Ron Diplomatico rum from Venezuela

Sometimes the liquor store can yield some surprises that feel like a discovery of buried treasure. I was like a roaming pirate with a shovel and a map when I found this bottle of Ron Diplomático Reserva Exclusiva rum from Venezuela.

If you asked most anyone to name something good that comes from Venezuela, if they could even think of anything there would be a weak reply of “…Oil?” Most of what was good about this once-proud nation got flushed down the toilet by Hugo Chavez, then his hand-picked successor Maduro carried on after death, taking a plunger to what was left. There’s next to zero tourism in the country now and a daily struggle for most families to find enough to eat in the aftermath of a socialist experiment gone horribly wrong.

Amazing as it may be in this context of a country in meltdown, Venezuela still manages to export some mighty fine rum. The real standout is Ron Pampero Anniversario, which we reviewed earlier. I first tasted that in the bar at Explora Atacama of all places and have now seen it pop up in three other countries. With its leather pouch, it’s hard to miss.

I wouldn’t put Diplomatico in the same category as that top-tier rum, but it’s better than most. That’s especially true when you look at the price. I picked up this bottle in a Florida ABC Liquors store for $19 because it was marked wrong–but it was supposed to be $31, which is still a good deal. The one that was supposed to be $19 is the Mantuano white label one.

The difference is probably minimal since both are blends, but that one is a mix of rums aged “up to 8 years” and the Reserva one is aged “up to 12 years.” In neither case do you really know what you’re getting, but let’s just assume this higher-priced one has more oak and aging overall.

Ron Diplomatico Reserva Exclusiva rum South America review

This history of this rum doesn’t go back as far as many in Central America and the Caribbean. The original distillery, owned by Seagram, started up in 1959. In 2002 local investors took it over and it has been in their hands since. Production is in the Planas Valley, at the foot of the Andes Mountains, in a climate that’s just right for sugar cane.

Tasting Diplomatico Reserva Rum

Since Ron Diplomatico Reserva Exclusiva is marketed as a sipping rum, how does it hold up when served neat?

Quite well, actually, and it seems to get better the longer you’re drinking it. It hits all the right notes you would expect from a carefully crafted rum distilled in copper pot stills in an area with good sugar cane, aged in used oak barrels. The nose is a strong medley of sweetness and smoke, evoking warm feelings of a yummy dessert plate. As it runs across the taste buds there’s the expected butterscotch rush, toffee, dark chocolate, and vanilla, with a hint of cherry in this one. The main difference between this rum and a lot of others we’ve profiled here is that the finish is kind of cloying and overly sweet, like there’s a high residual sugar level.

This may be from the blending process, with not enough of the 12-year barrels in the mix, or it just may be a characteristic of how the cane and molasses are processed before distillation. It’s not an unpleasant finish and overall this is a balanced, complex rum. It just feels like it wouldn’t hold up to a cigar or rich food the way a Flor de Cana or Ron Zacapa would. With a chocolate cake, creme brulee, or a fruit tart, however, Diplomatico Reserva Exclusivo would be a divine choice.

Note that in some countries this brand is called Botucal, derived from the farm name. It has the same postage stamp design though, so if you recognize that it’s the same rum. See more at the company website, which is in English even.