Guide on How to Taste Rum
31 May, 2021
Rum, like wine, holds history in every sip. The secrets of each blend are available to anyone who simply takes the time to recognize them by unlocking the senses. Rum tasting at home is the key.
One could dedicate a lifetime to exploring and understanding rums. A favored blend often becomes a loyal companion; one to look forward to reuniting with come the end of a long day. How to drink rum properly is largely subjective, as this liquor is rooted in experimentation and fun, even throughout its production process.
That being said, there are definitely a few tips and tricks that we’d like to share with you so that you can enjoy memorable rum tasting from the comfort of your own home — any day, any time!
How to Taste Rum for Beginners?
As a tasting beginner, your earthly senses are your golden ticket. How to taste rum relies solely on the experience of the eyes, nose and tongue, which will eventually work together quite symphonically in celebrating each unique rum taste.
First things first, observe the density of any rum you are about to bring to your lips. We do this through swirling the liquid around the glass and looking out for what are known as “legs”. Legs should ideally run slowly down the sides of your glass; this indicates a dense blend that has been well aged and offers a higher alcohol content.
It’s not time to sip just yet; your nose needs a second to make the rum’s acquaintance. We smell rum in order to pick up on initial aromas that may offer a point of reference once it later hits the tongue. One may detect hints of plum or vanilla, for example, and can then start to build a better understanding of the blend itself. It’s important to keep your distance when smelling a quality rum; no need to get as close as you would with wine.
Finally, tongue meets rum, but it’s not the first sip you need to focus on — it’s the second. Your first sip is merely the acclimatizer. You see, the alcohol content in rum is high, so the palate has to be prepared before it can properly interpret. Swirl a first small sip of rum around your tongue for roughly six seconds and swallow. Now, indulge in a second, more generous swing.
Seasoned rum drinkers will tell you to always take a moment to appreciate the body and consistency of the liquid you’ve just encountered. A rum that leaves something behind on the palate after being swallowed is a rum that was properly made. At this point, one can generally tell if the rum has been made using natural or artificial flavoring.
Best Rum Pairings
Rum pairings can be ritualistic in the sense that if you are intending to taste the entire product portfolio of one specific brand, there is generally an order that should be adhered to for optimized enjoyment and experience.
For example, Diplomático is a super premium rum, with a fleet of products that can both stand alone or be appreciated in unison. The best way to delve into their unique product portfolio would be in the following tasting order:
- Diplomático Mantuano: an authentic blend of rums aged for up to eight years. Opening up with aromas of dried plums, oak and a delicate spiciness, it is complex and well-balanced on the palate, following on with notes of dried fruits, wood and vanilla.
- Diplomático Planas: a unique white rum aged for up to six years. Fresh and tropical aromas lead on to slightly fruity and creamy flavors and a delicate yet pronounced finish.
- Diplomático Reserva Exclusiva: blend of exclusive rum reserves aged for up to twelve years, carefully selected by Diplomático’s Master Blenders. Opening up with aromas of orange peel, toffee and licorice, it is smooth on the palate, and follows on with notes of toffee fudge that offers a seductive, long-lasting finish.
- Diplomático Single Vintage: after twelve years of aging in bourbon and malt whisky casks, this rum is placed in Oloroso sherry barrels to provide the perfect finish. Its rich aromatic profile includes notes of vanilla, spices and almonds. It is silky and incredibly flavorsome on the palate with a taste of tobacco, oak and caramel.
- Diplomático Ambassador: after a minimum of twelve years of aging in white oak casks, the rums are aged for two additional years in Pedro Ximénez sherry casks. This incomparable rum features aromas reminiscent of port wine, dried fruits and cigar boxes. It is complex on the palate with cinnamon, nutmeg and toasted oak notes leading onto a long, pleasing aftertaste.
Remember, every brand is different and can bring something vastly different to the table. Curating your own order of events is all part of the fun!
Drinking Rum Straight vs Mixed
Is drinking rum straight recommended over mixing? A question that comes up for most rum tasting beginners.
There is no right or wrong way to drink rum; this is the beauty of the beverage and what makes it such a well-loved spirit around the world. Experienced rum drinkers often enjoy their blends neat, as their palates are fully immersed in the process and even a vintage product is no longer overwhelming to them.
Those with less experience may still opt for the straight serving, but may gravitate toward younger, easier rums that are more gently palatable.
As with most edible products, the best tasting rum for one individual, likely won’t hit the same for another. Consumers are encouraged to pay attention to the labels when purchasing a rum to taste; some blends are not intended for neat consumption at all! They are made for mixing and best enjoyed in the form of a cocktail.
Rum Tasting at Home
We think you’re ready for your own at-home rum tasting, and how you go about orchestrating it is up to you. Whether you invite ten friends around or intend to enjoy your own company with nothing more than a Bob Dylan record spinning in the background, you’re in for a journey of discovery both inward and outward.
There isn’t an ideal time of the day during which to enjoy rum, though for a tasting it is generally better to have a clean palate, thus allowing the notes in each blend to come forth.
How to Serve Rum?
Chefs would call it plating, and the way in which rum is served is actually quite integral to the tasting experience. Just as you wouldn’t serve fine wine in a milkshake glass, rum for tasting is best served neat in a whiskey or shooter glass and mixed in a cocktail or tall glass.
When pondering how to serve rum, some explore the option of a rum flight. A flight is when a selection of five spirits is lined up in 1-ounce servings, generally in order of tasting (first to last). This method works well with rums, especially when careful thought has gone into the choosing of each brand or blend.
All Bartending Tools You Need for a Rum Tasting
Bartending tools are required when rum is being mixed into cocktails for the purpose of the tasting. You’ll need only the basic cocktail tools, such as a shaker, strainer and swirling spoon. If your chosen cocktail involves herbs of any sort, you might want to have a muddler nearby.
Rums being served in a neater fashion don’t require much more than a suitable glass; however, some people enjoy the added effect of a speed pourer and/or jigger for measuring. Don’t get too caught up in the art of it all — you’re here to taste rum, not win mixologist of the year!
Ideas of Food for Rum Tasting
It can be a good idea to have some snacks available throughout an at home rum tasting. Food for rum tasting helps with the cleansing and neutralizing of the palate between blends, and works to generously line the stomach.
Best Foods for Straight Rums
- Tortilla chips
- Orange slices
Best Foods for Cocktail Mixed Rums
- Red meat
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