Interviews

How to drink rum correctly, according to a rum expert

If your knowledge on rum only goes as far as half-baked Jack Sparrow quotes, you’re not alone. We asked an expert for help with the liquor.

One day, us folk came clean about our rum expertise, which amounted to a trickle. We had questions and needed answers! So, who did we ask?

Master blender Nelson Hermandez. Not only is he a rum expert, but he also represents Diplomático, who produce eco-friendly rum. The brand is pioneering sustainable alcohol, and we reckon that’s worth a ‘cheers’.

rum

HAPPY: Long-time rum appreciator here, but an absolute novice when it comes to the ‘right’ way to drink it. For those as clueless as I, is there an agreed-upon way to properly taste a new rum?

NELSON: How to taste rum relies solely on the experience of the eyes, nose and tongue, ultimately working together quite symphonically to celebrate each unique rum taste.

Start by observing the density of any rum you are about to bring to your lips. Do this by swirling the liquid around the glass and looking out for what are known as “legs”. Legs should ideally run slowly down the sides of your glass; this indicates a dense blend that has been well aged and offers a higher alcohol content.

It’s not time to sip just yet, your nose needs a second to make the rum’s acquaintance. Smell the rum to pick up on initial aromas that may offer a point of reference once it later hits the tongue.

Finally, tongue meets rum, but it’s not the first sip you need to focus on — it’s the second. Your first sip is merely the acclimatiser. You see, the alcohol content in rum is high, so the palate has to be prepared before it can properly interpret. Swirl a first small sip around your tongue for roughly six seconds and swallow. Now, indulge in a second, more generous mouthful.

HAPPY: What makes for ideal tasting conditions? Are there any common drinking practices rum lovers should avoid?

NELSON: It’s important to avoid being in strong-smelling places as much as you can. This will facilitate the first part of the tasting. It’s important to keep your distance when smelling a quality rum; no need to get as close as you would with a wine, otherwise the alcohol will hit your senses and this could be very uncomfortable. Finally, when the rum reaches the lips, it’s key to keep the liquid at a good temperature – not too chilled, and obviously never taste it hot. Keep it in your mouth for a while, don’t swallow it down too fast.

HAPPY: Let’s talk mixers. With a dark rum like Diplomático, should you be using it with a mixer?

NELSON: Our recommendation to enjoy a rum like Diplomático Reserva Exclusiva is to drink it neat, on the rocks or with a splash of soda. It’s the perfect rum to sip. But honestly you can drink your rum however you like. This is what makes this category so much fun. The best way to taste it depends on how you like to enjoy this type of beverage. There is no right or wrong way to drink rum, the key is to enjoy it in good company.

 

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HAPPY: And how about an underappreciated mixer or one people wouldn’t think to use with a dark rum?

NELSON: The good thing about premium rum is that it’s extremely versatile and can be combined with many types of mixers. I personally love it with ginger ale which highlights the product’s tasting notes and enhances the rum’s organoleptic profile.

HAPPY: For those who may not be rum converts yet, what advice can you give to help them take the plunge?

NELSON: What makes this category so interesting and appealing to an increasingly large number of consumers is its richness and diversity. Consumers are taking a bigger interest in rum and its characteristics. Rum has a great history, cultural legacy and tradition in many countries. With a strong culture, heritage and provenance, rum is in prime position to succeed – using these elements to engage consumers and drive the category’s premium credentials.

Its versatile on the cocktail scene and the ageing process generates special interest. Indeed, the ageing process offers the consumer a range of nuance, a great space for educating and helping the category build its premium standing. This is a great opportunity for rum to regain its reputation as a refined spirit.

 

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HAPPY: How exactly does an alcohol brand become eco-conscious? Is it simply a question of becoming carbon-neutral, or is it more complex than that?

NELSON: We know we must do all we can to protect our planet and ensure future generations can enjoy the same privileges and benefits as we do today. That’s why sustainability and responsibility are at the heart of our family business more than ever before. Our commitment goes beyond being carbon neutral. We control every step of our production process, from field to bottle, creating a more conscious world along the way.

We believe that by putting our heart into everything we do, we can continue to reduce waste, save energy and protect the environment. We have a responsibility, individually and collectively, to make our planet a better place, which is why we proudly adhere to the global objectives of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals.

HAPPY: Can you tell us how Diplomático earned its ISO 14001 certification?

NELSON: To be certified you need to comply with 100% of the requirements, mapped out in 43 chapters. This compliance is verified through annual audits carried out by an accredited body. In general terms, the standard’s pillars are the environment, society and the economy, so that sustainable development as an objective is achieved through a balance of all three.

The ISO 14001 standard’s main aim is to contribute to the “environmental pillar”, which is something we have been working on since the distillery first opened its doors. We are the only distillery in Venezuela to have this certification. We are proud to be pioneers in Latin America since 2009 with our certification renewed every two years.

 

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HAPPY: Apart from your rum, is there anything the ordinary drinker can do to make sure they’re supporting eco-conscious brands?

NELSON: Our ambition is to go one step further in our sustainability commitment and generate a positive impact by involving consumers in an important cause close to their hearts. For this reason, we are committed to the fight against food waste. Food holds great power in terms of social impact; food is all about sharing, love, culture and self-giving.

Yet about a third of all food produced for human consumption is lost. With our partners around the world, we want to encourage consumers to join us in this initiative. We also want to create awareness on this issue by partnering with NGOs and other key stakeholders to make a more significant impact in our fight against food waste.