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  • Writer's pictureStuart Pearce

Paranubes Rum - Full lineup review

Updated: Mar 28, 2023

Oaxaca [pronounced wa-haka] - a rugged, mountainous, isolated state in the deep south of Mexico. Best known for it's indigenous people who have inhabited the region for some 13 thousand years. The 16 officially recognised cultures in Oaxaca have survived better than most others in Mexico due to the state's rugged and isolating terrain.

Oaxaca encompasses a convergence of several mountain ranges, many of which fall abruptly to Pacific ocean. It's in one of the deep tropical valleys of these mountain ranges that we find Jose Luis, the producer of this rum (or aguardiente de caña as it's known locally).

Jose Luis’ family has been making aguardiente for at least 3 generations, with his father and grandfather teaching him the trade at a very young age.

The lush, cool, tropical valley sides are ideal for growing coffee, fruit and (of course) sugarcane. Jose Luis grows four different types of cane on his 14 hectares. It's grown organically and harvested annually. One hectare provides enough cane to produce about 2,500 liters per year. When the cane is mature and ready for harvest it is cut & cleaned in the field, and carried to the road by donkey. The cane is then driven to the trapiche (mill), crushed by a mechanical press and the pulp filtered out, leaving 100% pure cane juice.

Excitingly (for rum nerds) the fresh cane juice is long fermented for 48 hours in pine vats. In a process not dissimilar to the making of sourdough, the vat is never completely emptied with half being removed for distilling, and the other half left and topped up with more fresh juice to continue fermenting.

Every new fermentation cycle Jose adds some mesquite bark to provide natural yeast that will kick start the fermentation! If there's no mesquite trees around, apparently a pineapple works just fine :-)

Truly timeless, artisanal production. A maximum of 85 litres being produced per day.

I found much of the above detail, and the photos, on Paranubes' excellent website (here). Give it a visit for lots more great background on the rums and the distillery.

Four expressions from Paranubes, nosed first, then tasted. I've opted to go for the unaged pair first, then the aged pair. With the very slightly lower abv leading each pair. Assisted today by the rumbunctious Buena Vista Social Club.

Paranubes Caña Morada, unaged, 53.4%

A limited release single-varietal rum produced from the Morada cane. Crystal clear.

Nose: What a treat. I love a big, bold, fresh and unique rum - Paranubes is perfect example of this. Their distinct style is immediately apparent - dry, saline, savoury - fully of olives, pine and tomatoes. Even a touch of beef - like the small of freshly made biltong. This single variety Morada is bigger on the salty tomato juice and lighter on the pine (which can be a bit too intense on the standard release). The closest rum I suggest as a comparison is the excellent unaged O Reizinho from Madeira, although that's a bit more fruity, grassy & tangy.

Mouth: Green, spicy, salty then sweet, a gentle, rounded rollercoaster of flavour. The occasional sweet notes balance things well. Olivey brine, a little pepper, a bunch of grassy cane and then a sparkle of sweet resin. Almost sweet & sour meat.

Finish lets it down with a strong, slightly unpleasant bitterness. Not sure you'd want to drink that much. Certainly not a rum you'll drink every day, but a really cool and unique segment on the rainbow rum spectrum. [80pts]

Paranubes Aguardiente de caña, unaged, 54%

The regular unaged rum (or aguardiente de caña) released by the distillery.

Nose: Pine forest. Yep, a whole pine forest, that you could get lost in. And then a bunch of fresh cane. Salty cane. And sweet beef tomatoes. Really fun, enticing, vegetal and beautifully unique. You can't avoid thinking there's an edge of the more famous Mexican spirit - mezcal.

On the nose, I marginally prefer the single cane Morada.

Mouth: A big blast of flavour on this. More fruit than on the nose. Even some exotic tropical fruit. The salty pine is strong but it works. Actually quite moorish. A weird yet tasty rum, absolutely packed with flavour. One that, in contrast to the Morada, I can see myself going back to relatively often.

A really lovely thick texture, and a long savoury finish. Hints of Clairin. A whiff of smoke. Outstandingly honest rum, close your eyes and you're in the tropical valleys of Oaxaca. [85pts]

Paranubes añejo, 18 months, 53.8%

Aged for 18 months in American oak barrels, then bottled without reduction.

Considerably darker than it's 'European' sister. A pleasing mid amber colour.

Nose: The creamy, vanilla oak initially dominates on the nose. A good splash of spice & tannin bringing things into focus. Surprisingly rich. A fat caramel, liquorice nose. Reminds me of a pickleback - that strange but oddly tasty blend of bourbon and brine. In time the vegetal, salty pine & tomato {Paranubes signature} shows a little, but always with a backdrop of spicy caramel bourbon.

Mouth: A well aged (surprising for just 18 months), big sweet rounded cane juice rum. Salted caramel. Creamy coffee milk chocolates.

The wild mezcal and vibrant untamed flavours from the unaged rum have been, well... tamed. Which is a shame, but the fat, thick, rounded sweet rum we have now is outstanding. Lot's of bourbon influence, but keeps a good dose of fresh funky cane juice. A little grain flavour creeping in from the side. Reminds me of one of the single cask Takamaka I tried recently (here) - can't remember which but I'll obviously be doing some more tasting later, in the name of science. Definitely recommend this. [87pts]

Paranubes añejo, 18 months, 54.8%

Aged for 18 months in French oak barrels, then bottled without reduction.

A light and dull straw colour.

Nose: Ooof, what happened there. A completely different rum. Much more aggressive alcohol.

An initial nose of mid fermented fruit. Then the signature brine & pine. The tighter French oak has produce a completely different rum. More tannic, more perfumed, much drier. And not one that's working for me on the nose. Some creamy spice but overall it's a heady concoction of salted, gone off fruit, with a little brandy cream. And added brut-detergent. If something in your fridge smells like this, you throw it away. Oh well, lets try it :-)

Mouth: Menthol, antiseptic, spicy summer fruit compote. Lots of bitter nuts. Maybe baked pecans, and young buttery wood. Too many whisky notes for me. The pine is there but it's turned into a chamomile and antiseptic taste. Plasters.

Interesting, clearly well made, probably delicious to some, but not for me [77pts]

Conclusion - Exciting and yet also slightly weird rums. Most certainly not going to be for everyone. You could definitely call some of these challenging. A real treat for me!

For anyone exploring rum, Oaxaca is without doubt a must try genre.

The standard unaged and the American oak aged (presumably ex-bourbon) are stand out winners. Try them! Cheers :-)

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