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Light Rum Challenge

We blind-tasted thirty-two light rums to answer that age-old question:
What’s the best light rum for a daiquiri?

Inu A Kena Light Rum Challenge

Ahh, the Daiquiri…one of those simple cocktails that when made properly is truly transcendent. With a good light rum, fresh lime juice, sugar, and ice, the daiquiri becomes far more than the sum of its parts. Have a few and you’ll swear you can feel the warm breezes of Old Havana wafting past.

But wait a second; good light* rum? With so many light rums striving to be nothing more than vodka replacements, does such a thing even exist anymore?

While it’s true that many light rums are merely vying for a sliver of vodka’s massive market share, rum connoisseurs avoid the lighter side of rum at their own expense, because in so doing they miss an opportunity to connect with the spirit they love on a deeper level.

“In this great future, you can’t forget your past.” – Bob Marley

It’s a bit ironic that in order to better understand the older spirits, we must first understand the young, but light rum is not to aged rum as white whiskey is to bourbon. With rum it’s a bit more complicated…

Light Rum 101

Like all rum, light rums can be made from a variety of sugar sources: fresh-pressed cane juice, sugar cane syrup, molasses, or some combination thereof. They can likewise be distilled in pot stills, column stills, or both–once or multiple times–resulting in vastly different flavor profiles and alcohol levels.

Many light rums are actually aged, so while the spirits are still relatively young, these distillates have benefited from their interaction with charred oak (mostly used bourbon) barrels, resulting in a welcome smoothing of the edges.

Aged light rums have also been radically affected by their interaction with activated carbon. While the filtration through charcoal removes the color bodies, it fortunately doesn’t remove all the flavor. Of course there are also light rums that are completely un-aged, allowing us an opportunity to take our connection to the cane deeper still.

Armed with a basic understanding of light rum production, join us now as we endeavor to find the best among thirty-two rummy contenders…and ultimately answer the question: “What’s the best light rum for for a daiquiri?

Methodology (September Stupor)

While drinking thirty-two daiquiris sounded like fun, we needed a plan that used fewer limes. The solution? A single-elimination tournament approach that would take us down from thirty-two rums to four. With a tournament approach reminiscent of March Madness, my tasting partner Paul suggested we call this tournament “September Stupor”, which I rather liked.

The matchups were determined by price, so the most expensive would take on the least expensive and so on. All thirty-two rums would be blind-tasted neat, then scored. Once the final four rums were determined, we would mix the daiquiris to determine the winner.

The Tasters

For such a big undertaking, I thought it wise to bring in some backup, so I tapped local rum enthusiast Paul Etter to join me in my quest for the best light rum. As a longtime rum lover and full-fledged member of  Smuggler’s Cove Rumbustion Society, Paul’s rum knowledge runs deep. The other half of this dynamic tasting duo: yours truly.

The Contenders

The light rums in contention came from three sources: our personal collections, newly purchased rums (local and online) and a few free samples. Here they are arranged two ways:

Arranged Alphabetically Arranged by Retail Price USD
Angostura Reserva Oronoco 40
Appleton Special White Diplomatico Blanco Reserva 33
Atlantico Platino Koloa White 33
Bacardi Superior Banks 5 Island 30
Banks 5 Island Montanya Platino 28
Barbancourt White Old New Orleans Crystal 26
Barcelo Gran Platinum Chairman’s Reserve Silver 25
Brugal Blanco Especial Sergeant Classick Silver 24
Caliche Atlantico Platino 21
Calidao Barbancourt White 21
Chairman’s Reserve Silver Caliche 21
Cruzan Aged Light Sammy’s Beach Bar Rum 20
Diplomatico Blanco Reserva Wray & Nephew White Overproof 20
Don Q Cristal Angostura Reserva 19
Doorly’s Macaw White Brugal Blanco Especial 19
El Dorado 3-Year Vizcaya Cristal (1L prorated) 19
Flor de Cana Extra Dry Barcelo Gran Platinum 18
Koloa White Matusalem Platino 17
La Cana Grande Silver Shellback Silver 17
Largo Bay Silver El Dorado 3-Year 16
Matusalem Platino Mount Gay Eclipse Silver 16
Montanya Platino Appleton Special White 14
Mount Gay Eclipse Silver Cruzan Aged Light 14
Myers’s Platinum Bacardi Superior 13
Old New Orleans Crystal Flor de Cana Extra Dry 13
Oronoco Myers’s Platinum 12
Ronrico Silver Label Ronrico Silver Label 11
Sammy’s Beach Bar Rum Don Q Cristal 10
Sergeant Classick Silver Doorly’s Macaw White 10
Shellback Silver La Cana Grande Silver 10
Vizcaya Cristal (1L prorated) Calidao 8
Wray & Nephew White Overproof Largo Bay Silver 8

Let the Games Begin!


Oronoco vs. Largo Bay Silver

Oronoco

ABV: 40%
US Proof: 80
Country of Origin: Brazil (also contains aged Venezuelan rum)
Producer: Fazenda Soledade/Diageo
US Importer: Diageo
Retail Price: $40
Age: Unknown
Barrel type: Brazilian oak (Amendoim)
Filtration: Unknown
Distillation: 3x copper pot
Sugar source: Fresh-pressed Brazilian sugar cane juice & Venezuelan molasses
Josh’s tasting notes: Sweet, cherry, hint of funk, dusty, not much astringency, hot finish, black pepper
Paul’s tasting notes: Sweet, pineapple, no astringency, coconut, smooth finish, moderate viscosity

VS.

Largo Bay Silver 

ABV: 40%
US Proof: 80%
Country of Origin: Barbados
Producer: Unknown
US Importer: Largo Bay Rum Company
Retail Price: $8
Age: Unknown
Barrel type: Unknown
Filtration: Unknown
Josh’s tasting notes: Smells of ethanol, tastes slightly sweet, dusty
Paul’s tasting notes: Astringent nose, vanilla, smooth, clean, slight burn on the finish, no fruit

Winner: Oronoco


Chairman’s Reserve Silver vs. Myers’s Platinum

Chairman’s Reserve Silver

ABV: 40
US Proof: 80
Country of Origin: St. Lucia
Producer: St. Lucia Distillers
US Importer: Team Spirits Import Co.
Retail Price: $25
Age: 3-4 years
Barrel type: American white oak (used bourbon barrels from Jim Beam, Jack Daniels, Buffalo Trace)
Filtration: Carbon
Distillation: Pot and Coffey
Sugar Source: Guyanan molasses
Josh’s tasting notes: Astringent, strong burn, clean with a hint of lemon, peppery finish
Paul’s tasting notes: Cocoa, slight astringency, tropical fruits

VS.

Myers’s Platinum

ABV: 40%
US Proof: 80
Country of Origin: Jamaica
Producer: National Rums of Jamaica, Ltd.
US Importer: Diageo
Retail Price: $12
Age: Unknown
Barrel type: white oak
Filtration: charcoal
Distillation: pot and column
Sugar source: Jamaican molasses
Josh’s tasting notes: Grassy funk, decent astringency, pretty sweet, hints of citrus
Paul’s tasting notes: Funky, a little grassy, no prominent flavors, slightly astringent nose, not offensive, tobacco, slight sweetness
Winner: Chairman’s Reserve

Vizcaya Cristal vs. Barcelo Gran Platinum

Vizcaya Cristal

ABV: 40%
US Proof: 80
Country of Origin: Dominican Republic
Producer: Oliver y Oliver / Vizcaya
US Importer: IMEX Spirits
Retail Price: $25/1L
Age: Unknown
Barrel type: Oak (former bourbon casks)
Filtration: charcoal
Distillation: Column
Sugar Source: Fresh-pressed sugar cane juice
Josh’s tasting notes: Astringent, lots of vanilla, molasses, slightly dusty , cocoa, slight pineapple
Paul’s tasting notes: Vanilla, smooth, creamy, no burn, easy finish, viscous mouthfeel

VS.

Barcelo Gran Platinum

ABV: 40%
US Proof: 80
Country of Origin: Dominican Republic
Producer: Barcelo Internacional, Inc.
US Importer: Blend Wine & Spirits
Retail Price: $18
Age: 4 years
Barrel type: oak
Filtration: 3 x charcoal
Distillation: Vacuum column
Sugar source: Sugar cane juice
Josh’s tasting notes: Nose of paint, turpenes, latex, no appreciable flavors
Paul’s tasting notes: Smells like paint, astringent, latex, paint thinner, non-descript, astringent finish

Winner: Vizcaya Crystal

Old New Orleans Crystal vs. Ronrico Silver Label

Old New Orleans Crystal

ABV: 40%
US Proof: 80
Country of Origin: USA (Louisiana)
Producer: Celebration Distillation
US Importer: N/A
Retail Price: $26
Age: Unaged
Barrel type: N/A
Filtration: Charcoal
Distillation: Pot and column
Sugar type: Louisiana blackstrap molasses
Known additives: vanilla
Josh’s tasting notes: Mild astringency, cocoa nose, bananas Foster, vanilla, unique, but not particularly enjoyable
Paul’s tasting notes: Grassy, vegetal, viscous, pineapple, citrus, smooth finish with slight burn

VS. 

Ronrico Silver Label

ABV: 40%
US Proof: 80
Country of Origin: USA (St. Croix)
Producer: Beam, Inc.
US Importer: N/A
Retail Price: $11
Age: 1 year
Barrel type: Oak
Filtration: Charcoal
Distillation: Column
Sugar source: Molasses
Josh’s tasting notes: Astringent nose, moderate citrus, hint of sweetness, molasses, hint of funk
Paul’s tasting notes: Vegetal, grassy, astringent/burning, hint of vanilla, easy finish, tropical fruit

Winner: Old New Orleans Crystal

Atlantico Platino vs. Bacardi Superior

Atlantico Platino

ABV: 40%
US Proof: 80
Country of Origin: Dominican Republic
Producer: Unknown, but Oliver y Oliver is the blender on behalf of Ron
Atlantico
US Importer: Alebrand Spirits Company
Retail Price: $21
Age: 1-2 years
Barrel type: oak (former bourbon barrels)
Filtration: charcoal
Distillation: Pot and column
Sugar source: Varies
Josh’s tasting notes: Sweet, low astringency, artificial fruit flavors, cherries
Paul’s tasting notes: Astringent nose, very alcoholic, chocolaty/cocoa, creamy, vanilla, moderate burn

VS.

Bacardi Superior

ABV: 40%
US Proof: 80
Country of Origin: Puerto Rico (USA)
Producer: Bacardi
US Importer: NA
Retail Price: $13
Age: 1-2 years
Barrel type: Oak
Filtration: Charcoal (twice)
Distillation: Column
Sugar source: Molasses (globally sourced)
Josh’s tasting notes: Clean, citrus, lemon, low astringency, sweet
Paul’s tasting notes: Not much aroma, non-astringent, smooth, champagne grapes

Winner: Atlantico Platino

Caliche vs. Appleton Special White

Caliche

ABV: 40%
US Proof: 80
Country of Origin: Puerto Rico (USA)
Producer: Distileria Serralles
US Importer: N/A
Retail Price: $21
Age: Unknown
Barrel type: Oak (includes Solera-aged rums)
Filtration: Charcoal
Distillation: Continuous
Sugar source: Molasses
Josh’s tasting notes: Moderately astringent nose, neutral with a hint of sugar
Paul’s tasting notes: Virtually no nose, slightly astringent, slight burn, virtually no flavor

VS.

Appleton Special White

ABV: 43%
US Proof: 86
Country of Origin: Jamaica
Producer: Wray & Nephew, Ltd.
US Importer: Kobrand Corporation
Retail Price: $14
Age: 2 years
Barrel type: Oak (formerly used at Jack Daniels)
Filtration: Carbon
Distillation: Pot & Column
Sugar source: Molasses
Josh’s tasting notes: Mild astringency, citrusy, hint of sweetness, slightest funk, peppery finish
Paul’s tasting notes: Flavorless, odorless, vodka-like

Winner: Appleton Special White

Wray & Nephew White Overproof vs. El Dorado 3-Year

Wray & Nephew White Overproof

ABV: 63%
US Proof: 126
Country of Origin: Jamaica
Producer: J. Wray & Nephew
US Importer: Kobrand Spirits
Retail Price: $20
Age: Unaged
Barrel type: N/A
Filtration: N/A
Distillation: Copper pot
Sugar source: Jamaican molasses
Josh’s tasting notes: Unrefined nose, astringent, grassy, vegetal, strong burn
Paul’s tasting notes: Funky, grassy, hint of sasparilla, strong

VS.

El Dorado 3-Year

ABV: 40%
US Proof: 80
Country of Origin: Guyana
Producer: Demerara Distillers Limited
US Importer: Demerara Distillers (USA) Inc.
Retail Price: $16
Age: 3 years
Barrel type: oak
Filtration: 2x filtered through natural charcoal
Distillation: Column
Sugar source: Guyanan molasses
Josh’s tasting notes: Low astringency, slight funk, sweet, orange, cocoa, bit of a burn on the finish
Paul’s tasting notes: Briney nose, hay, slightly sweet, hot

Winner: El Dorado 3-Year

Kōloa White vs. La Caña Grande Silver


 Kōloa White

ABV: 40%
US Proof: 80
Country of Origin: USA (Hawaii)
Producer: Koloa Rum Company
US Importer: N/A
Retail Price: $26
Age: N/A
Barrel type: N/A
Filtration: None
Distillation: 2x Copper pot
Sugar source: Crystallized sugar
Josh’s tasting notes: Low astringency, green pepper, sweet, cocoa and vanilla
Paul’s tasting notes: Ethanol, clean, strong, slight sweetness, no pronounced flavors, smooth finish

VS. 

La Caña Grande Silver

ABV: 40%
US Proof: 80
Country of Origin: Barbados
Producer: Unknown
US Importer: La Caña Grande Rum Company
Retail Price: $10
Age: Unknown
Barrel type: Unknown
Filtration: Unknown
Josh’s tasting notes: Low astringency, anise nose, dusty, smooth finish, licorice on the finish
Paul’s tasting notes: Hot on the nose, but not astringent, slightly sweet, fruit, orange, banana, smooth, a little cream and vanilla

Winner: Kōloa White

Banks 5 Islands vs. Doorly’s Macaw White

Banks 5 Island

ABV: 43%
US Proof: 86
Country of Origin: Jamaica, Trinidad, Barbados, Guyana, Java (Batavia
Arrack)
Producer: Joseph Banks Rums Corporation is the blender
US Importer: Winebow Inc.
Retail Price: $30
Age: 3-12 years
Barrel type: oak
Filtration: Charcoal
Distillation: Column and pot
Sugar source: Varies
Josh’s tasting notes: Grassy, citrus, funk, sweet, spicy finish
Paul’s tasting notes: Smells fantastic, tastes like an aged rum, orange, cream, tropical, floral, allspice

VS.

Doorly’s Macaw White

ABV: 40%
US Proof: 80
Country of Origin: Barbados
Producer: R.L. Seale and Company, Ltd.
US Importer: R.L. Seale (USA) Inc.
Retail Price: $10
Age: Less than 5 years
Barrel type: Oak
Filtration: Charcoal
Distillation: Low-temperature vacuum
Sugar source: Molasses
Josh’s tasting notes: Astringent, very sweet, hot & spicy, vanilla, citrus, hot finish
Paul’s tasting notes: Smells phenomenal, bubblegum, sweet, creamy, smooth

Winner: Banks 5 Island

Angostura Reserva vs. Shellback Silver

Angostura Reserva

ABV: 43%
US Proof: 86
Country of Origin: Trinidad & Tobago
Producer: Angostura, Ltd.
US Importer: Pacific Edge Wine and Spirits
Retail Price: $19
Age: Up to 3 years
Barrel type: oak
Filtration: charcoal
Distillation: Column
Sugar Source: Molasses
Josh’s tasting notes: Vegetal nose, grassy, slight astringency, cream, hint of cherry
Paul’s tasting notes: No nose, no astringency, clean, slightly sweet, a little briney, smooth, slight burn, spicy finish

VS.

Shellback Silver

ABV: 40%
US Proof: 80
Country of Origin: Barbados
Producer: West Indies Rum Distillery
US Importer: Grand Antilles Cane Spirits (Gallo)
Retail Price: $17
Age: 1 year
Barrel type: Oak (former bourbon barrels)
Filtration: Charcoal
Distillation: Pot and column
Sugar source: Molasses
Josh’s tasting notes: Medium astringency, vanilla, cherry, artificial fruit flavors, birthday cake, spicy finish
Paul’s tasting notes: Cotton candy, bubblegum, sweet, slightly astringent, tastes sweet, tastes like it smells, reminiscent of a spiced rum, lots of vanilla & caramel

Winner: Angostura Reserva

Sammy’s Beach Bar Rum vs. Mount Gay Eclipse Silver

Sammy’s Beach Bar Rum

ABV: 40%
US Proof: 80
Country of Origin: USA (Hawaii)
Producer: Haliimaile Distilling Co.
US Importer: N/A
Retail Price: $20
Age: Unaged
Barrel type: N/A
Filtration: N/A
Distillation: Glass column
Sugar source: Fresh-pressed 2 year-old Maui sugar cane
Josh’s tasting notes: Grassy, spicy, vegetal, strong burn, plastic
Paul’s tasting notes: Olfactory assault, foul, smells terrible, hint of butterscotch

VS.

Mount Gay Eclipse Silver

ABV: 40%
US Proof: 80
Country of Origin: Barbados
Producer: Mount Gay Distilleries, Ltd.
US Importer: Remy Cointreau USA
Retail Price: $16
Age: 2 years
Barrel type: Oak (used bourbon and whiskey casks)
Filtration: Charcoal
Distillation: Pot and Coffey
Sugar Source: Molasses
Josh’s tasting notes: Astringent, citrus, cream, pepper, nutmeg
Paul’s tasting notes: No nose whatsoever, no astringency, fruity, has a burn

Winner: Mount Gay Eclipse Silver

Barbancourt White vs. Cruzan Aged Light

Barbancourt White

ABV: 43%
US Proof: 86
Country of Origin: Haiti
Producer: Barbancourt
US Importer: Crillon Importers
Retail Price: $21
Age: Unaged
Barrel type: N/A
Filtration: N/A
Distillation: Pot
Sugar Source: Fresh-pressed cane sugar juice
Josh’s tasting notes: Very grassy, astringent, like a bad cachaça
Paul’s tasting notes: Subtle grassiness, estery, smooth, briney, viscous

VS. 

Cruzan Aged Light

ABV: 40%
US Proof: 80
Country of Origin: St. Croix (USA)
Producer: Cruzan International, Inc. / Beam, Inc.
US Importer: N/A
Retail Price: $14
Age: 2 years
Barrel type: American oak (former bourbon barrels)
Filtration: Charcoal
Distillation: 5x column
Sugar source: Guatemalan molasses
Josh’s tasting notes: Almost no nose, hint of smoke on the palate, peppery finish
Paul’s tasting notes: No nose, no astringency, slightly sweet, very smooth, not much flavor, creamy, vodka-like, inoffensive

Winner: Cruzan Aged Light

Montanya Platino vs. Don Q Cristal

Montanya Platino

ABV: 40%
US Proof: 80
Country of Origin: USA (Colorado)
Producer: Montanya Distillers, LLC.
US Importer: N/A
Retail Price: $28
Age: 4 to 18 months
Barrel type: American oak (former Stranahan’s Whiskey barrels)
Filtration: Coconut husk charcoal plate filter
Distillation: Copper pot
Sugar source: Fresh-pressed Hawaiian sugar cane
Josh’s tasting notes: Cherry nose, anise, sweet, slight vanilla, caramel
Paul’s tasting notes: Virtually no nose, sweet, pineapple, sherry, creamy

VS.

Don Q Cristal

ABV: 40%
US Proof: 80
Country of Origin: Puerto Rico (USA)
Producer: Destileria Serralles
US Importer: N/A
Retail Price: $10
Age: 1-3 years
Barrel type: Oak (barrels that have been used to age bourbon and then
blended whiskey)
Filtration: Charcoal
Distillation: 5x continuous
Sugar source: Molasses (Dominican Republic, Guatemala, others)
Josh’s tasting notes: Smooth, slick, citrus, peppery, enjoyable
Paul’s tasting notes: No astringency, faint scent of ethanol, not much flavor, smooth, inoffensive, vodka-like

Winner: Montanya Platino

Brugal Blanco Especial vs. Matusalem Platino

Brugal Blanco Especial

ABV: 43%
US Proof: 86
Country of Origin: Dominican Republic
Producer: Brugal
US Importer: Shaw-Ross International
Retail Price: $19
Age: 12-16 months
Barrel type: white oak (bourbon barrels)
Filtration: 3 x carbon
Distillation: 2x column
Sugar source: Local molasses
Josh’s tasting notes: Very low astringency, smooth, creamy, hint of citrus
Paul’s tasting notes: Not much nose, slight stringency, very little flavor, hint of banana, little burn on the finish

VS.

Matusalem Platino

ABV: 40%
US Proof: 80
Country of Origin:
Producer: Ron Matusalem & Matusa of Florida
US Importer: Proximo Spirits
Retail Price: $17
Age: 2 to 3 years
Barrel type: Oak (“equivalent to Solera 3 blending”)
Filtration: 2x
Distillation: 3x column
Sugar source: Molasses
Josh’s tasting notes: Astringent, cocoa, vanilla, slight sweetness
Paul’s tasting notes: No nose, a little briney, slight astringency, dry with a hint of sugar

Winner: Brugal Blanco Especial

Sergeant Classick Silver vs. Flor de Cana Extra Dry

Sergeant Classick Silver Hawaiian Rum

ABV: 40%
US Proof: 80
Country of Origin: USA (California)
Producer: Essential Spirits Alambic Distilleries
US Importer: N/A
Retail Price: $24
Age: Unaged
Barrel type: N/A
Filtration: N/A
Distillation: Copper pot
Sugar source: Hawaiian molasses from Kaua’i
Josh’s tasting notes: Grassy, smooth, peppery, cachaca-like
Paul’s tasting notes: Grassy, funky, a little woody, bitter finish, has a bite

VS.

Flor de Cana Extra Dry

ABV: 40%
US Proof: 80
Country of Origin: Nicaragua
Producer: Compania Licorera de Nicarauga, SA
US Importer: Shaw Ross International Importers
Retail Price: $13
Age: 4 years
Barrel type: white oak
Filtration: charcoal
Distillation: 5x column still
Sugar Source: Nicaraguan Molasses
Josh’s tasting notes: Slight astringency, citrus, slight funk, not terribly enjoyable
Paul’s tasting notes: Slight astringency, alcohol burn, clean, vodka-like

Winner: Sergeant Classick Silver

Diplomatico Blanco Reserva vs. Calidao

Diplomatico Blanco Reserva

ABV: 40%
US Proof: 80
Country of Origin: Venezuela
Producer: Distilerias Unidas, S.A.
US Importer: Distilerias Unidas Corp.
Retail Price: $33
Age: 2 to 6 years
Barrel type: Oak
Filtration: 5x charcoal
Distillation: 4x column distilled
Sugar source: Venezuelan molasses
Josh’s tasting notes: Medium astringency, peppery, citrus, cherry notes
Paul’s tasting notes: Sweet, clean, citrus, oily mouthfeel

VS.

Calidao Silver

ABV: 40%
US Proof: 80
Country of Origin: Jamaica
Producer: Drinks & Food Vertriebs-GmbH
US Importer: Saranty Imports
Retail Price: $8
Age: Unknown
Barrel type: Unknown
Filtration: Unknown
Distillation: Unknown
Sugar source: Unknown
Josh’s tasting notes: Not much nose, slight stringency, very little flavor, hint of banana, little burn on the finish
Paul’s tasting notes: Slightly grassy nose, hint of funk, tastes like an aged rum, estery

Winner: Calidao

 


Oronoco vs. Vizcaya Cristal

Winner: Oronoco

Atlantico Platino vs. El Dorado 3

Winner: El Dorado 3

Banks 5 Island vs. Mount Gay Eclipse Silver

Winner: Banks 5 Island

Montanya Platino vs. Sergeant Classick Silver

Winner: Banks 5 Island

Calidao vs. Brugal Blanco Especial

Winner: Calidao

Cruzan Aged Light vs. Angostura Reserva

Winner: Angostura Reserva

Kōloa White vs. Appleton Special White

Winner: Kōloa White

Old New Orleans Crystal vs. Chairman’s Reserve Silver

Winner: Old New Orleans Crystal

Kōloa White vs. Appleton Special White

Winner: Kōloa White

Oronoco vs. El Dorado 3

Winner: Oronoco

Banks 5 Island vs. Montanya Platino

Winner: Banks 5 Island

Calidao vs. Angostura Reserva

Winner: Calidao

Kōloa vs. Old New Orleans Crystal

Winner: Old New Orleans Crystal

With all thirty-two rums tasted and scored, the results were entered into the bracket, thus revealing our final four rums. With these final four rums, we would create daiquiris, then blind-taste and score each to determine the winner. The following daiquiri recipe was used:

  • 2 oz. rum
  • .75 oz fresh lime juice (juice from four limes was squeezed, combined and used immediately)
  • .75 oz simple syrup (1:1)
  • Shake with cracked ice and fine strain into a cocktail glass (no garnish)

After tasting so many light rums neat, Paul and I welcomed the daiquiri round with great joy. Each of the final four made a great daiquiri, and while two stood out, in the end we finally agreed on a winner. Here are the results:

Banks 5 Island Daiquiri

Josh’s Score: 8
Paul’s Score: 9.5
Average Score: 8.75

Calidao Daiquiri

Josh’s Score: 8.9
Paul’s Score: 8.9
Average Score: 8.9

Old New Orleans Crystal Daiquiri

Josh’s Score: 9
Paul’s Score: 9
Average Score: 9

Oronoco Daiquiri

Josh’s Score: 9.5
Paul’s Score: 10
Average Score: 9.75

Daiquiri Champion: Oronoco

Final Thoughts

Tasting thirty-two rums was a massive undertaking, and I’d like to extend a big “thank you” to my tasting partner, Paul. In looking back through the scores it’s clear that while we often differed in opinion, it made for a much richer experience and ultimately more meaningful results.

As much as we tried, the methodology was clearly imperfect. I’m convinced there are rums outside the final four that would have made great daiquiris, but given that the process took about ten hours of tasting and scoring over two days, we had to draw the line somewhere. I invite you to make daiquiris with some of the other rums and share your thoughts in the comments section of this article. I may do the same!

Laying out the results of the tasting was a challenge. There is simply a ton of information to share, and text is an inefficient way to share it. For a visual look at how the bracket played out,  check out the graphic below. The full tournament bracket complete with scores is also available for download here in Excel format.

If you’ve read this far down, you are to be commended! Thanks for stopping by and please do share your thoughts on the results in the comments section below.

A hui hou!
Josh

 

*While light rum is often referred to as white, silver, platinum or platino, for the purposes of this article, we are sticking with the term light to avoid confusion.

23 Comments leave one →
  1. September 17, 2012 4:05 pm

    I haven’t tasted many rums at all, but I really like daiquiris with Havana Club. I’m sure a resourceful gentleman can get a hold of it, even in the US. ;)

    • Josh Miller permalink*
      September 18, 2012 7:40 am

      Oh, I’m sure I could get some, but I have to watch out for the legal eagles now!

  2. September 18, 2012 7:15 am

    Wow Josh, you did a really great job tying this all together! It was a pleasure to sip through these 32 rums with you. I look forward to another challenge!

    • Josh Miller permalink*
      September 18, 2012 7:41 am

      Mahalo, Paul! It was a lot of work, but also a lot of fun. Couldn’t have done it without you!

  3. September 20, 2012 4:09 am

    A truly fun exercise. Still, the great Luis Ayala once made the wonderful point the distiller’s classic dilemma: a rum distilled for mixing will often not sip well, as the flavors that do well in the context of mixing ingredients may overpower the sipper. Thus a great mixer may have been eliminated in favor of a better sipper. The dilemma: a good rating or a good mixer?

    OTOH, Trader Vic Bergeron and Donn the Beachcomber – the two geniuses of rum and tropical drinks felt very strongly that only the best, aged and dark sipping rums made the best mixed drinks. Still, this recipe calls for a light rum, but a very, very good one,

    I wonder what those factors, plus the comparison of rums of unlike style in an elimination method may have eliminated perhaps the two best rated white rums in the world: Wray & Nephews Overproof (was it diluted for tasting?) and the El Dorado 3 Year – in favor of a nice but generally unremarkable product chosen from four of the same general caliber.

    Couple questions: Did you consider the notion of “divisions” of like style? As far as the cane juice rums, is a cachaca competition in the works?

    • Josh Miller permalink*
      September 20, 2012 9:05 am

      Luis obviously knows a lot more about rum than I do, but the notion that a good mixing rum can’t taste good on its own is a false paradox. A cocktail is only as good as its worst ingredient, and a daiquiri is not a drink in which one seeks a flavorless neutral spirit—the rum makes or breaks the drink.

      While it is clearly the best-selling overproof rum, I’m perplexed by your statement that J Wray Overproof is one of the two best *rated* white rums in the world. Best rated with Ting? Yes. Best rated to ward off evil spirits at a Jamaican housewarming? Sure. But best rated light rum? By whom?

      I conceded in the last section of the article that the methodology was flawed and that some great rums had been left out of the daiquiri round. As with any review process (or comments section of a blog) it’s highly subjective and open to interpretation. I myself love the El Dorado 3 and noted as much in the scores (all in the Excel file) but there are only so many hours in the day to drink and write when you’ve got a job and a family to tend to. As for future tournaments, I would love to hold one for cachaça and rhum agricole to see which made the best caipirinha and ‘ti punch, respectively.

      At the end of the day, I’m just happy to have given an under-appreciated rum category some well-deserved time in the sun, and had a lot of fun in the process.

      Cheers

      • September 28, 2012 2:38 am

        Good questions. Luis is a well known taste consutant to the rum industry. I think what he was getting at is that a good mixer, whose intensity works well in the context of a mixed drink, is often too intense for pleasant sipping.

        As far as the Wray & Nephews goes, like all overproofs and strong whiskies, it really needs to be diluted closer to 80 proof when tasting for sipping. Dave Broom wrote one of the definitive books on rum, called “Rum” and is respected for both his independence and palate for both rum and whisky. Think Michael Jackson, Ralfy and F. Paul Pacult.

        Broom gave W&N one of his rare 5-star ratings and described its “rounded rich nose with ripe banana, lime and a touch of cashew…real substance… rich and ripe… the best overproof on the market, punchy but classy”. Others agree.

        Comparisons are absolutely fun, particularly as most of us who buy a new rum often fail to taste it alongside others, and particularly in comparison to our favorites. Compare and contrast – good on you…

  4. DJ Mal permalink
    September 21, 2012 8:57 am

    I really enjoyed reading this. Can’t wait for the rhum agricole and cachaca tournys.

    • Josh Miller permalink*
      September 21, 2012 9:23 am

      Many thanks!

  5. kiki permalink
    September 22, 2012 10:52 pm

    Very nice article….and fun experiment ..surprisingly the expensive bottle of rum prevail. Not for sure if you know about this webiste but it is one of my favorites in regards to rum.
    http://www.gotrum.com

    • Josh Miller permalink*
      September 24, 2012 7:33 am

      Thanks, Kiki. I am definitely familiar with the Ayala’s site. Great stuff!

  6. January 20, 2013 8:37 pm

    Really fascinating work. Selection is limited here in Alabama, But you’ve given me some things to keep on the lookout for. I’ve wanted the ED 3 year for awhile. I do Enjoy ONO and Cruzan. Never had the winner though. I’ll have to check it out.

    • Josh Miller permalink*
      January 21, 2013 7:44 am

      Thanks for reading, JFL! It was a ton of work, but a lot of fun, too. Oronoco is a special beast. I created a cocktail called the “Splashdown” recently.and I’m in love with it: Splashdown: 2oz Oronoco, 1oz Bonal, .5oz Amaro Nonino, 6 drops Tiki bitters. Cheers!

      • January 21, 2013 11:09 am

        Cheers and Mahalo! I’ll Look forward To trying it.

  7. Nick permalink
    April 9, 2013 6:41 am

    Nice project! That’s some tough work right there, as many light rums are not especially pleasant to sip straight. If you wanted to find “the best daiquiri rum” then I think you should have gone daiquiris all the way, but obviously that would be a lot of mixing. I am a fan of Oronoco both straight and in a daiquiri, so not too surprised it was your winner. My favorite light rums to go in a daiquiri are Oronoco and El Dorado 3, but I haven’t tried a lot of the ones on your list.

    • Josh Miller permalink*
      April 9, 2013 9:59 am

      Thanks, Nick! Next time I’ll hire a bartender to make us Daiquiris ;-)

  8. Mike permalink
    December 23, 2013 12:50 pm

    Just found this. What a cool experiment. But really, Banks 5 Island over Doorlys?

    • Josh Miller permalink*
      December 23, 2013 12:52 pm

      I like Doorly’s too, but Banks is a really fine product.

  9. March 9, 2014 9:25 pm

    You’re one of the few people I’ve seen mention Angostura Reserva. It doesn’t garner much discussion on the Internet. I live in Taiwan, which has a very, very limited rum selection. Angostura, however, has a fair presence here (1824, 1919, 5 Year Old, and Reserva). Have you ever tried the Reserva for making a Mojito, my summer drink of preference?

    • Josh Miller permalink*
      March 9, 2014 9:31 pm

      I don’t believe I have. The Angostura is likely whiling away in a cabinet somewhere. Pretty had to screw up a mojito, though. Even Bacardi white label does OK. Cheers

      • March 10, 2014 5:27 am

        Oh, believe me, I’ve done it. I used Ron Matusalem Platino last year, which worked quite well once I found the proportions that worked for me–but it didn’t score very well in your elimination round. However, I don’t know if I’ll be able to get it again this year. That’s why I asked about the Angostura. Thanks.

Trackbacks

  1. What’s the Best Light Rum for a Daiquiri? « Inu a Kena
  2. Time Flies When You’re Having Rum | Inu a Kena

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