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Old 01-31-2008, 12:45 PM   #1
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Default "Starter" Rums

If you have a friend who knows nothing about rum, but is interested, which rum would you start them with?

I have to preface this with the fact that I will usually ask 3 or 4 questions about what they like in terms of other spirits, sweet vs dry, etc.

The answers will almost always give me guidance for a first rum, but then I sometimes wonder about starting them on an upward curve of increasing quality and tastes, or slamming them immediately with the very best.

If someone gives me no real guidance, I'll generally tends towards Zacapa 23 or Zaya if they don't like things overly sweet. But I don't really like starting with these, as I'd rather give them something good but about halfway up the quality scale. This gives them some learning as they progress upwards. IMHO.

So what do you tend to recommend as a start rum? Or progression of rums?

Second part...

What about if someone says that they are a long-time drinker of fine scotches or cognac or bourbon or tequila or vodka.... Would any such statement change your initial recommendation?

For instance, if someone says they like cognacs, I would start thinking about an aged agricole. For scotch drinkers I might reach for Mount Gay Extra Old. Etcetera.
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Old 01-31-2008, 02:32 PM   #2
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I was actually planning a blog post on this because I get asked by people a lot, "What rum would you recommend for a starter?"

If I know nothing about their tastes (or if they don't seem to really know anything about their tastes), I tend to start them with what I would call "cocktail rums". I usually tell anyone that's just getting started with appreciating rum to buy themselves a bottle of Appleton Estate V/X and build up from there to other kinds of rum like Zaya and Mt. Gay XO.

If they're someone that appreciates things neat, then I might start them with Ron Zacapa 23 or Matusalem Gran Reserva. I find the Matusalem is particularly good for people who are familiar with and fond of whiskeys.

With uncles, siblings, and friends, Matusalem has served as a gateway rum that has led to me actually having several people I can visit and expect to see at least 2 good bottles of rum on their shelves.
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Old 01-31-2008, 03:56 PM   #3
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Good question. I would begin with Pyrat XO, next Flor de Cana Gran Reserva or Cruzan Estate Diamond, then Zaya before moving on to more and more refined rums.

The reason I said Pyrat first is it seems to be a gateway rum for many folks, myself included. It is very approachable, has good presentation, and is readily available. Of everyone I personally know that has tried it, only one out of eleven people did not like it. Everyone else enjoyed it and has been interested in trying other rums ever since.

I'm not all that knowledgeable re cognac, scotch, etc., but I would recommend St. James Amber to someone with that background. These are my thoughts re "starter" rums. I'm glad this topic was presented as I now have my thoughts formulated and know exactly how to go about introducing folks to rum with a deliberate strategy.

Last edited by Milicent; 01-31-2008 at 03:59 PM.
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Old 01-31-2008, 04:03 PM   #4
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I'd probably start of with something like English Harbour 5. Not terribly expensive, not too big in any particular direction and (at least to me) an above average rum that hopefully wouldn't put anyone completely off. I notice thus far the theme appears to be something of the molasses variety. Is it safe to say no-one would start off an in-experienced partaker with a young agricole?
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Old 01-31-2008, 04:38 PM   #5
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Originally Posted by Matusalem View Post
Is it safe to say no-one would start off an in-experienced partaker with a young agricole?
I would not do so blindly, that's for sure. If they said that they liked cachaça, or if they wanted "something different" maybe then I would.

For agricoles, I'd probably go backwards in age. A long-aged on ice (because of the proof), while comparing it to a "similar" molasses-based rum. Show them how an agricole differs. Then a younger aged agricole which will show the agricole tastes more pronounced. Finally a young agricole.

But that's my thoughts, and I'm hardly an agricole expert. I'd love to hear Ed's or Hank's thoughts on how they'd introduce agricole to a newbie.

The more I sample agricole and cachaça, the more I no longer consider them to be rum. Sure, according to US law they are, but those laws were created long before agricole and cachaça were know in the States, let alone well-known.

But this is difficult, too, when considering something like Vizcaya versus an aged agricole. Where's the line then?

But this is for another topic... Sorry to digress.
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Old 01-31-2008, 05:49 PM   #6
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I do this all the time. I'm donating a rum tasting for a local charity auction and there's a lot of interest in it.

I always ask people first what they already like to drink. If you don't do this, you throw away the most valuable information you can use for picking the start.

A sophisticated scotch drinker (there is no shortage of them) shouldn't be started on Zaya or Zacapa. They are already open to nuance. You can go straight to the drier stuff if they're regulars. If they are not regular sippers of anything, then Zacapa is a good eye opener, but I'm surprised how many people who consider themselves regular drinkers don't warm up to Zacapa off the bat. I don't do flights; that's not for initiates; it's advanced tasting. "Trips" are better. Start in one region and move along so people have a clue what the differences in styles are.

I'll start dry and work to sweet. No reason to use anything but something I already like. I tell them what they are drinking and my methodology. "I am starting you dry and working you to sweet." I tell them what to look for in each rum, where it is from and where it lives in the hierarchy of my taste.
With this approach, a fine rum, MGXO, Barb 15, and, again, my personal love, Pampero, become something that can be enjoyed in the first night. Mateusalm GR is a regular starter for my tastings. But if you really want people to learn how crazy wild rum is, run the gamut. "Sophisticated" people get Mt. Gay XO, at least my friends do. I sometimes give them a whack of Navy rum at the end, though I'd never start with it. I wouldn't start with Pyrat XO either. It's not what most rum is like, I think. Ten Cane or an Agricole would, I think, be for those who've graduated from Tasting 101.

PS. I love this topic and hope a lot of people pipe in. Doing rum tastings could be my new hobby! The four or five we've done at home have been great fun.

I edited my post after re-reading it for a bit more clarity.
Where you start isn't as important as where you end, I think.

Last edited by Lew Barrett; 01-31-2008 at 06:03 PM.
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Old 01-31-2008, 07:26 PM   #7
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In my experience those who enjoy single malt scotch tend to enjoy drier rums as been mentioned above. Flor de Cana 18 year old may be a little over the top but their 12 fits the bill nicely. Aged rhum agricole is also a good example of drier rums, but may not seduce as wide an audience depending on their experience.

When I do tastings for audiences who don't really know rum I try to offer a diverse selection. Mount Gay Sugar Cane Rum, Cruzan Estate Diamond, El Dorado 12 and then 15 year old. Then Barbancourt 4 and 8 year old. If I'm working with an informed group of dark spirit drinkers I off the Barbancourt to show the point of not getting hung up on the age of the rum.

I try not to wow them with things they can't find in a local store or I might run out of something I can't easily replace.
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Old 01-31-2008, 07:57 PM   #8
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As one who has done nothing BUT convert people to rum drinkers, I like this topic...

Most people who want to learn about rum in my experience arent used to dryer spirits, so we usually introduce guests to One Barrel, Pyrat XO, or... believe it or not, Captain Morgan Private Stock. CMPS has a nickname at our bar, its called "Training Wheels"

For vodka drinkers, I like to introduce lighter, less estery rums like Montecristo or Bambu. More often than not, though, we let them taste Oronoco. It has a lot more flavor than they might be used to.

For scotch drinkers, we like to push the Mount Gay Extra Old, as you also stated.

Bourbon and Whiskey drinkers, we almost always go the route of Prichards Fine. Once we get Cockspur in, Im sure Ill start whiskey drinkers in that direction.

The single-malt fans LOVE the Murray McDavid line (No surprise there)

And gin fans? well... nothing really... maybe the Oronoco?
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Old 01-31-2008, 08:12 PM   #9
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For who start in testing rum I usually recommend:

Mount Gay XO, or Damoiseau 8 ans, if they drink whisky.
Damoiseau 8 ans, or El Dorado 12, if love cognac or brandy
Doorly's XO, Zacapa 23 if usually they don't drink spirits

I think taht it's important that the first rum it's relatively cheap, because if don't like it, surely they don't think that there was one of "best rums", and want to try another one.
AREHUCAS - Arehucas Italia - Apri e finisci!

Last edited by Mattia Volontи; 01-31-2008 at 08:15 PM.
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Old 02-01-2008, 08:01 AM   #10
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Some very good points made. I assumed we were talking about an inexperienced individual who decided to start with rum, and hadn't given it much thought from a perspective of what <other> spirits they might already be versed in.
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