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Dictador XO Insolent Rum

Review: Dictador XO Insolent   97/100
a review by Chip Dykstra (Aka Arctic Wolf)
Posted July 23, 2014

This past May, I was invited by Thirsty Cellar Imports, to attend a Rum Master Class hosted by Hernan Parra Arango, Rum Master for Dictador Colombian Rum. At the event, the attendees were given the opportunity to taste the entire Dictador line-up which of course included not only the Dictador 12 Year and the Dictador 20 Year Solera Rums, but we also tasted and learned about the Dictador XO Perpetual and XO Insolent Rums.

Dictador is produced in Colombia on the Caribbean coast at Cartagena de Indias City. Rather than being produced from molasses, the rum is produced from the virgin honey of sugar cane which has been distilled upon a stainless steel alembic, and aged using Dicatador’s unique take on the solera-style aging system. Although the rum is produced upon a stainless steel alembic, the inner workings of this still contain more than enough copper such that it functions in basically the same manner as a copper pot still.

Interestingly, the choice of the distillery to use sugar cane honey rather than molasses is based upon a peculiarity of Colombian government policy. It seems that the country has mandated that automobiles in Colombia must use a certain percentage of biofuels in conjunction with gasoline as their fuel source. As molasses is the most readily available source of biofuel, almost all molasses produced in Columbia is earmarked for biofuel production. This means that the folks at Dictador Rum have little choice but to produce and use their own sugar cane honey for rum production.

Dictator’s solera aging system is a cascading process where younger rums are aged in oak casks and then blended with older rums. The aged rum are arranged in different flights with the oldest distilled rum on the lowest levels of the Solera. The younger rums are placed on the upper levels with the very youngest rums at the top. As the rum is pulled from the lowest barrels for bottling, the barrels are not fully emptied, and those barrels (about half full) are then topped up with rum from the levels just above. This marrying of old and new softens the fiery younger rum and provides the final blended rum with a refined smoothness and flavor not found in ordinary rums.

A unique feature of the Dictador Solera System is that in addition to the younger rums being married with older rums, the barrels of similarly aged rums along one level of the solera are periodically consolidated to keep the barrels as full as possible to maintain fuller contact with the wood, and to inhibit the acceleration of the evaporation within the barrels.

Additional statements on the Dictador website speak to a difference in the aging regimen used for the XO rums. Although the information is not specific, it appears that the major difference is in the oak selected. The intent seems to be to create a different flavour profile for the Dictador XO. As a result, the XO Rums (the Insolent and the Perpetual) promise to offer a new taste experience for the rum connoisseur.

At the Rum Master Class, I learned that for the Dictador XO Insolent in particular, the aging barrels used are pre-used oak barrels which have a significant percentage of oak obtained from Jerez Spain, as well as pre-used Port Wine Barrels. Near the end of the aging process, the barrels earmarked for the XO Insolent Rum are emptied (and the rum stored of course), and these barrels are subjected to an open flame process which caramelizes the rum soaked oak fibres on the interior of the barrel. These barrels are then refilled with the same rum allowing the spirit to draw the sweet caramelized flavours from the interior of the oak barrel. The final rum is blended and barreled at 40 % Alcohol by volume.

Dictador Insolent SAM_1195In the Bottle 4.5/5

To the left is a photo I snapped of the Dictador XO Insolent bottle. I am not nearly as fond of the packaging for this rum, as I was for the Dictador 12 Year and the Dictador 20 Year Solera Rums.

The first thing which detracted from what otherwise would have been a very nice presentation was with the plastic sleeve which fits over the protective box (not shown). This sleeve contains a lot of nice information about the rum; but it was also slippery and slid off of the box rather easily. This forces the consumer to carry the boxed package with one hand underneath. If they do not, the sleeve will slide right off, and your precious rum will fall to the floor. This is cumbersome and annoying! Fitting the sleeve back over the box after you have removed it to get at the rum, is even more troublesome and not worth the effort. I threw my plastic sleeve away very quickly, and I suggest strongly that the Dictador team does the same with this part of their design concept.

The second problem I have with the overall packaging design is the large green XO written across the bottle. It seems out of place and gaudy, and in my opinion the large letters cheapen the look of an otherwise beautiful bottle.

 In the Glass 10/10

When I pour the Insolent Rum into my glencairn glass, the rum displays as a vivid copper coloured spirit which looks and smells fabulous. A quick tilt of my glass and a slow twirl brings an oily sheen the crest of which drops medium-sized leglets which trail slowly back down into the rum.

The aroma as I indicated is simply luscious with sweet toffee smells rising from the glass tainted with impressions of butterscotch, vanilla, corn syrup, creme de brulee, maple syrup and peanut brittle. There is a backbone of firm oak sap and spice melded wonderfully into these sweeter butterscotch like aromas with delectable baking spices (cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves) and hints of milk chocolate lying underneath.

The overall aroma implies a truly decadent Rum Experience.

In the Mouth 58/60

The first sip reveals an exquisite flavour profile with heated oak spices carried though the palate atop a wave of honeyed butterscotch, delicious toffee, and yummy Butter Pecan ice-cream. As wonderful as the melded flavours of oak spice and sweet butterscotch are, I find the subtle nuances within the rum are just as intriguing. There is a winding impression of wood and sap underneath which provides addition depth of flavour and strong impressions of vanilla adding to the smooth character of the spirit. Hot pockets of cinnamon spice and orange peel keep the palate heated, throughout the taste experience.

As one sips the rum, the character keeps building, and as I near the bottom of my sample glass I notice that a Coffee Crisp candy bar has entered the flavour stream. I am impressed by the balance and the complexity of flavour presented by the XO Insolent Rum. The flavour builds with each sip, and I am delighted to be able to pour another glass.

In the Throat 14.5/15

This is a medium bodied rum which leaves the palate sweetened with yummy butter pecan and butterscotch toffee while at the same time heating it with glowing coals of cinnamon and oak spice. The sweet and the spice linger and then as they fade are replaced by that mouth-watering Coffee Crisp candy bar.

The Afterburn 10/10

The Dictador Insolent Rum is full of sweet and spicy character, and just might be as close to rum perfection as I have tasted. It is one of those rare spirits which I am loath to mix into a cocktail, and from me, that is high praise indeed!

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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