Deciding which rums would make the list of 32 was a bit more difficult than I thought it would be. I wanted to cover a good variety of styles while making sure that all the major rum-producing countries (and many minor ones) were represented. I also needed to set some basic rules on how a rum would qualify for competition.
After playing around with the rules a bit I came up with the following criteria:
– All rums must be aged – not so strict about how long they are aged as long as they are meant to be sold as an aged rum.
– No light/white rums – nothing against them at all, I just feel they are made to have different taste profiles that don’t compare well with gold/dark aged rums.
– No spiced rums – I just don’t usually like them.
– At least 24 countries/territories must be represented.
– No more than 2 rums from any one country/territory will be allowed.
– Must not cost more than $50 (including any shipping, processing, duty, etc.) for a 750 mL bottle.
I gathered the rum I had on the shelf and picked up a few more bottles and came up with 29 different countries/territories represented (some of them took some creative interpretation of where the rum was from):
Anguilla Pyrat XO
Antigua English Harbor 5
British V.I. Pusser’s Blue Label
Bahamas Bacardi 8
Barbados Mount Gay XO
Bermuda Gosling’s Old Rum
Colombia Viejo de Caldas
Costa Rica Centenario 25
Dominican Rep. Matusalem Gran Reserva
France Plantation XO
Grenada Westerhall Plantation
Guatemala Zacapa Centenario 23
Guyana El Dorado Special Reserve
Haiti Barbancourt Reserve
India Old Port
Jamaica Appleton Estate 12
Martinique Clement VSOP
Mexico Mocambo Art Edition
Nicaragua Flor de Cana Centenario
Panama Zafra Master Reserve
Peru Millonario Sistema Solera
Puerto Rico Don Q Gran Anejo
Spain Dos Maderas P.X. 5+5
St. Lucia Chairman’s Reserve
Trinidad Angostura 1919
US V.I. Cruzan Single Barrel
USA Prichard’s Fine Rum
Venezuela Santa Teresa 1796
That left me with only 3 spots to give to rums from countries/territories already on the list, and I had quite a few I wanted to include (Abuelo 12, Diplomatico Reserva Exclusiva, Zaya, Cockspur 12, etc. In the end I ended up going with these three:
R.L. Seale’s 10 Year Old Barbados – It’s a modern classic from the (alleged) birthplace of rum. I felt Barbados needed more representation and I think R.L. Seale demonstrates all that is good in rum: tradition, integrity, and value.
Brugal 1888 Dominican Republic – While Matusalem is among my favorite rums, I wanted to include something that was truly Dominican and not just a Cuban replacement (darn embargo).
Botran Solera 1893 Guatemala – I put this one in mainly because I was curious how it would measure up in real competition against its more decorated cousin, Zacapa. Everyone loves an underdog story, right?
And there it is: 32 rums ready to do battle.
To set up the actual competition match-ups I turned to the FIFA World Cup Final Draw process (why reinvent the wheel when they have such a great system in place), which involves dividing the competitors into 4 pools and then randomly drawing one from each pool to form a group of 4.
Pool 1 – In soccer these are the seeded teams. They represent the favorites to win the Cup and therefore are spread out in different groups to prevent them from eliminating each other in the first round. For the rum competition I chose 8 rums that I feel represent either a) the best in a particular style of rum or b) my own personal bias (hey, it’s MY competition):
Mount Gay Extra Old – The oldest rum still made today. A piece of history
Appleton Estate Extra – Representing one of Dave Broom’s four basic styles, Jamaican.
Clement VSOP – Representing another of Dave Broom’s basic styles, French.
El Dorado Special Reserve – Yet another basic style, Demerera.
Matusalem Gran Reserva – The fourth of Dave Broom’s four basic styles, Cuban.
Bacardi 8 – This is also Cuban style, but as the world’s largest producer and seller of rum, I felt they deserved a place in here with their foray into premium rums.
Zacapa Centenario – This rum has earned more awards than any other in recent years, and while some may argue that is just hype, or that the awards don’t actually mean much, there is no denying that this rum should be taken seriously.
Flor de Caña Centenario – Here’s where my bias comes in. I am Nicaraguan, so therefore this rum makes the top group. I don’t have a lot of power in my life, so I need to abuse it every chance I get.
Pool 2 – Latin America
Santa Teresa Antiguo de Solera, Mocambo 20 Years Art Edition, Viejo de Caldas 8 Years, Brugal 1888, Zafra Master Reserve, Centenario Gran Reserva 25, Millonario Sistema Solera 15, Botran Solera 1893
Pool 3 – (Mostly) Commonwealth Caribbean Islands
English Harbour 5 Years, Westerhall Plantation, Gosslings Old Rum Family Reserve, Chairman’s Reserve, R. L. Seale’s 10 Year Old, Pusser’s Blue Label, Angostura 1919, Pyrat XO
Pool 4 – The Rest of the World
Prichard’s Fine Rum, Plantation 20th Anniversary Extra Old, Don Q Gran Añejo, Dos Maderas P.X. 5+5, Old Port, Cruzan Single Barrel, Khukri, Barbancourt Estate Reserve