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Isla Ñ Dark Rum

Review: Isla Ñ Dark Rum  80.5/100
a review by Chip Dykstra (Aka Arctic Wolf)
Posted on March 20, 2011

Isla Ñ Rum is a small boutique rum distillery based in Tucuman, Argentina which is in the middle of a major subtropical sugar-producing region of Argentina. The company was established to recover old distilling techniques in the production of artisan rum. Thus the company considers itself to be a boutique distilling company and produces all of their rum on copper stills in small batches. The copper stills have been designed to produce rum by a method which the company calls ‘slow distilling‘ which apparently allows the master distiller to have much more control over the process, and should enable the company to deliver a superior rum product.

Isla Ñ Rum began appearing in the Alberta market about one year ago, and I thought that it would be interesting to review this rather unique rum from the sub tropics of Argentina. According to the company website all of the Isla Ñ rums spend some time in french oak casks, and it states that large vat style casks are avoided in the maturation process. Further research indicates that the Gold rum which I am reviewing was aged for about 2 years, and that charred oak chips were added to the oak barrels to speed/enhance the maturation process.

To be honest the information seems a little contradictory. On one hand the company uses ‘slow distilling‘ implying patience in the process, but then they add charred oak chips to their barrels to speed the aging.  The website additionally claims some time is spent in french oak barrels for each rum, but it does not say whether they are used exclusively. Finally, the company states that large oak vats are avoided in the aging process, but does not say that they are not used at all. (Perhaps it is merely the translation from Spanish to English on the website that causes the confusion.) My intent will be to judge the rum inside the bottle, and so I shall begin my review:

In the Bottle  4/5

The rum arrives in a clear moderately tall bottle which has a slight taper from the shoulders to the bottom. The label is unique, which I liked, but rather short on useful information which I disliked. A synthetic  cork topper provides a solid seal for the closure on the bottle, and I found the overall presentation to be neither overly pleasing nor overly disconcerting. (The rum is bottled at 40 % abv.)

In the Glass  8.5/10

Once poured, the rum displays light amber flashes in my glass, and is probably closer to being the colour of barley straw than of darker mahogany. A quick tilt of my glass followed by a slow swirl shows slender fast-moving legs which is an indication of a relatively short maturation period.

The initial nose is very crisp with some astringent birch and poplar aromas accompanying lighter toffee and coconut rind. Wood spices and a reedy tobacco lurk in the breezes as well, and the overall effect is a rum which is very unique and interesting.

In the Mouth 49/60

More on that theme of interesting…. you know how when you ask someone for an opinion on your new hair cut, and they tell you that it looks….’interesting’. (You know they don’t really mean it as a compliment, don’t you?)  The initial entry of the Isla Ñ Rum into the mouth is kind of like that. It is… ‘interesting’. The rum is full of unfamiliar flavours and has a strange ‘wooden’ astringency which seems to assault the palate. This ‘woodiness’  carries flavours of sharp lemon peel zest, slightly bitter citrus pith, and lots of ‘sap-like’ tannin with that tastes more of fresh poplar than of oak.  (In case you are wondering, I have popped poplar chips into my mouth and tasted them.)

But just like that strange haircut that is ‘interesting’ to others at first glance; and which then begins to suit you… so it is with the Isla Ñ Rum. Further visits to the glass begin to reveal appealing qualities such as light butterscotch flavours that you missed at first. And then some vanillans begin to appear as well. Even floral tones (which remind you of a lush pine forest in the springtime) seem to bob in the currents. The bottom line is that this rum requires patience on the part of the consumer. Give it time in the glass, and you will find a rum which features a dryer, more astringent style that is actually quite appealing.

In the throat 11 /15

The rum has a moderately long, dry, and bittersweet finish which seems to bring the charred oak and pithy citrus zest to life. I would not call this smooth, but it is not uncomfortable in the throat. The dryness seems to leave the palate puckered and entices you to have another swallow.

The Afterburn  8/10

It is quite interesting to explore new styles of rum which are enjoyed elsewhere in the world; but, it is also quite difficult to review them. When you are unfamiliar with the style, then stereotypes which you carry from past experiences can influence you in the wrong way. Hopefully, that did not happen here. I am not a fan of bitterness or astringency in the spirits I consume, yet I believe I glimpsed past those features and detected facets of the Isla Ñ rum which were rather pleasing. It is a rum which I believe will grow on you if you are patient. But I cannot deny that my impulse is to choose it less often than a spirit in which I have already found my enjoyment.

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


Suggested Recipes

Here is a recipe which grew out of trial and error, and somehow seemed to find its way when I used the Isla Ñ Dark Rum as the base for its construction. I call it Industrial Strength.

Industrial Strength

1 1/4 oz Isla N Rum
1/2 oz Gin
3/8 oz Peach Schnapps
3/8 oz Curacao
1/4 oz Lime Juice

Ginger Ale

Place the first five ingredients in a metal shake with ice
Shake until the sides of the metal shaker are well frosted
Strain into a Collins glass with Ice
Lengthen with Ginger Ale
Serve with a long straw


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)

One Response to “Isla Ñ Dark Rum”

  1. rus said

    great review..agree totally….have you grabbed a bottle of plantation barbados 20 anniversary? happy trails and hope to have drink in miami. russ

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