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Old 04-17-2008, 06:56 PM   #1
stockdoct
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Default Flavors in Rum

I'm certainly a newbie when it comes to "catching" the flavors in varieties of rum. I know when I like something or when another offends me, but to read some of the posters describe "nose of earth and grass, with floral overtones and hints of leather and sandalwood" I just don't understand.

But I'm learning, and maybe a new discussion thread can help newbies like me begin to identify some of the myriad of flavors found in rums. The only rule here is you can only mention ONE predominant flavor per rum. This is for beginners. And feel free to disagree with other posters, heck, everyone's taste buds are different. I'll start.

I tasted Brugal (Dominican) Anejo today, and I swish it in my mouth I can taste and smell the distinct flavor of butterscotch.
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Old 04-17-2008, 07:07 PM   #2
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Originally Posted by stockdoct View Post
and maybe a new discussion thread can help newbies like me begin to identify some of the myriad of flavors found in rums.
What a good idea! I cannot describe all the myriad of flavors in rum so good either..
One time i was drinking a rum (i have forgotten by now which one it was) that was supposed to have a flavor note of banana in it and doesn`t matter how hard i tried, i didnґt notice any banana..
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Old 04-17-2008, 07:16 PM   #3
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One of the key aspects in rum tasting, in my opinion at least, is not letting other peoples experiences affect your own experience. I don't read other peoples reviews before I make my own, simply because I'm afraid I will start looking for something that might not be in the rum and then fool myself into thinking it is there. There was a great conversation about tasting between Scottes, RumRunner, Dood and I at Refined Vices in this thread. Read it for some truly valuable comments.

Also, your nose gets very tired very quickly when sniffing rum so it is imperative to have small breaks and sniff something neutral, such as your own skin, to 'reset' your nose. Same with tasting, have some water occasionally.

Basically have an open mind of what you're experiencing and it will come to you.

Last edited by Count Silvio; 04-17-2008 at 07:22 PM.
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Old 04-17-2008, 07:33 PM   #4
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One of the key aspects in rum tasting, in my opinion at least, is not letting other peoples experiences affect your own experience.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

pardon me, but if that is the case, why do you write rum reviews? It seems fairly egotistical to hold other's rum opinion in disregard, while publishing your opinion for others, knowing forthright it will affect their "experience".

I was hoping to begin a discussion for beginners, not afficionados, simply to help them recognize and verbalize the flavors in a rum. I'd love to hear your input on what YOU taste in a particular rum; I'll promise to not let it affect my own judgement.
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Old 04-17-2008, 07:46 PM   #5
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Originally Posted by stockdoct View Post
One of the key aspects in rum tasting, in my opinion atleast, is not letting other peoples experiences affect your own experience.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

pardon me, but if that is the case, why do you write rum reviews? It seems fairly egotistical to hold other's rum opinion in disregard, while publishing your opinion for others, knowing forthright it will affect their "experience".

I was hoping to begin a discussion for beginners, not afficionados, simply to help them recognize and verbalize the flavors in a rum. I'd love to hear your input on what YOU taste in a particular rum; I'll promise to not let it affect my own judgement.
He didn't mean it like that. In practice, reading someone else's review as a guidepost as to whether or not you think you might be interested in a rum is a great idea.

However, when I write a review, I try to keep away from other reviews of the rum immediately before doing so. It's not disregarding someone else's work...it's trying to be honest with yourself about what you are smelling and tasting. I will, on occasion, go check someone else's review after I take my initial notes, or if there's a flavor or scent that I can't quite put my finger on...but don't disregard the fact that reading, "notes of banana" can sometimes get you stuck on trying to find the banana. Maybe you've got a different bottling. Maybe they've changed the formula. Maybe the other reviewer let their bottle sit half-empty on their shelf for a month or two before doing their tasting.

I've done tastings after reading another person's review where I suddenly found something that I didn't find the first time, I've had instances where I wasn't sure if I really found a certain flavor or if I just wanted to find it, and I've had times when I've sat there working through the glass desperately trying to find this flavor that someone else had found, and ignoring my own instincts.

I think that, when you're just getting started, a little guidance is a good thing...and then as your palate improves you should start tasting first, and reading reviews second. Did they find something you didn't? Does a revisit reveal what they found? Did you find something that THEY didn't find?

I can't speak for Silvio or any of the others, but I know this is the process through which I passed. As always, your mileage may vary, offer not valid in all states, please consult a physician before using.
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Old 04-17-2008, 08:10 PM   #6
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I tasted Brugal (Dominican) Anejo today, and I swish it in my mouth I can taste and smell the distinct flavor of butterscotch.
The biggest butterscotch flavor that I have experienced in a rum is One Barrel. It should be the benchmark for butterscotch.
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Old 04-17-2008, 08:22 PM   #7
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Originally Posted by stockdoct View Post
But I'm learning, and maybe a new discussion thread can help newbies like me begin to identify some of the myriad of flavors found in rums. The only rule here is you can only mention ONE predominant flavor per rum. This is for beginners. And feel free to disagree with other posters, heck, everyone's taste buds are different. I'll start.
Great topic stockdoct! Here's my view on tasting notes; one needs to try new things! Through experience you'll build a vast catalogue of experiences and associations to rely on when you wish to compare the very rum you're drinking now. I remember I also became interested in smelling "everyday experiences" such as fruit, coffee, dried fruit etc. Also important is to keep in mind that your experience and description is a personal and subjective one. And that's not a bad thing because many of your past experiences will be remembered because they're good ones - but they may be "triggered" rather than something you remember very clearly. An example is when I first tasted Laphroaig Cask Strength and I suddenly and very clearly rememberd the smell of drying kelp near my grandmother's house on the south coast. Wonderful - although memories like that won't necessarily mean much to any other than you?

There are several "tasting wheels" to be found for wine, single malt etc but I haven't seen any for rum yet. However, there are many smells/tastes which can be found in most spirits such as the taste/smell of acetone/furniture varnish from young or unaged spirits, oak sawdust from oak which has heavily imprignated the maturing spirit by the wood in the cask, or vanilla (vanillin) from especially american oak casks (bourbon casks) etc. The most important factor is yourself and thus when you try more rums your trust in your own abilities will help you to "dare" to share your description with others.

I believe reading up on the different stuff also helps. What is rhum agricole supposed to smell like, or jamaican rum or Navy style rum for that matter. If you know what to look for it may become easier to find whatever is there. Most importantly, enjoy it!

Edit: forgot to say; after a while you'll find lots of descriptive features and some of them will be fairly common "descriptions" which others can relate to - such as cigar box or your sandal tree With the three rhum agricoles I've tasted I've found carrot cake, camphor and eucalyptus - which makes sense as "vegetal" is a much used description of rhum agricole.
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Last edited by Mr Fjeld; 04-17-2008 at 08:48 PM.
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Old 04-17-2008, 08:52 PM   #8
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When all else fails for me, as is usual, "me like, me no like" kicks in. A year of tasting rums relatively seriously (how serious do you want to get, after all?) has me finally beginning to understand and really taste some of the subtleties. Gross differences, are easy to taste, but for me, frequently quite difficult to verbalize. But time and experience are starting to kick in and if I have a hard time actually discerning notes like banana and butterscotch, at least I am tasting differences that I can identify as desirable or uninteresting. So, in addition to everything else by way of good advice here, I'd add that patience is a virtue and that experience comes into play.
One note I never tasted before I read the review, was the "varnish" in Pampero. The Count's review mentions it as a flavor, and son of a birch if I didn't taste and identify that after I read the review. It's the best damn varnish I've ever drunk, but it's varnish sure enough.
I use the notes written by other more experienced devotees to help inform me about new products I might be interested in, and thereby make more informed purchase decisions as well. But basically, some people seem to taste more in their rums and rhums than I do. But I truly doubt any body really enjoys them more than I do, and that makes me smile.
By the way, I know what I like, but what I like changes from time to time!
Edited to add: Mr. Fjeld's vegetal descriptors come through as "hay/grass" to me in Neisson ESB. I had some last night, and enjoyed it more than ever, but it's taken me months to warm up to it.

Last edited by Lew Barrett; 04-18-2008 at 02:04 AM.
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Old 04-17-2008, 10:30 PM   #9
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Cool Thesis on Rum Tasting

Just a usual lurker here but could not help jumping in on this one. I also hang around a lot on the Yahoo distillers forum (researching ways of making fuel) and was turned on to this thesis by Maza Gomez on Rum tasting. No doubt just a bunch of college kids wanting a good excuse to bench test rum but how does this make them any different than us? Check it out at the link below or do a web search for "Maza Gomez rum thesis" and you should find it. Very interesting information on the manufacture or the nectar as well.

http://etd.lsu.edu/docs/available/etd-1114102-110301/
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Old 04-17-2008, 11:22 PM   #10
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Volumes have been written about nosing and tasting spirits and wine. If you already know how to nose spirits please skip to the next post, but I'll continue, as soon as I have a glass of rum in front of me.

Part of nosing and tasting spirits is developing your own style for your maximum enjoyment. I can't tell you how to best enjoy the rum in your glass but I will share with you a few of the things that work best for me.

Before I wrote the last paragraph I poured a glass of rum of which I have been asked to write a few words. Before I poured the rum I took a few seconds to find on the label where this rum was distilled, who distilled, the proof and if the distiller or label will tell me, from what it was distilled.

Holding the bottle to the light, I notice that my mouth is beginning to water even before I've even tried to open the bottle. In the bottle, the rum has a polished copper tone, not quite iridescent but clear a bright color as opposed to an opaque hue. The seal is intact, which can be a good thing. At least there is a good chance that the rum in this bottle is close to what is represented on the label.

As I pour a couple of ounces of this rum into a wide mouth glass, I notice a lack of viscosity which indicates to me, anyway, that this probably isn't heavily sweetened or contains other syrups which tend to thicken the liquid.

In my clean glass over a white piece of paper under a bright incandescent light, the color is similar though not as pronounced as it was in the bottle. Swirling the spirit in the glass leaves an even line of liquid near the top of the glass. Legs, or lines of liquid from where the liquid touched the glass near the rim back down to the liquid level, appear to be uniform. And after a few minutes all of the spirit has returned to a lower level without leaving tell-tale lines of syrupy spirit on the glass.

Before I taste a new rum I want to gain as much insight into the spirit as possible from the aroma. Distilled spirits like rum shouldn't be nosed, in my opinion, in a glass that concentrates the aroma but rather in a glass that allows the various components of the aroma to separate and make themselves known individually. By holding the glass at a 45-degree angle, slowly approaching the top of the glass with my nose and gently inhaling, I have a chance to discover the lightest florals in the spirit. If I inhale too deeply, I'm going to ruin my nose for what is to follow.

In this spirit I detect a delicate pear essence from the top of the glass. As I move my nose across the mouth of the glass, being careful not to put my nose in the glass, I'll again inhale gently and this time I detect notes of baked fruit - apple, and at the bottom of the glass a pleasant sharpness that reminds me of rhubarb.

For me the key is not to move my nose toward the glass too quickly and to not inhale too deeply. If I don't detect any aroma that's fine. I'd rather spend several minutes assessing the aroma than to overwhelm my senses with something for which I'm not prepare. If I don't smell anything on the second nosing I'll take a few breaths and approach the glass again.

Keeping my nose out of the glass is especially important if I don't pay attention to the proof of the spirit or the raw material, if I can determine that from the label.

Before I actually taste the spirit I bring the glass to my mouth and suck the aromas over my tongue as if I was going to sip the liquid but without tipping the glass enough to actually taste the spirit. Does this confirm what I experienced with my nose, are there other aromas, flavors that weren't present in the previous exercise?

Next I'll sip a few drops of liquid over my tongue and swallow this sample. Did any new flavors come to mind? As the spirit left my mouth and went down my throat did I taste anything different in the back of my throat? I don't believe anyone who puts enough of a distilled spirit in their mouth that they can swish it around and then spit it out will be able to tell you anything further about the spirit they just consumed. But I've been wrong before and I will be wrong again. I'm just telling you what I believe.

Next is a little bigger sip looking for sweet, sour, salty, mineral, woody, round, angular or dry characters in the mouthfeel of the spirit. At this point I have a good idea of whether I like the taste, mouthfeel, finish and associated aroma of the spirit. If there is anything unpleasant I may be reluctant to drink more of the rum in my glass.

Now it's time for some room temperature water and another sample of the spirit starting with the aroma. This time I have to put my nose closer to the mouth of the glass in order to perceive the aroma. Sucking the vapor over my tongue reveals a slight resinous quality to the spirit and it seems slightly more viscous than before with a more round mouthfeel. The pear aroma I first noticed now appears to be more pronounced in the body and in spite of the age statement of three years, I don't detect a smoky oak body or finish, though the fruity body fades quickly into a short velvety finish without any sharp edges.

Tomorrow I'll taste this rum again and compare my experience.

Our noses make up a large percentage of our perception of taste, without taking the time to get acquainted with the aroma it will take you a longer time to appreciate the various flavors that you'll encounter in a well made rum.

The flavors you're going to discover in rum are influenced by what you've eaten or not eaten that day. I prefer to taste spirits about 10 o'clock in the morning before I've had lunch though that isn't always practical.

Discovering flavors in spirits is a lot like writing or painting. Only after you try to paint a landscape do you begin to train your eyes to see how the horizon interacts with the foreground and everything in between. After you study the depth of the scene you begin to see how the light is affecting that perception.

Writing about an experience will make you question some of the details of that experience. It takes a trained observer to catch all of the details of a magic trick preformed right in front of you. And how many times have you listened to a familiar song and then heard a new instrument, chord or lyric? And each subsequent time you hear that song you question why you didn't hear that chord or lyric before. You hadn't trained your ears to hear everything there was to hear. Listening to the radio driving down the highway is very different compared to listening to the same song played in a quiet room with headphones.

Give your senses some baselines. Go the grocery store and smell every fruit and vegetable on the shelf, not necessarily in one day. Then go to the spice shelves and try to imagine all those smells and tastes as you inhale their aromas.

Pouring a glass of rum in a glass, sucking up an ounce into my mouth, swishing it around and spitting or swallowing it doesn't work for me or any other professional taster I know. But everyone whose taste I respect agrees that it takes time to develop our senses.

For me, discerning flavors has as much to do with my methodology as it has to do with the spirit itself.
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