Tasting Report: Ministry of Rum Festival 2010

Tasting Report: Ministry of Rum Festival 2010

With the popularity (and quality) of rum rising, the Ministry of Rum continues its mission of exposing the world to great rums and rum cocktails. Recently I had the opportunity to sample numerous hard-to-find, new, and very old rums at the Ministry’s event in Alameda. Ratings and some brief thoughts on everything tasted follow.

Bear in mind notes are based on only a couple of sips and should not be considered on par with our usual canonical, full reviews.

Ministry of Rum Festival – San Francisco Bay Area – August 2010

Cruzan Blackstrap Rum / A- / extremely intense molasses character; easy to see why this is so beloved

Cruzan 9 Spiced Rum / B- / funky finish

Cruzan Aged Dark Rum / B+

Cruzan Single Barrel Rum / B+ / tough woodsy finish

Don Q Anejo Rum / B / good cocktail rum choice

Don Q Gran Anejo Rum / B+

Bacardi Solera 1893 Rum / C / off, rubber character

Bacardi 8 Rum / B- / better, but quite green

Diplomatico Reserva Rum / B / on the harsh side

Diplomatico Reserva Exclusiva Rum / A / rich and lush, night and day vs. the standard Reserva, a special rum

El Dorado 5 Year Old Cask Aged Demerara Rum / A- / long finish, great value, nice herbs and flowers character

El Dorado 12 Year Old Special Reserve Demerara Rum / A / sweeter but not overly complex; lovely

Flor de Cana Grand Reserve 7 Year Old Rum / B+ / oaky

Santa Teresa 1796 Rum / A+ / a Venezuelan rarity, amazing rich caramel notes, gorgeous and hard to put down; perfect

Smith & Cross Rum / B- / overproof, tough and green

The Scarlet Ibis Rum / B- / hard edged

Black Tot Rum / ??? / this ultra-rarity, an old “discovered” rum that sells for $1,000 a bottle, was served in half-an-eyedropper portions so absurdly small I couldn’t taste much of anything except alcohol… a pity!

Coeur de Rhum La Favorite Vieux / A-

Duquesne Eleve Sous Bois Rum / B+

Neisson Eleve Sous Bois Rhum / B+ / herbal, quite strong (100 proof)

Neisson Reserve Speciale Rhum / A- / easier and sweeter, better balance

Chairman’s Reserve Spiced Rum / B / so clove-heavy it burned my eyes

Zacapa XO Rum / A- / intense, sweet tea notes; more tart than other XO rums here

Many thanks to Barrie Lynn of The Cheese Impresario for extending the invitation and pairing cheeses with the rums on offer!

Christopher Null is the founder and editor in chief of Drinkhacker. A veteran writer and journalist, he also operates Null Media, a bespoke content creation company.


  1. Edoc on August 11, 2010 at 5:49 am

    Seems like a smaller list of rums than the ones they had in NYC last year. Mount Gay wasn’t there? The great Dominican Republic brands such as Ron Barcelo, Vizcaya, Hispanola and Brugal?

    To me, Cruzan Black Strap tastes too doctored– like cinnamon-toast crunch flavored rum. Even when I mix it in cocktails, I have to be careful not to put in too much.

  2. Edoc on August 11, 2010 at 5:50 am

    Also, I agree with you about the Santa Teresa. It’s an unusual, lovely rum, with sherry notes to it.

  3. Christopher Null on August 11, 2010 at 9:08 am

    Edoc – I didn’t taste the entire room, nor did I try anything I’d formally reviewed recently, including Barcelo and Brugal. Mount Gay, Vizcaya, and Hispanola were all absent.

  4. cange on August 11, 2010 at 10:30 am

    I don’t understand Cruzan Blackstap. I like pancakes and syrup as much as the next trucker, but I want rum to taste…well, not like my breakfast! Who drinks this? I would have had my childhood been a horrible one with no love and the drinking started at 10. That one and Capt. Morgan Tattoo would be the perfect booze to get started on.

  5. Edoc on August 11, 2010 at 12:17 pm

    Thanks Chris. I’m glad you tried the rhum agricoles– they’re so different from standard rhum (taste more like a young cognac to me), that it gives you a whole new angle on rum. Try La Favorite Vieux in a mai tai or similar cocktail– it’s decadent. Two other unique rums there, too — Scarlet Ibis, which _is_ harsh and overproof, and Smith & Cross, which is a pot-distilled firebrander. Both of those rums offer a testosterone trip well worth taking.

    cange, i’m also surprised by the number of people who like this rum. It’s not a terrible disappointment at $18, but it’s not a rum I’d drink straight or use in many cocktails. A rum should taste like rum, and better still if it’s not coy about it (see above).

  6. Edoc on August 11, 2010 at 12:25 pm

    At last year’s NYC rum festival, El Dorado was pouring its 15 year (which is top notch), and its blanco (also a winner!). There a handful white rums and a cachaca or two. Were there any white rums?

    Last year’s list of rums: http://www.ministryofrum.com/events/newyork09.php

  7. Christopher Null on August 11, 2010 at 1:57 pm

    A few, I mostly stuck with the aged ones this time around. Cabana and Leblon cachaca were both there too.

  8. cange on August 12, 2010 at 9:55 am

    Edoc, I second that re the El D. I’m curious about the blanco. What does it sell for? Also, to drinkhacker, try (if you haven’t already) Sunset very strong rum. Am I just a raging alcoholic or is it incredibly smooth (mixed with cola)? And not just smooth for an overproof; just smooth period. I think Bacardi 151 and Wray and Nephew are both hideous.

  9. Edoc on August 12, 2010 at 12:41 pm

    cange, I’ve seen El Dorado 3 yr White for $20, although it’s not easy to find.

    Sunset = St. Vincent’s Sunset Very Strong Rum — I’ve heard of it, but I don’t think it’s imported to the US. It may require a trip down to the Caribbean!

    Bacardi 151 is lighter fluid. Similarly, another choice, Stroh’s 80 (80% abv) is mainly good for lighting the volcano of a scorpion bowl. Wray and Nephew is legit, but it’s best suited for punch. I recommend Scarlet Ibis for a nice strong mixing rum (it’s 98 Proof). It has a very intense character and won’t be pleasant as a sipper, but it stands out nicely in cocktails.

  10. cange on August 13, 2010 at 1:51 pm

    Thanks Edoc. Will do. Scarlet Ibis is on the top of my list. Is it made for a restaurant in NYC? Where did I read that? Nevermind. And I’ll certainly keep an eye out for the El Dorado 3 year. Re Sunset: I was surprised to find it at an ABC store in VA of all places! $26. Worth every penny.

  11. Olaf on February 22, 2011 at 1:19 pm

    Thanks for your tasting information!

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