As the rum controversy heats up between Puerto Rico & the USVI (Modern Distillery Age, March 9) rum is about to make more headlines. The 5th Annual Polished Palate International Rum Competition takes place this week in Tampa’s Ybor City at the Hilton Garden Inn. Hosted by Jack Robertiello/Drinks Ink, judges Arturo Sighinolfi/SWS, Luis Ayala/Rum Shop, Stephen Beaumont/World of Beer, Ian Williams/Author & Rum Pundit, Harriet Lembeck/Wine & Spirits Educator, Ben Montgomery/St. Petersburg Times and Anthony Nasso/Republic National Distributing Company will be evaluating dozens of rums based-upon five criteria: appearance, aroma, taste, mouthfeel & finish. While all criteria are important in establishing a rum’s signature profile, aroma and flavor rank highest in scoring, and, of course, mean the most to rum lovers.
‘Nosing’ a spirit is a science—and there are specific techniques employed to ascertain scores. Lorena Vasquez, Master Distiller of the highly regarded Ron Zacapa rums, approaches the glass first within a breadth of the front rim, then moves her nose to the middle of the glass and finally against the far rim. Trying this for the first time is an eye-opener as each ‘nosing area’ offers subtleties one might anticipate during the tasting process (top note, mid-palate and finish). A simultaneous technique is to quickly inhale through both the nose and the mouth. The result leaves a foreshadow of the taste of what’s in the glass.
Spirits are always tasted ‘neat’, and, they’re tasted repeatedly throughout each session. For example, once air enters a glass, the essence of the rum begins to open up and, the longer it sits, other nuances will come to light. Some tasters put a dash of water (optional) which dampens the alcohol and brings up the flavor.
Results of the 2010 competition will be posted next week.