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Rum Review: Cartavio

Rum Review: Cartavio Silver, Black, Selecto 5, 12 Solera, and XO

When you think of Peruvian spirits, you’re probably more likely to think of Pisco than rum, but the tasty lineup from Ron Cartavio just might make you reshuffle your priorities.

The rum distillery was founded in 1929, and has gone through some big changes in its history, being nationalized in 1968 and privatized in the mid 1990’s. With privatization came a revitalization, and today the facility is state-of-the-art. The vertically-integrated company grows its own sugar cane, and refines its own sugar. The rum is produced using both vacuum-assisted column stills and a John Dore pot still. The rums are aged in a combination of American, Slovenian, Spanish, and Limousin oak.

Ron Cartavio was recently reintroduced to the U.S. market by their stateside distributor, Ekeko Wine & Spirits. I met Ekeko CEO Jim Driscoll at the San Francisco Rum Fest, and was really impressed with the entire Cartavio lineup. He subsequently sent samples for review, so let’s take another look!

Ron Cartavio US Lineup


Ron Cartavio Silver

Ron Cartavio Silver

Age: 2 years (filtered)

ABV: 40%

Price: $13

Closure: Screw cap

Color: Perfectly clear

Nose: butter cream, vanilla, loads of fresh fruit: banana, pineapple, ruby red grapefruit, hint of pepper

Flavor: Enters with a kick of black pepper and cinnamon that is soon attenuated by the soft, round butter cream and vanilla. Subsequent sips bring more of the same. As the medium length finish fades, there is a hint of bitterness combined with the grapefruit and its zest.

Optimal use: A very drinkable white rum that plays well in Daiquiri form as well as with aromatized wines.


Ron Cartavio Black

Ron Cartavio Black

Age: 2 years

ABV: 40%

Price: $15

Closure: Screw cap

Color: Copper bronze

Nose: Leads with lemon zest and cardamom followed by butter cream and vanilla, then a bit of cocoa and pepper.

Flavors: Enters with a burst of fruit flavor: banana, pineapple, grapefruit and grapes, followed by a dusty, tannic bitterness with hints of oak. Subsequent sips provide a bit of cinnamon along with black pepper, caramel and treacle.

Optimal use: A great base rum for a Cuba Libre, tiki drinks, and other tropical libations


Ron Cartavio Selecto 5

Ron Cartavio Selecto 5

Age: 5 years

ABV: 40%

Price: $20

Closure: Screw cap with dribble spout

Color: Mahogany bronze with golden highlights

Nose: Fair astringency that dies down after a minute. The nose is rounder than the black, leading with butter cream and toffee, followed by grapefruit zest and black pepper.

Flavor: The rum enters with a load of oak, tannins, and raisins. Subsequent sips provide significant rancio and plum, followed by grapefruit zest, banana and pineapple. Once attuned to the spirit, the spice makes itself known in the form of cinnamon and white pepper. The rum gets a hint of sweetness before drying out in the long finish that decays gracefully.

Optimal use: Certainly drinkable on its own, this one makes a darn fine Palmetto or Rum Old Fashioned,

Ron Cartavio Solera 12

Ron Cartavio 12 Solera

Age: Solera system, no rum younger than 12 years in the blend

ABV: 40%

Price: $32

Closure: Synthetic cork

Color: Mahogany and bronze

Nose: Instant imagery of a rum aging warehouse: ethanol and wet oak. Up next is caramel and dark fruit followed by treacle and white pepper.

Flavors: Delightful entry with an incredible balance of sharp and round flavors supported by a floral note. In particular there is cinnamon, plum, white pepper and raisins along with candied pecans and a hint of rose water. There is a slight sweetness that is balanced by the spice, and as the long finish plays out, the entire mélange fades away almost equally. Delightful.

Optimal use: This delightful rum should be sipped on its own.

Ron Cartavio XO

Ron Cartavio XO

Age: Solera, no rum younger than 18 years in the blend

ABV: 40%

Price: $65

Closure: Wood-topped synthetic cork

Color: Deep mahogany and bronze

Nose: Caramel, toffee, cocoa and coffee. Raisins, oak, plum and grapefruit.

Flavors: Sweet entry with honey and candied pecans, followed by raisins, plum, and oak. The sweet imagery continues with bananas Foster, chocolate croissant, and orange marmalade. Pushing through sugar we can find some grapefruit zest and cardamom, followed by nutmeg and cinnamon. The long, sweet finish is dominated by the caramel and toffee, and after a time, one can detect a bit of leather and tobacco.

Optimal use: A great digestivo, and an even better nightcap.


Ron Cartavio: what a pleasant surprise. Citrus and spice weave through the entire line, each expression offering something a little different for just the right situation. You could nearly design an entire bar program around these five rums. The silver is delicious, but the Solera 12 is undoubtedly the most interesting, offering a fantastically well-balanced blend of intriguing flavors with no added sugar. Certainly the XO will certainly be a hit with those who like the sweeter rums; I encourage you to try them all.

Special thanks to my friend Matt Pietrek of the Cocktail Wonk blog, from whom I borrowed various factual and historical details. Read his excellent Cartavio article here.


Buy Ron Cartavio Online


3 Comments leave one →
  1. bcarney permalink
    April 30, 2017 2:10 pm

    I had the opportunity to try the Solera 12 and the XO at the 2017 Miami Rum Fest – and I have to echo your “pleasant surprise” comment. I really enjoyed them.


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