Instant Pirate - just add rum!

Other alcoholic drinks, decadent smokes, and hearty eating
Post Reply
Glenn E.
Quinta do Vesuvio 1994
Posts: 3349
Joined: 22:27 Wed 09 Jul 2008
Location: Seattle, WA, USA

Instant Pirate - just add rum!

Post by Glenn E. » 00:47 Wed 06 May 2015

My wife's spirit of choice is rum, so as a prelude to her semicentennial she invited her girlfriends over for a rum tasting. I was enlisted to procure the rum despite knowing very little about the spirit. Since I know very little about rum other than that it is a common component of drinks that are served with umbrellas, I set out to educate myself.

Based on my research there are apparently 3 primary styles of rum - English, Spanish, and French, plus Navy which is an offshoot of English. This is apparently not a settled debate, however, as some prefer to break the styles down even further (primarily by the island of origin). French style rums (Rhum Agricole) are different in that they are distilled from cane sugar juice, not molasses. It supposedly gives them a decidedly vegetal note, which conjured memories of a cheap bottle of rum (rhum) that Kari and I purchased in Martinique while on a cruise. She desperately needed some alcohol to mix with coke, but this particular $7 bottle tasted like grass clippings. Nevertheless, I decided to go ahead and include the French style and to try for as wide of a range as practicable, and ultimately settled upon the following list:

Appleton Estate 21 (English, Jamaica)
Angostura 1824 (Spanish, Trinidad)
Clement 10 (French, Martinique)
El Dorado 21 (English, Guyana)
Mount Gay 1703 (English, Barbados)
Pusser's Nelson's Blood 15 (Navy, Tortola)
Ron Zacapa solera 23 (Spanish, Guatemala)

The "8th bottle" would have been Diplomatico Reserva Exclusiva (Spanish, Venezuela), but since 2-3 were requested and I was already at 7 I figured I should stop.

I also printed out 10 different rum cocktail recipes and made sure that we had all of the mixers necessary on hand. I even printed placemats, though they proved unnecessary as the women chose to pour just a single glass of each rum and all taste from the same glass. They chose their two favorites and then proceeded to drink roughly half of each of those bottles.

Re-ordered per their preference, best to worst:

Ron Zacapa solera 23 (Spanish, Guatemala)
Angostura 1824 (Spanish, Trinidad)
El Dorado 21 (English, Guyana)
Appleton Estate 21 (English, Jamaica)
Clement 10 (French, Martinique)
Mount Gay 1703 (English, Barbados)
Pusser's Nelson's Blood 15 (Navy, Tortola)

I personally would drop the Zacapa down a notch or two, but otherwise agree with the women. The Angostura was my favorite, in no small part because it does smell faintly of the famous bitters. The El Dorado is easily the smoothest of the 7, but isn't as sweet as either the Zacapa or the Angostura so that's probably why the women had it 3rd. According the redditors on /r/rum the women ordered the rums basically by the amount of added sugar with the exception of the Pusser's - it should be roughly 2nd or 3rd on the list based on that criterion. We all found it odd and rough, though, which resulted in its last place finish. (A common comment was "yes, that tastes like something a sailor would like.")

I was very disappointed in the Mount Gay 1703. Mount Gay Eclipse is a superb mixing rum, but apparently that level of quality doesn't carry throughout the range. Based on this experience with the 1703, I see no reason to buy anything from Mount Gay other than Eclipse as it is solidly better QPR.

The Clement does not taste like grass clippings (yay!) and in fact has a very pleasant flavor. It is only a 10-yr old, though, so isn't as smooth as the much older rums in this lineup.
Glenn Elliott

User avatar
jdaw1
Taylor 1900
Posts: 19751
Joined: 15:03 Thu 21 Jun 2007
Location: London
Contact:

Re: Instant Pirate - just add rum!

Post by jdaw1 » 08:39 Wed 06 May 2015

Thank you for the report.

IIRC, the Royal Navy rum ration ended in July 1970, and remaining stocks were sold about four years later.

Glenn E.
Quinta do Vesuvio 1994
Posts: 3349
Joined: 22:27 Wed 09 Jul 2008
Location: Seattle, WA, USA

Re: Instant Pirate - just add rum!

Post by Glenn E. » 15:55 Wed 06 May 2015

I believe you are correct. "Navy rum" is now just a style, with Pusser's being arguably the best known. Navy rum contains a high proportion of Demerara rum (Guyana, see the El Dorado above) which is then blended with many other rums from throughout the Caribbean to achieve its unique profile.
Glenn Elliott

Glenn E.
Quinta do Vesuvio 1994
Posts: 3349
Joined: 22:27 Wed 09 Jul 2008
Location: Seattle, WA, USA

Re: Instant Pirate - just add rum!

Post by Glenn E. » 17:06 Thu 11 Jun 2015

Over the last month as the weather has started to warm, I have been enjoying the leftovers from this tasting in rum cocktails. The rums themselves are pretty distinct from one another, so I have been experimenting to see how much of that distinction carries over into a cocktail. In short, quite a bit of it.

In cocktails, the Appleton Estates 21 and Mount Gay 1703 are indistinguishable. The Ron Zacapa 23 is somewhat sweeter, and the El Dorado 21 practically disappears completely into the drink. This can be a good thing or a bad thing, as mixed drinks made with the El Dorado are extremely easy to drink. It's incredible smoothness is wasted in a cocktail, though, as you really want the rum to show through.

That leaves the Angostura 1824, Clement 10, and Pusser's 15 - the three of the original seven that showed the most character. All three are superb in daiquiris and mai tais where their character can show through. I think I actually prefer the Pusser's 15 in a daiquiri - its rough edges are hidden by the lime juice and smoothed out by the simple syrup, leaving only its unique flavor to show through. In a mai tai, though, I prefer the Clement 10. Its flavor seems to be enhanced by the orgeat and becomes something really special. The Angostura 1824 shines in a drink called the Anejo Highball, which is a very modern drink having been created in 2000 to honor the memory of Cuban bartenders circa 1900. In theory it should be made with an aged Cuban rum such as Havana Club 15, but since Angostura 1824 is also a Spanish style rum it works well as a substitute.

In the long term, I will probably only restock four of these rums as we run out. The El Dorado 21 for sipping neat, the Angostura 1824 for sipping neat and making Anejo Highballs, the Clement 10 for making mai tais, and the Pusser's 15 for making daiquiris. While very good, the others just can't beat out these four for a role.
Glenn Elliott

Post Reply