Let’s face it – for all our talk, for all our fancy clothes – we aren’t pirates. Oh, I’ve spent my share of time at sea, but I’ve never served time in a Turkish prison, never gutted a Spaniard, nor run off with the governor’s daughter. But I am true to piracy in at least one respect, and that’s via the rum. I drink the stuff – and not as some mixer in a froo-froo drink either. I drink it from a leather canteen at times, and a copper cup at others. But mostly I drink it from a small green goblet I found a garage sale.
I’ve been reviewing rum for some time. Over the years, I find that I’ve gotten much better and picking apart a rum and noticing its subtlties. This holds particularly true with smell. But one thing I’ve never paid much attention to was the shape of my glass. I know that wine buffs will say the glass makes all the difference, but those are wine drinkers – cocktail dandies who know even less about Spaniard gutting than I do. Why would I care what they think?
Just the same, when I learned that Spirit Sippers had developed a specially shaped rum-tasting glass I was of course intrigued and eager to get my hands on one to try for myself. And so that’s what I did, which – as you might expect – is why I’m writing this review. See how it all comes together?
Actually, Spirit Sippers has developed four glasses – one for scotch, one for tequila, one for bourbon, and one for rum. The rum model is listed as “The Flare”, a short-stemmed hour-glass shaped vessel made from lead-free crystal. Upon first handling, I was a little unsure as to how I should properly hold The Flare. My initial inclination was to allow my fingers to straddle the stem like a brandy snifter, but the short stem prevents this. However, during actual use I found myself comfortably holding the glass at the “waist” of the hourglass – perhaps a bit odd if you’re looking to sit back and relax with your rum, but that would be missing the point. More on that shortly.
On their website, Spirit Sippers explains that The Flare’s odd shape is meant to allow the alcohol aroma of the rum to disperse, while at the same allowing the more pleasant aromas to gently drift upward. While I’m unsure if it’s even physically possible to design a glass to differently control different aromas, I would observe that The Flare is at least partially successful in its aims.
I tested The Flare with three rums of varying brutality – Angostura 1824, which I consider a relatively smooth rum, and Sea Wynde and Ron Matusalem Gran Reserva, both being somewhat harsher (but still very good) rums. In all cases I clearly noticed a similar, defined pattern in how the rum experience changed from that of a standard brandy snifter. Whereas a snifter focuses the alcohol sensation as to be almost blindingly potent, The Flare successfully dispersed the alcohol into virtual nonexistence. As to the more pleasant rum scents, in the snifter they were almost completely masked by the alcohol, but in The Flare they were able to be appreciated in an “alcohol-free” environment, albeit they themselves were far less pronounced than I’d have liked.
The Flare did a remarkable job at removing alcohol smells from the tasting experience entirely, but it did require real concentration to pick up the remaining aromas, as they too were quite subdued. With a smooth rum, such as the Angostura, it was difficult to pick up much at all – it was almost surreal to smell so very little. But the aromas of the stronger rums, such as the Sea Wynde and Ron Matusalem, were not so easily removed. By holding the glass at the waist, gently swirling the rum inside and tilting it to a 45 degree angle, it was possible to actually smell the rum at different levels of the glass’ mouth to pick up on different elements of the rum’s profile. Ron Matusalem, in fact, revealed a slight fruitiness that I’d never before noticed, while the Sea Wynde remained true to my expectations from previous tastings, albeit in a gentler way.
The Flare is not meant for casual sipping. Its shape, while deceptively sleek and classy, is built for utility rather than comfort. It’s best when treated like lab equipment rather than a luxury item. Interact with your rum – hold it up to the light and study its color, or tilt it back and forth to see what different scents might emerge. Play with the rum, study the rum, love the rum. Analyzing the rum’s actual aroma requires some effort, as the core qualities aren’t at full potency. But the alcohol is also subdued at an exponentially higher rate, thus leaving you free to fully dissect the experience.
This is a glass build for those wishing to fully and thoroughly experience their rum in an engaging, analytical manner. If you’re looking to chug bumboo and get toasty with your mates, stick to your favorite grog mug. But if you want to truly appreciate your rum and all it’s subtle nuance, the Spirit Sippers’ Flare is an outstanding choice.