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An Aged Rum Worth Sipping

Drinking rum neat? When it comes to truly tasting exceptional rum, it's often your best bet.
Quintana is the fifth-generation descendant to join the Maestros Roneros.
Villanueva is the fifth-generation descendant to join the Maestros Roneros.

Drinking rum neat? When it comes to truly tasting exceptional rum, it's often your best bet. Hailing from the Dominican Republic with a long history of painstaking craftsmanship, Brugal is a much-needed luxury rum to keep company next to your extra añejo tequila or barrel-aged bourbon.

The family-owned distillery's style of rum-making is notably different from other Caribbean brands. For starters, much of the alcohols that give rum its traditional sweet, fruity flavors have been removed, giving it a drier taste. Secondly, their rum is aged exclusively in oak casks, from ex-bourbon American to ex-sherry European, for a minimum of two years. Not the first thing you might think of when it comes to white rum, but Brugal has a rich history to live up to.

Founded in the late 19th century by Don Andres Brugal Montaner in Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic, Brugal has never left the family. In 2013, the Brugal family announced that fifth-generation descendant Jassil Villanueva had joined the Maestros Roneros (rum master blender) lineage. Villanueva was not only the youngest to hold the prestigious title, she was also the first woman. "Since 1888, we have been a family business working to create a rum that we are proud of," she says. Villanueva more than lived up to her heritage with her first release: Papá Andrés Alegría, or ‘Joy’, a limited edition decadent varietal celebrating the brand’s founder and her great-great-grandfather.

Brugal rum has five generations of master blenders in the family. Brugal rum has five generations of master blenders in the family.

Another significant factor that contributes to Brugal's exceptionality is their wood policy. Villanueva notes, "We review our wood inventory annually. Our policy is similar to Macallan. We take out the oldest casks every year and put in new casks." Each cask is also hand-picked by the master blenders for the right type of character, age, and provenance.

Does Villanueva have a favorite rum? "I don't have a favorite because if you have one, you lose the opportunity to try others!" she exclaims. But she does defer to certain types for certain occasions: "XV on the rocks when I go out at night, 1888 on the rocks for a special occasion, and the Extra Dry for a daiquiri on a hot summer day. It all depends on the moment."

Brugal's rum is aged exclusively in oak casks, from ex-bourbon American to ex-sherry European. Brugal's rum is aged exclusively in oak casks, from ex-bourbon American to ex-sherry European.

Pavol Kazimir, Brugal's Brand Ambassador, concurs. "To be honest, I like cocktails, but since I discovered 1888, I only drink that plain." The 1888 is double-aged up to 14 years in different casks and oaks, creating a rum that is sweet, dry, woody, and complex. "It's a totally different experience every time you drink it," says Villanueva. She recommends drinking the rum at 24-26 degrees Celsius to truly appreciate the subtleties. Brugal's serving ritual is to add hot water to a glass, swirl it, dump the water, and then add rum. In case you need further convincing, Villanueva says, "1888 with a splash of water is heaven in a glass."

There's one more ingredient in crafting this unique rum: the weather of the Dominican Republic. "It's the final push," says Villanueva. "It gives us unique flavors and profiles. And the quality of the cask is what makes the magic." Depending on the heat and humidity of a climate, liquor evaporates over time thanks to the pores of a wood barrel being more open in a hot environment. Brugal estimates they lose nine to twelve percent a year. "Aging is the heart of our production," says Kazimir. Thanks to this "Angel's Share," Brugal always ends up with a premium rum that is super smooth and sippable.

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