Just past its two-year anniversary, Ron Atlantico Private Cask has hometown love built right into it. The creation of Aleco Azqueto and Brandon Lieb, Atlantico was conceived with Miami drink culture in mind. "With the reemergence of the classic cocktails and our hometown's appreciation of fine products, Miami was a natural market to introduce this exclusive dark rum to U.S. consumers," says co-founder Brandon Lieb. Aww, thanks, Brandon, you're making us blush.
Around this American rum oasis we call home, Atlantico has become widespread, weaving its way into cutting-edge cocktails and coming home from the spirit shop for straight sipping. So, how did the founders develop a rum intended to please America's most discriminating rum imbibers? They found their answer in the Dominican Republic, where Atlantico begins much like a blended scotch, with a choice selection of rums of varying ages. The rums are then introduced to each other for one year to two years in bourbon barrels where they begin to mingle and unify. Continuing in another set of barrels for 15 to 25 years, the spirit undergoes the complex solera process in order to insure consistency and quality. Bottling is done by hand, and quality is carefully insured before the cork seals the deal.
The proof, of course, is always in the performance. With the beautiful bottle in hand, we poured a few to see Atlantico in action.
Atlantico's time in bourbon barrels comes through from the moment it is poured. Vanilla, cream and caramel dominate the nose; behind these full notes are a very subtle spice and an almost minty freshness. The opening has a golden, creamy body full of warm brown sugar and natural sweetness. The viscous beginning unfolds into a drier middle with dominant oak notes. The finish, more breath than liquid, is beautifully long with vanilla, caramel and oak notes rising in turn. Rather than burning or biting, alcohol content works to warm and to enhance the rum's profile throughout the sip.
The oak that appears in the middle has a moment right before the finish where its strength is almost astringent and fairly peaty. While these notes are not in and of themselves undesirable (particularly for scotch lovers), they are slightly awkward next to the rum's vivid cream and caramel character.
While the slight astringent moment appears in the straight sip, Atlantico's balance of richness, viscosity and dryness offers a complex, high-quality base for a wide range of cocktails. A general rule of thumb for home-mixing: Ingredients that benefit from the addition of vanilla will sing when mixed with Atlantico, so think nuts, warming spices, stone fruits, cream, chocolate, and fresh citrus. Trade up that watered-down vanilla vodka and coke for Atlantico and Iron Beer. Mix it with ginger beer for a perfect Dark & Stormy. Balance it between a dry herbal liqueur and citrus by muddling thyme and lemon then adding a little Luxardo maraschino liqueur and Italian lemon soda.
Its flavor similarities with bourbon offer easy variations of many bourbon-based cocktails; use it in an Old-Fashioned or an Algonquin with fresh pineapple juice. Just in time for this week's severe temperature drop, its mellow alcoholic warmth makes it an ideal candidate for hot drinks. Select it for hot buttered rum or pour Atlantico into hot apple cider or hot white chocolate. The one category with which to be cautious is tiki drinks. Under the weight of multiple, thick ingredients, Atlantico's subtlety may be disguised. You need not avoid the whole category, but be certain to use only fresh-squeezed juices poured with a light hand and the tropical classic Velvet Falernum to add complex, layered spice.
At a suggested retail of $35, Atlantico is a fine selection for slow, straight sipping as well as for high-quality cocktails. Highly flexible, Ron Atlantico works with an incredible range of libations. Its careful crafting has yielded a spirit in which alcohol accentuates rum's richness rather than make a biting statement of its own. With the holidays upon us, Atlantico partners perfectly with traditional holiday spices and will produce an eggnog to die for. The best way to find Atlantico is to check out the purchase option on the website. Add your zip code, and its map shows the closest locations to buy a bottle or order a cocktail.