Is one 4-star rum always as good as another 4-star rum? How much better is a 5-star rum than a 4-star rum? Really, what’s the mathematical value of these stars or barrel or toenail clippings that we reviewers like to use for saying something is good or bad or average, anyway?
This is a problem that has bothered me for some time.
When I first started this site and posted rum reviews, it seemed like a rating was what I was supposed to provide. People like having things broken down into categories so that it’s easier to discern whether or not a product is worth their time and (more importantly) money. Because of this, people like me try products and then try to give a sort of sliding scale of comparative value or craftsmanship.
As time has passed, I’ve come to the conclusion that there are two fundamental problems with this approach. The first problem is one of granularity. Is Ron del Dood exactly the same – quality-wise – as Dood’s Rum? Is one of them maybe a sliver better? If one is better, should it be a 5 instead of a 4 or should the lesser rum be a 3? You can fight these battles all day and eventually you’ll end up with a cumbersome 100 point rating system that still leaves people asking “Ron del Dood is 1 point out of 100 better than Dood’s Rum, how much better is that, really?”
This leads to the second problem: subjectivity. I’ve tried my best to never make any false promises of complete objectivity when it comes to the “RumDood’s Ratings.” You cannot rate a spirit in an entirely objective manner because personal taste will always come into play. There are rums that I like and that other people LOVE, just as there are rums that I love and other people despise. This subjectivity has lead to a ceaseless river of emails and comments telling me that I’m completely crazy for rating one rum higher than another – for having personal preferences in regard to what I drink.
These two problems are why competitions that rate spirits have both 100-point scales and multiple judges. By increasing the judge pool, you are more likely to find consensus values on the various spirits, rather than being held hostage to the meandering tastes of a software developer cum rum connoisseur cum bartender.
So what does this mean for RumDood.com? Am I bringing in more reviewers?
No. Why would I want to split the literally HUNDREDS of dollars I make every decade on this site every year with someone else? How would I pay for the laundromat?
What I am doing and what I have been working on is coming up with what I think and what I hope will be a better, more useful system for all three people who still read this oft-neglected part of the Internet. Hopefully my new rating system, once I get it off the ground, will better deliver what it is I think everyone wants. And if I’m wrong about what everyone wants, at least I’ll be delivering what nobody wants really really well.