Booze Review

Rum and Cocktail Review – Brugal 1888 Gran Reserva Familiar

Brugal 1888

While I am far from a rum expert, there is no denying that rum has played a sizable role as part of my “adult beverage” education. Here are just a few of the highlights…

  • Summer 1984 – Three of my closest friends and I decided that we would pull together a Hawaiian party. The featured drink would be a “scratch” Pina Colada (I’m talking fresh coconut milk and fresh pineapple!) which of course included oodles of white Rum. One of my friends worked at Giordano’s in South Philly’s Italian Market and was able to score us a case of Dole “Jet Fresh” pineapple from Hawaii as well as a bag of fresh coconuts. Swagmaster Rick (we’ve been friends since 1982) had access to his dad’s bandsaw, so our “scratch” Pina Colada’s would be served in real coconut shells. 30 years later and I can still remember every detail. Guess we didn’t use enough rum in our cocktails!
  • Summer 1987 – Four of us rented a “Villa” just outside of Montego Bay at a place called Ironshores. While many things went wrong during this 7 day trip (i.e. a head-on collision in a rental car, a nasty sunburn attained during an ill conceived fishing trip, the hood of the wrecked rental car flying up and slamming into the windshield during a high speed trip down the A1 Highway) there were a few bright spots. The man and woman that managed the property were superb and helped get us through those trouble spots while also providing us with some of the most consistently delicious food and drink that I’ve ever experienced. Jamaica being Jamaica, rum was ever present in all that we ate and drank. From the limeade and pancakes that we had at breakfast to the cocktails and desserts that we had at dinner, you couldn’t get away from that delicious Jamaican rum flavor.
  • Summer 1994  and 2001 – Rum Swizzles and Dark ‘N’ Stormy cocktails in Bermuda. Need I say more?

I’ve had other great rum drinking experiences over the years, but as you can tell from the brief stories above, most have involved rum in the form of a cocktail, and very little rum has been sampled neat. Thankfully, over the past year, I have had more opportunities to try rum on its own, and I gotta admit, I am so glad that I did! While it’s doubtful that rum will ever become my spirit of choice, my past few rum drinking experiences have definitely added it to my list of “drinks to consider” whenever I’m presented with a bar or restaurant’s spirits menu.

Today’s review will be of the Brugal 1888 Gran Reserva Familiar, a Dominican rum that is aged for 6-8 years in White American Oak Casks, followed by 2-4 years in first-filled Spanish Sherry Oak Casks. Let’s get on with the review…

  • Color: Bronze
  • Aroma: Subtle and somewhat restrained without those strong alcohol vapors to get in the way. I’m getting caramelized sugar, vanilla, allspice, clove, and a touch of cinnamon.
  • Taste: Somewhat thin and watery mouthfeel. Not very sweet in the beginning. Starts off with a slight alcohol flavor which quickly transitions to a lightly sweet spiciness. The spice builds but never overpowers as you approach the finish. Some caramel notes come through in the aftertaste.
  • ABV: 40%

As I mentioned at the beginning of this post, I’m far from a rum expert. I definitely enjoy it, especially as a mixer, but I don’t love it on its own. While I appreciate the taste of aged rum, I find that it lacks the multi-layered flavor effect and intensity that I get from many of my favorite whiskies. As is usually the case, I wonder how this would be at cask strength. Overall, a very smooth and easy drinking rum, but I think they need to raise the volume a bit.

Now that I tried it it on its own, let’s see how the Brugal 1888 holds up in a cocktail…

Brugal 1888 Old Fashioned

When it came time to pick a cocktail, I wanted something that would enhance the goodness that is already present in this rum without overwhelming it. I considered making a Rum Manhattan but thought that the Vermouth and bitters would play too large of a role, so I decided to keep it simple and instead went with a Rum Old-Fashioned. Here’s the recipe:

  • 1.5 sugar cubes
  • 1 teaspoon of water (still or sparkling)
  • 4 dashes of Angostura Orange Bitters
  • 2 ounces of Brugal 1888
  • 1 big ass ice cube!

Directions: Place the sugar cubes, bitters, and water into the bottom of a Rocks or Old-Fashioned glass and muddle them together. Swirl the muddled mixture around the inside of the glass then add the rum and ice cube. Give it a stir to dissolve the sugar and chill the cocktail.

This is much much better! The bitters and sugar helped to both amp up and round out the flavors while the chill of the ice makes this dangerously easy drinking. If you like aged rums, then I highly recommend that you give this a try.


Many thanks to the good people at Brugal USA for providing us with this very generous sample!

4 replies »

  1. Makes a damn fine Dark and Stormy …. mmmm … the Booze Dancing official drink of Summer 2014??

    Otherwise this is rather watery and a bit one dimensional straight up. I totally agree that this is better in cocktails than alone. Not that you need to hide it in cocktails as it is a quality rum that complements other ingredients to make a nice high end cocktail where other more full bodied rums might overpower the drink and lesser rums would leave you wanting more.


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