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How to drink rum - our top tasting tips
From warming spiced drams to tropical tipples and fresh grassy flavours, there’s a whole world of rum out there to try. Thinking of trying a tasting at home?
Learn how to get the most out of this spectacular spirit and taste like a pro with our handy tips and tricks. Remember, there’s no wrong way to taste, so relax and enjoy some rummy research! Want to learn more about how rum is made and the types on offer? Read our guide on everything you need to know about rum.
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When you think of rum, you might just think of a dark spiced liquid that you drink with cola. We're here to let you know that there's a staggering range of rums to try in a variety of colours, flavour profiles, ages and serves.
Can you drink rum straight?
In short, yes you can! Drinking rum straight, sometimes referred to as 'neat', can give you a snapshot of the subtle flavours in the rum that you might not pick up in a mixed drink like a cocktail.
Just like whisky, it can be enjoyed on its own, with a few drops of water added or with ice. Sip it slowly and let the true character of the spirit emerge. We would recommend trying the spirit neat first, then adding some water to dilute if needed. Don't be afraid of breaking the rules of diehard purists, the most important thing to remember is to enjoy rum however suits you. In fact, adding a few drops of water can open up new flavours and aromas.
What do you mix rum with?
Nothing is off limits, so get experimenting! We're all familiar with the classic rum and cola, which usually uses a darker or spiced rum, but you can also enjoy rum with;
- Flavoured waters
- Blitzed with fresh fruit and ice
- Ginger ale
Tropical fruit juices, fiery ginger beer and classic unflavoured tonics work particularly well and bring out the flavours that rum is famous for.
If you want to try a rum tasting at home with friends, never fear, our drinks experts are here to guide you through the process with a step-by-step tasting guide and top tips to remember.
How to taste rum: 7 top tips
1. Go from light to dark
If you’re tasting a selection of rums, (we would recommend no more than 5), organise your tasting from the lightest in flavour, (generally the youngest spirit), to the most powerful (often the oldest), to avoid tiring out your taste buds early on.
2. Have water to hand
Remember to have a jug of water at the ready to wash out your glasses and refresh your palate. Sometimes adding a couple of drops of water to your rum can open up the flavours and allow different tastes to come through, although it’s worth trying it neat first. A drop or two can take away the immediate alcohol burn and really make your spirit sing.
3. Pick your tasting glasses
There are no set rules around which glass to use for a tasting, although glasses with a narrower neck will concentrate the aromas and allow you to get a good whiff of your drink. Glass is a good idea as it won’t impart any other flavours or smells to your drink. You might also want to consider using a glass with a stem, so the rum doesn’t overheat as you’re holding it.
4. Consider the colour
First things first, take a gander at your glass and take in the appearance of your rum. To get the clearest colour, hold your glass up to the light against a blank background. Is it as dark as treacle or so light it’s almost clear? This can sometimes give you a hint as to the flavours you can expect. However, this isn’t always the case as some rums have colouring added, which can make it appear darker even if it hasn’t been aged for very long.
5. Notice the nose
You might be able to detect various fruity notes like tropical banana or citrussy orange, perfumed floral aromas, sweet vanilla and candied fruit, dark leather, smoky tobacco or woody oak. If you’re finding that the smells start to blend together, take a break and smell the back of your hand to reset your smelling skills.
6. Start with a sip
Your first sip will get your palate used to the spirit, your second sip is where the real tasting starts. Let the rum coat your mouth and hold the spirit in your mouth for a few seconds before swallowing. Is it sweet, spicy, bitter or acidic? Rich and treacly or dry and herbaceous? With each sip, you can focus on describing different aspects of your drink, from the flavour, to the strength and the texture. You might find that certain flavours are more prominent at first sip, and others linger in your mouth.
7. Take in the flavours of the finish
The final lingering flavours that hang around after you’ve swallowed your drink are known as the ‘finish’. Generally speaking, the older and more complex the rum, the longer the finish. Some drinks will leave you with a hint of sweetness, some a wisp of smoke and some a sprinkling of spice.
What flavours can you taste in rum?
There are a myriad of flavours you might experience when sampling a new rum. From rich woody notes to tropical banana and sweet molasses, there are no wrong answers. Here's our rough guide to the vocabulary and common rum flavour profiles you might use during a tasting:
Flavours could include: Oak, cedar, charred barrel.
Flavours could include: Tropical fruit, dried fruit, tree fruit.
Flavours could include: Orange, lemon, lime, grapefruit.
Flavours could include: Floral, herbal, fresh grass.
Flavours could include: Caramel, molasses, treacle.
Flavours could include: Vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg, pepper.
3 Easy classic rum cocktail ideas
Dark 'n' Stormy
A punchy blend of rum, lime juice and fiery ginger beer, this simple cocktail is perfect for sipping in the sunshine.
50ml Goslings Black Seal Rum
15ml fresh lime juice
75ml ginger beer, to top
Fresh lime, to garnish
Add the rum and lime juice to a glass with ice. Stir well. Top with the ginger beer. Garnish, serve and enjoy!
We've all sipped one of these by the pool on a tropical holiday. This versatile recipe is great for making in batches for a crowd or whipping up a frozen cocktail to cool off in the summer heat.
50ml white rum or coconut rum
100ml pineapple juice
50ml coconut cream
Fresh pineapple, to garnish
Add the rum, pineapple and coconut cream to a glass with ice and stir. Garnish, serve and enjoy!
Alternatively, you can make a frozen pina colada by adding the rum, pineapple juice and coconut cream to a blender with a large handful of ice. Simply blend until smooth and pour into your glass.
This iconic, colourful cocktail uses two kinds of rum to create a refreshing rum drink with plenty of citrus flavours.
45ml white or golden rum
15ml dark rum
25ml fresh lime juice
15ml orgeat syrup
Fresh tropical fruit, to garnish
Lightly shake the white or golden rum, Cointreau, lime juice and orgeat syrup with ice. Strain into a glass filled with ice. Top with the dark rum. Garnish, serve and enjoy!
For more cocktail inspiration, read our guide to the best rum cocktail recipes and try mixing up some spectacular serves at home.
Try spirit swapped cocktails
If you're already familiar with other spirits and mastering the art of mixology, try swapping rum into your favourite cocktails. Switch out the whisky in your old fashioned, the gin in your negroni or the bourbon in a simple whisky sour for a tot of rum to give your standard serve a new lease of life.