Colombian rum

Ron Medellin is the one brand you’re sure to run across while traveling in Colombia. So you might want to stick to cocktails.

Last year I attended a big travel trade show in Cartagena, Colombia. At the big opening night bash, sponsored by Avianca Airlines, all the liquor on offer was imported, including rum from Cuba.

A few months ago I mentioned this to someone in the travel industry in Colombia, that I found this quite strange considering the place and the host. He replied,”Well, have you tasted our rum?”

I chuckled and replied, “Only the kind that comes in a box.”

He said I should go try their Ron Medellin brand, but not to spend too much money on it. Once we started talking about some of the fine rums from Central America, I could tell he had a good frame of reference and didn’t hold the home team’s in high regard.

I could only find the 3-year version in the shops I went into in the historic district of Cartagena when I was there a couple months ago, so I bought a bottle of that and tried it, neat and in a cocktail. Then I tried the 8-year neat as well in a bar.

The verdict? The cheapest version is okay in a cocktail, especially by the pool or at a beach bar, but it’s a far inferior run to drink straight compared to most others you find between here and Guatemala.

We often speak of wine and spirits with words like “structured,” “balanced,” and having a complexity of flavor. The problems that mar the Ron Medellin 3-year touch on each of these, with off-balance flavors that seem to emphasize what’s wrong over what’s right. There are tones in this rum I haven’t smelled or tasted elsewhere, some of which I can’t even describe. I just know they don’t belong there. There’s a little maple, some pecans, and some chocolate—but more like baking chocolate than Godiva.

Anything this copper-colored after just three years in barrels makes me wonder a bit too. Notice how all three versions above are the same color? That’s just not right…

The additional five years in those barrels helps a lot: the 8-year version has smoothed out many of the rough spots and tastes more conventional. Still not great neat, but on the rocks it’s okay. In this one you get more power from the traditional caramel and toffee notes, tempered by more time in contact with oak.

I didn’t get a chance to try the 12-year version, and would be hesitant to buy a whole bottle of it at double the price, but I’ll give it a try next time I see it in a bar.

In conclusion, you can find better rum from Guatemala, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, and Venezuela—as well as a few Caribbean islands like Barbados—but if you’re looking for something to mix with Coke or pineapple juice on vacation in Colombia, root root for the home team and go for Medellin rum.