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Dictionary > Rum Tasting

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Rum Tasting
By Ed Hamilton, Ministry of Rum

Ed Hamilton "Rum varies form a light, clear vodka-like spirit to a dark drink that rivals the finest whiskies and cognacs. So take the time to taste the different varies of rum and discover for yourself some of the best spirits in the world."

Step 1: Nosing/Aroma
Rum contains more flavor components than other spirits. Because the sense of taste is so closely linked to the sense of smell, start rum evaluation with nose. In order to be conscious of as much as the aromatics as possible, use a glass with a wide mouth. Begin by holding the glass at an angle then move your nose above the highest rim of the glass and take a small whiff of the emanating vapors. Now move your nose above the lower rim and notice how the aromas change. If the rum is very complex, you will notice a considerable difference between the high and low sides of the glass. Move the sample away from your nose and take a couple of deep breaths and repeat the nosing process.

Step 2: Tasting
Now take a small sip and breathe in as it moves over your tongue. As the rum enters your mouth, you may notice that the liquid has a distinct feel that may be viscous, dry, oily or maybe silky and smooth. The entry flavor is commonly accented by citrus, tropical fruit or floral. The first taste is followed by the body of the spirit, where the heavier flavors like roasted coconut, roasted nuts, chocolate, coffee, baked fruit, tobacco and smoky oak begin to evolve depending on the complexity and balance of the spirit.

Step 3: Finish
After you swallow (or spit), the sample in your mouth, the finish reveals itself. For aged rums, the flavor of smoky oak is often balanced by a lingering combination of the other flavors, which evolved in the body of the spirit. The length of the finish, how long the taste lingers in your mouth and nose, tells a lot about the complexity of the spirit.

After your first taste, review the aromas and flavors you've identified. Does the taste change from the aroma to the finish? Now, taste the spirit again, beginning with the aroma. Have any subtle hints of other flavors revealed themselves? In the best spirits, each of these four taste components will be unique. Look for a smooth, flowing transition from the aroma to the entry, body and finally, the finish of the spirit. After the second taste, add a few drops of water to the sample. Swirl your glass then taste again, beginning with the aroma, and see how the flavor changes. Most good rums blossom with the addition of a little water.

Edward Hamilton, author and a founder of the Ministry of Rum, shares his research on rum drinks for a number of magazines and journals as he sails the Caribbean islands. He also imports Martinique rhums into the U.S. market.

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