As a self-anointed rum aficionado, I was very pleased to receive a bottle of Brugal 1888 Gran Reserva as a gift from our founder, Paul Anthony. Though my experience lies mostly with rums produced in my home country of Venezuela, I allowed little time to pass before I sat down to try this special edition offered by Brugal.
Founded and continuously operated in Puerto Plata, the Brugal family name is rarely left out of short lists when considering the most renowned rum distilleries in the world. This Brugal 1888 Gran Reserva is no different, and we will be reviewing it here on the following points:
Doblemente Anejado Production Process
Brugal’s spirits are derived from molasses. After multiple rounds of carefully-monitored distillation, the result is a 95% alcohol base used in all of Brugal’s products. The Brugal family prides itself in achieving and employing this high alcohol-content base. Additionally, this is what imparts a characteristically ‘dry’ taste & texture throughout their entire line of rums.
Being one of their more premium offerings, the Brugal 1888 Gran Reserva “Doblemente Anejado”, or Double Aged, is concocted in a series of steps.
First, the rum is allowed to mature for 6 to 8 years in American Oak Bourbon casks with a medium toast. During this period, the spirit will become infused with flavors of vanilla, coffee, raisins, dates, and of course, bourbon.
For the second and final (albeit not short-lived) step, the rum is matured in single-use Spanish Sherry casks for up to six years. It is during this time that it evolves its dark amber color. The nose is developed here as well; notes of citrus, toffee, and fruit come forth to make for a compelling and unique experience in the glass.
Brugal 1888 Flavors & Experience
Essentially the heart of my review, this section will now break down the overall experience offered by Brugal 1888.
Brugal 1888 Gran Reserva’s Profile
- Robe: Transparent, yet deep red amber color
- Nose: Sweet & bold notes of vanilla and dark chocolate with citrus
- Palate: Very light and dry texture on the palate; Spicy essence of bourbon with a minimally sweet yet long-lasting finish
- Best Enjoyed: Sipped neat at room temperature
Brugal 1888 Tasting Experience
Per the recommendation of the Master Ronceros (Master Rummakers) from Puerto Plata, this distinguished rum should be enjoyed not only at room temperature, but at the ambient temperature of the Dominican Republic, around 76°F (24°C). Although springtime Philadelphia can offer some temperate afternoons, it did not quite reach this intended climate.
Nevertheless, I thoroughly enjoyed the experience of sipping this special Brugal neat. The rum boasts an exclusively complex taste – its American Oak bourbon past is prominent yet balanced by a slightly sweet and long-lasting finish.
Brugal also suggests allowing this special blend to evolve in the glass as it mixes with oxygen and fluctuates in temperature. I found an initial pour from the 1888’s decorated bottle, resting at a warmer temperature, to emanate the bolder & sweeter aromas of coffee and toffee. As the rum cooled in the glass, the palate tilted towards a more peppery character with bright, citrus notes.
Presentation: Hand-Netting & Gold Accents
I would be remiss to discard comments on this Brugal 1888’s presentation.
The heritage of the Brugal family and its history, so intertwined with the Dominican Republic itself, is palpable. Not only for its hand-netting, which may be what initially draws you to this spirit on a shelf. But also for its gold medallions and gold descriptive text, gold-leaf like, which assure you that in your hands is something special.
At the bottom rests a carefully affixed label indicating the origin once more: “Roble Europeo Ex-Jerez; Roble Americano Ex-Bourbon” (ex-sherry European oak; ex-bourbon American Oak). Accompanying this is the signature of Brugal’s Master Roncero, certifying the individual quality.
The finale, a wax-sealed cork as one last nod to the Brugal 1888’s bourbon influence, makes for a memorable experience when reaching for the first pour.
Pairings & Final Thoughts
When crafting this 1888 Gran Reserva, the Master Ronceros at Brugal aimed to bring forth a spirit that could be sipped neat and wholly enjoyed without the need for companions. Their expertise and heritage is also intended to be showcased. Do I believe they have they achieved these goals?
Yes, and they have done so categorically. The taste of the Gran Reserva is complex yet simple. The complexity is derived from all the flavors and notes that can be pulled out when carefully studied. Meanwhile, the simplicity stems from the manner in which all of these different aspects come together as the final product.
The result is a lightly sweetened rum which lends itself to be savored casually as I did, or even as an aperitif. Staying true to BU, I couldn’t help but to pair it with the similarly woody notes of a Montecristo No.5, the blend of both making for a pleasant break in the day.
It’s hard to imagine that the 1888 Gran Reserva wouldn’t also pair amicably with some hearty fare borne of the Dominican Republic. The spicy element of this exceptional rum would be perfectly balanced by some salty island specialties such as some tostones or croquetas, especially while waiting on a sancocho to make its way from the kitchen to your beachside table.
Hopefully I’ll be able to provide some first-hand notes from the field in one of BU’s future return trips to DR.
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"A unique rum concocted through a complex and lengthy process. Special enough to enjoy singularly, but not so much so that it shouldn't be savored regularly."Rating: 5.0 ★★★★★