Well it’s about time I did some rum tasting… A whole month without a real post! Luckily it wasn’t a month without rum…
This past weekend I decided to tackle some more white rums, going back to the raw stuff in order to get the best idea of how some of these brands and styles compare. I don’t feel that high-quality sipping rum really gives me a good idea of a particular style. I figure the low-end whites should give me the best idea of a style without interference from extended aging or blending. Well, that’s what I’m hoping anyway.
I should stress that these are what I call “general mixing rums” chosen for their moderate prices. Any rums over $20 I start to consider “good mixing rums” but you can call them what you like. Personally I believe in using the most appropriate rum for the cocktail at hand, regardless of price. Sometimes a better or more expensive rum is not an appropriate rum for some cocktails. I suggest finding the best rum for the drink, if possible.
Mount Gay Special Reserve – Barbados – $20
This is the most expensive of these rums reviewed today, but I couldn’t find any other white from Barbados, so I grabbed it. At $20 it’s at the very high end of what I consider to be general mixing rums. This is not a clear rum – it’s actually a very light tan, or straw-colored. Even though it is filtered for some reason they don’t filter it to extreme clarity. This rum is aged for a minimum of 2 years.
The smell is sweet, predominantly of banana with molasses in the background. An initial taste is sweet, and the banana is odd – almost like it’s over-ripe. This is a rich rum, full of flavor, and it fills with the mouth with other hints behind the banana. The finish has a slight burn, with some spiciness and a lot of flavors coming through.
This is a very good rum, with a lot of flavor, though the banana makes it a bit odd and I’m sure that some will not like this. This would be an excellent rum for a fruity drink where the banana would not be so noticeable and would lend an extra bit of depth. It is sippable, more so than any of the others, but I would not call it a sipping rum.
Appleton White – Jamaica – $14
I’ve always loved Appleton Estate rums, but this is the first time I’ve ever tried the white. The rum is aged for 2 years and charcoal-filtered to remove color and impurities. The smell is pretty mellow, with a touch of sweetness and fruitiness, but nothing really dominates. It’s a simple, well-rounded smell. An initial sip shows that it has surprisingly little burn, some sweetness and fruitiness. Nothing to speak of, really. But the finish has some ethanol coming out, and this isn’t a very pleasant of a way to finish. The taste is a bit rustic, for lack of a better word. Certainly not refined but definitely not rough. Overall it’s nothing remarkable, just a simple rum, and not all that great.
Myers’s Platinum White – Jamaica – $14
The smell is a bit more potent that the Appleton, with some more fruit and sweetness but again nothing spectacular. It smells like a decent rum, but a bit plain. An initial sip shows a fair burn, rather boring flatness, and not really any sweetness whatsoever. There’s really nothing very good about this rum at all. It’s boring, flat and dull. And to add to that, it’s not sweet, and has a burn. This could be a vodka. And this might even be worse than Bacardi Silver. Ouch.
Palo Viejo White – Puerto Rico – $8-10
I found half pints of this rum, white and gold, in a local store and figured that I had to try them for less than $2 each. I really can’t find much information about this rum, and I was starting to worry that I had wasted $4. But what the hell – I’ll take one for the team.
The smell is actually quite strong, a touch of sweetness and fruit, and a good smell of molasses. Overall it has a very good smell. An initial sip shows more sweetness than the smell might imply, and it’s surprisingly smooth. It has a decent taste and good sweetness, with a very good amount of molasses for a white rum. It does have a burn though, a long slow one. But beyond the molasses there’s not much going on, but I do like that molasses smell. I like this rum quite a bit, and I’m amazed by the price. I did a quick comparison back to the Appleton, and the Appleton has more ethanol, less taste, and is less refined. The Palo beats it easily.
As a note, I ran to that liquor store tonight to grab some more. They were out, and I am bummed. I’m going to do my best to find a full bottle of this rum – it’s a very good basic mixer which will lend a nice rum taste to drinks.
DonQ Cristal – Puerto Rico – $12
The smell is quite bland, and light, and definitely boring. There’s not much going on in this rum at all. Even when I shoved my nose into the cup – something that’s not recommended with 80-proof liquors – I still can’t smell anything. Even after giving my nose a rest, just in case I burnt it out, there’s nothing here but a little ethanol. A small taste is predominantly bland, though a touch of molasses hangs below the surface. It’s got a bit of a burn and some ethanol, and I just don’t like this stuff very much – though it’s not as bad as the Myers’s Platinum.
Going back to compare against the Myers’s, the DonQ has a lot less smell and less taste. It seems that the DonQ has taken the bottom place in this little test, but it’s close. But to be sure, I gave my mouth and nose a rest and came back to it for one more try to see if I was missing anything. Nope. Ethanol and nothing much more than that. This stuff is not that frickin’ good at all.
Brugal White Label – Dominican Republic – $10
This has a decent smell, with some molasses, a touch of fruit and some sweetness. The fruit smells seems a little odd because they’re not the typical sweet fruit smells I’m used to – they’re more floral. An initial sip shows some molasses, a dryness, and a floral alcohol smell. A larger sip shows a lot of taste, a full flavor, but a lot of alcohol with a touch of molasses. This rum possibly has the worst burn of the bunch. But there’s something going on, and the tastes are sufficient to add some depth to a cocktail if it were used as a secondary rum in a Tiki drink. I don’t like it straight, but it has potential in a Tiki drink.
I compared with this with the Palo Viejo, and the comparison definitely leans towards the Palo Viejo. The Brugal has a larger flavor, and the Palo would get lost in a cocktail sooner, but the Palo tastes better with its molasses showing a good rum flavor and less alcohol. But for a extra kick of bold taste the Brugal might be the choice for a secondary rum, but it’s not a sipper.
Flor de Caña Extra Dry 4-year-old – Nicaragua – $14
Once again Flor de Caña makes me chuckle with their marketing – this rum is “Slow-Aged” whatever that means. Anyway, you may also find this rum listed as “Extra Lite” but Ed Hamilton says that they’re one and the same. This rum is aged in small white oak barrels which have been used only once.
The smell of this rum is pleasant with a bit of sweetness and a decent amount of molasses, along with some dry fruit. It also has a touch of alcohol, though. An initial sip was good at first, but then the alcohol tastes hit the back and roof of the mouth. The molasses does come through, along with a touch of sweetness but this is really a dry rum. A larger sip shows a larger taste of alcohol, but this really packs a lot of proper tastes, is quite smooth, and really it isn’t bad at all. It’s much better than the initial sip would have one believe, but there’s no doubt that this is a mixing rum and not a sipper. As a base in a cocktail it would be very good, since it has a lot of flavor and its dryness makes it quite versatile.
I broke out the Palo Viejo again, since I really like the flavor of it, and compared it to the Flor de Caña. Both have almost the same amount of alcohol taste, but the Palo Viejo beats the Flor. As to taste, the Palo beats the Flor by quite a bit with its pleasant molasses tastes.
While going through all of the rums above I sometimes grabbed another for a quick comparison, and that should be obvious when I did. After I was done with all of them I took a break for a while, and did another quick round sipping them all and making more notes and clarifying existing ones. All told, I spent about 2 hours comparing them, with at least 3 or more full sips and another 4 or more tiny sips. After all of that, I rested, had a coffee, and rested some more.
I do not recommend doing a session like this, with such rums, if you can help it.
This comparison hit me with two big surprises: how bad the Appleton was, and how good that $8 bottle of Palo Viejo was. I think that I’m going to start a campaign to get all my local bars to switch their well rum to Palo Viejo. Well, to be fair I’d need to compare it against the local well favorites, Castillo and RonRico. I’m not looking forward to that tasting.
I was quite pleased with the Mount Gay Special Reserve, but I fear that its price tag of $20 really puts it into a different category than the rest. Some folks might not like that odd banana taste, but I’m quite sure that I’ll find a nice use for the extra bit of depth in a tiki cocktail.
The Flor De Caña and Brugal will find use as secondary rums in tiki cocktails, but I don’t think that I’ll be buying more when they’re gone. Instead I’ll stick to the Cruzan White.
The poor showing of the Myers didn’t surprise me as much as my disillusionment with the Appleton, but I had been hoping for more. Anything that is worse than Bacardi Silver… Well, what’s really frightening is that the DonQ was even worse. Really Bad Rum. Yuck.