How I Review

I’m not a professional rum taster or wine taster. I do not have finely tuned taste buds able to detect subtle hints of raisin buried beneath the other flavors in a rum. I wouldn’t know the taste of black currant if you stuffed a pint of them in my mouth. Over time this will hopefully change, as I teach myself and train my mouth and learn how to detect and taste those subtleties.

Until then – which should be a long time from now – I will tell you what I like, what I don’t like, and why. Simply. Even if I do get to the point of detecting those subtle tastes, I won’t ever get frou-frou wine-tasting-snob crazy.

When tasting a rum I will generally consider Sweetness, Complexity, Smoothness, Flavor, Overall Quality, and Value.

My thoughts are that rums should be sweet, but not over the top. Not all folks like it too sweet so my reviews will attempt to be objective in this regard, and should clearly give you an ideas as to the level of sweetness. The sweetness will certainly play into my overall opinion, though, so if you don’t like sweetness then take my statements with a large grain of salt.

A complex rum with many easily detectable tastes is definitely preferred over a simple rum with few flavors or one overly-predominant one. Smell and aftertaste are important and should contribute to the overall complexity. Even if the different tastes can’t be identified it is preferred that they exist.

The lack of burn is quite important to me as a a rum that hurts to swallow should not be sipped. Water has the perfect smoothness, but it would be silly to expect any rum to come close, so smoothness will be discussed within reason. If you don’t mind the burn then be aware that I do, so take this into account.

My preferences is towards easily-detctable high quality flavors that let themselves be known. They don’t have to be assertive, but they should be distinct. Any tastes that seem artificial will definitely drop my opinion of the rum. This is an opinion as to the overall flavor – good, bad, bland, whatever. Does it taste good?

Overall Quality
This will generally be an overall view of the rum taking all of the above into account, but also considering how well the rum was made. There will be cases where I don’t like a rum for some reason, but it will still be apparent that the company did their best to make what they think is a good or great rum. Since you might not like what I like it’s important for you to know that the rum is still a quality concoction, even if I don’t like the taste.

This will consider all of the above compared to the normal price that I would pay for it, and that price will be listed. It will not consider the actual price as sometimes luck will find a discount or closeout price. There will certainly be times when a bar will have a quality rum and an exorbitant price will be paid for a shot. So the Value has to be based it on the local price. In a nutshell, is this rum good enough to pay the price listed?

I like to talk about the rum and the tasting experience as it happens, so I will generally do my taste tests in front of the computer whenever possible. Sometimes my final, overall opinion is not always apparent from this diatribe, so a summary paragraph or two will be written after some time for thought and reflection. Often this will result in a quick re-test to analyze some earlier statements. In the end, expect a bit of summary going over all the points above.

Tasting Process
I can’t say that I have finalized how I taste rums – not the process, not the glass, not the mood. When a mood strikes me a rum will come down from the shelf and go into a glass, neat. The first sip will always be neat, at room temperature. Depending on the rum and mood, some water or time or even an ice cube might get added, and the differences will be described. These differences are very important both in finding tastes, expanding them, or just finding the best way to drink a particular rum. In all cases, assume that the rum is neat at room temperature unless told otherwise.

As mentioned above some rums will change depending on water, ice, or the amount of time sitting and aerating. Occasionally there will be comparisons between 2 or 3 or 4 rums all done the same way – all neat, or all with the same amount of water. Maybe comparisons will be done between the same rum 3 or 4 different ways, like with water and without – or maybe in 3 distinctly different types of glasses. Perhaps there will be a shootout of white rums, perhaps a shootout of $50 rums. Comparisons like these are very good ways to highlight differences, and this helps detect things and train the mouth to discern those subtleties. As always, the process will be discussed and the differences mentioned.

Since rum is such a versatile mixer there will often be comparisons around a certain recipe. Which rum makes a better daiquiri? Which pair of rums makes a better Mai Tai? Which cachaca makes the best caipirinha? There will often be comparisons of different “secondary” cocktail ingredients – cordials or orgeats or even ginger ales. Again, comparisons like these really highlight the differences and speak volumes.

In the end, please remember that all of this blog is just my opinion. Your mileage may vary. You may disagree – hopefully not too much, which would means that this is a waste of time. But this is all just opinion.

If you have a different opinion, please leave a comment! This blog is all about opinion, and the added info is appreciated. Just be kind – remember they’re just opinions.

However, if I do get any facts wrong please let me know. I do struggle to make sure that any facts I write are actually facts, but I have been known to be wrong.


13 Responses to “How I Review”

  1. RZA Says:

    I was up late and let me tell you, after thoroughly looking through your website I definitely enjoyed your sense of humor and your love for great rums. I’m sure your love for rums is admired by others as well. I am one of them. It’s late but I wanted to let you know I appreciate the research you’ve put in to let others know what hot and what’s not. Let me know what I can do for you in terms of filling your requests on some of the rums on your list. I’ll be at Rum Fest in New York as well in October and what an event it is. You’ll love it and it’s such a great time and experience. Keep Rum running!!

  2. Capn Jimbo Says:

    Dear Scotte…

    I am a rank beginner, semi-retired in Fort Lauderdale, a lover of dark beers and an occasional glass of wine. In other words, a rank beginner. But it is certainly impossible to live in South Florida, gateway to the islands and to the Americas, and not become interested in rum

    The problem: learning to appreciate rum is a tricky business for us common leathermouths.

    Sure you can peruse the popular rumsites, like yours, and get an idea of rums that achieve a certain consensus and you buy a few: in my case Mount Gay XO (which I thought would be classic), the Ron Zacapa 23 (great consensus) and the Pyrat XO (different). And oh, Brinley’s Coffee (I love coffee). And like anybody I have my preferences, love the aromas, etc.

    But that’s not good enough.

    It would sure be nice if you published an article suggesting how a rank beginner could start, and develop an understanding and taste of the many, many differing rums available. Like the Rum University, but more accessible for the average guy with an average budget.

    Cheers, and thank you….

    Capn Jimbo

  3. Scottes Says:


    That is a hell of an idea. I’ll see what I can do. I’ve done a couple tastings recently, and will be doing 2 more in February. These should give me a very good idea of how some “beginner” rums are received by people new to rum, and that should give me more than enough info to put together an article. (If I don’t do so sooner.)

    One thing that you have for an option – Gifted Rums. Robert Burr is extremely knowledgeable about rums, and lives only 45 minutes from you in Coral Gables, and does tasting events (which I assume are local to him). One coming up on Jan 15th is Rums of Barbados, a very good selection. On Feb 12 he has Rums of Guatemala, which will include the Zacapa and the “similar” Zaya and some other choice rums. If you like Zacapa you will surely appreciate the rums of Guatemala.

    His selection for Barbados has some of my favorites – Foursquare Spiced, Cockspur 12. and the Doorly’s XO. These are fantastic rums and are easily appreciated by people new to rum – especially with a guide like Robert.

    Tasting events like these, where you get to sample a number of rums for the price of a bottle, are fantastic for people looking to get into rums. Alas, they are rare, but you’re lucky to live close to Robert.

    But I will think about a guide.

  4. Capn Jimbo Says:

    Thanks very much, I’ll definitely follow up on Burr in Gables. I think beginners really don’t know where to start, even what kind of glass to use, whether to let it breathe, how to sip and proceed. I mean basic. And of course rums much more than $30 or $40 present the cost factor. Now if you’d like a guinea monkey, I’d be happy to test your ideas and report how it went…

    In any case, thanks again…

  5. Capn Jimbo Says:

    Again thanks for your site, which remains a frequent destination for me when considering buying yet another rum. I do have a question: what is your favorite/usual type of glass you prefer for tasting and why? Thanks…

  6. Scottes Says:

    I like to use a somewhat short, wide glass. The glasses that I use are about 3″ tall and the same in diameter, holding about 7 or 8 ounces. I use a glass like this to allow the rum to breathe and more specifically to avoid a “chimney” effect. A tall glass, or one that gets narrower at the top like a Scotch- or Cognac-tasting glass, will channel the smells into a narrow area, and I think this is detrimental to tasting rum. Rum is usually not as subtle as Scotch or Cognac and does not require the concentration that the “chimney” glasses enforce.

  7. travis Says:

    I was ordering some rum for my brother’s birthday when I came across you review of Flor de Cana 21. I first had this rum when I was surfing in Nicaragua, and it is very good. However, if your interested in fine rum I would recommend the Flor de Cana Centenario Gold 18, it is actually older, smoother and cheaper($40-50 in the US OR $20-25 In Nica)

  8. rob lane Says:

    Scott,I saw the Old Mill was not on your recommended list.
    Yet you said in the review you definately recommended it.
    Also,any venues we should be exhibiting at?
    All the best…I sent your website to Horizon Beveridge in MA today.Rob

  9. Roger Says:


    Your review of Mount Gay Eclipse is hurtful to me; I happen to like it and I think you should retry it.
    Just some helpful words.

  10. Capn Jimbo's Rum Project Says:

    Scotte, I noted my first post above (in 2007) and just realized over three years has passed since our The Rum Project was conceived and came to fruition. Your site was one of the first important influences.

    Since then we have come to know and reject a number of other resources as our own skills have developed. Our time, like yours, has become devoted more and more to our own work and reviews.

    Recently we did a series of “Rum Reviewer’s Reviews” and of course, I finally came to revisit your site today and years later. Let me summarize:

    Your fine website is just as valuable today as it was then, and if anything, has grown and is better. My only wish is that you’d have the chance to post more reviews, and especially on some of the rums that have rocked the world and garnered consensus as “world class” (think MGXO, Seales 10, Barbancourt Five Star, Matusalem Gran Reserva, El Dorado 12).

    What impresses me far more than your personal recommendations are your actual reviews. You have absolutely nailed so many of them (IMHO). Let me say too that your comparisons and “shoot outs” are especially valuable as these expose even more comparative elements.

    Thanks… I’ll post again in 2015, lol…

  11. george Ayres Says:

    Hi Scotty
    My family has a history which involves the Old Charlie Rum factory in Jamaica. I am trying to find a bottle of the rum. do you know where I can find one?



  12. Anonymous Says:

    Hey Scotty,

    Great site. I just came back from a cruise and really discovered some of the nicer dark rums. That said, Captain Morgan’s Private Stock (YES, it is cheap, and yes it is available) should really appear on your site. For what it’s worth, it is probably one of the easiest to get into dark rums with a lot of flavor and it was my initial stepping stone. I currently yearn to try the Pyrat Cask, but at $240 a bottle, that may be unrealistic. Pricing is close to Pyrat XO, but easier to find.


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