Group C Battle: Matusalem Gran Reserva 15 vs. Millonario Reserva Especial

OK, so now we have two rums facing each other that are both aged in the same method (solera) and both claim the same age of 15 (but with the solera method I feel actual age statements mean very little since they are at best an average of the age of the blended rums, and at worst… well, pretty much just a total overstatement), so I am thinking this might be a close battle.  Never had the Millonario before, so I am pretty excited to try it.

The first thing I noticed was the Millonario’s bottle, well, actually it was the bottle’s packaging. It was wrapped in toquilla straw, hand woven by artisans to cover the entire bottle.  It seemed to be one of the bottle’s greatest draws, but I found it kind of cheap-looking, especially with the bright gold accents of the label that was slapped on there.  It almost looked, to me, like a cheap imitation of some real indigenous crafts… but what do I know? According to their website it’s legit. In any case, I much preferred the classic look of the tinted Matusalem bottle with its vintage looking label and cork stopper.

I quickly set up my blind tastings.  I placed the tasting glasses directly on my dark wood table so that any differences in the color of the rums would be less noticeable as I poured. Then I mixed the glasses up until I was thoroughly confused as to which was which, and I began that comparison.

The first glass had in it a rum with a deep brownish red color, almost maroon.  Although the bottles gave no hint as to the color inside, I remembered that the Matusalem was more of an amber rum, I tried to  push those thoughts out of my head, but the smell pretty much confirmed it.  The aroma coming from this rum was sweet, quite so, actually.  It reminded me of figs in syrup (brevas en almibar), with a little bit of spice.  The initial taste was not quite as sweet as the smell, which was good.  It had some hints of nut and a smoky base to it, but it quickly gave way to a kind of syrupy sweetness.  The syrup part of it was more texture than taste, but it certainly added to the almost too sweet feel of the rum.  There was little doubt in my mind this was the Millonario.

The second glass carried the more familiar, amber color of the Matusalem.  The nose (ha, that’s reviewer lingo I picked up from reading up on some other people’s websites) also had the more familiar caramel and vanilla aromas, but I also picked up some other more aromatic accents, which I can’t really place a name too.  The caramel and vanilla was easy to pick up in the taste as well, but it was definitely a more subtle sweetness that mingled nicely with smoky oak and spices. The rum felt a bit dryer than I remember it being… but that could be due to comparing it to the heavy fullness of the first glass.  The one thing this rum may have been lacking was a bit of a bite.  It just seemed to be too well-balanced and mellow… almost to a fault.  But I guess that’s what a classic rum does, it sets the standard and defines the genre.

The battle definitely went to the second glass, which, to no one’s surprise, turned out to be the Matusalem.  I had always considered myself a fan, to a certain extent, of the sweeter rums that seem to be the newer trend.  I have certainly spoken highly of the Zacapa and Zaya rums, which I have enjoyed in many occasions.  From what I had heard about the Millonario, I expected it to rank up there with those two, but that wasn’t the case at all.  I wondered if this was due to the Millonario actually being much sweeter than them, or if perhaps my tastes were changing as a result of this project.  I realize I am still almost at the beginning of it, but I have sampled approximately 18 rums in the past month, and have actually sat down and tried to analyze each tasting… maybe it is really having an effect on the way I think about, and appreciate, rum.  In any case, whatever the deeper reason might be, the winner was the Matusalem Gran Reserva 15.

Next up:  Group C Battle: Pyrat XO Reserve vs. Old Port Deluxe

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