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Sweet rum is good rum?

Posted: Mon Jul 29, 2013 9:39 am
by Count Silvio
I've noticed an increasing amount of new rums coming to the market in the recent years and a majority of them, particularily the hispanic style rums, are extremely sweet with a few exceptions here and there. These rums are generally really easy to drink and are very smooth but also lack in depth and character as the excessive sweetness tends to mask the flavours that could be, in other words it makes the rum bland.

More and more I'm bumping into comments like "It smells like alcohol rather than any sweet notes, which I desire" and even "Too many Rhum Agricoles taste like whiskey. I think that rum must taste like rum."

The last comment is beyond me... So what is rum supposed to taste like apart from the oak aged distillate of sugar cane juice or molasses?

There is a rum review website that lists rums and gives them ratings rather than commenting on any of the rums and at first I thought their ratings were completely random as they did not make any sense at all but soon I noticed a pattern that indicated favoritism towards sweeter rums.

Majority of the Rhum Agricoles like Clement Cuvee Homere scored abhorrently low as did rums such as Doorlys XO, Cadenheads Green Label, Pussers 15 and Appleton Estate 21. The high scored 9 and 10 out of 10 rums were your typical South American and Dominican Ron Zacapa, Diplomatico and Atlantico etc. In other words, your sweetened rums.
It is just very strange to me how anyone can score such beautiful rums so low and while I've got nothing against the high scoring sweet rums on this particular website, they're really not that exciting. Oh well, I'll gladly take the Doorly's and Clement off your hands!

Bear in mind this is just my personal opinion but to me these types of comments and ratings indicate that people associate sweet, easy to drink and non challenging rums as good rums and anything that is remotely dry, complex, bold and INTERESTING are not considered good or nearly as good as their sweetened easy to drink counterparts.

There is absolutely nothing wrong in liking sweet stuff but sweetness alone does not make a good rum, it makes a boring rum. It's just not what rum is, it's not all that rum can be!

A good rum needs to have depth, character and balance between all things that are in there, including sweetness. If you remove these elements or overpower them with one element such as sweetness then all you are left with is an unexciting bland rum with a few notes of vanilla and caramel. It's easy to drink but in my personal opinion it ain't good rum and is certainly not what I look for in a good rum.

Something like that may be a good entry level or a gateway rum just so long as you don't get stuck. This is what appears to have happened to many people and it has distorted people's view of what good rum is supposed to taste like; they are used to it, so now they look for this one quality in all rums.

It's a bit of a long post, but I'd like to now hear your thoughts on what makes a good rum.

Re: Sweet rum is good rum?

Posted: Mon Jul 29, 2013 11:55 am
by JaRiMi
By nature, rum is NOT sweet, as many seem to think. Just because the original raw material is "sugar" (cane) does not mean that the distilled alcohol would be sweet. I do not see any residual sugar coming through the distillation process, although some makers of "sweet stuff" claim otherwise. Oh well, maybe my sense of chemistry is wrong..

Cask aging gives vanilla, and some "caramelized" notes to the spirit (from the wood which is roasted). Maturation in wine casks adds vinous, sometimes sweet notes (PX sherry etc). But rum becomes sweet simply and purely from ADDED sugar - and so do other spirits where such practices are done.

The notably "dry" aged spirits, such as whisky and say bourbon, do not contain added sugar. Adding sugar is actually banned. I believe that many international Cognac brands add sugar to the finished blend before bottling, because cognac should be pretty mcuh as dry as whisky.

In Cognac, the added sugar amount is modest (almost all cases). In rum, the added levels of sugar (and other additives affecting flavour) can border indecent, even if the EU regulations for example define that such methodology should in fact not be used.

It is quite easy to see that many people today like sweet very much. Do a test, and change the taste of a particular, unadulterated rum with sugar - I'd wager good money that most people will prefer the sweeter versions to a varying degree of sweetness, and most votes will fall on the sweetest one. May even perceive the quality of the drink to equal sweetness, and this is also obvious in some blog reviews. "Smooth, no burn" or "Sweet, lusciously rich" are examples of comments people make for the "well-sugarized" rums that South and Central America in particular pump out to the markets. These products can contain 50g of sugar per litre or more...

The trend has been to make rum very sweet, but also omit any mention of added sugar. In any case the sweet-tooth of today has a lot to do with how much sweeteners are added to other products people grow up consuming: In the last 20 years, the use of e.g. aspartame (which can cause sweetness levels of as much as 200 times more than sugar can) has simply exploded! This means a whole new generation of consumers who think super-sweet is GOOD. I have actually met people who were disappointed with the level of sweetness sugar gives, because it "isn't sweet enough". Says a lot...

I think the love of super-sweet products is also an age question, but more so a question of what we are used to. American friends of mine did not like our local chocolate or ice cream, because they were not as sweet as the ones back home. Then again, the levels of people affected by diabetes or obesity are not the same either...thankfully.

I do not like the trend of making super-sweet rums. My dislike is bi-directional: On one hand, I do not like sweet things very much, as I am not accustomed to super-sweet products. On the other hand, by using copious amounts of sugar to sweeten the product, the manufacturer can easily hide less pleasant flavours, and hide the real age of the product. And if they add copious amounts of sugar to the spirit without mentioning this, what other flavour-altering ingredients do they add without telling us...well, that's another topic.

Re: Sweet rum is good rum?

Posted: Wed Jul 31, 2013 12:17 pm
by Marchpig
I'm a relatively new convert to rums other than the ubiquitous Bundy, which to my taste is a horrible, flowery disaster, I prefer the smoothness of Diplimatico Exclusiva Reserva, or the Pampero 1938, or a Havana Club Anejo, but that's like just my opinion...and I think this is where the OP is perhaps finding the opinions of differing rums not the same as his opinion.
I see a similarity with what I learned about One's palette when considering the differing styles of wine, basically put, you start at the sweet side and as you explore different tastes you end up with a palette that is around the dry side, so I see myself someone who is just starting in my journies with good liquor.

Re: Sweet rum is good rum?

Posted: Wed Jul 31, 2013 2:35 pm
by JaRiMi
Marchpig wrote:I'm a relatively new convert to rums other than the ubiquitous Bundy, which to my taste is a horrible, flowery disaster, I prefer the smoothness of Diplimatico Exclusiva Reserva, or the Pampero 1938, or a Havana Club Anejo, but that's like just my opinion...and I think this is where the OP is perhaps finding the opinions of differing rums not the same as his opinion.
Diplomatico I know, actually it should be classified as a mixture of rum and liqueur I guess, since it seems to be a mixture (according to some information I recently saw, mentioning this). Pampero 1938 - is this the same as Pampero Anniversario, and is the Havana Club Anejo same as the 7yo?

Re: Sweet rum is good rum?

Posted: Thu Aug 01, 2013 3:52 am
by Count Silvio
Pampero 1938 to my understanding is different to the Aniversario, aged 5-6 years. The Aniversario is the premium version. I'm not sure which Havana Club Marchpig is referring to here as they all start with Añejo something. So we have Añejo Blanco, Añejo 3 Años, Añejo Especial and Añejo 7 Años etc...

Re: Sweet rum is good rum?

Posted: Thu Aug 01, 2013 9:07 am
by Marchpig
The Havana Club I'm referring to is the Especial. I've tried the Diplimatico Exclusiva and I found it too dry

Re: Sweet rum is good rum?

Posted: Thu Aug 01, 2013 1:44 pm
by Count Silvio
One of my German friends read this thread and mentioned a couple of interesting things and also makes a valid point. I have his permission to post the below:

"There are two things I’d like to add First, in the USA the taste for sweet things is much more pronounced due to the fact, that their general nutrition system is SWEETER. Corn syrup, Sugar etc. are in so much products, as they are cheap fillers, so I think the general pattern has moved, and people need a higher trigger to realize sweet as sweet… Secondly some of our fellow judges are “older” when it comes to their 60ties their general ability of discerning tastes start to deteriorate."
Marchpig wrote:The Havana Club I'm referring to is the Especial. I've tried the Diplimatico Exclusiva and I found it too dry
The Havana Club should be much drier and lighter than the Diplomatico, which is one of the sweetest rums I know. I can't really say it is a dry rum at all...

Re: Sweet rum is good rum?

Posted: Tue Aug 06, 2013 3:43 pm
by Marchpig
I made the distinction between the Exclusiva and the Exclusiva Reserva, the latter being the top of the range and perhaps could be called the sweeter, the former is cheaper by about $20 or so, and much dryer.

Re: Sweet rum is good rum?

Posted: Wed Aug 07, 2013 10:28 am
by Count Silvio
Do you mean the orange label (Reserva) ? The green bottle is Reserva Exclusiva and the beige label is Añejo. But yes your comment now makes sense if you meant the orange label.

Re: Sweet rum is good rum?

Posted: Sat Sep 07, 2013 2:51 am
by sleepy
Greetings. JaRiMi has it right. Sugar should never transfer in the distillation process - this isn't wine, where the stop point of fermentation determines sweetness. Sweetness in spirits is the result of post-distillation processing - I know of no exception, but would be glad to be educated.

A rum example that I find a great case in point is Westerhall Plantation, which has a powerful honey aroma and first burst on the palate, but is bone dry. No hint of sweetness - none. How? <shrug>

As far as "what is rum supposed to taste like?", the starting point is a young white rum from a quality producer. Smooth the rough edges and add the flavor positives of oak by barrel-aging, blend distillates and barreling variations (this ain't single barrel malt!) and you've got the gold rums we love. If the original young rum is well made, that same character remains, just refined and enhanced by the barrel-aging.

Adding sugar, vanilla, spices, ..., whatever, is making liqueur, not blending rum. Given the lack of regulation, or even clear definitions, I fear that between the "more flavor- NOW!" trend in all spirits and the abuse of tax abatements supporting Diagio, Fortune and Bacardi "real" rums will become vanishingly rare. The world does not need 20+ flavors of Cruzan white rum - REALLY!

Leave this grumpy curmudgeon to his favored Seale's and Havana Club 7!

Re: Sweet rum is good rum?

Posted: Sun Dec 22, 2013 1:48 am
by Count Silvio
To revive this thread here is a list of rums and their sugar contents I've acquired from Alko in Finland. What I find particularily interesting is the changed sugar content in Ron Zacapa 23. The Swedish government still reports it being at 41 g/l.
For comparison here is a list of rums from the Swedish government (Published on Facebook by Daniel Seehuusen):
Angostura 1919 14gr/l
Appleton Estate Extra 12 Years less than 3gr/l
Berrys' Caribbean Rum 12 Years less than 3gr/l
Botran Solera 1893 Gran Reserva Añejo 9 g/l
Dillon Très Vieux Rhum less than 3gr/l
Diplomático Reserva 8 Años 7gr/l
Diplomático Reserva Exclusiva 12 Años 41gr/l (!!!)
El Dorado 15 Years 31gr/l
Matusalem Solera 7 Blender less than 3gr/l
Negrita Dark less than 3gr/l
Ron Barceló Gran Añejo 5gr/l
Ron Quorhum Solera 23 Years 46gr/l (!!!)
Ron Zacapa Gran Reserva 41gr/l (!!!)
Rum Plantation 20th Anniversary Extra Old 29gr/l
Rum Plantation Grande Reserve Barbados 22gr/l
Zacapa XO 26gr/l

Update! 20/02/2014
More rums have been added and or updated to the Swedish database.
Bacardi Black 8 gr/l
Bacardi Superior less than 3gr/l
Barracuda Rum Silver less than 3gr/l
Brugal 1888 Gran Reserva Familiar 3gr/l
Brugal 1888 Gran Reserva Sherry Oak 4gr/l
Cachaça 51 16gr/l
Captain Morgan Jamaica Rum 3gr/l
Havana Club Añejo 3 años 3gr/l
Havana Club Añejo 7 años 4gr/l
Havana Club Añejo Blanco 3gr/l
Havana Club Añejo Reserva 3gr/l
Matusalem Platino 5gr/l
Matusalem Solera 7 Blender 3gr/l
The Akaya Organic White Rum less than 3gr/l

Re: Sweet rum is good rum?

Posted: Sun Feb 02, 2014 11:28 am
by Dai
Does g/l stand for gramms per litre?

One teaspoon = approximately 4 grams

According to the American Heart Association, women should limit their daily sugar consumption to 6 teaspoons (or 24 grams), and men should limit intake to no more than 9 teaspoons (or 36 grams

Re: Sweet rum is good rum?

Posted: Thu Feb 06, 2014 10:43 am
by Count Silvio
Yeah its grams per liter.

Re: Sweet rum is good rum?

Posted: Wed Feb 12, 2014 3:25 pm
by Dai
An intersting experiment was carried out by Guevara88 on the rumproject with adding sugar to sweeten rum. He came up with some very interesting findings. To know more check out his thread at the rumproject. ... =3825#3825

Re: Sweet rum is good rum?

Posted: Mon Feb 17, 2014 11:17 am
by Dai
Based on my calculations for El Dorado it works out at 1 to 1.5 grams of sugar for the 15/12 year old per 35ml glass.

Bottle of divided between measures.
1000 / 35 = 28.5
Added sugar to pours
45 / 28.5 = 1.5 grams (just over a quater of a teaspoon of sugar)
31 / 28.5 = 1 gram (quater of a teaspoon of sugar)