The Big Daiquiri Challenge - Chapter 1
I’m not much of a cocktail drinker. I respect the art of creating cocktails, but don’t enjoy them as much as sipping rum neat. My gf, Mariangela, is much more into cocktails. This does rub off on me somewhat. Hence why I've bought a few more rums with "cocktail potential" lately. It’s also the reason why I've started drinking daiquiris.
This made me think it would be interesting to do a daiquiri taste testing, to see which rum would give us the most enjoyment in this famous cocktail. It brought up a dilemma though. I have some rum, the limes, the ice and the simple syrup…..but I lack the cocktail knowledge. So I decided to invite a couple of friends. Hamish Grant and Andrew Toplack. Hamish is a big rum enthusiast, who enjoys cocktails more than I do. Andrew is Toronto’s spirit doctor (click here for his story) and very experienced in anything cocktail.
Mariangela and I had setup our dining room table with some snacks and candles for the occasion. Looked nice and cozy. I made a selection of rums as a suggestion and put them all in the kitchen, together with the other ingredients and “tools”.
When Hamish and Andrew arrived we went through which rums we’d use and then debated how to do the tasting. Which recipe? Which format?
The format was easy. Rum A vs Rum B in single knockout. Winner goes to the winners group, loser is out. Then a second round with the winners to find the ultimate daiquiri rum. When it came to the recipe we were discussing if we should use the same each time, or adapt it to each particular rum. Adapting seemed like a good thing to do. It would increase the potential for each rum to shine. However, we soon realized this would take way too much time. So, to keep it fair and fast we chose to use the same recipe for each cocktail. (2oz rum, 1oz lime, 1/2-3/4oz simple syrup)
Next up was choosing which rums would go up against each other. Not an easy feat. We tried to look at abv and style. Despite doing this we still ended up with a few strange pairings. No problem though as this is all supposed to be a fun exercise.
When all decisions were made, Andrew went straight to work….mixing and shaking. After sipping the first daiquiri, we immediately realized we would never leave the kitchen, as the cocktails were made there and the glasses were small (samples), so it never took long to go from one cocktail to the next. Sitting down, pondering over a cocktail never happened.
Which meant we had setup the dining table for nothing. So we moved the chairs from the dining room into the kitchen. It became a kitchen party, or as Andrew said “we are camping”.
I decided to write down some of the things people were mentioning when nosing and tasting each cocktail. We were constantly exchanging opinions, so I definitely missed a few.
Before I share the results with you, let me first make clear that I realize this is mission impossible. There are too many variables to pick “the best”. Not just our different palates but also the recipe and the quality of the ingredients. However, the bottom line is that we had a lot of fun doing this. I hope it comes across that way.
· Rum Bar Overproof, Worthy Park, Jamaica, 63%
· Rhum Rhum PMG, Bielle, Marie Galante, 56%
· Probitas, Hampden/Foursquare, Jamaica/Barbados, 47%
· Clairin Casimir, Casimir, Haiti, 50.2%
· Paranubes, Paranubes, Mexico, 54%
· Dr Bird, Worthy Park, Jamaica, 50%
· Mhoba French Cask, Mhoba, South Africa, 65%
· Rhum JM VO, JM, Martinique, 43%
· Dominus, Foursquare, Barbados, 56%
· Doorly’s XO, Foursquare, Barbados, 40%
· SBS Jamaica 2018, Hampden, Jamaica, 59.7%
· Clairin Casimir, Casimir, Haiti, 50.2%
· Clairin Le Rocher, Le Rocher, Haiti, 47.2%
Probitas vs Clairin Le Rocher
Ivar: Needs more rum
Hamish: This is the more appropriate daiquiri between these two
Clairin Le Rocher
Iv: Rubber! It’s like smelling an air mattress I just bought at the camping store
Ma: Can’t smell the lime, needs more of it
Ha: It’s like the burnt bit that’s stuck at the bottom of the pot
Ma: It’s very fruity
Iv: Smoked ham sandwich. Top: I love that description!
Top & Ma: Paint thinner
Top: Good personality
Top: This is the more interesting of the 2
Top: Clairin Le Rocher
The Clairin clearly brought out a lot more discussion and emotion. It had some really expressive flavours to it, but also some off notes. In the end, the majority felt Probitas worked better as a daiquiri. I personally feel it does need a larger rum part in the mix as it was too subtle for me with the standard recipe.
Rum Bar Overproof VS Clairin Casimir
Rum Bar Overproof
Top: That’s a spicy meatball
Ma: Strong nose, sweet flavour
Ha: The sweetest so far, refreshing but does have a short finish
Ha: If I go to Joe’s rum shack and there is one daiquiri on the menu, I’d hope it’s this one
Iv: Nice balance, not as funky as I thought it would be, but it’s refreshing
Iv: Very fragrant and floral
Top: Perfect tartness
Ha: Longer finish than Rum Bar
Other comments were lost during the enjoyment phase of drinking this excellent daiquiri.
Iv: Clairin Casimir
Ma: Clairin Casimir
Ha: Rum Bar Overproof
Top: Clairin Casimir
It was harder to vote for a winner than in the previous round. Nobody disliked the Rum Bar daiquiri. It is refreshing and balanced with a mild funk. However, it was up against a rum that is more flavourful, while not having the off notes Le Rocher has, which really made the difference.
Winner: Clairin Casimir
Rhum Rhum PMG vs Paranubes
Rhum Rhum PMG
Ma: It’s quite bitter
Ha: It has more character than Rum Bar
Ma & Top: This smells like a daiquiri
Iv: It’s fruity and floral
Top: Pretty damn good, I’d take this to an island
Ma: Drinking olives
Ha: The lime comes out more
Iv: Can I call this vegetably?
Iv: There is a hint of smoke
Top: Not really liking this
Ma: It’s like having Greek salad for lunch
Iv: Rhum Rhum
Ma: Rhum Rhum
Ha: Rhum Rhum
Top: Rhum Rhum
This one was easy. The Rhum Rhum has so much character while still being a very balanced, solid daiquiri. Hard to beat. Paranubes is out there, somewhere in the universe. It was too unique, too different. It might be an interesting one to experiment with. Part of a two rum daiquiri blend for example. But like this, we all thought it didn’t work very well.
Winner: Rhum Rhum
Mhoba French Cask vs Rhum JM VO
Ha: Lots of caramel
Top: Rich but not too rich
Iv: Still tastes like a daiquiri
Ma: It’s like a spiced daiquiri
Iv: Cardboard funk!
Top: Pretty damn good!
Rhum JM VO:
Iv: Grassy and limey
Ha: This would be my dessert daiquiri
Ma: It’s on the light side
Top: Nicely balanced cocktail
Clear win for Mhoba. Lots of interesting flavours while remaining a well balanced daiquiri. The JM was light and refreshing, a good daiquiri….just not as fascinating as Mhoba. The big abv difference plays a role as well.
Winner: Mhoba French Cask
Dr Bird vs SBS Jamaica 2018
Ma: A little grassy but definitely smells like a proper daiquiri
Iv: It’s got a lot of character while being very balanced
Top: Fantastic, best so far. Most balanced cocktail
Ha: *mumbling something about Rum Bar Overproof*
Ma: It’s like taking a pineapple shower
Top: Bites you in the nose
Ha: Reminds me of brand new hockey skates
Iv: Fruity popsicle
Ma: Fruit bomb with no balance
Top: Should be in the blue cheese category
Iv: Dr Bird
Ma: Dr Bird
Ha: Dr Bird
Top: Dr Bird
Easy win for Dr Bird. One of the best daiquiris of the night. Great balance and flavour. The SBS suffers from our choice to use the same recipe each time. Being Hampden DOK, it’s too potent. I imagine using less of it, or blending it with another rum could have great results. That’s for another night.
Winner: Dr Bird
Foursquare Dominus vs Doorly’s XO (old version)
Iv: Strong orange peel. Top: Agreed!
Ha: Pushes the lime forward, resulting in one of the more limey daiquiris
Ma: Key lime cheesecake
Iv: Refreshing and easy, even though the rum is clearly present
Ma: Lots of lime and citrus on the nose
Top: Suffers from being 40%
Ha: Refreshing, great daiquiri
It’s not surprising that Dominus won. The higher abv does make it work a lot better, while the Doorly’s XO disappears a little in comparison. There is an obvious age difference between the two as well.
Winner: Foursquare Dominus
The winners of this round are Probitas, Clairin Casimir, Rhum Rhum PMG, Mhoba French Cask, Dr Bird and Foursquare Dominus. The idea was to have them face off against each other right away, but all of us decided that wasn’t a good idea any longer. We had to stop our daiquiri intake and order some pizza.
What became clear is that it isn’t easy to match up the right rums as they are all so different. Next to that, the knockout system can eliminate a good rum while it might have been better than one of the eventual winners. For example, if Rum Bar Overproof had been compared to Paranubes, RB would still be in it. An alternative would be to rate them in report card style, but that just makes it more complicated. Besides, what's much more important…..this was so much fun to do. I urge everyone to try this at home with a couple of friends.
Most of the talk afterwards was about Dr Bird, Casimir and Mhoba. Does this mean one of them will be the eventual winner? Who knows. What we do know is that this is not where the experiment ends. There will be a second chapter to it. That time the winners will be challenging each other, plus we’ll likely add a couple of wild cards and maybe even bring back one of the losers (Rum Bar??).
Best quote of the night and a good one to end this story came from Andrew:”In the end we like all these rums, they are angels dancing on the head of a pin”