5 White Rums

I had planned some time ago to do a comparison of white rums, and this past weekend gave me some time to do so. But I should have planned better because I didn’t really think it out, and ended up grabbing 6 white rums that I had handy, and they didn’t make for a good comparison. They didn’t match, and they really didn’t differ enough. I should have grabbed a white from each of several islands, or perhaps a few whites from one island. Instead, I ended up with a bit of a hodge podge. By doing so I ended up learning a bit in the process, though, and learning something means that this wasn’t a total loss.

As I mentioned, I grabbed 6 rums – yet this post is titled “5 White Rums” for a reason. One of the bottles was Clément Premiére Canne, an agricole from Martinique. This was so very different from the others that I had to remove it from this comparison. It’s just not like the others in any way besides being a cane spirit. It needs to be reviewed separately, or compared to another unaged agricole. Note that this is not a bad thing – it’s just different.

The Rums
After removing the Clément I was left with 5 rums:

Bacardi Superior (It had to be done, as a base.)
Cruzan Premium Light
Havana Club Añejo Blanco
Pyrat Superior Blanco
Ron Matusalem Platino

Some of these rums are like each other, and some are very different. As I was to discover, and learn in the process. Yes, I should have planned better.

The Comparison Methodology
As much as I didn’t want to, I felt that it was important to taste of these rums neat, at room temperature. Neat is the best way to get all the smells, tastes, and burns of each rum.

Next I was going to try each in a Rum & Ginger Ale, with a bit of lime. Ginger Ale is important to this recipe, and the lack of it canceled this step.

For the last step I wanted to try each in a Rum & Coke. I’m not really sure why I wanted to do this, but I felt it was important when I started. But since the straight Rum & Coke was quite terrible, I did it again but with a healthy squeeze from 1/6 of a lime. This made it much more palatable.

For each of these 3 steps I went back and forth often, sipping one rum and then another and another, then sometimes back to the first or the last. I tried to compare them to each other, not just trying each in a line one after another. This was a great way to go through the process, as different rums brought out things in other rums. Two of the rums might have had a similar smell or taste that each sip made me more aware of a particular taste or smell in a another rum. Between most of the sips I rinsed my mouth with some water, but there were times I skipped the water in order to keep some flavors going from one rum to another.

This process did, however, have it effects on me. Next time I’ll try this with 3 rums. Rotating between 5 rums meant that I ingested a decent amount of alcohol.

The Rums, Neat

Bacardi Superior – $16
Bacardi Light – the ultimate rum for mixing, if you believe all the marketing. I don’t believe much of it, but this rum surprised me. It had a smell of ethanol that was quite noticeable, but I had been expecting it so I didn’t think it was too bad. It also had a noticeable burn – but I’ve been burned worse by other rums, and again I was expecting it so it wasn’t so bad. It was actually a bit smoother than I expected, too. All in all, the Bacardi surprised me by being better than expected. This certainly wasn’t a great rum – even calling it good would be a compliment. But it was better than I expected.

Or so I thought.

Cruzan Premium Light – $11
This rum from St. Croix is aged 2 years, which is twice as long as the Bacardi. This rum really surprised me. It was extremely smooth, smooth enough to be sippable. It smelled a bit of wood, which is expected from the aging, but unexpected since I would have figured that it would have been filtered out. There were hints of some fruit, both light and dark ones, which gave it some nice taste even though they were mild in a white. It carried some hints of vanilla, and bit of a smell of ethanol but far from the Bacardi.

Compared to the Bacardi… there is no comparison. I had thought the Bacardi was decent, but the Cruzan pointed out how harsh it was and made me very aware of how little taste the Bacardi possessed. But the Cruzan isn’t very similar to the Bacardi. The Cruzan has less taste overall – even though I could detect several different tastes and smells they were faint, whereas the Bacardi taste was bolder. The Cruzan seems like a rum that will get lost in a cocktail, and that makes it perfect for certain drinks, when one wants a faint rum taste that is smooth and not brazen.

Havana Club Añejo Blanco – Unknown Price
A friend recently brought me a bottle of this rum, a rum that seemed like I needed to have in my collection. It has a mild smell, a faint hint of ethanol – even less than the Cruzan. It has a very good taste, not strong of molasses or fruit or anything really. It just tastes like what a light rum should taste like. Very good, decently smooth, a touch dry. For a basic, simple white rum this is outstanding.

It reminded me a bit of the Bacardi, so I sipped them both back-to-back. The Bacardi definitely had many similarities to the Havana Club, which made sense given Bacardi’s Cuban history. But again the Bacardi failed, trying to do what the Havana Club did but failing miserably in the process. The Bacardi tastes cheaper, more raw, more like a cheap imitation. But they were similar in many ways, and I could easily put them in the same category.

Pyrat Superior Blanco – $16
This rum from Anguilla is quite nice. Though it has more ethanol smell than the Cruzan, it’s not bad at all. It’s a sweet rum – well, sweeter than the others. And it’s a bit fruity, so it is a rum that would go very well in many cocktails and tiki drinks especially. This rum had the most flavor of molasses, but in a white rum this is still a hint of taste, which made me consider this the most “typical” rum. It had the most burn, though, stopping it from being a sipping rum even though it is the most flavorful of the ones tested.

Alas, it appears that this rum is no longer made, which is a shame. I like it quite a bit for a white rum, and would use it often if I could only get more.

Ron Matusalem Platino – $17
Made in “the spirit of Cuba” the first smell of this Dominican rum made me immediately think of the Havana Club. I did a lot of comparing between the two. The Matusalem is a bit heavier, and tastes of the rum came through stronger. Even though it’s triple-distilled it seemed to have more “leftovers” in it – more congeners perhaps? These are not unpleasant in the least – it’s just that it has more than the Havana Club. It also tastes a little sweeter and a little less refined than the HC, though nothing like the Bacardi’s near-lack of refinement.

And this thought made me compare all three – The Havana Club against the Matusalem against the Bacardi. I easily and quickly put these three into the same category as they all have a lot of similarities that show their common Cuban heritage. But the Bacardi was left far behind, while the Matusalem was very close to the Havana Club. There’s no doubt that I will keep buying the Matusalem once my bottle of Havana Club is dry. Bacardi, however, will hopefully never be purchased again.

Rum & Coke
I made a set of Rum & Cokes – 4 ice cubes, 1 ounce of rum, and 4 ounces of Coke – all carefully measured to ensure an accurate comparison.

OK, who drinks this shit? Rum & Coke is nasty. I took about 2 sips from each, and almost threw them out. But I remembered that I had a lime, and quickly carved it into 6 relatively-even pieces. I squeezed each into a drink and dropped it.

The lime made this drink a lot more palatable. Lucky for me. However, it didn’t take long for this part of the test, since they still weren’t very good. I won’t ever do this again – at least not with white rums. Next time I promise to remember the Ginger Ale.

In the end the comparison was easy – I rated each rum as Bad, OK, or Good. The Havana Club and – holy cow – the Bacardi were the only ones that tasted decent enough to be called Good. The others were all OK, but certainly not Good. Again the Bacardi surprised me, but perhaps its foul tastes combined well with the Coke. But I was surprised that the Best and the Worst of the “Cubans” tasted good, but not the middling Matusalem. For some reason the Matusalem just didn’t work in the Rum & Coke.

By now you’ve hopefully realized the mistakes I made in picking these 5 particular rums. Somehow I managed, without thinking, to grab 3 Cuban-style rums, and two others that were totally different.

So for the Cuban-style rums, the Havana Club Añejo Blanco wins easily, followed quite closely by the Matusalem Platino, while the Bacardi Superior was a distant third. The Havana Club will be hoarded, and somehow made to last as long as possible. The Matusalem will always have a place on my shelf, for Mojitos at the very least, once the HC is a memory.

The Cruzan wins for being the smoothest and being the best bargain. At two-thirds the price of the others it’s a steal, and I’ll be sure to keep a bottle on the shelf at all times. It’s quite good, and very versatile.

The Pyrat Blanco wins for being the tastiest of the bunch, and is voted Most Likely To Appear In A Tiki Drink. This is a very good rum.

All of these rums – other than the Bacardi – are very good. They all have a place, and they all belong because of different reasons.