 % of all Rum in Panama.

The Renegade Rum Panama (Don Jose 1997) was first distilled in a column still, and then aged for ten years in Panama in used bourbon barrels. The rum was then shipped to Scotland for finishing in a Port pipe at the Bruichladdich Distillery.  The Rum is bottled in the 700 ml squat decanter style bottle shown below at 46 percent alcohol by volume.

Renegade Panama 1997 SAM_1714In the Bottle 5/5

I love the short squat decanters that Renegade uses. In my opinion, they are amongst the  nicest I have ever seen.  I like the smoked glass with etched printing, the high quality corkage, and the overall decadent look implied. This is a rum-lovers rum bottle.


When I poured myself a small sample in my glencairn, I found the colour of the rum is a pleasing copper with a light reddish tint. I took a little time to tilt my glass and gave it a slow swirl. A slick oily sheen was apparent which held back for a moment, but then released long slender legs back into the rum.

This is an overproof rum with an alcohol strength of 46 % which causes an initial push of alcohol heat to rise into the air. However this push doesn’t last for long, and so we are able to enjoy sweet scents of butterscotch, oak spice, fresh red fruit and vanilla drifting upwards into the air above the glass. As the glass breathes I begin to notice additional smells of oriental spices, and stronger indications of rich dark brown sugar. A mild fruity aroma akin to red cherry licorice sits at the very back of the nose. The rum is extremely complex yet the differing smells act in unison complimenting rather than devouring the rum. I could sit and smell this all day!

IN THE MOUTH (57.0/60)

My tasting notes include main flavours of brown sugar and oak spice which are accented by exotic flavours of oriental spices, and sweet cherries. The complimentary interplay of flavours is extremely nice, and I appreciate that the rum-like flavours of molasses and caramel are in the forefront while the Port Wine flavour which is introduced sits in the background acting as an enhancement and not a competing element.

I do however, find that my perception of the balance between the perceived flavour combinations changes based upon what I have eaten beforehand and what the weather is like. For example, on hot days the rum’s flavour cannot be faulted, however during cool evenings I notice the balance between the spice and the sweetness is barely off. I think this is the result of the port enhancement which gives the rum extreme depth of flavour but also adds an anarchistic element to the flavour profile.


There is a real flair to this rum in the exit. The finish is only slightly oily or buttery giving the rum a nice clean crisp landing. The ebbing combination of flavours reminiscent of oriental spice and red berries adds a unique element. When I sniff my glass afterwards I find glowing baking spices and deep dark brown sugar lingering long after.

The AFTERBURN (9/10)

This is a rum which is hard to put back on the shelf after it is opened. Each night when I look to see which particular spirit I want to indulge in that evening it seems to call to me. Unfortunately I am down to my last sealed bottle as I write this review. It is a bottle I intend to hoard for myself.

If you are interested in comparing more scores, here is a link to my other published Rum Reviews.


My Final Score is out of 100 and you may (loosely) interpret the score as follows:

0-25      A spirit with a rating this low would actually kill you.
26-49   Depending upon your fortitude you might actually survive this.
50 -59  You are safe to drink this…but you shouldn’t.
60-69   Substandard swill which you may offer to people you do not want to see again.
70-74   Now we have a fair mixing rum or whisky.  Accept this but make sure it is mixed into a cocktail.
75-79   You may begin to serve this to friends, again probably still cocktail territory.
80-84   We begin to enjoy this spirit neat or on the rocks. (I will still primarily mix cocktails)
85-89   Excellent for sipping or for mixing!
90-94   Definitely a primary sipping spirit, in fact you may want to hoard this for yourself.
95-97.5 The Cream of the Crop
98+       I haven’t met this bottle yet…but I want to.

Very loosely we may put my scores into terms that you may be familiar with on a Gold, Silver, and  Bronze medal  scale as follows:

70 – 79.5    Bronze Medal (Recommended only as a mixer)
80 – 89.5   Silver Medal (Recommended for sipping and or a high quality mixer)
90 – 95      Gold Medal (Highly recommended for sipping and for sublime cocktails.)
95.5+         Platinum Award (Highest Recommendation)


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