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Ron Abuelo 12 Year Old

Review: Ron Abuelo 12 Year Old Rum  84/100
a review by Chip Dykstra (Aka Arctic Wolf)
Posted on April 1, 2012

Ron Abuelo Rum is produced by Varela Hermanos SA in Panama, Central America. This company has a history which dates back to 1908 when Don José Varela Blanco launched the first sugar mill in the then recently formed Republic of Panama. In 1935, the site began to distill sugar cane juice for the production of various kinds of spirits. Now today, the company produces an impressive array of products which includes over one million boxes of spirits and of course a strong variety of rums. The Ron Abuelo brand is just one brand from this wide assortment.

According to the website, the Ron Abuelo 12 Year Old is produced from molasses and aged in white oak bourbon casks.

In the Bottle 4/5

The rum arrives in a tall dark brown ‘bar room’ style bottle which is sealed with a standard cork. This style of bottle is designed to easily fit upon the bartenders shelf, and (with no annoying plastic diffuser in the spout) this style of bottle is also easy to pour into my glass. I am happy to see no evidence of a metal screw caps anywhere, in fact my bottle is sealed with a nice solid cork. The label on the bottle is very simple, and lacks any frills. I would prefer a little ‘pop’ on the label with perhaps more colour and perhaps a little history of Ron Abuelo Rum on the back label to entice me to buy the rum. However, I admit there is also a certain charm in the simple approach.

In the Glass 9/10

I poured myself a nice glass of the Ron Abuelo 12 Year Old Rum and brought it up to my nose. My initial impression is of a dark caramelized brown sugar aroma accented by tobacco, leather, and orange peel. I gave the glass a cautious tilt and swirl. The spirit deposited a light sheen of oily rum onto the side of my glass, and I watched as droopy leglets formed. The droopy legs slid slowly down the side of the glass back into the mahogany rum.

I allowed the glass to breathe and began to nose the rum one more time. The aroma has turned oaky and seems to have a bit of a cognac flair. Additional notes of marzipan, leather and baking spices have evolved as the rum seems to have gained both complexity and sweetness as it decanted.

In the Mouth 50/60

The rum enters the mouth with a surprising dryness that seems at odds with the promise of sweetness offered by the nose. A wave of oak spices and tannins serve to pucker the palate which gives the rum the initial impression of harshness. I taste molasses and baking spices, vanilla and orange peel, leather and tobacco, and a strong oaky current which has all of the hallmarks of well-aged brandy. As I sip some more, I cannot help but notice how fruity the rum is. Nanking cherries, blackberries, canned apricots and fresh peaches all seem to give me glimpses of themselves in the flavour profile.

The rum is full of flavour, but it also seems out of balance. The leathery dryness of the rum which gives the impression of smokiness just doesn’t seem to fit in with the caramel, the rich fruitiness and the spices.

In the Throat 12.5/15

The dry oakiness seems to dominate the finish. I sense more left over flavours of oak spice, leather and tobacco than I do of caramel and baking spice. I also sense a very light burn in the throat which is only alleviated when I add an ice-cube to my glass.

The Afterburn 8.5/10

The Ron Abuelo 12 Year Old Rum is bold and full of flavour. It has the oakiness of a well aged brandy, and the fruitiness of a rich Cabernet Sauvignon wine. Everything about the rum screams at me that I should really like it. But, (and I hate it when I have to write ‘but’) the rum just never seems to find the proper fulcrum to balance the richness with the dryness. Adding an ice-cube definitely helps matters, but even then I never quite seem to be able to relax and enjoy myself fully with my glass. I am left with a rum that is so rich and flavourful that I do not want to mix cocktails with it, but one which demands too much of my attention to allow me to enjoy myself when I sip it straight or on the rocks.

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)


3 Responses to “Ron Abuelo 12 Year Old”

  1. Josh Miller said

    Wow–totally surprised to see such a low score for this one, Chip. I gave it a 95–I love this rum! I would definitely encourage folks to try the Abuelo 12-year for themselves–I know more than a few rum nuts who enjoy this one quite a bit. Cheers!

    • Thanks for the feedback

      I was surprised at my reaction to this rum as well, although when I presented it a my ‘Discovering the Finer Side of Rum’ event in February, I received a similar reaction from the guests at the event, and as you read above, Lance (from Liquorature) basically agrees with me as well.

      However I completely agree that folks should try this out and make up their owns minds. That is always good advice.

      Cheers Josh and Take Care


  2. Lance R. said

    You and I have the same opinion – we want to like it but…

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