White Rum and Vodka — Can You Tell the Difference?

rum vodka taste test

I was intrigued by a recent discussion on Facebook about a tasting that some folks did in which, among other things, white rums were compared to vodka. Note that this was not the purpose of the tasting, nor was it designed to produce definitive results. But it did produce a lot of discussion, along with a lot of strong opinions. (Go figure.)

So I decided to test myself. Could I tell the difference between dry white rum and vodka? I assumed I could — but you never know.

I took five spirits — two vodka and three white rums — and tasted them blind against each other. I tried to first identify if the spirit was rum or vodka. I then tried to identify which brand it was.

All five were tasted out of the same type of glass, same temperature, same conditions, etc., with two rounds after a pause between.

The five spirits were:

  1. Stolichnaya Vodka
  2. Grey Goose Vodka
  3. Cana Brava Rum
  4. Bacardi Maestro de Ron
  5. Flor de Cana 4-Year-Old Extra Dry Rum

On the first round, I tried to identify them by aroma alone. (Remember, these were all randomized, so I didn’t know which was which. I’m rearranging the results so that they’re easier to follow.)

Aroma Results:

  1. Vodka (Actual: Vodka)
  2. Vodka (Actual: Vodka)
  3. Rum (Actual: Rum)
  4. Rum (Actual: Rum)
  5. Rum (Actual: Rum)

So based on smell alone, I correctly identified the rums and vodkas for what they were.

I then tasted them. My results, including my pick for the brand and any notes I made, are below.

Tasting Results:

  1. Vodka. Stoli. “A little vanilla. This is definitely vodka, though, so I wonder if they’ve doctored it.” (Actual: Stolichnaya Vodka)
  2. Vodka. Grey Goose. “This could almost be a really dry rum like Bacardi. But it’s vodka.” (Actual: Grey Goose Vodka)
  3. Rum. Cana Brava. “Definitely rum. Can taste some age. Good stuff” (Actual: Cana Brava Rum)
  4. Rum. Flor de Cana.  “Taste some vanilla, but not a lot else.” (Actual: Bacardi Rum)
  5. Rum. Bacardi. “Mellow and pleasant with brown sugar. Tastes good.” (Actual: Flor de Cana)

I was correct on both vodka brands. I was also correct on Cana Brava Rum, which doesn’t surprise me. It definitely tastes like rum and has a nice flavor. I was correct that #4 and #5 were rum, but mixed up the brands. Writing it up now, I’m surprised, given that I should have realized that the more flavorful rum was Flor de Cana and not Bacardi. But #5 smelled like Bacardi to me, so that really influenced my pick.

To summarize: it wasn’t especially difficult to tell the difference between these two vodkas and these three white rums. The smell alone tipped me off.

Judging by taste, I preferred the Grey Goose to the Stolichnaya (although Stoli is my usual brand). For the white rums, both Cana Brava and Flor de Cana were excellent. The Bacardi Maestro de Ron wasn’t quite as good, but it was still okay.

A few notes… I didn’t have regular Bacardi Silver to taste or else I’d have picked that. The results might have been different. I was going to throw Cruzan Light Rum in there, but it has a slight straw color that I thought would have given it away. I deliberately didn’t pick any rums made in a different style (for example, Jamaican rum, rhum agricole) as I thought that would make it too easy.

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