Whenever I think of Colombia, a variety images pop into my mind Some unsavoury, propelled by illegal substances and fuelled by the Western media. Yet, I’ve also been fortunate to hear tales of beauty from conversations with expatriates. An acknowledgement from these individuals about the ravages their country has endured, but a sense of pride and awe about what their country truly harbours.
This doesn’t propel Colombia quite yet, into the places I really want to visit. Unsurprisingly, these are dominated by whisky themes such as Japan, Kentucky, Texas, Smögen and California. I doubt these pillars of distilling are going to be threatened anytime soon, but throughout these informative conversations, I never really considered Colombia and its rum.
Potentially a faux pas on my part and we have to thank Cadenhead’s for their recent offerings of other spirits, dubbed maltalternatives – as if there is an alternative to this incredible platform? I jest of course, but recently I’ve visited Brazil for some well-aged Cachaça Sapucaia Velha and France for a fine 35-year-old Cognac from Distillerie Charpentier. And included in the outturn of this release today, we also had some calvados. There’s a world of spirits out there; some good and some frankly awful. Whilst my first love and focus will always be whisky, it is rewarding to step outside your comfort zone once in a while.
A visit to Dictador confirms they have their fingers in many pies. Everything from cigars to coffee to gin, an XO range distilled from virgin sugar cane honey and aged gins. Age statement rums form the bedrock and have been joined by a Masters range that calls upon distillers from across the world and other spirits to become involved in their own cask. It’s a fun concept with Glenfarclas featured and the outcomes would be interesting to deliberate. In a way, it’s the rum equivalent of the Macallan Edition series except the outsider has more influence.
To give it its proper name as Destilería Colombia Ltd, Dictador, was established in 1913 by Don Angel. As the Fat Rum Pirate has pointed out, there is a great deal of marketing and high end shennangians from Dictador including this slideshow which gives the official version of its history. What they are chasing and portraying is underlined by this memorable page for all the wrong reasons. As for the distillery itself?
Details are hard to come by, but they do utilise average age statements mainly a 12-year-old and a 20-year-old, which won’t be the case with this Cadenhead’s release today. They tend to favour a solera style system, but hard facts of this approach proved elusive. What we do know is Dictador don’t use molasses (refined sugarcane), instead Dictador prefer to create a syrup by using boiling water from freshly squashed sugarcane. This substance is then fermented for anything between 48-60 hours, before distillation in column and copper alembic stills. On paper then, you’d expect the end result to be a sweeter style of rum and the use of casks to reinforce any colour. This explains why the Cadenhead label features both still types despite being a single cask.
Transparency is a growing theme in the whisky industry – tell us what you’re doing and why. While we might not agree with your decisions, at least it gives us context and the ability to successfully catalogue such whiskies into our memory banks. Whereas in rum and some producers you might as well make it up as you go along. Perhaps a chunk of their market doesn’t care? They love sweetened and coloured rums? Price is after all king for many and we should never forget its importance – even though some other sites refuse to discuss price. This release isn’t cheap, but reflects the growing price of rum and 26-year-old single cask expressions don’t come around often, so I feel the pricing is reasonable.
This was distilled in 1993 from a column/pot still and bottled in November 2019. The cask provided 282 bottles at a robust 65.3% and expect to pay around £220 for this release. As always, this is un-coloured, unchill filtered and from a single cask.
Cadenhead’s Dictador 26 year old – review
Color: cinder toffee.
On the nose: yes there’s a sweetness with brown sugar, liquorice and memories of school cola cubes. Honey, malted loaf, blackcurrant jam and figs. Orange peel brings a freshness alongside tamarind and tobacco. Adding water reveals resin, mace, cherrywood and walnuts.
In the mouth: a lovely oozing texture, quite pleasureable. More sweetness with dark Muscovado sguar, fudge, chocolate and liquorice. Cinnamon bark, a little salt, figs, aniseed and the long finish holds treacle. This rum can take water and still hold its character including the texture. Sweet once again, robust but no greater degree of complexity is unlocked.
If you like sweet rums and that darker side of the spectrum, then this is for you. I’m more of a Dunder person myself, with Hampden and its ester madness. I enjoyed this detour to Colombia; a more glossy and effortless style of rum. Very drinkable at cask strength and silky, which taps into their marketing strategy. Although if I was buying this, I’d consider another £40 or so, would give you a bottle of the 39-year-old Dictador that I’ve nosed but not had the opportunity to try yet.
Overall then, something straight outta Colombia that doesn’t warrant a bad news story and is worth tracking down: if the flavour profile suits your palate.
My thanks to Cadenhead’s Edinburgh for the sample. There are commission links within this article but as you can see, they don’t affect our judgement.