I was asked to host a rum tasting for a customer’s birthday. At first I tried to convince them to taste whiskey, but they were pretty much set on rum. Fine, I like it all. But I had to educate myself on the island spirit. Ranging from light, dark, gold, flavored, spiced, and premium, Rum is, in truth, a kindred spirit to our own small island, Unalaska. Separated by the breadth of the Pacific ocean from our Caribbean brothers and sisters, we are an outpost of weird and wild weather and hard-working men and women. Whence one rocky mass of mountain and beach jutting out of the blue-green waters, so another, even so removed from similar climate, the lifestyle of the island dwellers can be derived of one culture – from water, life.
What We Drank (In reverse order):
- Ron Zacapa Centenario Sistema Solera 23 Rum (Guatemala)
- Kirk & Sweeney 23 year (Dominican Republic)
- 10 Cane (Barbados)
- 1 Barrel (Belize)
- Cruzan Aged Dark Rum (St. Croix)
- Sailor Jerry Spiced Rum (Virgin Islands)
- Bacardi Añejo (Puerto Rico)
- Captain Morgan Private Stock (Virgin Islands)
What we used:
- Spirit: Enough Rum for roughly one ounce of each spirit, per taster. An ideal tasting party will have fewer than 25 guests attending. A typical 750ml bottle of spirit contains 24.5 ounces, so you’ll have some for yourself.
- Water: palate cleanser.
- Glass: Some drunken Canadian Naval squad had broken all of our whiskey tasting tulips, so we were using 5 oz beer tasters to fill in. Whatever works.
- Tasting sheets: An info sheet with all the pertinent data and a picture of the bottle. I put these together so that I don’t get asked 20 times which Rum we’re tasting now.
- Food: Small plates of various snacks the guests could choose from to break up the rounds of Rum.
How to Taste:
- Clarity: I tell them to look before they leap. While all of these spirits are similar in certain aspects, there are many significant differences that may lead to particular enjoyment. Start with your eyes – what do you see?
- Color: Rum runs the gamut from white to black. It’s all in the ingredients.
- Aroma: Caress the glass, swirl the rum, get your nose into it, and sniff. Not too hard as you will get a strong whiff of alcohol, but enough to get the aroma wafting over your tongue. This is where all the intricate flavors begin.
- Flavor: Take a small sip and try to let it rest on your tongue. Move it over your taste buds and see what they can pick up. Don’t swallow too fast.
- Finish: A rum that begins with tropical fruit may end with vanilla or other more delicate notes. Don’t be in too much of a hurry to slam your shot. There’s plenty on the table.
In the end the most notable for sipping were the two most aged: Ron Zacapa 23 and Kirk & Sweeney 23 year. The 10 Cane seemed best for making Mojitos and the Cruzan seemed to fit best in any kind of mixed drink. Bacardi Añejo had a decent body to it, but was overshadowed by the robust flavors of the spiced Sailor Jerry and Captain Morgan. The crowd favorite, perhaps surprisingly, was the 1 Barrel. A majority of both men and women agreed that it was a combination of the best tasting, easiest drinking, and most affordable