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Tasting Report: Ministry of Rum Festival 2011

Last year’s Ministry of Rum event was a tasty yet tiny look at the growing world of rum, and most of the same faces — with a few new ones — were back again in 2011. I focused on unfamiliar brands at this walk-around event… but made it a point to retry a few rums that I considered favorites — and which I didn’t like so much last time out. While most of my notes of the re-reviewed rums were consistent with 2010’s grades, a couple of marks were wildly different. Did recipes change… or was I not on my game last time out? Tasting events are always tricky, with opinions formed on the fly based on very limited (and spit-out) samples… so, as always, take all of these notes with a grain of salt. Or, as it were, sugar.

Ministry of Rum Festival – San Francisco Bay Area – 2011

Bacardi Solera 1893 Rum / B+ / much improved notes vs. last year, when I called this rum “rubbery”; still, not a lot to it; Mexico-produced

Diplomatico Blanco Rum / A- / a filtered Peurto Rican claro style; incredible smoothness and sweetness together; Venezuela

Diplomatico Reserva Exclusiva Rum / A / remains a classic; made a fabulous Hotel Nacional Cocktail with Small Hand Pineapple Gomme

Smith & Cross Rum / B- / same rating as last year; huge body and tough as nails

The Scarlet Ibis Rum / B- / hard and rough; same notes as 2010

Brugal 1888 Gran Reserva / A- / just reviewed, tried another sip just for kicks

Zacapa Centenario 23 / A / remains a favorite, citrus and floral notes offering a lighter style rum despite its age; Guatemala

Zacapa XO Rum / A / incredible depth, another classic not to be missed; upgraded since last year’s A-

Crusoe Silver Rum / B+ / coconut finish; both this and the spiced rum are organic

Crusoe Spiced Rum / B+ / huge clove and allspice character

Flor de Caña 4 Year Old Gold / B / smoky and woody, typical of Flor de Cana

Flor de Caña Grand Reserve 7 Year Old / B+ / better balance, but still lots of wood

Flor de Caña Centenario 12 / B+ / improving but wood still holds tight

Flor de Caña Centenario 18 / A- / easily the top Flor, with the sweetness finally balancing out the wood notes

Coeur de Rhum La Favorite Rhum Agricole Blanc / C-

Coeur de Rhum La Favorite Rhum Agricole Ambrè / C / 18 months aged; still really rough (Martinique)

Coeur de Rhum La Favorite Rhum Agricole Vieux / C+ / significantly downgraded from last year; tougher than I’d remembered by a mile; 3 years old

Montanya Platino Rum / A / one of the most exceptional white rums (aged, then filtered) I’ve had lately — and it’s made in Colorado; a full review of Montanya’s rums is in the works

Montanya Oro Rum / A- / aged in Stranahan’s whiskey barrels, left ruddy orange; lots of nut, coffee, and almond character

Lemon Hart 151 Demerara Rum / A- / amazingly clean for 151; very dark, with coffee and cocoa notes

Novo Fogo Gold Cachaça / B+ / rare, an aged cachaca — this one smooths out that spirit’s typical fuel notes

Santa Teresa Claro / B+ / Aged 2 years, then filtered; big citrus notes; Venezuela

Santa Teresa Rhum Orange Liqueur / B+ / citrus + rum liqueur

Santa Teresa Gran Reserva / A- / aged two to five years; bracing sweetness, one of the sweetest of the day

Santa Teresa 1796 Antiguo de Solera / A- / I called this “perfect” last year; in 2011 I’m finding a bit whiskey-like, tons of wood drowning out the sugars

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Christopher Null

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

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  1. Dylan October 9, 2011

    “Montanya Oro Rum / A / one of the most exceptional white rums (aged, then filtered) I’ve had lately — and it’s made in Colorado; a full review of Montanya’s rums is in the works

    Montanya Platino Rum / A- / aged in Stranahan’s whiskey barrels, left ruddy orange; lots of nut, coffee, and almond character.”

    …Isn’t Montanya’s Platino their light rum, and Oro their dark?

  2. Edoc October 9, 2011

    Can’t wait to try Montanya.

    Btw, Smith & Cross (and to a similar extent, Scarlet Ibis) is a fantastic rum! It needs to be tasted in the right drink, however. Sipping it neat will take the curls right out of your hair! But add a bit of simple syrup and lemon, and it transforms into a bouquet of candied dried fruit. I highly recommend picking this up just to see what you can do with that powerful jamaican pot-still flavor in mixed drinks. It’s a killer.

  3. Edoc October 9, 2011

    Also, some of those rhum agricoles need a mixed drink to shine. Drinking them straight is a disservice.

  4. Christopher Null October 9, 2011

    Edoc – Sorry about that; the Oro (gold) and Platino (white) were reversed. Now fixed. Full review is coming shortly.

  5. Soccie December 8, 2011

    Really enjoyed your notes and comparisons, it’s very interesting to refer to earlier tasting of the same spirits. A question of method: did you know what you were tasting before the actual tasting, or after? Were you able to see the scores for all competitors afterwards?

  6. Christopher Null December 8, 2011

    Soccie – To clarify, tastings like this are almost never blind. Tasters go from booth to booth and sample the spirits or wines at each one. They know what they’re drinking — and at most events, I plan in advance who I’m going to visit. Most events are too large to go to every booth. As well, most people at these events don’t score what they’re tasting. Most people go for fun, or because they really like what’s being poured. The wine events are HUGE, filled with hundreds or thousands of people, who treat the event very casually. Press and other people who might consider scoring what’s poured (like spirits buyers or sommeliers) generally make up a small portion of the audience.


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