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Panama Red 108 Overproof Rum

Review: Panama Red 108 Overproof Rum  89/100
a review by Chip Dykstra
Posted on June 5, 2011 (Revised with new information regarding the age on November 2012)

Panama Red 108 is a Panamanian rum brought to you by PANAMONTE BRANDS. The rum is handcrafted by the creator of Zafra Master Reserve, Master Blender, Francisco “Don Pancho” Fernandez. It is produced from the sugar cane that grew in Las Cabras de Pese, the same region where the Distillery is located. Although the rum is stated as overproof, Don Pancho has assured me that the rum will feel much smoother in the mouth than a typical overproof rum. It has as its base, a 3 year molasses based rum which is aged in used Bourbon casks at the distillery warehouse in Pese.

There is a bit of a romantic story behind the name of this Rum and it was related to me via email by the Mr. Carlos E. Esquivel G., the Executive Director of PILSA (A Rum distillery and production company, specializing in Aged Rums, and Rum related products in Panama and South America). With his permission, I have reproduced the story to serve as the backdrop for my review here:

The Story of Panama Red… (click on the link to read the story).

In the Bottle 4/5

As you can see from the picture on the left, the Panama Red is bottled in a tall barroom style bottle which is designed to fit easily on a bartenders shelf, and as importantly, easily into the bartenders hand. It is a style of presentation that suits the back story of the rum very well.

I should note that I am displeased with the metallic screw cap closure. I transported my sample bottle back from Miami in my cargo luggage, and although I used duct tape to improve the seal, the pressure differences in the cargo hold of the plane caused the bottle to leak. I have learned that this is a common problem with metallic screw caps which plagues importers who must fly their alcohol shipments into Canada.

In the Glass  9/10

The Panama Red 108 displays a pleasing lightly reddish amber/caramel colour in the glass which immediately begins to pour out sweet caramel, oak spice, and vanilla aroma after it is poured. I took a little time to tilt my glass and give 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 54 %. As such there is a tremendous rush of alcohol evaporation when the glass is first poured. In this initial wave of aroma it is very hard to separate the various constituents of the aroma from each other. I waited a full five minutes before I sniffed my glass again and was rewarded with a richer more fragrant nose. The caramel aroma is accented by hints of tobacco and leather, and the oak spices have separated into orange peel and light baking spices. Nutmeg, cinnamon, cloves and walnuts have all found their way into the breezes. There is also an underlying floral character to the nose which is very inviting.

In the Mouth  54/60

A rum with 54 per cent alcohol strength by volume packs quite a punch! And that punch is full of concentrated flavours. These flavours practically leap into the mouth out of the glass. Sweet flavours of caramel candy take the lead with more pungent flavours of tobacco and leather riding the coat-tails. After just a few sips, the rum has heated the mouth with orange peel spiciness, and then I began to notice the baking spices building. The longer I allowed the glass to decant, the richer and more complex the flavour became as the baking spices continued to build in the glass to the benefit of my palate.

With a little added water, the rum becomes even more enjoyable. I notice more nuances of flavour the longer I allow the Panama Red to linger in the glass. Vanillans, orange marmalade, nutmeg, hints of cinnamon and cloves, and a lovely buttery nuttiness have been brought forward. A certain fruitiness is evident as well, and I find the overall flavour well-rounded and nicely balanced.

In the Throat 13/15

It is hard to imagine an overproof rum being smooth and easy on the throat, but the Panama Red comes about as close to smooth as such a rum can. It still packs a bit of a wallop that will knock your tonsils for a loop if you are not careful, but if you take your time and sip the rum slowly, then the finish is quite nice. The exit is dominated by caramel and orange peel, but lighter nuances of tobacco and baking spices also trail in ghostly remnants down the throat.

The Afterburn 9/10

For the record, I like overproof spirits. Not only is the alcohol content stronger, but flavours and aroma are also more concentrated. This gives me more versatility when I consume the spirit to find my own sweet spot of flavour. I can make richer more flavourful cocktails when I prefer such a treat, or I can add more mix and create a lighter cocktail if I choose. The same holds true for sipping the rum. I can enjoy the spirit in its strongest form or I can add a little water (or a lot) to suit my particular mood at the time. The Panama Red 108 gives me the versatility I desire. But, more importantly, the Panama Red 108 is a very good rum!

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


Suggested Recipes

When I received my bottle of Panama Red 108, it was suggested to me that the spirit would mix very well with guava soda or guava juice. Unfortunately, guava beverages just aren’t that readily available in my locale. So I traveled a different direction and made one of my cocktails that was a little easier to find ingredients for up here in Alberta. It is a nice sipping cocktail that works well with Panama Red 108.

Savalle Row
a cocktail by Chip Dykstra (Aka Arctic Wolf)

1 1/2 oz Panama Red 108
3/4 oz Triple Sec
3/4 oz Lime juice
3/4 oz Cranberry juice

One each, frozen raspberry and frozen blackberry for garnish

Shake all the ingredients over ice
Strain into a suitable glass
Garnish with the frozen fruit


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)


10 Responses to “Panama Red 108 Overproof Rum”

  1. Karen said

    I agree with you assessment of the screw cap! I won a bottle of this rum a few months back and decided to open it because I needed a tablespoon of rum for a cake I was making. I tried some and decided it was really good, which is why I decided to do some research on it. It’s a good thing I like it, because the cap will not tighten and seal the bottle. It looks like I will need to finish it off sooner than I planned unless I find another bottle to pour it into.

  2. Blackbeard said

    Only for experienced Pirates

  3. John McLellan said

    Hi Chip;

    Great blog…I was wondering if you would disclose where you obtained Panama Red 108 Overproof. Sounds delightful.


    • Hi John

      I was given the bottle in Miami at the big Rum Festival by the distillery’s Master Blender, Francisco “Don Pancho” Fernandez and the Director of PILSA Carlos E. Esquivel. (I believe that PILSA either owns or manages production at the distillery in Pese.) Panamonte Brands is currently seeking distributors and importers.

  4. Where did you pick up this gem from, Chip? I confess to being intrigued…

    • Hi Ruminsky

      I decided to respond to this comment even though you already discovered the answer. If you make it back to Edmonton in the next few weeks or so, I can share a little of this rum with you..

      • Hi Chip.

        Tried this on and off for the past few weeks, and can’t quite make up my mind whether it is subtly spiced or not. The palate is sufficiently varied for me to think it might be. Your thoughts?


        • Hi Lance

          I am learning that it is perilous to make definitive statements about where we think flavours are coming from. Distillation creates so many unusual flavours along the distillation curve which can be purposefully captured (especially on new industrial column stills), and then more different flavours can be drawn from the oak, (and this flavour can be controlled somewhat by barrel selection). If a master blender chooses very carefully only the barrels that are contributing what he wants to the final flavour, it is amazing what can be achieved.

          When I reviewed the Panama Red, I noticed a bevy of spicy flavours, orange peel zest, baking spices (nutmeg, vanilla, cinnamon, and cloves) and even some rye-like spiciness similar to ginger and cardamon in the very background. These flavours certainly can be a product of distillation and aging, rather than from any added spices. This Rum being produced in Panama is almost certainly a column distilled spirit.

          As a side note: I have noticed that column distillate seems to be able to draw what I will call ‘fine wood spices’ out from the oak. I notice this type of spiciness in rums like the Abuelo Rums and the Cruzan Rums which are column distilled. Canadian Whisky has those spices too. To me anyway, those rums (and Canadian Whisky) seem to have a distinct spicy character that tastes like “fine wood spices”. Since this is a 54 % abv spirit, I think that spicy character is concentrated quite a bit more than usual. (I should note that the fruity flavour I notice in the rum seems to be a characteristic of Panamanian rums. I have tasted something similar in both Zafra, and Abuela.)

          Having said all of that, I do not think we can discount the idea that the rum may be influenced by other factors. That light reddish/orange colour of the rum does not seem quite the regular colour we would expect to find from a three year old rum fresh from a bourbon barrel. It has as much colour as my last battle of Seleccion des Maestros which is a 12 year old column rum from Cuba. I would have expected the three year old to be quite a bit paler.
          Perhaps whatever is responsible for the darker colour is contributing something to the flavour as well. (Again, I must remind you that this colour and flavour could be achieved by meticulous barrel selection.)

          In the end, I do not know definitively one way or the other, what I do know is that Panama Red tastes (to me) wonderful and it is very smooth for a 54 % rum. However, they got there, I like it.

          • Here is another thought.

            With how sexy the spiced rum category has become, If Panama Red was spiced up, I think they almost certainly would have called it a Spiced Rum.

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