One of the best aspects of writing about travel and booze is that I’m constantly discovering new drinks and spirits. Chartreuse? Delicious. Kentucky Colonel? More, por favor! Sometimes, however, I come across these gems completely by accident. Case in point: Diplomático Rum.
While sipping a lavender negroni at Dante during Negroni Week, I started chatting with the women next to me at the bar. (You know you’re gonna become fast friends if you’re bonding over a negroni.) As we discussed our favorite spirits — mine being bourbon, of course — I realized that I don’t drink rum very often.
Enter Shanika, my rum fairy godmother. When she described the Diplomático rum she loved, I couldn’t help but be intrigued. Was this the rum that would finally convert me into a rum fan?
She offered to send us a bottle of Diplomático Reserva Exclusiva rum in exchange for an honest, no holds-barred review of our experience. What follows is the true account of our rum
taste test party cocktail education.
But First: What is Diplomático Reserva Exclusiva?
Diplomático — or Rum Diplomático, I should say — is a brand of rum from Venezuela that’s produced by Destilerías Unidas S.A. (D.U.S.A.). The distillery, which is located at the foot of the Andes mountains, has been producing high quality spirits since 1959.
The bearded gentleman whose face features prominently on the bottle is Don Juan Nieto Melendez. Don Juancho, who is said to have lived in the 19th century, really loved rum and really loved travel. In fact, the guy had such an exhaustive liquor collection from his travels (remind you of anyone, eh?) that it became known as “The Ambassador’s Reserves” among his friends. His dedication, chivalry, and personality ultimately inspired the creation of Diplomático.
Diplomático’s rums are made from sugar cane, molasses, and honeys, which are fermented with the distillery’s own strain of yeast. They produce blends of dark and light rums aged from two to twelve years.
Diplomático Reserva Exclusiva (suggested retail price $40), their flagship rum, is a complex sipping rum that is aged in small oak casks for up to twelve years. Since it received a Double Gold Medal from the San Francisco World Spirits Competition in 2016, we had high hopes that this award-winning rum would be a home run for us, too.
The Ultimate Diplomático Rum Taste Test
Lest you think I adore every spirit I imbibe, I decided to bring together a very scientific focus group — Mr. Five O’Clock, Miss Scarlet, Purple Ivy, and Miss Alphabet — to join me in trying some drinks made with Diplomático Rum.
I can wax poetic about how amazing some spirit or cocktail is, but I figured it’s more valuable to have some real talk from real people about what the rum actually tastes like.
We tried five different iterations of the rum and lived to tell the tale. Without further ado, behold the ultimate Diplomático Rum taste test!
Drink #1: Diplomático Reserva Exclusiva Rum (alone)
Because it’s described as a “sipping rum,” naturally we decided to taste the rum by itself first.
Nearly all of us agreed that it tasted smooth and was quite sippable. Mr. Five O’Clock, ever the super taster, said that the nose was “sweet with caramel and vanilla,” while the rum’s taste evoked flavors of vanilla, toffee, and a hint of chocolate.
Turns out we weren’t completely off the mark. When we glanced at the actual tasting notes, the nose is described as “notes of maple syrup, orange peel, brown sugar, and licorice,” while “the palate evokes sweet toffee fudge.”
Miss Scarlet noted that the rum “smells somewhat sweet,” but appreciated that she could actually sip on the rum alone. “Normally, when I drink straight whiskey, it burns,” she said. “This rum doesn’t burn me, though – I can actually drink it straight. I like it, and I would sip this.”
Miss Alphabet said that the rum smelled “tropical” to her and reminded her of her recent trips to the Caribbean (Cuba and the Dominican Republic, in particular). Only Purple Ivy felt that the rum was too strong for her tastes, but countered this by admitting she typically prefers cocktails to drinking something neat.
Drink #2: Diplomático ‘N Stormy
For our first cocktail of the night, we wanted to start with something light and refreshing. (We’re in the ridiculous swamp of humidity that is known as New York City Summertime, after all.) The Dark ‘N Stormy is second only to the Sazerac in my list of favorite cocktails, so we decided to start there.
Let’s get this out of the way: YES, I know that you can only legally call it a Dark ‘N Stormy if it’s made with Gosling’s Black Seal Rum. I’m not a dingbat — I have two bottles of the stuff in our liquor cabinet at home.
But hey, why not see what happens when you use Diplomático Reserva Exclusiva? It’s a “scientific” experiment, right? To that end, this is the recipe we used:
“I Don’t Wanna Get Sued So Here’s A Good Rum Drink” Recipe
2 oz Diplomático Reserva Exclusiva
3 oz ginger beer
1/2 oz fresh lime juice
Directions: Pour lime juice into a glass with ice cubes, then add ginger beer. Add rum to create layered effect. Stir if desired and garnish with a lime.
We tried the drink before and after mixing the two layers (rum on top and ginger beer on the bottom) together. Miss Alphabet preferred the drink when it was mixed. “I think this drink would be good for my stomach — ginger makes me feel healthy,” she joked.
Miss Scarlet, on the other hand, liked the drink better before mixing. She said the cocktail smelled “beachy” and pointed out that the ginger beer you use makes a difference in this drink. We used Belvoir ginger beer, which has an intense, spicy ginger flavor (and wasn’t Purple Ivy’s cup of tea).
Mr. Five O’Clock liked the Reserva Exclusiva in this drink better than other rums. “The vanilla pairs well with the ginger and the lime,” he said. “It’s not as visually striking as a darker rum like Gosling’s, but it tastes amazing in this drink.”
Drink #3: Sunset in Gowanus
For our third round, we used a modified version of the “Sunset in Gowanus” cocktail, which was created by Alex Day in 2009 at Death & Company. For those of you playing along at home, Gowanus is a neighborhood in Brooklyn that’s home to an… er… questionable canal.
Day’s original recipe, which can be found in the Death & Co cocktail book, calls for Santa Teresa 1796 rum. We used the following:
2 oz Diplomático Reserva Exclusiva
1/4 oz Laird’s Bonded Apple Brandy
1/4 oz Yellow Chartreuse
3/4 oz Lime Juice
1/2 oz Maple Syrup
Directions: Shake all the ingredients with ice. Strain into coupe glass. (Note that there is no garnish.)
Miss Alphabet: Oh, wow. It smells like apple cider.
Purple Ivy: The chartreuse is a little strong for me. I could use a really big ice cube in a square or a circle or a cylinder – wait, I mean a sphere. A sphere?
At this point, Mr. Five O’Clock swoops in with a spherical ice ball and adds it to her drink, because that’s just another day at the Five O’Clock Ranch.
Purple Ivy (squealing with delight): Ooohhh! Ask and you shall receive. This drink needs an ice sphere! I do think it’s better when it’s super chilled.
Miss Scarlet: I could see that, because it’s a thick drink.
Miss Alphabet: Yeah. Oooh, I like it now — it tastes different with the ice ball.
Purple Ivy: This is EVERYTHING with the ice ball. The ice ball saved the freaking day.
Miss Scarlet: I get a little bit of the vanilla in the rum here, but more of the apple brandy and the chartreuse. To me, it’s like apple pie, which I like…
Mr. Five O’Clock: The chartreuse really comes through for me, too. The rum tastes right in the drink.
Overall, this cocktail was well balanced, and the rum mixed perfectly with the other flavors.
Drink #4: Puerto Rican Racer
For the next drink, we made a modified version of the “Puerto Rican Racer” cocktail, which was created at Death & Company. We used the following:
2 oz Diplomático Reserva Exclusiva
1/2 oz Laird’s Bonded Apple Brandy
1/2 oz Yellow Chartreuse
1 teaspoon Grenadine
1 dash Peychaud’s Bitters
Directions: Stir all the ingredients over ice. Strain into double rocks glass over a large ice cube. (Note that there is no garnish.)
All five of us liked the smell of the drink, but noted that it was much boozier than the previous cocktail. Miss Scarlet claimed the cocktail reminded her of a “cherry lollipop where the stick is… a loop” (which upon further research is actually a real thing).
Purple Ivy pointed out that this drink was more herbal compared to the “Sunset in Gowanus,” which makes sense as this cocktail uses more chartreuse. If you like boozier cocktails, the “Puerto Rican Racer” may be up your alley.
Drink #5: Bee’s Kiss
Our final cocktail of the night was the Bee’s Kiss, which consisted of the following:
1 3/4 oz Diplomático Reserva Exclusiva
1 oz Heavy Cream
2 teaspoons of honey
Directions: Place all ingredients except for nutmeg into a cocktail shaker with ice and shake vigorously. Strain into a coupe glass and sprinkle with fresh nutmeg.
The Bee’s Kiss was alternatively described by the group as “fancy eggnog” and “the perfect melted ice cream” in the first few minutes of consumption. While there isn’t a specific rum that you have to use for this cocktail — we’ve made it in the past with regular old Bacardi — Mr. Five O’Clock and I agreed that the rum worked really well with the cream. The Reserva Exclusiva was more complex and restrained in the drink, as opposed to being cloyingly sweet and overpowering.
In a moment of comic relief, Miss Alphabet proceed to show us her recent bee sting and declared, “This cocktail makes me forget about my bee sting! What a great drink!” If nothing else, I’m glad that a Diplomático cocktail could provide some respite for her.
Overall, the consensus was that we liked the rum the best when just sipping it by itself. The rum can truly stand on its own, and that’s probably the way it should be enjoyed. However, the group tended to be in favor of Drinks #2 and #5 (Dark ‘n’ Stormy and Bee’s Kiss, respectively) when using the rum in a cocktail. Mr. Five O’Clock and I loved Drink #3 (Sunset in Gowanus) and plan to make it again soon.
Everyone agreed that they would buy Diplomático Reserva Exclusiva. In fact, Miss Scarlet and Miss Alphabet declared that they wanted to drink it while “reclining in a hammock on a beach. Like some hammock island with a 360 view and a shit ton of fruit and people fanning me. And there’s plenty of spherical ice cubes for my drink.”
So while we may not have been our most eloquent selves at the end of the night, one thing was certain: we had finally found a rum that we all liked. Congratulations, Diplomático: you have five new rum fans on your hands.
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Thanks to Shanika, Colangelo & Partners, and Diplomático for furthering my rum education with a complementary bottle of Diplomático Reserva Exclusiva rum. As always, all opinions are mine. Not even a delicious bottle of rum can change that.
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