Bacardi has been going through some of the most interesting changes in the spirits industry over the past few years. For decades, Bacardi Superior (a white rum) was pretty much the only expression people associated with the brand. It was a universal party mixer for tropical cocktails and the ubiquitous rum and Coke. Then, a few years ago, Bacardi decided to change that image and embrace the more refined world of dark, well-aged rums.
Look, I was skeptical at first too. I’d had far too much Bacardi 151 and, ahem, Bacardi Limon in college, and it kind of killed me on the Puerto Rican brand. Then a bar owner friend brought over a bottle of Bacardi Reserva Ocho for a dinner a few years ago and I was back into Bacardi after oh so many years away.
Since Bacardi just re-released their Spiced Rum expression, I had a chance to taste their aged line with Top Chef runner-up from season eleven, chef Nina Compton. Chef Compton offered some solid rum insight (she’s from Saint Lucia) alongside some great rum and food pairing advice. It’s definitely worth checking out our whole Expression Session.
If you don’t have 40 minutes to spare, here’s a quick review with my tasting notes of four bottles of Bacardi.
Average Price: $15
This newly re-released expression is a blend of rums aged in American oak that have been spiked with Caribbean spices. This is a straightforward spicy aged rum that’s crafted by Bacardi’s master blenders to be mixed.
Vanilla is very present up top alongside that very distinct “Bacardi” aroma. There’s a clear touch of cinnamon and nutmeg with a very distant hint of oak. The creamy vanilla sweetness reminds me of a cream soda… in a good way.
This is sweet enough that you won’t need any extra bar syrup when making a rum old fashioned. I could also see this working wonders in egg nog.
Bacardi Añejo Cuarto
Average Price: $20
This rum is crafted as an entry-point for Bacardi’s aged line-up. The juice spends four years aging in oak under the Caribbean sun before blending and cutting down to proof.
You know this is Bacardi immediately and then the nose veers into a little vanilla and oak, not unlike a bourbon. Those notes of toasted oak meet fresh honey sweetness and a flourish of fruitiness. The sip ends fairly quickly but leaves you pleasantly surprised.
This is a solid base for a cocktail. It’s also nice with a spicier Mexican cola, like Jarritos.
Bacardi Reserva Ocho
Average Price: $30
This is the rum that the Bacardi family made for itself for seven generations before finally releasing it to the market. This is a dialed-in aged rum that spends a minimum of eight years aging in oak.
There’s a nice nose of bourbon vanilla, Christmas spices, and stone fruit next to butterscotch. The butterscotch feels more like toffee as the sip meanders — with spice, vanilla, plenty of oakiness, and a slight mustiness. There’s still a sense that you’re drinking Bacardi, but the aging of the rum is what really shines as the sip slowly fades.
This is a great cocktail base at this price point (an eight-year bourbon of this quality would easily be twice the price). I also dig it on the rocks.
Bacardi Gran Reserva Diez
Average Price: $40
This juice is aged for a minimum of ten years in white oak. Then the master blenders hand-select the best barrels for blending, creating this fine example of well-aged rum.
If I was nosing this blind, I’d have a hard time telling that it’s “Bacardi.” There’s still a sense of molasses-y rum with oaky notes but tropical fruits — especially banana — shine brightly. A bit of pear peeks in with a nice hint of vanilla, oak, tobacco, and mustiness. The end lingers, warms, and then fades.
This is a solid sipper with a rock. It’s also inexpensive enough — come on, only $40 for a ten-year? — that I happily use it in cocktails.
Check out the full tasting below!