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Abuelo Anejo (Rum)

Rum Review: Ron Abuelo Anejo  (80.5/100)
a review by Chip Dykstra (Aka Arctic Wolf)
Posted on February 24, 2011

Ron Abuelo Anejo rum is produced by Varela Hermanos SA in Panama, Central America. This company has a history which dates back to 1908 when Don José Varela Blanco launched the first sugar mill in the then recently formed Republic of Panama.  In 1935 the site began to distill sugar cane juice for the production of liqueurs. Today the company produces an impressive array of products which includes over one million boxes of liqueurs and of course a strong variety of rum. The Ron Abuelo brand is just one brand from this wide assortment.

According to the website:

“… Ron Abuelo Añejo, our house specialty, is rum that is richly aged in white oak barrels. Produced from the fermentation of the juice of thousands units of sugarcane, we have utilized cutting edge technical procedures and the experience of the rum making tradition in its aging and production. Its unique quality is achieved with time, shadow and silence. Enjoy it alone, on the rocks or with your favorite mixer …”

I take it from that statement that Ron Abuelo Anejo is may be produced from sugar cane juice rather than molasses. It is aged for 2 to 3 yeas in white oak bourbon casks and is the entry level rum in the Ron Abuelo lineup, accompanied in the brand line up by a 7-year-old and a 12-year-old rum.

(Note: Correspondence with the Distillery has since raised into question whether the rum is distilled from sugar cane juice or from molasses. On two separate occasions I have been assured by the distillery’s contact person that the rum is distilled from cane juice, however in a third correspondence the contact apologized for misleading me and stated the rum is distilled from molasses.  Suffice it to say at this point I have no confidence in stating anything concrete with regards to the distillate used.)

In the Bottle  4/5

I was sent a photo of the Abuelo Anejo after contacting the Varela Hermanos website. The presentation is a tall dark brown bottle which is sealed by what appears to be a plastic capped closure. My flask style sample bottle was also sealed with a similar closure. I am happy to see no evidence of a metal screw caps anywhere. The label on the bottle is very simple, and lacks any frills. I would prefer a little more information on the bottle with respect to age of the blend, and perhaps a little history of Ron Abuelo Rum to entice me to buy it. But I admit there is also a certain charm in the simple approach.

In the Glass  8/10

I always have this unrealistic expectation of a dark rich spirit when I pour rum or whisky from a dark bottle. So I was a little surprised when I first poured the spirit into my glass, and I saw a pale rum more the colour of barley straw than of mahogany. The pale colour is actually the expected colour for a three-year old rum, so I should not have been surprised.

In the glass the rum is thin and does not coat the sides of the glass with anything more than a light sheen. The initial nose is sharp and carries the medicinal tones of a young rum. A sense of fresh fruit and berries seem to be in the initial breezes as well. As the rum decants in the glass I begin to notice vanilla and caramel rising into the air as well. When the glass is fully decanted, the nose becomes heavy with coarse brown sugar and is tinged with cinnamon accents. By now the lighter medicinal tones have disappeared.

In the Mouth 49/60

Just like the nose, the initial delivery into the mouth is quite sharp and carries a stronger alcohol bite on the tongue than I would prefer. However, the rum also carries stronger, richer, flavour than I would have suspected as well. Vanilla, caramel and citrus peel lead out first; but I soon taste firm fruitiness reminiscent of black cherries and wild field-berries. The rum also contains more familiar strong flavours of brown sugar, spicy cinnamon, and even perhaps a little tobacco and leather. In spite of this full flavour, when I sip the rum, I find the spirit seem a little out of balance. The fruits and berries I taste seem to be out of step and do not merge into the more familiar molasses flavours of the rum. In a sense these flavours are clashing rather than harmonizing, and the fruitiness seems sharper than it should be.

Having said that, I found that the ‘Rum ‘n Cola’ style suited the Abuelo Rum extremely well. Since this is a two to three-year old rum, I was not surprised that it performed better as a cocktail rum than as a sipping rum.

In the Throat  11.5/15

A thirsty pirate would probably relish the swat to the tonsils that this rum delivers. The sharpness I detected in the aroma and in the initial flavour has come back to remind me that this is rum and not tea I am sipping. Spicy cinnamon seems to find legs in a finish full of a spicy sweetness which is longer than I would have suspected.

The Afterburn  8/10

I like the flavour and the easy mix-ability of the Ron Abuelo rum. Although the spirit is not necessarily a strong sipper (few young rums are), It certainly fits the bill when mixing cocktails and bar drinks with a group of friends.

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


Suggested Recipe

I like the way that cola mixes with the Abuelo rum. So I went on a bit of a search for a cola style bar drink that would be interesting but more importantly, taste great with the Abuelo Anejo Rum. A recipe I found on the Internet Cocktail Database which intrigued me was called the Mandeville. Its formulation is as follows.

(This is a standard shake and strain recipe to be served in a cocktail glass)

1 1/4 oz light rum
3/4 oz dark rum
1/4 oz Pernod
1/2 oz cola
1/2 oz fresh lemon juice
1/4 oz grenadine

Garnish with an orange slice

The recipe looks nice but I have Chartreuse in my cabinet rather than Pernod. I also wanted a little more dark rum in the cocktail to better highlight the Abuelo rum. So, I made a few tweaks to suit the ingredients I had on hand and made my formulation as follows:

The Mandeville
Arctic Wolf’s Variation

1 oz light rum
1 oz dark rum (Abuelo Anejo)
1/4 oz Chartreuse
1/2 oz fresh lemon juice
1/4 oz grenadine


Pour the first five ingredients into a metal cocktail shaker with ice
Shake until the side of the shaker is well frosted
Strain into a tumbler glass filled with ice
Complete with cola
Garnish with an orange slice (optional)


As always you may interpret the scores I provide 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 more 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)


4 Responses to “Abuelo Anejo (Rum)”

  1. Chris said

    In Panama, the most common way of serving Abuelo is “ron pintado” (in Panamanian dialect, usually pronounced “ron pintao”), which is Abuelo with club soda and a splash of cola. I personally prefer to skip the club soda and add more cola with this rum, but the Panamanians I know all swear by the club soda approach.

    • Hi Chris

      Thanks for the cocktail suggestion, I think I will try it the next time I have some Abuelo. There is no right way or wrong way to enjoy rum. In fact, I have learned that different locales enjoy their rum in different formats. In Jamaica they like a splash of ginger-ale with their rum, and in many locales they enjoy a splash and sugar, even with the more premium rums. Here in Canada Cola is the mixer of choice, although we are slowly evolving as well.

  2. Robert B. Davis said

    Nice writeup. Had this tasty rum with cola on a Copa flight last week and plan on purchasing a couple bottles in Panama tomorrow to take back to the states with me.

  3. Jim sherman said

    Drank this in Panama, and for the first time I really liked rum. Maybe it was just Panama. I found the rum here in Minnesota and eagerly bought a $16.00 5th. Here it is sold as a 40% where in Panama it is, I believe a 37% product. Overall it is a breath of wonderful Panama, and if only for that fact I will continue to buy it.

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