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Rum Review: Tiburon

Tiburón Rum Review

Tiburon Rum

Wouldn’t it be great if you could bottle your favorite vacation and take it with you when you left? I’m sure we’ve all felt that way, but Tiburón Rum founder Basil DeStefano actually found a way to do it. After a few scuba trips through the Caribbean nation of Belize, Basil felt he had found the perfect rum, but it wasn’t available back in Chicago where he lived. So he contacted the folks that made it, and the next thing he knew he was in the rum business.

Tiburón is sourced from Belize’s Travellers Liquors, which was founded as a rum bar in 1953 by Jaime Omario Perdomo. The name was apt he thought, given the majority of his guests were traveling in or out of the city. Like most rum bars of the day, he made his own rum blend, but when good rum became difficult to procure, he decided to move up the supply chain and build his own distillery in Belmopan. Today, Travellers is still a family owned company, selling rum throughout Belize and around the world.

Prior to the introduction of Tiburón (which means Shark in Spanish) the only Travellers rum widely available here in the states was “One Barrel”—a venerable offering, but one definitely meant for mixing. Having tasted the various aged rums available in Belize, Basil knew Travellers had more to offer to the U.S. market, so he endeavored to create an aged rum blend that could be equally at home in a mixed drink and a snifter. Let’s take a look and see if he’s succeeded.

Tiburón is a molasses-based rum that is column-distilled and aged in used Bourbon barrels for a period of time before being re-blended and re-casked under the direction of the Master Blender. The final product is a blend of rums from four to eight years old. Under U.S. law, it can therefore claim a 4-year age.

The Tiburón bottle is eye-catching: tall and straight-shouldered, the negative shark cutout on the front of the bottle pops out as if floating. The neck allows for a three finger grasp, and the stopper is a synthetic cork topped with a plastic cap. Bottled at 40%, Tiburon rum retails for $35 (my bottle was provided at no charge for review purposes).

In the glass, Tiburón presents as a deep straw color with golden highlights. A swirl of the glass produces a razor thin ring from which a host of droplets fall at a medium pace.

As I move in for a nosing, I’m met with a host of aromas evocative of a busy bakery: vanilla, orange marmalade, molasses, caramel, toffee, and a bit of freshly baked bread. There is also a subtle undercurrent of smoke lying just below the baked goods. On the second pass, a fruit basket has been added on top, bearing notes of kiwi and ripe banana.

As the rum washes over the palate, the smoke note is more in the forefront, but it blends well with the oaky tannins which coat the tongue and the back of the throat. Just on top of the smoke and oak are the bakery items: caramel, vanilla, and a touch of molasses. Subsequent sips reveal the banana and a dry, dusty character combined with a hint of black pepper and a suggestion of dark, ripe fruit. The medium long finish is dry and complex with the dusty black pepper note carrying the day.

Not having much experience with Belizean rums, I wasn’t sure what to expect from Tiburón, but I must say that I was pleasantly surprised by it. Dry and complex, Tiburón is certainly good enough to drink on its own, but I really can’t wait to play around with it in the bar—a rum like this will definitely hold its own in cocktails.

On to the scores:

  • Appearance: 1/1
  • Nose: 2/2
  • Mouth feel: 1/1
  • Taste: 3.5/4
  • Aftertaste: 1.5/2
  • Total Score: 9/10

Buy Tiburón Rum online

Have you tried Tiburón rum? Please share your thoughts below.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. March 18, 2015 10:49 am

    Having never had this particular piece of marketing, I can only comment from afar, but I am very familiar with the Traveller’s rums, which frankly not only seemed altered, but are as the distiller once mentioned in an obscure Caribbean e-newspaper interview.

    In the experience of many of us here at the Project, when a label misrepresents a rum, there’s usually something to misrepresent – you know, where there’s smoke (pun intended).

    In reading your interview Josh (and thanks for posting it), I find a number of descriptors that don’t line up with a rum that claims four years (realizing as always that no age statements can really be trusted (exceptions in Barbados, Seales, Jamaica, Barbancourt and a few others). Smoke is one and the dark, ripe fruit being another. Caramel and toffee can indicate added sugar, which you attribute to tannins (which do not coat, quite the opposite) but is more likely due to smoothing sugar.

    After noting these, by pure chance I looked at the label which claims “Small Batch Premium Crafted”?! Yet your copy indicated this is produced by continuous-column stills (which most typically indicates a thin, rather tasteless high alcohol distillate). Such column product are commonly made palatable via unlabeled additives (a fair guess, since Travellers has admitted same, see above). The distillers site also tries to make much out of “second maturation in American Bourbon barrels” (like almost all rum), but with no real details about either the distillation or aging protocols. A coomon practice for all blenders, quality or not.

    Josh, to your credit you provide all the information we need: “Tiburón is a molasses-based rum that is column-distilled and aged in used Bourbon barrels”, then recasked (ostensibly for a short marrying period. Not exactly earth shattering. This appears to be yet another unknown rebottle who has bought some bulk, blended it, created a marketing story and voila!

    Is this simply just another continuous process column-stilled “small batch” premium product? Survey sez – probably, but we’ll look for it…


  1. New Rum Review: Tiburón | Inu a Kena

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