How to taste rum?

A Living Guide for the RumX Community

The rich world of rum offers a vast spectrum of flavors, aromas, and experiences. For beginners, the art of rum tasting may seem daunting, but with a few guidelines, you can immerse yourself in the nuanced symphony of rum's delights. The RumX app will guide you along the way.

19 August 2023

Remember: The tasting notes you see in RumX are just guidelines based on an individual's personal experiences. Our senses connect to personal memories, making each person's experience unique. So if you don't pick up the exact notes mentioned, that's okay! Remember, it's all about personal enjoyment.

Preparing for Tasting

Most people enjoy tasting one rum at a time. However, if you truly want to appreciate the nuances, try comparing at least two rums. This allows you to spot the contrasts more easily. However, it might be prudent to limit the number of rums per session to five or six, as your palate can become dulled with too many samples. Here are a few ways to arrange your tasting:

  1. Discovery Tasting: A mix of rums with different origins and characteristics.
  2. Horizontal Tasting: Compare rums of the same tradition and age.
  3. Vertical Tasting: Taste rums from the same distillery, ranging from the youngest to the oldest.
  4. Specialized Tasting: Based on factors like country of origin, type of cask used, or method of distillation.

The general rule for the order of tasting is from lightest to richest rums. If you're unsure, sort by age and then by alcohol content.

Background information on the rums

For beginners or those not as familiar with the spirit, a short presentation about each rum can add context and make the experience more interesting. Pro-tip: Create a list of the lineup's rums in the RumX app (Profile > My Lists). You can share the list with your friends with one click (it's also automatically synced for new entries), making it super easy to get information about the rums, like key data or tasting notes.

The Tasting Experience

1. Glassware Matters

Choosing the right glass is paramount when tasting rum. The contours and design of the glass can affect how the vapors rise and influence your olfactory experience. Aim for a 2cl serving, but adjust the dose if you want to sample multiple rums in one session. The wider bowl of certain glasses, such as the tulip shape, allows the rum to breathe and bring out complex flavors. Check out our community discussion to learn how the choice of glass can play a crucial role in revealing the hidden notes of rum.

2. Let it Breathe

It's often a good practice to let the rum breathe in the glass before tasting. Depending on the rum's character, this could range from 20 minutes to 2 hours. Some tastings even pre-pour the rums so they've had time to breathe before attendees arrive.

Screenshot of the rum review feed in the iOS RumX App.

3. Use the RumX app

While traditionalists might argue for a paper and pen, modern rum enthusiasts often turn to the convenience and depth of apps like RumX. When you search for a particular rum, you're not just accessing basic information. You're stepping into an interactive space filled with collective wisdom. The “Taste now” feature transforms your phone into a guided tasting companion. It's a fusion of technology and tradition, ensuring your memories and notes are preserved for future reflections.

4. Initial Impression (optional)

The initial impression is more than just a prelude; it’s an intimate first contact. By rubbing a few drops of rum on your palm, you are evoking aromas reminiscent of its origins. This process can transport you to the sunlit sugarcane fields or to the dark confines of an oak barrel room. White rums may reminisce of fresh sugarcane juice, while aged ones might whisper tales of decades spent in oak barrels.

5. Observation

When you gaze at the liquid gold in your glass, you're not just seeing a drink; you're witnessing history, geography, and craftsmanship. The shades of amber might narrate stories of barrels, while hints of green could suggest long years of aging. But always approach color with a grain of skepticism. While some rums wear their age and cask type on their sleeves, others might be masked by additives. That’s why our community thread on color and dyes is an essential read, shedding light on this often misunderstood aspect.

6. The Nose

Our sense of smell is deeply personal and evocative, often tied to memories and emotions. When you start by holding the glass at a distance, you're giving respect to the rum's bold initial notes. As you move it gradually closer, you’re inviting subtler hints into your olfactory realm. Different nostrils might indeed detect varied nuances. And when in doubt, the RumX app's "light bulb" icon offers a communal repository of aromas that fellow enthusiasts have associated with the rum, guiding you in this sensory voyage.

7. Sipping

Your first couple of sips are generally for warming up your palate. Consider chewing and swirling the rum in your mouth on the first sip, then slowly swallowing it and creating a vacuum on the top of your tongue for the second sip. The third sip is where you can truly begin to evaluate the rum's qualities. With the RumX app by your side, you can contextualize each sensation and align it with the experiences of other aficionados.

For high-alcohol rums where the alcohol isn't well-integrated, you might consider letting the rum sit for an additional half-hour and possibly adding 5-10 drops of water.

8. Clean your palate

Imagine reading different books with intertwined pages. The essence of one might overshadow the other. That's why, when on a tasting spree, a clean palate is crucial. Neutral crackers or a sip of water act as erasers, ensuring that each rum introduces itself on a clean slate, without the shadows of its predecessor.

9. Post-Tasting

The story of rum doesn't end once it's consumed. An empty glass is like a book with lingering whispers of its tale. The residual aromas, often evolving as they react with air, might offer hints of notes you missed initially. So, give it time, revisit the glass, and let the residual aromas complete your tasting journey.

By enhancing each step of the tasting process with deeper insights, you not only refine your experience but also develop a profound appreciation for the multifaceted world of rum.

The external factors like the season can affect your tasting. You might prefer stronger, spicier rums in winter, and lighter ones in summer. Also, try tasting a particular rum on different days and compare your notes to gauge how your daily mood affects your perception.

Always drink responsibly: Quality over quantity always. The world of rum tasting is about savoring nuances, not chasing a buzz.

Tips for Large-Scale Tastings

Navigating a large-scale tasting can be a complex affair, especially when high-proof rums are involved. Here's a quick guide to get the most out of such events.

To Swallow or Not to Swallow

The choice between swallowing and spitting out rum samples has implications for your tasting experience and your ability to evaluate spirits. If you're sampling multiple high-proof rums, consider spitting to keep your senses sharp and avoid intoxication. Professional tasters often use this approach, as discussed in our community forum.

  • Spitting: Ideal for large events or frequent tastings, spitting allows you to maintain a clear head and may even enhance flavor perception.
  • Swallowing: Provides a fuller experience but can dull your senses and affect judgment if you're tasting multiple samples.

Health Considerations: Be mindful of your health, especially if you're participating in frequent tastings involving high-proof or cask-strength rums. Limiting the number of samples and occasionally spitting can be beneficial for your liver and overall well-being.

Quick Tips

  • Use small amounts for larger tastings, about 1-1.5 cl per sample.
  • Take notes in the RumX app to record your impressions and be able to recall them later.
  • Adjust your strategy based on the event and your tasting goals—spitting can be practical for large-scale events but might not be suitable for savoring rare or special rums.

In summary, whether you choose to spit or swallow depends on the context and your objectives. The key is to enjoy the tasting experience while also being mindful of your health and sensory limits.

Session lineup of the Velier Caroni Blind Tasting

Take advantage of the RumX App

As you taste more rums, the app aids in honing your palate:

  • Track Your Journey: Over time, review your tasting notes to observe your evolving preferences and the breadth of rums you've explored.
  • Set Personal Challenges: Aim to taste rums from different regions or focus on a particular style for a month. Documenting these adventures in the app can be rewarding.

The heart of RumX is its vibrant community. Engage, ask, share, and learn. f you want to dive deeper into the vast realm of rum, this basic video guide is a great place to start building your knowledge of rum.

Let the RumX app guide your rum adventures. From assisting you in identifying flavors to connecting you with like-minded enthusiasts, RumX is the portal to the expansive world of rums

Find Your Own Style

When it comes to rum tasting, everyone's journey is unique. From the rum styles you gravitate towards to the nuances you pick up, developing your own style is a rewarding experience. Here's how you can do it:

  • Embrace Variety: Experiment with different types of rums from various regions. Dabble in white,, spiced, or aged rums of different countries to broaden your understanding and appreciation of this versatile spirit.
  • Make Use of Technology: One highly recommended way to refine your palate and keep track of your tastings is by using the RumX app. Our platform allows you to record your impressions, rate different rums, and even compare your notes with a community of rum enthusiasts. The app is especially helpful in identifying trends in your tasting preferences, which can serve as a roadmap as you continue to explore.
  • Community and Expert Feedback: Join our RumX community, attend tasting events, or simply share a bottle with friends. Sometimes, discussing your observations can provide new insights and improve your tasting skills. The RumX app is a hub for expert advice, with articles, reviews, and community discussions readily available.
  • Train Your Palate: Just like any other skill, rum tasting requires practice. Regularly testing your palate with new selections will help you become more attuned to the complexities of rum. The RumX app can guide you through this, offering suggestions based on your history and preferences.
  • Personalize Your Ratings: Don't just go by what experts say; trust your own palate. While learning from seasoned tasters is invaluable, your unique experiences and preferences should guide your ratings. The RumX app makes it easy to customize your evaluations and even adjust them over time as your palate evolves.

In summary, finding your own style is about blending education with personal preference, and there's no better way to track and refine your journey than by utilizing platforms like the RumX app. Stay curious, stay open, and enjoy the lifelong journey of rum exploration.

Join the Discussion!

We're all on this journey together, and every perspective enriches the experience. Have you discovered any unique tasting techniques? Do you have a favorite rum that's a must-try for beginners? Jump into the conversation below. Share your thoughts, learn from others, and let's make the RumX community the ultimate space for rum enthusiasts. Cheers to exploring the world of rum together!