The Good Rum Tasting

November 18, 2011

I discovered Rum in Barbados on honeymoon in February this year.  I may have had the odd Bacardi and coke before but Barbados is the home of the oldest rum in the world (Mount Gay) and the best place to be truly introduced to some different rum tastes – straight or mixed.

In the few months since then I have been doing some serious ‘research’ into some different types of rum and different ways to drink it.  So far I would say, if it’s clear mix-it, if it’s dark try it straight first.  I still think this isn’t a bad ‘rule of thumb’ but tonight I discovered a lot more.

The Good Spirit Company 23 Bath Street, is the best shop I’ve found for Rum (other spirits are also available), and tonight was their first evening Rum Tasting.  Having never been to a tasting of any kind I wasn’t sure how it would work but it was very straight forward, informative and above all tasty!  We had 6 Rums to sample and here are my initial thoughts on each one..

  1. 10 Cane (Trinidad) £31.50 – a very light, easy to drink Rum. almost too light.  The alcoholic burn dissipated very quickly from the tongue and throat leaving no after taste.  I thought at first this might be a good choice to introduce someone to rum without it being too harsh.  This rum is made using the first press cane juice, which is unusual and makes it a fairly smooth drink.
  2. Mezan Caroni 1991 (Trinidad) £39 – this had an interesting history that I can only vaguely remember.  Something about the distillers closing down after making this so it is running out (I think).  I found this had a harsh first taste with a lot of burn in the mouth but then a strong woody flavour, as I went back to this glass through the evening I found it increasingly like a bonfire aroma and the taste grew on me.
  3. XM Millennium 12 Year Old (Guyana) £43 – it turned out to be the most expensive bottle of the evening and at first I found it very harsh.  However, that was my very first impression of Rum back in February, as you feel this burn in your mouth travel down your throat and makes you catch your breath.  The XM had a touch of vanilla taste and a subtle sweetness but with a good punch to it. This was a demerara rum, I’m still not too sure exactly what that means.  It had a touch of toffee or darkness which was very smooth and easy to drink.  Certainly by the end of the tasting this was my top choice.
  4. Foursquare Spiced (Barbados £21.50) – the cheapest bottle of the evening, the only one from Barbados, the only Spiced Rum and one of the easier ones to get hold of in other off-sales and supermarkets (though I would suggest supporting independent shops like The Good Spirit Company if you can!!).  I’ve tried foursquare spiced a few times and have to say the spice taste is very subtle – I could just about pick up the nutmeg flavours but really this is an excellent lightly spiced rum, and at least on the first pass through our tasting this was my favorite.
  5. Appleton 8 year old (Jamaica) £23.50 – Perhaps after four rums I had lost interest, but I really struggled to think of anything to note about this one.  I’ve heard of Appleton, it is a major brand but there was just something too harsh for my taste in this rum.  Apparently the Jamaican rums do tend to have more of a kick to them but this just didn’t rock my boat.  The only note I made was :-(
  6. Smith & Cross Navy Strength (Jamaica) £30 – a second Jamaican rum and our last for the night, but we were warned that most of the rums presented were around 40% alcohol content, this one was 57%!  A gentle sniff confirmed that this Rum was going to have some impact so I, like many, added a splash of water.  This didn’t help!  The rum was close to undrinkable for my taste – I did try, several times(!) and there was a nice rum taste in there somewhere but it was overwhelmed by the straight alcohol content.  Not for me.

The tasting itself was a very good evening, personally I would like to know more background and knowledge about Rum making, history, etc. but there was enough to keep it interesting.  The choices of different tastes was fascinating in that each glass on its own smelled like Rum, but each one was different with its own subtle tones. We took advantage of the 10% discount on the rums included in the tasted by getting a couple of bottles (3 & 4 above), and had a great and very different evening.

Most interesting factoid from the evening: Rum ages tree times as fast in the Caribbean as it would here, so a three year Rum might be equivalent to a 9 year old Whiskey.