Saturday, 27 December 2014

Review 13 - Abuelo Centuria

Photo copyright © H.Kristoffersen
The best Abuelo has to offer. And it eclipses a lot of other rums too!

First of all Merry Christmas everybody. ’Tis the season of love and joy and family.
So like my 5 year old stepdaughter who was fascinated by the biggest boxes under the tree a couple of nights ago, I am now holding the biggest box from my shelves. And as a coincidence it is another Panamanian.

This time we are looking at the Abuelo Centuria – the absolute top tier product in the Abuelo line made by Varela Hermanos. A family involved with more than one hundred years of rum making tradition. For more information on their history please visit their website. As always, the link is supplied at the bottom of this page.

The Abuelo line of rums also have a webpage full of information that might be worth a visit. But beware massive marketing shenanigans!

Varela Hermanos made the Centuria as a celebration of their Centennial – hence the name. And while speaking of the name, Abuelo mean grandfather.

The content of the bottle is a blend of rums up to 30 years of age, so Varela really rolled out the big guns to make this rum happen. Especially when taken into consideration that the oldest product of their former line-up was a 12 year old.

However trawling the Abuelo website adds a lot to the explanation. The Centuria is made in a solera. 
Hence the expression ”up to 30 years”. So we are not dealing with a true 30 year old rum, but perhaps rather a 12 year old souped up with some degree of very old stuff.
Browsing the all-encompassing interwebs I found a lot of references to information suggesting that the younger Granddads are actually marketed by the youngest rums in the blend. That makes me quite weary towards the agenda of suddenly marketing a rum by the oldest rum in the mix. Perhaps it has something to do with the younger rums being properly blended and the Centuria being forged in a Solera. I don’t know – the answer my friend is blowing in the wind.

Never mind … I don’t actually dislike soleras, I just don’t like the hazy age expressions on them. A lot of smoke and mirrors if you ask me. However the result might still be stellar.

Moving on…

First of all: Wauw.

The first thing I mentioned was a big box. And that it is. Furthermore it is made of wood and coated in a brown material that which feels a lot like duct tape. Although it somehow feel a lot less tacky.

It oozes quality even before opening the box. The brown color and the branding in general just feels awesome. There is not much information on the box, but you are never in doubt that you are holding a Centuria. Quick note: The label containing all the boring details like the standard 40% ABV, the volume of the bottle, the heritage and the bar code has been placed under the bottom part of the box. Simply genius.

Lifting the magnetically sealed lid reveals a wooden interior which hugs the bottle very snugly. The bottle even has a tiny velour cushion to rest on. I guess only the best is good enough for good old grandpa.

The bottle is a massive thing. At first it comes off as a typical bar room bottle, but when putting you hands on it you realise that it is way more massive. It feels a lot bigger but doesn't look much bigger.
It has a huge, solid glass base suggesting that this granddad is no pushover!

The label is an older style label with nothing more than the a picture of the Granddad of rum, the name of the rum and typical heritage information. It is however super clean and the beige background blends in very nicely with the gold and brown colours of the entire package.
On the back some of the information from the front is repeated and then supported by a short presentation of what to expect inside.

The bottle is closed off by a natural cork with a wooden stopper and it gives off a super satisfying pop when pulled.

Last but not least we have a golden metal emblem at the shoulder part of the bottle which depicts a part of the Varela estate adding to the premium feel of the package.

Overall a very nice package and you are left with a very clear impression that you are about to savour a premium product.

In the glass the bronze coloured (kudos for making the entire colour scheme from the packaging fit the colour of the rum) rum coats the insides with an oily film and droplets seem to never want to come out. As they do they move very slowly towards the surface of the rum.

After pouring the glass and finishing up the comments on the presentation, the aromas already started to spread, and I could clearly make out both oak, spices, molasses, butterscotch and tobacco from 30-40 centimetres away.

Moving the glass closer signs of children's glue (marzipan) and vanilla joined in.

After being bombarded on such a long distance I was quite surprised to not being totally overwhelmed when moving the glass closer to my nose.

All the ingredients were still there, but they all seamlessly blended in with the new found marzipan and vanilla, and form a very complex, creamy and enjoyable nose.

Letting the liquid roll around in my mouth immediately made my brain create images of a stereotypical grand father.

Cigarillo smoke linked with an ancient brown leather couch. Burned brown sugar, a peppery sting and a radiator gone full throttle in an old mouldy house.

But at the same time super bad-ass.

This is not your average planned-for-retirement-for-50-years accountant grand father. This is the old, beardy, tattooed, ass-kicking, ex-sailor grandpa who has travelled the seven seas for a life time,  started smoking cigarillos at age 12, and tells incredible stories that no one really believes but are actually (almost) true.

The taste profile of this rum is very unique and so balanced and complex that you are left thirsty for more as soon as the glass is empty.

It could have been even more complex and a bit easier to sort out, had it been a little less aggressive. But it just wouldn't have been as awesome.

The peppery sting and the very obvious tobacco notes are part of why this rum is nothing like anything else (expect perhaps other Abuelos).

After a couple of minutes of air it smooths out a bit and the burned brown sugar becomes more prominent.

My only gripe with this rum is the boring standard 40% ABV. A rum of this massive character would almost definitely have benefited from a higher proof. I am willing to bet that this would have been almost unbeatable had it been bottled at 50% instead.

The finish is of medium length and continues down the road of tobacco, burnt sugar and warmth. It doesn't get sticky or unpleasant, but the pepper keeps tingling in almost the entire mouth for a while.

Again I am sure that a higher proof would have prolonged the finish and made it even warmer and fuller.

Rating and final thoughts
A very good product.

It comes to the table with a combination of things that I have yet to discover elsewhere. It is a unique experience and there is no doubt that Varela Hermanos has indeed taken time and effort to make something magnificent.

It is a premium product and is priced at such. But it is well worth the price tag if you want something extraordinary and doesn't stick to the ultra sweet and syrupy stuff. It does have a bite and there might be somebody out there who doesn't appreciate a ”liquid grand father”. But to those that do: You are in for a special treat.

I would have gone all in and dealt out the highest of the highest score if it hadn't been for the unimaginative 40% ABV. If you are going to explore the boundaries of your rum making ability, why not rethink the proof also? I really do not get that.

At this time the best rums I have tried have all been full proof or cask strength products and I know that a lot of my fellow rummies would agree. If rum is to rise and compete against other spirits for world domination, rum producing companies will have to realise that the standard 40% is not ambitious enough.

Having said that the Abuelo Centuria clearly deserves a…

Rating: 76/100



  1. Hi henrik, thanks for sharing. Could you tell me which glass model are you using on the picture?

    1. Hi Thomas,

      The glass is a Spirits Snifter from Luigi Bormioli, which is my favorite nosing glads what so ever.

    2. Thanks for answering. I like the shape but it's pretty hard to find it here in France at a decent price!

    3. You're welcome. They can usually be found for around €6 a piece in my corner of the world, so that isn't too bad.

      You can find them on French Amazon for €80 for 6.

      They are called "Vinoteque Spirits".

    4. Yes I've seen them. 6€ a piece you're a lucky man!I prefer spent 80€ in a bottle. I've already few "Durobor elite" but I think I'll try for all price the "Chef et Sommelier Open Up Spirits Ambient"!