The UK has been in lockdown for several weeks, as has much of the world, and it will be a long time until we have normal service at bars and restaurants. So we will be consuming more drinks/rums at home so it got me thinking about some good rums to drink at home.
Obviously, there is no one size fits all solution, so I have split the rums into some different categories.
Budget / Value
Appleton Signature Blend: £16
My favourite brand for rums is usually Appleton – there is something for everyone in the range price-wise. Their Signature Blend Rum is a great versatile rum – good enough to drink on its own but also works well in cocktails as well as rum and cokes. An average age of four year old rums make up Signature Blend, additive-free and it is regularly on offer at £16, making it an absolute bargain too.
Santa Teresa Grand Reserva Rum: £20
One of the Latin-style brands that I do enjoy. Their premium rum Santa Teresa 1796 is top quality, but do not dismiss their entry level rum. Decent flavour profile with rums aged up to five years in the blend.
Bounty “Dark”: £23
A combination of St. Lucian pot and column still rums aged between three and six years. It sips well over ice and also has plenty of flavour when mixed with coke. At £23, it is great value, too.
Rumbar “Silver”: £24
The magical pot stills at Worthy Park in Jamaica produce this powerful and flavoursome rum, which I love to mix with coke. The flavours also make this rum a “go to” for mixing cocktails, too. For £10 more, the 63% overproof has a real fire in its belly.
OK, so £35 is not a budget price but this rum is certainly excellent value for money. Plenty of batch distilled Jamaican rums produce a party of tropical fruit flavours in your mouth. Superb quality rum for the price and a great way to introduce your palate to Jamaican funk – gently in this case.
Daiquiri / Mai Tai Cocktail Rums
Something not too expensive, but with enough character to shine through in a cocktail. These are the rums I typically like to use when mixing something.
Doorly’s 3yo: £30
One of my favourite rums for mixing in Daiquiris and Mai Tais is Doorly’s 3yo. Although it is a “white rum” the three years of ageing has given it plenty of character and flavour. It is charcoal-filtered to remove the colouring following the ageing, so it won’t taint the cocktail’s colour. It has recently been re-issued at 47%, which has given an extra bit of power to the drinks.
Appleton Reserve Blend: £23
For a bit more depth in a cocktail, Appleton Reserve Blend is great value. An average age of six year old rums and additive free, making the price point pretty good value, too. As with the Signature Blend, it works well on its own, over ice or with coke, making it versatile as well as good value.
Plantation Three Stars “Silver”: £25
Rums from Jamaica, Trinidad and Barbados are blended to produce another one of my cocktail “go to” rums. The flavours shine through in a Daiquiri. I like to add a bit of agricole along side it or for a real kick, some Pusser’s Overproof (75% ABV).
Plantation O.F.T.D: £40
This is another one of my “go to” rums for mixing – another Plantation for cocktails, maybe there is something in their rums that suits cocktails. The combination of Jamaican, Barbadian and Guyanese rum bottled at 69% is superb. It elevates cocktails beyond the (for me) often sweet and sickly and lacking in rum flavours that I find in most cocktail bars.
I do not like a lot of Cuban rums, but this one I find works well for what it is designed for – to mix in cocktails. It is quite light in style but the rum’s ageing gives a bit of depth to a cocktail.
We are fortunate in the UK to have lots of rum distilleries popping up. Although some of them do not do a lot of distilling – they import rum and flavour it. If you see a label with a dodgy pirate-story, a fancy bottle or packaging or they spend more time telling you a bullsh*t marketing story than about the rum, avoid it!
But, there are quite a few British distilleries producing superb rums. Not in the “Budget” category, but they are batch produced additive-free rums.
English Spirit Distillery: St. Piran’s: £35 (50cl)
OK, so let me declare my interest here – I have worked as a Spirit Ambassador for English Spirit. But, no conflict of interest in my opinion as their rums are top quality, if a little expensive at £35 for 50cl. But, batch produced pure pot still rums are expensive to produce and this works especially well when mixed with lime and sugar – I use it in place of Cachaça to make a Caipirinha (Caipirissima) cocktail.
Ninefold Distillery: £35
Produces a lovely batch distilled Pure Single Rum. A very tasty artisanal tot of rum at £35 for 70cl.
Sugar House Rum: £34/35
Have a “white” and spice rum at £34/35. The rums are pure and natural without any additives.
A Bit More Expensive
Mount Gay XO (2020 Edition): £50
A brand new edition of Mount Gay’s stunning XO rum. This new blend has rums from five to 17 years old that have been aged in ex-Bourbon, ex-American whiskey and ex-Cognac barrels. A delightful blend and well worth £50.
Doorly’s 14yo: £60
No list of rums would be complete with several mentions of my other favourite distillery, Foursquare in Barbados. This 14yo edition is tasty and as smooth as anything. £60 for a Single Blended Rum with zero additives and a guaranteed minimum 14 years of tropical ageing is an absolute bargain, too. If the budget does not stretch to £60, Doorly’s XO at £30-35 is a top tipple, too.
Foursquare Exceptional Cask Selection XII “Nobiliary”: £62
Just released by Foursquare, this 62% additive-free rum is fully tropically aged for 14 years in ex-Bourbon barrels. Lots of oak and a finish that seems to be never-ending. This is a top quality rum and well worth £62.
I will be reviewing it properly in due course, but having just got a bottle, I want to spend some time with it properly rather than rushing a review out.
English Harbour 10yo: £55
A guaranteed age statement of ten years, but some of the rum in this blend is as old as 25 years. Additive-free, lighter in style, the ten years of ageing has added some lovely fruity and sweet notes balanced with a touch of oakiness.
Chairman’s Reserve 1931: £70
Having reviewed and enjoyed the original, annual editions of 1931 (see links below), it is a no brainer to include this on my list. Pot still and column still rums, agricole and molasses, ageing in ex-Bourbon AND ex-Port wine casks, a minimum of six years tropical ageing and 46%. What more could you want?
St. Lucia Distillers 1931: First Edition
St. Lucia Distillers 1931: Second Edition
St. Lucia Distillers 1931: Third Edition
St. Lucia Distillers 1931: Fourth Edition
St. Lucia Distillers 1931: Fifth Edition
St. Lucia Distillers 1931: Sixth Edition
Much More Expensive
St. Nicholas Abbey 8yo: £100
Currently, the oldest rum distilled by St. Nicholas Abbey – their previous older rums, the 10, 12, 15, 18, 20 and 22yo were distilled by Foursquare and aged at St. Nicholas Abbey.
The 8yo is from a batch distillation and is smooth and combines fruity, oak and spiced notes almost equally.
Appleton Estate: 30 Year Old (2nd Edition): £400
If you want to treat yourself to something amazing, try this. Not your every day tipple at £400 / bottle, but the complexity of flavours and depth of character displayed by this rum are superb.
Sugar-cane juice rhums tend to be a bit more pricey and I do think that in the UK, we are yet to properly understand and appreciate them. Possibly because the entry level unaged rhums can be so powerful and funky that it puts people off – like going straight into a >60% Hampden estate as an introduction to Jamaican rums. Look at some of the aged expressions and you will find some delightful pours.
HSE have a series of cask finished rhums available for around £70 (for 50cl). My favourite is probably the 46% Oloroso/Pedro Ximenez finish, which delivers an abundance of flavours like rich stone fruits smothered in caramel sauce. The £75 Sauternes barrel finished rhum is equally stunning. At 41%, it is another agricole full of fruity caramel notes.
William Hinton Cask Finish Editions: £70
25 year old rums from the distilleries previous owners combined with six year old rums from the new/current owners and aged in various casks to “finish” the rum. Excellent agricole from Madeira, additive-free and aged to perfection. I especially like the Whisky cask finish but all are good.
Anyone who knows me is aware that I do not like spiced rums. Not because I want to preach to the unconverted about pure rums, more that I find they are often an adulteration or the spices and (usually) shed loads of sugars, merely cover up poor quality distillate and any flavour of rum left behind is merely a coincidence. I also do not think they should be called “rum” as that term denigrates the category – Drambuie is not a “Scotch Whisky” and Grand Marnier is not a “Cognac” yet they are the whisky and Cognac equivalents of spice rums aka rum liqueurs.
Right, rant over…..there are a few spiced rums that I quite enjoy.
Don Q Oak Barrel Spiced: £30
Don Q are one of my favourite producers of Latin-style rums. This has three year old rum at its heart, but is not-overly sweet. The spices shine through more like an infusion that does not dominate over the rum flavours.
Cargo Cult Spiced Rum: £30
When I first encountered this at a Think Rum event a few years ago, I was impressed with the flavour profile of almonds, cinnamon, cardamon, ginger and cloves . It is only 38.5% but it is one of those rarities in the spiced rum world – it has no added sugars, making it really quite drinkable especially over ice with ginger beer.
A lot of distilleries are experimenting with cask “finishes” that give a different end product. One of my favourite producers, Don Q have two great editions:
Don Q Rum Finished in Sherry Casks: £42
Don Q Sweet Vermouth Cask “Finish”: £35
I recently reviewed a great Muscat Cask “Finish” of La Hechicera rum. At £59 it is a bit more expensive, but it is good rum and additive-free.
And just released, try Foursquare’s rum cream liqueur called Crisma. Very yummy stuff!