“Uncategorisable” due to the non-disclosure of the distillery used.
ABV Hydrometer Test: 40% ABV @ 20°
A Twitter tasting last year with Peter Holland from The Floating Rumshack reminded me of a rum on my radar to write about that I kept overlooking for some unknown reason and so I want to rectify that by looking more closely at La Hechicera from Columbia.
Pronounced ‘etch-ee-seh-rah’, the name translates as ‘enchantress’ in Spanish. This rum is Solera-aged for between 12 and 21 years in American white oak, ex-Bourbon barrels.
La Hechicera was founded in 1990 and is “run by siblings Laura and Miguel Riascos De Castro, together with designer Martamaría Carrillo” and “boasts the only privately produced, aged and bottled premium rum in Colombia” (Source: FT.com).
The Twitter tasting went beyond just La Hechicera’s rum, widely available for sale in the UK for around £40. La Hechicera gave us rum tasters an insight into some of their other distillates, their background and what goes into La Hechicera. Trending as high as number four in the UK, the tasting was exciting and interestingly educational, as well as being damned tasty, too. Here are the five distillates we tried, components of the final blend, which is reviewed at the end.
First off, we were told that La Hechicera does not distill locally. At this point, I was very unimpressed, although this changed with the open honesty with which La Hechicera operates. They source their rums from “throughout South America and the Caribbean” although we are not privy to precisely which distillates they use.
La Hechicera uses “ex Bourbon American white oak casks purchased from Brown Foreman cooperage in Louisville, Kentucky. Specifically, select number one barrels, meaning they are freshly dumped within 30 days of us seeding our distillates in them.” I loved the fact that they claim “from barrel to bottle, nothing added in between. That’s why LaHechiceraRum is so dry and woody compared to others. It shouldn’t surprise anyone that one can make top quality rum without the need of adding any sugar, glycerine or foreign substances. Unfortunately, these practices have become too common.” A rum producer proud of what they do and happy to declare they are additive-free, too. This is music to a rum lover’s ears!
To kick-off our tasting we had some neutral 96% ABV spirit simply called “Neutro” along with a basic science lesson. We were shown the table below and told “Congeners are substances, other than the desired type of alcohol, ethanol, produced during fermentation. These substances include small amounts of chemicals such as methanol, acetone, acetaldehyde, esters, tannins, and aldehydes (Source: Wikipedia).” La hechicera explained that they “need a flavour base to kick off ageing in the barrel. With time, those compounds will interact with the wood and the atmosphere and vastly intensify to make great” rum.
Now I am not a science-geek or nerd but have to admit to being fascinated by the table we received. It does help to explain some of the flavour differences at different ABVs and also following barrel ageing.
And then we started our tasting….. Usually, I would not try a high ABV rum first as I find it can dull, or even destroy your palate, ahead of tasting lower ABV rums. So starting at 96% and working down to 40% was going to be interesting.
My observation of the Neutro is that it has quite a surprisingly fruity taste to it – not what I was expecting. In fact, I was not expecting much flavour at all. Obviously, one would not drink this neat and I found that a ratio of 1:2 of Water:Neutro worked very well and opened out the fruity notes, revealing pineapple and something more floral.
I must admit to really liking this comment from La Hechicera “That Neutro is no-doubt uninteresting when compared to the rest of the range, but it does illustrate a point: rum is the result of deep changes in the chemical structure and makeup of congeners. No congeners? No rum.”
The next sample to taste is 93% Tafia. My understanding of the term ‘Tafia’ is essentially rough and ready, unaged, basic rum (ish), but is not something that one would readily choose to drink.
La Hechicera’s description is “Alcohol Tafia is a high-proof distillate (usually at around 91% to 94% ABV). Unlike Neutral Alcohol has considerable organic compounds (congeners) that, given the right conditions, will blossom into rum in a barrel. Alcohol Tafia is an intermediate distillate: not as processed as a Neutral Alcohol, yet not as heavy as an aguardiente from a first distillation.”
Once again, the Tafia sample surprised me with its depth of character and level of flavours, although adding water opened the flavours up somewhat more. The vanilla and caramel notes dominated with some underlying grassy, vegetal notes and a buttery texture.
Whilst experimenting I enjoyed a mixture of one part Neutro, two of Tafia and three to four of water. #RumShopBoy’sRumBlending.
La Hechicera explained about sample number three “This is rum, aged for a minimum of three years at 66% ABV, our standard cask strength. The last container this liquid was in, prior to those little sample bottles, was an ex Bourbon American white oak cask from Kentucky.”
This was noticeably smoother and more approachable than the previous samples, but even at just three years of age it showed signs of being more rum-like. Some vanilla and fruit notes (pineapple and banana) continue throughout with a touch of spicy chocolate appearing alongside some dry mouthfeel.
Sample number four started to demonstrate more effects of longer barrel-ageing. The six year old, also presented at 66% showed some oak and spice alongside chocolate and tobacco but this still retains some of the fresh and fruity notes of the three year old. There were also some slightly petrol-like notes and something metallic, too.
Moving on to sample number five, the last component in the final blend. According to La Hechicera “This 12YO will include rums that we initially seeded as fresh distillates 24 years ago, when my grandfather and father decided to embark on this adventure in 1994!” Once again, plenty of tropical fruitiness from pineapples and bananas. This rum presented at 50% shows much more character and depth of flavour with some touches of peppery sweetness on the palate alongside some charred oak and dried fruits.
My comment during the tasting “The 12yo (unsurprisingly) is the best. The ageing has really helped the flavours to mature and the roundness/softness of the distillate shines.
I would buy a bottle of that on its own.” This is a really great rum as it is.
Through these various distillates, La Hechicera demonstrated the process that rum goes through during ageing and the additional concentration of flavours that develop as rum ages and interacts with oak barrels.
So, having tasted all of the components of La Hechicera, it is time to move onto the main event itself. La Hechicera is presented at a standard 40% ABV, which when tested with my hydrometers, came out at 40% implying no detectable additives.
Under Richard Seale’s/Luca Gargano’s proposed rum categorisation, this would most-likely be “Uncategorisable” due to the non-disclosure of the distillery used, although otherwise it would be a “Rum” i.e. from a modern multi-column still.
The beautiful blue wax seal on the side of the label has an “H”-shaped image, which is formed from an orchid (Colombia’s national flower) and a praying mantis. The bottle has a natural cork enclosure and the package does look pretty good. The front label shows no discernible information but on the rear, we are told that “La Hechicera is a masterly blend of rums between 12 and 21 years, gracefully matured in former Bourbon barrels.” There are some tasting notes and the reassuring “from barrel to bottle, and nothing added in between.” I do like that statement!
The rum is a coppery-amber colour with heavy legs that are medium paced down the sides of the glass.
On the nose is charred wood, leather, dark chocolate and candied orange. There is also some caramelised pineapple, banana and vanilla.
Taste, Initial-middle 30/40
The entry is dry, not overly sweet. Some dark chocolate and stone fruits.
Taste, Middle/Throat 34/40
The rum never becomes too sweet but does become slightly sweeter in the mid-palate. Some Demerara sugar is joined by a touch of licorice.
As it reaches the rear palate, the rum is drier and peppery. More chocolate alongside a touch of cinnamon, tobacco and roasted coffee beans.
The finish is medium in length and very dry. Some nutmeg and more dark chocolate are evident.
The #LaHechiceraTT was a real eye opener for me. The brand’s openness and willingness to discuss what goes into its rum as well as not adding anything to it bodes well for them. Tasting the components of a blend of rums as we did is also a rare opportunity to go on a journey from neutral spirit to end [blended] product.
Having loved the 12 year old edition, I would love to see that released on its own as it really was superb. Having suggested it directly to La Hechicera though, I have been told that this bottling was made exclusively for our tasting and that they have no plans to release it on its own.
The actual La Hechicera itself is a pretty tasty tot of rum. I think my only real criticism would be that 40% is a bit too low to really enjoy a good rum. This is especially relevant having tried the components of the blend at a higher ABV. Also, the wording “12-21yo rums” is refreshingly honest but I would much prefer a brand to call it a 12 year old rum and highlight that some of the blend is aged up to 21 years. Like the way Appleton 12yo “Rare Blend” is aged a minimum of 12 years, but some rums in the blend are older. But that is just me being a bit fussy maybe as at least La Hechicera’s claim is an honest age statement, something refreshing in most rum producing Latin countries.
Really tasty stuff and a great addition to anyone’s rum shelf!
Review No. 113
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