In order to live a more cultured and sophisticated lifestyle, one must do a bit of traveling, and while traveling, partake in the local delights of wherever one finds themselves. My travels this year have led me to Belize, Grand Cayman, and most importantly, Puerto Rico. In the past year, I have spent a grand total of nearly 6 weeks on the Island of Enchantment, where the national drink is rum. In fact, Puerto Rico is known as the Rum Capital of the World, and more than 80% of the rum consumed in the United States, comes from the island. The most popular of the many brands in Puerto Rico is Bacardi, which is distilled in Cataño, right across San Juan Bay from the apartment I stay at. Every time a cruise ship made port (which is fairly often, as Puerto Rico is also the cruise ship capital of the world), dozens, if not hundreds, of people lined up to take tours of the Bacardi factory.
For obvious reasons (it is delicious), I am a big fan of rum. My time in Puerto Rico was well spent, as I tried several of the most popular local brands, none of which seemed to actually be Bacardi. My favorite of the locals ended up being Don Q Cristal, a silver rum distilled in the city of Ponce on the south coast of the island. I brought a bottle back with me to the United States, and spent much time reflecting on why I did not bring an entire case. Don Q is not sold in my neck of the woods, so I’ve only used it sparingly, on special occasions. Tonight is one of those occasions, as I finally sit down to do a real taste test, to see if Bacardi can be dethroned as the King of Puerto Rican Rum.
I am very familiar with the different tastes of both of these brands, but never before have I sat down to really compare them, and try them against each other. I began with a scent test, as I took a gradual, lingering whiff of each rum. Don Q
definitely carries more of an alcohol scent to it, and it almost curled my nose hair upon further inspection. Bacardi smells sickeningly sweet, as no doubt everyone can attest to.
Next up came the first taste test, as I took enough of each rum to wet my tongue and really let it soak into the taste buds, before excitedly gulping it down. Knowing that Bacardi is the sweeter of the two, I opted to go with Don Q first, so that my senses wouldn’t be sugared out. The Quixote rum carries a very dry complexion. It is definitely strong on the senses, and
tasting of alcohol. It goes down with a slight burn, and finishes with a warm sensation in the stomach that lasted for several seconds.
I thoroughly washed out my shot glass, and drank and swished several ounces of water to cleanse my taste buds and reset them. Next came the Bacardi, and I followed the same steps as before. The sugar was a lot more prevalent from the get go, and it had a smooth finish. The big problem that I had and have always had with it though, is that it is so sugary. At times, it is almost overwhelmingly sweet.
The next tasting process was mixing both rums into a simple mixed drink. I brought out a cocktail glass and mixed two Rum and Gingers, with a teaspoon of fresh lime juice in each. The Don Q glass went first, and I found it very enjoyable. There was no discernable drawback, as the ginger took enough of the sting out of the rum to take hefty sips, but without removing the taste of rum altogether. Not too sweet, not too stiff, it was a pleasant experience.
Next up came the Bacardi glass, and the taste was noticeably different. The sweetness of the drink elevated
tremendously, but was not necessarily bad. It went down a little bit different, a bit stickier, for lack of a better term. What I mean by that, is the beverage seemed to remain in the gullet for a little bit longer than the Don Q version. The flavor of the Bacardi is definitely noticeable over the Ginger Ale, which actually leads to a rather nice aftertaste.
All in all, I enjoyed both beverages. I would prefer the Bacardi when drinking straight rum, but when it comes to mixing with something else, I like Don Q. It doesn’t assert too much of its flavor, and it doesn’t get overpowering. I like that. I want to know that it’s there, taste it, but not be overwhelmed. The reason I’m mixing it is because I like the combined flavors. With Bacardi, there was too much of an imbalance, in my opinion.
In the long run, I am almost exclusively a mixed drink person when it comes to rum, so I am going to have to choose Don Q as my rum of choice. Puerto Ricans agree, as Don Q is the highest selling rum on the island, beating out Bacardi and Captain Morgan both. The price is very close to the same, so money is not an overt factor in choice, therefore economics can be ruled out as a cause.
As the first official taste test that I’ve participated in for Culture of Spirits, I regard this as a success. Until next time, Salud!