I'll list how got there in roughly chronological order.
Should note, these aren't the only combos I tried, but the ones that best represent the lineage of my thinking.
Appleton VX only.
Appleton VX & Clement VSOP
Appleton VX & Leblon Cachaca
Appleton VX & Leblon Cachaca with a dash of Wray
Meyers's Dark Rum & Leblon Cachaca
Meyers's Dark Rum & Trois Rivieres Blanc
Smith and Cross & Trois Rivieres Blanc
Part Skipper, part Smith & Cross & Trois Rivieres Blanc
Basically, I and many Mai Tais I had before this used Appleton VX and it's sensibly priced for mixing.
However, I was looking for something with more depth of flavour.
Then I discovered at the original was split with Jamaican Rum and agricole. However, despite it being perfectly good, it was too dry with the Clement VSOP for my personal taste.
This video inspired me to use cachaca in place of agricole (and vanilla syrup, incidentally) since we had it in the bar already.
Appleton VX and cachaca was fine and I threw some Wray at it, which was fun, but ultimately just upped the proof and pushed the young Appleton out front a bit more.
A colleague suggested I try a "dark" Jamaican rum with the cachaca, so for a while I settled on Meyers's with Cachaca, and that eventually made it onto my menu. I really liked this blend and loved how the drink was so layered, with a definite point where the Jamaican finished and the grassy, fresh cachaca took over and finished the drink. It was so refreshing.
When the Trois Rivieres came in and I had finished my batch of Meyer's and Cachaca pre-mix I changed the recipe. We even saved money because the agricole was loads cheaper than the expensive Leblon.
I liked this mixture but was now looking at a 50% white spirit pushing the Meyers's out of the way in profile.
I had taken delivery of hipster favourite Smith & Cross and for a while made half S&C and half TR. This was a banging drink. Really great and if it weren't so strong I might have called it a favourite. Also, I was missing the heavy, molasses-centric profile of Meyers's.
So I thought about creating "Turbo Meyers's" - something with a similar profile to the syrupy dark Jamaican, yet retaining the lovely banana/passionfruit notes of the S&C and also standing shoulder to shoulder with Trois Rivieres 100 Proof.
Enter the Skipper, a cheap £11 Demerera Rum from Guyana, yet bottled up in Glasgow. It's young and coloured to fuck.
When blended with S&C, this had exactly what I was looking for - it's basically 97 proof Meyers's.
I loved making this drink because I got to try it each time.
I typically don't taste drinks unless the balance really hangs in a couple of ml of citrus or sugar as I know when they'll be okay - and truthfully this was always going to be fine, just pour a measure from the pre-mix, squeeze 25ml of fresh lime and go - but I always tasted this Mai Tai because it's that fucking good.
Worth noting that I don't shake this with crushed and dump as I like to be able to control the dilution better, so I shake and strain over fresh cubes and crown with a good mountain of crushed to wedge my lime husk into.
This way the drink was as strong and punchy in ten minutes as it was as soon as served.