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One of these days, I think I need to write an article on which I judge various rums based on nothing more than their packaging. It might sound laughable, but in truth packaging can tell you quite a lot about a rum (or at least, what the manufacturers think of their product – or rather, what they want you to *think* they think of their product.) And also, reviewing rums based on packaging alone would protect me from those embarrassing times when I nearly finish the rum before I’ve bothered to review it. Such is the case with Vizcaya VXOP – it’s been on my shelf for a terribly long time, and I’ve stolen a glass now and then to the point as to be nearly empty. And yet, I never reviewed the damned thing.
So let’s do so, and yes, we’ll begin with the packaging. First off, I love odd-shaped bottles. Something about it just tickles me and makes me want to believe the rum inside is special. I also love corks – proper, natural corks. Vizcaya has both of these fine attributes, but it’s the front and center label of “Cuban Formula Rum” that most catches the eye – more than the rum’s name itself, which is technically larger, but written in hard-to-read letters that force it to take a back seat. No, clearly the manufacturers want you to see “Cuban” right away.
Vizcaya was indeed once made in Cuba. But then, if I recall my history, some guy with a beard and cigar teamed up with another guy that liked to get his face screen-printed on t-shirts to sell to alternative-type rebel-wannabes, and they both took over Cuba and enacted sanctions against the US to keep their rum and cigars out of the hands of us lousy Americans. Or something like that. Long story short, now Vizcaya is made in the Dominican Republic and wearing Che Guevara shirts is still a great way to tell the world, “I’m so very rebellious.”
Wait a minute – I’m supposed to be reviewing a rum, wasn’t I? Actually, my strangely tangential cynicism isn’t entirely from left-field – it’s just that I have a problem with the pedestal that the word “Cuban” is so often placed upon, especially in regards to rum. I’ve often talked to folks who brag that they’ve tried actual Cuban rum, or have a bottle stashed away somewhere. Those that have tried it usually talk about how there’s nothing else like it, and their eyes sort of glaze over as they attempt to find words to express the sheer nirvana they experienced with every sip. Well you know what? I’ve had Cuban rum too, and it *was* different. So much so, in fact, that it utterly failed to capture the qualities that made me fall in love with rum in the first place. So mystique and taboos aside, Cuban rum, to me, is second-rate at best.
So let’s consider Vizcaya as a rum, without regard for whether it’s genuinely in the Cuban – or any other – fashion. In the glass, Vizcaya is a soft amber; not so dark as to intimidate, and not so light as to appear to lack punch. Just a nice, base amber. To the nose, it bears a slight musk, and definite notes of over-ripe fruit. In my review of a Cuban rum I noted a similar aroma of over-ripe apples, although Vizcaya seems more generally fruity than apple-centric. As is so often the case, Vizcaya tastes much as it smells – musky and fruity. It’s relatively gentle on the tongue, and leaves only a comforting warmth behind, rather than a burn or charred sensation.
While the majority of rums are made from molasses, Vizcaya follows in the tradition of the rhum agrioles in being made from fresh sugar cane juice. Commonly found amongst French rums, this process often results in a vegetal grassiness, but in this case the end product is indeed much more similar to a quality Cuban rum. I say quality because – despite my own preferences for a dark, in your face Jamaican, Barbadian, or Bermudan rum, Vizcaya is definitely an excellent choice for those with a taste for “finer” (meaning land-lubbing peacock) rums.
Yep, I’ve had a bottle of Vizcaya around for about a year and polished off about 80% of it, and find it a little lifeless, although quite drinkable straight. My favorite Cuban still is Matusalem 15, which has a decent rum bite that Vizcaya lacks. Plus M-15 is about ten bucks cheaper. I’ll always have a bottle of that around, but this is my last Vizcaya. Too bad because it is a damn fine-looking bottle.
Vizcaya is sourced from Oliver and Oliver in the Dominican Republic. O&O does not distill rum, but they do mature and blend rums quite well. Other brands sourced from them are Cubaney and Atlantico. Vizcaya, as it’s cousins, feature a unique spicy finish that some compare to cinnamon. There are no distilleries making rum from fresh cane juice in the Dominican Republic, but the source may be partially aquadiente from Columbia. O&O has a talent for creating rums that are rich and complex, the finest of which is Opthimus 25, the ultimate expression of this genre and one of the finest rums I’ve ever tasted.
I have went through half a bottle of Vizcaya in the last three montsh and have found it to be the best of any rum I have had for sipping. I always have at least 8 rums open and rotate with new brands. I found the above review to by completely inaccurate and NOT supported by any other rum review. I too was fooled into buying the Matusalem 15 due to reviews and found it to be harsh and only useable for mixing since its lack of flavor to burn ratio.
My dear Bilgemeister…
It is good, as always, to have a gam with you. As you may recall at The Rum Project (link above), Sue Sea and I have established a category called “Twiggie’s Tie Dye Rums” – dedicated to surreptitiously altered/flavored rums that are simply, well, over the top and part of the old “rum as liqueur” marketing trend.
Vizcaya VXOP is one of them.
Do I buy the “…made from cane juice” by a Cuban family, that has been making rum since 1820? No, no senor! Not for uno segundo de Nuevo York!
As far as I’m concerned this is a heavily flavored invention of Oliver’s marketing department. Their is a remarkable lack of history regarding this “Cuban formula rum”. The family is unnamed and all we get from the company site is a one line history which you – and most of the other reviewers are forced to quote.
My own research does find a company – La Vizcaya – established by Jose Arechabala in 1878, not 1820. Vizcaya produced sugar, rum and all manner of byproducts and was taken over by Castro in the 1960’s. Later they affiliated with Bacardi (not Oliver) to produce “Havana Club”.
The rum itself simply reeks with syrupy spice and is remarkable only in this regard.
I found myself agreeing with a lot of the comments in Mr. Bilgemeister’s review. I was talked into buying Vizcaya at a DC liquor store when asking about Barbancourt and El Dorado, two of my favorites. I was assured that if I like those tow, I would love Vizcaya. It also didn’t hurt that the bottle is absolutely beautiful (I agree with Rich above that I’ll miss the bottle on my bar shelf). I found Vizcaya to be okay, but very fruity, and syrupy, very much like Pyrat, which I find okay as well, but absolutely nothing like Barbancourt or El Dorado. I was concerned when I saw it was a “Cuban Style Rum”, because I have a bottle of Cuban Havana Club that I bought in Bermuda, and that is not a good rum. If I was looking for a sweet aged rum, I would steer clear of Vizcaya and go for something like Ron Zacapa instead.
Let me start by saying my wife and in-laws are from Cuba and when we drink Cuban rum we don’t SIP it we do shots. There is much better rum for sipping but we all and myself included can’t wait to get our hand on Havana Club 7 dark. We get two bottles a year. Sad to hear about Vizcaya because I just bought a bottle. To SIP I love Ron Zacapa.
I guess I don’t see the sense of buying a rum that you can only enjoy by doing shots, if you just want to get drunk that’s why they make vodka.
Vizcaya VXOP, is an awesome run, its not to harsh and not to weak. Its also affordable $33.00 in Houston.
It seems, most here are trying to relive the days of pirates and want some thing that drives the scervy away. But in this day and age I rather pay for quality and something that will not eat my liver away in a couple of years.
While taste is subjective, I find Vizcaya to be one of the smoothest rums on the market. For me, there’s no after taste our burn which is always a plus. The price is fair and it’s truly a sipping rum. On the chilled side it usually taste best. No need to mix this. Even for the casual drinker, this is never a bad choice. Zacapa doesn’t compare if you ask me