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Ron Malteco 5 vs Rum Malecon 25 - Blogger vs Industry

When I feel like sipping some rum, Panama is typically not the first country I’m thinking of. They can make decent rum, as these Grander releases show, it’s simply not my preference. There are two reasons for this. First, I like the flavour profile of a lot of other rum producing countries better and then there are the shenanigans. A lot of Panama rum has been sweetened, Abuelo for example. They also have a ton of releases with very high age statements at relatively low prices, which seems fishy. Look at the Rum Malecon Reserva Imperial 25 year that features in this review for example. It can be bought for 55 euros. 25 years! How?

Panama's flag

Varela Hermanos, the distillery where Abuelo is made, and Las Cabras are fairly well known names in rum enthusiast circles. So is distiller/blender Francisco Jose Fernandez Perez or Don Pancho. Born in Cuba, he’s been in the rum business for decades. Apparently he is responsible for a large portion of rum that’s coming out of Panama. A lot of it sweetened and with a high degree of question marks in regards to age statements. Origines is his most premium effort, which includes a 30 year rum that came out of a distillery that wasn’t 30 years old when the product came on the market. I always wonder how much he’s still involved in creating rum or if his experience and story are simply being used as a good marketing opportunity. Too little transparency to get the full picture unfortunately. There’s a story about him and the “discovery” of the Las Cabras distillery that you can find all over the internet. “They discovered a neglected warehouse. Beneath the overgrown grass, they uncovered a copper column still with a small medallion inscribed with ‘Cincinnati 1922’ and decided to create a modern rum production plant. Now the facility has a five column, continuous distillation installation.” Sounds like Indiana Jones to me. The 5 column setup gives you an idea why a lot of Panama rum is rather light. The distillate coming out of these column stills is likely near flavourless and therefore relying solely on the barrel (or additives) for flavour.

For this review I’m comparing the Malecon 25 year to a 5 year old Malteco. You might wonder what the point of such a comparison is, since the age difference is that large. The thing is, as I was hinting above, I don’t fully trust these age statements. Actually, if someone can prove to me that this Malecon is 25 year rum, I’ll drink an entire bottle of Millonario or Plantation XO 20th as punishment.

The Malteco brand has been owned by Italian Marco Savio since 2000. Subsequently, he also owns Malecon, which is another reason for this comparison. He sources rum from Panama, bottles it and sells it at very low prices, considering the age statements.

I bought the Malecon 25 many years ago in Holland. The Malteco 5 was given to my by a Canadian importer. I gave them my usual “warning” that I always write down my actual opinion, not a standard favourable review for a free product. They were ok with that. Both expressions are bottled at 40% abv.

I tasted it semi blind. I knew which rums were there but not in what order.