Five things I’ve Learned About… Aged Rum

The December 1, 2011 issue of Wine Enthusiast magazine is out, and it includes (among other things) my review column on Aged Rum.  You can pick up a copy at the newsstand, or view it in digital format on Zinio (if it’s not there now, it will be soon).  Here’s what I learned:

1. First, I learned that I really, really like aged rum. In general, the rums I tried were AMAZING, and I haven’t had such a good overall crop since the Bourbon category (and the high scores reflected that.)

However…. I do think this got “gamed” a little bit. In other words, I suspect that I was sent cream-of-the-crop reserve rums in many cases, rather than middle-of-the-line specimens. But I’m not really complaining. :)

2. Whenever possible, I try to arrange tastings to compare apples to apples – ie, for tequilas, it made sense to taste all the blancos together, then the reposados, etc. But it’s awfully hard to segregate rums. At first, I thought age would make sense – but many rums are made using a blend of rums of varying ages, and terms like “VSOP” and “anejo” are used pretty much willy nilly, which must piss off cognac & tequila makers. After a while, I understood why in his seminar at Tales, rum expert Ed Hamilton advised, “don’t get hung up by the age of your rum.”

3. It didn’t make sense to arrange tastings by provenance, either, since rums come from all over the Caribbean and Latin America. However, if I had specifically asked for rums from say, Martinique, or Puerto Rico, I could have done it. Lesson:  I’ll be smarter in future rum tastings and will ask for rums from a specific place.

4. Soft, softer, softest. Sometimes we refer to spirits as having a “soft” or “velvety” texture. But  I’ve never felt anything quite like aged rum for feather-bed softness on the tongue. It sounds like a cliché, but my raw tasting notes for one rum in particular said, “like sticking my tongue in feathers.” Not an appetizing description if you think about it too closely, but it was super-velvety. (The rum was Angostura 1919.)

5. Many rums were aged (or finished) in barrels that previously held Cognac, Sherry, Bourbon etc etc. You can really taste it in the spirit, too, which is lovely. The type of wood used varies too – French, American oak, etc. I knew this was increasingly common in whiskey, but I didn’t realize how prevalent the practice had become in rum too.

Do you have a favorite aged rum?  I’d love to hear about it. (you know where to leave a reply…)

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2 thoughts on “Five things I’ve Learned About… Aged Rum

  1. This is wonderful, Kara! I remember a few years ago, I was working on a spring drinks piece for Time Out and Jim Meehan told me that he believed that rum would be the next spirit to blow up, then had me taste some El Dorado 15 year special reserve — I flipped, had never tasted anything like it. Did you have a clear-cut favorite? That Angostura 1919 sounds awesome.

    • Thanks, Zach! I’m surprised that rum hasn’t already “blown up.” I suspect because it’s so wide-ranging, it’s hard to understand what the options are. I’m still learning.

      I did have a favorite, but I’m not going to post it on the blog. Need to leave some incentive for people to buy the magazine!

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