Adventures in Rum Appreciation
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Adventures in Rum Appreciation

September 1, 2017

A handy guide for rum beginners with an introduction to the history of rum, what it tastes like, and how to host your very own home rum tasting.

It’s time to revisit rum, and everything is better with friends so why not throw a DIY rum tasting party at home this weekend.

Rum 101

You don't need to be an expert to host a rum party but here are a few simple things you'll need to know to look like an aficionado if your friends ask. Initially named rumbullion with origins in Barbados, rum is essentially made from sugarcane. Rum's history follows the oceanic sugar trade routes, the spirit darkening as it aged in barrels on long sailing journeys.

Australia also has a proud rum culture. The only successful military coup in our nation's history was allegedly fought over the spirit. During colonial times rum was used as currency!

Rum can be "white"/clear, gold, amber or dark to the point of being almost black. Usually colour is dependent on age but caramel tints may be added. It can be drunk neat or on the rocks just like whisky.

Learn more: A Short Guide on Rum

Have a (rum) ball

1. Select your rums. A diverse range of five or six will keep things interesting but not overwhelming. You may wish to hide the labels to keep guests from having preconceived notions.

2. Start tasting from the lightest (e.g. Bacardi Superior White Rum) to darkest (e.g. Matusalem Gran Reserve Rum). Keep spiced varieties such as Baron Samedi Dark Spiced Rum until last, so you can get used to what rum itself tastes like first.

3. Serve in red wine glasses at room temperature. This helps to concentrate aromas and you're more likely to have these on hand at home than specialised tasting glasses.

4. Each tasting pour should be 25-50ml, about three sips worth.

5. Sight and smell comes before taste. Take note of the colour of your rum. It may speak to age or filtration. When sniffing your rum don't stick your nose right into the glass as you might with wine. You'll only smell a strong punch of alcohol.

6. Take a sip, swish it briefly around your mouth and spit it out (if you can bear it). This helps prep your tastebuds. Don't forget to provide a fancy bucket for your guests.

7. Take a proper sip. Swirl it around and think about flavours. Consider providing notepaper and pencils so your guests can jot down ideas and so that you won't be swayed by what others think before you chat. You might taste vanilla, caramel, butterscotch, almond, citrus or coconut flavours or something entirely different. You could even make a fun game of guessing all the spices in a spiced rum (winner gets to take home the bottle).

8. Take a third sip. You might add a drop or two of water at this time to release more flavour.

9. Don't forget to provide lots of water for your party to sip on in between tastings to cleanse the palate.

10. Repeat the process with the remaining bottles.

Take your tasting to the next level

Food is always welcome at any spirit tasting soiree. Look for dishes that share similar geographic roots to rum as they will best add to the atmosphere while being more likely to be complementary in flavour. Home-fried plantain chips are plain enough to nibble on while your guests are still in the throes of serious tasting, but are far more interesting than crackers. They're addictive too! Afterwards, more substantial fare like jerk chicken, pulled pork buns or a rich chocolate cake would be wonderful rum-friendly food choices. You could even add a little splash of spiced rum like Bacardi Carta Fuego to your recipes!

Speaking of afterwards, you might like to offer your fellow rum tasters something extra special like Angostura 1824 12YO Rum as a nightcap. Or transform your DIY tasting into a DIY cocktail party. The key is to keep drinks simple to let the spirit shine through and so that your guests spend more time mingling. Offer up the makings of a classic Cuba Libre or Mojito (make it "dirty" by switching the classic white sugar and rum for demerara and The Kraken Spiced Rum). Think cocktails that suit the use of dark, spiced or white rum so guests can compare and contrast.

Learn more: How to Host an Unforgettable Cocktail Party

Alternatively, show your friends how to make a foolproof spiced rum Old Fashioned. Place a napkin over a tumbler. Place one sugar cube on top and add 5 drops of Angostura bitters. Add the sugar cube to the tumbler with 15ml water, crush it with a spoon and stir to dissolve. Add 60ml of Bacardi Carta Fuego or your choice of rum. Add one large fresh ice block and stir gently to chill. Spritz over a piece of orange rind, rub it around the rim of the tumbler and add it to your drink. Start sipping. You may never go back to a whisky Old Fashioned again!