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Don Q Gran Reserva Anejo Rum Review

Puerto Rico has a long rum heritage that has led to international fame, but if you want to sip instead of mix, tip your glass with some Don Q Gran Reserva Añejo XO aged rum.

Don Q rum from Puerto Rico

We normally don’t cover the Caribbean islands here on Luxury Latin America from a travel standpoint, even if they do share a language and other similarities. I recently made my first trip to Puerto Rico, however, and decided to dig into the Don Q rum brand to see how it holds up to the mainland competition.

This family distillery has been operating since 1869, over six generations, so they have learned a thing or two about making quality rum meant for savoring. See more on the history here.

Don Q Rum: The Better Puerto Rico Option

There’s one name in rum that’s world-famous, spawning a whole liquor empire. That would be Bacardi and if you ask anyone who truly likes rum, they’ll usually scowl or shudder when you mention that brand. Their bar staple white version is the rum equivalent of Bud Light if we’re going to be gracious, but really the equivalent of Milwaukee’s Best if we’re going to be honest. It’s yet another example of marketing overcoming taste deficiencies. Most drinkers don’t know it’s lousy because they’re putting that liquor into a fruity cocktail with lots of sugar and lime. They can’t really taste the spirit anyway.

I was in Puerto Rico recently and drank a few Piña Coladas made with white Bacardi in the land of their birth I will admit. That’s all they had on the island boat trip I was on and we were having fun with our day drinking, so I understand the purpose of cheaply made rum in the right circumstances. Sun, fun, and rum drinks with an umbrella are a great vacation combo. Just understand that there’s more beyond that, even for cocktails.

If you’re going to mix it, at least step up to the regular Don Q, which is clearly better when sipped neat before the mixing or after in your mojito. The seven-year version is especially good, disappearing before you know it, before you have to run out for another bottle or two. It’s a well-balanced rum that works with just some seltzer and lime, or it will be a great cocktail base without imparting any funky overtones like its better-known competitor.

The interesting thing is, Don Q outsells Bacardi by a rather wide margin in Puerto Rico itself. The latter may have won the marketing war internationally, but the home team is supporting the family business that has been running since the 1800s.

If you want to sip a good rum instead of sucking a mixed drink through a (hopefully paper) straw, step up to the Don Q Gran Reserva Añejo XO.

Don Q Gran Anejo XO Tasting Notes

When I first popped open the gold-colored cap on my bottle of Gran Reserva rum from Don Q, there was a whiff of dried fruit that was more overpowering than I expected. I poured a little into a glass and started thinking about the Mocambo Mexican rum I reviewed a while back that had a surprisingly strong prune taste at first.

Don Q Gran Reserva Anejo XO rumThat one’s pruniness faded bit by bit though and with this Don Q aged rum, the initial impression didn’t last at all. The rum mellowed out a bit in that first tasting, with just a hint of dried fruit on the nose and the back of the mouth. On the two subsequent tasting sessions though, the airing out had done it some good and the flavor profile was more harmonious.

There is a heavy whiff of alcohol on the nose with this rum. The smaller the glass, the more you’ll notice it. Trying to poke through are the usual warm vanilla, caramel, and toffee flavors you usually associate with aged rum, with the oak providing a bit of heft underneath.

It gets much more subtle on the tongue, however, an explosion of warm and sweet flavors expanding across your taste buds and making it clear that some care went into the making of this version. The Don Q Gran Reserva is made with the solera method, meaning it’s a blend of barrels aged for different time periods, but they don’t use that designation as a cheat like some companies. They may mix in some rum that has been in barrels for decades, but they’re honest in their marketing saying, “Our Gran Reserva contains rums aged between 9 and 12 years.”

In other words, what you’re sipping was aged a minimum of 9 years, and part of the blend aged much longer.

After you sip this aged Puerto Rican rum for a while, it’s clear that this is a serious spirit that’s not going to make you want to switch to something else for glass number two. It’s a complex, well-balanced rum that holds its own with the best from Central America and the best of the Caribbean from islands like Barbados. After you exhale a bit of alcohol after a sip, there’s a joy in the experience that lingers on long after it has moved down your throat.

It has all the elements you’d expect in an oak-aged spirit that’s spent a good while in barrels, with hints of chocolate, cinnamon, and leather tones. You just have to let it breathe a bit and take your time sipping it however, as this is not a rum meant to slap you in the face in its first impression or overpower a cigar.

Don Q Gran Reserva Packaging

The Don Q Anejo rum is certainly designed as a worthy gift choice or something that will look serious on your bar shelf. It comes in a heavy glass bottle with indented vertical lines, making it easy to grip as you’re pouring. There’s a liberal use of gold foil in the labels and the top seal.

Depending on where you buy it, the price ranges from $47 to $56, the latter I saw at an airport duty-free store but with gift packaging instead of the bottle by itself. This is in line with prices for the best rum from Central America, like Zacapa 23 or one of the higher Centenario options.

Don Q Gran Reserva Anejo gift box

The taller 7-year aged Don Q Anejo is about half the price, so at $25 or so, it’s a good value. I’ve really enjoyed that one in cocktails and will probably start buying it more often to have on hand for that.

While I feel this Gran Reserva one doesn’t quite hold up to my favorites, it’s a solid sipping rum that I’ll keep returning to on my bar shelf. And I’ll look forward to having it again when I make it back to Puerto Rico.

For more information, see the official website, which is available in English.

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