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Rum Review: Ron Viejo de Caldas Three (3) Year Rum

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How do you rate Ron Viejo de Caldas 3 Year (five is best)?
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Capn Jimbo
Rum Evangelisti and Compleat Idiot

Joined: 11 Dec 2006
Posts: 3496
Location: Paradise: Fort Lauderdale of course...

PostPosted: Sat Jan 23, 2010 9:21 am    Post subject: Rum Review: Ron Viejo de Caldas Three (3) Year Rum Reply with quote

Ron Viejo de Caldas Three (3) Year Rum: "A Cuban Cane Juice Rum!"

I really hope you're sitting down 'cause this one is gonna open your skin pores. But first a little history. Way back when (say a couple years ago, lol) I quickly became aware that the main source of information about rum was seemingly dominated by a handful of self-serving "rum fest" promoters.

These included the infamous Preacher, the Badassitor of Rum, the Queen of Rum and most recently the Burr clan. These entities engage in internecine warfare, with each hoping to prevail as "the source" of all things rum. Accordingly they work to get embedded with the rum producers and distributors to promote what at the Preacher wants to call "the noble spirit". The relationship of producer and promoter is downright incestuous and can be reduced to a simple phrase:

"It's all good".

None of these entities has anything really negative to say. The producers need the promoters to obtain faux awards at the faux "competitions". Keep in mind that the producers pay dearly to "compete". The promoters respond in kind by (a) not publishing the "competitors" in any given category, (b) not publishing individual scores or notes and (c) publishing only the "winners".

It's all bullshit.

Example: I once learned that the "gold medal" winner one of the "competition" categories was the only entrant. Bullshit. I have seen admitedly flavored rums entered into, and receiving awards in non-flavored categories.

More bullshit.

It's all about selling "it's all good" rum. The Preacher is perhaps the worst offender. Because he also reps rum he uses his website to favor his own lines (cane juice rums from Martinique) over worthy competitors (like Barbancourt) by attempting to redefine cane juice rum (or rhum agricole in French) as only those meeting the local AOC standards. How convenient.

Worse yet he misrepresents cachaca as not qualifying as a cane juice rum. He excludes Barbancourt as "Brown rum distilled from fermented sugar cane juice, syrup and/or molasses depending on availability". He admits that 10 Cane is made from "fresh cane juice" but refuses to call it an agricole. Only his AOC cane juice rums get that honor. Charbay's cane juice rum is excluded based on this families use of sugar cane syrup (even though the Preacher's recommended AOC St. James also uses some syrup).

The worst misrepresentations are for Montecristo and now for Ron Viejo de Caldas - both, he insists are made "from molasses". Wrong. Montecristo is made from cane juice, but perhaps I can forgive the Prophet due to its sophisticated, Barbancourt-like profile.

Ron Viejo de Caldas is another matter.

This is a lower shelf rum, widely available here for around a measly $10 or so. And the label reads "made from cane molasses". So our dear promoting and pandering Preacher obediantly describes Ron Viejo thusly, and even entered it in his competitions where it "won" not one, but two silver "medals", one of which was for "aged (molasses) rum". There's only one problem.

Ron Viejo - regardless of the label - is not, I repeat NOT, a molasses rum. And if there is anyone who should be able to distinguish a molasses from a cane juice rum, it's the Preacher and self-appointed spokeman for AOC agricoles.

How do know that Ron Viejo is a cane juice rum? Read the reviews...

Sue Sea:


As time has passed so have I. Like many new rum drinkers I was first attracted to the sweeter, easier to drink rums. In time I began to appreciate more and more the really pure rums, those without additives, like Seales 10 or Doorly's XO. The Cuban style rums were particularly appealing to me for their smoothness and peppery finishes. I found the AOC cane juice rums to be almost medicinal, although I came to love Barbancourt's more sophisticated cane juice rums.

Then Jim brought home what appeared to be a really cheap bottle of rum, the Ron Viejo de Caldas 3 Year. It came in a classic but really ordinary bottle with an equally simple deep gold label. To be honest it looked like a lower shelf rum. So be it, we taste them all, and as always Jim tells me nothing about the rum.

We both had the same first impression. Cane. And with a bit of lemon and a sauerkraut sourness which disappears with airing. The early palate was consistent and opened dry with almond, then developed with a slight molasses taste and a growing white peppery heat. The sock-it-to-me finish was astringent and hot! Ron Viejo left me with a tart, grapefruit aftertaste with an itty bitty note of licorice - bordering on cigar box.

We decided this unique rum was a cane juice rum with a Cuban style (the peppery finish and smoothnes). Like a few other rums I see Ron Viejo de Caldas as a great rum to accompany hordeurves or Asian food, like a Sake. What a pleasant surprise!


It is important to note that I poured this rum under the impression it was indeed "distilled from cane molasses" as per the Preacher and of course, by the label. And I will tell you that there are indeed a few molasses rums that present a bit - but only a bit - of cane.

Not Ron Viejo de Caldas 3 Year.

My first impression: vegetal cane! Over spice. And yes, with that bit of sauerkraut, and a touch of black licorice. The taste was entirely consistent and led to a very astringent leathery hot, black pepper finish (bordering on white pepper).

Bottom line: after much self doubt and exploration we finally came to the inescapable conclusion this had to be a cane juice rum, Preacher Ed and the label be damned. The first was easy, the second caused me pause. Have we lost our marbles, we thought? After all our tasting, all our reviews how could we possibly be so wrong?

But we agreed. Ron Viejo simply must either be a cane juice rum, or a molasses rum unlike anything we'd ever tasted.

Accordingly I did the only thing I could think of - which was to email Caldas directly and ask why their "distilled from molasses" rum tasted so much like a cane juice rum. Despite the fact that the officer who responded spoke limited English, he sent me a thorough attachment describing their process. It said:

Made from concentrated cane juice, with the richness of all its nutrients (Unexposed to any previous extraction process customary in the processing of sugar.) Its pure juice enters fermentaiton and retains its delightful aromas throughout the carefully monitored distilation process. Delivering a spirit that is well balanced in aromas and flavors, the optimum qualities that produce a super premium aged rum of outstanding quality.

Aged in new white oak barrels -made in Colombia exclusively for the rum aging process- by expert artisans who follow a strict 80 year old tradition to ensure that the rum matures richly and perfectly. These barrels provide the ideal conditions to bring about an almost creamy taste -with hints of almond, vanilla, and toffee- in addiiton to the traditional delicate fruity flavors that occur as reusult of slow aging.

With a taste that conveys the chracter of its remarkable tradition. Ron Viejo de Caldas was created in 1928 by Don Ramon Badia, a Catalonian who made Cuba his home, and went on to become a legendary Master Blender.

I was in shock. Our tasting and review were redeemed! We'd gone against the Preacher and the label, trusted our senses and experience. And damn it, we were right! Our sincere doubts turned into new and improved confidence. We really did know our stuff.

A surprise?

Maybe not. If this proves anything, it's these:

1. You simply cannot trust the mutual butt kissing marriage of the distributors and promoters. Lost in their rum drinking/selling, "it's all good" haze these bozos really don't know, don't care if a rum is secretly flavored or not, is or is not cane juice, or whether the "awards" were earned or not - as long as it sells and promoter sells tickets. If there was ever a rum the Prophet should have known was a cane juice, Ron Viejo is it. That he actually gave it an "award" in a molasses category is simply...


2. Trust yourself and your own tastes. Forget what we, or any other reviewers say. But know this: we are honest and we say what we think. Our reviews are accessible and pretty reliable. We are not for sale. And we care about you.

Rating (10 is best): 7.

Note: at $10, this lower shelf cane juice rum is a "best buy", especially considering the overpriced AOC versions. Compare to Barbancourt Three Star or St. James Ambre.

Go to Save Caribbean Rum Petition!

Last edited by Capn Jimbo on Tue Jul 20, 2010 1:58 pm; edited 1 time in total
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Capn Jimbo
Rum Evangelisti and Compleat Idiot

Joined: 11 Dec 2006
Posts: 3496
Location: Paradise: Fort Lauderdale of course...

PostPosted: Sat Jan 23, 2010 9:58 am    Post subject: A Cane Juice Comparison Reply with quote

After reviewing the remarkable Ron Viejo de Caldas it was almost inevitable that we pulled out our Barbancourt Three Star and Saint James Rhum Ambre for comparison. In doing so it quickly became apparent that the Ron Viejo 3 Year was a cane juice rum. And it goes without saying that it is always valuable to compare a new rum with your reference standard (in our case, Barbancourt).

Saint James Ambre (3 year):

St. James presents with a stronger cane, and a deep, deep background of tar. The taste includes cinammon and cherry and leads to a heavy, hot cinnamon and clove finish and black cherry aftertaste.

Barbancourt Three Star (4 year):

The Barbancourt cane juice rum was clearly superior, and a lot smoother, extremely well balanced. It's aroma is of a lighter cane over a background of sweet vanilla. The palate adds notes of cinnamon and clove, with a nicely peppery astringent finish.

The additional year in more effective French oak shows in terms of smoothness and additional flavor and complexity.

Summary: all in all, and especially at its bargain price the Ron Viejo shows very well and certainly belongs in this group. At $10 it belongs on your shelf; still it is hard not to justify adding the Barbancourt for another $6 (at $16). The St. James Products are relatively expensive (from $30 to $50) but a bottle of the Ambre should quickly disavow you of the claims of AOC quality (with the exception of Clement VSOP).


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PostPosted: Tue Oct 04, 2011 9:07 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I just wish this rum had a better plastic cap on it, you cannot tighten it much at all before it slips and I fear losing some to evaporation. I now wish I had saved my last empty pusser's bottle and transferred this to it.
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