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Rum Review: Caña Brava

Caña Brava Rum Review

Cana Brava Rum

Caña Brava is the highly anticipated light rum from from the 86 Co.  (Simon Ford, Dushan Zaric, Jason Kosmos, Malte Barnekow, and Kris Roth). This is supposed to be a rum akin to the classic Cuban rums of old–perfect for classic cocktails. Let’s take a look  and see how the spirit does on its own.

The one liter bottle is quite tall—designed by bartenders for bartenders; this one is ergonomically perfect, allowing a secure pour from the bottle end or just below the shoulder. On the back side of the bottle are marks that indicate the volume remaining—quite a nice feature, especially for the on-premise folks. The label features an antique style font with a sequence of phrases that describe its journey to the glass.

Caña Brava hails from the Don Pancho’s Las Cabras distillery in Panama, where they use local molasses to make the aged rum from which this is blended. The three-year rum is blended with older rums, and then filtered. The high-proof rum is shipped to Charbay in Northern California where it’s proofed down from 94% to 43% and bottled.

In the glass, Caña Brava is not water white, but maintains a hint of straw yellow color from the oak barrels in which it was aged. A swirl in my tasting snifter produces an extremely thin ring atop the glass that yields numerous droplets that with time begin to descend.

The nose is mildly astringent, and the first aromas I detect are of molasses and grass mixed with dried fruit. Breathing deeply now I am getting dark cherry and a hint of orange. There’s also a briny quality that is evocative of the seashore—somewhat similar to a rhum agricole.

Granted, this is a mixing rum, but here we’re tasting it straight to explore its subtleties. The first sip is bright, but not ‘hot’; the mouthfeel is a little thinner than I imagined it would be, but it’s doing a good job of coating the palate nonetheless. The briny quality I noted above the glass is persistent, reminding me of the grass from whence it came. There is also a fair amount of sweetness, and now as I continue to taste, I recognize a dose of vanilla and black pepper followed by a trace of orange and dark cherry. Digging even deeper there is a hint of fig followed by a burst of fine cacao nibs. Stopping to evaluate the finish, my palate is now completely awash in the spirit, and I enjoy the lingering freshness of the grass notes combined with vanilla and cacao.

Caña Brava definitely delivers on the promise of a premium classic mixing rum. The light straw color hints at its complexity, and the flavors deliver far more than the typical “rum as vodka” light rum.

On to the scores:

  • Appearance: 1/1
  • Nose: 2/2
  • Mouth feel: 1/1
  • Taste: 3/4
  • Aftertaste: 2/2
  • Total Score: 9/10

Buy Cana Brava online

Have you had a chance to taste this rum? Please share your comments below!


6 Comments leave one →
  1. March 18, 2013 3:17 pm

    I just got this in at my place and I agree wholeheartedly with this review. Definitely spot and this is a delicious rum. Thanks Josh!

    • Josh Miller permalink*
      March 18, 2013 4:41 pm

      Thanks, Jason–Hope to visit you for a daiquiri before too long! Cheers

  2. March 20, 2013 10:21 am

    This sounds like a really solid rum. I’ll have to find it and do a review on it myself.

    • Josh Miller permalink*
      March 20, 2013 10:26 am

      Thanks for your comment, John. You won’t regret it. Will have to check out your site as well! Cheers

  3. November 2, 2014 3:56 pm

    Oh my. Yet another sourced rum from Don Pancho, who if nothing else looks the part. I think it wise to skip the usual hyperbolic marketing typical of new brands, and discuss the realities of this rum. First and foremost the rum is distilled to within an inch of its life, to very high and thin alcohol levels (the website claims 94% but I doubt that (vodka is 95%). Perhaps the low 90’s is more like it. This is done in name of economy, just like Canadian blended whiskey is largely based on CWS (near neutral spirits) with very little flavor in and of itself.

    This very thin rum product is accomplished by using five column stills, which can only be described as a continuous industrial process.

    So what to do? First this near neutral spirit is stored for 1-1/2 to 2 yrs in new oak – which is usually not done for good rums, but must be used in this case to at least add a little flavor in the form of some quick new wood extractives (usually vanillan and a bit of coconut). But not for too long or the spirit will pick up raw wood (ugh). So then they move the spirit to typical used ex-bourbon oak for another year or two. The result remains a very young spirit (3 years) with not much real rum taste. Thus the final attempt to induce flavor to what is really aged near vodka is accomplished by blending in a certain amount of good 6 year old aged rum to add enough actual rum flavors to make it minimally palatable or mixable. But then they have the problem of wood color and the remaining harshness of youth, so the rum is then triple filtered (carbon, standard, and chill filtered) . This will smooth the harsh edges and remove most of the color (leaving it straw colored), but unfortunately removes some flavor!

    Truly fine spirits are not filtered with either carbon or by chill filtering for that reason. Last I note that the Brava seems to selling at premium prices (for a near white mixer), in the low $30’s! That’s serious money for what is still a mixer. BTW, Mount Gay made a rum like this for some years, but at a much better price.

    My prediction: many promoters have tried to introduce a premium white without success (anyone remember Tommy Bahama), and I really don’t think there is much of a market for what seems to be little more than a tricked out column produced near white, when one can buy a good four year old Flor de Cana White for less than half the price.

    Speaking of Charbay, they DO make a truly exceptional white rum that is made by hand using an all copper pot still, distilled to much lower and tastier levels, and for less money. Another excellent alternative choice would be Sammy Hagar’s white, which is also exceptional, and again at a lower price.

    I know Fernandez’ company has some truly old and well aged product, but this one isn’t one of them. Too bad.


  1. New Rum Review: Caña Brava | Inu a Kena

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