For people who still don't understand why I'm dismissive of rums like Bacardi, Captain Morgan, Kraken, and Sailor Jerry, here's yet another delightful bottle that you can purchase for less than $30.
Most of us know Angostura from their namesake bitters—and honestly, no home bar, no matter how meagerly stocked, should be without them. However, they're a long and storied rum producer as well. I went into my local bottle shop ready to walk out with a bottle of their 5-year rum after a great conversation with a local bartender (he swears by the stuff for his cocktail program), but saw the 7-year on the shelf for about two bucks more. Any time I can pay a whole dollar for a year of aging, I'm sold.
If you're sourcing a rum for cocktails, this stuff is straight-up fantastic. There's a whole world open to you if you've never made a mojito or a daiquiri with an aged rum. I've made several with the Angostura 7, and all were a delight. In fact, I probably spent about half as much on limes as I did on the bottle itself over its lifespan on my shelf. And it wasn't a long tenure. I also thought it did swimmingly poured over a few ice cubes and with a very judicious application of Angostura bitters to make an Old Cuban. Long story short, if you haven't made cocktails with a better class of rum, now's the time to treat yourself.
All that said, I really do like this on its own. Angostura 7 is made from first-fill bourbon barrels, which means two things in terms of rum. The first is vanilla. The killer part of the experience is a development from a soft entry of Dr. Pepper to bigger, more intense flavors of Bavarian cream and butterscotch. As it sat on the palate, it reminded me of a good cream soda. You'd think it might seem limited to move from one soda to another, but it's pretty exciting in execution.
The second effect of the fill barrels is that you get some oak with an awful lot of fight left in it. There's ample barrel spice in the aroma and in the aftertaste that does a good job of bookending the experience. The finish is a pretty quick affair, but I was surprised by how much cinnamon and allspice continued to linger on the tongue. There's little throat-burn to speak of, too, which is always a plus.
One caveat here: I appreciate the Angostura 7 because the taste is more restrained than you might think—specifically, it's both lighter and drier than a lot of what's out there on the market. If you want your face kicked in with sweetness, Zaya has your number, and if you want something so brooding that you can swirl around in your mouth for about a half hour, the aged El Dorados are your tickets to flavor town. And if you really want a dry spirit, there are all the various avenues that agricole rhums open up.
This leaves Angostura 7 uneasily occupying a middle ground of flavor and price. I'm hesitant to say that this is a beginner's rum, because it's not as immediately gratifying to a novice palate. Additionally, the buzz among the motley crew of rum reviewers I read is that it's a little underwhelming, as I think they're comparing the rum to longer-aged offerings and finding it a little flat by comparison. I don't think that's fair, exactly, but I understand the perspective. Especially in areas where this is closer to the $30 side of things, it loses out to most of what can be regularly sourced for $40.
That said, there's a place on my shelf for a mid-range rum that knows how not to step on its own toes. I had as good of a time drinking the Angostura 7 straight as I did experimenting with reckless abandon. Maybe it's slightly expensive for a "give no shits" bottle, but it was nice to play around and have a companion to movie watching or game playing without the thought that every uncritical sip was pennies down the drain.