The Rum Masters 2016 results
Although fit to burst with flavour and flair, rum is often positioned as the underdog of the brown spirits categories. As our Rum Masters 2016 revealed, now more than ever there’s an expression to entice every palate.
Year on year, The Rum Masters competition continues to grow markedly in terms of both entry numbers and diversity. Last year, judges assessed 15 award-winning flights; this year there were 21, with the arrival of Aged Rhum Agricole and Dark Overproof to name just two.
This expansion is a trend reflected category-wide. Stylistically there’s now more rum choice than ever, ranging from delicate white through rich and dark to powerful agricole, each offering its own USP whether in terms of provenance, process or maturation.
Increasingly, brands are making headway with premium positionings, ditching stale shot formats to pursue sophisticated imbibers with expressions best suited to sipping or refined cocktail mixing.
This emerging interest in connoisseurship looks set to breathe new life into the category, which may soon see consumers tempted away from other brown spirits in recognition of rum’s potential.
No tempting was required for our rum experts, who gathered at Rum Kitchen Notting Hill with eager palates. So expansive was the tasting that our judges were split into three teams to tackle the line-up.
The first team, chaired by Jamie Kimber, bar manager of Trailer Happiness, comprised Alex Knight, head bartender of The Truscott Cellar; Lewis Hayes, owner of Merchant House; and Martin Hughes, assistant general manager of Rocket Restaurant.
While their flight of White Standard expressions offered “very little difference between most of the rums”, Silver medallists The Real McCoy 3 Year Old Rum and Ron Cartavio Blanco “really stood out” for their “pleasant, fruity” notes.
Hayes said: “I’m pleased none stood out as having sugar added. However very few shared the expected sugar cane attributes of rum.”
The second team, chaired by Georgi Radev, bar manager of Mahiki, tackled a flight of White Premium rums.
Chris Gutierrez, account manager of Spirit Cartel; Peter Holland, co-founder of The Floating Rum Shack; and Alex Wolpert, founder of East London Liquor Company found “a few very interesting rums” amongst the offering.
The first Master medal of the day was swiftly awarded to Havana Club 3 Year Old, which the group felt had “lots of cocktail potential”.
The panel said: “It was great to see good rums with plenty of flavour, not just light, vodka-like rums.”
Our third team was made up of Roger Barnes, director of Spirits Elite; Miguel A. Hernandez, beverage manager of Engawa Restaurant; Alessio Franzese, bar manager of Rum and Sugar; and Gareth Bell, bar manager of Rum Kitchen Notting Hill. Chairing was Melita Kiely, senior staff writer at The Spirits Business. The group rounded off the white rums with a flight of super-premium expressions.
Barnes explained: “In this category I’m looking for rum that has character, which is a very hard thing to achieve with white rum. It tends to be a much cleaner spirit, which is why you find so many white rums are aged and then stripped of their colour.”
Thankfully the flight delivered, with a Gold medal awarded to St Nicholas Abbey’s white expression for its “sweet and lovely aromas” and a Silver to the “refreshing, fruity” Skotlander.
“As a mixologist, these rums should be something that you can make into a very smooth cocktail,” added Franzese. “I think both of these medal winners could be used to achieve that.”
Having judged the smallest of the white rum flights, Kiely’s panel pressed on to gold variants with a flight of rums aged up to seven years. Impressed by the variety on offer, the panel awarded seven medals, four of which were Gold: Rum Bar Gold, Mount Gay Black Barrel Rum, Ron Tremols El Toro, and Rhum Barbados 5 Years.
Bell said: “The spread of rums showed there’s a lot of uniqueness and diversity of flavours. It’s very hard to stand out in this category as it’s a bit saturated, so the ones that scored higher were the ones that had something very different to offer.”
‘With aged rums, you’re looking for something you can keep in your glass that changes as you return to it‘
Kimber’s panel took on Gold Aged 8-12 Years, and was pleasantly surprised by the quality of the small flight, which attracted one Gold and one Silver medal.
Knight said: “It was a very interesting representation of the category. St Nicholas Abbey 10 Year Old Rum really stood out as an example of the range.”
“The rums really show how diverse this category is,” added Hughes.
Rounding off gold rum, Kiely’s team took on a flight of Gold Aged Over 13 Years.“The two most important things for me in this category were intensity and depth – that’s what you want with aged rums,”said Franzese. “Something that is going to last as you drink it; something you can keep in your glass that changes as you return back to it over time.”
Judges were delighted with the flight, awarding Murderer’s Bay Gold Rum a Master medal – “intense with great depth” – while “nicely balanced” St Nicholas Abbey’s 15 Year Old Rum received a Gold.
It was time to depart age classifications and move forward to price point, where Radev’s team assessed Gold Premium, a group of “over-sweet” rums that for the most part failed to impress – aside from “smooth, light” Gubba Gold Rum, which earned a Silver medal.
Of the flight, the panel commented: “The real rum flavours are missing. They disappear from the sweetness and caramel and vanilla.”
The next flight, Gold Super Premium, fared a little better. Although initially earmarked as disappointing by Kimber’s panel, the flight produced a “really enjoyable” Master medallist in the form of La Hechicera Fine Aged Rum.
Hayes said: “Although all the rums were enjoyable, only a few really stood out as being a really great example of the style.”
The group progressed to a selection of Dark Aged Up To 7 Years, which were deemed “an excellent assortment of styles”, and produced seven medals.
A Master was awarded to “elegant and really well-rounded” Ron Cartavio Selecto Rum, while three Gold medals went to “punchy, tropical” Marauda Rum Steelpan, “mellow but enjoyable” Ratu Dark Rum 5 Year Old, and “light, well balanced” Ron Cartavio Black Rum.
Kimber said: “There were some excellent and complex rums in this range. It really shows the depth in the category.”
Radev’s group progressed further up the age classification with Dark Aged 8-12 years, handing out Gold medals to Cruzan Single Barrel Rum, Don Q Añejo, and Ron Cartavio’s Black Barrel Rum and Solera Rum.
The panel concluded: “We’re happy overall with the category. There were a variety of different tasting rums, many of which were of a very good standard.”
The final age classification round, Dark Aged Over 13 Years, was assessed by Kiely’s panel, who were surprised by the diversity of the flight and complexity of each entry.
“You could find complexity in every single rum, definitely, and every single rum had its own personality. It was the most awarded category so far for our team, which I think says a lot,” said Hernandez.
The flight produced a Master medal in the form of Plantation Trinidad 2003, along with one Gold and four Silver awards.
Franzese added: “There were some wonderful chocolatey, toffee, sweet notes within these rums. The diversity was very surprising. Even when it came to the colour of the rums to be marketed as dark, there was a wide variety of colours.”
The same could be said for the next flight, Dark Premium, which Radev’s panel felt offered good variety – although this was marred by a few “over-sweet” offerings. The standout expression was the “well balanced” New Grove Single Cask Rum – Vintage 2005, which secured a Master.
Of the flight, the panel said: “A great flight, with one outstanding rum – but also a few that just shouldn’t be in this category. Many were missing the ‘real’ rum taste. It’s masked with sugar.”
Stepping up a level to super-premium, Kimber’s panel endured a “minefield” flight, which “verged between amazing and awful”, according to Hayes.
Overall, the panel was content with the quality of the round, dishing out a wealth of medals – including a Master to Don Q Gran Añejo for its “pleasant, slightly oily and not too sweet” palate.
“There were some great examples of this style of rum, with some interesting expressions that really stood out,” commented Kimber.
Next on the agenda was Rhum Agricole, which stirred enthusiasm from Kiely’s panel. “Agricole is an emerging market and is
incredibly different to molasses rums. When you’re new to the category it can be hard to get past those vegetal notes,” said Barnes.
“But once you do, there are some really interesting flavours coming through, grassy flavours, and green fruits like apples and pears. Agricole rhums are very versatile; the young rhums especially are incredibly vibrant and exciting.”
This was reflected in the success of the flight, which brought one Master, one Gold, and four Silver medals to the table.
“You want that earthy, grassy, vegetal flavour to come through and these rhums certainly delivered that today,” said Hernandez.
“There was a lot of diversity and unique differences among the different expressions. Each time we revisited one of the rhums we were able to pick out more differences and interesting flavours.”
Kiely’s panel pressed on to Aged Rhum Agricole, a selection of “very approachable” rhums with a “lovely crisp, biting acidity” that earned a commendable six Gold medals, along with four Silvers.
“They were very approachable rhums, which I think the agricole category needs to attract consumers,” said Kiely.
“The vegetal notes were a lot more subtle in this round compared to the younger, white agricole rhums, which makes them more accessible to first-time agricole rhum drinkers. I was really impressed, they were all very well balanced, rounded rhums.“
With agricole in the bank, both Kimber and Radev’s teams split a large flight of Spiced Rums between them, and were struck by the multifarious styles.
Kimber said: “I’ve always had a soft spot for spiced rum, and the range really showed the diverse styles available.”
A Master medal was awarded to Old J Spiced Rum, a “classic combination” of the traditional vanilla and lime flavours found in Spiced Rum, while two Gold medals were awarded to Dark Matter Spiced Rum and Elements 8 Spiced Rum, along with two additional Silvers.
Radev’s panel noted: “It would be good to have more spiced rums that are using natural maturation. There were a few good spiced rums with natural flavours, but some were very artificial. Some of them were very sweet, too. It’s spiced rum, not over-sweet rum!”
We pressed on to White Overproof, which Kiely’s panel identified as an “enormously difficult market to break”.
Solo entry Rum Bar Rum scored a Silver medal for its “lovely fruity notes, which would be great for making Punch”.
“If you enter this category you’re fighting against a monster – you’re going up against Wray & Nephew, a brand that has cemented its place in the category,” said Barnes. “But the rum we tried today was also a fantastic overproof.”
Radev’s team took on a slightly larger flight of Gold Overproof expressions, which unearthed a Gold medallist in the form of Compagnie des Indes Overproof. The team said the rum had “very good balance” and “could even be drunk neat”.
The next overproof selection to be scrutinised was dark rum, regarded by Kimber’s panel as a good selection of the category. A Gold medal was awarded to standout expression Bounty Overproof Rum.
Knight said: “It was a fair representation of dark overproof rum. I would be more than happy to sell all of these rums.”
Radev’s panel rounded off the overproof variants with an agricole selection.
Trois Rivières Cask Strength Millésime 2006 scored highest with a Gold medal, lauded for its “dried fruit” nose, “big flavour” and “long, dry finish”, while Silver award-winner Trois Rivières Rhum Blanc Agricole won praise for its “great balance”. “It’s very hot, but it doesn’t taste too strong,” remarked Gutierrez.
The final flight of the day, Rum Liqueurs, also unearthed our final Master medal: Rum Bar Cream. Despite comprising just two entrants, the flight was “very pleasing”, offering “very, very good examples” of the category.
Kiely summed up the day’s events: “The sheer volume of entries into this year’s Rum Masters – and the number of premium entries – just goes to show how far the category has come in recent years.
“Producers are evidently striving to beat saturation and broaden the spectrum of flavours on the market, whether that’s with a sipping rum or something to be mixed.
“And if agricole distillers can elevate their presence in the on-trade, then we really will start to see some interesting developments from rum.”
Click through to the following page for the complete list of medal winners from The Rum Masters 2016.
|Instil Drinks Co.||The Real McCoy 3 Year Old Rum||Silver|
|Cartavio Rum Company||Ron Cartavio Blanco||Silver|
|Pernod Ricard||Havana Club 3 Year Old||Master|
|Maison Ferrand||Plantation 3 Stars Silver Rum||Silver|
|Beam Suntory||Cruzan Estate Diamond Light||Silver|
|Edrington Brugal||Brugal Especial Extra Dry||Silver|
|White Super Premium|
|Abbey Holdings Inc.||St. Nicholas Abbey White Rum||Gold|
|Skotlander ApS||Skotlander White Rum||Silver|
|Gold Aged Up To 7 Years|
|Remy Cointreau UK||Mount Gay Black Barrel Rum||Gold|
|R.Tremols & Sons SRL||Ron Tremols El Toro||Gold|
|Delhaize||Rhum Barbados 5 Years||Gold|
|Worthy Park Estate Ltd||Rum Bar Gold||Gold|
|Diva Spirits||Compagnie des Indes Latino 5 Years||Silver|
|Abbey Holdings Inc.||St. Nicholas Abbey 5 Year Old Rum||Silver|
|Cartavio Rum Company||Ron Cartavio Superior||Silver|
|Gold Aged 8-12 Years|
|Instil Drinks Co.||The Real McCoy 12 Year Old||Gold|
|Abbey Holdings Inc.||St. Nicholas Abbey 10 Year Old Rum||Silver|
|Gold Aged Over 13 Years|
|Village Distillery||Murderer’s Bay Gold Rum||Master|
|Abbey Holdings Inc.||St. Nicholas Abbey 15 Year Old Rum||Gold|
|Paradise Imports LLC||Gubba Gold Rum||Silver|
|Gold Super Premium|
|La Hechicera Company||La Hechicera Fine Aged Rum||Master|
|Skotlander ApS||Skotlander Cask Rum||Silver|
|Dark Aged Up To 7 Years|
|Cartavio Rum Company||Ron Cartavio Selecto Rum||Master|
|Cartavio Rum Company||Ron Cartavio Black Rum||Gold|
|Marauda Rum||Marauda Rum Steelpan||Gold|
|Paradise Beverages||Ratu Dark Rum 5 Year Old||Gold|
|Angostura Limited||Angostura 7 Year Old||Silver|
|Beam Suntory||Cruzan Estate Diamond Dark||Silver|
|Dark Aged 8-12 Years|
|Spirit Cartel||Don Q Añejo||Gold|
|Beam Suntory||Cruzan Single Barrel Rum||Gold|
|Cartavio Rum Company||Ron Cartavio Black Barrel Rum||Gold|
|Cartavio Rum Company||Ron Cartavio Solera Rum||Gold|
|Williams & Humbert||Dos Maderas PX||Silver|
|Pernod Ricard||Havana Club 7 Year Old||Silver|
|Dark Aged Over 13 Years|
|Maison Ferrand||Plantation Trinidad 2003||Master|
|Williams & Humbert||Dos Maderas Luxus||Gold|
|Harbour Island Rum Co.||Afrohead Rum||Silver|
|One Eyed Spirits||Ron de Jeremy XO||Silver|
|Pernod Ricard||Havana Club 15 Year Old||Silver|
|Cartavio Rum Company||Ron Cartavio XO||Silver|
|Grays Inc. Ltd||New Grove Single Cask Rum – Vintage 2005||Master|
|Maison Ferrand||Plantation Original Dark Rum||Silver|
|Beam Suntory||Cruzan Aged Dark Rum||Silver|
|Dark Super Premium|
|Spirit Cartel||Don Q Gran Añejo||Master|
|Remy Cointreau UK||Mount Gay XO Rum||Gold|
|Berry Bros & Rudd||Penny Blue XO Batch #004||Silver|
|Angostura Limited||Angostura 1824||Silver|
|Mangrove||Santa Teresa 1796 Ron Antiguo de Solera Rum||Silver|
|Edrington Brugal||Brugal 1888||Silver|
|Damoiseau||Damoiseau Pure Cane Rum||Master|
|Groupe BBS||Maison La Maury Ter Rouj’||Gold|
|La Martiniquaise||Saint James Impérial White Rum||Silver|
|Groupe BBS||Maison La Mauny Rhum Blanc Agricole||Silver|
|Groupe BBS||Trois Rivières Cuvée Spéciale Mojito & Long Drink||Silver|
|Héritiers H. Clément||Rhum Clément Select Barrel||Silver|
|Aged Rhum Agricole|
|La Martiniquaise||Saint James 1765 Cuvée||Gold|
|Groupe BBS||Trois Rivières Triple Millésime||Gold|
|Rhum J.M||Rhum J.M XO||Gold|
|Damoiseau||Damoiseau 8 Year Old Rum||Gold|
|Damoiseau||Damoiseau 10 Year Old Rum||Gold|
|Groupe BBS||Trois Rivières 12 ans d’âge||Silver|
|Héritiers H. Clément||Rhum Clement VSOP||Silver|
|Groupe BBS||Maison La Mauny XO||Silver|
|Groupe BBS||Trois Rivières Cuvée du Moulin||Silver|
|Signature Brand||Old J Spiced Rum||Master|
|Dark Matter Distillers||Dark Matter Spiced Rum||Gold|
|Mangrove||Elements 8 Spiced Rum||Gold|
|Paradise Beverages||Ratu Spiced Rum||Silver|
|BOTL Wine & Spirit Merchants||Butterfly Cane Spiced||Silver|
|Worthy Park Estate Ltd||Rum Bar Rum||Silver|
|Diva Spirits||Compagnie des Indes Overproof||Gold|
|Paradise Beverages||Bounty Overproof Rum||Gold|
|Cellar Trends Ltd||Pusser’s Rum Gunpowder Proof||Silver|
|Overproof Rhum Agricole|
|Groupe BBS||Trois Rivières Cask Strength Millésime 2006||Gold|
|Groupe BBS||Trois Rivières Rhum Blanc Agricole||Silver|
|Worthy Park Estate Ltd||Rum Bar Cream||Master|
|Quintessential Brands||Toussaint Coffee Liqueur||Gold|