Santa Teresa 1796
“Rum” – from a modern multi column still.
ABV Hydrometer Test: 40% ABV @ 20°
With the recent announcement that Santa Teresa entered an international distribution alliance with Bacardi Limited for “the worldwide distribution of the Santa Teresa brands in all countries except for the home market of Venezuela”, it seems like a good time to write a review on their flagship rum, Santa Teresa 1796, Ron Antiguo de Solera.
So named because 1796 is the year the distillery was created, this rum was launched 200 years later in 1996 to celebrate their bicentennial. Various online sites list different things about this rum, with all kinds of ages quoted as well as what the actual distillate itself is comprised of. So, in order to get the facts straight, I contacted Juan Luis Bolívar B, the International Markets Manager for Santa Teresa (ST).
I met Juan at the Boutique RumFest in London, October 2016. He is a very enigmatic and passionate representative for his brand as well as being very knowledgeable. I very much appreciate his responses to my questions to assist with this review.
1 RumShopBoy: What type of still(s) are used?
Juan@ST: Multi-column and pot still
2 RumShopBoy: How long the rums are aged and in what types of barrels?
Juan@ST: 4 to 35 years in american oak – then goes into the traditional Solera method with ex-cognac French oak casks.
3 RumShopBoy: What is the MINIMUM age of rums in the blend?
4 RumShopBoy: What is the MAXIMUM age of rums in the blend?
5 RumShopBoy: Is anything added to the rum? For example, sugar, caramel, glycerine etc.
Juan@ST: No artificial flavours or colours are added to the rum.
Juan also told me that “A new packaging is now available in the USA, soon [to be] available in Europe and the rest of the markets.”
To add, the rum is made from molasses.
To be honest, I am not a big fan of Solera ageing – It does not guarantee any ages of the rums and therefore you cannot have an honest age statement. But, where Santa Teresa have set themselves apart from the Spanish ‘ron’ crowd is that they do not put meaningless numbers on the bottle or pretend it is something that it is not. They are honest and open about how their rum is made and aged as well as declaring there are no additives. This is a good start and something to be appreciated in the all-too-often dishonest world of rum. The next positive point is testing with my hydrometers. I am pleased to report that this rum measured 40% ABV, which is exactly what it says on the label.
I bought my bottle at https://www.thedrinksbasket.com/santa-teresa-1796-rum.html who had it priced at £30 with free shipping (at the time), making it well within the financial reach of most rum drinkers.
Under Richard Seale’s/Luca Gargano’s proposed rum categorisation, this would most-likely be classed as a “Rum” – from a modern multi column still, although this rum does also have some pot still product, too.
This rum arrives in an outer blue, narrow and elongated tin with a red wax seal denoting the distillery’s year of inception, 1796, along with a label presented in a passé design. The similarly shaped bottle i.e. tall and thin, has a near identical front label. The rear label has some historical notes along with limited production and Solera ageing notes, all written in Spanish. The bottle’s top and neck has a wax seal melted over it, along with a basic but welcome cork enclosure.
It looks and feels classy!
I would prefer to see more info on the label. Some history is great but when parting with my hard-earned cash, I want to know whether or not the ron offers value for the price-tag and the label’s info is important in this decision-making.
The rum is a deep amber colour, reminiscent of an old Tawny Port. Juan at ST has told me that no artificial colours are added to this, so the colouring is entirely down to the ageing in both American oak and ex-Cognac French oak. That is assuming no Cognac remained in the casks prior to that part of ageing.
There are very thick and heavy legs in this rum when swirled around the sides of my glass. The legs fall down reasonably quickly though. The nosing reveals molasses and caramel with a background of mandarin orange. The alcohol is very light in aroma. After a few further sniffs, I can detect some cherry, honey and vanilla. It really does smell very appealing and tempting.
Taste, Initial-middle 34/40
A hint of fire on entry is a nice surprise. A little hint of spice is also unexpected. There is also some more predictable (based on the nosing) caramel and vanilla. Some smoky woodiness is apparent, presumably taken on from the Cognac barrel-ageing. I am expecting more sweetness, but the wood either masks this or balances it.
Either way, this has started really well.
Taste, Middle/Throat 36/40
My first tasting led me to conclude that rather than develop, the flavours are somewhat repeated and merely slightly amplified. But with multiple tastings, more subtle flavours DO develop. Like lots of things, this takes time to be fully appreciated, such are some of the underlying flavours and complexities.
There is a nutty presence, some tobacco, dark chocolate and rich oak. The rum briefly threatens to become sweeter and more like a Spanish sugar-bomb, but stops well short of it. It is almost as if ST have created a new style of Spanish ‘ron’ that blends some English rum-fire with Spanish ron-sweetness and as a result, avoids becoming overly sweet. The aged spirit in the blend likely accounts for the wood and dryness whereas the pot-still element probably accounts for the English-style fire.
The rum is super-smooth and invites the taster to come back again and again for more.
For a Spanish-style ‘ron’, this has more of a burn than most, probably the pot-still influence. But at no point, is it rough or fiery. There is a long, lingering smoky wood flavour that one can taste two or three minutes after swallowing.
Morning After Aroma
Some woody notes remain. A nutty aroma is also present. Generally, the morning after presence is quite light and mild though.
Quite often with Spanish-style rons, we get sack loads of sugar, dodgy age-statements and ultimately, flavoured vodka masquerading as so-called “premium” ron. But Santa Teresa have bucked this trend and produced a really top quality and tasty tipple that is the antithesis of most Spanish ‘rons’ and is free from added sugars or other such nasties.
After finishing one tot of this nectar, you want to pour another and another. It has a superb balance between sweet and dry and between smoothness and fire. There is some pungency from the pot-still rums in the blend and some lightness and softness from the multi-column product. The older distillate in the mix gives this some depth and character whilst the younger elements give some additional oomph and flavour. All round, a great combination at a really good price point, too.
I am sure that those who prefer high ABV, cask-strength rums would find this a bit light and tame and I understand that. But this gives the rum drinker a different taste and style for his repertoire, an alternative rum that can sit alongside many other fine rums and hold its head up high.
Take a bow, Santa Teresa, the 1796 is a superb tot of rum/ron. I just hope that Bacardi’s new distribution deal does not impact on the quality of this fine product, although Juan has reassured me on that front stating it “is going to be only a distribution deal. The brand is going to be managed by us, as usual.” That will be a relief!
Find out more about Santa Teresa’s rums at their web site.
P Denotes the rum contains POT still distillate.
C Denotes the rum contains traditional/Coffey COLUMN still distillate.
B Denotes the rum contains a BLEND of POT and COLUMN still distillate.
M Denotes the rum contains MULTI-COLUMN still distillate or is a MODERN rum.
A Denotes the rum is an AGRICOLE i.e. from Cane Juice.
S Denotes the rum is presented in a SWEETENED style.
Bottle/Presentation Out of 3
Glass/Aroma Out of 10
Taste, Initial-middle Out of 40
Taste, Middle/Throat Out of 40
Afterburn Out of 7