Know Your Enemy – A Whisky Guy’s Take On A Rum Tasting
It seems that many in the spirit spheres seem to think that an appreciation of whisky means at least a rudimentary appreciation for the brown spirit sector as a whole. While a few out there do indeed see the parallels, this humble taster does not correlate color of libation with inherent appreciation.
Put simply…rum and I…we don’t get along. Though I have tried many and many and many…well…the only rums I’ve ever really appreciated were those that most closely resembled a whisky (pure and aged). Or those that were so unbelievably franken-engineered as to be nearly unrecognizable as such (ahem…The Kraken, in all its spiced and modified syrupy vanilla glory).
So why then would a non-fan, and relative spirit purist (excepting the afore-mentioned Kraken), opt to sit in on a rum night? Simple. I was a seat-filler. Though not as pretty as the gals who cover the washroom breaks at the Academy Awards, the purpose was still met. Guest speaker comes to town…tickets don’t sell…rep needs seats full for said speaker…voila! Free tickets. Further…said rep is a buddy of mine and all ‘round decent chap.
Generally speaking I’m a half-full kinda guy, so there was certainly some positives to be taken away from the eve.
- The rums weren’t that bad.
- It was a great experience and teaching tool for the nose and palate.
- The company kept was top notch.
- It afforded my whisky-swillin’ mates something to mock me for.
- One should always know one’s enemy…and this was an insider’s view if ever there was.
Friend, colleague, partner-in-crime and author emeritus, sage Lance Surujbally (who handles the rum reviews on my other site www.liquorature.com) and I have a longstanding good-natured feud about the merits of our respective choice of drink. I’m right, of course, but I commend the man, he makes a valiant effort.
As Lance was also in attendance this night, I would expect nothing less than his unadulterated feedback (and snappy, biting backlash) on this piece. After all…no one I know personally has more knowledge of the sappy cane-juice than he.
All joking aside, this was a fun night. Informative to boot. This was the first time I had spent time properly nosing and dissecting rum.
Cap’n Jimbo, Complete Idjit…sharpen your spears and prepare for counterattack…the whisky guy takes on your beloved syrup! Ahoy!
Flor de Cana 4 y.o. Limon
Notes & Nuances: 7-Up or Sprite. Lemon Zest. Slightly creamy. Mint and aloe. Green melon. Little bit grassy. Lemon pledge. Young and green.
Thoughts & Opinions: Refreshing and syrupy sweet. More like a fortified soda than a sipper. Add mix, drop in a cube or three…guzzle.
Flor de Cana 5 y.o. Black Label
Notes & Nuances: Coffee. Sweet and bitter. Vanilla. Deep, dark caramel. Nutmeg. Molasses (sharp and pungent). Hint of anise. Molasses is really, really big on palate.
Thoughts & Opinions: This is rum. Yep. Sure is. Pretty much exactly what I’m not into. Not bad, but just something to mix with Coke as far as I’m concerned.
Flor de Cana 4 y.o. Extra Dry
Notes & Nuances: Sweet and vanilla-rich. Chocolate and toffee. Almost sherry-like. Creamy and has some smooth whisky notes. Makes me think a little of Glenfarclas. Mild spices. Tropical and citric. Alcoholic Play-Dough bite on delivery. Almond/marzipan/Amaretto on the palate.
Thoughts & Opinions: Though young, a little more character and feist here. Some interesting notes, but a very synthetic arrival spoils this one for me.
Flor de Cana 7 y.o. Grand Reserve
Notes & Nuances: Crème brulee. Caramel and vanilla. Mocha. Dried fruit and nutmeg. Cadbury Fruit & Nut bar. Burnt, or heavily toasted, marshmallow. Molasses on delivery. Bitter on palate.
Thoughts & Opinions: Aha! Now we’re getting somewhere. A little more character. A few notes that actually make me reach for a second sip. Particularly appreciate the smooth creamy choco-crème notes.
Flor de Cana 12 y.o. Centenario
Notes & Nuances: Mild tobacco. Molasses and creamy caramel. Butter. Christmas cake. Wood is becoming a little more prevalent by this age. Vanilla. Light bourbon notes. Sweet and slightly whisky-like (kinda like an old sherried malt with burnt sugar notes). Sweetened coffee. Almond paste. A few jagged bitter notes.
Thoughts & Opinions: Hit and miss. Dodge, dodge, jab! Age does not equal greatness. This ain’t bad, but it also ain’t greatness.
Flor de Cana 18 y.o. Centenario Gold
Notes & Nuances: Mellow maturity. Just a hint of pepper. Marshmallow cream. Thick threads of vanilla and mild molasses. Hint of citrus and wax. Nutty…mild though. Melted chocolate and honey Nougat. Salty. Burnt sugar and tannic sharpness.
Thoughts & Opinions: Some very good notes here. Some rather biting nippy bits too. ‘Burnt’ and ‘tannic’ as descriptors should give you some notion of the less than favorable bits. Aside from these little buggery nitpickety barbs…the experience is cohesive.
Now…I’ve done my chores. Can I go out and play?
*Apologies…I have photos from this eve, but they are locked on another computer that has died on me. One day I’ll rip the drive out and get ’em posted here.
My first real introduction to rum was Flor de Cana, in Esteli (second largest city in Nicaragua, from where FdC hails). On the rare occasions I drink rum (or cook with it), it’s my rum of choice. Good enough for sipping, cheap enough for any use.
Interesting, the bottles I bought in Nicaragua were all 35%, and the ones sold in liquor stores here in Canada are 40%. Any chance the rep mentioned anything about that?
I would give El Dorado 15 a try. It’s the closest bottle I’ve found to a “whiskey drinker’s rum.” Quite reasonable at around $40 here in the US.
Perhaps a follow-up ‘rums I don’t want to pour down the sink’ piece should follow?
…to which I respond: Albion 1994 17 yr old 60.4%. And don’t pretend you didn’t display a most unbecoming, unwhisky-lover transport of ecstasy when you tried it 🙂
Among men of good will who genuinely hate rums and love whisky , there can never be offense given or taken, just points of view debated over a glass of whisky but as for rum that is not the case .
Aaarg…you really got me on this one 🙂