Rum Review: Brugal 1888
Up for review is the Brugal 1888, the Ron Gran Reserva Familiar from The Dominican Republic. The 1888 moniker is drawn from the year the Brugal family entered the rum world.
I first tried this rum at the Ministry of Rum tasting event in Oakland this past September. The brand ambassador there took me through the entire Brugal line, and the 1888 of course was the final destination. I remember enjoying it at the time, but not being blown away. With Brugal making a big push to market the 1888 right now, however, I thought I’d give the 1888 another go and a proper review here at Inu a Kena.
The 1888 is a blend of Brugal’s Dominican rums aged between five and fourteen years. Twice distilled and twice aged, the final product has rested horizontally in charred oak and sherry casks. Coming in at about $50, the retail price of the 1888 is a bit pricey for a rum of its age.
The 1888 bottle is not particularly striking at first glance, but a closer inspection reveals a number of details that indicate a strong attention to detail. More upright than many of its competitors’ the bottle has glass ridges above the label that seem to suggest a pathway to the exquisitely machined metal and cork stopper. On the top of the stopper, the stately Brugal logo has been stamped proudly. The gold foil on the bottle’s neck shares the same cross-hatch pattern as the stopper. It’s as though a mechanical engineer designed the corking system here. Another difference with the bottle is the square bottom, which has about a half inch of thick clear glass that cradles the rum in its grasp. The label itself is fairly unassuming, however the fact that it’s screen printed directly onto the glass rather than affixed with a label foretells its quality. The color of this aged rum in the bottle is a rich mahogany.
In the snifter, the rich mahogany color is accented with bronze and copper, but what is immediately noticeable is the aroma. It’s completely unique and quite fruity. In addition to the usual oak and orange zest, this rum is exhibiting powerful pear notes with a hint of…what’s that? Pineapple!?! I’m intrigued.
A swirl of the snifter enhances the aromas and now I’m really starting to get excited. I set my snifter down in anticipation as the thin ring toward the top of glass slowly releases a host of thin legs that creep slowly back from whence they came.
The first sip seems to belie the fruit notes as a spice-filled kick bursts onto the front of my palate, bringing with it the caramel and vanilla I was expecting at the outset. The mouth feel is spicy and slick.
This is truly a complex rum–now I’m thinking I must have had palate overload the first time I tried it, because it’s quite lovely so far.
There’s a smoky character owing to the charred oak, and as I continue to sip, I pick up on some of the nuances of the spice notes, most notably cinnamon, allspice, and pepper. The aftertaste is a well-balanced conflation of spice and fruit with the tiniest hint of sweetness and a kick that demands respect.
As an experiment, I added an ice cube to the snifter about half-way through the tasting to great effect. The addition of the ice cube opened up the 1888 and played down the front-end spice a tad while enhancing the caramel and vanilla.
In summary, the Brugal 1888 is a unique rum that deserves serious consideration. Rather than imitate or move incrementally, Brugal has created a unique spirit that remains true to its more than 120 year tradition while boldly charting a new course in the premium rum world.
Now for the scores:
- Appearance: 1/1
- Nose: 2/2
- Mouth feel: 1/1
- Taste: 3/4
- Aftertaste: 2/2
- Total Score: 9/10