DonQ Cristal

DonQ Cristal @ DonQ-OK

Product of:  Puerto Rico
Aged: 1
 years minimum
Price: $9
Alcohol: 40% ABV
Context:  Premium White Rum
RG Rating: 8.5

Tasting Notes 
After pouring DonQ Cristal into my tasting glass, I muse “Is there any rum in here at all?”  Meaning, DonQ Cristal exudes  light like a brilliant diamond, perfect in clarity and colorless.  Under the microscope, a significant array of legs develop in your glass, indicating a more substantial body than your typically simple unaged ethanol-and-water white rum.  Sniffing brings a mild vanilla bouquet, then aromas of caramel and  sugarcane, subtle mayer lemon citrus and of course ethyl alcohol notes — there’s enough here to keep your nose happy for more than a moment, even though this rum’s forté is clearly mixed cocktails.  The initial taste is sweet on the tip of your tongue, as  alcohol spreads mild flavors quickly over your palate.  Overall the tastebuds experience limited depth and complexity.  Instead, Cristal delivers a clean, pleasant rum flavor devoid of any offending heat, with a typically lightweight body, a finish that’s off-dry and some residual sugar lingering nicely.

Don Quixote painting @ Serralles

While touring the Serralles distillery in August 2011, I asked why the Serralles Distillery in the 1930’s choose DonQ as the brand for their rums.  Roberto Serralles, the fourth generation family member, holder of a PhD in Environmental Sciences and the man responsible for spearheading Serralles’ admirable efforts to “greening” the company’s production processes from distillation to waste reclamation, gave this elegant explanation:  “We are originally from Catalunya, Spain.  We are Catalan.  Don Quixote is the masterpiece of Spanish literature, and we want to be the masterpiece of Rum.”  In my studied estimation, they have certainly succeeded in producing the finest Puerto Rican rum available.   

Sylvia @ Serralles

The Serralles family began producing sugar on their plantation in Ponce about 1820, and the first written record of Serralles producing rum for sale (an invoice) dates back to 1865, so the distillery is at least that old.  Beginning with a French copper pot still, a column still came online in 1934 exists today as a working testament to tradition and family craftsmanship.  The DonQ brand began at about the same time.  But most of the rum bottled as DonQ is produced in a modern statuesque five column still that towers nearly to the clouds.  Heavy rum passes once through the first column, lighter rums are prodcued using all five columns.  But. “The real magic of rum comes from aging in oak barrels,” Roberto Serralles declares.  Every DonQ rum is aged for at least one year, and the mellowing quality is plainly apparent.   

Master Blender, Sylvia Santiago (at left) allowed me to sample four Serrales rums, each diluted to 20%ABV for evaluation:  unaged light white rum, aged light rum, unaged heavy rum, and an aged heavy rum.  In both the heavy and light rum distillates. the difference produced by just one year of aging was obvious and delicious.  Message received.  Salud DonQ Cristal.

DonQ Cristal is clean, flavorful and mildly aged - the perfect white rum to use as a foundation for many crisp rum coacktails.  Check out the Q' Bomba daiquiri here to see esteban Ordonez' update on a classic drink.  And you certainly can’t complain about the price!  At under $9 a bottle, DonQ Cristal is clearly one of the better white rum bargains on the market.  Characteristically light, but offering a complex harmony of aromas and full of those desirable flavors associated with barrel aging, DonQ’s flagship rum is worthy of the family’s pridful efforts atop the distillery’s portfolio.

Reviewed: May 2012 at the Rum Gallery, USA

© Dave Russell 2017