One of the nice things about traveling through Central America is that it’s easy to find really good rum for a ridiculously low price. I’m especially partial to the Ron Zacapa 15-year rum from Guatemala, but this 9-year Ron Centenario Conmemorativo bottle I picked up at a supermarket in Costa Rica has to be the smoothest rum that has ever passed my lips.
As with Scotch, Tequila, and Bourbon, different people have different taste preferences, so saying one rum or another is “the best” is a dicey proposition. If you like your rum smooth and sweet, however, with no molassas backbite and none of the off-kilter flavors you get with a big commercial brand like Bacardi, you won’t find a better souvenir to bring home from Costa Rica than Ron Centenario rum. (Trust me, there’s not a whole lot else worth buying there anyway when it comes to souvenirs apart from coffee and chocolate.)
This isn’t the most complex rum out there, so serious tipplers used to drinking their spirits neat all the time may find this one to be not challenging enough to sustain their interest. For me that’s part of the appeal, however. You can sip this for hours without killing your palate for a meal that’s going to follow and it’s sweet enough to serve as an after-dinner drink with dessert or coffee. It has a nice toasted caramel finish that seems to linger forever and it keeps your body as warm as a fireplace hearth without burning on the way down.
This is not a real overpowering rum, so you could use it for cocktails, but it seems like kind of a waste. I’d step down to the five- or seven-year versions that haven’t spent so much time in aging barrels. (Centenario’s barrels are used ones, often from bourbon, which also explains why this is smoother than rum going into new barrels.)
I paid all of $16 for a 750ml bottle of this divine rum, which puts this right up there with pineapples and cashews as one of the greatest values available in Costa Rica. I sipped it for a week and then left the remainder in my last hotel room for the maid. I hope she enjoyed it.
Maybe I overpaid even: I brought home a 12-year version of the same rum for only $18 from the airport duty-free shop. I haven’t opened it yet, so more on that one later…