Brugal 1888

Brugal 1888

Product of:  Dominican Republic
Aged:  blend of rums aged 5-14 years
Price: $49
Alcohol: 40% ABV 
Sugar: 0-5 g/L (estimate)
Context: Premium Aged Rum
RG Rating: 9

Tasting Notes
Extremely Smooth.  Brugal likes their rums to look “shiny” and 1888 is brilliant as a gem both in appearance and execution.  1888 exhibits a beautiful, medium-dark brown-red color like natural mahogany, no doubt owing to its long double aging in American white oak bourbon casks and Spanish Sherry barrels.  A subtly sweet, fruity bouquet precedes well-developed aromas of dried fruits (apricot, plum, mango), roasted coffee beans, toffee, light caramel, vanilla, and perhaps the slightest hint of cinnamon.  You can definitely sense the dual wood aging combining to create a complex charred wood character – the fine distillation and double aging has thankfully removed any crude elements like sulphur earthiness and odorous alcohols – this is a delectable rum that rewards long and repeated sniffing.  Initially you taste a balanced and honest rum, substantial yet subdued,  classic rum flavors accented perfectly by complex wood, toffee, caramel, subtle plum and spice traces. The body  is a fully immersive experience, and only reluctantly gives way to an extremely smooth, long finish with an off-dry toffee and caramel sweetness, made complete with wood, mild licorice and dried tobacco flavors.  

Brugal 1888 logo

Brugal rums are fermented and distilled in Santo Domingo (southern part of the DR), but aged up north in Puerto Plata.  The rums are produced from distilled molasses, derived from sugarcane grown exclusively in the Dominican Republic.  A strain of yeast derived in India (where Brugal’s still was also produced) is introduced to the diluted molasses and allowed to ferment for approximately 40 hours.  The fermented wash is passed through the column still twice, the first pass yields a spirit of 90%ABV, the second pass in the rectifying column increases strength to 95%ABV.  For aging, the spirit is diluted 65%ABV with mountain spring water from Puerto Plata before resting, sealed and untouched for five-to-eight years in used oak bourbon barrels.  1888 goes through a second aging process for two-to-four years in ex-Oloroasso Sherry 
toasted oak  casks that were originally produced for The Macallan (but never held that  scotch whisky).  Brugal maintains about 250 thousand aging barrels, and stacks them vertically for rums aged one-to-three years, horizontally for rums aged more then three years.  Horizontal stacking keeps the end caps moist and reduces leakage.  Before blending, the rum is diluted once more (to 37.5% ABV for domestic products, 38% for Europe, and 40% for USA distribution), blended and finally rested for 6-30 days in stainless steel tanks before bottling. 

From the sharply knurled gold anodized aluminum cap over a cork stopper, to the statuesque bottle with its long neck, rounded shoulders and square bottom foundation, 1888's packaging suggests this is a rum to be reckoned with.  But it’s what’s inside that counts, and after one sniff, one sip, you will believe in Brugal 1888. The smoothing effect of double aging in American oak bourbon and Sherry barrels combine to yield a wonderfully mature rum that offers exceptional aromas and deep flavors, among the best that the Dominican Republic has to offer.  The Rum Gallery sampled 1988 from lot number 03/04, bottled in 2010.

Brugal tasting at Smuggler's Cove

Brugal 1888 is one noble Dominican, representing well the family-owned distillery’’s 123 years of expertise begun by Spanish-born founder Andrés Brugal in 1888.  Rich deep aromas and flavors combine to deliver an exceptional rum.  1888 exudes class; understated, worthy, unique but not ostentatious.  Just outside of Smuggler’s Cove in San Francisco, site of the introduction of Brugal 1888 in Northern California, I was greeted by the gentlemen pictured at right: 5th generation Master Blender Gustavo Ortega Z., and Juan Campos, Brugal Brand Manager with the Edrington Group (a major shareholder in Brugal, Macallan, etc).  I explained how I was looking forward to their new rum after having sampled much of Brugal’s range, including their previous flagship rum Siglo de Oro  during a visit to the Dominican Republic in early 2008.  Señor Ortega exclaimed proudly: “If you like Siglo de Oro, you’re going to love 1888!”  He was absolutely right.  Brugal 1888 is a notch above, richly aromatic, complex and with a depth of flavor that establishes 1888 as the new flagship of Brugal’s excellent portfolio.

  Reviewed:  August 2011 at Smuggler’s Cove in San Francisco during Brugal’s USA product launch tour.

© Dave Russell 2017