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?
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.
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.