Contrary to popular belief, hard liquor can go bad. It doesn't turn into vinegar like wine does, nor cloudy, bacteria-laden poison like beer, but if you leave a small amount of liquor in a bottle for too long it will lose its flavor and end up tasting kinda dusty. Being capricious and forgetful, I have let many a bottle go down this road, and my latent attachment issues just won't let me throw the damn things out (at least not the rare ones). "But its not even good anymore!" I tell myself. "Yeah, but I can't get anymore!" It's bad for my mental health, and frankly, scads of nearly empty liquor bottles don't really fit the decorating scheme. Thankfully, one of the oldest of my precious garbage bottles has now hit the recycling bin, porque Ron del Barrilito esta aqui!
Chances are if you are from the islands you know this one, and if you ain't, you don't. For the longest time, RDB was one of those treasures the Caribbeans kept for themselves, with some small enclaves of availability in NYC, San Francisco and the like. A friend of mine from Puerto Rico (from which RDB also hails) was kind enough to let me try some of his stash some years back, and I was bowled over. The reputation of Puerto Rican rum is almost exclusively built on Bacardi, far and away the best selling rum in the world, largely by virtue of being the lowest common denominator. It's insipid, neutral, and purposefully bland, so as not to offend, and turn almost flavorless in the presence of Coke.
RDB by comparison has a beautiful dark brown, gold accented hue, like maple syrup, and is visibly more viscous then that clear crap. The nose is a complicated melange of roasted nuts, cola, honey, and pepper. The front is sweet and slightly buttery, with a smokey character developing on the middle, leading to a peppery, molasses accented finish. This is not a rum for mixing, but for sipping neat, or with a splash of water. Though, if you were feeling saucy and wanted to make an ersatz Manhattan or Old Fashioned, I guess I wouldn't blame you...
The aforementioned friend, on one of his sojourns to visit friends and family, was kind enough to bring a bottle back for me, some 4 years ago. I nursed that bottle like I was Florence freakin' Nightingale, taking only the occasional drink every few months. I even moved the damn thing three times! As time wore on, I knew it wasn't the same... the stuff tasted like crap, towards the end, but I clung on, a codependent in an abusive relationship. Imagine my elation when I saw a full bottle at one of my favorite stores not two weeks past, and learned that the product was just picked up by Bacchus Imports! That very same night, I kicked that old good-for-nothin' space taker to the curb.
So far, I have only seen Ron del Barrilito at Ace Beverage and 1 West Dupont Wine & Spirits, but ask your neighborhood retailer to get it for you from Bacchus, and I am sure he will accommodate. The rum I have been discussing is the "Three Star," and should run about $40 to $50, but they also now sell a younger "Two Star," which I cannot wait to try.