A late summary...
Unfortunately this extremely fine website has been inactive for quite some time, sadly due to the Count's misfortune and loss of a hard drive as I remember. What a shame! It was/is posts like this - intelligent, respectful and relatively competent - that made this website one of the greats. Shall it be again? Let's hope so. Back to it...
I'd like to add a few points in summary for now...
1. There really is a guide to tasting spirits and particularly rum (here
2. A critical, uncovered issue is the alteration of rum. Unlike wines, cognacs, bourbons and single malts, most rums have been tweaked with unlabeled additives, colorings, smoothers, glycerol, and worst of all, hidden flavorings. Thus, we are not really tasting and comparing rums as much as we are comparing flavoring schemes.
Accordingly flavor wheels exist for coffee, chocolate, cheese, wine and whisky but not for rum. To be fair, there are a few relatively pure and unaltered rums, but these are the exceptions. Recently two very expensive rums were released (Panamonte Preciosa, and Diplomatico Ambassador) - both are marketing "...free of coloring and additives of any kind".
3. A consensus of top tasters would suggest a five star system (regardless of the points). A self-test of scoring would find a bell curve of results, with most rums centering on a score of 3 stars, with fewer (say 15%) 4 star, and a very few (2 or 3%) garnering 5 stars. This would be in line with the scoring of tasters like Dave Broom, Michael Jackson, BTI, etc.
Quick note: a typical reaction is that "...but I pick better rums to review". Doesn't matter. It's like throwing darts - it doesn't matter whether you try to pick just great rums or just lousy ones - your scores will vary around your aiming point and produce a normal distribution, ie a bell curve.
4. Dave Broom identified four basic styles of rum. At The Rum Project we believe in five styles (with a couple sub-styles of less importance). The styles (which are NOT countries of origin) are: Bajan style, Jamaican style, Demeraran style, Cane Juice Style and Cuban style. JaRiMi has made a convincing case for a Trinidadian style, but there are so few rums in this category that this style can be ignored for practical purposes.
Each of these styles have different profiles that you can learn to identify. In fact, the first thing we do at a tasting is to determine the rum's style before proceeding, and here's the key: rums should be compared to others of the same style. It does no one any good to compared a heavy and aromatic Jamaican style rum to say a dry Cane Juice style rum.
Unfortunately the commercial promoters have divided rums into categories like white, gold, aged, super-premium, etc. These are meaningless, as a blind taste test will easily reveal.
5. Next is comparison tasting. All tasters have good and bad days. We may be in a bad mood, or have problems on our minds. Or the reverse. I can't tell you how many times we were about to give a new rum a better score than it deserved, when we then compared it to our reference standard for that style. The comparison made clear what the actual store should be. More than one top taster recommends including comparison spirits in your tasting.About Reference Standards
At The Rum Project we established these reference rums:
Bajan style: Mount Gay Extra Old
Jamaican style: Appleton Extra 12 Year
Demeraran style: El Dorado 12 Year
Cane Juice style: Barbancourt Five Star
Cuban tyle: Ron Matusalem Gran Reserva
These were chosen on the basis of widespread consensus, ratings and respect given these excellent examples of each style. They are not chiseled in stone. These reference rums establish how a great rum of each style should present. By comparing a new rum to the appropriate reference, one can establish a fair relative score for it.
About chiseling in stone: these references are competent and reliable. Still in time you may find a rum that exceeds the reference rum for you. Congratulations! You now have your own, new reference standard for future tastings. Summary:
A couple of added notes. Until you develop your own chops, it is important to find a reviewer or two that you can trust. This does not mean reading other reviews to guide your own. What it means is to taste a rum and record the experience in your own words. Then
go searching other reviews - in time you will find skilled reviewers whose tastes reflect your own.
Let me say that again: your goal is to find reviewers who reflect your experience, not the reverse. Capish?
Same with descriptors. It matters not what I think, but what you do. Nosing is by far the most important factor (don't believe me - try to taste a rum holding your nose closed). Words and descriptors will come to you. Vanilla. Honey. Your grandfather's leather chair. Seaweed. Reading reviews will only confuse you at this stage. Don't be in a rush - the descriptors will emerge as you allow them to. Don't try to seek them out, they will come to you. Trust in that, and...
Trust in yourself. You can do it.