Old rum tasting at Chai MartiniqueOld rum tasting at Chai Martinique
©Old rum tasting at Chai Martinique|Shutterstock
Tasting rumSecrets of distillation, aging and aromas

Tasting rum

Since 1991, Daniel Baudin, cellar master, has been putting his know-how, his rigor, his nose and his creativity at the service of rums from the south of Martinique (Maisons La Mauny and Trois-Rivières). His career and know-how were rewarded during the International Rum Conference (IRC) in Miami on September 26, 2019: he was elected Best Cellar Master in the World!

He explains the making and tasting of an old rum…

Daniel Baudin Rum Tasting La Mauny Riviere-Pilote MartiniqueDaniel Baudin Rum Tasting La Mauny Riviere-Pilote Martinique
©Daniel Baudin Rum Tasting La Mauny Riviere-Pilote Martinique
Daniel Baudin

Cellar master at Maison La Mauny and Distillerie Trois-Rivières

Meet a Cellar Master

How is an old rum made?

“We select a white rum that has structure, because it is a rum that will remain locked up in a barrel for at least 12 months. Then I ask the cooper to provide me with oak barrels of French or American origin (at La Mauny they are American barrels). I also ask him to do some “heats”. This is a very important action in the aging process. We insert in the barrel a “heater”, a small metal container in which we put the same type of wood. By burning it, it allows to cook the limin and the sap of the wood, and to decompose the elements that constitute the wood. The intensity and duration of the toasting have an influence on the aromas of the future rum. A light toasting will result in a fruity, floral, honeyed aroma. An extra-strong toasting will give empyreumatic notes of toast, cocoa, coffee, mocha.

Once the rum is put in the barrel, there is an evaporation that is called the “angels’ share” of about 8%. This is the particularity of aging in a tropical climate which acts 4 times faster than aging in temperate latitudes, as for cognac for example where the angels’ share represents only 2%. This difference will be found throughout the process. The climate will also reinforce the concentration of aromas and “wear out” the barrel four times faster. When we take out an old rum after 10 years, it is equivalent to a 40 year old cognac!”

How to taste a rum ?

To taste a rum, we make all our senses work.

– The view first: the color is given by the wood, by the toasting, which bring tannin and aromas by destructuring the molecular structure of the wood and white rum. For example, the propanol molecules will give notes of dried banana as it ages. Second, look: the glass is tilted horizontally. It is best to choose a glass with a small base (the ideal is a tulip glass). By raising it we see drops more or less large clinging or not to the walls of the glass (this is called the leg or the thigh) which give an indication on the structure of the rum.


– We then bring the glass up to the nose and start to smell the aromas: this is the first nose. We then bring the glass up under the chin, this is the second nose. Then we bring the glass closer to the nose and move it from one nostril to the other. One will smell more alcohol while the other will retain the different aromas. As you cover the glass, other aromatic notes are revealed. No need to dip your nose in the glass!

– Then it’s time for the mouth, in two stages. First the “first kiss”: we take very little rum in the mouth. 80% of the information is transmitted by the tongue. The second test called “French kiss”, we take a little more rum in the mouth. The stings that appear on the tongue, the palate and the mucous membranes give new information.

Appellations and Vintages.

Even if we are amateurs, we sometimes remain puzzled by the labels and the variety of appellations. To benefit from the appellation “old rum”, the rum must have stayed in oak barrels…

– 3 years for a VO (Very Old) rum

– 4 years for a VSOP (Very Special Old Pale) rum

– 6 years for an XO (Extra Old) rum

– Traditional old rum, aged 5 to 7 years

– Over-aged old rum, aged 8 to 12 years

– Vintage old rum*, aged 15 years and more

Outstanding years can be kept from 50 to 70 years! The vintage specifies the year the rum was casked.

* Vintage: selection of several casks or a single cask distilled in the same year.