Our friend Matt Robold has made the Tommy B. Rumologist Top 5 and for good reason. His knowledge and passion for rum is unmatched. Here’s more.
How and when did you become interested in rum?
I got into rum in 2005 after a trip to St. Lucia. I had always been a big rum & coke drinker, but it was that trip that made me start taking my rum much more seriously. I brought home a bottle of good rum and worked my way through it. Attempts to replace it were futile though, as it wasn’t imported. It was the search for more that led me to sites like ScottesRum.com and MinistryofRum.com where the rum community dragged me into dark, cane-infested depths of rum geekery.
How many rums are in your collection?
I haven’t taken an inventory in a few months. I really should. It varies a bit because, well, I have a nasty tendency to drink the stuff. These days it hovers right around 120 rums depending on samples, gifts, and when my favourite liquor store has a sale.
What is your favorite rum (or rums) in each category and why?
Favorites are so hard to pick. Ask me on a different day or even a different time of the same day and my answer could change. Not to mention the fact that the categories of rum seem to be rather ethereal and amorphous…and there’s, like, a lot of them.
For white rums right now I’m in a bit of an El Dorado 3 Year Old phase. It makes tremendously good daiquiris – be they classic or Hemingway.
Gold rums often get lost in my sea of options. Gold rums are great, but aged rums are often better. I guess for a 5 year or younger rum it’s probably Appleton Estate V/X. It’s pungent and floral and really stands out in a great drink.
I think a lot of connoisseurs and experts like to turn their noses up at the spiced category, but there are some really great ones out there. Perhaps not as numerous as fantastic aged rums or even whites, but there’s some quality spiced rums available right now. Old New Orleans Cajun Spiced Rum is probably the best, but I could easily put Foursquare in the same place. Kraken is a newcomer that I’m finding to be really interesting and fun to use.
From the Rhum Agricole category, gee. I almost want to break that up into Blanc, Vieux, etc. Right now I’m drinking a lot of Neisson Blanc and really enjoying it. Then again, Rhum JM 1997 is the agricole I most lust after.
Can I break “Aged” into Jamaican, Puerto Rican/Spanish, Central American, Bajan, American, and Demerara? Hmm, maybe just a list of the ones that are regularly purchased because they empty the fastest: Appleton Estate 12, El Dorado 15, Ron Diplomatico Reserva Exclusiva, Mount Gay Extra Old. I’d also like to squeeze in Smith & Cross Jamaican Rum for a great, funky, wonderful rum. It’s my utter obsession right now. Mai Tais and Swizzles were created so that one day we could use this rum to make them.
Crap, I still haven’t talked about cachacas!
Do you have a favorite rum bar?
There aren’t a lot of rum bars out there. Luckily, living in California means that I have THREE solid ones to choose from. My favorite though has to be Smuggler’s Cove in San Francsico. Martin Cate, the owner is an incredible advocate and connoisseur of the spirit and his bar is one of the few that I’ve ever been to that actually has a greater variety of rums than I have at home. The incredible menu, ranging from classically styled rum cocktails like Daiquiris and El Presidentes to the Tiki style drinks like Zombies, Painkillers, and Mai Tais that Martin is perhaps best-known for and all the swizzles, punches, and everything else in between.
Here in Los Angeles there are actually two new rum bars that are just getting under way and doing some great stuff too. La Descarga and Caña are both taking different approaches to the spirit, from La Descarga’s vibrant Cuban theme to the more reserved, library-style Caña. I don’t know that I have a favorite of the two yet…I’ll have to continue to investigate.
What is your favorite cocktail?
Again with the favorites… I’d probably have say Mai Tai. I mean, I spent over a month making over 70 different Mai Tais with different rum combinations to decide which combination was the best, so I have a keen appreciation for that drink. Plus it’s just such a great drink. Funky, drier than you’d expect, and so refreshing that it’s sinful, it’s pretty close to being the perfect rum drink, trailing only the Daiquiri for being the pinnacle of rum drinks. I’m also really fond of El Presidentes and, lately, Hemingway Daiquiris.
Do you have a favorite spirits shop for buying rum?
This one is an easy favorite for a change. Generally if I buy rum I’m buying it at Hi Time Wine Cellars in Costa Mesa, California. Besides having the best spirits events in Orange County (where I live) and the best, most knowledgeable and friendly staff of any liquor store I’ve ever been too, they also happen to have an entire aisle that has to be at least 30 feet long of just rum. JUST RUM! I haven’t even had everything they sell there. I have to ration my own visits there because I never leave with fewer than 5 bottles and a bill of at least $200. These days I try to keep myself on a quarterly visit plan, which almost keeps me from going broke.
Which rum would you travel to buy?
Travel where? I mean, rum is made in some of the most beautiful parts of the world. The trip alone would probably be worth it with the rum as an added bonus. If it’s a rum that I just couldn’t buy here because no one will import it for me, it’d probably be Havana Club Barrel Proof. I mean, I literally MUST travel to buy it because Cuba is some sort of horrible threat to the most powerful nation on Earth. Don’t tell anyone, but the United States’ key weakness is apparently well-made cigars and linen shirts. The other one that comes to mind is St. Nicholas Abbey Demerara Rum from Barbados. I had both of these rums in London at the UK Rumfest in 2008 and they made me very sad when I realized that I could buy neither at home.
To read more from Matt, check out his blog, RumDood.com.
Profile pic courtesy of Rob Burr