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Thread: Neil's Ongoing Liquor Review - Rums

  1. #1
    Join Date
    May 2000
    Seattle WA
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    Default Neil's Ongoing Liquor Review - Rums

    This time it’s Rum for the summer months. And I had several requests for something on rums. Rum makes a great mixer with almost anything as most everyone knows from High School and college party days. But Rum when aged properly can be as complex in flavors as good whiskies or cognacs.

    What’s in it?
    Rum is made from sugar cane. There are numerous varieties of sugar cane, Poceace Saccharum, and all the plants can interbreed, which makes for very productive hybrids used extensively in cultivation. As far as anyone can tell, Sugar Cane is native to Indonesia and SE Asia, and was spread by not only the Spanish, but by early Arab traders across the equatorial regions where tropical weather suits the rapid growth of the Cane.

    Rum can be made from cane juice, cane syrup, or from molasses, which is the byproduct from processing cane into sugar. By the laws of most countries, only sugar cane is to be used to make rum. However, in Europe, sugar beets have been used to make a type of liquor that has been called “rum” and is known as tuzemak.

    As with any production of alcohol, the juice, syrup, or molasses is allowed to ferment. How long varies by the producer, this can be short, less than a day, or up to several days. Once fermented, the distillation takes place.

    Most rum now is produced in continuous stills, but pot still rum is still made in numerous distilleries. A continuous still is much more efficient at production of alcohol, but pot still rums have a more unique flavor development.

    History of Rum
    The history of rum is actually a story of international trade, as well of one of human greed and cruelty.

    There are records of a drink called “brum” which date back to the 1400’s. And Marco Polo records a drink he called “very good wine of sugar” in the middle east. But what we know now as rum has its origins in the Caribbean in the 17th century. By the mid-1600’s, Barbados was known as the sugar capital and distillers of rum, using the by-product of sugar production- molasses - were wide spread. The term “rum runner”, came from those who smuggled rum into the New England area after a ban on imports of rum was put into place by the governor of Connecticut. The production and importation of rum was deemed to be out of control of the government and public drunkenness was prevalent.

    Rum was also used by the British Navy and kept numerous distilleries in operation in the glory days of the British Imperial Navy. Life on board the ships was horrific - crowded conditions, hard labor, lousy food, abuse, and the daily ration of rum was a means to keep the sailors under control. Terms such as “Grog” “Nelson’s Blood” originated in the British Navy rum tradition.

    The use of rum in the triangle trade (molasses made rum, rum was traded for slaves, slaves were bought and put to work on the plantations and distilleries) was a terrible part of history. The production of rum in the Caribbean and in the fledging United States via the triangle trade fueled the economy and was one of the most prosperous industries at the time. New England rum was regarded as some of the best available. In fact, rum and whiskey were two of the most important economic factors in the early days of the United States. George Washington even had a barrel of Barbados rum at his inauguration. Once restrictions were put into place to control the importation of rum from the Caribbean, this lead to the development of the United State’s whiskey distillers growth. See the Bourbon review for some background on that.

    In Australia, Rum was used as a medium of exchange and when the Governor, William Bligh tried to put a stop to the use of rum as a currency, it led to the Rum Rebellion.

    One of the first multinational companies was Bacardi. Don Facundo Bacardi Masso moved from Spain to Cuba. His experimentation in improving rum quality (Partially due to the Spanish Government offering financial incentive to improve the quality of the rum being made and imported) lead to Masso eventually founding Bacardi, and the quality of his product increased the demand for rum in Europe and the United States.

    So it goes to this day. While Rum may not have the prestige of other liquors, it is highly popular in all parts of the world. People love their rum. Part of the popularity of rum is like vodka, the liquor mixes well. It can be produced in quantity and quality easily with both Pot stills and Column stills, rum ages quickly and well, and is somewhat easy economically to produce since sugar by products are so readily available. Not hard to understand why rum and it’s numerous regional variations, such as cachaca (South America), charanda (Mexico), arrack (Indonesia), are so readily found and popular.

    Types of rum
    Rum Agricole is rum made from the Cane juice or syrup.
    Rum Industriale is made from Molasses.

    From these basic types, you can further distinguish by distillation method.
    Pot Still Rum is made in copper pot stills, pot still rums will have more intense flavor development
    Column Still Rum is made in continuous stills, which produces the spirit in one cycle(two distillations). This makes a more highly refined and distilled spirit.

    From the above types, you can further break rum down into the following classes of aging and flavoring.

    Light, Silver, or White Rum
    Unaged or only aged for a short time. If aged, it is usually filtered to remove any coloration from barrel aging. Usually sharper in nose and mouth, typically used more for mixing.

    Gold Rum
    Gold Rums are aged and may have coloring, such as caramel added. Somewhat smoother than white rums in general.

    Dark Rum
    Usually aged in heavily charred barrels, dark rums have more intense flavors. May have coloring added as well

    Overproof Rum
    This is any rum that is high proof, 151 being the most commonly found. These are served usually with a chaser or mixed with juice, or water prior to serving.

    Spiced Rum
    Rum to which spices – widely varying – have been added. Cinnamon, nutmeg, cardamom, cloves, are good examples.

    Flavored Rum
    Usually these have been flavored or aged with fruit such as lime, lemon, berries, orange, coconut.

    You can further break this down by the characteristics of the rum produced in geographic areas. Puerto Rico for example produces lighter more refined rum, Jamaica produces rums which are much heavier in aroma and flavor. But for this review, it’s overkill. You can look it up yourself if you care to use google-fu for more information.

    This review covers several sipping rums, and few of what I call “Cocktail rums”. A cocktail rum is a rum that is good enough to sip on the rocks or even take neat as a shot, but are ideal in mixed drinks, and some mix only rums. Since rum is so much a mixing liquor for most people, I’ve included a few recipes which top my list for summer sipping.

    I’ve left out a lot of rums here, Coruba, Appleton Extra, Barbancourt, Myers, Don Q, Anniversario, etc… Not because they are bad, just simply too many to include. If I left out one of your favorites, sorry. Have a drink of it and relax.

    Appleton Estates Silver
    Color: Clear
    Nose: Sweet, citrus
    Mouth: Medium bodied
    Taste: Citrus, sweet
    Finish: Short to medium, a hint more sweet and some wood resin hints.
    Notes: A very good mixing rum. I like this one neat from the freezer or in a mojito best. A bit more flavor than most white rums, since Appleton ages it for 2 years prior to filtering and bottling.

    Appleton Estates VX
    Color: Gold
    Nose: Sharp, cane sugar, light vanilla, oak, lemon, apricots, hiding in the background
    Mouth: Medium bodied
    Taste: Harsh bite at first, then the background of rum, vanilla, citrus emerge and make it rich and worth another sip or ten.
    Finish: Medium finish, more fruit emerges
    Notes: Makes a great mixer, especially good with lime for a rum punch, or a heavier flavored mojito.

    Appleton Estates Overproof Rum
    Color: Clear
    Nose: Medicinal, herbal overtones, pungent
    Mouth: Huge full body
    Taste: Medicinal, strong herbal flavor, sugar cane grassiness, sharp and hot on the palate
    Finish: Long, hot, more herbal and medicinal flavors, followed by sweetness.
    Notes: This rum should be watered down or with served with lots of mixer. Drinking it neat is possible but not really recommended.

    Bacardi 8
    Color: Dark gold amber
    Nose: Rich, nuts, cinnamon, maple syrup
    Mouth: Medium bodied
    Taste: Oak, vanilla, nuts, cream, spicy background
    Finish: Long, very warm, more spice and cream
    Notes: This is a great rum for a reasonable price. If you like sipping good booze, include this in your cabinet.

    Bacardi Silver
    Color: Clear
    Nose: Light, clean, slightly sweet
    Mouth: Light bodied
    Taste: Dry, crisp, light alcohol bite.
    Finish: Short, some minor sweetness appears, warm to hot flashes.
    Notes: Aged for 1 year and filtered. Nothing unusual, but a well made mixing rum. Try this one neat from the freezer with a dash of bitters or a splash of Roses Lime Juice.

    Color: Deep brown
    Nose: Honey, oak, nuts, copper, sweet floral hints
    Mouth: Big, full bodied
    Taste: Oak, honey, caramel, pot still copper brittleness like a good whiskey, herbal hints in the background.
    Finish: Medium to Long, sweet
    Notes: This is a very good pot still rum and is 10 years old. This is from the RL Seale company as an attempt to increase demand for higher end rums. The bottling has a battery powered label that would flash lights behind images of dancers and play music. Very cool idea and classy looking bottle. It also appeared to fail. In Washington state Coyopa was selling for $50 per bottle for a limited time. I bought it in CA for $10 per bottle. If you want a very good pot still rum (heavier flavors, more cogengers which means chances of hangover) this is a good one to buy. I bought three bottles on my last trip to CA and no, you can’t have any.

    Cruzan White
    Color: Clear
    Nose: Medicinal, herbal
    Mouth: Light bodied
    Taste: Sugar, molasses
    Finish: Warm to hot short finish
    Notes: This is a mixer, works well with carbonated beverages for rum and coke fans.

    Cruzan Estate Single Barrel
    Color: Dark golden amber
    Nose: Rich, toffee, vanilla, sweet, molassses, slightly bitter
    Mouth: Medium to full bodied
    Taste: Some hints of citrus, then toffee and vanilla, some slight bitterness
    Finish: Medium to long, warm to hot, more sugar and vanilla
    Notes: This is somewhat of a misleading name too. This is a blend of different casks, which are then aged for a second time in a single barrel. In any case, buy a bottle, at about $30, it’s well worth it if you like rums. I think this one comes off best with a bit of ice and a twist of lemon or lime.

    Flor De Cana 7 year old
    Color: Orange golden brown, if that makes any sense
    Nose: Spicy, nutmeg, cinnamon, vanilla, caramel, oak, herbal overtones
    Mouth: Medium to Full bodied
    Taste: Light and sweet with oak, toffee, then deepens with more toffee and oak, some slight bitterness, possibly from Pot still distillation?
    Finish: Short to medium, very warm, almost hot
    Notes: This is one of my favorite rums for aroma and texture. While lacking a bit in finish, it’s wonderful when served with a splash of hot water to take down the bite, and increase the aroma and the flavors open up when warmed. Buy it.

    Havana Club 3 year old
    Color: Pale yellow gold
    Nose: Citrus, nuts, vanilla, oak
    Mouth: Light to medium bodied
    Taste: Lime, nuts, vanilla, clean but lightly sweet
    Finish: A very warm medium to long finish,
    Notes: Havana Club makes some great rums, Canada, Mexico and every where else that doesn’t ban Cuban products is a good place to be if you like rum. Good enough to drink neat, mixes well in a mojito or a rum punch. If you can get it, buy it.

    Havana Club 7 year old
    Color: deep brown, reddish overtones
    Nose: Rich, pine, herbal, citrus, oak
    Mouth: Big and full bodied
    Taste: Lots of development here, cocoa, vanilla, citrus, pine, caramel, herbal grasses, creamy
    Finish: More of the flavors appear in a long warm smooth finish, a hint of bitterness balances out the sweetness.
    Notes: This Cuban rum is well worth seeking out. Pot Still rum, this is one of the best rums on the market. For US residents, if traveling to Canada or Mexico, grab a bottle to bring home for me! Serve this one neat or with a bit of ice. If you choose to mix, then only mix with a light non masking mixer like soda or tonic. If you can get it buy it.

    Inner Circle Green Spot
    Color: Deep golden brown
    Nose: Honey, vanilla, orange citrus, sharp
    Mouth: Full bodied
    Taste: Honey, some caramel, vanilla, citrus at first, then a pot still copper brittle grassiness
    Finish: Very Long, sweet, some heat from the alcohol, a very long, long pleasant warmth in the throat.
    Notes: This is from Australia, and is a pot still rum, and is bottled at cask strength of 114 proof. This rum was originally produced only for the staff and clients of the Colonial Sugar Refinery in the last century. This is supposed to be made to the original recipe and distillation methods. Another rum that makes my “If you can find it, buy it” list.

    Pyrat rum
    Color: Golden brown
    Nose: Sweet, citrus, herbal, vanilla, oak
    Mouth: Big full bodied
    Taste: Thickly sweet, lots of citrus and spice notes, then the vanilla oak emerge, with more sweetness.
    Finish: Long, lots of orange, lemon, spice, warm and vanilla emerging at the end cutting through the sweetness.
    Notes: If you like sweet, this is one for you. This one is a mixer to my taste buds. Goes best with a big splash of seltzer and ice, and a dash of bitters to take down the sweetness.

    Ron Barrelito 2 star
    Color: Light golden brown
    Nose: Light, fragrant, fruit, herbal background
    Mouth: Medium bodied
    Taste: Smooth, sugar, fruit, light vanilla, citrus
    Finish: Medium to long, warm
    Notes: Not as well known as Barcardi, Ron Barrelito produces outstanding rums. I can’t find my tasting notes on the 3 star, but it is superior to the 2 star I review here. A versatile rum for sipping neat or mixing. I think this one comes off best mixed with seltzer or tonic, or in a mojito.

    Ron Castillo Silver
    Color: Clear
    Nose: Sweet, sharp
    Mouth: Sugar, hints of molasses,
    Taste: Simple, sugar, molasses
    Finish: Short to medium, warm to hot finish
    Notes: This is a mixer, I like this one for best for Mojitos and other citrus juices and it’s good in cola as well.

    Ron Matusalem Gold
    Color: Golden brown
    Nose: sugar cane, lightly sweet
    Mouth: Light to medium body
    Taste: sweet, hints of vanilla, spice
    Finish: Medium finish, nicely warm and hints of spice, oak, vanilla emerge.
    Notes: Good enough to drink neat, but works best just on the rocks, and a splash of bitters to bring out a contrast to the sweetness.

    Ron Matusalem Gran Reserva
    Color: Light gold
    Nose: sugar cane, cream, caramel, and honey
    Mouth: Big
    Taste: Sugarcane, chocolate, spicy, nuts, oak, vanilla hints, sweet
    Finish: Long, lots of spice reappears, more sweetness
    Notes: A fantastic sipping rum, like Flor de Cana, a splash of hot water takes the sweetness down and improves the flavor and aroma balance. Very good with a twist of lime and on the rocks.

    Westerhall Estates Plantation Rum
    Color: Light gold
    Nose: Light fragrant citrus and vanilla
    Mouth: Light to medium bodied, soft, silky smooth.
    Taste: Clean, a hit of sweetness and then vanilla and oak which makes your taste buds happy and then suddenly disappears.
    Finish: Short to medium finish, with more vanilla, oak, and a slight nutty flavor emerging
    Notes: This is a very easy to drink rum. Serve this one to people who claim not to like rum. This works best either neat and warmed in your hand, or with a bit of ice, which will bring out more of the aroma as it melts. One of the best rums I’ve ever tasted. Buy it.


    Basic Mojito
    This version is more tart than sweet. If you like sweet, than add more simple syrup and reduce the lime.
    1 bunch mint (approximately 5 stems)
    1 ounce lime juice and 3-4 wedges of lime
    1 teaspoon sugar or simple syrup
    1 or 2 shots of white rum
    Muddle together in a large glass with ice. Top off with seltzer water, add another sprig of mint.

    Neil's Coconut Mojito recipe
    1 bunch mint, about same as above recipe
    1/2 lime in wedges
    1 teaspoon sugar or simple syrup to taste
    1 oz coconut juice. The stuff with pulp is more flavorful
    4 oz white or gold rum
    Splash of Bacardi 151 or Meyers. Adds a little sharp bite to offset any overly sweetness from sugar.
    Muddle together mint, lime, sugar, coconut juice. Add crushed ice and rum. Top off with seltzer or soda water. Add a float of the 151.

    Sweet Tart
    1/2 shot Cruzan Coconut rum
    1/2 shot Pineapple rum
    1 shot Smirnoff Citrus vodka
    Keep the bottles in the freezer, mix rum and vodka together and serve in a cold glass.

    Neil’s Rum punch
    Note: A daiquiri is essentially a rum punch. You will not be able to tell there is rum in this rum punch when done correctly. This is your only warning!
    1 to 2 parts lime juice depending on how tart you like your drinks.
    2 parts simple syrup
    2 shots of rum (You can use an overproof rum if you like. Just add 2 to 3 parts water to bring it to a non-punishing drinkable level)
    Mix together above ingredients in a shaker. Add ice and swirl or shake hard if you like it bruised.(That means little tiny flakes of ice in your drink) Strain out ice if desired and serve in a martini glass or just pour into a tall glass, including the ice. Add a twist of lime, or a sprig of mint or basil twisted over the glass and dropped on top.

    Rum Sledge Hammer (For professionals only)
    Big wedge of lime squeezed into glass before adding ginger beer and rum
    2 shots Appleton Overproof rum or Bacardi 151
    1/4 bottle ice cold Reeds ginger beer
    3-4 drops of Angostura bitters- optional
    Add rum to glass first, then slowly add the ginger beer to prevent any foaming. Add bitters if you like. Drink quickly and then drink the remaining ginger beer over ice. Not recommended for lightweights.

    If you make this with dark rum like Coruba or Saratoga, and a bottle of ginger beer, it’s called a “dark and stormy.”

    Screw the British
    I was told this drink was called “Screw the British” while up in Vancouver BC years ago. Don’t know if that’s true. I include it only because it has rum in it and will make you get stupid very quickly.
    1 shot Pussers Navy rum
    1 shot cheap British gin, like Gilbeys.
    1 shot cheap brandy
    Shake up with ice, strain into a glass, serve to someone you don’t like.

    Rum-ritas for a party
    This is for weenies like me who can’t drink too much tequila.
    2 1/2 c. rum
    1/2 c. Grand Marnier
    1 1/2 c. (heaping) fresh lime juice
    grated zest of 4 limes
    1 c. sugar
    3 c. water
    Lime wedges, garnish
    Kosher salt for rims of glasses

    Muddle and mix together above but for salt and lime wedge garnishes. Chill well. Rim glasses with salt and serve with a wedge of lime. You can add a splash of grapefruit juice for a bit more unusual taste.

    Last edited by Neil Yamamoto; 26th October 2007 at 19:35.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Dec 2003
    Louisville, KY
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    I am looking for a good starter dark premium rum for drinking neat or over ice. Any suggestions?

    Jeff Brown

  3. #3
    Join Date
    May 2000
    Washington State, USA
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    Neil's out of town for a few days.

    About all that I can say about rum is that a triple shot of 151 gets you ready for bed pretty promptly.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    May 2000
    Seattle WA
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    Most dark rums are not of any better quality than any of the ones I review above. Usually, most dark rums are really cheaper rums with coloring added to give the appearance of flavor and development by aging.

    For a dark rum Myers is the one most people go to. I find it a bit medicinal in taste, with a musty earthiness, and not well balanced in flavor. If Myers is what I'm being served, I tend to drink it with a twist of lemon or lime and with lots of ice.

    I do tend to like Appleton's dark rum, sold as Saratoga. To me, it's best on the rocks with a twist. Another interesting dark is Cruzan Navy Rum, it's got a heavy molasses flavor, and works best on the rocks. Much better balanced in flavor than Myers Rum.

    Bacardi Select and Bacardi 8 are both darker rums with good flavor and work well neat or on the rocks. The Select is better on the rocks, and 8 works best neat. Both are about $20 usually. A lighter rum which is good neat or on the rocks is Don Q.

    If you want more expensive rums to drink neat or with ice, go with either Flor De Cana, they also make a 12 year old which is really good as well, or the Ron Matusalem Gran Reserva. About $30 to $40. I reviewed both above.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Feb 2004
    London, UK
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    Great review as usual!

    I'm no connoisseur, and I've only tasted (or even seen for sale) two of the above. Need to do some more exploring, especially as my drink of choice this summer is dark rum + apple juice, maybe with a sprig of mint.



  6. #6
    Join Date
    Jul 2000
    Chicago, IL
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    Nice article on another one of my favorite liquors.

    Here is a recipe for ti punch, a popular cocktail I discovered in Martinique (a good source for rum as well) years ago.

    1 ounce each of white rum and dark rum
    1 ounce cane sugar syrup
    1 lime

    Pour it over ice and enjoy. When I was in Martinique, it seemed to be a very popular drink to sit by the beach and watch the sunset.
    Robert Cronin

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