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Barcelo Imperial

Review: Ron Barcelo Imperial Rum  (81.5/100)
a review by Chip Dykstra (Aka Arctic Wolf)
Posted January 5, 2010

I noticed no age statement on the bottle of Barcelo Imperial Rum. A few beverage review sites I checked, state that the rums in the Imperial blend are up to 10 years old.  The Ministry of Rum, states that the rum is up to 6 years old. I have no way of knowing which statement is correct, although I note that the BTI web page for Ron Barcelo Imperial makes no age claim. I suspect the distillery is trying to make a consistent flavour profile for the product and their blending is more about taste than age.  This would mean the ages of the rums in the blend could change from time to time. 

In the Bottle 4/5

This, at first appearance, is an outstanding presentation. Barcelo Imperial is sold in an eye-catching box display. Inside the box is a large flask style bottle which just oozes elegance and style. A solid dense cork topper completes the bottle design and gives the rum a great ‘wow’ factor.

But the first clue I had that this presentation was not as fine as I believed, came when I was given a small sample at a local liquor store; the cork topper actually broke into two pieces while the proprietor was uncorking the bottle. This could be excused as bad luck; then exactly the same thing occurred when I opened my bottle at home.

When the same flaw in design is noticed in two separate bottles, with those being the only two bottles I have examined, then I believe I start to see a trend of details overlooked. Even more disconcerting is the slight hiss I hear from the cork every time I try to seal the bottle. I was forced to dock one point from what I believed at first to be a perfect presentation. Here is a picture of the broken topper:

In the Glass 9/10

When I swirl the glass, flashes of amber are apparent in the dark reddish brown color of this spirit. This makes Barcelo Imperial an extremely attractive spirit. However, the rum smells rough and young in the glass, which belies the darker spirit I see. My suspicion is a coloring agent which gives the rum its beautiful appearance.

Rising from the glass, my nose was greeted with a heavy toffee and dark brown sugar scent. The aroma is not as sweet as one would expect, and I receive aromas of underlying old oak combined with newer fresh tannin and sap. This seems to indicate a profile of various ages in the blend, some quite young, which impart the fresh tannin and sap, and some older which impart the aged oakiness.

In the Mouth 48/60

In my first tasting of the Barcello Imperial I wrote, “I can taste burnt brown sugar, and spices (nutmeg, allspice and cinnamon). There is a distinct bourbon overtone and a kind of leathery tobacco deeper down. Something metallic, like copper tubing gives this a lurking bitterness which reminds me of the Ron Barcelo Anejo (which I have reviewed earlier). ” The only addition I make  to this taste profile, is a touch of  green apple at the back of the palate at the end of the taste experience.

When I went back to the Barcelo Imperial a few days after my initial first tasting, I was pleasantly surprised. Some of the features of the rum tasted much better the second time. Further visits to my bottle unfortunately were mixed. Reaching deep into my memory cells, I remembered that the Ron Barcelo Anejo I had reviewed early in the summer had that same feature. The rum has a lack of, what I call ‘robustness’. The flavour profile is affected a great deal by your previous palate, and by situations like mood and weather.

In the Throat 12.5/15

This reminds me so much of a bourbon finish, not in the flavour, but in the manner in which the rum tends to cling in the throat and to the back of the palate. The rum lingers and sticks in the mouth and throat long after the liquid is gone.

The Aftermath 8.0/10

My final impression is one of mild consternation. I have found this to be a complex and original rum whose flavour profile will appeal to many persons. However, a certain balance between the various flavours is missing. An underlying bitterness at times dominates the palate, and does not allow the other flavours to be appreciated fully. I sense an attempt by the blender to capture the best of two styles; a brash, youthful, exuberance; combined with a more elegant aged flavour profile. For my palate the target was slightly off center.

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


You may (loosely) interpret the scores 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)

6 Responses to “Barcelo Imperial”

  1. Shane said

    Great review. I had the same broken topper issue. I considered it a sign from the gods and threw the stopper in the garbage and called a few friends over. I am glad the topper broke, as it was a great evening with the boys.


  2. The problem of breakage is common as distillers give more emphasis to the bottle and the label and often ignore the importance of the closure, which is probably the most important accessory when it comes to the protection of the liquid inside and the keeping of the spirit as it was meant to be. Our experience as world leaders in the production of Bar Tops is that cheap cork glued to a cheap plastic top is a terrible choice both in terms of performance and in terms of marketing and image. The solution is to use high-quality synthetic bar tops that make no use of glue whatsoever. Thanks to new technologies and new polymers we can make closures that have a head of a different color than the shank through a technology called co-injection. We can also make closures with a wooden top and a synthetic shank through a technology called overmoulding. In either case glues are never used and the closures are unbreakable. We solved many problems of taint, discoloration and performance for thousands of clients worldwide. Clear spirits manufacturers of course notice the difference immediately while colored spirits do not see the effects that natural cork has on their product both in taste and disscoloration. Unfortunately in the name of a silly tradition we use a product (natural cork) which would not pass any of the tests that synthetic closures have to undergo. It is true that there are cheap synthetic closures as well that do not perform well and leave an odour, but that is mostly because wine cellars and distilleries sometimes go for the cheapest version available (cheap raw material as well) instead of getting real value for their money. We are Tapì (acronym for Technology, Achievement, Performance and Innovation) and you can find us at Our raw materials are highly technological and the result of years of research headed by a chemical engineer. We beleieve that a product should be the same as it was bottled and our closures guarantee that there will never be a change either in color, taint or discoloration and most importantly in taste.

    • Thank you very much for stopping by. I find myself in agreement with the main points of your reply. I myself prefer a high quality synthetic closure that still gives the satisfying ‘pop’ when the bottle is opened but protects the spirit properly from evaporation, and does not change the flavour or aroma of the liquid inside.


    • I am in agreement also on the Barcello Imperial, it is almost boring as far as the flavor goes and totally lacks character. However Barcello Makes a Gran Anejo that really rocks, flavor character and the closure works properly. (Never had an imperial open without the stopper seperating from the cap.)

  3. Ronald said

    Check!, My bottle has the same issue with the broken topper. Small flaw, however, it doesn’t affect the overall experience of drinking this rum.



  4. pkazimir said

    hey arctic Wolf,

    I read your review about Barcelo Imperial and you are right about the broken topper. happens to me all the time. the dominicans here deal with it and open it with their teeth lol.

    Hope all is good.


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