It occurred to me as I prepared for battle that I had spent a lot of time figuring out which rums to taste and very little time on how I would do it. I didn’t really know which glass I was going to use to taste the rums, figured as long as I used the same one for all of them it would be alright… so it might as well be an easily accessible tumbler. I was heading to the proverbial gunfight with a knife. It was time to do some research to figure out which glass would best showcase the awesomeness of rum.
There are as many types of glasses as there are experts and opinions on the matter, and they all gave the same advice: Use the glass that suits you best. Sonofa…!!! What good are experts if they are going to make me do the work?!?! So I grabbed a bottle of good ol’ trusty Doorly’s XO and picked out five glasses to test out.
There are a lot more glasses out there, but some where more expensive than my bottle of Doorly’s ($17… and what an amazing price for it, this rum is a perfect sipping rum after a long day), and others were ugly as sin. So I just grabbed these (pardon the crappy picture… I spent all my money on rum and can’t afford a camera):
A) An Old-Fashioned glass with straight sides tapering outward slightly. It is normally used for a drink on the rocks (or its eponymous cocktail), but I thought “a glass is a glass,” right?. The first thing I noticedhis was that this one didn’t hold any of the aromas in. I noticed the smell of alcohol right away, which made me hesitant to put my nose too close to the glass. It was pretty strong even from a good distance away, but because the smell spread from it so easily, I could actually run my nose across the top of the glass (a safe distance away) and notice some differences in the aromas. The sweeter, more fruity smells rose higher than the heavier more earthy ones. It was a subtle effect, but it was there. Unfortunately, that level of diversity was not present in the flavor. I feel the shape of the glass made it difficult to control the amount of fluid going into my mouth and I ended up drowning my tongue too fast to really pick out many different flavors. Probably something I can learn to control better with practice… but who has the time?
B) The famous Glencairn Glass with its signature tulip shape. One of ten glasses claiming to be The Official Whisky Glass. The shape was definitely better at keeping the smells contained. As I got closer to the glass I started to notice those same sweeter smells, but I felt that it concentrated them a bit much right at the lip of the glass, making it hard to keep my nose in there long enough to explore the deeper aromas. The taste, on the other hand, was enhanced greatly by the shape of the glass. The slower, more even pour really brought out more of the flavors in the rum, and in a very pleasant progression from sweet to more full bodied molasses flavor.
C) A small brandy snifter. Brandy tasters are stereotypically a snooty bunch, so iI figured they must be on to something good with their glass design, but this really tasted like dirty mop water, though I don’t think that was the glass’s fault. I must have not washed it properly or something because there was a definite funk in there that was NOT from the Doorly’s. I know it’s unfair and I should really give the glass another chance… but the psychological damage is done and I don’t think I can do the whole World Cup thing with this glass without thinking of dirty mop water every time.
D) Le Baby Whisky Glass by Peugeot. Certainly a French car maker should be able to make some excellent glassware. That was sarcasm, in case you missed it. I throw it in there every now and then… but then I become self-conscious about it and immediately point it out. Anyway, the joke was on me because it turns out that this glass is great. The aromas were all there in the glass without being too overwhelming. Right at the lip I could smell sweeter, more fruity scents… I don’t know, let’s call them peach… sure. Sticking my nose into the glass I was able to pick out more earthy molasses smells, kind of syrupy… kind of like pancakes. The taste was also great, I felt like it brought out a bit more of the spicy kick right at the beginning, with the sweetness fading in right after, and a strong earthy body following.
E) A nosing Copita. Most hardcore rum tasters swear by this glass, and I would have to agree with them… it’s a great one. It has many of the same aroma-conveying qualities as Le Baby Whisky, except for the fact that it concentrates the middle smells a little too much, making it difficult to really take them in for a long time. I feel the shape also had a very similar effect on the taste as Le Baby Whisky did… but then again, after 5 tastings, maybe they were all just starting blend together a bit. So I decided to take a short break as I feared the alcohol was messing with my subjectivity. I should probably pour smaller drinks when doing multiple tastings.
In the name of research, I eliminated A and C and retested the other three. The differences where actually pretty subtle and I feel that any of those three glasses would serve my purposes very well, but since the whole point of this blog is to choose winners, I “forced” myself to compare them once again.
In the end, I chose Le Baby Whisky. Its shape provided a better taste profile than the Glencairn and its wider body showcased a more varied spectrum of aromas than the copita, while keeping the alcohol in check. I gotta admit, though, that I also think Le Baby Whisky looked and felt better in my hand than the others and that may have played some role in my liking it better. In any case, I now have a glass worthy of the rums in this competition.
If you want to read a more comprehensive description of all the different glass shapes out there with pros and cons for each one, check out Capn Jimbo’s Rum Project page on choosing a glass, here.