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Brugal 1888 (Ron Gran Reserva Familiar)

Review: Brugal 1888 (Ron Gran Reserva Familiar)    91.5/100
a review by Chip Dykstra (Aka Arctic Wolf)
Posted on March 03,  2016

The Brugal Distillery was founded in 1888, by Andrés Brugal Montaner. Over the next one hundred and twenty years the company grew steadily, and it is now one of three large rum distillers in the Dominican Republic. Although the Edrington Group now controls the company, George Arzeno Brugal, is the current chairman, and most of the current board members are direct descendants of the original company founder. My understanding based upon discussions with the local Brugal Brand Ambassador for Brugal is that when the Edrington Group gained control of the rum company, they instituted a new wood policy which governs how all of the Brugal spirits are aged. This practice brings the cask selection process into line with the wood policy the company uses for its Scotch whiskies.

Although Brugal still makes their rum in a traditional manner (from molasses) and ages it on site in Puerto Plata, the Brugal 1888 (Ron Gran Reserva Familiar) now undergoes a special double maturation process. The rum is first aged in medium toasted, ex-Bourbon White American Oak Casks for 6 to 8 years. This is followed by a second maturation in first-fill Spanish Oloroso Sherry Casks. The final rum is bottled at 40 % alcohol by volume.

Brugal 1888In the Bottle 5/5

The wonderful decanter for the Brugal 1888 is shown to the left. The bottom of the decanter is square with a thick crystal base which helps to stabilize the tall bottle and gives it a look of substance as it sits on my bar shelf. The square shape slowly tapers upwards to a slightly wider round shoulder which quickly narrows to a long neck which is sealed with a brass topped dense cork topper.

Near the base is a small white label which identifies the lot number (my bottle is number 3) and the year of bottling (2013). The top label identifies the rum using a font and colour scheme which is easy to read. The back label gives us some information about the brand written in Spanish. The bottle/decanter is housed in a rectangular blue box (colour matches the label). This box has cut outs on the front and back so that both the rear and front labels are visible and the sides of that box contains the same information as which is written on the back of the bottle, but this time the information is written in French on the left side of the box, and in English on the right side.

In the Glass 9/10

When I poured the rum into my glass I noted the rum displayed itself as a dark bronze coloured liquid. The bottle shot to the left implies a more amber coloured spirit, but the hue of the rum shows in the glass is much darker. Evidently the years spent in the Oloroso cask have brought much of the darkened sherry hue into the rum. When I tilted my glass, I saw that along with the darkened colour, the spirit left a rather thickish sheen on the inside of my glass, and then dropped moderately thick legs down the inside of that glass.

Despite the sherry enhancement the rum remains true to its cane roots as the initial nose brings forward classic aged rum notes of  oak sap, semi-sweet caramel and treacle, and spicy tobacco aromas. There is a light dryness implied with dusty sandalwood notes and light scents of banana and orange peel. As the glass sits, luscious baking spices evolve with dark brown sugars, vanillans, cinnamon and nutmeg all forming a wonderful menagerie of scents in the breezes above the glass. Bits of dry fruit come forward with hints of dark bittersweet chocolate. The sweetness implied by these baking spices seems to wane over time, as the oak spice begins to dominate the breezes. I find the aroma very enticing. I sense a complex spirit which demonstrates both balance and refinement.

In the Mouth 55/60

I looked down at my glass and realized that as I had been nosing the rum, I had also been sipping it, and my sample was already gone. The rum tastes as good as its aroma implied. I poured another small sample and began to taste again. As before, I want to stress that despite the years in the Oloroso sherry cask, the spirit is first and foremost a delicious rum. The smokey sherry flavours imparted (dry fruit and hints of dark chocolate), have found their way into the flavour profile; but these are accents upon the firm classic flavours of aged rum (fine oak spices, light caramel and treacle, yummy baking spice and tobacco). It is refreshing to find a Oloroso enhanced cane spirit which has not become compromised by the sherry barrel.

I should note that the 1888 rum is quite dry with fine wood spices building up with each sip. Impressions of banana and orange peel reinforce the dryness as does a winding grassy almond flavour which sits deep within the rum. The caramel sweetness is there, but it stays well back of the spice. Adding ice brings forward stronger impressions of dry fruit and chocolate.

In the Throat 13.5/15

The Brugal 1888 is a medium bodied spirit with a clean, dry, very lightly sweet finish. Fine wood spices and touches of almond seem to linger for just a little while, then they disappear leaving my palate lightly puckered enticing me to steal yet another sip.

The Afterburn 9/10

Brugal 1888 (Ron Gran Reserva Familiar) showed me tremendous consistency from nose to palate and finally to the throat. It has a wonderful dry flavour which in some ways is more whisky-like than rum like. Make no mistake though, this Brugal spirit is rum through and through. My high score of 91.5/100 indicates that I will be much more inclined to sip this rum than to mix it, and when I do sip it, I will likely forego the ice such that I can more fully enjoy its rich dry flavour.

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


Suggested Serving

Brugal 1888 SAM_2410Brugal 1888 Neat Serve

2 oz Brugal 1888
Serve in a cocktail Glasss at Room temperature

Please Enjoy responsibly!



My Scores are out of 100 and you may (loosely) interpret them 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 spirit.  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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