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Price does not equate to quality


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Paul B (PREMIUM)

Posted 30 Jul '20 from United States with 337 ratings

Through two and half years on this site, I have tried like hell to come up with a formula to equate price to quality. Finally, it all came down to one very simple formula. Taste counts twice as much as price. Plain and simple!

So how does one find a number on taste? It is VERY VERY important to rank all of your rated rums, preferably in a spreadsheet. (Hey, I was born as an engineer and will die as one!) Let's say for example that one has rated 200 rums and the rum of choice ranks as 100. This means that the ranking percent of 50% will count as two thirds of the final score with the price percent rounding things out for the last one third. My price percent is based upon my absolute maximum price of $120 per bottle. Hey, I am not rich! My average is then taken between all three scores. Don't laugh! This works!

From my bourbon and single malt scotch days, I found out what the optimum aging time was. Anything more than that is to appeal to the snobbery for many buyers. The same goes for rum, except that the optimum aging time in the hot tropics is lowered to only 8 years. So light up your Cuban cigar with a glass of that 30 year old rum while I sit back and laugh!

My whole point is that price does not necessarily guarantee a very good rum. There are a few exceptions like Dictador XO Insolent and Ron Zacapa XO, but these are rare finds in a very expensive market.

P. S. I can afford to spring for a $400 bottle of rum every now and then, but what is the point given that what I have long known about aging in various climates? I will stick with my limit of $120 per bottle.

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Harrie

From Netherlands with 56 ratings Replied 1 Aug '20

You are absolutely right; for rum (and about anything else) price says nothing about quality. Especially some designer/adultered rums in great looking bottles just seem to charge what they think they can get away with. And I think a lot of people are too uncertain about their own judgement and therefore take the pricetag as guidance.

There is, at least for me, one more thing. In order to appreciate the more upmarket stuff one should still have to be able to enjoy well made simpler rums without denouncing them. The fact that one rum is 'better' than another doesn't make the lesser one 'unworthy'.

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Paul B (PREMIUM)

From United States with 337 ratings Replied 1 Aug '20

Thanks Harrie!!!!

When I sampled Blackwell's Reserve (at about $21 US) versus Appleton 21 year (at about $120 US) side by side more than a year ago and the cheaper one won that taste test, I immediately knew that I was onto something. Last night, I have unveiled another expensive ripoff rum, Carupano 21 year. All of these reviews are priceless to us rum drinkers and should keep us from wasting money!

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Paul B (PREMIUM)

From United States with 337 ratings Replied 4 Aug '20

One thing about my formula is that if one is ranking them properly, then almost anyone will come up with the same percentages that qualify to be bought again. My bottom group represents 35% of all that I have reviewed and these will never be bought again by me. My top group is 15% of all that I have reviewed and I often buy more bottles of these rums. The second group sometimes warrants repeat purchases if I happen to have extra money. The third group is usually comprised mostly of mixers and flavored rums, cheap enough to indulge in once in a while, but nothing to be ashamed of owning.

Since I already have all of my rums ranked, each group of new purchases starts out with the lowest rankings. I then sort by rum type: dry, semi-dry, white, flavored, etc. I then move the new rum into a half step (say 147.5 for instance). I then sort them by all of my rankings and adjust the new rankings some more. Once satisfied with my new rums being in the proper ranking, I then renumber the entire sorted group. This then tells me where to place the bottles in my Rum Ratings cabinet. Sometimes, I use my cabinet image with the pictures of bottles to help me rank new rums. As the weeks pass, some of the new rums may wind up needing to be adjusted. Some would call this entire process a royal pain in a ass, and it can be at times. However, the end results are worth all of this effort.

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Rene Rum

From Switzerland with 362 ratings Replied 4 Aug '20

Hi Paul,
I'm amazed about your work on rum, it seems you are Mr. Statistics on this site, don't get me wrong, it's cool !
But what about the rarity of a rum ? I have/had rum from independent bottlers, sometimes 250 bottles filled, what about this factors ?
And yes, the Price says Nothing about the taste. A friend of mine bought a bottle of the El Dorado Rare Collection Albion 2004. What a sugar mess, no taste just sweet as hell ! So I start to stay away from all the "exclusive" rum from the big industrial distillers, includes also the Zacapa XO but excludes the Dictator ;-)
Nice rum haven't to be expensive, Mount Gay black barrel or El Dorado 8 for example, very nice and cheap.
Perfect rum haven’t to be very old, I think about the Haitian Clairin rhum or an WP 502, simply amazing. (oh yes, I'm in a white rum phase at the moment).
But! but! I had very old ones in the glass, just a tasting (I'm also not that rich ;-)) they has been perfect, light and fruity - and - heavy and hearty at the same time. Caroni 1974, 34 year old and the Courcelles 1972, 38 year old, rum in absolutely perfection !
And the most important Thing: ENJOY IT !!!

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Paul B (PREMIUM)

From United States with 337 ratings Replied 4 Aug '20

Rene Rum:

One thing in my search for each new rum is that I expect to find it again at a later date. I am not into buying them at auctions. For example, I loved the Foursquare Zinfandel Cask but have yet to see it again for sale anywhere. Rats! So, in this respect, the Spanish solera system almost guarantees consistency in taste with each successive year. El Dorado 8 year must ALWAYS be in my cabinet and is fairly plentiful where I live. As for Mount Gay Black Barrel, it was way too smoky for my taste. I have an opened bottled of Zacapa Edicion Negra that is so smoky that it may take forever to finish. I also want my rums to taste like rum and not like bourbon. My bourbon and single malt days are long gone. I have also been known to drive up to 400 miles to stock up on hard to find rums, but then some of these become like, "Would I ever make that trip again?" The answer is hell no! Since Total Wine opened up fairly close to me a month ago, I no longer have to make those long drives. However, I am considering a 250 mile drive to get a bottle of El Dorado 2006 Port Mourant for $80 US. As for Caroni, I cannot even have them shipped to where I live because spirits being sent to my state are against the law.

There was a saying on a T-shirt for sale in Captain Tony's Saloon in Key West FL. It said something like all one needs in this life is a tremendous ego and a strong sex drive and brains don't mean shit. Well on my first visit there in 1987 and with a few stiff drinks in me, I vocally proclaimed that Captain Tony did not know what he was talking about because brains got me to where I was. My drinking buddy wisely told me to keep quiet about such things around there. Captain Tony was the mayor! This was at the very start of my long and very satisfying career as an engineer. Now retired for the past five years, the engineer is still in me, hence my complex spreadsheet to keep track of my rums.

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Immiketoo (PREMIUM)

From Greece with 37 ratings Replied 4 Aug '20

Paul, your advice has been invaluable, especially to us noobs! Since I began this journey, I have been duped by expensive bottles that I now think are crap.

Some are still worthy, such as my ambassador, but for the most part, I’ve been moving toward unadulterated rums such as Appleton, Foursquare and the Real McCoy. That’s are products that have the taste and price point that fit the bill.

I don’t mind paying for exceptional rum, but I do mind o we paying for chemically altered bs.

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Paul B (PREMIUM)

From United States with 337 ratings Replied 5 Aug '20

Immiketoo:

I like to compare my rum journey to my motorcycle riding days between 2006 and 2012 on five different bikes. Immense enthusiasm embraces everyone getting into something new. So I would attend bike nights and get some ideas from the veteran bikers. Some would tell me things like I was going to get floorboards and I was going to get pipes, etc., etc. etc. They mean well, but after I became a veteran rider with thousands of miles under my belt, I would tell the newbies to do what they feel is right for them. It is no fun to take advice from others and spend the money only to find out that floorboards scrape the asphalt on tight curves and open pipes do not avoid crashes from distracted drivers and will only piss off those that already hated all of our noise.

So with rum, drink what is right for YOU!!!! If an expensive rum turns out to be crap, say so in these reviews! Conversely, if a cheap rum turns out to be quite a pleasant surprise, then say so in your reviews. One thing for sure, rum drinking is much safer than riding Harleys. It took me two months to physically recover from my only crash. Rum never hurts that much!

Addendum after discussing bell shaped curves with a friend who is forced to live with them. In a perfect world, the results would be a perfect bell shaped curve with the bulk of all of our reviews being either a 5 or a 6. In my case, the bulk of my reviews wind up mostly as a 7 and then a 6. This is due to the pleasantly embraced bias from all of these reviews leading me away from the obvious crap. We do not live in a perfect world, especially in these pandemic times. I encourage others to tally their results to see what they come up with.

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Rene Rum

From Switzerland with 362 ratings Replied 7 Aug '20

Hey Paul,
yes you are dam right, it make no sense to put limited and single barrel rum into a spreadsheet, I didn't think about.
Soleras, oh yes, they hold their taste and quality always on the same level (or try) and that is the point i find them boring sometimes. For example the oliver & oliver rum like Optimus, Unhiq xo, Maximo, Punta Cana XOX etc. all of them super delicious, super sweet und replaceable.
That's why I love single barrel rum and small batches, always different and you always getting something new, keeps you on the path of curiosity.
Very sad that alcohol shipping is against the law in your state, but is it not possible that Total Wine is order something for you ?

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Paul B (PREMIUM)

From United States with 337 ratings Replied 8 Aug '20

Rene Rum:

The reason that I put all rums that I have tried in a spreadsheet is because all are ranked in order. My memory of tastes is pretty darn good. In my single malt days, if I were driving along the interstate and someone would mention Caol Isla 12, I could immediately smell and taste it without it being anywhere near. So those single barrel rums and other one shot deals get permanently ranked in my spreadsheet as benchmarks to rank new rums. For example, is this one better than Foursquare Zinfandel Cask? Down it goes in my rankings.

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Charles M

From United Kingdom with 135 ratings Replied 8 Sep '20

Price vs taste: to me it's not that simple an issue. However, I am in the fortunate position of running a booze company and can usually put through bottles on the company as well as having access to agents and good prices.

But still, I want value for money..

I have my cheaper, every day rums that I expect to be good (but not excellent) but also at good prices. These are the sort of Doorley's 5yo (although I think possibly I am going off it a bit), Bayou Single Barrel, Bermudez 1852 Anniversario, Sunset Cpt Bligh, Mezan Jamaica XO, St James XO to name a few. I expect there to be some perceived flaws. I like these flaws, if you can indeed call them that, as I find them intriguing. I quite like a rough rum, that most people would mix (I am always straight up)...so long as its not expensive.

Then there's the rums in the price bracket above, where I very much am less keen on accepting flaws. These are the Foursquare/Doorly's, the Mezan vintage rums (esp Panama, Belize, Trinidad), etc etc We all have out favourites.

And then there are those rums above that, whose existence I find hard to justify. They seem to have been over worked (often with sherry) and seem to be marketing led. They're to me, bad value for money. The extra working, equals extra price while adding nothing positive to the standard rum. One example of this are some of the wood finished Abuelo rums.

I have to ask myself, do I prefer my bottle of Luberation 2017 Capovilla over Bally 2002 over St James XO? Marginally. UK retail prices are £135, £65 and £43 respectively. (Might have to do a test on that this evening!!!) Basically, I am more than happy drinking rums in the £30-50 range and really don't feel the need to go above that. As mentioned, some of the rums I get from the agent so maybe that's a little disingenuous.

And then Paul B, you mention age. Absolutely - I recall many yearrs ago talking with Jim Murray who used to write our tasting notes for our bottlings. I don't want to get this wrong (memory not as good as it once was) so do excuse me if I make a mistake, but I think he said that there was in general (always exceptions) not a huge amount of point going over 25yo with a whisky. The wood begins to leach out harsh tannins etc etc. Also value for money goes out the window. etc etc.

With rum I am a very simple man, and think for me, that a 12yo suits very nicely most of the time.

And then there is the whole issue of advertising and the way some companies push their rums. The big boys can afford to do it, and these very often are more expensive than they should be, and aren't "premium" in any way. Rum doesn't suffer this as badly as, say, vodka which is the most ridiculous marketing led product out there.

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