How to Taste Rum

Over the past few months we’ve had a lot of fun conducting rum tastings with our friends and family. Our objectives were simple: to share our love and passion for a good sipping rum and (quite frankly) to empty our liquor cabinet to make room for more rum. Tasting a rum is to delve into the character the producer painstakingly was trying to create through the distillation and aging process. Rum tasting is not complicated. Go ahead and pour a rum you have been dying to taste and let’s walk through this tasting together. 

A quick note before we begin. There are no wrong answers or observations. We don’t care what the distiller’s notes on the bottle say you should be tasting. If you follow this column you know that everyone’s palette is different. That’s okay. Enjoy your own experience.

Appearance
Observing the color and the lacing tells a lot about the rum before you even put it up to your nose. The color can tell a lot about the type of barrel it was aged in and even for how long it was aged. Lacing, or legs, speaks to the viscosity of the rum. Tilt the glass from side to side. Does the liquid run back down the glass quickly leaving no trace or does it take its own sweet time? Observing both color and lacing prepares your brain for what’s to come.

Nose
The best way to smell a rum is from a high level. After the pour bring the glass to your nose and breathe in from above the rim of the glass. What do you observe? Next swirl the glass to let the rum open, then take another sniff. Is there anything more to discover? Don’t spend a long time here. 

Taste
That first sip generally is a shock to your system hitting you with an alcohol burn that you may not have been prepared for after your nose experience. Let that sip go through from palette to finish. Now take another, slower sip. Let the rum engulf your senses. Is it sweet, bitter, or spicy? Can you identify any of the flavors? Maybe vanilla, molasses, allspice, tobacco, oak. Remember, there’s no wrong answer.

How does the rum feel on your tongue? Is it light, syrupy or simply smooth? Compare the body to what you observed in the appearance.

Finally let the rum finish as you swallow. Have any of the notes changed? Does the rum quickly fade away or does it give you a warming sensation? Does it invite you to come back for more? 

Take another sip. Anything change? Is there more to discover or has the rum presented everything it wanted you to experience?

Now sit back and enjoy what this rum has to offer and decide whether you want to share. If you do, drop us a line so we can enjoy as well. [email protected].