32 rums going head to head in a no-holds-barred competition.
Only one will be named the winner.
Why? Well, because… it sounded like fun. Also, because I realized that even though I have consumed copious amounts of rum over the years, I never really developed a ranking system… or even a tasting methodology.
Not too long ago a friend of mine, who wanted to get into rums, asked me which one of all the rums I had tried I liked the best, and I couldn’t really give him a straight answer.
My first thought was to immediately go with Flor de Caña Centenario, since that is one I always keep stocked, but then there was that bottle of Zacapa I tried at my sister’s godfather’s place a while back, and I couldn’t really forget about the El Dorado 15 that I had ordered after reading all the rave reviews, or that bottle of Zaya I shared with my cousins in the middle of nowhere in Jacumba, and how could I really even talk to someone about starting to drink rum without mentioning the O.G. of the cane spirits, Mount Gay Extra Old?… and so on and so forth. I just couldn’t make up my mind on which one was the best I had tried. So I realized I needed some sort of system to rate them.
At first, I figured I would simply start drinking them one by one, write down my impressions, and give them a score on some sort of scale, much like most reviewers seem to do so well. However, I quickly encountered some difficulties with that system:
a) Turns out I am not gifted with a very discerning nose or palate. I often find myself unable to pick out the hints of hazelnut and pecan with undertones of currant that so many expert reviewers seem to find so easily (truth be told, I often have a hard time tasting the blueberry in my Five Fruit Frenzy from Jamba Juice, so it might just be me). That doesn’t mean that all rums taste the same to me, just that I can’t really tell you in eloquent detail exactly what they taste like. So my tasting notes were not very good for comparative purposes.
b) I am a fan, not a connoisseur. To quote what one of my whisky-loving friends once said about his love for scotch, “I can’t be a scotch snob, because that would imply there is a scotch I didn’t like.” That was me and rum (except for Sea Wynde… I did NOT like that one), which meant most of my ratings were generously leaning toward the highly positive end of the bell curve, rendering them pretty much useless as a comparative tool.
Many, many bottles later I was no closer to finding out what my favorite rum was. What I needed to do was set a standard, I needed to figure out what it was that I expected rum to be and subsequently rate each rum I tasted on how well it delivered against these expectations. I needed real academic analysis in order to achieve meaningful results. This would certainly take some time… and a lot of writing and research… yawn.
Then one day, as I was watching March Madness, I realized there was a better (or at least more fun) way to figure out which of the rums was king (in my opinion). Head-to-head competition. Brackets. Win or go home.
While I had found it difficult to meaningfully rate the rums I drank against an abstract and somewhat arbitrary scale, I knew I could definitely take two rums, taste them side by side and decide which of the two I liked better. Winner moves on, loser goes back on the shelf, and on to the next contest. Simple. I loved it. All I had to do was find 64 rums, break them down into 4 groups of 16 and give each of them a ranking within their group… OK, maybe that wasn’t so simple anymore.
Then a better plan formed in my head: the FIFA World Cup. It was perfect. 32 rums was manageable (and more affordable) and the idea of having rums from all over the world competing against each other made it even more appealing. I was excited… and that’s how this blog was born.