I often receive emails from individuals and companies within the spirits industry asking whether or not I accept samples for review on The Rum Howler Blog. The simple answer is, yes, I do accept samples for review. However those who wish to send me samples should be aware of the requirements which must be met for your particular spirit to be accepted and reviewed upon my website.
The first requirement is that the sample must be submitted in a factory sealed bottle of no less than 200 ml in size. This bottle must be the same original sealed bottle, in the same original packaging as what is available to the retail consumer. I will not accept a sample from a bottle which has been previously opened. I will not accept small 50ml or 30 ml bottles.
The second requirement is that the sample must be delivered to me in such a manner that I incur no net cost to receive it. All delivery charges must be born by the company or individual who has sent me the sample. Additionally, if there is any tax or duty which must be paid for me to legally receive the sample. This cost must be either paid in advance, or if I must cover the cost in order to receive the bottle, it must be reimbursed, prior to my published review.
The third requirement is that it must be understood from the outset that my review will be free from bias and represent only my thoughts and opinions regarding the spirit in question. My review, good, bad or indifferent will be published upon my website without any sort of interference from the spirits company which provided the sample. My review cannot be previewed prior to release.
The fourth requirement is that it is solely up to my discretion whether I will in fact publish a review of the spirit, and it is solely my discretion as to the timing of that publication. I will not be pressured into trying to fit my publication schedule to fit the marketing requirements of the company involved. Having said that, I make every attempt to review spirits in a timely manner; however the ebb and flow of the publication schedule upon my website remains 100 % under my direction.
The last requirement is that my review is strictly my intellectual property. My reviews cannot be republished in whole or in part without my written permission. A spirits company may refer to my review or my review score in their literature or upon their websites, and even provide a web link to the actual review upon their websites. But they cannot do more than that. My reviews are my intellectual property and this property right must be respected.
As far as my review process is concerned, once I receive a spirit sample, I will attempt to snap a nice picture of it to publish with the review. Although, I prefer to use my own pictures in my reviews, sometimes my skill as a photographer fails me, and I may request a bottle shot from the producer in jpeg format. I may also request some information regarding the spirit such that I can write a more informative review. Companies are encouraged to send me as much information as they like. Understand that I may use this material as I see fit within the body of my review.
I try to taste each spirit I receive at least 3 times in my private tasting room. I may additionally invite some of my friends to taste the spirit with me as part of a larger tasting event. I may also build a cocktail or two to share with those friends. From the tasting notes I generate and sometimes from comments I receive from my friends, I will pen my review, and when I feel the time is appropriate, I will publish it.
After I have completed the process, I seal the bottle and store it upon the ever-growing shelves in my private tasting room. Occasionally I will go back to a bottle for personal enjoyment; however, it is much more likely I will go back to it only when I or my selected jurors are tasting it again as part of one of the many tasting competitions which I run throughout the year. The results of these competitions are often published upon my website.
So I guess what I can saying is that if you are a member of industry, and if you want me to write about your spirit; please get in touch with me such that we can arrange for you to send me a bottle. Almost all samples I receive are reviewed, and many are written about again and are automatic candidates for my yearly Rum Howler Awards.
My contact email is MAIL.RUMHOWLER@GMAIL.COM
Note: Although I am located in Canada, I have made appropriate arrangements with the local authorities to receive samples from the US and abroad. Contrary to common belief, it is perfectly legal for individuals in Alberta to legally import spirits for private consumption. However, certain steps must be taken by the shipping company such that the customs authorities can properly process the shipments and direct them through the Alberta Gaming and Liquor Commission (AGLC).