Rum Runner Press, Inc.
Dr. Ron A. Ñejo
Dr. Ron is a seasoned bar tender completely devoted to exploring the many facets of rum. It has been said that he has rum running through his veins.
Is Older Always Better?
When it comes to fine sipping rum, there is a common misconception that older is always bet ter. Nothing could be farther from the truth: it is all about balance.
During my many travels, I’ve had the misfortune of running into rums that had been “forgotten” in their barrels, only to be accidentally discovered later on. When sipped straight, these rums are often too astringent, their tannic content overpowering the senses, unpleasant to say the least. But the opposite can also be true: I ’ve visited distilleries and have tried their white rum as it was coming out of the still and was pleasantly surprised at how enjoyable a good Aguardiente can be.
I am not saying that white, un-aged rums are bet ter than superaged rums, I’m only attempting to illustrate the point that balance can be found anywhere in between. But what exactly is this magical “balance” I keep mentioning? Here is a broken down view:
• The aroma has to match, at least partially, the taste and after taste.
• There has to be sugary sweetness. This is, after all, rum, and it should remind us of sugarcane, but the sweetness should be propor tional to the other elements, in order to be a good supporting cast member rather than the leading actor.
• For aged rums, the tannic content should be relative to the purported age of the rum. Both the oak aroma and af ter taste need to be propor tional to the complexity in the palate, since they should be derived (in legitimately-aged rums) from wood extractives.
• In the case of white rums, fruit, floral and spice notes should be present, but should not be overpowering. Vanilla should, for the most part, be absent, as well as glycer in, which is typically added to increase viscosity (silkiness) and the perception of smoothness.
Blending rums is an art. Why else would they call the highly skilled people in charge of doing so “Master Blenders”? Appreciating artfully-blended rums, thankfully, does not require as much training, just a basic understanding of rum.
So are older rums bet ter than younger ones? In the hands of skilled masters, the answer typically is “yes”. I say typically, because there are situations when even the most skilled blenders can’t do much without crossing legal or ethical boundaries. Take for example, the case of a small distillery that only has 20 barrels of 12 year old rum, all other barrels are for rums that are much younger. The owners of the distillery want to sell the rum as a 12 year old rum, but when the Master Blender tries it neat, it is too dry and tannic. The Master Blender wants to add some younger rums to the blend, to increase the fruitiness and sweetness, but doing so would legally prevent the rum from being sold as a 12 year old product in the USA. The older the rums one is working with, the higher the interest in preserving their age, which limits drastically the blending options to balance the finished product.
Now that you know this, I hope you have a greater appreciation of what it takes to offer good rums to consumers. When you are lucky enough to run across an old rum that is perfectly balanced, you will be able to enjoy it even more than before.