Almost any rum will taste good when the bottle is first opened, which I refer to as love at first sip. By the time the bottle eventually gets close to being empty, very few taste just as good as the day that I opened it. I have never had one wind up tasting better as the bottle slowly loses what originally came with it. The vast majority will never seem to be as good as that first sip, and a few get much worse. Now if that first sip is bad, either you never gave it time to breathe in the snifter or it is a sign of worse things to come if the bottle does not get poured down the drain.
As for sampling rums at a well stocked bar, this is a way of avoiding the purchase of entire bottles of expensive rums that one would be hesitant to buy. Most of those have been quite disappointing for me, perhaps because there is no telling how long that bottle has been opened. In only one instance was I blown away from one pour at a bar that I went on a trek afterwards to find my own bottles. The trek was worth it!
And as usual, I always adjust my ratings after that first sip. Less than half are still rated the same as my first sip. However, I don't keep track of how my ratings tumble down. My final rating is what counts.
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Maybe this is some kind of psychological thing that people are programmed to like things initially more than over time :)
It also may be related to one spending too much on a rum and then failing to admit to themselves that it was a waste of money. My first sip is always done with a clear head. Later sips don't always get that benefit and my impressions can become brutally honest.
Thanks to these reviews, most of my new purchases are expected to rate at a 6 or higher unless it is a total gamble on a rum with no reviews at all. I then first check online liquor store reviews if available, but most of those reviews are from casual drinkers and need to be taken with a grain of salt.
How do you handle the bottle before you open it ? I always turn the bottle slowly upside down, because to mingle the different types of alcohol, they separate very quickly. It's a tip from a friend of mine, he's a distiller.
My experience is, that a lot of rums getting better after they opened one month before, so they can react with the oxygen.
Of course, if you pay a lot for a bottle, it has to be very nice. Usually not from the producer, but from Independent bottler, they offer nice rare single cask, very delicious, very pricy but worth it.
Never heard of turning the bottle slowly upside down to mingle the flavors. However, the ride home from various liquor stores is probably enough to shake them up. I also noticed the bone dry rums last the longest with no changes to taste. The more added sugars, the more my theory takes place.
Well, the taste of an alcoholic drink does change with time, especially if you are not a binge drinker and your bottles tend to last (mine do, a year old bottle is no exception in my stash). The reason for this is that the alcohol slowly evaporates from the solution, being more volatile and lighter than water. This process is faster the more air is in the bottle, so if you have a last couple of drinks left in a bottle you opened months ago, it's better to finish it fast, or to transfer the contents into a smaller container (if you have a diverse collection, it's good to have a few smaller bottles at hand for that purpose). The aromatic compounds contained in alcoholic beverages are mostly soluble in alcohol, but not in water, so when the alcohol evaporates, they either evaporate too (loss of aroma and/or taste, since they are perceived together), or they precipitate, forming an emulsion or sediment (ouzo and absinthe drinkers know this effect as "louche"). That's why whisky drinkers add a bit of water into the glass to "open up" the whisky - the sudden dilution forces part of the aromatic compounds out of the solution into the air of the cone-shaped sniffing glass, and the aroma/taste of the drink is greatly amplified.
However, loss of alcohol in a drink is not always bad. In case of inferior rum or a flawed batch, the off-flavors and unpleasant smells can be diminished by "aerating" the rum before drinking - you simply pour the contents of the bottle from one decanter to another several times, increasing the contact of the rum with air, speeding up the evaporation process. The so called "cogeners", i.e. non-ethanol alcohols that are responsible for the defects in smell and taste will evaporate together with some of the aromatics diluted in alcohol, and the heavier flavor components acquired by barrel aging, like tannins, some sacharides from the broken toasted barrel celulose, etc. will take more prominent role, and the flavor profile of the drink will change.
As for the degradation in bottle, you may have noticed that more expensive or limited whiskies and rums are bottled at higher proof, often 43% ABV, but even 46 or more than 50 is common. The reason is consistent with what was just explained - more ethanol means more diluted aromatics, and when you dilute the drink before consumption, you get a stronger flavor and aroma. As the ethanol evaporates with time, it takes much longer for the drink to degrade completely. When a 46% rum degrades to 40%, there is still enough aromatics and strength to enjoy. When 40% degrades to 34%, it's much worse - as the concentration approaches 30 percent, it quickly loses the original flavor profile.
Dry rums last longer maybe because they are more "honest". Sweetened ("premiumized") rum producers often cheat by not only sweetening and flavoring their rums, but also bottling it at lower proof, which was proven several times by hydrometer readings. Their customers actually do not like the taste of alcohol, and are trained to treat rum like candy (Diplomatico, Zacapa, Zaya, El Dorado, etc). Lower proof and added sugar add to the feeling of the drink being "smooth"; the problem is, that the underproof alcohol loses it's aroma and flavor (other than the sugar) really fast.
Excellent explanation. The sweetened rums probably all have lower proofs and your very detailed explanation on this supports the degradation in flavor for those.
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