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Serving Rum Flights at Home

Aloha folks!

If you’re like me, you have a lot of friends who don’t yet fully appreciate good rum, and a few who do. Regardless of their experience level, a good rum flight can turn a bourbon drinker into a rum lover and a rum lover into a rum evangelist.

Rum Flight Mat

What’s a rum flight? Like any flight of spirits, a rum flight is a selection of rums–often between three to five ~1 ounce samples within a theme set by the bartender. Most tiki bars and some bars that serve top quality cocktails have rum flights on the menu, but how does one put on a quality rum flight at home? Well, that depends on what rum you have in stock of course, but there are a number of themes you can use to help guide your selections. Here are some suggestions for rum flight themes:

  • Age
    • 12 year
    • 15 year
    • 21+ Over
  • Brand
    • Appleton
    • El Dorado
    • Barbancourt
  • Country/Region
    • Barbados
    • Central America
    • French Caribbean
    • Panama
    • Trinidad
    • Venezuela
    • So many more…
  • Style
    • Light
    • Gold
    • Dark
    • Solera process

One of the tricks to a rum flight is keeping track of what you’re serving and/or drinking. The solution is simple: place the glasses on a piece of paper and write the names of the rums on the paper next to each glass. To make this easier, you can use a pre-printed sheet with the circles, etc. already printed out like a placemat.  The photo above shows the rum flight mat I use at my home bar. You can download a printable pdf copy here.

Besides the theme, the rum and the placemats, you’ll need glassware. There’s no real wrong answer here. I have seen small wine glasses and Glencairn whiskey glasses used. At home, I use small brandy snifters for a single flight. If doing more than one concurrently, I branch out into oversized shot glasses or rocks glasses.

The two other things you’ll need are filtered water and soda crackers such as Saltines for hydration and palate cleansing. Picking out the subtleties among the rums within the flight can be especially difficult for rum newbies–help them out with a palate cleaner in-between rums. You might find that it enhances your experience as well. Finally, avoid spicy foods before a rum tasting, as spicy foods can interfere with your taste receptors for hours after eating.

Another way to reset your sense of smell is to keep a jar of coffee beans handy. If everything starts to smell/taste similar, open the jar and take a deep sniff. Wait a few minutes and return to nosing.

Rum flights can be a really fun way to get your friends into rum, but they’re also fun for us rum lovers with sizable rum collections. As much as I love my rums, I tend to fixate on one or two rums for weeks at a time. Rum flights at home help me to get reacquainted with my rum collection and appreciate the differences among them.

Do you do rum flights at home or at bars? What suggestions do you have to make the experience more enjoyable? Please share your suggestions in the comments section below.


Here’s that downloadable rum flight placemat link one more time:
Rum Flight Mat  (2.4 MB pdf )

If the link doesn’t work, right-click (CTRl-Click for Mac) and save the link target to your desktop instead.

5 Comments leave one →
  1. Paul Etter permalink
    December 31, 2011 11:39 am

    Both at home and at my favorite rum bar I find it hard to pick a particular rum. Kind of like picking a favorite child…My methodology works better with the 340+ rums that Smuggler’s Cove stocks versus the 60 or so I hoard at home but it does the job. I use the “random browse” method of my Rum Conneisseur iPhone app to select a rum for tasting. It’s sort of like spin the bottle, round and round she goes, where she stops, nobody knows. I just hit random until I land on one I own or one that SmugCo stocks. It’s random and it forces me to branch out from my London dock style favorites.

    • Josh Miller permalink*
      December 31, 2011 8:23 pm

      Sounds like a solid methodology, Paul! I don’t have that app yet; I’ll have to check it out.

  2. November 25, 2012 9:33 am

    Rum flights can be fun, and the fun suggestion are endless – and fun. For example today – just for fun, we’ve chosen a poker theme: four eights. That’s the fun part, and and excuse to taste a few drums.

    But we’d all benefit by designing flights that beyond simply fun, also serve to educate, keeping a few basic principles in mind. These criterion are based on the notion that an experienced taster should be able to distinguish in a completely blind tasting. Which raises the first criterion. To be most useful, a tasting should be blind. Samples should be numbered and known to noone. The bottles can be placed in paper bags by one person, poured by another, and numbered by a third. Or any other method that leaves all blind.

    The second criterion is style. There are four or five basic styles (not country of origin), as first identified by Dave Broom, and include Barbadian, Jamaican, Demeraran, Cane Juice, and Cuban. Each of these styles can be identified blind by an experienced drinker. It does little good to compare a cane juice rum to say a molasses based Demeraran or a full bodied, bold Jamaican style. Each of these are vastly different and the flight reduces to personal style preference, rather than comparison of quality. Age is another basic qualification that again, an experienced taster can determine blind. Now to the flights.

    From here the flight can be horizontal, for example one could compare five Jamaican style rums, hopefully of similar ages (horizontal). Or one could compare Flor de Cana’s of 4 – 5 – 7 – 12 and 18 years. Although not perfect (we believe FdC uses two different base blends) it should illustrative of what age can do.

    A few other observations: the Age catgory listed includes 12, 15 and 21+. There is a consensus that the sweet spot for rums is actually between 7 and 10 years, which is ignored. This is because it has been said that 1 year in the tropics is worth 2 or 3 in northern climes, thus 7 year old rum is the rough equivalent of an 18 to 20 year old single malt, a fine range indeed.

    The brand category is sometimes useful, and sometime not. For example the Barbertons are very educational since the only difference is age. A great flight as it covers both style and age without exception. Appleton is next best, but these represent different blends of differing ages, so the comparison is more of style than of age. The El Dorados flight is the worst as each and every one of them is a very, very different blends of very different stills and processes.

    Next in decreasing education is the regional comparison, which isolates neither style nor age. There can be some stylistic commonalties in rums from Haiti, Jamaica, Trinidad and Barbados, and possibly the Domincan Republic, but the rums would have to be extremely well chosen. Advanced tasters might like these comparisons, but only based on experience. Otherwise, this is better regarded as meant for fun.

    As far as the “Style” category, color is not a style in a tasters sense. The test: if you can distinguish a white from a gold blind, you need to write a book. It really can’t be done. These are simply very young rums that would better be grouped together, but unless this is done in conjunction with the actual basic styles, will tend to reduce to personal preference. “Dark” is really a subcategory that actually does have some merit, as these rums are all heavily flavored and doctored, and have great value as mixers or floaters. Knowing how they taste alone is of great value to budding mixologists.

    A word on “solera”, perhaps the least valid as this notion crosses several style categories. Worse yet is that solera is the least understood, and most inconsistent label used. Some of the rums that market the word really don’t use a true solera process, or who fail to claim the actual current age of the “solera”. Others used some solera aging, but then blend other rums in. It’s a total mish-mosh and I can assure not a real style than can be determined blind. Fun, yes but not more.

    Nonetheless, there’s nothing wrong with having fun, and getting your friends together. When the final results of the blind tasting are revealed, even the organizer should be surprised. A valuable followup would be to then reveal the actual name, age, method and real style of each rum.

    Josh, a good and interesting contribution…


  3. November 25, 2012 9:40 am

    Oops… read “Barbancourt” (not Barberton) above in the paragraph about “brand” flights. Yet another brain fart, an indicator that our “Four Eights” flight was a little too fun…


  1. How to: At-Home Rum Flights « Inu a Kena

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