So you want to be a rum connoisseur? Excellent. Put down the pipe and monocle. There’s no need to take ourselves quite so seriously.
There’s a more to the rum tasting experience than looking pensively into the glass and muttering words like ‘woody’, ‘silky’ and trying to sound like you know what you’re talking about. Rum is filled with complex flavours and dramatically different characteristics that depend on the type of rum – and the individual tasting it. Relax, and forget about any pretense.
Make sure you have a neutral palate before taking that first sip. That means avoiding strong flavours such as chocolate, curry or coffee before a tasting as they impact your ability to pick up the different flavours in the rum. Bread or unsalted crackers are always good palate cleansing options (brushing your teeth is not).
It’s recommended to use a wide-brimmed glass, like a tumbler, for rum tasting to get the full experience of the aromas – and to be able to give it a good swirl.
Easy on the eye
So now that your palate is ready and you’ve got the right glass, where do you start? By taking a good look at the rum. Pay attention to its colour, clarity and viscosity. For the colour, hold it up to the sunlight and give it a swirl. The darker and richer the colour, the older the rum (or it can indicate added caramel in younger rums).
As the rum drips down the inside of the glass, notice how thick or thin the ‘legs’ are – this is its viscosity. The richer the rum, the thicker the legs.
Get your nose in it
Well, not literally in it, but above it – hover your nose above the glass. Take in the ‘top notes’ – the strongest aromas that first hit your nose. You’ll probably pick up things like vanilla, fruit, caramel or smoke. Swirl it around and smell is again to pick up the subtler aromas.
Ah, the best part. It all comes down to this. Take a small first sip to get your tongue accustomed to the sensation before trying to pick up any distinct flavours. The second, slower sip is the real taste test. Let it really coat the inside of your mouth and all sides of your tongue.
As an aspirant rum connoisseur, try to identify the three phases of the flavour – the entry (first sensation), body and finish. Here’s what to pay attention to:
- Do the flavours match the aromas you picked up?
- How intense is the flavour? Does it build or fade?
- Is it syrupy, smooth, light?
- How does is feel on your palate? Is it spicy, fruity or woody?
- Is it sweet, acidic or bitter?
- What’s the aftertaste? How long do the flavours linger?
Take note of your observations – and pay attention to the characteristics that you liked and disliked. Ultimately, rum tasting should be about your own unique appreciation of the spirit. Use it as an exercise to establish what type of rum you most enjoy.
When you’re in the Seychelles, make sure you visit the home of Takamaka at the Trois Frères Distillery. Take a tour through our island distillery and gardens, followed by a guided rum-tasting with one of our experts. Get in touch to make a booking.