Venezuela rum Pampero Aniversario

Twice I’ve tried Ron Pampero Aniversario Rum over a period of several days and both times I’ve made a note to buy it again when I got home. Then when I got home, I never saw it in a store.

That may be because this fine rum is from Venezuela. There’s not much of anything good coming out of Venezuela these days. The economy is in shambles, oil production was dropping fast even before the price drop socked their revenues, and in 2015 Caracas had the highest homicide rate in the world. After so many years of bad government, it’s hard to see an upscale travel scene rising up here in my lifetime, so we’ve basically ignored the country in Luxury Latin America.

This spirit is a different story though. I once sat down with a companion at the Explora Atacama Hotel de Larache bar and said, “Pour us the best rum you’ve got.” He didn’t hesitate, pulling a bottle off the shelf that was inside an embossed leather bag.

“This is my favorite,” he said, and when we said we’d never heard of it, he said, “Nobody has heard of it, but it’s really good.”

I returned to that choice several times on that trip, then bought a bottle again a few weeks ago when I was headed to a Caribbean island and wanted something for the condo with a kitchen and bar.  I saw Ron Pampero Aniversario for $40 at the Ft. Lauderdale airport duty free shop and didn’t want to miss my chance.

fine rum VenezuelaThis a smooth and sweet rum that manages to hit every taste bud and fill your mouth with flavor, but without the usual burn and backbite you get from some quality alternative. Plus you don’t get the overpowering alcohol taste or aroma that you do with many cheap Caribbean versions. I frankly didn’t expect anything coming out of Venezuela to be best described as “balanced,” but there’s obviously a true master distiller at work in the Pampero tasting room. This starts smooth and finishes smooth, with just the right amount of oak to make it serious.

If your palate is really refined you’ll probably taste nutmeg, vanilla, sweet coffee, and dried fruit in the mix. Otherwise it’ll remind you of the best piece of caramel or butterscotch you’ve ever eaten.

My original bartender in Chile made an offhand comment that we should “let it open up a bit” and sample it over an hour or two. Maybe it’s because we were feeling good, but it did seem to smooth out a little. I tried that again this time and what seems to happen is some of the alcohol nose dissipates as it sits in the glass or gets swirled. The main criticism I can muster is for the packaging inside the pouch. The bottle design makes it dribble when pouring and the label could use a makeover. Once it was in my glass and I was sipping, however, I forgot about all that.

This rum is apparently made from a blend of 4-year and 5-year barrels, which goes to show you it’s possible that longer doesn’t necessarily mean better in the rum world, especially if it’s aged near sea level instead of in the highlands. I’m not letting this one knock Ron Zacapa off as my top pick, but if you can find Pampero Aniversario for less than $35 (as seems to be the case in liquor stores when available), snag a bottle for you and one for a friend. With the nice leather pouch packaging, this is a great gift.

This rum is distributed by Diageo, but you won’t find anything about it on their site. I would send you to the company’s home page, but like most things in the host country, it’s been lost and neglected. Pamero.com (the original site) now redirects to something called TheBar.com. The latter probably bought it when someone in Venezuela forgot to pay the domain renewal and it expired. Sigh…