"Price is not always going to be a sure-fire indicator of quality, although on the extreme ends, it can be. The best way is to sample the rum, to taste it for yourself before you make a judgment. When tasting, you want to consider the clarity of the liquid. You want a liquid that’s bright and shiny. If it's clear and you hold the glass to the light, you want to see right through it—it shouldn't be cloudy.
"In terms of nose, there are lots of different types of rums: the rhum agricoles will give you a grassy, tequila-like nose; molasses-based rums will have a nose ranging from tropical fruit to dark chocolate. Don’t stick your nose in the glass. Give the product a minute for the most aromatic alcohols to evaporate and then stick your nose about an inch or two above the glass, and breathe in.
"When you taste it, think about the taste as a process: Where does it start, where does it end? The complexity of rum usually increases with age, so you’re going to notice that difference if you taste a young rum before tasting an older rum, which has spent more time in the wood. Take a small sip, not a big swig, and as if you’re chewing with your tongue, swoosh the liquid around in your mouth. Let it rest there for a second before swallowing, and then think about what you tasted when you first took the sip, influenced by what you smelled, what you tasted when you had it in your mouth, and what you tasted after swallowing. Generally speaking, with a low-quality rum, the first thing that you’ll going to be hit with is a stringent, alcohol burn. There you’ve got a lot of the heavy alcohols taking over, dominating the whole taste and sensory experience.
"Then one of the last things you'll want to think about is mouth feel: Does the liquid feel thin, or does it feel thick and viscous? Again that’s something that will change with age. Does it feel dry, like velvet, or syrupy?
"Lastly, you want to think about the finish, which is the length of the aftertaste. Older, more complex rums will linger on the palate longer, sometimes for several minutes, while younger, less complex rums will tend to come and go rather quickly. Neither is better than the other, it all depends on what your expectations were for the experience. The same person might, one day, want a crisp, refreshing rum on the rocks, and a week later want to sip and enjoy a richer, whiskey-like rum."