There’s a pantheon of “overproof” rums across the Caribbean, a fiery group of sought-after expressions like Grenada’s Rivers Rum and St Vincent and the Grenadine’s aptly, wonderfully named Very Strong Rum.
In recent years, the overproof category has seen a degree of premiumization, as more producers have begun releasing cask-strength expressions of their aged product, and, ultimately, more overproof rums.
More recently, distilleries like Guadeloupe’s Longueteau have launched ultra-premium overproof rums, most notably the lovely Genesis series.
So yes, there’s a level of demand for these rums, and it seems to be growing.
The natural question, of course, is when do you actually drink them?
Within the region, while some true believers drink them neat, there’s always some level of disagreement.
Very Strong Rum and its ilk can often be found with coke; the natural habitat of the high-proof white rhum agricole of the French Caribbean is always inside of a ti ‘punch.
These potent rums will turn an average cocktail into something far more interesting, adding personality, power and extremely pure punch.
(There’s of course another use – overproof rum as a bush remedy for aches and bugs, one that certainly seems compelling in the current age.)
The most recent addition to the Caribbean’s overproof portfolio comes from one of the region’s hottest rum brands: Puerto Rico’s Ron del Barrilito.
It’s called Ron Hacienda Santa Ana, and its named for the site of what remains the oldest rum company in Puerto Rico, one that has been finding increasing renown in recent years (and took home a pair of Double Golds at the 2020 Caribbean Rum Awards in St Barth).
Santa Ana, which calls itself a cask-strength rum, is bottled at 138 proof, or 69 degrees ABV.
While anything over 66 degrees usually gets the overproof label (although there’s naturally disagreement on that, too), what makes this rum, at this strength, unique, is that it’s not an unaged expression – it’s actually aged for two years in American white oak .
Either way, this rum is strong. And serious.
So what’s it like?
Santa Ana has an aroma of vanilla, almond and a hint of pure cane.
The flavor profile is marked by spice, citrus peel, oak, toasted baguette; brown sugar, cinnamon and creme brulee.
And while it’s unmistakably powerful, it’s also wonderful.
There’s an immense balance here, meaning the fire is always controlled, delivered smoothly.
This would like make a spectacular Pina colada.
But it’s also eminently sippable.
Because there’s something the uninitiated soon realize when they enter the rarefied realm of overproof rums: very strong is often accompanied by very good.
And this is definitely the latter.
Rum Journal Review:
Ron Santa Ana