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  • Writer's pictureStuart Pearce

Panama rums review

A first visit to Panama, with 5 offerings to taste and review today.

So, Panama ... the skinny little central american country with the canal. What do we know...

  • With the backing of the US, Panama gained independence from Columbia in 1903. This paved the way for (over the subsequent 11 years) the construction of the global trade transforming 82km canal - linking Atlantic and Pacific - and avoiding the monstrous shipping route around Cape Horn.

  • Home of the world famous Panama hats - wrong, those are from Ecuador.

  • Home of Rocky's currency 'The Balboa' - wrong, the Balboa is a bit of a fake. It's pegged to the USD 1:1 and there's only Balboa coins. For paper notes the Panamanians use US dollars!

What we do know is that there's half a dozen distilleries with the two larger ones producing export quantities of Panama's light, column stilled, often 'dosed', Spanish style Ron. [dosed - added sugar].

As you can tell, I'm not expecting much from these but I'm keeping an open mind and hoping that these excellent independent bottlers have picked decent, interesting barrels.

The distilleries;

  • Valera Hermanos, aka Hacienda San Isidro, aka Don Jose distillery - home of several well know brands such as Ron Malecon and Abuela. The biggest exporter and likely source of the majority of the rums being reviewed today.

  • Las Cabras or CLNSA - another bulk exporter who's rums are found ageing at main rum's cellars in the UK. Home of Grander, Zafra and Don Pancho brands. Also involved with the production of Bumbu...

  • San Carlos - Home of Panama Pacific and maybe Grander (Is San Carlos part of CLNSA?)

  • Pedro Mandinga - a small distillery unusually making 'rum' from panela sugar

  • Hacienda Carta Vieja - another small artisan distillery.

5 rums, 30ml of each should keep me entertained on this sunny after in our stunning new house-sit. Left to open up for 30 mins. Nosed first, then tasted, in increasing abv order.

Assisted today by the silky sounds of Bill Withers.

Left to right as per the lead photo. The sherry cask SBS having a predictably darker amber hue compared to the rest

SBS Panama 2010, 9yr, 54%, 289 btls

A single barrel, initially aged in ex-bourbon casks, secondary aged by 1423 spirits in Denmark in an Oloroso cask. One of over a dozen Panamanian single casks bottled by 1423 S.B.S over the last few years.

Nose: Lush, rich fruit. A little gluey resin coming through. Bold, warm and enjoyably sherried. Not super complex but pleasant. A little artificially sweet biscuit and cheap foam banana sweets creeping up after a while.

Mouth: Starts with a gob-full of sweet treats. Aftertaste is cloying and artificially candied. The taste began pleasantly but second sip is not working. Alcohol is well integrated, there's some berry fruit mid palate but it's leaving a cheap vanilla caramel sweetness on the sides of my mouth through the finish. [76pts]

BBR Collection Antipodes 2006, 16yr, 55.9%, 304 btls

A long aged release from Berry Bros & Rudd in the UK. Bottled in 2022 as part of the LMDW Antipodes collection.

Nose: Creamy, fresh light cane berries. Sweet smoke. Quite tropical. Even some summer fruit pudding. I like that hint of smoke.

Mouth: Starts with a decent burst of berry and cherry fruit. Then shifts to a herbal, slightly smoked flavour. Finish is enjoyably tannic and astringent. Moreish stuff. The fruit remains on the second sip, except a little creamier and with a brush of mint. The rest of the profile is the same. It's not knocking me over but it's decent, clean, well balanced, and I'd happily reach for another glass [84+pts]

TBRC Panama Batch 1, 10yr, 56.2%, 465 bottles*

A first release of Panamanian rum by Boutique-y from a few years ago. A single cask that spawned 465 of boutique-y standard squat 500ml bottles.

Nose: A light fruit nose. Lots of camphor. Quite saline. Touches of sweet oak, sulphur and thyme.

Mouth: Aggressive medicinal notes start things off with a bang. Hints of TCP but melding into burnt pineapple in a good way that works well for me. Dark smoked chocolate. Slight cloying sweetness on the finish mars the end of an otherwise solid dram. [82-pts]

Tamosi Tiba, 2008, 13yr, 57%

A 2021 release bottled by the excellent independent bottler Benjamin Booth of Levy Lane fame. At least 10% of the profit from every bottle Tamosi sells goes to support indigenous communities around the world.

Nose: On first opening there wasn't much fruit on the nose here. Generally it was a bit lacking. But another 20 mins and it's really beginning to open up. There's dirty, green, under-ripe cane fruit. It's got a lovely medicinal profile. Quite heady with iodine, camphor and burnt rubber

Mouth: A bit light at first but rolls into a really mouth-filling beautiful medicinal and green fruit profile that runs on for ages. Bitter fruit in just the right way. It's got burnt rubber, tannic dark chocolate and smoke notes that are lightly caroni-esque. I really like it. [86+pts]

SBS Panama 2010 Harvey Nics release, 12yr, 62.4%

An SBS limited release in conjunction with London's Harvey Nichols. This was available in 122 full sized bottles and in 400 cute mini sets (4x200ml) alongside rums from Australia, Mauritius and Jamaica (still available and currently on sale I think).

Nose: Some grassiness, a little menthol, camphor, eucalytus and solvent. Took an age to fully open up but offers a lovely light smokey, medicinal profile.

Mouth: Cripes, a bold, dry, bitter eucalyptus punch. Amazingly dry, too much really. I like it but it would benefit from some natural sweetness you'd find in a more fruity profile. The finish is long and enjoyable with the light smoke, menthol and eucalyptus mixing nicely. Even a bit of tar & burnt rubber. A dirty, chewy rum [85pts]

Conclusion: Well that was a surprise. Far from being a cluster of dull, thin, artificially sweet rums, there's some real gems in there. Great barrel picks from these renowned IBs. Panama is now firmly on my rum map. The BBR is wonderfully smashable. And I'll be putting the Tamosi Tiba, today's winner, on my wishlist.

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2 comentarios

28 mar

Nice review Stuart! I'll have to keep and eye out for any of these Panamanians that may show up on my shores.

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Stuart Pearce
Stuart Pearce
28 mar
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Thanks 🙏

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