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Old 11-21-2007, 01:01 PM   #3
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Join Date: Mar 2007
Location: Boston, MA, USA
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I've tasted many white Puerto Rican rums - well, I think all of the ones that one can get in the US. Bacardi, Palo Viejo, DonQ, Ron Rico and Castillo. To generalize, I find them all harsh and fairly free of taste. But to be fair, this generalization fits just about all of the 25 white molasses-based rums that I have studied.

Of the above PR rums, Palo Viejo is my favorite. It carries the most flavor of molasses, thus to me it "tastes like rum" and is one of the least harsh ones. When judged in context next to the other white rums it is quite good, though Cruzan White and Pyrat Blanco are certainly better. Oronoco blows them all away, IMHO, but isn't quite in this "molasses-based" category. If it were included we'd have to include cachaças and agricoles.

As to why PR rum is less diverse in flavor... Well, I'm not sure that this is a fair statement. I've had plenty of whites that are similarly poor in taste. To me it seems that white rums in general have gone downhill, from things I've heard and tastes that I can imagine. I'd bet that Bacardi had something to do with it as others played the game of "follow the leader."

I really have to wonder if the current state of whites' tastes has to do with American tastes. Given that vodka is, by far, the number one spirit in the US, it just may be that the white rums try to get close to vodka, in order to get more sales away from vodka. If this is the reason, it's a damned shame.

I've read articles from Jeff "Beachbum" Berry (Tiki cocktail historian) and Wayne Curtis (Author of "And A Bottle Of Rum") who both describe their separate encounters with Bacardi white rums from the 1920s. I've discussed this a bit with Jeff, too. From their descriptions I get the sense - easily - that the old Bacardi is nothing at all like today's white rums. It was fruity and floral with a lot of taste and much smoother than the white rums of today. I'd have to assume that these rums were made using Bacardi's process of heavy distillation and filtering, the process that made them famous.

Why the heck did they change for the worse between then and today?

Considering American tastes and their love of vodka it makes sense, on the surface, that rum makers wanted a slice of vodka's business and geared their rums to taste more like vodka. But this theory has potential flaws, since bourbon was the top seller until 1976, when vodka finally got to be #1 in US sales. One could easily theorize that rum had little chance of cutting into bourbon's business, so rum makers went after the easier target and tried to cut into vodka sales. And it's probable that they were doing so long before 1976.

The stories from Curtis and Berry make it apparent that the Bacardi of the 1920s was quite different than today's. Research into tiki cocktails, which often contained white PR rums, it seems likely that the rums of the 1940s and even 1950s were quite different than today's. But then my research fades, as tiki began to fail.

I occasionally run into some information, but nothing definitive. I've got two books on Bacardi waiting to be read - hopefully they'll contain some insight. Until I find some great insight or fairly definitive reasoning, I have to go with the assumption that the rum makers changed their products to taste more like vodka. But this theory, at this point in my research, is still rather thin. Little of my research has been definitive, and much of what I've said here should be considered opinion backed by some facts.

Hopefully Ed can share more information and insight. I've got a serious hankering to know more about the development - or regression - of white rums over the years.

Last edited by Scottes; 11-21-2007 at 01:05 PM.
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