Inspired by our gin tasting a few months back, we made a pact to eventually do the same for all of our liquor. This time, we pulled out the rum: one of Jen’s favorite spirits. I’ve always been lukewarm on rum, so this was a pretty big eye opener for me. I’ve long wondered why Tiki drinks might call for 3 different kinds of rum that I didn’t consider to be that different from one another, and I’ve finally got my answer.
Just like with the gin, there were some real surprises, and some discoveries in our own collection that really changed the way I thought about quite a few of these. We invited our friend Becky over again to help, and we individually rated each and picked an overall favorite. Here’s everything we tried, in the order we tried them (prices according to the PLCB site, when available), complete with a chart of our individual ratings at the end:
1| Mount Gay Eclipse Gold ($13.99, 80 Proof): This may have been a bad place to start. Across the board, this was the least favorite rum of the night. It had a harsh burn, tasted like the rum that everyone pictures after they haven’t had any rum since that one night in college, and lacked in character. It would be useful in large batches of fruit mojitos or something else where a powerful fruit can overtake the flavor in a party setting for the non-discerning drinker when you need a lot of a booze that no one is going to appreciate anyway.
2| Cruzan Aged Gold Rum ($12.99, 80 Proof): We were all surprised to find out that we greatly preferred the Cruzan to the Mount Gay, especially because we initially got the Mount Gay specifically to replace the Cruzan as a mixer. The sugarcane flavor really came through, and in the sweetness there was a little bit of a pleasant throat warmth. “Inoffensive” and “smooth” were the two most common descriptors.
3| Mount Gay Eclipse Silver ($10.99, 80 Proof): While it was better than the Mount Gay Gold, it wasn’t by a large margin. Almost no sweetness to the rum somehow made the flavor almost reminiscent of tequila. No one was shocked by how bad it was, but we agreed that we probably won’t be buying it again.
4| Bacardi Silver ($14.99, 80 Proof): This was another one we weren’t looking forward to drinking. Years of ads and being classified as a well liquor had us all expecting the worst. Of course, we were wrong again. The Bacardi was smooth and easy to drink with almost no burn at all. Someone described it as “buttery,” and everyone agreed with the assessment. By this point, we were starting to learn that our liquor prejudices might be a bit unfounded. We closed out this round agreeing simply: Bacardi is pretty good.
5| 10 Cane ($26.99, 80 Proof): The 10 Cane was a little different than the rum we had tasted so far in that it had a bit more character to go on. I actually liked it a bit more than Jen and Becky, thought we agreed that price-wise, it was a little high for what we were tasting. It had more burn than we expected, and had a bit of a sour flavor that would mix well with sour. If I had to pick a way to use the 10 Cane, it would be in a Mojito. The lime would balance it well, and the kick would stand out well enough to compete with the mint.
A whole bunch more – including our stand-out favorites – after the break.
6| Kraken Spiced Rum ($19.99, 94 Proof): From the more inexpensive rums, we transitioned into the spiced just for a bit of a flavor change. Jen and I both have bad memories of spiced rum from our college years, so it’s taken us a bit of time to come back around to them, and to understand that not all spiced rum is Captain Morgan. The Kraken was a big hit for Becky in particular: it was sweet with vanilla and caramel, and pleasant to sip, even with the burn of a 94 proof spirit.
7| Brinley Gold Shipwreck Spiced Rum ($18.99, 72 Proof): I was recently turned on to this one when someone from the company was giving out samples in our local liquor store, and boy am I glad I was. I liked it better than the Kraken by a decent margin. It was much more complex, the vanilla and caramel flavors were more subtle, and there was more of a general spiciness. It was incredibly smooth, and I may have refilled my tasting glass for seconds. Great for sipping.
8| Cruzan Blackstrap Rum ($17.79, 80 Proof): If you’ve never tasted blackstrap rum, you should really do yourself a favor and do so. Most people tend to have Gosling’s or Myers’s, which we didn’t have for comparison, but we enjoyed this one a lot. It has an incredible smell, after which the taste is a little bit of a letdown, but the aftertaste is fantastic. None of us actually really enjoyed sipping it, but the before and after made it worth the burn. Blackstrap, to me, is meant to be mixed. That thick, molasses flavor does well with other tastes and really brings something unique to the table.
9| Appleton Estates Reserve ($19.99, 80 Proof): Appleton had a lot of interesting flavors going on. It tasted like a barrel, didn’t have too much burn, and very little sweetness. It was mellow and almost savory, with a lot of the characteristics that I look for in a good whiskey. Appleton Reserve has the versatility to be the perfect missing link between a sipping rum and a mixing rum. For that versatility, I’d recommend keeping a bottle of this around in any well thought out home bar.
10| Smith & Cross Navy Strength ($28.99, 114 Proof): I think I enjoyed this one more than everyone else, but the consensus was that it was delicious, if a little rough to drink alone. It had an intense, almost scotch-like flavor, with a lot of complexity and character. Very much unlike anything else I’ve tasted. Would be great in spirit-forward rum drinks if you’re the kind of person that likes a good manhattan or martini.
11| Vieux Clement VSOP Rhum Agricole ($38.59, 80 Proof): The rhum agricole definitely had a different flavor than the other rum we had been tasting (agricole is made from the juice of sugar cane, rather than the molasses of processed cane), and I’m not sure I liked it very much. It was closer to a whiskey than a standard rum, with a woody, vegetal aftertaste that I found a bit unpleasant. There was a slight smokiness and something that was almost soapy. I would like to do more experimenting with mixing because it definitely has something different to bring to the table, and in the right balance it could be quite good. I should also note, I liked this less than Jen and Becky, who weren’t as critical of the flavor.
12| Rhum Barbancourt 8 Year ($21.99, 86 Proof): Another offering made from the juice of sugar cane rather than molasses, Haiti’s Rhum Barbancourt turned out to be a lot more pleasant to me than the Clement. It had an interesting, complex flavor that seemed suited for sipping or layering in tiki drinks with simpler, sweeter rums.
13| R. L. Seale Aged 10 Year ($32.99, 86 Proof): I don’t believe this one is available in PA yet, but it was about $32 when we picked it up in Delaware recently. The R.L. Seale has a rich, gold color, and a sweet, pleasant taste. It wasn’t a huge standout in the group, but it was very well balanced and everyone had nothing but nice things to say about it. Another good middle-of-the-road rum, mush like the Appleton. It would mix well in drinks that didn’t have too much going on and would let the rum speak for itself.
14| Brugal Anejo ($19.99, 80 Proof): The Brugal was a surprisingly well-rounded rum with a character very much its own. Strong citrus flavors that played well with the sour notes and a warm, slight burn. Overall, it was exceptionally crisp. This one would work really well in anything summery, as it really had that nice clean, outdoor drinking type flavor and very little of the syrup undertones of many other rums.
15| El Dorado 15 Year ($34.99, 80 Proof): We were slightly split on this one. Everyone agreed it was delicious, but I thought it was more suited to sipping, while everyone else thought it was the perfect mixing rum. It was smooth, a bit sweet, but balanced well with sourness. The flavor comes to you right up-front rather than building slowly. You can really taste how mellow it had become from aging for so long. This one was my favorite of the night.
16| Pampero Aniversario ($32.99, 80 Proof): Another one that you can’t get in PA, this has been a favorite of ours for a while now. The Aniversario is extremely well balanced, and the epitome of a sipping rum. Rich, mildly sweet, and unquestionably drinkable, it is worth every ounce of effort we need to put in to keep it stocked in our house. If you enjoy drinking rum, you simply need to have a bottle of Pampero Aniversario, in our humble opinions. This one was both Jen and Becky’s favorite of the night.
17| Pyrat XO Reserve Rum ($29.99, 80 Proof): Pyrat almost edged out the El Dorado and Aniversario for all three of us. Super smooth, a little tart, and really strong orange flavors made this one a great last tasting of the night. It was pleasant to drink, and shared a lot of characteristics with desert drinks. We only picked it up recently, but I can tell we’re going to get a bit of milage out of it.
Just like with the gin, we’re learning real lessons about judging liquor by what we think we know about them, and figuring out that you really have to taste things side-by-side if you want to get a solid comparison. Thanks again to Becky for all her help, and keep a look out for more tastings: we’ve got amari, bourbon, irish whiskey, rye and tequila on deck!
Are we missing your favorite rum? Let us know what we should pick up next!