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Juan Santos 21 Year

Review: Juan Santos 21 Year Antigua Reserva Rum 93.5/100
a review by Chip Dykstra (Aka Arctic Wolf)
Revised November, 2012

The rums of Juan Santos are produced in Colombia, South America by Santana Liquors. The 21 Year Antigua Reserva is a molasses based rum which has been apparently been aged  for 21 years in used whisky and bourbon barrels from Kentucky. At this time the Juan Santos brand is available only in Western Canada, although the Ron Santero brand from Santana Liquors is available in other markets. Although the Juan Santos brand is relatively unknown outside of the Western Canadian market I have discovered that these rum brings an astounding level of smoothness and depth to the rum glass.

It was a pleasure to review the sample bottle of Juan Santos 21 Year Antigua Reserva Rum provided to me by the Western Canadian importer, The Libor Group.

Juan Santos 21 SAM_1397In the Bottle 3.5/5

The rum deserves a better presentation. The label looks like something I could have easily printed off of my home computer. The label has  a weak colour scheme and design which does not speak to the quality of the contents inside. This is a rum which deserves to be placed upon more of a pedestal.

In the Glass 9.5/10

When the rum is poured into the glass it displays a rich amber colour. A tilt of my glass and a slow swirl reveals long moderately thick legs which trail back into the rum at a leisurely pace. As with the younger Juan Santos rums, one definitely gets the impression that there is a whisky character both in looks and aroma. Rising into the air, with the smell light toffee and brown sugar, is a light touch of rye spices similar to Canadian rye whisky (wood spice, cardamom and ginger). The whisky like aromas and the rum-like toffee and brown sugar have in fact melted together giving the Juan Santos a very unique character in the glass. Notes of light sandal wood, some dried currants and a light smokiness round out my perceptions of the nose.

In the Mouth 56.5/60

This rum is wonderfully delicious! It is very soft and smooth on the tongue. Soft caramel notes are mingled with light spices, and the whiskey character I noted in the breezes above the glass has in fact melted into the rum creating a buttery praline cream. The result is a well-balanced rum with remarkably deep flavour. Vague hints of almonds and cinnamon are apparent with ghostlike vestiges of caramel, nutmeg, allspice, and rye spice. Rather than the heavy oak flavour one would expect from a 21-year-old spirit, the rum displays lighter wood spices reminiscent of balsa and sandal wood.

In the Throat 14.5/15

This is soft and smooth with just a dab of gentle oil (buttery texture) which gives the rum tremendous finish.  There is absolutely no harsh backbite, and no bitterness at all. The flavour slowly evaporates in the throat leaving a clean palate with only phantoms of the experience lingering.

The Afterburn 9.5/10

Juan Santos 21 Year Old Rum is one of the very smoothest rum I have encountered. The balance is wonderful, as the various flavours the rum possesses seem to melt and merge into each other such that individual flavours were very hard to discern. This mixing and melting of flavours results in a truly wonderful rum. Just about perfect!

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


Suggested Cocktail:

Where to go in my search for a nice cocktail for a 21 year old rum? I guess I could  perhaps start with the Manhattan (click on the link for my Manhattan recipe). This is a tried and true cocktail for any good rye whisky. The rye like flavour I found in the Juan Santos Rum is sure to work well here. Now a Perfect Manhattan is just a Manhattan with both  sweet and dry vermouth, and a Cuban Manhattan (recipe on the same page as the Manhattan), is a Perfect Manhattan with Dark Cuban Rum instead of Rye. This finally brings me to the cocktail I have created. The Sloe Colombian Cocktail. It’s a variation of the Cuban Manhattan with sloe gin used instead of Sweet Vermouth, and the ratio of sweetness tipped away from the dry vermouth towards the sloe gin. I use a Lime garnish instead of an orange. So I guess it is not really a Manhattan at all at this point (but that was how I thought it through).

The  Sloe Colombian Cocktail
a cocktail by Arctic Wolf

2 oz of Juan Santos 21 yr old Rum
1/2 oz of Sloe Gin
Dash Angostura Bitters (optional)
2 Large Ice cubes
1/8 oz Dry Vermouth
Slice of Lime
Maraschino cherry

Add the Juan Santos Rum, the Sloe Gin, and Angostura bitters with 2 Large ice cubes in a mixing glass and stir lightly. Pour the Dry Vermouth into a small chilled cocktail glass.  Swirl the vermouth to coat  all parts of the glass. Then pour the vermouth out and discard it.  Spear a fresh maraschino cherry with a long toothpick and place it in the chilled cocktail glass and strain the mixed ingredients over the cherry (do not add the ice). Squeeze the lime slice over the glass to release a few drops of juice into the drink.



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)


2 Responses to “Juan Santos 21 Year”

  1. Paco. said

    I was told that currently Juan Santos is onlly sold in Alberta, Canada. In the US will be sold under the name Ron Santero or Santero Rum. Does any body knows anithing about this? Cant wait to try it!!!

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