When most people think of rum, they think of a spirit made in Caribbean countries like Puerto Rico and Jamaica, mixed into tropical drinks with fruit skewers and tiny umbrellas.
Ron Abuelo rum breaks both those molds. Its exceptional dark rums are oak aged in select small oak barrels for up to 30 years, and are meant to be sipped neat or on the rocks. And for more than 75 years, they've been made by the Varela family in Panama.
Back in 1908, Don Jose Varela established the first sugar mill in the recently-formed Republic of Panama, and almost 30 years later, he started distilling alcohol from his sugar cane crop. Today, the third generation of Varelas are still making that rum, Ron Abuelo (Grandfather's rum), in four estate-bottled, dark oak-ged rums: Añejo (aged more than 2 years), 7 Años, 12 Años, and the flagship of their line, Centuria.
I recently traveled to Panama, and got a chance to sample Ron Abuelo Añejo in its native country. Very popular in its home país, the Añejo (SRP $15.99) is a blend of select aged rums. Medium-bodied, and lighter in color than its more aged brothers, it has hints of sweet fruit, toasted coconut, spices and vanilla. If you absolutely had to mix Ron Abuelo into a cocktail, this would be the one to use.