As we’ve mentioned before, some of the best rums in the world are produced in Central America and if you’re willing to open your eyes to the possibilities when you’re traveling through there, you can find the liquor deals of a lifetime.
I’m a big fan of Ron Centenario rum from Costa Rica and think it’s one of the world’s best undiscovered gems. It doesn’t have the complexity of Guatemala’s Ron Zacapa and it won’t hold up to a cigar smoking session like Flor de Cana, but if you’re looking for something to sip on the patio or next to the fireplace, this is a golden choice.
In a duty free shop in the airport in Costa Rica, you can pick up the 9-year version for around $13 for a 750 ml bottle and a 12-year version for around $20 As you can see from the photo I shot below, even if you go all out, a bottle that has been made from rum aging in a barrel longer than a teenager has been on this planet will set you back less than what you probably earn for an hour of work. But of course you’ll be enjoying this rum for far longer than an hour because it’s one of the best sipping rums you could wish for.
What makes a great sipping rum is a matter of taste, of course, and some real rum fans will read this and scoff. They prefer something with more bite, more substance, more of a kick in the ass. You can surely get that from Caribbean rum made at sea level with bad water and molasses aged in sweaty tropical barrels. You can also get it from Flor de Cana from Nicaragua, which we’ll admit to enjoying thoroughly in the right circumstances. Instead this Ron Centenario rum is like a distillation of butterscotch, vanilla, brown sugar, and sunshine. It’s a guilty pleasure and a pure delight. The longer it’s aged, the more serious it gets, but for making cocktails even the four-year version is terrific.
Consider Ron Centenario a more mellow, more refined rum for those who put smoothness above how many flavor notes they can detect over a two-hour tasting session. This is maybe not a rum to talk about for years, rather one that will make you talk about what a good time you had while you were drinking it with friends. You’ll find yourself finishing your glass, as will your friends, and the finish will leave you wanting more.
Since this brand is not part of a big global conglomerate spending bazillions on marketing, it’s hard to find outside of Costa Rica and hardly anyone has heard of it. That just adds to the cachet though if you bring a bottle back as a gift. It’s a rare find instead of something your client or friend could have bought in their liquor store a block away. This also makes it a tremendous value.
If you do happen to be in Costa Rica, this rum producer will probably have something to offer you. I got a four-pack of bottles for just $15 and it included the three you see at the top plus a more basic version I used to make a few cocktails. I bought another one as a gift and my friend was taken aback, thinking I had really gone all-out and spent way more money than I should have for his birthday.