Spirit radar logo
🏷️ Our first ever Black Friday sale! Save 40%!
Vladimir: My Rum Journey with Spirit Radar

Vladimir: My Rum Journey with Spirit Radar

Vladimir Smitka My Rum Journey

Hello readers! Welcome to an exciting interview.
I'm Kristyna Tumpachova, your host for today's exploration into the world of spirits. As the Chief Marketing Officer at SpiritRadar, I navigate the dynamic landscape of the drinks industry.
Away from the boardroom, I find my passions in the nuanced flavours of rum and whiskey, the adrenaline of boxing, the precision of archery and the creative realm of writing.
Today, however, the focus is on the stories and experiences of our special guest. Join me as we begin a fascinating conversation with Vladimír Smitka, my dear friend and colleague at SpiritRadar.

Hello and welcome! Could you please introduce yourself?
Hi, I'm Vladimir, an IT technician, developer and data analyst with a soft spot for rum.

You are also one of the founders of Spirit Radar. What motivated you to create the platform and delve into the world of rum analysis?
There is a simple and short answer to this - because I like rum and its varieties 🙂.

Can you give us a few more details, just in case a short answer isn't enough? 🙂
Sure. When my rum journey started, I found it challenging to find exciting bottles at a reasonable price in our country, so I started looking abroad. That's when I discovered that my friend Jan Kvasnicka, who is also a co-founder of SpiritRadar, was really into rums and I started inviting my other colleagues into this world.

A spoiler here is that I also have a marketing agency named Lynt. We are strongly focused on data collection, processing and analysis - so we were not far from creating such a tool. My colleagues came up with the idea of creating a tool to analyze rum sales data from online stores and auctions. Our database started to grow and we got to the point where it made sense to make it more professional and offer it to the world. That's how Spirit Radar was born.

Having explored the origins of Spirit Radar, could you delve into your personal journey with rum, highlighting the key moments and discoveries that shaped your appreciation of the spirit?

My journey to rum has been a long one. This is probably because the synonym for rum in the Czech Republic is Tuzemák - a distillate made of potatoes. I think it's suitable for baking, but not for drinking… That's why I avoided rums for a long time.

On a few occasions I tried standard rums like Diplomatico Reserva Exclusiva with friends and at bars. I found that well-aged dark rum was very different from distilled potatoes. So about nine years ago I started exploring various other "supermarket" brands, some I liked, some I didn't. My friend Adam helped me find the best mainstream offerings and clarified my desire. The next milestone was an article by Lone Caner Key Rums of the World, which mentioned some that I was familiar with, and so I began a more systematic exploration of other rums from that list. I discovered El Dorado 15, which still has a place on my shelf and is still one of my favourite "easy rums". Subsequently, various Foursquare rums entered my repertoire. Again, I would mention Lone Caner and his article The Age of Veliers Demerara, which broadened my horizons considerably. I started tasting better rums and building up my collection.

What do you mean by "easy rums"?
By "easy rums" I mean rums that are relatively accessible, smooth and enjoyable, without overly complex or challenging flavours. It suggests rums that are easy to appreciate, especially for people who may be new to the world of rum or prefer a more straightforward drinking experience.

Can you give a personal advice to rum beginners on how to choose rums and develop their palate?

I certainly don't consider myself as an authority in the field, but I can recommend what has worked for me.

For those new to rum, starting with small editions from bottlers like S.B.S or La Maison du Rhum can offer a taste of its diversity. Rum advent calendars are also a fun, commitment-free way to explore various styles. Dive deeper at bars specializing in rum, where you can go beyond familiar faces like Diplomatico and Zacapa to truly broaden your horizons. Places like Prague's Rum House exemplify such venues. Don't forget events like the London Rum Fest and associated Cocktail Week, which are great for sampling and connecting with the rum community. Starting with specialist bottlers, visiting dedicated bars, and attending rum-focused events are the key steps to appreciating rum's rich variety.

Could you describe specific characteristics that attract your preference in rums? Are there any particular profiles that stand out for you?

First and foremost, I am definitely not a heavy drinker. My interest lies in savoring unique tastes, which is why I have a passion for tasting new and new bottles - a single bottle can span years on my shelf. I'm interested in the origins of the flavours and aromas, wondering whether they come from the cask or the environment in which the ingredients were grown.

While I don't anchor myself to specific flavor profiles, I find myself drawn to the earthy and woody notes that promise an unexpected bold twist. Demerara rums from Guyana perfectly encapsulate this preference, delivering surprises that resonate with me deeply. The ability of a rum to transport me to its birthplace is magical. Clairin Le Rocher is a prime example, though it diverges from my usual palate preferences. Just one whiff, and I'm whisked away to the vibrant streets of a Haitian market, amidst the aroma of street-side grilled meats. This immersive experience is what I seek in a rum. If pressed to pick a favorite, my heart leans towards an aged Guyanese rum for its distinctive charm. However, my quest for variety has led me to the rum calendar—an invaluable tool that has expanded my tastes to include South American rums from Peru and Ecuador. From detailed tasting, I've learned that High Ester Funky Jamaican rums might not suit my straight-drinking preference but make exquisite additions to cocktails. This explorative approach has introduced me to several hundred rums.

Vladimir Smitka Rum Samples Colours Of Rum

Vladimir Smitka Rum Samples

Would you describe your preferred ritual and tasting approach to drinking and tasting rum?
I enjoy rum on its own when I need to clear my head from work. I sip 2-3 small samples, think about the taste and aroma, don't think about the problems of civilisation, and maybe eat a piece of cheese, natural nuts or dark chocolate with it.

What do you think of flavoured and sweetened rums?
Actually I don't mind. I don't have a problem with sweetened rums if the producer doesn't hide it. The sugar brings a rounding to the flavour that would otherwise require a much longer ageing period. As long as the primary purpose is not to hide inferior rum, I'm fine with it.

Flavoured rums/elixirs don't offend me personally. They're great for drinking with friends who aren't into cask flavours. I always have a few on my shelf and like to take a few with me.

Can you tell me what's on the guest shelf?
The experts will probably laugh at me now… I currently have Espero, Cubaney and Kakadu, to name but a few (my wife approves). And if my visit manages that, we can subtly move on to Don Papa, El Dorado and Doorlys. Then we can move on to some more interesting samples.

Vladimir Smitka Guest Shelf

Do you also have the same passion for whisky?
I'm not really qualified to say. There are many more bottles of whisky than rums, the market is much older (pure rums with clear provenance are a thing of the past 30 years) and the culture is different. I find rums to be more raw and more variable; after all, there are many countries where they are produced. I miss the search for origin in the flavour and aroma that I love in rums. Or maybe I haven't found it yet… But I can tell you that I really like Talisker or nordic Script Kiddie, for example 😉

Script Kiddie

Let's get back to rums. You revealed that you collect rums. What kind and why?
I'm particularly lover of Silver Seal - the independent bottler whose casks are hand-picked by Massimo Righi, whiskyantique.com. It's the only bottler from whom I love practically everything. I have a complete taste of the older batches - I used to meet them in a bar, bought a few bottles for myself and got the rest in samples, mainly from RhumAttitude.com. So I collect them because they're excellent, but at the same time they're lesser known, so they're relatively cheap. I also have these rums as a small investment for my young daughter when she grows up. I also really like their cases; the shelf with them is a work of art - I know I will be able to look at them for years to come. There are also a few Velier bottles and, of course, I've been bitten by the Caroni fever. But Silver Seal is my real passion and my bottles make me happy every time I look at them. It's a nice feeling that there are probably only a few dozen people in the world who have these gems.

Vladimir Smitka Silver Seal Rum Collection

Don't you think these rums are better enjoyed than kept as an investment?
I can understand that. Many people are against investing. However, it's important to distinguish between speculative purchases in a release for a quick resale on the secondary market, and a long-term investment. In the latter case, you are acting as an archivist, preserving the opportunity for someone in the future (or even yourself) to taste and compare something from a bygone era.

Spirit Radar partially addresses this problem. You can analyze how the prices of other bottles of the same brand in the same category have changed over time, and thus gain an insight into whether a dealer is pushing you into a price range that the bottles are unlikely to reach for a long time. You can also check the availability of the bottle - when it appeared in online stores after release, for how long, when it appeared in auctions and whether it has maintained its price. Spirit Radar helps to answer all these questions. And for inspiration, there is our Top 100 section.

Personally, I tend to buy several bottles - one for my collection and another for drinking or as a gift.

For someone considering a rum investment, what specific bottle would you recommend and what budget range do you think is appropriate?
I would like to point out that this is "not financial advice", but rather my personal opinion. Looking at global trends, bottle prices have been dropping over the years, which presents an excellent opportunity as many people are parting with their collections, offering attractive bottles at reasonable prices.

Given my preferences and the current landscape in Guyana, I would look for older vintages from the region. In terms of price, expensive bottles may have poor liquidity and the risk of losing some of their original value is significant. Personally, I think you can find exciting bottles in the hundreds of euros without too much trouble. However, individual research is essential and everyone should choose according to their own convictions. I find the LMDW catalogue as a good guide.

In a simplified recommendation, I'd suggest following the brands or distilleries you like, opting for a limited edition (perhaps under 1000 bottles) single cask with tropical maturation, or an annual blend carefully curated by someone who cares. You can also discover treasures from closed distilleries that will never be repeated, although the optimal time to acquire them may have passed.

Before we finish, Vladimir, could you tell us about the future of SpiritRadar? What exciting developments or plans do you have for the platform, and are there any personal aspirations you hope to fulfil in the world of spirits?
We have a lot of ambitious plans, but as you can imagine, the road from idea to implementation can be very long… We are currently working on making the app more user-friendly, expanding multilingualism and improving the information about online stores so that it can be better used for shopping. We also hope to make some more interesting data from our raw database available in the app. We've added a lot of small and large improvements over the last few months, such as the ability to export a collection or the Top 100 bottles section, which we're still tweaking and the output itself has surprised us at times.

But my favorite recent little feature is the bottle search by URL. If I'm browsing an ecommerce site, I just copy the address of the offer into the search and Spirit Radar immediately shows me that bottle with all the competing offers and current value. It's very handy for price checking.


Thank you, dear readers, for joining us on this fascinating journey into the world of spirits.

Special thanks to Vladimír Smitka for sharing his passion and insights into the world of rum. If you're thirsty for more, feel free to explore the SpiritRadar platform for a deeper dive into the diverse and rich universe of fine spirits. Until next time, here's to the extraordinary stories in every bottle!

If you would also like to share your own story, let us know and we can do a similar interview together.

Subscribe to the newsletter

In-app news, monthly reporting, new findings, articles, and much more

Subscribe to our newsletter so you won't miss a thing.
By subscribing, you agree to the processing of your data.
© All rights reserved, 2020–2022 SpiritRadar s.r.o.
"The next generation data platform for rum and whisky collectors"
Register for free
and get access to the premium version for 14 days!
crossmenu cart-shopping chart-line-up clock envelope-dot gavel lightbulb-dollar table-list facebook-f instagram youtube