How To Taste Rum

A rum tasting at one of the largest distilleries.
This tasting was the beginning of a new line of rums.
Joy Spence, Master Blender at Appleton Rums.
Here she is seen nosing some rum creations.

Everyone will probably have their own ideas and methods on the best way to taste a glass of rum for the first time, so here is another example.
This is how The Rumelier would taste a glass of rum. Before you pour the rum into a glass, it is advantageous to read the labels on the bottle of rum first. By doing this you can learn as much about the rum as possible before you taste it. This will often include an age statement, country of origin, strength and often a brief description of the rum. If there is no information on the label there is always the Internet to help search for this information. If you don't care just go ahead and guess the missing information. Having learnt all you can about the rum before you taste it, will leave you with certain expectations about the rum before you taste it, presuming you have some previous knowledge of drinking rum.
After you have poured the sample into the glass lift it up to the light and check for clarity in the rum. Aged rums will have a golden or mahogany hue from thier extensive ageing in oak barrels. This colour will tell you what to expect when you taste it. Its colour can be clear, gold, dark brown or anything in between depending on the production process. This colour will be your first clue as to how the rum is going to taste. Lighter rums tend to be lighter and drier, and adrker rums richer and heavier in flavour.
Aged rums should have a brilliance and be clear and see through. They should also have a greenish tint around the edge of the glass, another result of extensive ageing.
The glass that you use to drink the rum from can be an important part of the experience. A fine brandy snifter is one of the most advantageous glasses to use. If this is not available a wine glass will work. There is now a whisky glass available that is a perfect rum tasting glass. The size of the tasting glass is a personnal preference, the more you want to drink, the bigger the glass.
Once the rum has been poured into the glass, give it an initial noseing from the far side of the glass. Master Blenders use the sense of smell the most when blending their rums.
One thing many people try after they have poured the rum into the glass, is to put some kind of cover over the glass, eg. a beer coaster or the plastic top from a tube of Pringles. This helps keep the various aromas trapped inside the glass. This is easier to acheive with a glass with a narrower mouth.
Then swirl the rum around in the glass. While the rum is slowing it's circular motion around the glass check the sides of the glass to see what type of "legs" the rum has as it settles down the sides of the glass. Light bodied rums will have thin "legs" that slide down the glass quickly. Heavy rums will have thick "legs" that move down the glass slowly.
Now take another sniff of the rum to see if more of the aromas have been released by the swirling of the rum. Some of the aromas you may detect can be, wood, nuts, honey, spice, vanilla, cocoa, orange.
Now for the best part of a rum tasting, the actual tasting. It is best to take a small sip intially and swirl it around your mouth. Then let the rum linger on your tongue and then the rest of your mouth by more swirling. After then swallowing the rum, allow the taste to linger again and assess the "finish" which will probably be your most important memory of the rum.
The length of the "finish", how long the taste lingers in your mouth and nose, tells a lot about the complexity of the rum.
What did you taste? Oak, vanilla, molasses, caramel, fruit, cinnamon, spices, nutmeg, tobacco, coconut, etc., and how would you describe the rum, sweet, smooth, full-bodied, harsh, well-balanced, etc.
If you are not sure about the rum take another sip and keep trying it until you make your mind up about it. Everybody is different and everybody will have an opinion and these are best shared among friends.
If you are one of those people you do not like to drink your spirits "straight" feel free to water down your rum to about 50% of it's original strength depending on your own preference. This will achieve a less harsh flavour and make it more palatable. It is best to use bottled spring or mineral water. A few ice cubes can be added if you like your drinks cold, or you live in the tropics. Then just sit back and enjoy the taste of your favourite Caribbean rum.
Of course the only way to drink the older, aged, Caribbean rums is in a snifter mixed with a little water and an ice cube or two. What better way to spend a night!

The ideal glass to taste rum in is a snifter.
Size does not matter!
A Brandy Snifter Makes A Good Tasting Glass.
The narrower the rim the better for keeping the aroma in.

Rum Tasting Kit

A fun project for a rainy night is to make your very own Rum Tasting Kit. This idea was been inspired by Luis K. Ayala and his Rum Shop and Rum University. Check out there website at for much more information about rum.

The idea for a rum tasting kit is to let you smell some of the aromas you might smell when tasting your favourite rum. It is very simple and fun to make and is a good conversation piece at a rum tasting.
You will need to purchase the following items:-
1) A selection of 9 or more empty spice bottles.
2) A box to hold them in (The Rumelier used an old Goslings box).
3) A bottle of white rum. (The Rumelier used Mount Gay).

4) Oak chips.
5) Molasses.

6) Vanilla Beans.
7) Cinnamon Sticks.

8) Pickling Spice.
9) Various Dried Fruits.
10) Nutmeg.
11) A bottle of fine aged rum. (The Rumelier used Mount Gay Extra Old)

Once you have collected all the items, fill each bottle about half way. Take one bottle and fill it with the oak chips, then the next bottle with the molasses. Continue down the list until all your bottles are full. If need be, top up the bottles with extra rum and then fill the last two bottles with just the white rum in one bottle and the aged rum in the last bottle. These will be your control bottles. Close the bottles and shake them. Then let them rest for as long as you like. You can add other items that you might be able to smell in rum, it is your kit.
Once you have decided on how many bottles you are going to use don't forget to label them all.
You now have your very own Rum Tasting Kit that you can share with friends and start your own rum tastings at home.

An option The Rumelier has recently added to his rum tasting kit is a bottle of Haitian Moonshine called Clarin. This acts as an example of a raw, straight from the still rum. This is a completely different aroma (and certainly taste!) from the other test samples and gives a good example of what effect oak can have when you compare it to the aged rum sample.

A simple rum tasting kit is easy to make.
Eight or nine bottles is plenty to start your kit.

Rum Tasting Tips

1) Make sure when you are planning to taste a substantial ammount of rum that you are doing so on a full stomach. Tasting rum on an empty stomach can be dangerous to your health.

2) Don't eat any spicy food before you taste any rums. Avoid things like onions, garlic, coffee and curries just to name a few, or this will effect your taste buds and alter your taste of the rum.

3) Do not wear too much cologne or perfume as this will alter your ability to smell the aromas of the rum.

4) Do not be afraid to spit the rum out, especially if you do not like the taste of it or do not wish to drink too much alcohol.

5) Do not be afraid to water the rum down to a more palatable taste if you do not like drinking it at full strength. It can taste much better if you water it down to about 50% of it's original strength.

6) Keep a writen record of your tasting experience of each rum for future reference. A written account of each rum can come in useful for future tastings and purchases. Things can become hazy after a long tasting.

7) Provide bottles or glasses of water for cleansing the palate between tastings, as well as crackers with no salt and maybe, mild tasting cheeses.

8) Have an empty container of some sort incase someone does not wish to swallow the rum, but would rather spit it out.

Tasting a glass of rum in the Turks and Caicos.
Appleton Rums Being Tasted at the Estate.
This group was tasting and blending their own rums..
Branded rum glasses from various distilleries.
They come in all shapes and sizes.