If whiskey is the quintessential winter beverage, then what’s the go-to spirit for summer? Rum. And the beauty is this: there’s a rum for every palate. White rums tend to taste best in a spirit-forward cocktail, such as a classic Daiquiri or Rum Punch, while mature dark rums - with notes that range from coconut to dark chocolate - are tasty all on their own.
Ready to find your new favorite rum? Good. This list highlights the ones that are worthy of your attention and pour, from a Dominican option aged in Oloroso sherry casks to a Guatemalan rum blended with coconut water and an organic spiced rum that you can pick up for less than $30.
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This Dominican brand has been in the rum-making game for over 130 years, and with age comes experience and a delicious rum for all of us to enjoy. Brugal 1888 is aged in ex-bourbon American oak casks for up to eight years, followed by up to six years in hand-picked, first-fill Oloroso sherry casks. The complexity of this rum lends itself to drinking neat or on the rocks - or, if you’re into fuss-free cocktails (who isn’t?!), you can pair this rum with coconut water for a refreshing poolside treat.
Ten to One Caribbean Dark Rum
Artfully crafted with eight-year-old Barbadian and Dominican column still rums, which are then combined with Jamaican pot still and Trinidadian rums, Ten To One is among the crème de la crème of dark rums. It’s matured in American white oak ex-bourbon casks - which enhances the baking spice and vanilla notes - with a balance of bold and spicy and a lingering bite of heat on the finish.
Appleton Estate 8 Year Old Reserve
If you’re hankering for a rum that’s tried and true, opt for this eight-year-old beauty with tasting notes that consist primarily of orange peel, banana, and oak. Appleton Estate rums mature at a more rapid rate in the tropical Jamaican weather than spirits aged in cooler climates, allowing robust flavors to develop in a shorter amount of time. I once attended a virtual tasting with Appleton Estate’s Master Blender, Joy Spence, and she paired the rum with an unlikely complement: cheese! So break out the gouda and enjoy this rum on a big cube of ice.
Diplomático Reserva Exclusiva
Featuring a blend of rums matured for up to 12 years, Diplomático Reserva Exclusiva is meant to be enjoyed neat - although it can also take classic cocktails to the next level. You can create a riff on the traditional Manhattan, for example, by replacing the bourbon with this rum. You won’t regret it. The velvety, flavor-rich combination of sweet toffee, vanilla, and oak reminds me of all the things I love about whiskey, with some added tanginess.
Coconut Cartel Special Rum
I’m a sucker for coconut anything – and this exceptional Guatemalan rum caters to my tropical craving. Coconut Cartel Special Rum is distilled with sugarcane molasses before it’s barreled and aged for up to 12 years in new, charred American white oak barrels. The distillery then proofs the rum blend from cask strength down to bottle strength (40% ABV) using fresh, locally sourced coconut water. The finish is short and sweet (literally) with caramel and coconut notes.
Flor De Caña 12 Year Rum
This 12-year-old naturally aged rum is from a fifth-generation family estate, and they really know their stuff when it comes to the art of distillation. Furthermore, the rum is sustainably produced, meaning it’s Carbon Neutral and Fair Trade certified. The complexity of this rum can be gleaned from the nose to the final taste, with green apples notes and peppery spice. Flor De Caña 12 Year is meant to be savored neat.
The Rum Cooperative Volume II
When you think rum, Boston might be the furthest thing from your mind. However, The Rum Cooperative is made by Boston’s first craft distillery, Bully Boy Distillers. Volume II is a combination of eight to 12-year-old pot-stilled and column-distilled premium rums sourced from five acclaimed rum-making regions: Martinique, Panama, Mexico, Puerto Rico, and Colombia. All of the aforementioned locations contribute to the rum’s packed blend of flavors such as coconut, sugarcane, and dark cherry. This pour has plenty to offer whether you like your rum chilled or in a tasty Mai Tai.
This isn’t just a rum - it’s a delicious blend of Bumbu rum, baking spices, and actual cream. I love it because it’s a rich sip, but it’s not overwhelming on the palate (or stomach). Bumbu Créme is brimming with flavors ranging from cinnamon to subtle coconut. I enjoy my pour chilled, though I also think this would be a great rum to put in a blender with frozen strawberries. Why not?
Though I wasn’t initially too fond of the funky aroma on this one, Paranubes rises to the occasion when complemented with mixers, specifically coconut water or ginger beer. What’s particularly noteworthy about this Oaxacan rum is the fact that it’s fermented from wild sugarcane juice, and it’s also free of additives.
Ron Abuelo XV Napoleon Cognac Cask Finish
Fun fact: This rum was created by expert distillers at Varela Hermanos, a family-owned company that dates back to 1908, when Don José Varela established the first sugar mill in Pesé, Panama. Finished in casks that held Napoleon cognac, this rum makes for a pleasant experience from start to finish. Rich dark chocolate coupled with baking spices makes this a year-round delight.
Humboldt Distillery Small Batch Spiced Rum
I love a good, spiced rum because it adds an elevated twist to any ordinary cocktail. Want to up your Rum Old Fashioned? Use this rum. The tasting notes consist of dry, spicy cinnamon, silky caramel, and juicy stone fruit. Added bonus: The rum is distilled from organic sugarcane, then infused with whole organic spices. There aren’t any artificial flavors or ingredients, and it’s USDA certified organic, so you’re getting a high-quality rum for a reasonable price.
Cruzan Black Strap Rum
Cruzan Black Strap Rum is an essential to any home bar. Its aroma has a bold fusion of molasses and licorice, and your first sip reinforces those flavors. You’ll taste flavorful molasses (plot twist: no blackstrap molasses is actually added) before it transitions into bittersweet licorice. There isn’t a lingering finish, just the aftertaste of eating candy. Though this one’s not ideal on its own, it’s great for floaters on tiki cocktails or paired with ginger beer. You can also use it for cooking, such as for marinating beef or pork (10 out of 10 stars - definitely recommend).
Mount Gay XO Rum
At this point in the pandemic, we’re all itching to get away. Let Mount Gay XO Rum transport you to its Barbados home base - even if it’s only via cocktail and a vibe-y beach playlist. This full-bodied rum is aged between five to 17 years in American whiskey, bourbon, and cognac casks. You’ll notice hints of dark chocolate and allspice on the palate, making Mount Gay XO an impeccable neat, slow sipper.
DRNXMYTH Rum Punch
No, it’s not a rum. However, this pre-batched cocktail does use Diplomático. Where do I begin with how amazing this rum punch actually is? First of all, you’re getting two premium premade cocktails for only $11, and the Diplomático rum is permeated with bananas, fresh pineapple, coconut syrup, fresh lime, bitters, and mint-infused water. Enjoy it on your patio, at the beach, or on a picnic – without the burden of a clean-up.